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Stardate 10.014

Ascent out of Darkness ~ Armchair Philosophy from the 'Silly Beliefs' Team


Is channeling just bad acting?
According to a newspaper item my parents gave me, Southland is at the moment graced by the presence of a channeler from the USA. Real name Marjorie Musacchio, she performs her tricks under the stage name of Sucheta. We are told she is available for group channeling, private readings and also workshops. She gave two public talks, one in Invercargill and one in Frankton, but since the entry fee was a suggested donation of $20, all I could think of was how much chocolate I could buy for that, and so none of us wasted our money on her scam. Hell, it was only $15 to hear the excellent and world famous biologist Richard Dawkins talk, so I think Musacchio has an inflated notion of her importance. I hate to think what a private reading costs if just a cursory promo costs $20. I guess she needs to find suckers to fund her flights to and from the US.

Channelers are very similar to psychic mediums, in that they claim to be in communication with the souls of the dead. The main difference is in how they deliver their message. Mediums claim to hear voices or see visions that only they are aware of, and they then attempt to make sense of these voices and visions and explain them to us in their own words. The spirit tells the medium, the medium then attempts to pass on the spirit's message. These messages though are usually very vague, confusing and more often than not, completely wrong. The spirits are being frustrated in their efforts to have a good chat with us by the inability of mediums to understand and pass on their message.

Some spirits though are not prepared to have their message corrupted in the retelling. Enter the concept of channeling. Spirits who utilise channelers rather than mediums have evidently found a way of taking the low IQ of the human that they communicate with out of the equation. These spirits literally take control of the channeler's body and use them like a puppet or ventriloquist's dummy, dummy being the key word.

The mind of the human or channeler that has been chosen by the spirits is literally turned off and then rebooted running the software of the spirit of some dead soul. Everything that then comes out of the channeler's mouth are the actual words of the spirit. Or so the human channeler wants us to believe.

Having seen the odd channeler at work in real life and many on TV, their performances could almost be described as comical. That is they would be comical if it wasn't so embarrassing watching the channeler trying to speak in voice that they felt best represented the spirit they claimed was in control. Their performance is usually so bad they would make even young children acting in their school play cringe. Perhaps from a technical perspective, spirits have to target idiots, people with low IQs, stunted imagination and weak wills, since these minds are the only ones that their wispy powers can influence, switch off and take control of.

A second difference between channelers and mediums is that run of the mill souls seldom possess channelers. The voices that come from channelers often claim to belong to gods, famous people from history and even powerful aliens. Granny, old Uncle Ted and a recently departed hubby seldom get a look in with channelers, they deal almost exclusively with the spirit hierarchy.

The favourite spirit that Marjorie Musacchio, aka Sucheta, rabbits on about is someone called Kwan Yin. Don't feel embarrassed if your schooling didn't mention her. Musacchio explains that 'Kwan Yin is an energy presence of the Divine Mother'. If you complain that this explains nothing, you're right. Phrases like 'energy presence' and 'Divine Mother' are just meaningless mumbo jumbo. Even Musacchio stated that 'I didn't know who she was when she first came through to me. I didn't believe any of that'. As an aside, isn't it surprising how many of these morons claim to have been utterly skeptical of all this nonsense prior to them going on the road and asking for money to make up silly stories?

Musacchio claims to also channel 'Archangels, Ascended Masters and other energies'. She also gives her body on occasion to Jesus of Nazareth and his mother Marian, who evidently refer to themselves as 'I AM Jesus the CHRIST' and the 'Blessed Mother Mary' respectively. 'Jesus the Christ' even says things like 'BE THOU AWARE that THOU ART A CHILD OF GOD'. Why would someone who spoke Aramaic and Greek translate their words into old English, a language that didn't exist in the time of Jesus, rather than directly into the modern English of those he was talking to? It's surprising the number of idiots who appear to think that Jesus spoke in the language of the King James Bible.

In one channeling session by Musacchio the energy being known as Kwan Yin proclaimed:

You do not have to believe anything that we say. Anything that seems like it is useful to you - take it, use it, make it your own. Be good to yourself. Energize yourself with the knowing that you are divine. You have a lot of energies that are earthbound, but that is not who you are. You are a divine being of light. A child of God.

