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Photograph of Leah Remini, via Wikimedia CommonsA month ago I blogged about Leah Remini’s documentary series exposing the excesses of Scientology about a month ago, when it won an Emmy award. As I said then, Remini’s series is by no means the first major exposé of the Church of Scientology and its abusive practices. There have been many of them over the last several decades. One of the more noteable early exposés was a book, The Scandal of Scientology, by Paulette Cooper, published in 1971 (which resulted in her being “fair gamed” and nearly destroyed by CoS). There was also BBC’s Scientology and Me in 2007, and Going Clear on HBO in 2015. The inanity of Scientology has been well-known since Martin Gardner released his Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science in 1952 (when it was known only as “dianetics”).

So none of what Remini (and co-presenter Mike Rinder) reveal in the series is news. It’s not. But Scientology and the Aftermath are reaching more people than ever and shining a much brighter light on CoS than before.

As far as I know, CoS’s main response had been to draft Web sites critical of Remini, Rinder, and some of their contributors. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, the popularity of her series has forced CoS to ramp up that response a bit (Archive.Is cached article):

Scientologists are emailing advertisers and demanding they boycott the A&E show “ Leah Remini : Scientology and the Aftermath,” claiming the documentary series is inciting threats and acts of violence against members of the church.

Individuals who say they are Scientologists sent multiple versions of the letter in recent months to advertisers and ad buyers, according to people familiar with the matter. The group behind the effort, Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination (STAND), also posted a handful of letters addressed to Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Chrysler brand and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Geico, among others, on its website.

I have no idea how “Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination” extracted the “STAND” acronym from their name. I mean, “STAAD” works better. Maybe they avoided that because putting a “G” in front of it, which might confuse them with a ski-resort town in Switzerland. But hey, what could I know about it?

As the WSJ explains, at least one advertiser (Geico) did bend over for CoS and they’ve pull its ads from the series — but not from the network (which kind of makes clear that they’re specifically avoiding Remini’s show). Way to go, Geico. I knew geckos are flexible, but I didn’t know they had no backbones.

With this development, it’s clear Remini and Rinder have had an effect on Scientology. Good for them! The more is revealed about CoS’s shenanigans, the better.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Free vector graphic: Ghost, Spooky, Cheeky, Ghostly - Free Image on Pixabay - 156969, via PixabayIt’s been quite awhile since I blogged about the inane journalistic phenomenon of “hauntings as news.” That’s when some otherwise-reputable journalist pens a story telling the world that some place is haunted. I just saw another example of this in a nearby newspaper, the (Torrington, CT) Register-Citizen, reporting on an astonishing “revelation” (Archive.Is cached article):

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado is believed by many to be haunted by ghosts, and one family’s photo is the latest to attempt to give credence to the ghostly claims.

The Mausling family of Aurora, Colorado was on a “spirit tour” of the 108-year-old hotel on Sept. 16 when John “Jay” Mausling claims to have snapped a photo of what he says appears to be two ghosts.

It’s really funny that anyone would be astonished at seeing a “ghost” while on a “spirit tour” of a supposedly-haunted building. Why, of course they did! Why, of course the people running this “spirit tour” set up that illusion! I can’t handle relaying any more of this laughable dreck.

Let me be perfectly clear: There are no ghosts. Buildings cannot be haunted. No one can speak with the dead. This is outrageous fucking bullshit … period, end of story.

The reason newspapers resort to “hauntings as news” should be obvious, and that’s because it’s easy reporting. Either people come to reporters with their “tips” directly, or they post them online, but either way, they basically package the story for the reporter, making it simple, easy, and quick. In an age of shrinking newsrooms, hauntings are a fast and ready way to fill up the newshole. In this case, there was the added plus of an association between the place of this claimed “haunting” and the famous movie The Shining. That makes it “catchy” and will help collect eyeballs.

But none of that grants this story — or any other like it — merit. It doesn’t mean the Stanley Hotel is haunted. It doesn’t mean anyone photographed an actual “ghost.” Stories like this one are massive journalistic “fails.”

Photo credit: Pixabay.

