Religion Continues at Forefront in The Spread of Pandemic


Messiah Will Come by Passover, Says Israel Health Minister

“I am sure Messiah will come by Passover and save us the same way God saved us during the Exodus”

Via Israel Today Staff

Only the Messiah can save Israel from coronavirus, says Health Minister.
Flash90

Israel Health Ministry Yaakov Litzman has been criticized for what many call his unprofessional handling of the coronavirus crisis. But in a recent interview, he suggested that while he takes the situation seriously, he’s waiting on a more divine brand of deliverance.

One of the early sticking points in the current unity coalition negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz was the latter’s insistence that someone other than Litzman serve as Minister of Health in the next government.

Litzman insisted that his United Torah Judaism faction and its seven seats would remain in the coalition only if he retaied his current post, and Gantz on Sunday reportedly acquiesced.

That sorely disappointed health care professionals in Israel. Earlier in the day, Channel 12 News reported that the heads of hospital departments across the country had petitioned Netanyahu to install a Minister of Health with an actual medical background.

Earlier this month, Litzman was asked in an interview with Chamal News if the current restrictions on the Israeli population will last until after the Passover holiday, set to begin the evening of April 8, next Wednesday.

Israel’s Minister of Health responded:

“God forbid! We are praying and hoping that Messiah will arrive before Passover as it is a time of our redemption. I am sure that the Messiah will come by Passover and save us the same way God saved us during the Exodus and we were freed. The Moshiach will come and save us all.”

[Yaakov Litzman is also the depraved the pervert that perverted the course of justice and pressured employees in his department to prevent extradition of sex abuser Malka Leifer to face 74 counts of child sex abuse in Australia. Police recommended that Litzman be indicted for bribery, fraud, witness tampering and breach of trust.]

For more reactions to Litzman’s faith-based approach, see: 
Bible-Believing Health Minister Makes Israelis Fume

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‘Half-Breed Jew’ Committed Holocaust, Claims Netanyahu Ally John Hagee


hagee-armageddon

[Comment:- someone please tell the Israeli government that the only reason this porcine toad is a Christian Zionist is because he’s praying for God to kill all the Jews, so that the Christians can have the land Israel stolen from the Palestinians.  And that by doing so, he is objectively pro-death, pro-sabotage and pro-theft. With genocidal “friends” like Hagee, does Israel need enemies?!]

Main article by Bruce Wilson

‘Half-Breed Jew’ Committed Holocaust, Claims Netanyahu Ally John Hagee

Who committed the Holocaust?

For the overwhelming majority of historians and, needless to say, Jews it’s a settled question: Hitler, and his Nazis. But Christians United For Israel (CUFI) head John Hagee, one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest American allies, has a different answer: “half-breed Jews.” Netanyahu meets frequently with Hagee, endorses CUFI, has spoken at numerous CUFI events, and lavishes Hagee and his organization with praise. Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently scheduled to speak at CUFI’s annual Washington summit, July 13-14 2015. John Hagee book Jerusalem CountdownHagee’s Christians United For Israel organization currently sells a book by pastor John Hagee, Jerusalem Countdown: A warning To The World, which on page 149 (2006 “revised and updated” paperback edition) claims Adolf Hitler was a “half-breed Jew” and states (p. 97) that Hitler was sent by God, as a “hunter,” to persecute Europe’s Jews and drive them towards “the only home God ever intended for the Jews to have-Israel.” In 2008 media uproar over Hagee’s “hunter” claim (as made in a 2005 sermon that was exposed by this author) led presidential candidate John McCain to renounce his long-sought endorsement from pastor Hagee. Hagee’s claim that Hitler was Jewish is not new. In a 2003 sermon broadcast internationally and marketed as a VHS cassette, John Hagee claimed [link to video of sermon] the Antichrist would be “partially Jewish, as was Adolf Hitler, as was Karl Marx.” CUFI head John Hagee also blames anti-Semitism on Jews themselves, writing in Jerusalem Countdown (p. 56) that “It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews… that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day.” Hagee’s book then traces (p. 57) the birth of anti-Semitism to Jewish idol worship:

How utterly repulsive, insulting, and heartbreaking to God for his chosen people to credit idols with bringing blessings he had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.

In Hagee’s account “half-breed Jews,” Hitler included, have served as the human agents by which God implements a divine curse placed upon the racially pure (non-miscegenated) Jewish people. On page 149 of Hagee’s book Jerusalem Countdown, in a chapter with the ominous title “Who Is a Jew,” Hagee writes,

Esau’s descendants would produce a lineage that would attack and slaughter the Jews for centuries. Esau’s descendants included Haman, whose diabolical mind conceived the “final solution” of the Old Testament — the extermination of all Jews living in Persia. It was Esau’s descendants who produced the half-breed Jews of history who have persecuted and murdered the Jews beyond human comprehension. Adolf Hitler was a distant descendant of Esau.

In his next sentence, Hagee goes on to make the false claim that in the 1976 book Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, noted Hitler biographer John Toland “records that Hitler was part Jewish.” What Toland actually stated in his Hitler biography was “There is the slight possibility that Hitler’s grandfather was a wealthy Jew named Frankenberger or Frankenreither.” Hagee’s identification of a miscegenated race of “half-breed Jews” tracing back to Esau seems to originate in theological ideas from the fringe, virulently racist white supremacist Christian Identity movement, as described in books such as Religion and The Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement, by leading authority Dr. Michael Barkun. While John Hagee has for decades loudly and publicly condemned anti-Semitism, his writings and sermons have nonetheless promoted some of the most influential and inflammatory anti-Jewish tropes of the modern era, such as the claim that predatory Jewish bankers control international finance and prey upon the masses of humankind.

John Hagee sermon, March 23, 2003

John Hagee, giving March 23, 2003 sermon

In a March 23, 2003 sermon broadcast internationally, Hagee claimed European Rothschild bankers, along with David Rockefeller, controlled the U.S. economy through the Federal Reserve — which according to Hagee was bankrupting average Americans by devaluing the dollar. The Jewish Anti-Defamation League identifies this type of Federal Reserve conspiracy theory, that places Jewish bankers at the center of the proposed grand financial conspiracy, as a “classic anti-Semitic myth”

promotional poster for Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew

Promotional poster for Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda film “Der Ewige Jude” (“The Eternal Jew”)

Hagee’s Jewish banker conspiracy theory was astonishingly similar to claims showcased in the 1940 anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew, said to have been produced under supervision of Hitler’s propagandist Joseph Goebbels [link to video footage] . The Nazi film claimed (see link, above) that Jewish bankers, led by European Rothschilds, had “spread their net of financial influence over the working man” and were using their influence over global finance to “terrorize world [money] markets, world opinion, and world politics.” In his March 23, 2003 sermon, that was marketed by John Hagee Ministries as a 3-VHS cassette tape series, Hagee explained [video link], to his megachurch members and to audiences viewing Hagee’s sermon on evangelical radio and TV networks across the globe:

It may be shocking to you but I believe that America’s economic problems are not created by market conditions, they are planned and orchestrated to devalue and to destroy the value of the dollar. It was done by an unseen government that I’ll discuss later in this message. [..] Our economic destiny is controlled by the Federal Reserve system that is now headed by Alan Greenspan. Think about this. It is not a government institution. It is controlled by a group of Class A stockholders including the Rothschilds of Europe and the David Rockefellers of America… So get this one thought. The value of the dollar is controlled by an agency which is not controlled by America. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in finance to understand that. The value of your dollar is controlled by an organization, the Federal Reserve that is not controlled by America. That’s a fact.

packaging of 2003 Hagee sermon series Iraq The Final War

Packaging of John Hagee’s 2003 3-sermon VHS set Iraq: The Final War, that contained Hagee’s March 23, 2003 sermon

Hagee also aired his Jewish banker conspiracy theory in his 1996 book Day of Deception that was reprinted in 2000 in an edition billed as having sold “over 1.1 million copies.” Hagee’s Day of Deception is still sold, by Thomas Nelson publishers. In the book, Hagee makes clear that European Rothschilds (not Rockefellers) have majority shareholder control of the Federal Reserve. In his March 23, 2003 sermon, Hagee predicted that Jewish financiers were behind a satanic Illuminati plot, based in Europe, that would bring the Antichrist to power. This Antichrist, who in a prior sermon Hagee had predicted would be both partially Jewish and homosexual, would according to Hagee [video link] slaughter up to 1/3 of the world’s population and “make Hitler look like a choirboy”. Hagee’s claim that Hitler was “partially Jewish” fits into an emerging American right-wing revisionist genre, with both evangelical and secular expressions, that is rewriting the Holocaust by recasting the victims of Nazi persecution, such as Jews, liberals, communists, and homosexuals, as having been themselves the architects of Nazi persecution and the Holocaust. John Hagee’s pro-Israel form of Christian Zionism is an extremely complex phenomenon which over the past several decades has come to play a significant role in Israel politics. (see this analysis, from Boston-based think tank Political Research Associates, by PRA Fellow Rachel Tabachnick, on the tortured admixture of philo-Semitism and anti-Semitism that characterizes the movement). But Christian Zionism is not new. In the early 1920s, a leading American industrialist — one of the giants of his age, wrote,

Every Jew ought to know also that in every Christian church where the ancient prophecies are received and studied, there is a great revival of interest in the future of the Ancient People. It is not forgotten that certain promises were made to them regarding their position in the world, and it is held that these prophesies will be fulfilled. The future of the Jew, as prophetically outlined, is intimately bound up with the future of this planet, and the Christian church in large part-at least by the evangelical wing, which most Jews condemn-sees a Restoration of the Chosen People yet to come. If the mass of Jews knew how understandingly and sympathetically all the prophecies will find fulfillment and that they will result in great Jewish service to society at large, they would probably regard the church with another mind.

 Henry Ford's The International JewThe author was Henry Ford, who in the 1920s commissioned the writing of the infamous anti-Jewish tract series The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem that expanded upon anti-Jewish conspiracy theories outlined in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious anti-Jewish propaganda document forged by the Russian Tzarist secret police.

