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Reiki and Blackmail for Breakfest
Posted: 09 May 2006 01:55 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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I've been developing a small dating advice website for fun, and I've been trying to get my sister to help grow the site with me. I have a blog section on it, where I normally vent out my frustration over religion, pseudo science, or anything else that I regard as foolish. A few days ago, I mentioned in passing to her that I was going to write something about Reiki, which she believes very strongly. She wrote me an email the next morning saying this:

I would appreciate if you did not put up a blog about Reiki bashing on your website. It is something that I love and that I feel is important and your constant bashing of it, as well as constantly trying to send me articles about how it isn't REAL, is pointless and hurtful and I have had enough. I try to support you in every way that I can regardless of whether I think it is a fools dream or that I may not agree with it. But the way you treat me in return is unacceptable. If you put up the posting then I will see it as an affront to me and to who I am. I am not asking you to believe in Reiki but that you respect me as a person who believes in it. If you still feel the need to put up your rant, then I will NO longer support you in your endeavors (however small you may feel that support is, it is still there!!!). This past year I have had enough of your bullying when it comes to trying to bash Reiki and other forms of energy work.

I was a little shocked at the harshness of the letter, and so I emailed her this reply:

Firstly, the reason that I am attacking reiki is not in an effort to demean you in any way. Although you may not realize it, Rieki does serious harm to people. The remedies and "cures" it offers often make people stop pursuing proper medical avenues for serious illness. Although I know that would never be the case with you, you must understand that not everyone is able to incorporate their
belief system and modern science in a reasonable way.

You may be telling yourself that you achieve a deep satisfaction from Reiki, but a feeling does not, in any way, represent what is real. As someone who has studies biology and science, you know that what reiki teaches is in sharp contrast with the our understanding of how the universe works. What worries me is that people are allowing their personal feelings to dictate how they see the world,
and I believe that such habits leads to ignorance. This, in my mind, is the most dangerous mindset for any human being to be in.

Secondly, it's often a strategy of people to ask to be respected and not a believer, but as a human being. I have a tremendous amount of respect for you. But to ask me to respect the one thing in your life I see as foolish is impossible. It's because I respect you so much that I desire you to see how reiki only feeds garbage philosophy about how the universe operates. The laws of the universe are so elegant and wonderful that it belies its true beauty.

Thirdly, I am entitled to my opinions, just as you are. But if it's my wish to inform people of the intellectual harm reiki does, I'm offended that you would resort to emotional blackmail in order to try and stop me. You must understand my motivation in this if you are to avoid feeling personally attacked. My wish is to see everyone believe in the principle of the scientific method. It is the most powerful and incisive tool the human race has ever invented. It allows us to learn about the world not through magical thinking, but rather through the vigorous pursuit of evidence. A good scientist is always trying to disprove his theory, not ignore evidence to its falsehood.

If you think that my pursuit of the truth is futile, then I can understand that criticism. You yourself seem bound to the idea that faith is a type of knowledge, even though it is not. But for you to ask me to back down in that quest seems like an effort to suppress the evidence against it: evidence which is supported by the
most brilliant minds in the world.

What is a greater insult: to listen to dissenting views from others in the market place of idea, or to suppress them?

Her response was typical of anyone who believes in flim-flam:

I don't want to argue with you about why I believe Reiki is real. Of all the Reiki practitioners, I have NEVER met anyone who tried to sell a cure or a remedy or a miracle or told someone that they should not seek medical assistance. It is simply offered as supplemental assistance and has NEVER harmed ANYONE!!! At the very least, it just helps people to relax. I have already told you that your blog doesn't belong on your www.askmeadvice.com website. It is too unrelated to what
you are saying. I don't mean to use emotional blackmail but I will NOT support your website if you are bashing Reiki. End of story. Yes, you are entitled to your opinion but I am as well and just as you would not support a Creative Intelligence website that I created for instance, I will not support a website where you discredit something that I believe in. That doesn't mean I won't still be your sister and talk to you but I would appreciate it if whenever we do get to see each other you don't spend your time trying to convince me of what you believe are facts that discredit it. I do believe that faith in something bigger than us and science can coexist (though you seem hell-bent on proving the contrary).

