Archive for April, 2011

Veracicat has checked your facts and is not impressed with your lies.As a rule, people love to think they live in unusual times, and more often than not, they think the unusual things going on, are bad. Really bad. Historically-unprecedented bad. If you could ask anyone — at any point in history — if there are more catastrophes going on in his/her lifetime than ever before, s/he would most likely say, “Yes, of course!” It’s a kind of selective thinking, often backed up by confirmation bias, because the things we’re aware of and know about as they occur outweigh — in our minds — those we only find out about after-the-fact or hear about having happened historically. A natural ramification of this is that we tend to think that any kind of disaster is now more frequent than it ever was before.

This tendency — which is basic human nature and applies to almost everyone — is one that apocalypticists love to prey on, and they intentionally feed it. Thus we have something of a cottage industry of so-called “experts” on the putative “Maya apocalypse” who happily propagate the lie that the ancient Maya predicted the end of the universe on December 21, 2012. That we’re experiencing more catastrophes and wars, you see — according to them — is a “sign” that the End Of The Universe, which the Maya predicted, is coming.

As I’ve blogged before, this is all bullshit. Pure, unadulterated, unfiltered, stinking-to-high-heaven bull-fucking-shit. The Maya never predicted any such thing! Their ability to have predicted the future accurately is debunked absolutely, by their failure to predict the collapse of their own civilization, which happened around the turn of the 10th century CE. So no, the universe is not going to roll to a sudden, screeching halt in 2012.

But batshit crazy New Agers who claim to know what the Maya said without even knowing the Mayan language — thus, having zero knowledge of what the Maya truly thought — are certainly not the only folks who use this tendency. Christian “End Timers” play it up, too. To claim there are more earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, droughts, famines, wildfires, etc. and then claim these are harbingers of the Second Coming is a classic “End Time” proselytizing trick. “The Bible predicted this would happen!” they claim, and they can quickly spit out chapter and verse to show it.

The problem is, all of this is predicated on a lie. And it’s a lie that’s remarkably easy to debunk. Unfortunately, it’s not often debunked. Which is why I’m so glad to notice that FactCheck decided to look into the claims of one “End Time” apocalypticist, evangelical nutcase Franklin Graham, and their takedown isn’t pretty (WebCite cached article):

On ABC’s “This Week,” the Rev. Franklin Graham was wrong when he said that earthquakes, wars and famines are occurring “with more frequency and more intensity.”

The preacher, who is the son of the Rev. Billy Graham and president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, discussed [cached] the prophecy of Armageddon with host Christiane Amanpour during a special Easter edition of the Sunday talk show.

Graham, April 24: I believe we are in the latter days of this age. When I say “latter days,” could it be the last hundred years or the last thousand years or the last six months? I don’t know.

But the Bible, the things that the Bible predicts, earthquakes and famines, nation rising against nation, we see this happening with more frequency and more intensity.

On all three counts, the preacher is wrong. Today’s famines and armed conflicts are fewer and relatively smaller than those in the last century, and the frequency of major earthquakes has remained about the same.

The rest of the article shows how Graham is flat-out wrong on those three counts.

Given that FactCheck is dedicated mostly to checking politicians’ claims about their opponents, that makes this particular article out of character for them, and that will, no doubt, be used by Graham-like “End Timers” as a rationale to dismiss what it says. “FactCheck should stick with politics, and leave religion alone!” they will say. (Notwithstanding that they never listen to FactCheck’s political fact-corrections … fucking hypocrites!) That dismissal, of course, would be a kind of argumentum ad hominem, but fallacy is the favorite game of the vehement religionist, so it’s expected.

FactCheck’s demonstration that Franklin Graham is a liar, places him — again! — in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. Congratulations, Frankie, on your achievement. By all means, keep lying to everyone.

Photo credit: PsiCop, based on original from quitor.com.