You say, "Who am I? What am I doing on this planet?" You are a higher vibration of the Christ Consciousness and the legacy of God for this planet, to improve, to increase love, to bring forward the light, to bring forward the uderstandings of the little ones into greater hope and a greater awareness.

Although Musacchio often mentions 'God' and Jesus and other elements of Christianity, she qualifies 'God' as 'being just one name for this energy that we are all part of'. Does that mean that 'God' is powering my toaster and sending me a monthly bill?

Though their method of delivery is different, channelers are no different from psychic mediums in that the dribble that issues forth from their mouths is pure nonsense, always sufficiently vague and meaningless so that listeners can put their own interpretation on what they hear. Take this silly description of life and the universe offered by these idiots:

We are all connected to All That Is, the universal flow of energy. But humans have this thing called free will that sometimes entraps them in the 3rd dimension of matter causing them to loose touch with their spiritual Source. This puts a drag on the raising of energy on earth, causing friction. Although we are on the earth and we have some vibrational input as to how earth's energy works, the earth's energy is always first and foremost in line with the Source. The earth is raising its vibration in reaction to the push from Source, and at this time on earth, the push is on to free as many souls from the wheel of rebirth as possible through the steady input of this level of higher vibration.
Pure nonsense arising from profound ignorance.

These channellers claim to be conversing with either gods or the spirits of wise but long dead humans. But what sage advice could a person who lived thousands of years ago give a citizen of the 21st century? Don't trust the Philistines, the Visigoths or the Huns. Don't leave the milk in the sun. Always offer a sacrifice to Apollo. Avoid women when they are unclean. Could they advise us on fixing environmental pollution, matrimonial property law or the choice between plasma or LCD TVs?

Another advert in the same paper advertised Aztec healing and Mayan readings. Why would you take advice from the spirit of someone who saw nothing wrong in sacrificing thousands of men, women and children to a sun god, slashing open their chest and ripping out their beating heart, or to throwing young, virgin women into wells to drown?

If channeling a god, then why can't they tell us something amazing, that only a powerful god would know, instead of just passing on some trite observation that some street wise prostitute on the Jerry Springer show could easily have uttered? Are these proclamations from wise and powerful gods or just the confused, unimaginative mumbling of a deluded mind?

And if the subject is claimed to be a long dead human, why can this spirit speak a foreign language fluently, ie English, and yet is incapable of speaking in their native language? Often even a single word is beyond them. Why can ancient Aztecs, Mayan, Egyptians, Romans, Vikings etc speak English but not their native tongues? Why does Jesus of Nazareth and his mother Mary converse easily in English and yet can't utter a word in Greek or Aramaic? Why does a maid to Napoleon's Josephine speak English and not French, and why can this illiterate maid offer advice on global warming but can't describe how to make soap? And why when these spirits do attempt to describe the world they lived in, it matches more closely what is show in Hollywood movies and Mills and Boon romantic novels than in real history books. Time and time again these spirits recount events from their life and their era that modern historians know are completely fictional, and that feature only in false accounts of history and urban myths.

The fact is that not one 'god' or 'ascended master' can offer any snippet of information that isn't already widely known or that is in any way worthy of a god or person of infinite wisdom and knowledge. Any fool can say humans should learn to live peaceably together or that we should protect the environment or that the end is nigh. Likewise, the 'spirits' of long dead humans have offered nothing of value that an avid watcher of daytime TV soap operas and talk shows couldn't equal. Furthermore, their vague and usually erroneous statements seem to reveal that they got much of their knowledge about the era they allegedly lived in from movies such as Mel Brook's 'The History of the World, Part 1', 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' and Monty Python's 'Life of Brian'. They didn't realise they were comedies.

If these powerful and knowledgeable beings exist, and they genuinely want to help humanity, why do they waste their time gossiping to poorly educated morons in trailer parks? They are obviously not as bright as they think they are, matching the intelligence of the minds they possess more than they realise.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Mar, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend

Ireland resurrects blasphemy law
Back in 2008 Britain decided to strike the crime of blasphemy from their law books, and I noted that NZ should do the same. Recently Ireland also decided to examine its blasphemy laws, but rather than throw them out, they strengthened them. As from January 2010, blasphemy in Ireland is now a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine (approx NZ$50,000). 'The new law defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion'.