Henry Ford placed blame for the start of World War One squarely on Jewish finance. “I know who caused the war: German-Jewish bankers,” declared Ford in 1915. In his 1920 tract series, articles such as “Jewish Power and America’s Money Famine” attributed the economic misfortunes of average Americans, such as farmers, to alleged Jewish control of gold supplies. Henry Ford paid for The International Jew to be translated into German and distributed in mass quantities in Germany. In post-WW2 testimony at the Nuremberg War Crime Tribunals, it emerged that Ford’s anti-Jewish tract had deeply influenced leading Nazis such as Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach. The extended quote above, by Henry Ford, was originally published in Ford’s tract series The International Jew. As may be the case with some contemporary Christian Zionists, Ford did not believe himself to be an anti-Semite. For years the automaker annually gave a new Model T Ford to Rabbi Leo M. Franklin, who lived in Ford’s former Detroit neighborhood.

After Ford began publishing his series The International Jew, Franklin began to refuse Ford’s annual Model T gifts. When Ford questioned the rabbi about it, Franklin replied, “you’re attacking Jews. I can’t accept anything from you.” Ford replied, “No, I’m not attacking Jews, I’m attacking bad Jews. I would think you’d be supportive of that.”
Rabbi Franklin went on to become a co-founder of the Anti-Defamation League.

Today Is Blasphemy Day | Free Speech Does Not Surrender to Anyone’s Imaginary Friend


Today Is Blasphemy Day and Thank God For That

Founded by the secular Center For Inquiry in 2009, Blasphemy Day is observed every September 30 in order to promote the idea that religion should be subjected to same kinds of analysis and critique that other beliefs are. While it’s generally acceptable to engage in rhetorical free-for-alls about political issues such as immigration, gay marriage, and the top marginal tax rate, it’s often considered taboo or at least poor form to approach religion in the same way.

This is because deep down most people know that religion is fundamentally defenseless. Not only does it have no evidence, it doesn’t even pretend to have any. The Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, and other holy texts are all revealed wisdom from god(s) as far as their respective followers are concerned. God says it, and the believer believes it. That’s how religion works. It has never relied on fact to perpetuate itself. Rather, it depends primarily on tradition and intimidation, and one way to intimidate people is through blasphemy laws.

According to Pew Research Center, dozens of countries around the world have blasphemy laws, the violation of which can incur everything from a fine to the death penalty to vigilante murder.

BlasphemyLaws

Blasphemy laws are most prevalent and most harsh in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. They occur most frequently in Muslim-majority countries. Interestingly, neither the Quran nor the hadith prescribe any punishments for blasphemy, but this has not prevented some scholars and clerics from deeming it a grave offense, often worthy of death. On the other hand, the Bible is quite concerned with blasphemy, and even advocates stoning for those who speak irreverently of god and the divine. However, Christian-majority countries have by and large phased out draconian laws and punishments for this offense.

In addition to tradition and intimidation, religion also depends on something else for its survival: reverence from people outside the faith. As secular as Western society is relative to other parts of the world, there is an awful and dangerous tendency to defer to the sensitivities of people of faith. The September 30 observance of Blasphemy Day is not random, but was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the publication of several “blasphemous” cartoons of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, in a Danish newspaper in 2005. As a result of their publication, violence broke out across the globe. In Damascus, rioters set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies in response. The Danish embassy in Beirut was also set ablaze. In Benghazi, the Italian consulate was torched as well. In Nigeria, 11 churches were burned and 16 people were killed.

The reaction to the reaction was deplorable. Pope Benedict XVI condemned the violence, but also the cartoons, as if the whole business came down to bad behavior on both sides. More incredibly, a U.S. State Department spokesman denounced the cartoons, saying, “We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression, but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.” For their part, several major U.S. news outlets chose not to show the cartoons in question.

Later on, South Park, too, came under intense scrutiny when creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone planned to depict Muhammad in a 2006 episode, after already having done so in 2001. Eventually, it was censored, and Muhammad was placed inside a bear suit (though Muhammad actually turned out to be Santa Claus).

These rows were reminiscent of the criticism of Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses in the late 1980s. So offensive was that book to religious sensitivities, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the writer’s death — a fatwa which has not been fulfilled, though to this day Rushdie takes extra precautions when moving about. While the diktat from an extremist like Khomeini was hardly surprising, the condemnation from literary figures such as Roald Dahl and John le Carré was more unexpected. Former president Jimmy Carter even got in on the act, calling the book “an insult” to Muslims.

Implicit in these condemnations is a disturbing qualification of free speech, which is to say human rights. The way stop this puerile and violent nonsense is not to assent to the demands of the offended, but to ignore them. There is no such thing as the right to not be offended, which is why we need to stop acting like there is. It’s time that the religiously sensitive become desensitized and recall that age-old adage: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but blasphemy couldn’t possibly hurt me.

7 Reasons Why It’s Easier for Humans to Believe in God Than Evolution


7 Reasons Why It’s Easier for Humans to Believe in God Than Evolution

What science can tell us about our not-so-scientific minds.

—By 

The ascent of man? José-manuel Benitos/Wikimedia Commons. Photoillustration by Matt Connolly.

Late last week, the Texas Board of Education failed to approve a leading high school biology textbook—whose authors include the Roman Catholic biologist Kenneth Miller of Brown University—because of its treatment of evolution. According to The New York Times, critiques from a textbook reviewer identified as a “Darwin Skeptic” were a principal cause.

Yet even as creationists keep trying to undermine modern science, modern science is beginning to explain creationism scientifically. And it looks like evolution—the scientifically uncontested explanation for the diversity and interrelatedness of life on Earth, emphatically including human life—will be a major part of the story. Our brains are a stunning product of evolution; and yet ironically, they may naturally pre-dispose us against its acceptance.

1871 satirical image depicting Charles Darwin as an ape.

1871 satirical image depicting Charles Darwin as an ape. The Hornet/Wikimedia Commons

“I don’t think there’s any question that a variety of our mental dispositions are ones that discourage us from taking evolutionary theory as seriously as it should be taken,” explains Robert N. McCauley, director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture at Emory University and author of the book Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not.

So what can science tell us about our not-so-scientific minds? Here’s a list of cognitive traits, thinking styles, and psychological factors identified in recent research that seem to thwart evolution acceptance:

Biological Essentialism. First, we seem to have a deep tendency to think about biology in a way that is “essentialist”—in other words, assuming that each separate kind of animal species has a fundamental, unique nature that unites all members of that species, and that is inviolate. Fish have gills, birds have wings, fish make more fish, birds make more birds, and that’s how it all works. Essentialist thinking has been demonstrated in young children. “Little kids as young as my 2 and a half year old granddaughter are quite clear that puppies don’t have ponies for mommies and daddies,” explains McCauley.

If essentialism is a default style of thinking, as much research suggests, then that puts evolution at a major disadvantage. Charles Darwin and his many scientific disciples have shown that essentialism is just plain wrong: Given enough time, biological kinds are not fixed but actually change. Species are connected through intermediate types to other species—and all are ultimately related to one another.

Teleological Thinking. Essentialism is just one basic cognitive trait, observed in young children, that seems to hinder evolutionary thinking. Another is “teleology,” or the tendency to ascribe purposes to things and objects so as to assume they exist to serve some goal.

Recent research suggests that 4 and 5 year old children are highly teleological in their thinking, tending to opine, for instance, that clouds are “for raining” and that the purpose of lions is “to go in the zoo.” The same tendency has been observed in 7 and 8 year olds who, when asked why “prehistoric rocks are pointy,” offered answers like “so that animals could scratch on them when they got itchy” and “so that animals wouldn’t sit on them and smash them.”

Title page of the Reverend William Paley's 1802 work Natural Theology, which famously propounded an argument for God's existence based on the appearance of design in nature.

Title page of the Reverend William Paley’s 1802 work Natural Theology, which famously propounded an argument for God’s existence based on the appearance of design in nature. Wikimedia Commons

Why do children think like this? One studyspeculates that this teleological disposition may be a “side [effect] of a socially intelligent mind that is naturally inclined to privilege intentional explanation.” In other words, our brains developed for thinking about what people are thinking, and people have intentions and goals. If that’s right, the playing field may be naturally tilted toward anti-evolutionist doctrines like “intelligent design,” which postulates an intelligent agent (God) as the cause of the diversity of life on Earth, and seeks  to uncover evidence of purposeful design in biological organisms.

Overactive Agency Detection. But how do you know the designer is “God”? That too may be the result of a default brain setting.

Another trait, closely related to teleological thinking, is our tendency to treat any number of inanimate objects as if they have minds and intentions. Examples of faulty agency detection, explains University of British Columbia origins of religion scholar Ara Norenzayan, range from seeing “faces in the clouds” to “getting really angry at your computer when it starts to malfunction.” People engage in such “anthropomorphizing” all the time; it seems to come naturally. And it’s a short step to religion: “When people anthropomorphize gods, they are inferring mental states,” says Norenzayan.

There has been much speculation about the evolutionary origin of our anthropomorphizing tendency. One idea is that our brains developed to rapidly assume that objects in the world are alive and may pose a threat, simply because while wrongly mistaking a rustle of leaves for a bear won’t get you killed, failing to detect a bear early (when the leaves rustle) most certainly will. “Supernatural agents are readily conjured up because natural selection has trip-wired cognitive schema for agency detection in the face of uncertainty,” write Norenzayan and fellow origin of religion scholar Scott Atran.

Illustration by Rene Descartes of the pineal gland, which he believed to be the location of the soul within the brain.

Illustration by Rene Descartes of the pineal gland, which he believed to be the location of the soul within the brain. Wikimedia Commons

Dualism. Yet another apparent feature of our cognitive architecture is the tendency to think that minds (or the “self” and the “soul”) are somehow separate from brains. Once again, this inclination has been found in young children, suggesting that it emerges early in human development. “Preschool children will claim that the brain is responsible for some aspects of mental life, typically those involving deliberative mental work, such as solving math problems,” write Yale psychologistsPaul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg. “But preschoolers will also claim that the brain is not involved in a host of other activities, such as pretending to be a kangaroo, loving one’s brother, or brushing one’s teeth.”

