left biblioblography: August 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Devil Made Me Do It: Diddling Children

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
recruitmentposterThere are perhaps fewer things more odious than someone who is a short-eyes. The inability to form healthy adult sexual relationships, predation on the innocent, libidinous urges all out of whack (likely due to religion’s anti-sexual nature) – it’s revolting. I’d personally like to catch these guys in a dark room, with a….never mind, you ken me drift.

It’s a sick sad world it is…mostly because the religious teach people that.

And lo and behold! In the following headline, we see the cheapest of rationalizations:

Missionary Accused of Molesting Kenyan Orphans Blames the Devil

A missionary from Oklahoma who was accused of molesting and raping children at a Kenyan orphanage blamed a demon named Luke for his crimes. Prosecutors have stated that 19-year-old Matthew Durham, who was volunteering at Upendo Children’s Home in the suburbs of Nairobi from April to June this year, sexually abused as many as ten children aged 4 to 10 years, including one who is infected with HIV.

A series of text messages were submitted along with Durham’s court documents that suggest that he did in fact speak to a friend about the supposed alter ego.

“Literally he takes me at night and there is nothing I can do to stop him... I've prayed so much, but every night Luke gets what Luke wants,” read one of the texts.

If convicted for aggravated sexual abuse with children and engaging in illegal sexual conduct in a foreign place, among other charges, Durham can be sentenced to life in prison.

The charge sheet says Durham travelled to Kenya from Oklahoma City to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors at Upendo, an orphanage that specializes in assisting abandoned Kenyan children by offering them housing, food, clothing and access to educational and religious institutions.

Durham's attorney, Stephen Jones, initially said his client’s confession was the result of some kind of pseudo-tribal psychological voodoo.

In another text message, Durham wrote to his friend, “It takes me at night and I am powerless to what Luke wants. Yes I named him, I know how crazy that is. He whispers in my ear all day and he's so hard to resist.”

Charges against Durham were still being litigated when his indictment was returned after a federal judge started deliberations over whether the accused should be sent back to his family home in Edmond. Durham was then detained while prosecutors appealed an order for his release on bond, a request that was eventually granted.

An affidavit said that Durham, who had been volunteering at the same orphanage since 2012, wrote and attested a statement admitting to his actions. The affidavit also said that an Upendo official submitted the statement to the United States Embassy in Nairobi.

“The defendant in this matter by his own detailed admission both orally and in writing has brutally raped and molested young girls and boys in an orphanage in Kenya. He has confessed his crimes in writing, on video, and has admitted to a life-long struggle of desires to touch children and child predation,” the appeal filed in U.S. District Court alleges.

However, Jones has challenged his client’s statements saying they were coerced by Upendo officials who confiscated Durham’s passport and kept him in isolation until he agreed to do what they asked him to.

Jones requested Durham’s release to his family on home incarceration as long as the case is being litigated, which according to him can take up to a few months.

“This litigation, with witnesses and alleged victims in Kenya, will likely endure many months… Further incarceration would violate Mr. Durham's due process right, as he is presumed innocent and will be detained for a prolonged amount of time,” Jones said in a written objection to the government's appeal.

Durham’s release was ordered by the magistrate for a bail bond of $10,000. The order states Durham’s father as his custodian, who testified to taking leave from his job at the Oklahoma City Fire Department so he can look after his son. The order also requires Durham to surrender his passport, avoid using his cellphone and any computer that can possibly put him in touch with children or any witnesses from the case.

This is emblematic of many of the issues I (as well as many others) have with religion. The views are all stunted and stilted: sexual repression (a powerful, inescapable fact of our biology), the coveting of innocence (overrated I’d say), the cheap rationalization and the abrogation of ethical responsibility. How responsible can you be, if you expect someone else (and an imaginary friend at that!) to clean up after your messes?

The fact that many wack-a-doons slide under the radar due to ‘religious affiliations is little help either.

‘Suffer the little children’ should rather read ‘the suffering children’.