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One Nation, Under God: America is a Christian NationDavid Barton is popular among the Religious Right, at the moment. He’s a Christofascist’s Christofascist, happy to tell Chrisitianists around the country that the US was originally founded as the Christocracy they think it should be … even though it absolutely and demonstrably was not. He’s a pet historian for militant Christians of all stripes, from Glenn Beck to Newt Gingrich to Mike Huckabee. The mass media are even enamored of him, because he’s always good for a sound bite or two. Mother Jones offers this story about Barton and the hard-on the Right has for him (WebCite cached article):

Newt Gingrich is a fan. So’s Michele Bachmann. Mike Huckabee’s such a booster that he recently said that all Americans should be “forced at gunpoint” to listen to this guy.

The object of this high praise from Huckabee — and recent shout-outs from other potential GOP presidential contenders — is David Barton, a Republican activist and minister who founded WallBuilders, a for-profit evangelical outfit that works to inject religion into politics. Barton holds some pretty unconventional views, and in the past he has spoken alongside fringe figures like Holocaust deniers and white supremacists. Among other things, he claims that Jesus would oppose the capital gains tax and the minimum wage; that global warming is “self-correcting”; and that the nation’s homeland security apparatus has been infiltrated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood. He also contends that the separation of church and state is a perversion of the Founding Fathers’ intention to create a Christian nation.

Pretty much every reference to Barton that I’ve seen in the mass media — whether it’s a quote from some angry theocrat, or if it’s the reporter him/herself — calls Barton a “historian.”

The trouble is, he isn’t one.

That’s right, folks. The Religious Right’s favorite historian, is not a historian at all! He’s not even close to being a historian.

Barton’s only bona fide academic degree is a B.A. in religious education from Oral Roberts University (class of ’76). Barton has absolutely no credentials in the field of history. Not one. Not even so much as a vague whiff of one.

I expect Rightists to make a big deal out of Barton and to mispresent him. Of course they’re going to call him a “historian,” if the “history” he spews is a steaming load of fierce militant Christianism and he’s no historian at all. I understand Rightists lying about him. But folks in the mass media have no reasonable excuse for misstating Barton’s credentials. They probably refer to Barton as a “historian” simply because the Right calls him one and they cannot be bothered looking at his C.V. to see if he truly is one. But as someone who did earn a B.A. in history, I am incensed that this lie continues to be propagated.

Barton, and all of his sanctimonious fans who call him a “historian,” are now members of my “lying liars for Jesus” club. (If they weren’t members already … a lot of them are.)

Oh, and Mr Barton — and any other like-minded Christianists: If you think that, as an American, I am required to become the kind of Christian you are, then I invite you to use whatever means you wish to make me convert. Go ahead. I dare you! Do you have the courage to give it your best shot? If you truly think I’m required to worship your Jesus, why would you not do everything in your power to make me do so?

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of Georgia.

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Faithful gather in St. Peter's Basilica during the Easter Vigil mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI, at the Vatican, Saturday, April 23, 2011. The pontif began Saturday night's ceremony by lighting a candle that symbolizes the resurrection of Christ, which the faithful mark on Easter Sunday. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)Not to be outdone by the Religious Right armies which at the moment are stomping around the US rolling the country back to medievalism, Pope Benedict XVI used his Easter Vigil homily to leap aboard the Creationism bandwagon, as the AP reports via Google News (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI marked the holiest night of the year for Christians by stressing that humanity isn’t a random product of evolution.

Benedict emphasized the Biblical account of creation in his Easter Vigil homily Saturday, saying it was wrong to think at some point “in some tiny corner of the cosmos there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it.”

“If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature,” he said.

This is a curious development, since as the AP article notes, the Catholic Church hasn’t been opposed to evolution, and does not support Creationism:

Church teaching holds that Roman Catholicism and evolutionary theory are not necessarily at odds: A Christian can, for example, accept the theory of evolution to help explain developments, but is taught to believe that God, not random chance, is the origin of the world. The Vatican, however, warns against creationism, or the overly literal interpretation of the Bibilical account of creation.