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????????The election of our Groper-in-Chief has opened the floodgates to even more fruits and loons running for office. I mean, more than just the occasional wingnut gadlfy like Lyndon LaRouche. I mean, they’ve started emerging in droves to run for all sorts of offices around the country. For example, The Hill reports a Congressional candidate in Florida who claims she’s an alien abductee (Archive.Is cached article):

A candidate for a Florida congressional seat claims she was visited by aliens and has communicated with them several times throughout her life.

Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera said in a 2009 television appearance that she went up into the spaceship when she was 7 years old, according to McClatchy [cached].

“I went in. There were some round seats that were there, and some quartz rocks that controlled the ship — not like airplanes,” Rodriguez Aguilera said in the interview, a video of which was posted to YouTube and first reported on by McClatchy.

She said she was visited by three large, blonde beings at the time. One was male and two were female.

The Hill goes on to give Rodriguez Aguilera’s justification for this outlandish claim: Past presidents have claimed to see UFOs, and scientists say it’s likely there’s life on other planets. I don’t dispute that presidents may have seen flying objects they couldn’t identify, nor do I dispute that life may well have developed elsewhere in our galaxy, or beyond. But even if they’re true, they don’t constitute evidence that extraterrestrials have ever visited humanity at all, let alone that Rodriguez Aguilera met any of them.

In reality, no one has ever been shown — based on compelling, objective, verifiable evidence — to have been abducted by ETs. It simply hasn’t happened.

Yes, I know about what is, perhaps, the original alien-abduction story: That of Betty & Barney Hill, which supposedly took place in 1961, and was famously recorded in The Interrupted Journey by John Fuller. While their story seemed compelling, there are a lot of problems with it, and isn’t a very credible story. Many of the alien-abduction accounts which have been reported since the Hills’ “encounter” have reflected their story … which in turn tends to limit their credibility.

That’s not to say that “nothing” happened to these people. Most of them experienced something … the question is, what could it have been, if not a genuine ET visitation? Among the more likely explanations is the common phenomenon of sleep paralysis.

In any event, given the sorts of people who’ve been elected over the past year or so — including a Congressional candidate who physically attacked a reporter, yet won anyway — it’s by no means certain this particular wing-but can’t get into Congress. More’s the pity.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church ... such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.' -Martin Luther (PsiCop original graphic)This is the second post today where I’ve had to address something that was said at the Values Voters Summit in Washington. And it happens also to concern a lie that was told in support of Christianism. (I expect dozens of lies were told there, today … but I only have just so much time, so these two will have to do).

The liar I’ll discuss here is former Congresswoman (and current raging Christofascist) Michele Bachmann. As Right Wing Watch reports, she repeated the old fundamentalist canard that archaeology proves the Bible (Archive.Is cached article):

Apparently operating under her new anointing as pastor, Bachmann opened her remarks by celebrating the election of Donald Trump before dedicating a significant portion of the remainder of her speech to recounting the history of Christianity and the saving power of Christ.

“You know, the remarkable thing,” she said, “when you read the Bible, every archeology find that has ever come forward has only proved the authenticity of the Bible.”

This claim — while it’s widely repeated among fundies like Bachmann — is an out-&-out lie. Pure bullshit. A steaming load heaved right out the back of the barn. The cold fact is that archaeology has actually failed to confirm much of the Bible’s contents. For instance, there’s no archaeological evidence for a worldwide flood. There’s no evidence the Hebrews were captive in Egypt, nor is there any evidence of an “exodus,” the Red Sea never parted, nor is there evidence that Hebrews conquered the Levant in a military campaign.

I could go on, but it would be pointless. The number of Biblical events which have never been confirmed by archaeology is legion. It’d be easier for me to point out times they coincide; there are only a few. Among them is the Hittites, a people who were mentioned a few times in the Bible, and had been thought of as maybe-legendary, but hadn’t been encountered by archaeologists until a little over a century ago. But some ruins and tablets … and texts found in Egypt as well … confirmed that there had, indeed, been Hittites in the Near East.

So archaeologically speaking, the Bible got that right — but unfortunately for Bachmann and her fundie ilk, not much else.