Till the next post, then.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Voices In Your Head? Is There An App For That, Or Should You Just Get Therapy?

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis

90% of everything is crap – ‘Sturgeon’s Law’

bargin_exorcism_by_augustusceaserIt is an endless source of amusement, how stupidity outsmarts humanity on a regular basis.

Take this for instance:

Priest Says The Devil Texted Him after Failed Exorcism

A priest has been claiming that he received bizarre text messages from a demonic spirit after carrying out a failed exorcism. Reportedly, the spirit has been berating and threatening the priest ever since he failed to prove his expertise in what he claims to know best – exorcising demons.

Marian Rajchel, a priest who lives in Poland, insisted that his problems started after a supposedly possessed girl from his community was brought to him to be rid of the devil. Soon after Rajchel tried to exorcise the demons out of her, something he believes he did not succeed in doing, he started receiving filthy text messages from the devil.

“The author of these texts is an evil spirit who has possessed her soul. Often the owners of mobile phones are not even aware that they are being used like this. However, in this case it is clear,” he said.

Apparently, the messages said things like the girl would not come out of hell, she belongs to the devil, and anyone that prays for her will be killed. The priest responded to the first message, not knowing that he was communicating with the devil, which is when he received another text message berating him.

“Shut up, preacher. You cannot save yourself. Idiot. You pathetic old preacher,” it read.

This wanker did an epic fail (do the kids still call it that?) because

  1. There’s no such things as demons, and
  2. Obviously someone’s fucking with this guy.

For even more surreal hilarity, there’s this bit of folderol:

Shut Up Devil Smartphone App to Help People Silence Satan

A new app that has been designed for both iPhones as well as Android phones offers users the power to silence Satan. Created by evangelist Kyle Winkler, the Shut Up Devil app, offers users topical messages from the scriptures that is supposed to help them in times of spiritual conflict.

“‘The Shut Up, Devil!’ app is inspired by my own journey through spiritual warfare. A couple years ago, I awoke to a series of condemning thoughts and nagging accusations, reminding me of my every sin since potty training. The constant negative thoughts made me feel disqualified to be used of God, and nearly caused me to walk away from ministry,” said Winkler.

Convinced that he was being attacked by the Devil, Winkler tried to develop a newfound understanding of the scripture.

“I turned to Scripture as a way to help. Throughout the Bible, it refers to the importance of Scripture to help with renewal of the mind and in spiritual warfare. The Psalms instruct us to meditate upon scripture day and night (Psalm 1:2). And those who have observed Jewish people doing this know that this involves speaking it,” he said.

Winkler explained how some figures in the Bible including Jesus and Paul used the scriptures to fight the Devil. He said that reading out Bible verses aloud could truly help Christians’ minds to focus on Christ and ward off Satan and all of his minions.

The iPhone version of the app was launched in October 2013 but the Android version was launched only recently. According to the creator, the platform allows users to look up verses based on certain subjects like discouragement, anxiety, so on and so forth.

Thereafter, users can set alarms and reminders for when the verses need to read out aloud.

Wow. I keep trying to dial 666-666-6666, but it gives me a ‘your number cannot be completed as dialed’. Has anyone got his number? What’s that? Old Scratch was just a cautionary tale spun outta control? Gotcha.

I’d advise this bozo to start taking some anti-psychotics, but he’s too busy making money off of his (and other people’s) stupidity.

And as an addendum, the wholly bibble is 99.999999% crap. The occasional historical fact is the remaining 00.000001 percent.

Till the next post then.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Give Them Religious Liberty…Or Else!