She's right about one thing; I am hell-bent on proving that faith and science cannot coexist. I can certainly appreciate the fact that I am perhaps over zealous in trying to convince her, but you try dealing with someone who is as highly educated as her (a Masters in Environmental Engineering) and who simply refuses to listen to any evidence to her backwards and silly beliefs.

What worries me the most is that for many of us who are serious about the pursuit of truth, we are still being manipulated by emotional blackmail from family members and friends who see our disrespect for their beliefs as an aggressive act against their person. Now I have the difficult choice to make of whether to risk alienation from my sister or to continue to tell the truth about false belief systems. I'll keep you posted on my decision!

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Posted: 09 May 2006 02:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Interesting dilemma, Jack. I don’t know much about reiki, but am guessing the “harm” mostly involves distracting people away from whatever “real” treatments might exist for their condition? Or are you saying it does actual harm all by itself?

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Posted: 09 May 2006 03:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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DullJack,
You have a choice, to be sure. You have made your point to your sister. The burden of further contemplation is on her to consider the facts. You must also consider your pride. Would you rather be happy or right…as Dr. Phil says. Your admonitions to the public at large are laudable in their thrust. It may simply be better at this point to tell your sister that even if she believed in unicorns, she is still loved and appreciated. Allowance for others’ choices is wisdom in itself. Decisions made in a democracy are not always wise, but the decision to make them democratically is. We can only hope that your sister’s one vote for irrationality will be corrected as time goes by, but it will be an empty victory if you are no longer close. What is more important, the relationship, or winning the argument?

After quite a few discussions with people on various deeply held issues, I’ve come to the point where I say in the beginning, something along the lines of, “I have a fairly strong opinion on that, and if it would affect our friendship, I’d rather keep it to myself”. Sometimes I mean it and sometimes I don’t, but in any case the opinions are taken less personally it seems, especially if someone then ASKS for my opinion.

Well, just one approach, I guess.

Later, Rod

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Posted: 09 May 2006 03:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Well, Mia, Reiki is the belief that the body is made up a “chakras” which are supposed to be energy points in various places in the body. When your energy field is out of whack, they apparently cause illness and chronic pain. These emit an “aura” that can be controlled an manipulated by a reiki practitioner in order to cure these illnesses.

Needless to say, there is absolutely no proof that this ridiculous and infantile belief system exists. It actually completely contradicts what we know about science and the human body.

The harm it causes is twofold: (1), it can divert people from proper medical treatment, and (2) give false hope and waste valuable time that could be devoted to more effective therapies.

My sister never encountered anyone, according to her, that caused direct harm to anyone. How can it? The practitioners don’t even lay their hands on you when manipulating your supposed aura. The harm is more indirect, and far more insidious: it makes people loose objective reason and knowledge in favor of supernatural explanations on how the universe operates. I’m far more afraid of that.

And as for your advice, Rod, I agree, the relationship is more important then being right. But that certainly will not stop me from telling others on my site just how harmful her beliefs might be. If she feels offended by it, then she can simply ignore my site. I will not allow her to silence my opinions, because i think their importance goes beyond our simple disagreement.

It’s a delicate issue, that is for sure!

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Posted: 09 May 2006 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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I know a Reiki practioner who told me that it is a supplement to regular health care. In fact, if they “sense” something out of balance, they will tell the patient to see their family doctor.

It’s the scam artists, the “non-believers” who would pass it off as a miracle remedy and tell the patient they can be cured.

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Posted: 09 May 2006 02:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“rab”]I know a Reiki practioner who told me that it is a supplement to regular health care. In fact, if they “sense” something out of balance, they will tell the patient to see their family doctor.