So how did blasphemy laws arise? A BBC News webpage states that 'The legal notion goes back centuries - as faith was seen as being the heart of society, to challenge or offend it was thought to threaten the fabric of society'. So to question or criticise religion was seen as a serious offence, little different from treason in some ways, as harming religion could be seen as harming the functioning of the country. Back then it was often difficult to tell who was really running a country, a ruler such as the Emperor, King etc or the Church. It interesting to note that the Christian Church quickly got into bed with its hated enemy and persecutor, the Roman Empire, the 'Whore of Babylon', when they sensed an opportunity to seize the reins of power. They even renamed their church in honour of the people that had crucified their messiah, thrown their followers to the lions and set them alight as human torches at garden banquets — the ROMAN Catholic Church. When the Church and country became one, they demanded absolute and unquestioning obedience from the population. But now the fabric of society is maintained mainly by democratic government, a secular justice system, free speech and satirical TV shows. Can you imagine laws being implemented that prevented us challenging or questioning the government, political parties, court trials or what we see and read in the media?

My dictionary defines blasphemy as:

1. A contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity.
2. An irreverent or impious act, attitude, or utterance in regard to something considered inviolable or sacrosanct.
Much of what is on this website concerning god and religion would be considered blasphemy by any typical definition. We certainly have an irreverent and impious attitude to beliefs that religious people consider inviolable and sacrosanct. That is, we lack any reverence or respect towards their beliefs and we are also highly critical of them. And we certainly make utterances and comments concerning God that would be seen as contemptuous and profane by believers. I often wear a 'Born Again Atheist' button, my car sports anti-religion stickers, and I am not backward — if the topic comes up — in telling people that gods don't exist. I am a blasphemer of the highest order.

In fact most people in the 21st century, especially in Westernised countries, blaspheme to various degrees all the time. Much of what religious people sincerely believed even a 100 years ago is now recognised by even them as being nothing more than myths and falsehoods. Few Christians still believe in Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark or that the world is only 6,000 years old. Yet to religious fundamentalists, these concessions by their more rational counterparts are nothing short of blasphemy. You don't have to deny the existence of god as I do to be a blasphemer, you can still believe in God but blaspheme by denying or questioning only certain parts of your religion. Christians that have homosexual or atheist friends, that visit psychics, that eat shellfish, that have read 'The God Delusion' or watch documentaries on evolution are all committing blasphemous acts. I guess who is and who isn't guilty of the crime of blasphemy depends on who gets to decide what the core beliefs of a religion are. If fundamentalists decide then most everyone, including most Christians, are blasphemers. If liberal Christians decide, then they will grant themselves dispensation in many areas, but I'm a blasphemer no matter who makes the rules.

Due to their endangered status, religious people are also very much into equality, tolerance and freedom of religion these days, so if blasphemy is to still exist, shouldn't non-religious people have equal rights in this area as well? If we take blasphemy in a broad sense as an utterance, act or writing that offends a personally held belief, then even atheists should be able to accuse Christians of blasphemy. Christians claim they are offended when an atheist confidently states that god doesn't exist, so why shouldn't atheists be equally offended when a Christian confidently states that god does exist? If Christians can have a law that is used to limit offence towards their beliefs, why can't atheists have an identical law? Why should only religions get protection, shouldn't it be one law for all? Note that in Ireland's new blasphemy law, only religions can be insulted, abused or outraged, atheists have no rights not to be insulted, abused or outraged in return. Why not?

Revealingly British blasphemy law was even more narrow and only applied to the Church of England. British Muslims tried to use the crime of blasphemy to prosecute Salman Rushdie a few years back over his novel The Satanic Verses, but failed since blasphemy against Islam, or any other religion, wasn't a crime in Britain. Even Christianity as a whole wasn't protected, only one specific denomination, the Church of England. This demonstrates the arrogance of religious people that pass these laws. They can only conceive of utterances that would offend their religious beliefs. They can't comprehend that a comment about someone else's religion might be offensive to followers of that religion, mainly because they don't see other beliefs as worthy of consideration. They believe that their religion is the only true religion, that their god is the only true god, and so obviously can't understand how followers of these other false religions could be offended by criticism of their myths and fairytales. Many would even suggest that rather than be offended, they should express gratitude that their false beliefs have been exposed, allowing them to now follow the true religion.