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
religiouspersecutionI may have said this multiple times, but it bears repeating: belief is ubiquitous, and not the commodity everyone thinks it is. Oversaturate any market (or economy) with product (or a precious metal that suddenly becomes commonplace), and it lowers or even crashes said market/economy. But America has become an orgy of that mental masturbation we call religion. And now, the Tea-baggers are reaching for the brass ring:

This is a religious civil war: Hobby Lobby only the beginning for new religious theocrats

The United States is still a democratic republic, formally, but what that actually means in practice is increasingly in doubt — and the Hobby Lobby ruling, deeply disingenuous and sharply at odds with centuries of Anglo-American law, exemplifies how that formal reality is increasingly mocked in practice. It is a practice best described as neo-feudalism, taking power away from ordinary citizens, in all their pluralistic, idiosyncratic diversity, and handing it over to corporations and religious dictators in both the public and the private realm. The Supreme Court’s actions are not taking place in a vacuum — though they are filling one: As Tea Party Republicans in the House increasingly bring democratic self-government to a halt, contracting the power of we the people to act as a cohesive self-governing whole, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority shifts ever more everyday power into the hands of private dictatorships.

Hobby Lobby handed for-profit corporations religious rights for the first time in history — a radical break with all previous precedent, and yet a part of a recent pattern, as Norm Ornstein rightly pointed out:

[F]or the majority on the Roberts Court, through a series of rulings that favor corporations over labor or other interests, it is clear that corporations are king, superior to individual Americans—with all the special treatment in taxes and protection from legal liability that are unavailable to us individuals, and now all the extra benefits that come with individual citizenship. Call it the new Crony Capitalism.

The expansion of corporate power in Hobby Lobby has gotten too little attention, and I’ll return to discuss this further below. But the advancement of theocracy — religious dictatorship — is even less clearly seen through the fog of right-wing propaganda about “religious liberty.”

First, however, an important highlight of a neglected aspect of the Hobby Lobby case, the fact that Hobby Lobby’s self-professed belief appeared out of nowhere just in time for them to file suit, as Stephanie Mencimer noted in March:

The company admits in its complaint that until it considered filing the suit in 2012, its generous health insurance plan actually covered Plan B and Ella (though not IUDs). The burden of this coverage was apparently so insignificant that God, and Hobby Lobby executives, never noticed it until the mandate became a political issue.

In short, Hobby Lobby’s “deeply held beliefs” claims are transparently bogus — as well as being scientifically invalid, since none of the methods involved are abortifacients, as Hobby Lobby claims. These would not matter if they only guided individual private conduct; that’s precisely what religious freedom actually means. You’re free to be a religious hypocrite, because letting someone else judge your sincerity can lead too easily to real religious tyranny. But when you’re already in a position to tyrannize others — as Hobby Lobby is — that’s a whole different ballgame. The tyrant’s freedom is everyone else’s slavery.

Historically, theocracy meant top-down religiously sanctioned dictatorship, exemplified in Western history by the divine right of kings philosophy. No one reads John Locke’s “First Treatise on Civil Government” anymore, because it is a refutation of the divine right of kings — one might as well read a refutation of four element theory in physics class. Locke’s “Second Treatise” provided a sharply contrasted legitimate foundation for civil government — the social contract and the consent of the governed. This is the air we breathe, and have been breathing ever since America was born.

And yet, theocracy and democracy are not two utterly distinct phenomena. Theocracy can well hold sway inside the family, for example, while the larger society retains its democratic form. More to the point, one stream of extreme Christian theocratic thinking — the dominion theology of the New Apostolic Reformation — has no problem (initially, at least) assimilating its goals of a theocratic government with the existing two-party electoral system. As researcher Rachel Tabachnick explains:

Instead of escaping the earth (in the Rapture)* prior to the turmoil of the end times, they [the NAR] teach that believers will defeat evil by taking dominion, or control, over all sectors of society and government, resulting in mass conversions to their brand of Charismatic evangelicalism and a Christian utopia or “Kingdom” on earth.