Dualistic thinking is closely related to belief in phenomena like spirits and ghosts. But in a recent study, it was also the cognitive factor most strongly associated with believing in God. As for evolutionary science? Dualism is pretty clearly implicated in resistance to the idea that human beings could have developed from purely natural processes—for if they did, how could there ever be a soul or self beyond the body, to say nothing of an afterlife?

Inability to Comprehend Vast Time Scales. According to Norenzayan, there’s one more basic cognitive factor that prevents us from easily understanding evolution. Evolution occurred due to the accumulation of many small changes over vast time periods—which means that it is unlike anything we’ve experienced. So even thinking about it isn’t very easy. “The only way you can appreciate the process of evolution is in an abstract way,” says Norenzayan. “Over millions of years, small changes accumulate, but it’s not intuitive. There’s nothing in our brain that says that’s true. We have to override our incredulity.”

Group Morality and Tribalism. All of these cognitive factors seem to make evolution hard to grasp, even as they render religion (or creationist ideas) simpler and more natural to us. But beyond these cognitive factors, there are also emotional reasons why a lot of people don’t want to believe in evolution. When we see resistance to its teaching, after all, it is usually because a religious community fears that this body of science will undermine a belief system—in the US, usually fundamentalist Christianity—deemed to serve as the foundation for shared values and understanding. In other words, evolution is resisted because it is perceived as a threat to the group.

So how appropriate that one current scientific theory about religion is that it exists (and, maybe, that it evolved) to bind groups together and keep them cohesive. In his recent bookThe Righteous Mind, moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues that religions provide a shared set of beliefs and practices that, in effect, serve as social glue. “Gods and religions,” writes Haidt, “are group-level adaptations for producing cohesiveness and trust.” The upside is unity; the downside, Haidt continues, is “groupishness, tribalism, and nationalism.” Ideas and beliefs that threaten the group or the beliefs that hold it together—ideas like evolution—are bound to fare badly in this context.

Everett Collection/Shutterstock

Fear and the Need for Certainty. Finally, there appears to be something about fear and doubt that impels religiosity and dispels acceptance of evolution. “People seem to take more comfort from a stance that says, someone designed the world with good intentions, instead of that the world is just an intention-less, random place,” says Norenzayan. “This is especially true when we feel a sense of threat, or a feeling of not being in control.”

Indeed, in one amazing study, New Zealanders who had just suffered through a severe earthquake showed stronger religiosity, but only if they had been directly affected by the quake. Other research suggests that making people think about death increases their religiosity and also decreases evolution acceptance. It’s not just death: It’s also randomness, disorder. In one telling study, research participants who were asked to think of a situation in which they had lacked control and then to “provide three reasons supporting the notion that the future is (un-) controllable,” showed a marked decline in their acceptance of evolution, opting instead for an intelligent design-style explanation. (Another study found that anti-evolutionists displayed higher fear sensitivity and a trait called the “need for cognitive closure,” which describes a psychological need to find an answer that can resolve uncertainty and dispel doubt.)

Such is the research, and it’s important to point out a few caveats. First, this doesn’t mean science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. The conflict may run very deep indeed, but nevertheless, some individuals can and do find a way to retain their religious beliefs and also accept evolution—including the aforementioned biology textbook author Kenneth Miller of Brown University, a Catholic.

Second, while there are many reasons to think that the traits above comprise a core part of who we are, it doesn’t automatically follow that religion is the direct result of evolution by natural selection. It is also possible that religion arises as a byproduct of more basic traits that were, in turn, selected for because they conferred greater fitness (such as agency detection). This “byproduct” view is defended by Steven Pinker here.

In any event, the evidence is clear that both our cognitive architecture, and also our emotional dispositions, make it difficult or unnatural for many people to accept evolution. “Natural selection is like quantum physics…we might intellectually grasp it, with considerable effort, but it will never feel right to us,” writes the Yale psychologist Paul Bloom. Often, people express surprise that in an age so suffused with science, science causes so much angst and resistance.

Perhaps more surprising would be if it didn’t.

More: 7 Reasons Why It’s Easier for Humans to Believe in God Than Evolution

It Can Be Confusing to Find the One True Religion


It Can Be Confusing to Find the One True Religion
Many of God’s Rules Are Contradictory.  Help Us Lord!
 
— by Gad Saad, Ph.D.
 
 

I have often had conversations with religious people about their utter convictions that their religious narrative is THE correct one (as opposed to the narratives stemming from the other 9,999 religions).  Usually, the response is one that defines the meaning of a tautology:  “I know that it is the true narrative because my religion is the revealed truth.” Nice!

Suppose that a Martian had moved to Earth recently.  He is shopping for the one true religion.  Let’s see where this exploration takes him.  As a logical and rational Martian, he begins by asking a few basic questions to get the ball rolling.

Can I drink alcohol?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I eat prosciutto?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I eat some fried rice with shrimps?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I listen to music?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I turn on the computer to work on Saturday?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I have more than one wife?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I masturbate?  It depends on who the true God is.

How easy is it to obtain a divorce?  It depends on who the true God is.

What should the punishment (if any) be for homosexuality? It depends on who the true God is.

Can one commit suicide?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I take prescription drugs if I am sick?  It depends on who the true God is.

Are particular animals considered sacred?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is there one God or multiple Gods?  It depends on who the true God(s) is/are.

Does hell exist?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is premarital sex allowed?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is the sun divine?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I be reincarnated?  It depends on who the true God is.

How should women dress?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is male circumcision a Divine obligation?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is female circumcision a Divine obligation?  It depends on who the true God is.

Has the Messiah revealed himself?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I buy indulgences to “fast-track” my dead ancestors into Heaven?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is it important to always be aware of where you are standing in relation to the Cardinal directions?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is there a direct representative of God on Earth?  It depends on who the true God is.

Are atheists going to hell?  It depends on who the true God is.

How easy is it for me to join your religion?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is it blasphemous to have a tattoo?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is there such a thing as a sacred river?  It depends on who the true God is.

Should I seek revenge on my enemies?  It depends on who the true God is.

Are we close to Armageddon?  It depends on who the true God is.

Do some souls reside on other planets?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is the wearing of leather shoes prohibited on particular days?  It depends on who the true God is.

Are pilgrimages a Divine obligation?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is apostasy permitted?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is evolution true?  It depends on who the true God is.

Atheism, Defined


Dave’s Mailbag: Atheism, defined

Yesterday, the Atheist Alliance tweeted:

What do you consider to be the exact definition of atheism?

There are many incorrect definitions of atheism floating around. It’s important for religious extremists, in their deliberate attempts to misinform (see my previous post about lying for Jesus), that atheism be depicted as nonsensical, demonic, or irrational. For example, this display:

atheism-defined

It says: “Atheism: This is the belief that there is no god. This is a very common belief of those who do not wish to be responsible for their actions, as if there is no god there is no judgment. This belief was started by Charles Darwin, but has very recently (within the last 30 years) become a popular religion.”

facepalm

I do a talk called “Atheism 101″ that covers the definition of atheism, among other things. In it, I discuss the difference between agnostic/gnostic and atheistic/theistic. The question should not be worded, “Are you an atheist or an agnostic?” but rather “Are you an atheist or a theist?” and independently, “Are you 100% certain that God does or does not exist (gnostic) or do you acknowledge a possibility that you are wrong (agnostic)?”

I tweeted back to the Atheist Alliance:

@atheistalliance Atheism can be defined precisely as “the lack of faith in the existence of a god or gods.”

I think this is the most precise and accurate definition I have come across. In my talk, I use this. For a thorough breakdown of the definition of atheism, with sources, I recommend this webpage.

Dictionary Series - Religion: atheism

This has been on my mind because I received the following message today:

Your professed “belief” in the religion of athiesm has everything to do with your selfish desire to continue in your favorite sins. You have a strong motive to hope that there isn’t a Holy God who will punish you for your sins. Those making a profession of faith in the religion of atheism hope that if they scream loud, long, and shrill enough, they will be able to convince themselves that God doesn’t exist. I don’t believe that your even an atheist Dave.

First off:

  1. Atheism is not a religion. The definition of a religion is arguable, but the one I use and agree with comes from anthropologists Drs. Craig Palmer and Lyle Steadman in their excellent book, “Supernatural and Natural Selection: The Evolution of Religion.” They define religion as “a communicated acceptance by individuals of another individual’s ‘supernatural’ claim, a claim whose accuracy is not verifiable by the senses.” They continue: “The distinctive property of such acceptance is that it communicates a willingness to accept the influence of the speaker nonskeptically. While supernatural claims are not demonstrably true, they are asserted to be true” (pg ix). Since atheism makes no supernatural claims—in fact many atheists are metaphysical naturalists—it definitively is not a religion.
  2. My belief that atheism and science are the most likely contenders for an accurate description of the universe’s workings have nothing at all to do with sin. I don’t believe sin exists. I believe that some acts and behaviors are anti-social and, on ethical grounds, should not be committed. I believe that other acts and behaviors are pro-social and, on ethical grounds, should be encouraged. But I find the whole concept of sin—transgressions against divine law—to be ridiculous. I don’t believe there is any such thing as divine law, because I am an atheist.
  3. This entire statement is just a bare assertion. In no way does the sender attempt to provide reasons for the claims he is making, or explain on what basis exactly he is claiming to know these things about me and other atheists.

I think the sender is unable to see atheism for what it really is because doing so would make him insecure in his faith. It’s necessary for him to misunderstand atheism because atheism, understood, is the more rational position. So he builds a straw-man and uses it as a human shield. It’s really quite pathetic, pitiable even.

straw-man

What’s really wrong with his message, though, is where he says “[atheists make] a profession of faith.” Atheists lack faith by definition. Faith comes from the Latin “fidere,” which means “to trust.” In the theological sense, this means trusting that God exists, or that God will provide, etc, even though the logical arguments and evidence are insufficient for belief in themselves.