Although different now, for centuries Christians, Jews and Muslims have opposed, often violently, the notion of religious freedom. While of course it gave men and women the right to chose their religion, in the eyes of popes, priests, rabbis and imams, it also gave men and women the right to chose the 'wrong' religion. And this fear that people might reject their specific religion, in their view the one true religion, was enough to make religious leaders insist that the ordinary man and women shouldn't have this option of religious freedom. They would have their religion imposed on them, and the crime of blasphemy would keep them ignorant of its flaws. Unable to freely discuss and analyse what their holy books claimed, and for many centuries it was even illegal for the layperson to read the Bible, the fear of blaspheming kept the majority ignorant and fearful. And for those that did have more than two brain cells to rub together and soon grasped that religion and gods was just a pile of nonsense, the accusation of blasphemy and its very real threat of physical punishments would prevent them from openly communicating this realisation to others.

Of course we would never push for equality as regards blasphemy laws, as that would just limit public acts or comments from either side. Our website would be closed down so as not to offend Christians, but then so too would all Christian churches so as not to offend atheists. Richard Dawkins' book 'The God Delusion' would be removed from bookstores, but then so too would all Bibles be removed. Belief would just be driven underground, and unfortunately religious believers would keep meeting and maintaining their faith in secret, as they did in ancient Rome, the USSR and China for example. Also there are many, many more 'experts' on religion in society than there are on atheism. Most houses will have a Bible gathering dust in a box somewhere, but almost none will have a book on atheism. Religion would gain strength in secret while atheism just got on with life, until finally religion felt it was time to once again take control. A blasphemy law applicable to all beliefs is not the answer, it would just create a world where we couldn't voice a belief of any description. Even beliefs about politics, sport and sex would be forbidden, since no matter what your view, someone will strongly disagree with you and take offence.

The only rational answer is open debate and the strongest argument wins. Complete freedom to support, challenge, criticise, analyse and satirise any and all beliefs. If your belief can't survive the light of day, then it deserves to become extinct. Religions of course have always known this and they fear this. That is why for most of history Judaism, Christianity and Islam have used force and fear to stop believers questioning their holy books and to stop them freely associating with non-believers. They know that open debate will slowly erode the faith their followers have in their religion. They must keep their followers ignorant, and they do this by limiting the information they receive. They must only get carefully scripted sermons from their religious leaders and they must not be exposed to criticism from non-believers. And it is the crime of blasphemy that is designed to prevent non-believers influencing the faithful. Religious leaders will say it's about offence, but that's bullshit. They aren't worried that atheists will offend their flock, but that we will open their eyes to reason, to the truth. They're worried that we'll educate them and reveal all those secrets that the church has been hiding from them for thousands of years. They're scared that we'll demonstrate that primitive, superstitious beliefs have no place in the 21st century. They're afraid that their followers will realise that Monty Python's 'Life of Brian' is a far better movie than Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ', that evolution is far more credible than creationism, that premarital sex is far more enjoyable than self-flagellation, and that coffee and cheesecake is much tastier than a sip of cheap church wine and a single wafer.

I guess the worry is, could it happen here in NZ? We still have blasphemy laws on our books, although thankfully few take them seriously anymore. But religious fundamentalists have tried in recent years, evidently invoking blasphemy in an attempt to ban both Te Papa's 'Virgin in a Condom' and TV's South Park episode of 'Bloody Mary'. Both attempts failed, as they should have. Most people are probably unaware that stubbing their toe and exclaiming 'Jesus F***ing Christ', or expressing the view in the pub that God is just a myth and that the Pope runs the world's biggest paedophile ring is, legally speaking, enough to have them arrested. And centuries ago, when these blasphemy laws were devised, this would most definitely have been the outcome. Now we live in a more enlightened world, and only those still trapped in a medieval worldview would even think of dragging out the old blasphemy laws and dusting them off. But these people do exist, so should we just leave these old laws lying around where some ignoramus might attempt to use it and drag us back to medieval justice? It's like owing an old WWII firearm that we have no further use for. Should we just leave it in the back of the closet and run the risk that some naive, ignorant youngster comes across it and is curious to see if it still works? Or realising that it — both the firearm and the blasphemy law — has caused misery in the past and has the potential to do so again, should we not disable it for good? It's no good saying that rational people will never attempt to use it again, so just leave it be, because it is the irrational, the naïve, the ignorant and the self-righteous that we must fear. It is they that will threaten us with something that we thought was just a shameful element of our ignorant past. And remember that many innocent people have been dragged through the court system over a legal technicality, and although eventually reason has prevailed, proving their innocence has often cost them their life's savings. Should we not abolish our blasphemy laws and show the world that NZ has replaced medieval religious dogma with secular justice? Why leave a loaded gun in the closet for the likes of Bishop Brian Tamaki to stumble across?