In early 2010, a leading NAR figure, Edgardo Silvoso, founder of International Transformation Network, which played a major role in promoting and passing Uganda’s anti-gay legislation, confidently said, “It doesn’t matter if the Republican or the Democratic candidate wins the governorship [of Hawaii]. Either one is already in the kingdom.” It didn’t turn out that way, because Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii’s popular long-term U.S. representative, defeated both the NAR-supported candidates — one in the Democratic primary, the other in the general election. Still, Silvoso’s vision might have come true, there could have been a contested two-party election in which both candidates were Christian dominionists — and most in the media (and thereby the public) wouldn’t even have known what was going on.

Sarah Palin was the NAR’s first full-throated state governor (revealing videos here), but Rick Perry has strong NAR connections as well — the religious kickoff to his 2012 presidential campaign was entirely an NAR-run event. But the point here is a broader one: The dividing line between theocracy and a democratic republic is not nearly as sharp as most might suppose, in fact, there may not actually be such a line, only a zone of blurriness for everything involved.

While the NAR represents an international evangelical grass-roots force of remarkable power for how little press attention it has gained, the theocratic push from above in America — duplicity framed in terms of “religious liberty” — comes from a Catholic/Protestant alliance forged in antiabortion political battles of the past 30-plus years, which is also undercovered and poorly understood in the mainstream corporate media, despite being grounded in a phalanx of powerful organizations, from the high-profile Family Research Council and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, through more specialized think tanks and legal advocacy organizations, such as the Becket Fund and the Alliance Defending Freedom. A useful reference is ”Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights” by Jay Michaelson, published by Political Research Associates in March 2013. In it, he writes:

While the religious liberty debate is a growing front in the ongoing culture wars, it is actually an old argument repurposed for a new context. In the postwar era, the Christian Right defended racial segregation, school prayer, public religious displays, and other religious practices that infringed on the liberties of others by claiming that restrictions on such public acts infringed upon their religious liberty. Then as now, the Christian Right turned antidiscrimination arguments on their heads: instead of African Americans being discriminated against by segregated Christian universities, the universities were being discriminated against by not being allowed to exclude them; instead of public prayers oppressing religious minorities, Christians are being oppressed by not being able to offer them.

In the “religious liberty” framework, the Christian Right attacks access to contraception, access to abortion, same-sex marriage, and antidiscrimination laws—not on moral grounds (e.g., that contraception is morally wrong or that LGBTQ rights violate “family values”) but because they allegedly impinge upon the religious freedoms of others (e.g., by forcing employers to violate their religion by providing contraception coverage)….

In fact, there is not a single “religious liberty” claim that does not involve abridging someone else’s rights.

As I’ve already indicated, Hobby Lobby’s “deeply held beliefs” claims are transparently bogus, but this need not always be the case. What is the case is that the inversion Michaelson describes — that of turning anti-discrimination arguments on their heads — both derives from and contributes to states of confusion in which all manner of bogus claims may flourish. As I noted above, there are legitimate reasons why the content of religious beliefs should not be scrutinized when considering questions of free exercise. But when religion is being imposed upon others, the presumptions ought to be reversed; we ought to be extremely reluctant to allow anyone to impose their religious beliefs on anyone else, no matter how light or innocent that imposition might be claimed to be. The views themselves as well as the manner they are imposed on others ought to be scrutinized as rigorously as possible. Don’t want your religious beliefs questioned? Then don’t impose them on others. When push comes to shove, real religious freedom can be just as simple as that.

And the phony “religious freedom” crowd knows it, which helps explain why outright lies repeatedly slip into their arguments, as Michaelson’s report makes clear. For example, anti-gay “religious freedom” advocates routinely repeat the lie that legalizing same-sex marriage means forcing churches to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies against their will — a flat-out lie.

Legalized civil divorce did not force the Catholic Church to marry divorced individuals, and legalized same-sex marriage would not force them to marry gay individuals, either. Institutional religious practice is almost entirely insulated from civil law. What does change are the rules applying to society at large. Michaelson explains:

Typically, there are five tiers of actors:

1. Churches, clergy, and religious institutions

2. Religious organizations

3. Religiously affiliated organizations

4. Religiously owned businesses

5. Religious individuals

The law treats these tiers differently: churches are rarely required to obey antidiscrimination laws, for example, but religious organizations may be, and religious-owned businesses are. Conservative “religious liberty” rhetoric deliberately misstates harms upward, and tactically expands exemptions downward. On the one side, no clergy will ever have to solemnize any marriage against her/his beliefs, yet restrictions on tier 4 or 5 individuals are cynically extended by conservative messaging to tier 1.