I am proud to say that I do not have faith. I am a skeptic: I have an attitude of doubt, an inclination toward incredulity. I think faith is dangerous, irrational, archaic, and puerile. If you are a logical person, a good critical thinker, and you come across an argument that lacks evidentiary backing, contains fallacies, or is nonsensical, you do not [continue to] believe that argument. Faith is the admission that you are not being logical, that you are not a good critical thinker, continuing to believe something when the reasons you have to believe it aren’t good enough on their own. Saying you have faith is saying, “Here are the reasons I believe this. Here is the evidence supporting why I believe this. Oh, the reasons have logical problems? Oh, the evidence is not very strong? Well, I choose to believe it regardless.” Or even worse, sometimes people say, “I don’t need evidence. I don’t need logical arguments. I have faith.” Faith is the very model of a circular argument. As Mark Twain is credited with saying, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

I have never met a Christian who claims not to have faith. If you call yourself a Christian and do not have faith, I would really like to hear from you. Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith, it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:1 says: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This is directly at odds with skepticism. It is my position that if you are a skeptic, and you also claim faith in a god or gods, you are doing one or the other incorrectly.

I think my favorite part of this, though, is where he says, “I don’t believe your [sic] even an atheist, Dave.”

This is my license plate:

license-plate2

(Atheos is Greek for atheist). If I’m not an atheist, I don’t know who is.

Thanks for reading. Until next time,

Dave


dave_bio_pic4
Dave Muscato is the Kansas/Missouri-Area Volunteer Network Coordinator for the Secular Student Alliance. He is also a board member of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A non-traditional junior at Mizzou studying economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, Dave posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday and twice monthly for the Humanist Community at Harvard. His website is http://www.DaveMuscato.com

Creationists Butt Hurt By 19-Year Young Science Advocate!


How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana’s creationists
George Dvorsky

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists

For Zack Kopplin, it all started back in 2008 with the passing of the Louisiana Science Education Act. The bill made it considerably easier for teachers to introduce creationist textbooks into the classroom. Outraged, he wrote a research paper about it for a high school English class. Nearly five years later, the 19-year-old Kopplin has become one of the fiercest — and most feared — advocates for education reform in Louisiana. We recently spoke to him to learn more about how he’s making a difference.

Kopplin, who is studying history at Rice University, had good reason to be upset after the passing of the LSEA — an insidious piece of legislation that allows teachers to bring in their own supplemental materials when discussing politically controversial topics like evolution or climate change. Soon after the act was passed, some of his teachers began to not just supplement existing texts, but to rid the classroom of established science books altogether. It was during the process to adopt a new life science textbook in 2010 that creationists barraged Louisiana’s State Board of Education with complaints about the evidence-based science texts. Suddenly, it appeared that they were going to be successful in throwing out science textbooks.

A pivotal moment

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists

“This was a pivotal moment for me,” Kopplin told io9. “I had always been a shy kid and had never spoken out before — I found myself speaking at a meeting of an advisory committee to the State Board of Education and urging them to adopt good science textbooks — and we won.” The LSEA still stood, but at least the science books could stay.

No one was more surprised of his becoming a science advocate than Kopplin himself. In fact, after writing his English paper in 2008 — when he was just 14-years-old — he assumed that someone else would publicly take on the law. But no one did.

“I didn’t expect it to be me,” he said. “By my senior year though, I realized that no one was going to take on the law, so for my high school senior project I decided to get a repeal bill.”

Indeed, it was the ensuing coverage of the science textbook adoption issue that launched Kopplin as an activist. It also gave him the confidence to start the campaign to repeal the LSEA.

Encouraged by Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University — and a staunch critic of intelligent design and the Discovery Institute — Kopplin decided to write a letter that could be signed by Nobel laureate scientists in support of the repeal. To that end, he contacted Sir Harry Kroto, a British chemist who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley. Kroto helped him to draft the letter — one that has now been signed by 78 Nobel laureates.

In addition, Kopplin has introduced two bills to repeal the LSEA, both of which have been sponsored by State Senator Karen Carter Peterson. He plans on producing a third bill later this spring. And along with the Nobel laureates, he has the support of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), New Orleans City Council, and many others.

But as the early results of his efforts have shown, it’s not going to be an easy battle.

“We’ve had gains over the last few years,” he says, “But our first attempt to repeal the LSEA was defeated 5-1 in committee, and in our second attempt we lost 2-1.” Kopplin is hoping to get out of committee this year.

He also has his eyes set on vouchers. After an Alternet story came out about a school in the Louisiana voucher program teaching that the Loch Ness Monster was real and disproved evolution, Kopplin looked deeper into the program and found that this wasn’t just one school, but at least 19 other schools, too.

School vouchers, he argues, unconstitutionally fund the teaching of creationism because many of the schools in these programs are private fundamentalist religious schools who are teaching creationism.

“These schools have every right to teach whatever they want — no matter how much I disagree with it — as long as they are fully private,” he says. “But when they take public money through vouchers, these schools need to be accountable to the public in the same way that public schools are and they must abide by the same rules.” Kopplin is hoping for more transparency in these programs so the public can see what is being taught with taxpayers’ money.

Facing opposition

His efforts, needless to say, have not gone unnoticed — particularly by his opponents. He’s been called the Anti-Christ, a stooge of “godless liberal college professors,” and was even accused of causing Hurricane Katrina. Kopplin cooly brushes these incidents aside, saying they’re just silly distractions.

But some of the most aggressive broadsides, he says, have come from state legislators.

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists
“I’m not talking threats or name calling, but they were really something to experience,” he says. [In addition to the video at left, Kopplin provided other examples that can be seen here and here)

“I don’t enjoy upsetting people, but you have to brush the attacks off,” he says. “I know that I’m fighting for a good cause — and I would be neglecting my duty if I stopped my campaign just because I felt uncomfortable about opposition.”

And perhaps not surprisingly, a number of people have refused to take Kopplin seriously on account of his age. “Oh, for sure — there have absolutely been people who have dismissed me because I’m still a kid,” he told us. Some of his opponents have even suggested that his parents are really the ones behind the campaign — an accusation he flatly denies.

“They have their own lives to live, and certainly don’t have time to run a public issue campaign,” he says.

“What disturbs me though, is when other kids are the ones to dismiss me based on age,” he told io9. “They see a 19 year old kid and can’t believe that I can actually go out and change the world. Too many of my peers have this attitude that they need to dress nicely, sit quietly, and wait until we are adults to change things. This attitude must change. My generation needs to speak out for what we believe.”

It’s simply not science

And indeed, Kopplin is a passionate defender of scientific inquiry, and vociferously rejects the notion that creationism and evolution should be taught side-by-side.

“Creationism is not science, and shouldn’t be in a public school science class — it’s that simple,” he says. “Often though, creationists do not, or are unwilling, to recognize this.” Science, he argues, is observable, naturalistic, testable, falsifiable, and expandable — everything that creationism is not.

But what also drives Kopplin is the inherent danger he sees in teaching creationism.

“Creationism confuses students about the nature of science,” he says. “If students don’t understand the scientific method, and are taught that creationism is science, they will not be prepared to do work in genuine fields, especially not the biological sciences. We are hurting the chances of our students having jobs in science, and making discoveries that will change the world.”

He worries that, if Louisiana (and Tennessee, which also has a similar law) insists on teaching students creationism, students will not be the ones discover the cure to AIDS or cancer. “We won’t be the ones to repair our own damaged wetlands and protect ourselves from more hurricanes like Katrina,” he says.

Moreover, he’s also concerned that teaching creationism will harm economic development.

“Just search creationism on Monster Jobs or Career Builder and tell me how many creationist jobs you find,” he asks. Kopplin tells us about how this past Spring, Kevin Carman, the former Dean of LSU’s College School of Science (now the Executive Vice President and Provost for the University of Nevada, Reno) testified in the Louisiana Senate Education Committee about how he had lost researchers and scientists to other states because of the Louisiana Science Education Act.

“But it also violates the separation of church and state,” he says. “Teaching Biblical creationism is promoting one very specific fundamentalist version of Christianity, and violating the rights of every other American citizen who doesn’t subscribe to those beliefs. So it would be stomping on the rights of Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Buddhists, Humanists, Muslims, Hindus, and every other religious group in the country.

These creationists, he argues, would be horrified to see the Vedas being taught in science class. “And they would have every right to be,” he says, “That’s how the separation of church and state works and it’s the foundation of our country.”

Changes needed

Kopplin is also concerned about the future, and how unprepared the United States has become.

“We don’t just deny evolution,” he says, “We are denying climate change and vaccines and other mainstream science. I’m calling for a Second Giant Leap to change the perception of science in the world.”

To that end, Kopplin would like to see $1 trillion of new science funding and an end to denialist science legislation. He wants to see the American public become more aware and better educated about science.

“My generation is going to have to face major challenges to our way of living — and the way to overcome them is through rapid scientific advancement,” he says. “But as as of right now, America has a science problem.”

Images: Baton Rouge Advocate, The Moderate Voice.

Gods Swallow Our Humanity


Gods swallow our humanity
Posted by Eric MacDonald

In the New York Times this morning there is a letter to the editor from Beverly Brewster, a Presbyterian minister, in response to Susan Jacoby’s article on atheism and empathy. Here are a few of her words:

The world’s enduring religions offer much more wisdom and meaning than a child’s idea of God as a superhero. As a Presbyterian minister, I often say to self-proclaimed atheists, “Tell me more about the God you don’t believe in; I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in that God either.”

Ms. Jacoby states that atheists “need to demonstrate that atheism is rooted in empathy as well as intellect,” but atheism is rooted in neither. A lack of belief in one concept of God is nothing more than that. Ms. Jacoby also presumes that faith in God necessarily includes belief in an afterlife, complete with angels in heaven. Here again, atheism ignores the great diversity of the world’s religious traditions.

