Andrew over at wongablog is bravely talking about his uncontrollable thoughts. I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't actually be legal to publish mine.
Anyway...the point he is making is actually quite important. He talks about how thoughts emerge from the central area of the brain and are hopefully refined, adjusted or dispelled by the 'higher function' areas.
He mentions one of his uncontrollable thoughts, that on seeing middle eastern men with beards he thinks of terrorists. He obviously rejects this and acknowledges what nasty, prejudiced thoughts they are. But this is a good point. We all have prejudiced thoughts, but it is how we manage and counter them with logic and reason that is important.
While we are on the subject of prejudice...
I've been going to church for the last 3 weeks (shock horror!). No need to worry I've not gone religious or anything. To be exact I've been going to 'church in a pub' (obviously alcohol has to be involved for me to go somewhere like this), which is part of the Christ Church group (Anglican). Their flyers say anyone is welcome and anything can be said, so basically I have been giving them an atheist viewpoint.
There is a medical student there who believes that abortion should be made illegal, even for those who are raped or with ectopic pregnancies, this is absolutely shocking but an obvious example of the damage that religion does. I've yet to find anyone there who believes in a woman's right to choose, isn't that a surprise? They all without fail believe that the bible (with all it's inaccuracies, absurdities and immorality) is the ultimate guide to how to live their lives, even more importantt than their own judgement! An idea of how dangerous this is, is given by one of the girls there who says she would kill someone if god told her to. This is the road to 9/11 and bombings of abortion clinics, Oklahoma etc.
To counter this, I told them a story about delusion. I said imagine you go and see a psychic and he is a reasonable chap, he talks to you about how a lot of people think what he does is garbage and he asks you a few questions about yourself - 'cold reading' (birthday facts, family names, history etc.), he tells you some vague facts that seem quite surprising, but when you think about later you realise that these facts could quite easily apply to everyone.
Then he produces a notebook off his shelf that contains some doodles and some notes that he must have done earlier before you entered the room. You are amazed to see your birthday, your mom's name and a few other personal facts he couldn't possible have known. He talks about the amazing connection he has managed with your mind and you happily hand over some money to continue the readings the following week. (Now anybody who watches 'the real hussle' on BBC3 will know how this is done).
I asked the religious people at 'church in a pub' how they think the psychic did this? Not one, NOT ONE, offered a rational explanation. They all said that the psychic really had read the client's mind, one offered that he was using 'evil spirits'. I told them that this is why they believe in god and I don't. I explained that just because you can't see a rational explanation for something doesn't mean the answer must be irrational.
Not one of them seemed to want to understand this point and when I told them to really think about the world and they would see the error of their ways, I was told I was being insulting and calling them stupid. Maybe I was calling them stupid, but maybe that is because they are being stupid in this aspect of their lives.
No progress was seemingly made but at least I lived to tell the tale and that girl didn't get the 'nod from god' to kill me there and then for my insubordination.