Michaelson then addresses the context of the Hobby Lobby case:

On the other side, conservative “religious liberty” advocates are clearly pursuing a staged plan to migrate extensions downward. In the current HHS benefit battle, for example, the Obama administration first exempted tiers 1 and 2, and then, in February 2013, exempted tier 3. Yet still the Becket Fund has objected that “millions of Americans”—i.e., tiers 4 and 5—are still unprotected.

And this is precisely the logic that the Hobby Lobby decision pursued. The Obama administration’s exemptions of Tiers 1 and 2 were not seen as signs of respect for religious liberty, in line with traditional practice, nor was its further exemption of Tier 3 seen as going the extra mile in a spirit of conciliation. Instead, the accommodation made for Tier 3 was used by Justice Alito to argue for similar treatment for Tier 4. The end result is that women in more than half the nation’s workforce can now be deprived by their employers of their most basic reproductive rights, involving birth control, not abortion.

But that’s just one side of the story. There’s also the economic, corporate power side, where things are a bit more complicated. I quoted above from Norm Ornstein, making the point that Hobby Lobby was part of a broader pattern of shifting power into corporate hands. But it’s striking that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce did not weigh in on the Hobby Lobby Case — it produced no amicus brief. In fact, as noted by David H. Gans of the Constitutional Accountability Center, “the only noteworthy corporate voices to weigh in — the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce — actually came down against them [Hobby Lobby and its supporters].” Gans also notes another brief from dozens of corporate and criminal law professors, “who argued that Hobby Lobby’s argument would eviscerate the fabric of corporate law, undercutting the corporate veil that protects owners and shareholders from liability for the actions of the corporation.” The brief itself begins laying out its argument thus:

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga each asserts that the religious values of its present controlling shareholders should pass through to the corporation itself. This Court should reject any such “values pass-through” concept. To do otherwise would run contrary to established principles of corporate law.

The essence of a corporation is its “separateness” from its shareholders. It is a distinct legal entity, with its own rights and obligations, different from the rights and obligations of its shareholders. This Court has repeatedly recognized this separateness.

This is yet another indication of how radically the Hobby Lobby decision departs from the existing fabric of Anglo-American law. And yet, there are clearly some in the corporate world who welcome this development, and it’s surely no accident that the same five justices produced both Hobby Lobby and Citizens United. So what’s going on here?

The best answer I know of comes from political scientist Corey Robin, and it involves looking much deeper than the framework of corporate law. The day the decision came down, Robin published “A Reader’s Guide to Hobby Lobby,” listing what he called “a few posts I’ve written over the years that should help put the Supreme Court’s decision in theoretical and historical perspective.” They’re all well worth reading, but I want to focus on just one of them, the first of two that Robin described thus:

2. Second, two posts on free-market types and birth control, how even the most libertarian-ish free-wheeler seeks to control women’s bodies: Love For Sale: Birth Control from Marx to Mises and Probing Tyler Cowen: When Libertarians Get Medieval on Your Vagina.

In “Love for Sale,” Robin discusses Ludwig von Mises‘ classic 1922 text ”Socialism,” and some contemporary discussions concerning it, particularly its fourth chapter, “The Social Order and the Family.” Here is where Robin gets to the heart of the matter:

The real reason Mises’s arguments about women are so relevant, it seems to me, is that in the course of making them he reveals something larger about the libertarian worldview: libertarianism is not about liberty at all, or at least not about liberty for everyone. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Here’s Mises describing the socialist program of “free love”:

Free love is the socialists’ radical solution for sexual problems. The socialistic society abolishes the economic dependence of woman which results from the fact that woman is dependent on the income of her husband. Man and woman have the same economic rights and the same duties, as far as motherhood does not demand special consideration for the women. Public funds provide for the maintenance and education of the children, which are no longer the affairs of the parents but of society. Thus the relations between the sexes are no longer influenced by social and economic conditions….The family disappears and society is confronted with separate individuals only. Choice in love becomes completely free.