Brewster is responding in particular to Jacoby’s realisation, as a child, that there is evil in the world, and finding it difficult to believe in a god which would allow such evil things to happen. Brewster’s response is that her god is not like that; it is not a superhero who comes to rescue us in need. She has a different concept of god, and so she comes out with that old chestnut:

Tell me more about the God you don’t believe in; I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in that God either.

This is so tired and worn out that I wonder at the person who could have repeated it and thought that she was saying something profound. Once this has been said, however, it needs to be noticed how very little has been said.

Atheism, says Ms. Brewster, “ignores the great diversity of the world’s religious traditions.” This is simply not true. What atheism does not give the religious believer room to do is to skate away over the surface of things with statements like this which subvert themselves. If the gods people believe in are simply the consequence of a bit of conceptual jiggery-pokery, as Ms. Brewster’s god appears to be, then there is simply no reason to believe in them at all. For how, after all, are gods to be identified? The great diversity of the world’s religions points out the problem. The only way to identify gods is to describe them. Whereas the god of Genesis is depicted anthropomorphically, as someone walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, from whom Adam and Eve have hidden in shame at their disobedience, so that God has to call out to them, “Where art thou?” (Genesis 3.8-9), very few believers think of their gods in this simplistic way. But if gods are not like that, then identifying them will be a problem. We cannot identify them by their works, for the only works of a god that might be considered godlike would be something supernatural or miraculous. Anything else we can account for in immanent ways, as the products of human action or activity, or the normal results of the workings of the natural world.

There is an old story that illustrates this point. There is a big storm, and as the flood waters rise, the people in the house first of all abandon the first floor and move to the second; then they move into the attic, and then, finally, they get out onto the roof which is even now being lapped by the rising floodwaters. But the floodwaters continue to rise, threatening their shrinking island. In desperation the the stranded family cries out to God for mercy. Soon, a rescue worker in a boat comes by, but the desperate people, full of faith in the mercy and goodness of their god, do not see the need of a boat, which continues on its mission of mercy. The flood waters inch up the incline of the roof, and, realising that soon there will be nowhere for them stand, they pray more earnestly, beating their breasts and promising, if they are spared, a change of life. Soon after, a rescue helicopter chances by and lets down a rope ladder, but for those who believe in God’s goodness, helicopters are merely human contrivances, and unnecessary. Not unreasonably thinking them a bit mad, the rescue crew goes on its way in search of other people endangered by the storm. The people on the roof cry out with even greater passion, begging their god to come and save them, lest they drown. At this, an exasperated voice cries out from heaven: “I sent you a man in a boat, and then a rescue team in a helicopter. What more did you expect?”

 

This story is told in all seriousness by religious believers, and some people, who think that prayer and anointing with oil is all that is necessary for the recovery of their sick children, actually behave this way, and rebuff offers to help with all the marvels of modern scientific medicine can provide. But this is not, Ms. Brewster would say, the god she believes in. The god she believes in, she is convinced, will not be the one upon whom atheists lavish their disbelief. Atheists, she thinks, simply ignore “the great diversity of the world’s religious traditions.” But this, of course, is precisely the wrong answer, for the great diversity of the world’s religious traditions is an argument against belief, not an argument that supports belief in gods or other supernatural or transcendent entities. Philip Kitcher calls it the symmetry argument (see page 5). As he points out, there is a perfect symmetry between believers in one religious tradition and those in another. They are born into it, taught it, learn its scriptures and its practices, and yet when confronted with each other, they do not agree. The tension between beliefs, and their lack of grounding in any objective criteria, suggests that religious beliefs are, one and all, simply constructs of the human imagination working on peripheral aspects of evolved human psychology.

Here are Kitcher’s words:

Most Christians have adopted their doctrines much as the polytheists and the ancestor-worshippers have acquired theirs, through early teaching and socialization. Had the Christians been born among the aboriginal Australians, they would believe, in just the same ways, on just the same bases, and with just the same convictions, doctrines about the Dreamtime instead of about the Resurrection. The symmetry is complete. None of the processes of socialization, none of the chains of transmission of sacred lore across the generations, has any special justificatory force. Because of the widespread inconsistency in religious doctrine, it is clear that not all of these traditions can yield true beliefs about the supernatural. Given that they are all on a par, we should trust none of them.

So, even if the god that atheists disbelieve is not the one that Ms. Brewster believes in, there is no reason we should take her word for it either. If it is simply a matter of reconceptualising God so as to escape one particular set of criticisms — say, Susan Jacoby’s childhood experience of having a friend contract polio and die young, with no apparent care or concern from a loving God — saying, rather blandly that she doesn’t believe in such a god either, the most appropriate response is that such reconceptualisations are cheap. Anyone can dream up a concept that escapes particular criticisms. The question is whether the concept so derived actually picks out some reality, whether something that exists, or, conscious of Tillich wagging an admonitory finger, some “thing” that is beyond existence, the Ground of Being, or ultimate reality as such. Reconceive God any way you like, it still will not solve the problem of justification. And, besides, if God is not some kind of superhero, then what, pray, is God like? And what reason can you give why we should believe in such a god?

In a remarkable chapter in her book Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God, entitled “Divine Agency, Remodeled,” Marilyn McCord Adams, one time Regius Professor of Theology at the University of Oxford, rehearses in detail various suggestions as to how to account for God’s agency in the world, which both protects God’s function as creator, while at the same time preserving God’s nature as loving and caring. Reading this chapter in the context of studying the Holocaust, I wondered what significance such a conceptual exercise could possibly have, and how reasonable or reassuring the victims of so much callous violence would have found exercises of this sort. I came away from the chapter feeling bruised and violated. Whether the gods so conceived satisfy the theological problems that lie at the heart of the existence of so much incomprehensible suffering in the world, they neither relieve the suffering nor do they provide any basis for the conviction that the beings variously described stand a chance of being real in any of the various senses in which reality may be attributed to things. Nor is it clear what value belief in such reconceptualised beings could possibly have.

The problem, not to put too fine a point on it, is that our conceptions of God tend to swallow up the human. As in the story of the flood-stranded family on the roof of their house, human goodness is turned into God’s love and mercy. Once acknowledge that God does not act, in his own person, as it were, but acts in and through things that naturally occur, or that are done by other people, it comes to seem as though God is exhaustively described by the totality of things that occur, much in the same way that Spinoza spoke of Deus sive Natura (viz. God or Nature).

In general, of course, this is not how religious believers conceive of God, and this is the problem that I have spent the last fifteen hundred words approaching. For the religions, God tends to be the supreme person (in very much the same way as you and I, dear reader, are persons). All that is quintessentially human is vested in God. Justice, loving kindness, mercy, compassion, long-suffering, slow to anger, quick to forgive, generosity, nobility, gentleness, an ever present help in trouble, trustworthy – well, we could go on laying down superlatives with a trowel, a veritable infinity of them. The problem with this is that, once we have shifted all these good things onto God, and imagine them to be, there, raised to the highest power, we must inevitably think of ourselves as correspondingly inadequate in all the same respects, in need of God’s mercy for our failures, and quick to judge others who fail to measure up to the divine goodness which judges us. And, of course, since there is a diversity of religious traditions, the divine goodness that judges us, if we are Christian, say, is bound to be different from the divine goodness which judges others, since religions tend to adopt the ethical project as it manifested itself at the time and place where the religious traditions began, which has every chance of expressing a very different ideal of humanity along at least some of its dimensions.

The problem is that gods are forever (at least in believer’s minds), and so the values that are vested in them come to be seen as moral absolutes, and while morality has tended to function, traditionally, in this way, based as it has been in systems of religious belief, morality is seldom best understood in so marmoreal and intransigent a form. The pope tends to dismiss those who question the Roman Catholic Church’s unyielding moral laws as relativists without noting that the field is not divided, as he seems to think, into absolutes and relatives, but into principles and their application to complex and nuanced human circumstances in which there is no role for absolutes to play. Of course, the pope thinks that all values derive, in the end, from the absoluteness and infinite wisdom of his god, without noticing that it was he and his forebears who vested those values in their god in the first place. For, despite everything that he can say about moral value, he cannot provide evidence for the proposition that these values are either commanded by his god, or inscribed by his god into the very fabric of human nature. The values are purely human. They have a history.

The biggest problem the pope faces is providing an explanation as to why we should stop that history at some point in the past, and accept, as eternal, human values as understood at that point, instead of recognising that the ethical project has much of its history yet to run. Even people like Beverly Brewster recognise that many conceptions of god are now no longer useful — may even be morally repugnant, as the gods of Jesus or Muhammad often are – and need to be discarded. There is not one conception of god that has stood the test of time. Isn’t it about time that we recognised that gods are human creations, and that, in the end, we are responsible for what we do with them? It is simply untrue to say that

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. [James 1.17]

This belief in unchanging perfection has haunted humanity almost from the beginning. It is a will-o-the-wisp. It does not exist, but belief in its existence has set humanity, time after time, chasing after shadows and rainbows. Quite contrary to Beverly Brewster’s shopworn charge, that “atheism  ignores the great diversity of the world’s religious traditions,” not only do we recognise the diversity, but we conclude from it that all the world’s religions are human creations, and none should be allowed to have final or supreme authority over us. They are images of perfection frozen in time, and all the worse for being so. The poison of religion consists precisely in this, that religions have stopped looking, when there is much that we still do not know, about our world, ourselves, and about how best to live. The gods swallow our humanity. We should ask for it back.