Fundies tell this lie, and repeat it endlessly, because it reinforces in their minds the importance of their own strict and literal reading of the Bible texts. They’re so convinced of their mantra that “archaeology confirms the Bible” that they’ve run roughshod over the Near East, particularly Israel and the West Bank, desperately flailing around in search of stuff they think they can use to “prove” to the rest of the world that they’re right (cached). That they haven’t been able to do this, decades into their search, should speak volumes.

At any rate, I’ve added Ms Bachmann to my “lying liars for Jesus” club, where she’ll find many like-minded Christofascists.

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Orlando - Disney World - Hollywood Studios - The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights - Peace On Earth Globe & Merry Christmas SignThe end of the year is approaching, and with it — of course! — come the annual repeated appeals to a phantasmal “struggle” called the War on Christmas. This is the contention made by Religious Rightists that Christmas is being outlawed in the US (presumably as the opening salvo in a presumed effort to outlaw Christianity entirely). I call it “phantasmal” because — well! — it is!

There truly is no “war” on the Christmas holiday. Christmas trees have never been removed from anyone’s homes. Churches have never been forcibly closed on Christmas Day. It’s not illegal to buy and give Christmas presents, nor to send Christmas cards. Nothing of the sort has ever happened in the US. Not once … not anywhere … not at all. Ever.

But to hear the R.R. tell it, one would think their very lives are in danger merely because they think about Christmas.

For me, then, the so-called “war on Christmas” is an annual event on my blog. It accounts for many blog posts. And I can always rely on the R.R. to weigh in on it, year after year after year.

This year’s edition begins with our Groper-in-Chief, that legendary champion of Christmas, who — as The Hill reports — weighed in on the phony controversy at this year’s Values Voter Summit (Archive.Is cached article):

President Trump reignited the “war on Christmas” on Friday, telling a crowd of supporters that “we’re saying merry Christmas again” now that he’s president.

Speaking to a packed crowd at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., Trump argued political correctness has gotten in the way of celebrating the holiday.

The GiC rambled a bit, as he usually does, laughably and insanely trying to wax poetic about a fake effort to prevent Christianists from worshipping their Christmas, but then he dropped this extra snippet of idiotic drivel:

Trump went on to briefly pivot toward his push to cut taxes, calling for tax reform as a “Christmas gift.”

Yeah right. The Apricot Wonder’s “tax reform” isn’t going to be any “Christmas gift” for anyone except businesses or the wealthy (cached) — because, pity the poor little things, they’re just soooo beaten down and persecuted, you see.

If I haven’t been clear enough on this, allow me to repeat what I’ve said almost since this blog began: There is no effort to outlaw Christmas, anywhere in the United States. It is not happening, anywhere in the country. Yes, it had been outlawed in some colonies before the country’s independence, by dour Puritans (cached), but they’ve been gone for centuries. Ironically, perhaps, the modern Religious Right movement has a lot in common with the fiercely religionistic Puritans. One wonders why they’re so militant about celebrating a holiday which is not mentioned in their holy scripture, and which hadn’t even been celebrated by Christians in their religion’s first couple centuries. Hmm.

In addition to being clear that there is, in fact, no “war on Christmas” in the US, and it’s been legal to say “Merry Christmas” throughout the country’s history, I’d also like to add that American Christians tend to believe a lot of things about Christmas which, in the end, also are not true at all. For some reason, they seem to like to use Christmas as a kind of bludgeon, and when the reality of this holiday doesn’t suit their needs, they just go and make up shit about it.

Oh, and the GiC’s lie about “Merry Christmas” having been outlawed, places him squarely in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. He’ll enjoy that, I’m sure, since lying is perhaps the one thing he’s best at, and he’s proud of it (cached).

Photo credit: Jared, via Flickr.

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Lucifer, the fallen angel / By Gustave Doré (for Paradise Lost) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsDespite their religiosity — or perhaps, because of it! — American Christianists oppose religious freedom. Oh sure, they stomp around trumpeting how great religious freedom is, and even whine about how they don’t have any (although that’s a fucking lie). The truth is, they have all the religious freedom they want … and the religious freedom they most want, is the “freedom” to impose their religion on everyone and to harass those who insolently defy their dour metaphysics.