Sounds like a libertarian paradise, right? Society is dissolved into atomistic individuals, obstacles to our free choices are removed, everyone has the same rights and duties. But Mises is not celebrating this ideal; he’s criticizing it. Not because it makes people unfree but because it makes people — specifically, women — free. The problem with liberating women from the constraints of “social and economic conditions” is that … women are liberated from the constraints of social and economic conditions.

If you want to know why libertarians reflexively embrace the National Rifle Association’s vision of freedom, but not Planned Parenthood’s (contrasting visions I discussed here), you need look no further. This passage also helps explain why there’s at least a germ of historical sense in the otherwise ridiculous Tea Party accusation that Obama is a “socialist”! By using government to empower women to make their own reproductive choices — not just in theory, but for real — Obamacare’s reproductive healthcare mandate really is acting in the socialist spirit as Mises described it, however market-based the mechanisms involved may be.

But it’s worth lingering a bit further with the socialist vision as Mises describes it, because it is so intimately bound up in what a functioning democratic republic actually does, or at least has the potential to do, when, for example, we take the Constitution’s general welfare clause seriously. What the socialists want, Mises argues, is to eliminate all manner of “natural inequalities”. This would, ironically, make everyone—not just privileged, straight, white males of means — into classic libertarian subjects, exercising their own, individual, unconstrained and uncoerced free choice. And this is the very last thing that libertarians actually want.

This helps explain why, for example, today’s Tea Party Republicans reject unemployment insurance as “socialist” — if someone out of work has any freedom at all to hold out for a job that will cover their mortgage, say, that’s socialism as Mises would describe it. And he has a point: socialism really is just another word for collectively removing the hidden and semi-hidden forms of coercion that otherwise shape and control our everyday lives. That’s why public education is socialist, too — and why Democratic politicians as well as Republicans are so eager to destroy it nowadays. But none of these other examples is quite as visceral or far-reaching as that of giving women reproductive autonomy equal to that of men.

This, then, is the bottom line: Conservatives (including libertarians) stand for the preservation and reinforcement (if necessary) of purportedly “natural” inequalities, which automatically structure all of society into overlapping forms of dominance and submission, in which the vast majority of people are inherently unfree “by nature.” Any collective action taken to free people from such dependent, powerless living conditions is anathema to them. Democracy itself is anathema to them. And Hobby Lobby is just the latest signal that they are firmly in charge.

Do they contradict themselves? Of course! So what? Do facts or logic matter anymore? Don’t be ridiculous! Dictatorship means never having to say you’re sorry — much less even a teensy bit wrong. The damages done to the structure and logic of corporate law? Irrelevant!

At the beginning, I wrote, “The United States is still a democratic republic, formally, but what that actually means in practice is increasingly in doubt.” This doubt can simply be summarized in the fact that any action to promote the general welfare will be automatically blocked and denounced as “socialism” by Tea Party Republicans in the House, while at the same time, the 5-4 conservative majority in the Supreme Court rewrites decades or centuries of precedent to further empower the most powerful elements in our society, to the ever-deepening detriment of the whole.

So understand this, folks: even though there is not currently (nor has there ever been) a ‘war against religious liberty’, these monkey-see-monkey-do types, who think their worldview should be everyone’s worldview, are the enemy. It doesn’t matter that there is no such war: these Machiavellian mindfarts think there is one happening, regardless. And when Christians want something badly enough, they bring it to fruition. Don’t believe me? Look it up yourself.