It’s interesting that Benedict used the adjective “random” as a way of trying to discredit evolution. That particular rhetorical trick has been Creationists’ stock in trade for decades now. This is why his remarks appear to support Creationism. As for the validity of calling evolution “random” … I suppose one might call its results “random,” however, that’s just a subjective value judgement having no objective basis. So really, it means nothing other than that the person speaking doesn’t like evolution.

The trouble with that, of course, is that the veracity of evolution doesn’t depend on whether anyone likes it or not. Its veracity has, time and again, been scientifically demonstrated. In the end, to not like evolution is akin to not liking the fact that the sky is blue. There isn’t much doubt that it’s the case, and there’s absolutely nothing one can do to change it.

What sane person would rant and rave and bluster and fume over the fact that the sky is blue? No one. It would make no sense; no one else would listen to such a person. It’s time for humanity to mature to the point where we can finally admit the same thing about Creationism … that it’s irrational, that time and energy spent on it is wasted, that nothing human beings say or do can ever make Creationism true, and that we need to stop paying heed to it and giving comfort to its delusional, childish proponents.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia (cached).

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Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd as he arrives for an open-air mass in the Terreiro do Paso in Lisbon, on May 11, 2010Pope Benedict XVI continues to look for ways to deflect the world’s attention from the fact that the Church he rules is a remorseless, Mafialike cabal of criminals and criminal-enablers. CBS News reports that he used a question from a Japanese child who survived the recent earthquake there as a launching-point for his own idiotic attempt at theodicy (WebCite cached article):

In an unprecedented move, Pope Benedict XVI held a televised question-and-answer session to mark Good Friday, fielding queries from as far away as Japan, Iraq and the Ivory Coast on topics as wide-ranging as death, violence, intimidation and suffering. …

The first question came from Elena, a 7-year-old Japanese girl who told the pope that many children her age were killed in the March 11 disaster and asked why children have to be so sad.

“I also have the same questions: Why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease?” Benedict said. “And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent.”

Trying for words of comfort, the pope told her that “even if we are still sad, God is by your side.”

He said Elena should tell herself: “One day, I will understand that this suffering was not empty, it wasn’t in vain, but behind it was a good plan, a plan of love.”

There are so many points of illogic in the Pope’s answer, I hardly know how to begin addressing them. Since I can’t possibly cover them all, I’ll handle the three main ones:

  1. That one innocent (i.e. Jesus) suffered, does not mean everyone else’s suffering is good. This is a form of “two wrongs make a right” thinking and is fallacious.

  2. What does it matter that God is at anyone’s side, while s/he suffers? I mean, seriously … what fucking good does that accomplish?

  3. The Pope concedes “we do not have the answers,” yet — in total contradiction of this admission — concludes nonetheless that there is some great cosmic “plan of love.”

The idea that “God has a plan” is commonly stated by many theists. But curiously, not one of them dares divulge the content of this “plan”! Sorry, but unless you know what the “plan” is and can describe it to me, you can’t say there is one. No, I’m not just going to take your word for it. A plan you’ve never seen and cannot explain, is inseparable from one that doesn’t exist at all.

The sad truth about this theodicy by the Pope — and about all other theodicies proposed by any other believer in the Abrahamic God over the last c. 2,500 years — is that they all fail the test of logic. Every single last one of them.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: M.Mazur / www.thepapalvisit.org.uk via Flickr.

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rainy dayTexas has experienced an unusual wave of wildfires over the last few days (WebCite cached article). One would think Texas governor Rick Perry would be coordinating firefighting efforts, calling in resources at his disposal such as the National Guard, and otherwise working hard at responding to them quickly. But that would be assuming too much of the fiercely religionistic Perry. No, Reuters reports that Perry’s idea of a good response to wildfires, is to tell Texans to pray for rain (cached):

Texas Governor Rick Perry called on Texans to pray for rain as cooler temperatures on Thursday helped firefighters contain wildfires that have charred more than 1.5 million acres across the state.

