Atheists, Humanists and Astrology: What You Should Know

Minnesota Atheists in Parade (Astrology Explored) One of the most marvelous things about this country is that anyone is can practice or not practice religion. Whatever your belief or lack thereof about God, or a higher power, does not prevent you from enjoying the benefits of living in this society.

So then, it is a curious thing that atheists are organizing a “Woodstock for Atheists” today Saturday, March 24, 2012 on the mall in Washington, DC to “show their power in numbers and change their image”.

Certain segments of the atheist movement believe that American’s don’t like them much, as written aboutin an op-ed piece by two atheists published in the Washington Post. In this piece, while saying that atheism is rarely denounced in the mainstream they posit that atheists are subject to discrimination in the military and that surveys show that in Americans in general won’t marry or vote for atheists. They call this “stunning anti-theist discrimination”.

The Reason Rally organizers hope that by holding this gathering, it will give “closeted” atheists the confidence to “come out” and to show the religious majority that atheism is alive and well in America.

The rally is being sponsored by several atheist organizations, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Center for Inquiry, the American Humanist Association, and the American Atheists, which is holding its annual convention in D.C. the very same weekend.

Far be it from this astrologer to deny anyone the right to believe what he or she wishes. Go with or without God, be well, prosper.

However, one needs to be aware that the agenda of these non-theists is not so much about what they believe, but what they want you to believe and that is . . . what they believe.

Here is what the American Humanist Association says about themselves:

American Humanist Association – We strive to bring about a progressive society where being good without gods is an accepted way to live life. We are accomplishing this through our defense of civil liberties and secular governance, by our outreach to the growing number of people without traditional religious faith, and through a continued refinement and advancement of the humanist worldview.

In other words, as I’ve said before, they don’t want to be just in their business, they want to be in yours too.

Even though it seems that all there are many organizations involved in this rally, all the organizations above are inextricably tied to the American Humanist Association. Ed Buckner, board member and former president of American Atheists is cited as “a noted Humanist” Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation received the the 2010 Humanist Heroine award by the American Humanist Association. The Center for Inquiry is listed on one website as affliated with the Councile for Secular Humanism, American Atheists and the American Humanist Association. Its list of former speakers reads like a who’s who of American Humanist Association Members. This is small regional group claiming a membership of 400 though only 40 members actively attends meetings but still is helping to sponsor an event where 30,000 people are expected to be in attendance.

So while not all atheists are humanists, it’s the humanists that drive the mission to make our society a secular, atheistic one.

And though the American Humanist Association claims atheists are discriminated against in society, in concert with its ideology it actively denigrates any form of belief that it deems “unscientific”. The paragraph below is taken from its own website:

In the wake of articles in The Humanist which were critical of pseudoscience, the AHA established in May of 1976 the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. Through its membership of humanist leaders and scientists, CSICOP launched the Skeptical Inquirer, challenged pseudoscientific claims, and exposed much of the faulty experimentation, frauds, and fallacies of “psychic research.” Now called the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, it is a dynamic, independent consumer-information organization.

The above paragraph makes it seem that CSICOP was only investigating “psychics” but the truth of the matter is that CSICOP and the Humanists took especial aim at astrology. It published “Objections to Astrology” in the Humanist magazine, sponsored the NCGR-Berkeley double blind test which purported to disprove astrology but upon independent peer review was found to be fundamentally flawed, and attempted to skew the peer review of the famous Mars Effect as discovered by Michel Gauguelin by rearranging the data sets to favor their position.

James Randi, another member of the American Humanist Association is a speaker at this rally. He calls himself a debunker of astrology. However his debunking techniques have been debunked themselves, shown as mental “slight of hand” tricks that actually prove nothing.

Various wings of the American Humanist Association have taken quite a few potshots at astrologers calling them frauds and charlatans, and thieves of consumer’s money for taking payment for practicing their profession. It’s just not really called for. Even other skeptics call for a toning down of the rhetoric.

In light of the contempt opponents have for the intellectual abilities of both astrologers and their customers and in light of utter ineffectiveness of their attacks, what is the point of these anti-astrology polemics? What really is at stake? And what really is accomplished?*

What is accomplished? It’s the attempt to further the Humanist worldview of a totally secular society with no room for other viewpoints.

Hey, you want to be an atheist, go be an atheist. Protest your treatment at the hands of the non-secular world. It’s your right. But no one, no one movement, group or organization has the right to foist its worldview on the rest of America. That the Humanists attempt to do so is what makes this astrologer queasy about their agenda.