So I hope, as any rational person does, that it won’t come to that. But history tells us these cretins are not to be trusted. The future could end up with people being forced to pray at gunpoint. As histrionic as that may seem, it is starting to look like a very scary reality.

So be afraid. And stock up. It could very well be a long siege.

Till the next post, then.


Saturday, August 09, 2014

Heaven Is Surreal: Hollyweird Is Pandering To The Sheeple Again

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
bygonesI shop at Safeway frequently (try on a near daily basis). And it’s hard not to notice all the glitter and garbage they pepper the market with. You may know what I mean: shelves stacked with tabloids where the headlines very nearly mug you, the latest and greatest flavor-of-the-month movie that formulaically tugs at the heartstrings (I’ll skip over the sugary treats that I’m avoiding on my diet).

So of course this movie pops up out of nowhere: Heaven Is For Real. It’s even showing up on my Netflix movie mailers. I have barely restrained the urge to rush out to a hobby store and buy a large powerful magnet, and very stealthily handle each jewel cover, secretly running the magnet over the magnetic media. Why would I want to do such a dastardly thing?

Because the afterlife poisons this life. It degrades making our own purposes, it falsely lulls folks into saving up for a future that will never arrive. It sends dullards to their deaths in false righteousness, even though an omnipotent  power requiring that you sacrifice yourself for it is probably the most contradictory concept in the universe.

Had I known this travesty was being shown at theaters, I would’ve been sorely tempted to picket the movie. But that would’ve entitled a bunch of zealots who claim to spread love in the name of their religion to thrash the apostate.

But hey! Let’s examine the alleged ‘evidence’:

In the book, Todd Burpo, pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, Nebraska, writes that during the months after his son, Colton's, emergency surgery in 2003, Colton began describing events and people that seemed impossible for him to have known about. Examples include knowledge of an unborn sister whom no one had told him about and his great grandfather who died 30 years before he was born. Colton also claimed that he personally met Jesus riding a rainbow-colored horse and sat in Jesus' lap, while the angels sang songs to him. He also says he saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at other times standing beside Jesus.

Where to begin? If the dad had been an atheist, and the child had had absolutely NO exposure and/or instruction in Christianity, well hell, that might even shake my steely resolve. But the father was a pastor? Mighty suspect. As to the unborn sister and the great-grandfather? Come on, kids pick up on shit. None of this is particularly earth-shattering. A rainbow-colored horse? That sounds suspiciously like a cartoon of some sort.

Let’s set aside the obvious confirmation bias: the satanic day-care scare of the 80’s and 90’s taught us this;


Children are vulnerable to outside influences that lead to fabrication of testimony. Their testimony can be influenced in a variety of ways. Maggie Bruck in her article published by the American Psychological Association wrote that children incorporate aspects of the interviewer's questions into their answers in an attempt to tell the interviewer what the child believes is being sought. Studies also show that when adults ask children questions that do not make sense (such as "is milk bigger than water?" or "is red heavier than yellow?"), most children will offer an answer, believing that there is an answer to be given, rather than understand the absurdity of the question. Furthermore, repeated questioning of children causes them to change their answers. This is because the children perceive the repeated questioning as a sign that they did not give the "correct" answer previously. Children are also especially susceptible to leading and suggestive questions.



Interviewer bias also plays a role in shaping child testimony. When an interviewer has a preconceived notion as to the truth of the matter being investigated, the questioning is conducted in a manner to extract statements that support these beliefs. As a result, evidence that could disprove the belief is never sought by the interviewer. Additionally, positive reinforcement by the interviewer can taint child testimony. Often such reinforcement is given to encourage a spirit of cooperation by the child, but the impartial tone can quickly disappear as the interviewer nods, smiles, or offers verbal encouragement to "helpful" statements. Some studies show that when interviewers make reassuring statements to child witnesses, the children are more likely to fabricate stories of past events that never occurred.