That’s the way, Rickie-boy. Use a disaster to order your state’s citizens — believers and non-believers alike — to obey the doctrines of your own religion. There’s nothing like taking advantage of a crisis to foist religion on people, is there?

In a unique and hilarious reversal for a man who once threatened to make his state secede from the Union (cached), Perry asked for federal help:

Perry, a Republican, sought increased federal help in combating the blazes last weekend and urged Texans to ask the same from a higher power over the Easter holiday weekend.

What a wonderful way to stick to your “Texas-can-go-its-own-way-if-we-don’t-like-Obama” principles, Rickie-boy. Way to go!

Photo credit: Svein Håvard Djupvik.

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A UFO - It sort looks like an old style ceiling light fixtureAs though a divided, contentious Congress in a divided, contentious Washington has nothing better to do with its time than satisfy wingnuts, cranks and freaks, a University professor in Missouri thinks Congress should hold hearings looking into UFOs. AOL News reports on this demand (WebCite cached article):

Do you think the House or Senate will have any extra time to discuss UFOs? While it sometimes might seem as though our lawmakers are from outer space, this hasn’t stopped one college professor from urging Congress to take a serious look at unidentified flying objects.

Citing findings from a 12-year-old groundbreaking French UFO study, University of Missouri-Columbia psychologist and adjunct professor of peace studies Bill Wickersham has issued a call for congressional leaders to boldly go where their predecessors wouldn’t.

The report Wickersham cited is called COMETA, and it was released in 1999. Since then it’s proven a favorite “proof” of a US-government cover-up of extraterrestrial visits in the ufology community. Pretty much everyone else has ignored it as much-less-than-compelling “proof” of anything.

Ufonauts love to trot out that the committee that produced COMETA was made up of fairly eminent French engineers and former high-ranking military officers. While this sounds impressive, it unfortunately does not grant them any veracity; to assume it does, is to stumble on the fallacy of the appeal to authority. That COMETA could not explain some 5% of UFO reports collected by the French government, does not mean that they can only be explained by extraterrestrials. That in itself is another fallacy, the argument from incredulity, aka “the divine fallacy” (since the agent called upon to explain any given mystery is often God). In addition, the assumption that there must be one — and only one! — explanation for those mysterious 5% of UFO reports, is itself invalid. In fact, we have no way to know how many explanations there may be for them! It’s possible there are 2 different explanations for them, or 20, or even that each and every one has its own, unique explanation. That the folks who drafted COMETA could not think of any, is — quite frankly — unimpressive. And it hardly proves anything.

Photo credit: dimland.

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Futurama, end of the world panicJesus will return, exactly one month from today … according to Bible scholar religionist crank Harold Camping. I’ve already blogged about this wingnut and his apocalyptic claim that Jesus plans to return on May 21, 2011, and upon his arrival vacuum up the world’s Christians in an event known to “End Timers” as “the Rapture.”

The sad part about all of this is that, when May 21, 2011 comes and goes, neither Camping nor his sheep will admit he was wrong. They’ll just spew out ridiculous excuses such as he made an arithmetic error. Then they’ll listen closely when he announces yet another date for “the Rapture,” and look forward to that.

Oh yeah, did I mention, Camping has been down this road before? Yep. He pulled this same bullshit stunt back in 1994 (cached). His followers appear not to have given a crap that he was full of shit back then, so I don’t expect they’ll care that he’s wrong, now.

The basic truth about any kind of Biblical prophecy — whether it comes from Harold Camping or anyone else — is that it’s all complete, unmitigated, unfiltered bullshit. Plain and simple. That’s all it is, and it’s all it ever will be. Period.

Photo credit: io9.com.

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