Photo published under a Creative Commons license issued by user Fibronacciblue as explained on Flickr.

About Beth Turnage

I write about astrology alot. Some people like to read it.
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The JREF million dollar challenge has in recent years become something of joke to those who have followed this kind of debate.

The p value required to succeed is set at p<0.00001 and was even more ridiculous until it was lowered due to widespread criticism. Since statistical significance in the social sciences is generally p<.05, the level set is totally unreasonable even for a million dollars. This is particularly critical as the JREF test is geared to performance and Randi cannot handle large sample sizes or statistics which are necessary to show this level of significance. Also, the independently qualified panel of judges is not independent as it includes members of CSI (formerly CSICOP). CSICOP famously tried twice to 'disprove' astrology with Michel Gauquelin and the Carlson test . In both instances when the sampling and other errors were uncovered by 3 professors the data provided evidence to support astrology. Since there is currently no scientific evidence that undermines or disproves the basis of astrology, sceptics have resorted to unscientific experiments and magic tricks to do the job that they wish that science could do.

James Randi says:

I remain astonished – even amazed! – that astrologers are still not applying for the JREF million-dollar prize! That nonsense is certainly one of the oldest forms of self-deception ever, and yet no astrologer wants the million bucks! It would be so simple: do what astrologers say they can do, and walk away with the prize…

I suspect that I know the reason. Though the JREF is absolutely committed – legally as well as ethically, by contract – to awarding the prize, no astrologer dares to apply because he/she knows full well that astrology doesn’t work.

Prove me wrong – with evidence, not hearsay — and I’ll be very surprises…

James Randi.

Beth Turnage says:

Mr. Randi,

Other people (and not just psychics and astrologers) have examined your “challenge” and have found it to be less than fair.

The procedures for the Challenge included several hurdles in favor of, and multiple “outs” for Randi and the JREF that any discerning individual capable of any kind of extraordinary human performance would think twice about (and here I’m not just referring to psychics and the like).

If Randi were genuinely interested in testing unusual claims, then he would also not insist upon odds of at least one million to one against chance for the results. Anyone familiar with scientific studies will be aware that experimental results against chance of say, 800,000 to one would be considered extraordinary; but results this high would be, according to Randi, a “failure.”

http://dailygrail.com/features/the-myth-of-james-randis-million-dollar-challenge

But thanks for posting a comment and giving me a chance to talk about this as well.

Beth Turnage says:

Folks,

I’m going to be away from my computer for most of the day, so I will moderate comments, (if any) later this day.

God Bless,

Beth

Michael Strack says:

“I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. I’m humanist and I do not support outlawing astrology. We are a diverse bunch but I can assure you many others are of the same view. Let me clearly explain where we’re coming from: the balance of evidence does not support astrological claims. Therefore, we feel bad for people who spend their time and money on them, and we want to provide the public with the information and thinking skills they need to make up their own minds. Of necessity this involves criticising astrological claims. But we absolutely don’t support telling people what to think.

Finally, a “secular state” just means there is no GOVERNMENT spending on or support of faith-based claims. Private citizens can spend private money on whatever they wish, believe what they wish, say what they wish, practise what they wish. When you think about it, this is the only fair way to run a country – otherwise, whose faith-based claims do you think the government will support? Everyone’s? That’s impossible – there’s too many and they’re all contradictory. As it is, your government passes laws and spends money supporting christian claims only. That’s exactly the kind of favouritism secularism rejects. So in fact, I see us being on the same team on that issue.

Beth Turnage says:

Michael,

I appreciate you supporting free speech. I support it as well. I support a person choosing to live life as they see fit, as long as there is harm to none.

I do take issue with a couple of your assertions. First the assertion that “the balance of the evidence does not support astrological claims” is not supported by the evidence we have. Rather than repeat arguments made before I refer you to this blog post: http://astrologyexplored.net/home/?p=1956

As to your statement about a secular state consider this statement on The Institute for Humanist Studies website:

The Institute for Humanist Studies is committed to information and practices meant to address the socio-political, economic and cultural challenges facing communities within the United States and within a global context. At The Institute for Humanist Studies we view humanism as having the moral imperative to extend the circle of justice, caring and concern to all.

What is humanism?