It’s the scam artists, the “non-believers” who would pass it off as a miracle remedy and tell the patient they can be cured.

I don’t doubt there are some practitioners that have at least some common sense. But the same cannot be said of everyone. As for scam artists, putting your hands over someone’s body without touching them and then claiming you are healing them, and then charge money for it…well, that pretty much is the deffinition of a scammer.

As for those who just do it out of the kindness of their heart, they would be better served going to the library and studying a little physics to understand that the phenomenon of auras and other rediculous new age beliefs are simple pseudoscience, and nothing more. They could instead spend time talking to people, being friendly and caring for them rather then offer bogus treatment. Paying attention to a fellow human being is a far more productive use of their time.

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Posted: 05 June 2006 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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It is fairly easy to alienate family members if you don’t at least feign a certain level of respect for their irrational beliefs.  My experience with this:

My extended family is very religious (Christian).  For years I’ve sat silently (eyes open and head up mind you) while they said grace before meals, and endured their fairly frequent mentionins of Christianity.

One night after dinner my Uncle made a remark disparaging gay marriage, and I took issue, saying I was in favour of equaly rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation.  A lengthy debate ensued (as I’m sure you can imagine).  When they found out I did in fact believe in evolution, not creation, they were aghast, and told me I was “so far from reality”.

It was a real eye opener for me, in that they mocked my beliefs as ridiculous—all these years I’d held my tongue as they went through their farcical rituals, and the first time I express my opinion I’m ridiculed.

Well that was a real turning point for me—I started giving a lot of thought to how my keeping silent was avoiding a lot of social “unease” (to put it mildly), but at the same time, I was perhaps perpetuating that (religion) which I regarded as the bane of progress by staying quiet.

I decided to be vocal about my views on religion—as Sam Harris’ book points out so well—giving a wide berth to irrational beliefs under the guise of “faith” is horribly counter-productive.  I’ve succedded in alienating several members of my family, but being true to what I believe (based on rationality) is most important to me.

DullJack, I applaud you sticking to your principles—though I hope you and your sister can remain close despite your differences.

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Posted: 14 July 2007 06:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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DullJack

I am new to the forum and found this to be a pretty interesting post. I certainly hope you and your sister are still speaking.

In my post I wish to neither confirm nor deny anything related with Reiki as I have never had any personal experience involving Reiki. However, I remember a book by Bill Moyers entitled, “Healing and the Mind” (also a PBS mini series I think) that stated some people felt better and in many cases showed improvement in their ailments because they believed something was working for them. They thought they felt better so they really began feeling better.

If this is true, Moyers did seem to have supporting evidence, it seems that if Reiki does nothing more than to help somebody believe they feel better and give them relief, whether real or imagined, and it takes away some of their suffering it therefor has to be a good thing. That in itself has merit. Of course I make this statement with the qualifier that any treatment like this can NOT IN ANY WAY try to replace sound medical treatment. I am in 100% agreement with you in regards to the dangers posed when trying to replace Medical treatment with anything else.

Please take into consideration witchdoctors or voodoun, I know that modern medicine has learned many things in regards to pharmacology from these “cooks” (check out Wade Davis’ book “Serpent and the Rainbow”). I guarantee that these same witchdoctors and voodoun were and still are looked at in a negative view by many in the past and present. You know, it’s just a crazy religion. I would be interested in your feelings regarding this subject.  But, some of what was once considered tribal magic is now recognized as modern medicine. Was is a concoction from a witchdoctor or was is a drug given by your local Doctor. Now, some of it is basically the same. Thank goodness somebody didn’t just pass this off as a crazy religion because it didn’t follow logic and was not in the breadth of our understanding. What has changed? It wasn’t the crazy religion… it was our understanding.

I personally feel that the power of the human mind/brain has many undiscovered aspects. Maybe, positivity in feeling and believing can help the body recover faster. Maybe not. But, just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean I will completely disregard the idea entirely - until disproved. And even that doesn’t mean that a paradigm shift may come and change our way of thinking. Once the Earth was flat. Again, our understanding has changed.