Highly damning. Now let’s (briefly) look at NDE’s. The  resuscitation techniques developed in the 20th and 21st centuries have increased the amount of NDE’s reported exponentially. This phenomenon is a likely candidate for the survival of these antiquated nonsenses we call religion. In fact, there are so many variances within these experiences, which occur with some frequency, that they have specifically labeled categories.

Sam Harris puts it thusly;

However, the deepest problem with drawing sweeping conclusions from the NDE is that those who have had one and subsequently talked about it did not actually die. In fact, many appear to have been in no real danger of dying. And those who have reported leaving their bodies during a true medical emergency—after cardiac arrest, for instance—did not suffer the complete loss of brain activity. Even in cases where the brain is alleged to have shut down, its activity must return if the subject is to survive and describe the experience. In such cases, there is generally no way to establish that the NDE occurred while the brain was offline.

Well, let me take a stand right now: until someone can prove to me beyond a reasonable doubt that all those memories, experiences, thoughts, or other items associated with the ‘soul’ exist and go elsewhere after the shuffling off of this mortal coil, that information survives the physical death of the individual, I’m going to have to go with an extreme biochemical response to real or perceived danger.

And what I mean by reasonable doubt, is that it can be codified and replicated in a lab.

Till then next post, then.


Sunday, August 03, 2014

A Tea Party Politician Proves God! Let’s Stone The Homos!

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis

gohmertjester"No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means." – G.B. Shaw

It’s these dratted headlines that are most embarrassing to our country, and our citizenry. Somehow being a member of the Tea (bag) party is a free pass to say some of the stupidest and most ignorant things any human can say.

For instance:

Louie Gohmert Proves God's Existence With One Simple Equation

Mocking non-believers for failing to grasp the logic behind the existence of God, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) cited an exchange with the late Texas entertainer Bob Murphey to disprove atheism during a prayer rally in Washington, D.C. Wednesday.

“Bob Murphey used to say, ‘You know, I feel so bad for atheists, I do,'” Gohmert recalled at "Celebrate America,” a three-week-long revival event. “‘Think about it, no matter how smart they think they are, an atheist has to admit that he believes the equation: nobody plus nothing equals everything.’”

"How embarrassing for an intellectual to have to say 'Yeah, I believe that,'" Gohmert said, citing Murphey. "Nobody plus nothing equals everything."

Of course, Gomer’s statement is intellectually null & void, pure idiocy: there’s no such thing as nothing, so it’s not an item for use in simple math; there is no simple ‘this + that=everything’ formula (though I’ve heard rumors otherwise). I guess simple minds think alike.

And then there’s this little gem:

Oklahoma Tea Party Candidate Supports Stoning Gay People to Death

Given how savagely anti-gay the mainstream Oklahoma Republican party is, it’s no surprise that the state’s Tea Partiers are so rabidly hateful that they come across more as dark satire than as serious bigots. To wit: This week, an Oklahoma magazine discovered that last summer, Tea Party state House candidate Scott Esk endorsed stoning gay people to death: “I think we would be totally in the right to do it,” he said in a Facebook post. Esk went on to add nuance to his position:

That [stoning gay people to death] goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I’m largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss.

When a Facebook user messaged Esk to clarify further, he responded:

I never said I would author legislation to put homosexuals to death, but I didn’t have a problem with it.

Understandably unnerved, the magazine called up Esk for clarification. Although Esk claimed he didn’t remember the comments, he fleshed out his views:

That was done in the Old Testament under a law that came directly from God and in that time there it was totally just. It came directly from God. I have no plans to reinstitute that in Oklahoma law. I do have some very huge moral misgivings about those kinds of sins.

Pressed one final time about his position on stoning gay human beings to death, Esk dug in his heels:

I know what was done in the Old Testament and what was done back then was what’s just. … And I do stand for Biblical morality.

Seriously, how is it these fuckwits get elected? This is what people get when they don’t vet a political candidate, or worse yet, don’t vote. The inmates running bedlam. Ignorance being spread.

It’s a crying shame.

Till the next post, then.