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The IHS makes it very clear that humanism is about having a moral imperative to bring Humanists “progressive philosophy” to everyone “in a global context”. There is a special point that eliminating theism and other supernatural beliefs are for the good of humanity. You can believe what you want to but believing that humanism has a moral imperative to eliminate anything other than rationalism from everyone’s way of life sounds like a social, not just a political, agenda to me.

Michael Strack says:

I agree that a debate on the scientific evidence qua astrology would be off-topic here, and will say no more about it.

As for the Humanist statement quoted above, you are mixing wording from two separate paragraphs. The only section that could be interpreted as encouraging proselytising is “…a moral imperative to extend the circle of justice, caring and concern to all.”

Frankly, the wording is so vague and wishy-washy as to defy concrete meaning. It could mean they want to consume your soul, it could mean they want to hand out pamphlets. Your interpretation that there is a “special point that eliminating theism and other supernatural beliefs are for the good of humanity” is stretching their phrasing to breaking point.

“Ye shall know them by their fruits”. Actions are more important than mission statements and I’d be delusional to deny that sceptics have a big bullseye on astrology’s head. But I know lots of sceptics, humanists, atheists, whatever, and not a one of them has averred to me that outlawing astrology (or religion etc.) would be desirable. Imposing your worldview on other people (particularly uncritical children or vulnerable people) is one of our biggest gripes with religion and it leaves us with a strong distaste for the idea. Rather, we’d prefer to study the claims, make the evidence available, teach critical thinking and let people make up their own minds.

I know it feels like humanists have it in for your worldview particularly. And for some infuriating reason a lot of us seem to think we will “win” through ridicule and belligerence, which makes things feel far too personal. But if you take a survey of humanists (/sceptics/whatever) with the question “do you support the criminalisation of astrology?” you may be surprised how many reply in the negative.

Anyway I am spending way too long on here so this will probably be my last post =)

Beth Turnage says:

Shawn,

Your astronomy is impeccable. Your knowledge of astrology, apparently, is not.

Here is a little more about why the constellations are divorced from the use of the zodiac signs:

http://astrologyexplored.net/home/?p=1796

Shawn Green says:

Beth,
Thank you for the compliment. And you are a good writer:-)
I read the article you directed me to. Honestly, I found it confusing. Let’s go back to the beginning. My birthday is July 17th. Please tell me my sign and please tell me why (astronomically) that is my sign.
Thank you,
Shawn

Beth Turnage says:

Shawn,

With you being a science and math teacher, I rather doubt that you found the article confusing.

For those that did not read the referenced article, astrologers use the tropical zodiac, which is based on the Vernal Equinox as the starting point of the zodiac.

At one time the vernal equinox and the crossing of the sun into the constellation Aries matched. Because of precession (where the earth points north changes because the earth wobbles on its axis) the entrance of the path of the Sun into the constellation of Aries no longer matches the Vernal Equinox. This was noticed by astrologers some 2000 years ago. The decision to use the vernal equinox as the starting point of the zodiac divorced the zodiac astrologers use (tropical) from movement of sun against the constellations (sidereal).

But astrology is not just about the zodiac signs, which I suspect you know as well.

It’s useless to get into a debate about whether you are a Cancer (tropical) or a Gemini (sidereal) since the all the other planets have something to say about your personality. Also because Mercury and Venus are so close to to Sun you probably have something in Gemini that helps to give a Gemini bent to your personality. But of course, I would have to construct a horoscope to know for sure.

Shawn Green says:

Beth,
I see you’ve done your HW:-) I am a teacher but I am sincerely confused by your article. First you said that the zodiac astrologers use is divorced from the movement of the sun against the constellations. Then you said astrology is “not just about zodiac signs.” So can you succinctly summarize what astrology is based on?
You wrote “it is useless to get into a debate about…” I didn’t start that debate. You’re the expert on astrology- I asked you a question. What is my sign? What is it based on? Can you answer that directly please?
Thank you,
Shawn

Beth Turnage says:

Shawn,

For a definitive answer to your question I would need your birth year. As you know the motion of the sun is a tad over 1 degree per day, so the actual boundaries of when one sign is in one or the other changes from one calendar year to another. You don’t mind if I consult my ephemeris, do you? You know, just to give you the most accurate answer.

Shawn Green says:

You wrote, “For a definitive answer to your question I would need your birth year. As you know the motion of the sun is a tad over 1 degree per day, so the actual boundaries of when one sign is in one or the other changes from one calendar year to another. You don’t mind if I consult my ephemeris, do you? You know, just to give you the most accurate answer.”