Thank you for your interesting post. I hope, that regardless of whatever you and your sister believe now or in the future, you stay close.


Bob

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Posted: 15 July 2007 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“Rod”]You must also consider your pride. Would you rather be happy or right…as Dr. Phil says. Your admonitions to the public at large are laudable in their thrust. It may simply be better at this point to tell your sister that even if she believed in unicorns, she is still loved and appreciated. Allowance for others’ choices is wisdom in itself.

Would I rather be happy or right? I hadn’t suspected that there was a mutual exclusivity between them! There’s no question that we can still love people who adopt opinions about invisible pink unicorns, and keep our sharpest opinions to ourselves.

We can recognize, confront, and perhaps even manage to tolerate irrationality in others, but note that it is typically the dogmatist who first practices the “shunning” of contrary views in his or her community. I leave it up to the dogmatists whether or not they wish to shun me, but I do not mince words with them. Civil discourse is important, but it is not any sort of magic bullet.

Allowance for others’ choices without compromising one’s own integrity is often fairly easy. Serious working relationships such as collaborating on a website, are more problematic when things like this are in play.

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Posted: 15 July 2007 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“rmarlow”]
I personally feel that the power of the human mind/brain has many undiscovered aspects. Maybe, positivity in feeling and believing can help the body recover faster. Maybe not. But, just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean I will completely disregard the idea entirely - until disproved. And even that doesn’t mean that a paradigm shift may come and change our way of thinking. Once the Earth was flat. Again, our understanding has changed.

Bob

This reminds me of a little study which showed that when doctors were dressed up like doctors their patients recovered at a higher rate than when the doctors dressed informally.

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Posted: 15 July 2007 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“Pat_Adducci”]This reminds me of a little study

Geez. Everything reminds you of everything, Pat. Your high-pass filter is shot.

Care to cite that “little study”, Pat? As somebody here is fond of mentioning, the plural of anecdote is not data. Do you really think you are convincing anyone of anything with your insubstantial ramblings?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-pass_filter

[ Edited: 15 July 2007 11:29 AM by ]
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Posted: 15 July 2007 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“DullJack”]Well, Mia, Reiki is the belief that the body is made up a “chakras” which are supposed to be energy points in various places in the body. When your energy field is out of whack, they apparently cause illness and chronic pain. These emit an “aura” that can be controlled an manipulated by a reiki practitioner in order to cure these illnesses.

Needless to say, there is absolutely no proof that this ridiculous and infantile belief system exists. It actually completely contradicts what we know about science and the human body.

Since I’ve never had any experience with Reiki, I won’t comment on it at all.  The idea of bodily energy centers, however, is more universal and does have empirical support (e.g., from acuipuncture and other studies).  These so-called energy centers exist in two forms.

1. Centers of neural conjunction (e.g., the solar plexus) where nerves from a wide range of organs, etc., converge, or where specific nerves can be accessed.  These exist physiologically and some physical symptoms can be aleviated by their manipulation For example, tension headaches can be reduced or cured by working the points under the chin, along the lower jawbone, at the back of the skull on either side and slightly above the top of the spine, at the temples, on top of the head up from the temples on right and left, and both sides of the nose.  Finding the precise points can be difficult, but you know it when you do find them because pressure on them is painful.  There is nothing mysterious about this, these points are simply points where pressure can be applied to specific nerves leading to relaxation of the muscular tension behind the headache. 

2. “Energy centers” that do not have a direct physiological explanation, but are established by the direction of attention.  These show up in various meditative practices and in martial arts.  For example, the “hara” (Japanese) or “tan tien” (Chinese) that is in the lower belly about 3 finger widths below the navel.  In this case, the idea is that by directing attention a person becomes aware of this bodily location and, with practice in its sensitization, able to use it to channel physical and mental energy.  A Tai Chi master, for example, has developed awareness of the tan tien to a point where movements naturally originate from this center (and, since the tan tien point is more or less the bodies center of gravity, this sort of movement has a natural fluidity and ease not found in thought/head dominated movement). 