In our view religions who intimidate people with blasphemy laws are like child sex abusers who force silence on their young victims by threatening to harm them or their loved ones if they reveal what they know to others. Religions and child sex abusers both know that the public at large must never learn the truth, or else the gig is up.

If an idea is so weak that it can only survive by ring fencing it with punitive laws, if you must prevent others from analysing it or pointing out potential and/or real flaws, if you must punish, perhaps even with death, anyone that laughs at your idea, then surely you must realise that your idea is so stupid and/or dangerous that it deserves to be thrown out with that mouldy thing in the back of the fridge.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Mar, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend


  1. Comment by Tony, 19 Mar, 2010

    "Ireland resurrects blasphemy law"

    Best Irish joke yet! Shame it's a sick joke but.

Intelligent Design vs Charles Darwin
Would you like a free copy of Charles Darwin's book 'The Origin of Species'? According to a TV3 News item a religious group were handing them out this week at Victoria University to 'publicise' the upcoming visit of Richard Dawkins to NZ, and they will be giving away more copies outside the venues he will be speaking at. What's the catch you may be wondering? Author of 'The God Delusion', Richard Dawkins is a famous evolutionary scientist, science writer and outspoken atheist, so why would a religious group that is against evolution give away the very book that started their worst nightmare? Well it seems they've added a 54 page foreword to Darwin's book that promotes Intelligent Design, that silly notion that is nothing but Creationism with a fake moustache and glasses. The religious group is Living Waters Ministry, run by, I'm ashamed to admit, an ex-pat Kiwi called Ray Comfort who now lives and peddles his nonsense in the USA. I guess it was nostalgia that prompted him into extending one of his slimy tentacles back towards NZ. He is a fundamentalist pure and simple, and having listened to him rave on in Christchurch's Cathedral Square years ago and having read some of his later material, he doesn't strike me as someone who is all that bright. His simplistic and childish arguments would only work if your thinking is equally simplistic and childish. Having said that, he has amassed a considerable fortune in the US through evangelism, but we all know that the US is one of the most religious countries on the planet, and by population alone, they will obviously have a much larger number of gullible morons than does NZ.

I'm a little surprised that Comfort is pushing Intelligent Design (ID), since he clearly tells everyone that the Christian God created the universe and life, and not some unknown intelligent designer. Proponents of ID are usually very careful to avoid mentioning God or religion, as they want to fool people into believing that their claims are scientific and not religious. They want to pretend that ID is a legitimate alternative to evolution, and having nothing to do with religion, is suitable to be taught in school science classes. Of course they're not fooling anyone, as we all know whom they are referring to when they mention an intelligent designer. People push ID when they are trying to hide their religious convictions, but Comfort has already come out of the closet.