1978

Beth Turnage says:

The sun was 24 Degrees 28 Seconds of the tropical zodiac sign Cancer on July 17, 1978

Shawn Green says:

You wrote, “The sun was 24 Degrees 28 Seconds of the tropical zodiac sign Cancer on July 17, 1978.”

Great- that’s what I thought. My question was: how is my sign determined? The answer is: on my birthday, the sun was “in” the constellation Cancer. Yes?

Beth Turnage says:


Great- that’s what I thought. My question was: how is my sign determined? The answer is: on my birthday, the sun was “in” the constellation Cancer. Yes?

No.

The sun is in the sign of Cancer in the tropical zodiac on July 17, 1978.

For those not familiar with the difference between the tropical and sidereal zodiac can read this post http://astrologyexplored.net/home/?p=1796. The short version is that Western astrologers use the Vernal Equinox, which we call the first day of spring as the start of the year to move through the 360 degrees of the tropical zodiac. The sun advances a tad more than one degree per day through the year, thus one day roughly equals one degree. Tropical Aries occupies degrees 1 through 30, Taurus degrees 31 to 60, Gemini, 61 to 90, Cancer 91 to 120 and so on through the year.

Shawn Green says:

test

Shawn Green says:

A big part of astrology is the constellations. But constellations aren’t things that actually exist. Constellations are a game of connect-the-dots that ancient people played- in order to navigate and to make it back home. Not to mention that these collections of stars that we see (which appear to be 2-dimensional) are greatly varying distances from us. Some are only 5 light years away, some are 100 light years away.

Benjamin Crabbe says:

astrology is just plain silly. if people want to give away their money, let them.

Ryan says:

Most people who exercise their powers of reason and logic need only a few minutes to realize there’s nothing of true substance here. Same for ghost-hunting, psychics and theism/deism.

Folks, this kind of thinking worked well as recently as a couple of hundred years ago before we understood so much more about the natural world. Let’s stop taking short-cuts to thinking by turning to mysticism and the supernatural to explain our world. Open a book about the scientific study of nature instead of one sitting on a shelf next to crystals and tarot cards.

Also, make no mistake about it — I’m arguing what is clearly my own opinion. I have no desire to infringe on the rights of anyone who chooses to be willfully ignorant by believing in fairy tales. I do find it unfortunate that so many choose this path, rather than the pursuit of greater knowledge and truth. But, to each her/his own.

Astrologic says:

You wrote:
“this kind of thinking worked well as recently as a couple of hundred years ago before we understood so much more about the natural world. Let’s stop taking short-cuts to thinking by turning to mysticism and the supernatural to explain our world. Open a book about the scientific study of nature”

Modern science is no longer scientific in its methods, but uses a tyranny of method to purposely ignore all the data which confirms other ways of knowing. It was decided in the Vienna Circle in the 1920s to EXCLUDE andy discussion of metaphysical reality. What you call “Science” today is actually the purposely limited exploration of reality by academia.

Our educational establishments (public schools and universities) have already established INTOLERANT policies for research, so that we are all now treated to the absolute tyranny of science (the new “one true way”).

Fortunately, cutting edge physics is finally catching up to insights known by the ancients, about how the material world is constituted, intimately interconnected with the invisible universe (dark matter) in ‘realtime’.

Astrology simply claims that the cycles of the planets in our solar system “tells time”, exactly as we say that the Sun “tells time”. What is “heretical” to Science is the notion that human beings contain an ‘inner world’ of patterns of behavior, which may correlate with patterns in the outer world.

Jason says:

This is tough. People should be free to believe what they like. And it should be legal to astrologize someone just as it is to televangelize. I don’t think that will change. A fool and his money are soon parted, especially in a free society. But Astrologers are right to fear the rise of humanism, not because of unfair denigration, censorship, or persecution, but because skeptical humanists call astrology the quaint but ultimately nonsensical old folktale that it is. Some (not all) astrologers know perfectly well that they’re selling snake oil and fleecing old ladies out of their money. Those con artists rightfully fear not only the education of their “marks” but also the increasing likelihood of being rightfully prosecuted for fraud.