Toward that end, they’ve proclaimed limits on others’ religious freedoms. For instance, many Neocrusaders insist Muslims don’t have any religious freedom, on the grounds that Islam isn’t really a religion, it’s a political philosophy instead. That political philosophies, in addition to religions, are also protected by the First Amendment, is something they appear not to understand. They also say this as though their own religion isn’t, itself, political movement, even though it most certainly is.

No, the mantra they love to spew is that the US was founded by Christians, therefore, only Christians have “religious freedom” — even though, quite obviously, the First Amendment doesn’t say a word about Christianity or any other religion specifically.

The latest Christofascist to reel off this lie, as Right Wing Watch reports, is Rick Wiles (Archive.Is cached article):

End Times radio host Rick Wiles appeared on a program hosted by Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog.com over the weekend, where Wiles declared that people have no right to worship Satan in America and warned that doing so will bring destruction on this nation.

Wiles said that our society “has been sterilized of God” and “Satan is now coming in to fill the vacuum” and is outraged by reports [cached] that city officials in Boca Raton, Florida, are allowing a satanic display to be erected in a city park during the holiday season.…

“What is happening to this country?” Wiles asked. “We’ve lost our mind. And the city council and the mayor say, ‘Well, these satanists have their rights too.’ No, they don’t. They don’t have any rights. You don’t have the right to worship Lucifer. I’m sorry, but this country was founded by Christians, you don’t have the right to worship Lucifer in this country. You’re going to bring damnation and judgment on the nation.”

Note, Wiles’s complaint is pretty much the same as had been hurled a couple years ago by a bunch of militant Christianists in Texas protesting a “Satanist church” there. What none of them understands are two things: First, Satanists have the same “religious freedom” rights as anyone else; and second, they don’t actually worship Satan … they’re just protesting militant Christofascism with an ironic counter-argument of their own. In other words, these Christofascists just aren’t getting the message. It went right over their sniveling, infantile heads.

Wikimedia Commons.

I’ll end this post with a little dig at all the Christofascists out there: Hail Satan!

Hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

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Coat of arms - Tomb of Christopher Columbus - Cathedral of SevilleA couple months ago, we saw the “alt right” going berserk — to the point where one of them drove into a crowd — over the prospect of Confederate statues being taken down, in Charlottesville, VA. Well, it appears that was only the start of a whole lot of irrationality and immaturity where statues are concerned.

Today was Columbus Day, and as WTNH-TV in New Haven, CT reports, statues of Christopher Columbus around New England were vandalized (Archive.Is cached article):

Across New England on Columbus Day, people are taking stances, vandalizing statues of Christopher Columbus.

In Connecticut alone, vandals spray-painted on or around statues in four cities and towns, including Middletown, Bridgeport, Norwalk, and in New Haven’s Wooster Square over the weekend.

OK, look, I get it. I studied history in college (and have a degree in the subject). I know Christopher Columbus was a horrible person. He did awful things. Really, there’s no need to convince me. I get it. Honest.

I know, for example, that Columbus wasn’t really revered prior to the publication of his biography by Washington Irving. Through the 19th century, veneration of Columbus became a point of pride for ethnic Italians, and other Catholics, in the US. The anniversary of his landing in the New World wasn’t even made a national holiday until 1937. So there isn’t really that extensive a tradition behind it.

I also know that opposition to Columbus-worship isn’t new (cached). And that he was guilty of more than a few atrocities.

But … vandalizing Columbus statues? Really?! Is it absolutely necessary to deface, damage or destroy other people’s property? Can’t veneration of Columbus be protested in other — less criminal — ways? Have things really reached the point where people are too childish to understand this is wrong?

This just goes to show, it’s not just Rightists or religionists who can be fiercely militant, irrational, and immature. The Left, and anarchists, are more than capable of it, too.

Oh, and Italian-Americans getting their knickers in knots because of the backlash against Columbus Day, isn’t all that much more mature (cached). Why can’t everyone just grow the fuck up already?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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