The Fraud Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Crackpot Cult of Theosophic Esotericism


theosophy

“We assert that the divine spark in man being one and identical in its essence with the Universal Spirit, our “spiritual Self” is practically omniscient, but that it cannot manifest its knowledge owing to the impediments of matter. Now the more these impediments are removed, in other words, the more the physical body is paralyzed, as to its own independent activity and consciousness, as in deep sleep or deep trance, or, again, in illness, the more fully can the inner Self manifest on this plane. This is our explanation of those truly wonderful phenomena of a higher order, in which undeniable intelligence and knowledge are exhibited. ” –Madame Blavatsky

“…we are imprisoned in the body, like an oyster in his shell.” –The Socrates of Plato’s Phaedrus

To the philosopher, the body is “a disturbing element, hindering the soul from the acquisition of knowledge….What is purification but…the release of the soul from the chains of the body?” The Socrates of Plato’s Phaedo

“Mme. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine, a multivolume work, is such a melee of horrendous hogwash and of fertile inventions of inane esoterica, that any Buddhist and Tibetan scholar is justified to avoid mentioning it in any context.” –Agehananda Bharati (Leopold Fischer)

Theosophy, or divine wisdom, refers either to the mysticism of philosophers who believe that they can understand the nature of some god by direct apprehension, without revelation, or it refers to the esotericism of eclectic collectors of mystical and occult philosophies who claim to be handing down the great secrets of some ancient wisdom.

Theosophical mysticism is indebted to Plato (c. 427-347 BCE), Plotinus (204/5-270) and other neo-Platonists, and Jakob Boehme (1575-1624), among others. It experienced its last great Western philosophical burst in 19th century German Idealism. The mystical tradition continues to be a strong element in many non-Western philosophies, such as Indian philosophy.

Theosophic esotericism begins with Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) usually known as Madame Blavatsky, one of the co-founders of the Theosophical Society in New York in 1875. The esoteric theosophical tradition of Blavatsky is indebted to several philosophical and religious traditions: Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Gnosticism, Manichaeism, the cabala, among others.

Her harshest critics consider Madame Blavatsky to be “one of most accomplished, ingenious, and interesting impostors in history.”* Her devoted followers consider her to be a saint and a genius. [They claim she discovered the true nature of light either by clairvoyance or intuition alone, without any need for scientific training or communication with other scientists.] Since these characteristics are not contradictory, it is possible she was both a fraud and a saintly genius. Much of what is believed about Blavatsky originates with Madame herself, her devoted followers or her enemies. Nevertheless, a few things seem less dubious than others. She seems clearly to have been widely traveled and widely read. Blavatsky claims she spent several years in Tibet and India being initiated into occult mysteries by various “masters”  (mahatmas or adepts) especially the Masters Morya and Koot Hoomi, who had “astral” bodies. These Adepts were said to dwell in the Himalayas, Egypt, Tibet and other exotic places. They are known for their extraordinary psychic powers and are the sacred keepers of some mysterious “Ancient Wisdom”. They are not divine, she said, but more highly evolved than the rest of us mere mortals. (Evolution, according to Blavatsky, is a spiritual process.) Their goal is to unite all humanity in a Great White Brotherhood, despite the fact that they dwell in the remotest regions of the world and apparently have as little contact with the rest of us as possible.

Blavatsky’s deceptions

Blavatsky seems clearly to have had an overpowering personality. She was knowledgeable of the tricks of spiritualists, having worked for one in Egypt, and in the early days of the Theosophical Society seems clearly to have used trickery to deceive others into thinking she had paranormal powers. She most certainly faked the materialization of a tea cup and saucer, as well as written messages from her Masters, presumably to enhance her credibility. She certainly claimed to have paranormal experiences, but whether she really believed she was clairvoyant or possessed psychic powers, I can’t say.

Blavatsky and Olcott

In 1875 she founded the Theosophical Society in New York City in collaboration with Henry Steele Olcott, a lawyer and writer, and W. Q. Judge. She met Olcott in 1874 while he was investigating the spiritualism of the Eddy brothers in Vermont. They continued to meet with other like-minded seekers and together founded their society. A few years later, she and Olcott went to India together and established Theosophical headquarters there. She left under a cloud of suspicion in 1885, having been accused of faking materializations of teachings from her Masters. Back in Europe in 1888 she published her major work The Secret Doctrine. The book “is an attempt…to reconcile science, the Ancient Wisdom, and human culture through…cosmology, history, religion, and symbolism.” (Ellwood) According to Blavatsky herself, “The chief aim of the…Theosophical Society [was] to reconcile all religions, sects and nations under a common system of ethics, based on eternal verities.”

She did not reject religions such as Christianity and Hinduism, but claimed that all religions have an exoteric and an esoteric tradition. The exoteric traditions are unique and distinct for each religion. The esoteric doctrine is the same for all. She claimed to be passing on the wisdom of the shared esoteric doctrines. And even though she had an early association with spiritualism, she eventually claimed that “the spirits of the dead cannot return to earth — save in rare and exceptional cases….”

One might wonder why, if Theosophy is so ancient and universal, it was so unknown until 1875. Madame had an answer. This was due to “willing ignorance”. We humans have lost “real spiritual insight” because we are too devoted to “things of sense” and have for too long been slaves “to the dead letter of dogma and ritualism.” “But the strongest reason for it,” she said, ” lies in the fact that real Theosophy has ever been kept secret.” There were several reasons why it was kept secret. “…Firstly, the perversity of average human nature and its selfishness, always tending to the gratification of personal desires to the detriment of neighbours and next of kin. Such people could never be entrusted with divine secrets. Secondly, their unreliability to keep the sacred and divine knowledge from desecration. It is the latter that led to the perversion of the most sublime truths and symbols, and to the gradual transformation of things spiritual into anthropomorphic, concrete, and gross imagery — in other words, to the dwarfing of the god-idea and to idolatry.” [The Key to Theosophy] One wonders, what in the world was any different in the late 19th century? If at that time humans were any less perverse, selfish, materialistic, profane, etc., than they had ever been, this should come as a great shock to all social historians.

Ancient Wisdom

What was this “Ancient Wisdom” which the theosophists promised to share? It is truly an eclectic compilation of Hindu, Egyptian, Gnostic and other exotic scriptures and teachings, neo-Platonism, and stories like the Atlantis myth. These are philosophies and stories for those who shake and quiver at the sound of such words as secret, special, spiritual, enlightenment, transformation, esoteric, occult, divine, ancient wisdom, cosmic, vision, dynamics, golden, Isis, mysteries and masters. They promise escape from the evils of the world, especially the body, while providing an explanation for Evil. They claim to know that the reason spiritual progress is so slow in coming is because of all this horrible stuff in the universe called “matter.” They promise the power of divinity while providing an explanation for miracles which takes them out of the realm of the supernatural and puts the believer into the center of the spiritual universe. They promise union with some great moral purpose while offering membership in an isolated society of very special beings. But, probably the biggest attraction to joining such an esoteric society is that you don’t have to go to college and you don’t have to read Kant.

What you do need, though, is a penchant for the occult. This is dangerous stuff, according to Blavatsky, but theosophy can help.

When ignorant of the true meaning of the esoteric divine symbols of nature, man is apt to miscalculate the powers of his soul, and, instead of communing spiritually and mentally with the higher, celestial beings, the good spirits (the gods of the theurgiests of the Platonic school), he will unconsciously call forth the evil, dark powers which lurk around humanity — the undying, grim creations of human crimes and vices — and thus fall from theurgia (white magic) into goetia (or black magic, sorcery). [What Is Theosophy?]

According to Madame, “…no one can be a true Occultist without being a real Theosophist; otherwise he is simply a black magician, whether conscious or unconscious. ” She even thought that mesmerism and hypnotism were occult arts.

Occult sciences are not, as described in Encyclopaedias, “those imaginary sciences of the Middle Ages which related to the supposed action or influence of Occult qualities or supernatural powers, as alchemy, magic, necromancy, and astrology,” for they are real, actual, and very dangerous sciences. They teach the secret potency of things in Nature, developing and cultivating the hidden powers “latent in man,” thus giving him tremendous advantages over more ignorant mortals. Hypnotism, now become so common and a subject of serious scientific inquiry, is a good instance in point. Hypnotic power has been discovered almost by accident, the way to it having been prepared by mesmerism; and now an able hypnotizer can do almost anything with it, from forcing a man, unconsciously to himself, to play the fool, to making him commit a crime — often by proxy for the hypnotizer, and for the benefit of the latter. Is not this a terrible power if left in the hands of unscrupulous persons? And please to remember that this is only one of the minor branches of Occultism. [The Key to Theosophy]

Blavatksy may have thought she understood the secret of the divine essence, but it’s more likely she just stumbled on the secret of hypnosis or mesmerism. However, I believe she was right when she claimed that “…the ecstatic trance of mystics and of the modern mesmerists and spiritualists, are identical in nature, though various as to manifestation.” [What Is Theosophy?] I believe that none of these so-called “trance” states is a unique state of consciousness, though they are states of mind, states governed by social role-playing rules, a position argued for by many contemporary psychologists including Nicholas P. Spanos.

Where are the plaudits?

The reader may wonder why theosophy isn’t universally recognized as the salvation of mankind. For some it may have been the messenger which kept them away. Many people are not likely to take seriously a Russian noblewoman who claimed to have had childhood visions of a tall Hindu who eventually materialized in Hyde Park and became her guru and advisor. Many skeptics scoff at her noble origins and subsequent employment as a circus performer and séance assistant, plus we take seriously the charges of deception for whatever noble motive. For others, it may be the doctrines which keep us away. Despite the stated moral goals, and the desire for peace on earth and good will toward men and women, there is the small problem of astral bodies, evolution of spiritual races, Aryans, paranormal powers, Atlantis, the so-called Ancient Wisdom, etc. To some this may seem better than the Incarnation, transubstantiation and the Trinity, but to skeptics this is just more metaphysical codswallop. Finally, others may be repelled by the self-discipline required of theosophy.

…the foremost rule of all is the entire renunciation of one’s personality — i. e., a pledged member has to become a thorough altruist, never to think of himself, and to forget his own vanity and pride in the thought of the good of his fellow-creatures, besides that of his fellow-brothers in the esoteric circle. He has to live, if the esoteric instructions shall profit him, a life of abstinence in everything, of self-denial and strict morality, doing his duty by all men.