Having said this, when somebody claims to be able to manipulate the energy of ones different bodily energy centers, I would treat the claim with skepticism.  Why would I let somebody do that to me unless I was convinced that they knew what they were doing and I needed the treatment, and that would take a lot of convincing (I’m not very succeptible to suggestion, so the placebo effect generally doesn’t work for me).  Even with the existing physical centers I’w want to be sure that the person was a professional and could give me an acceptable rational explanation for what they proposed.

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Posted: 15 July 2007 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Come to think of it, Burt’s high-pass filter is shot, too! raspberry

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Posted: 16 July 2007 04:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”]
Care to cite that “little study”, Pat? As somebody here is fond of mentioning, the plural of anecdote is not data. Do you really think you are convincing anyone of anything with your insubstantial ramblings?

I wish I could present data or little studies with citations or anecdotes or insubstantial ramblings which would convincingly demonstrate that our true nature is happiness. Nothing else really matters.

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Posted: 16 July 2007 04:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“Pat_Adducci”][quote author=“Salt Creek”]
Care to cite that “little study”, Pat? As somebody here is fond of mentioning, the plural of anecdote is not data. Do you really think you are convincing anyone of anything with your insubstantial ramblings?

I wish I could present data or little studies with citations or anecdotes or insubstantial ramblings which would convincingly demonstrate that our true nature is happiness. Nothing else really matters.

If you are too busy being happy, and nothing else really matters, what are you doing here, for heaven’s sake? You know, Pat, you never responded to the following. I guess it didn’t really matter. You’re just like everyone else. You pick and choose what really matters (i.e,  your form of morality), but your high pass filter is shot, and so what you choose is kinda formless sometimes.

http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=79277&highlight;=#79277

[quote author=“Pat_Adducci”]Morality becomes a much more cloudy issue when mixed up with drugs, don’t you think?

Morality: Hee, hee! The more you try to define it, the more meaningless it gets. It’s not a collection of words, that’s for sure, but I’ll take a shot anyway:

If you felt (with rational justification) perfectly safe wherever you happened to be, it might not be enough to satisfy some people that morality prevailed. Some people do not feel that morality prevails until everyone is explicitly obliged to everyone else in countless, specific, codifed ways. I tell the latter sort of “moralizers” to go screw themselves up a little tighter.

If you cannot be happy unless you are right, you ain’t gonna be happy. I think people who demand to be happy every second of every day are insane. Even people who merely hope for that are in a questionable state.  raspberry

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Posted: 16 July 2007 05:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”]
If you are too busy being happy, and nothing else really matters, what are you doing here, for heaven’s sake? You know, Pat, you never responded to the following.
http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=79277&highlight;=#79277

[quote author=“Pat_Adducci”]Morality becomes a much more cloudy issue when mixed up with drugs, don’t you think?

Morality: Hee, hee! The more you try to define it, the more meaningless it gets. It’s not a collection of words, that’s for sure…

...... I think people who demand to be happy every second of every day are insane. Even people who merely hope for that are in a questionable state.  raspberry

Understanding that your true nature is happiness doesn’t take up time or space. What I’m doing here, meaning wherever I am at the moment, is deepening my understanding of that basic truth. It helps a lot to be challenged, which is why I’d rather be in this forum than one of the supposedly ‘spiritual’ ones.

Why didn’t I respond to the other post you quoted? I was letting your comments brew and perhaps be forgotten or perhaps evoke a response.

I can tell you I like the statement ‘morality is not a collection of words’.

But if I repeated everything that anyone wrote that I agree with, or challenge everything I don’t agree with, that really would take up too much time and space. 
There are times when I deliberately disregard what you, Salt Creek, write, and that is when I feel you are simply taking a jab at me, and there is nothing useful to be said in response.

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