Allison Segreto says:

Atheists aren’t against astrology…they simply find it just as silly as the other mythologies. I would like to point out that this bit:

“Here is what the American Humanist Association says about themselves:

American Humanist Association – We strive to bring about a progressive society where being good without gods is an accepted way to live life. We are accomplishing this through our defense of civil liberties and secular governance, by our outreach to the growing number of people without traditional religious faith, and through a continued refinement and advancement of the humanist worldview.

In other words, as I’ve said before, they don’t want to be just in their business, they want to be in yours too.”

makes absolutely no sense at all. Any third grader could read this and see that the this astrologer either misread or didn’t have the capacity to understand what the AHA sayid about themselves, or that she did understand and decided to blow smoke up the asses of the people who read her stuff…but then, I guess they’d be used to it.

Allison Segreto

Dan says:

“So then, it is a curious thing that atheists are organizing a “Woodstock for Atheists” today Saturday, March 24, 2012 on the mall in Washington, DC”. I can see why you would see this as curious, since no other groups, especially religious groups, ever organize meetings about their shared beliefs or ideas.

“However, one needs to be aware that the agenda of these non-theists is not so much about what they believe, but what they want you to believe and that is . . . what they believe.” Yes, that certainly is disturbing, because no other group of people with a shared view feels that what they believe is the right view. And the others certainly never argue that others should think like they do. I’m beginning to understand the rules for this logic.

Healing says:

Good rally and good speech, and astrology is not against atheist and humanist, Astrology always can give good solution for our life.

Beth Turnage says:

Of course astrology isn’t “against” atheists and humanists, but make no mistake, the Humanists actively campaign to denigrate astrology whenever possible. In the Humanist’s world, the practice of astrology would not be allowed.

Brjann says:

No one wants to make things like astrology and psychic reading illegal – suggesting that this is some kind of humanist conspiracy is absurd. Many DO, however, want to spread critical thinking and reasoning skills to people, enabling them though knowledge and education, thus reducing the number of suckers in the world. In such a state, pseudoscience like astrology and psychic reading would wither on the vine naturally, and not from legal enforcement.

Joe says:

I love when you are talking about James Randi “proof” suddenly becomes important, ha. That’s awesome!

mikey says:

Beth, I’m an atheist and humanist, and I can assure you that humanists have ZERO interest in “not allowing” people to practice astrology (or any other religious belief) as long as that practice doesn’t interfere with individual rights.

Atheists don’t “foist” their beliefs on people anymore than christians, muslims, or astrologists. Religions have a LONG and unpleasant history of foisting.

Beth Turnage says:

Respectfully, I disagree. You statement that “I can assure you that humanists have ZERO interest in “not allowing” people to practice astrology (or any other religious belief) as long as that practice doesn’t interfere with individual rights.” is not supported by the well orchestrated (and well documented) attacks by the “Skeptical” wing of the Humanists, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry on astrology.

Josh Oakley says:

There is a difference between not allowing something, and merely spreading the concepts of critical thinking and saying something is a fantasy.

Hunanists are saying that astrology is fictional, fantasy, not worth spending your money on, snake oil, not worth practicing for any meaningful guidance in your life, not based on the actual position of stars, a construct… Stuff of that nature.

But not that were they in power that they would ban the practice.

However, you say it is well documented that they would. So prove it.

Beth Turnage says:

Josh,

I said it was well documented that Humanists have waged an active campaign against astrology.

“Hunanists are saying that astrology is fictional, fantasy, not worth spending your money on, snake oil, not worth practicing for any meaningful guidance in your life, not based on the actual position of stars, a construct… Stuff of that nature.”

Actually, the active campaign against astrology has included publicity stunts like the “Objection to Astrology” manifesto published in the Humanist Magazine, disseminating disinformation about astrological practices (asserting for instance that astrology is not valid because astrologers don’t understand about precession) and actively participating in scientific studies about astrology and misrepresenting the findings of such studies. This is hardly “spreading the concepts of critical thinking”.

Andy Anderson says:

Wouldn’t all this be put to rest if demonstrable, scientifically testable evidence of astrology actually *working* was presented?

Also, count me in as one of the atheists who has zero desire to actively prevent people from practicing astrology. Go for it, it’s a free country – just don’t expect me to take it seriously without compelling reason to do so.

Beth Turnage says:

Andy,

Wouldn’t all this be put to rest if demonstrable, scientifically testable evidence of astrology actually *working* was presented?

Apparently not.

http://astrologyexplored.net/home/?p=1956