“…every member must be either a philanthropist, or a scholar, a searcher into Aryan and other old literature, or a psychic student.” (The Key to Theosophy)

It is not an easy life, pursuing the path of the mahatmas and the Ancient Wisdom, striving to unite all humankind into a Great Brotherhood of spiritually evolved beings with secret knowledge of such great vacation spots for astrals as Atlantis. Plus, perhaps there were inconsistencies or inadequacies in the secret doctrines, as the group seemed to splinter and dissipate after the death of Madame. Her dream of a Brotherhood of Man remains a dream, although there are Theosophical societies all over the world.

http://www.skepdic.com/theosoph.html

 

Christian Guest Calls Rape Victim “Evil,” Gets Reamed Out by Atheist Host


Christian Guest Calls Rape Victim “Evil,” Gets Reamed Out by Atheist Host

“Goodbye, you piece of shit!” host says to caller.
The below confrontation between an atheist host, Matt Dillahunty (who co-hosts “The Atheist Experince with Tracie Harris,) and his fundamentalist Christian caller revolved around the caller’s belief that everyone–because of the concept of universal sinfulness–is “evil” including a young rape victim.

The caller objected to the host’s calling a young rape victim “innocent” and declared her to be as evil as all humans, at which point Dillahunty excalimed “Goodbye, you piece of shit! You know what? I was a better Christian than you when I was a Christian, and still am.”

20 Percent of Americans Don’t Believe in God–So Why is Our Congress So Religious?


By Alex Kane           

20 Percent of Americans Don’t Believe in God–So Why is Our Congress So Religious?

The new Congress includes a Hindu, a Buddhist and someone who doesn’t identify with any religion, but the majority of members remain Christian.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

The new, 113th Congress that was sworn in last week may be more religiously diverse than any other session, but the body as a whole is more committed to religion than the U.S. population. New data analysis  released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life bears this out.

When the new Congress gathered last week in Washington, D.C., a Hindu and a Buddhist were sworn in–a first in U.S. history. Rounding out the religious diversity in the new Congress is Kyrsten Sinema, a representative from Arizona, who is not religious at all (she d oesn’t identify with the terms “non-theist, atheist or nonbeliever”).

But Congress remains more religious than Americans are. As  the Pew Forum states, “perhaps the greatest disparity, however, is between the percentage of U.S. adults and the percentage of members of Congress who do not identify with any particular religion. About one-in-five U.S. adults describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’– a group sometimes collectively called the ‘nones.’”

Those numbers are a striking contrast to the religious beliefs of Congress. The majority of Congress remains Protestant–56 percent, to be exact. 30 percent identify as Catholic, with Mormons, Jews and other religious minorities rounding out the list. Still, the Pew Forum notes that “the proportion of Protestants in Congress has been in gradual decline for decades, and the number in the 113th Congress is lower than the number in the previous Congress (307), even if the difference in percentage terms is slight.”

Strange Gods: The Religious Right’s Offensive Response To The Tragedy In Connecticut


Strange Gods: The Religious Right’s Offensive Response To The Tragedy In Connecticut

by Rob Boston in Wall of Separation

As soon as we start talking about official prayer in public schools, we also start talking about which religion, what prayer and whose God. The God that gets talked about or promoted in your school could easily be the God that is worshipped by people like Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer.

As soon as I heard about Friday’s horrific school shootings in Newtown, Conn., I knew it would only be a matter of time before some Religious Right extremist blamed it on the lack of mandatory prayer in public schools.

It didn’t take long. First out of the crazy box was former Arkansas governor and erstwhile presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools,” Huckabee said during an appearance on the Fox News Channel. “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

He added, “We’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that.”

Not to be left out of the Nitwit Sweepstakes, the always-offensive Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association quickly chimed in with this gem: “You know the question’s gonna come up, where was God? I thought God cared about the little children, God protected the little children. Where was God when all this went down? And here’s the bottom line: God is not gonna go where he’s not wanted.”

Fischer continued, “Now we have spent, since 1962 – this, we’re 50 years into this now – we  have spent 50 years telling God to get lost, telling God, we do not want you in our schools, we don’t want to pray to you in our schools, we don’t want to pray to you before football games, we don’t want to pray to you at graduation, we don’t want anyone talking about you in a graduation speech. We’ve kicked God out of our public school system. And I think God would say to us, ‘Hey I’ll be glad to protect your children, but you’ve gotta invite me back into your world first. I’m not gonna go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentleman.’”

People sometimes ask me why Americans United is so adamant about keeping organized, school-sponsored forms of prayer and religious worship out of public education. On occasion I encounter those who assert, “What’s the harm in a little prayer or talk about God? Isn’t it good for kids?”

Huckabee and Fischer are walking examples of the harm. Remember, as soon as we start talking about official prayer in public schools, we also start talking about which religion, what prayer and whose God. The God that gets talked about or promoted in your school could easily be the God that is worshipped by people like Huckabee and Fischer.

Personally, I have no use for the God of the Religious Right – and I don’t think I’m alone there. The God of the Religious Right allows 20 children and eight adults to die in a school because he’s in a snit over his alleged expulsion from public education.

The God of the Religious Right is mean, petty, vindictive and not very ethical. The God of the Religious Right is all hate and retribution, with no love and acceptance. The God of the Religious Right, in my opinion, is not worthy of our worship.

This is America, and supporters of the Religious Right are free to worship that God. Members of that movement are free to approach that God in fear – never joy – as is their wont. But let’s be clear: They want to use our public schools, a taxpayer-supported institution that serves children of many faiths and philosophies, to push that God on your children, mine and everyone else’s. They have no right to do that.

The good news is that millions of Americans reject the God of the Religious Right.  They reject a God based on fear, division, violence and retribution. The God that many Americans worship is so far removed from the God of the Religious Right that we can’t paper over the difference by pretending it’s a minor theological tiff and that, at the end of the day, most Americans worship the same deity.

No. The entity Huckabee, Fischer and their allies tremble before and beseech is so alien to most of the devoutly religious people I know that they would not even recognize it as God.

(Millions of Americans also know that in the wake of a tragedy like this, the proper response is  words that offer comfort, not divisive displays of ignorance.)

So let us make no mistake: When Huckabee, Fischer and their allies speak of bringing church and state closer together or removing a few bricks from the church-state wall to allow “a little religion” into our schools, this is the God they would set loose. This is the God they would preference by law. This is the God they would force you to support. This is the God they would foist onto your children.

If this isn’t your God, or if you’re one of the many Americans who recognize no God, you must speak out against offensive Religious Right foghorns like Huckabee and Fischer. You must challenge those who exploit sorrow for political gain.

And you need to stand up for the one thing that keeps the God of the Religious Right from becoming the government’s favorite: the wall of separation between church and state.

Masterbating Nuns | Banned Blasphemy Film To Be Released


Film banned for blasphemy to be released after two decades

The only film ever banned in Britain for being blasphemous is to be released   in its original, uncut form after more than two decades.

Visions-of-Ecstasy

In, 1996, Nigel Wingrove, the director, took the case to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the ban violated his freedom of expression
Jasper Copping

The 1989 production Visions of Ecstasy was considered so shocking that   the Government even fought a successful battle at the European Court of   Human Rights to uphold the ban.

But the film is now to be released in its original, uncut form after the   British Board of Film Classification overturned its original decision. DVDs   of the film will go on sale tomorrow, at the start of Holy Week.

It comes at a time when many British Christians believe their faith is being   increasingly undermined, over issues such as the wearing of crosses at work   and gay marriage.

The low-budget, arthouse production is about St Teresa of Avila, a sixteenth   century Spanish nun and mystic who had visions of Christ, which lasted   almost uninterrupted for two years. The 18-minute film is an interpretation   of these visions and includes sexual scenes involving St Teresa and another   woman, who represents her psyche. These are intercut with shots of the nun   lying on Christ, who is still nailed to the Cross, and caressing him. The   film was inspired by St Teresa in Ecstasy, the statue by Gian Lorenzo   Bernini, the seventeenth century baroque sculptor, which is located in Rome.

James Ferman, the then BBFC director, ruled that the film’s sexual nature   would inflame Christians and make it liable to prosecution under the   blasphemous libel law.

The furore at the time was such that one Conservative MP, Sir Graham Bright,   called for the film negatives to be destroyed as part of the banning order.

However, the film, which featured three little known actors and music by Steve   Severin of 1980s band Siouxsie And The Banshees, became a cause   célèbre among anticensorship campaigners, among them Salman Rushdie and Fay   Weldon, the authors, and Derek Jarman, the late filmmaker.

In, 1996, Nigel Wingrove, the director, took the case to the European Court of   Human Rights arguing that the ban violated his freedom of expression. But in   a rare victory for the British government, he lost.

Although the court did not consider whether the video itself was blasphemous,   it ruled that the UK’s blasphemy laws were consistent with the European   Convention on Human Rights.

However, in 2008, the laws were abolished by the Criminal Justice and   Immigration Act which meant they could no longer be considered in the   board’s deliberations.

Last December, Mr Wingrove resubmitted the film for approval, after clips   started to appear on the internet. It will go on sale in high street shops   from tomorrow, on DVDs which will also feature two other films by Mr   Wingrove, as well as a gallery of national and international press cuttings   from the time of the ban and a booklet on the subject. It will have an 18   certificate.

Mr Wingrove, who went on to set up a company which specialised in horror   films, said the release was a “victory for freedom of expression”   but that he has “mixed feelings” about the film itself.

“Although there are bits I like about it, there are bits I don’t,”   he added. “I did not make it to hurt or mock and I wasn’t trying to be   over the top.

“At the time, blasphemy was a very big issue and I think the film was caught   up in it. But looked at now, it is very tame and of its time. The imagery is   no different from what you see in many films and pop videos today.”

He said the film was intended to have been launched last month and was only   being released in Holy Week because of a delay in preparing the accompanying   booklet.

However, David Burrowes, the Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate and member   of the Christians in Parliament group, said: “The law may have changed   in the last 20 years, but the potential for this film to offend has not and   it is a shame that a film like this is being released at such a time. The   timing seems particularly provocative.”

The Rev Sally Hitchiner, curate of St John’s, Ealing, said: “I think it’s   interesting that religion continues to fascinate artists and film makers.

