It was with some trepidation that I accepted the invitation to blog for Atlanta Skeptics. It’s not that I have nothing to say on skeptical matters; it’s that directive to make it local. Let’s face it, Sonny doesn’t call for rain prayers every day.
However, I was able to relax once I saw an article today that made me realize that I could cover nearly any subject that raises my skeptical hackles, because it’s all related. Perhaps I can take you through my thought processes that led to that conclusion.
The article was on Holocaust denial. Eric Hunt filed a lawsuit in Florida that called an Auschwitz survivor’s memories “vicious lies”. Now, Holocaust denial is not really a subject that interests me; I like looking into alternative medicine. Holocaust denial is like belief in a flat earth – most people dismiss it out of hand, and there’s really no reason to “come out” against Holocaust denial. But a quote at the end of the article caught my eye.
Hunt had earlier been convicted of assault against Elie Wiesel, a famous Holocaust survivor. He made a statement after the trial: “’I had been sucked into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on the Internet,’ Hunt said in August 2008. ‘I don’t believe any of that garbage now that I’m taking my medication.’”
Well, he’s off his meds now, obviously, and that sparked a connection in my mind with a group that’s in the news in Atlanta lately – Scientologists. This group does not give any credence to psychiatry or to medicines prescribed for mental health. If it were up to them, there would be thousands more Eric Hunts roaming around, a hair away from physical assault on those who don’t agree with them.
Now, this is not to say that all Holocaust deniers should be on psychoactive drugs, or that all Scientologists are anti-semitic. It also doesn’t mean, in this specific case, that Hunt is a Scientologist and is off his meds for that reason. However, it does show that unexamined beliefs which are innocuous on the surface, like Scientology, can lead to dangerous consequences. In Eric Hunt, the denial of the evidence of the usefulness of his medication is directly related to his denial of the Holocaust.
As skeptics, we are (or should be) willing to go wherever the evidence leads. And I would opine that denial of evidence is part of most of the subjects we’ll be discussing here.