“The arts have always be used to express controversial ideas about a whole   range of topics that may be taken as anti-religious but this has never   stopped people using the arts to worship God as they will be in thousands of   special Easter services and events this week.”

The BBFC said that without any possible breach of the law, it had no grounds   on which to refuse classification.

It said it “recognised the content of the film may be deeply offensive to   some viewers”, but that the decision to pass it “reflected the   clear view of the public that adults should have the right to choose their   own viewing, provided that the material in question is neither illegal nor   harmful”.

The BBFC, which is in its centenary year, has refused classification to nearly   1,000 films.

Conspiracy Thinking Like God Belief | Undeterred By Facts or Internal Contradictions


Conspiracy theorists not deterred by contradictions

The notion that authorities are engaged in massive deceptions supports any individual theory, thus allowing conspiracy theorists to endorse different ideas.

By Wynne Parry, LiveScience

 Area 51
Photo: Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock
Did Princess Diana fake her own death to escape the public eye? Or was she killed by a rogue element of the British secret service?
 If you agree with one of these theories, there’s a good chance you’ll subscribe to both even though one suggests Princess Diana is alive, the other dead, a new study indicates.
It’s known that people who believe one conspiracy theory are inclined to endorse others as well. But new research shows that conspiracy theorists aren’t put off by contradictory theories and offers a reason why.
“They’re explained by the overarching theory that there is some kind of cover-up, that authorities are withholding information from us,” said Karen Douglas, a study researcher and reader in the school of psychology sciences at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. “It’s not that people are gullible or silly by having those beliefs. … It all fits into the same picture.”  [Is This Article Part of a Conspiracy?]
In the first of two experiments, Douglas and colleagues asked 137 students to rate how much they agreed with five conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Princess Diana in a car crash in 1997.
“The more people were likely to endorse the idea Princess Diana was murdered, the more they were likely to believe that Princess Diana is alive,” explained Douglas. People who thought it was unlikely she was murdered were also unlikely to think she did not die.
They also asked 102 students about the death of Osama bin Laden last year. The students rated how much they agreed with statements purporting that: bin Laden had died in the American raid; he is still alive; he was already dead when the raid took place; the Obama administration appears to be hiding information about the raid.
Once again, people who believed bin Laden was already dead before the raid were more likely to believe he is still alive. Using statistical analysis, the researchers determined that the link between the two was explained by a belief that the Obama administration was hiding something.
The central idea — that authorities are engaged in massive deceptions intended to further their malevolent goals — supports any individual theory, to the point that theorists can endorse contradictory ones, according to the team.
“Believing that Osama bin Laden is still alive is apparently no obstacle to believing that he has been dead for years,” they write in a study published online on Jan. 25 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Hitler Was God’s Chosen Hunter: Hunting Jews! Claims Crazy For God John Hagee!


The Religious Right habitually camouflages it’s nefarious Christian Nationalist Worldview behind a phoney “pro-Israel” facade.

Religious fanatic John Hagee believes god sent Hitler to exterminate Jews and thus, as act and prophetic directive of his god, obviously a righteous and just genocide.

Like Catholic Hitler, John Hagee believes that unless Jews are converted to his Christ, they will be eradicated in the fires of hell that is, their final annihilation.

One has to wonder how even certain Right Wing Jews can be so utterly blind and continue support a religious buffoon who considers the destruction of Jews an inexorable, righteous and prophetic dictate — of his
psychopathic god?!

Michele Bachmann’s Claim That Natural Disasters Were a Warning From God


A quick and entertaining reminder of the type of uncivilized, unsophisticated, irrational, superstitious and anti-science lunatics – typified by Michele Bachmann – that are presently fronting the GOP.

Stephen Colbert Explains Michele Bachmann’s Claim That Natural Disasters Were a Warning From God [VIDEO]
By: Don Deane  |
Stephen Colbert
Comedy Central

On ‘The Colbert Report’ last night, Stephen Colbert gave a tongue-in-cheek explanation of Michele Bachmann’s recent comment that Hurricane Irene and the East coast earthquake were warnings from God to politicians.

Last week, Bachmann said both natural disasters were God’s way of telling politicians to cut spending and fix the budget deficit. Later, she downplayed the comment by first saying it was a joke, then by calling it a “metaphor.”

Colbert felt compelled to explain further. “In this metaphor, God represents the American people, politicians  represent themselves and the hurricane represents the earthquake,” he said. “And Bachmann herself is a simile, because she is like or as  someone who makes sense.”

[via AOL TV]

The Destruction of Israel


Make no mistake, Israel‘s existence is under threat
TheDrum By ABC’s Ben Knight

Updated September 24, 2011 12:17:39

Let’s imagine for a moment that at this time next year, by some
miracle, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas meet on the White House lawn to
sign the accord that will create the nation of Palestine. All disagreements are
forever resolved – from where the borders of the two countries will lie, to how
they will share Jerusalem as their capital.

Let’s also assume that all Muslim and Arab nations will keep their promise to
recognise Israel – and that the militants of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad
are consigned to the dustbin of history.

Israel is finally free to realise its full potential as a nation. Or, to put
it another way – Israel is finally free to let its own internal divisions and
hatreds tear it apart.

If you think Israelis and Palestinians don’t see eye to eye, the gulf between
secular Israelis and the ultra-orthodox religious is probably just as wide.

Go to Tel Aviv on a Saturday morning, and you’ll see one version of Israel –
secular, middle-class sun-worshippers, sitting in trendy beachside cafes,
munching on bacon and eggs, or hummus and salad.

Then, on the same Saturday morning, drive 40 minutes up the highway to
Jerusalem, where you’ll visit an entirely different country. Here, there are no
cars, and streets are closed off with police barriers – as ultra-orthodox Jews
in black overcoats and fur hats walk to the Western Wall to pray.

And no, the two groups don’t get along.

Secular Israelis work, pay taxes, and serve in the army. Ultra-orthodox, or
Haredi Jews, don’t.

Secular Israelis are prepared to die for their country in battle, but have to
travel outside it to get married in a civil ceremony.

Not surprisingly, it’s a pretty sore point. Especially as the demographic
balance is shifting fast.

Secular couples have, on average, around two children per couple. Haredi
couples have closer to eight or nine.

And it’s changing the very identity of Israel – away from the secular,
socialist civil society it was created as in 1948 – to something quite
different.

To see it in action, you only need to take a peek inside an Israeli
school.

Israeli’s government funds three streams of education; regular state schools,
ultra-orthodox religious schools, and Israeli Arab schools.

Back in 1960, only around 15 per cent of Israeli children were enrolled in
religious or Arab schools.

That figure is now around 50 per cent. In 30 years, it will be almost 80 per
cent. That is a frightening statistic for the nation of Israel.

Arab Israelis have long had lower education, and higher unemployment
levels.

But the real problem is in the religious stream.

In religious schools, children don’t learn mathematics, science, or English;
only the Bible. All day, every day. And Haredi men are expected to – and do –
continue that Bible study for the rest of their lives.

It’s all funded by the taxpayers. And the taxpayers are… secular
Israelis.

What does it mean? Well, if the figures are to be believed, in less than 30
years, Israel will have a population where the majority either can’t, or won’t
join the workforce – putting an increasing, and impossible burden on the secular
minority to pay the taxes and serve in the army.

This, in the ‘Startup Nation’ – the country that prides itself on its hi-tech
sector. Israel has the ideas, the inventors, and the entrepreneurs – but
already, it has to import workers from overseas, because there aren’t enough
educated Israelis in the job market.

It’s not sustainable. Israelis know about it, and sometimes talk about it,
but Israel’s government does nothing. It’s just too hard – especially as the
political power of the ultra-religious is growing. It’s almost impossible to
form a government in Israel today without them.

Opposition – and resentment – is growing. Middle-class, taxpaying, secular
Israelis are already so angry about the mere cost of living – and that their
children cannot afford to buy or rent a home – that they have taken to the
streets in huge numbers.

But it’s hard to see how any government – however brave – is going to be able
to turn the ship around without committing political suicide.

Now let’s imagine that in a year from now, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud
Abbas have not reached a peace deal.

All of the current problems are still there; but Israel is even more
isolated, the Palestinians are even more frustrated, and sitting in the midst of
an ever more unstable and chaotic region.

This week’s UN assembly might have put Israel and Palestine back in the
headlines – but it won’t solve the conflict. And soon enough, it will all fade
from view again.

And all the while, behind the scenes, Israel’s
demographic time bomb is still ticking away.

Ben Knight
is the ABC’s Middle East correspondent.

Is Bill O’Reilly the Stupidest Catholic in America?!


Bill O’Reilly Stumped by Tides: ‘Unexplainable’ by Science
By Alex Moore

Tread lightly—this video is truly depressing.


Yo, God, it’s me, Bill. Can you explain how the tides work?”

Today David Silverstein, president of the American Atheist Group went on the Bill O’Reilly show to debate whether god is real and whether religion is valid. O’Reilly gave him a golden hail-mary opportunity to absolutely blow his argument off the map and wipe that smug look off his face, and Silverstein blew it.

Explaining that his religious faith springs from the mysteries of nature that are unexplainable by modern science, O’Reilly said: ““I’ll tell you why [religion is] not a scam, in my opinion. Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in.”

Even more amazing than Bill O’Reilly not knowing that the tides are caused by the moon’s orbit is the fact that the atheist guy didn’t know it either! Silverstein was left to retort, “It doesn’t matter if I can’t explain it—that doesn’t mean that an invisible magic man in the sky is doing it,” his high school science (or was it middle school?) apparently failing him.

The moon, dude. The moon. Nothing so frustrating as seeing Bill O’Reilly so close to getting eviscerated, and without a rational human being in sight to put him in his place.

I guess it wasn’t meant to be this time—like the 1986 Red Sox. Just wait, O’Reilly—we rationalists will get you one of these days.

Interview here:-

http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/oreilly/transcript/o039reilly-debates-atheist-group-president-over-religions-are-039scams039-billboard