I can think of two reasons why Comfort might be pushing ID in this manner. Many religious morons try and pretend that our knowledge of and evidence for evolution by natural selection was all set forth in a book by Darwin in 1859. These idiots think that because their religious dogma was written down thousands of years ago and hasn't chanced since, then scientific theories must be the same. They think 'The Origin of Species' is the scientist's equivalent of their Bible. But insisting that the veracity of evolution can be decided by consulting 'The Origin of Species' is as silly as aeronautic engineers consulting documents written by the Wright Brothers when designing a new jet aircraft. Darwin's 'The Origin of Species' was published in 1859, in the language of that era and containing the scientific knowledge of that era. It was a brilliant idea that his book proposed, but there was much that Darwin didn't know. For example, he had no knowledge of genes or heredity as explained by Mendel, let alone DNA. It is deviously deceptive to try and discredit evolution by referring to a book written in 1859. Evangelists keep talking about Darwinism and keep quoting Darwin, usually out of context. This preference of calling the theory Darwinism rather than evolution, reveals that they want people to focus on Darwin the man and what he wrote in 1859, rather than on modern evolution and the tremendous advances that have been made since Darwin put forward his theory of evolution by natural selection. We need to refer to evolution as simply evolution, not Darwinism or the theory of evolution. We don't say Newtonism when we talk about gravity or call it the theory of gravity. Evangelists call evolution Darwinism and just a theory to make it appear as if it isn't truly scientific. They don't want people to know that it is in fact the backbone of modern biology, and that the only people that think it's false are Creationists, which of course includes ID proponents.

Living Waters NZ spokeswoman Melissa Day told TV3 News that 'Everything didn't get created from nothing. Everything was created by an intelligent designer and there is lots and lots of evidence for that'. I can make two comments regarding these statements. First, scientists don't actually claim that everything arose from 'nothing', and in fact it is creationists who love to remind us that God created everything 'ex nihilo', which means 'out of nothing'. She appears to deny her own beliefs, and the work of her God. Secondly, her mission is to promote belief in Intelligent Design, and she was part of a well-planned event trying to influence as many people as she could. Yet here she now is on nationwide TV in prime time, the perfect soapbox to promote the evidence that supports ID and that discredits evolution, and yet all she can offer is that evidence wise there is 'lots and lots'. Remember that this wasn't a surprise interview, they would have expected to have their views challenged and to have prepared responses, and yet this was the vacuous piece of dribble she came out with. That's the trouble with using faith to form your arguments rather than reason.

Day went on to say that the free book offer was that they wanted to give people 'both sides of the story so they can make an educated choice on what to believe themselves'. But this is a false claim, typical of what ID proponents offer. One student interviewed even said that she thought it would be interesting to view both sides of the story, so obviously she bought their argument. But this is not what the modified book presents. The ID argument was written in the 21st century incorporating 21st century knowledge and will present arguments about topics such as genetics and DNA that Darwin had no knowledge of, since his arguments were written in the 19th century. The ID proponents have gone through his book and attacked some of Darwin's comments, but being dead, Darwin is unable to reply, and they give no evolutionary scientist the chance to answer their criticisms.

A fair argument must pit the 21st century ID arguments against the 21st century evolution arguments. Their unwillingness to give evolutionary scientists a voice demonstrates the lack of confidence they have in their arguments. Far too many people, especially religious people, think modern evolutionary theory and Darwin's 'The Origin of Species' are one and the same thing. Discredit Darwin and you discredit evolution they believe. Again, this is like confusing the Wright Brothers' plane with a Boeing 747, confusing the initial brilliant ideas with the advancements that have been made since. Not that I'm saying that much of what Darwin wrote has now been shown to be superseded or mistaken, in fact the majority of his thoughts are seemingly still valid. But due to the lack of modern scientific and especially genetic knowledge, he did make the occasional statement or concession or plea of ignorance that taken in isolation might suggest that evolution is not as robust as we now believe it to be. Anti-evolutionists pounce on these statements of doubt or ignorance by Darwin and quote them without revealing that modern evolution research has vindicated Darwin. They want you to read Darwin because his writing does contain a small element of doubt based on the fact that much of the powerful evidence for evolution was yet to be obtained when he wrote his book. They don't want you to read the books of modern evolutionists because they will tell you just how accurate Darwin was in his theorising and will detail the impressive evidence that wasn't available to Darwin.

That said, I suspect that most people could easily skim through the ID foreword, but would find Darwin's writing style much slower going, written as it was in the language of the 1850s. If anyone asked me to recommend a book to learn about evolution I certainly wouldn't recommend starting with 'The Origin of Species'. In fact I sincerely doubt that anyone who wasn't already convinced about and interested in evolution would ever bother going on to read 'The Origin of Species'. It would be like Prof Stephen Hawking and his book 'A Brief History of Time'. Many bought his book, few ever actually read it. This I suspect is the real reason for giving away free copies of 'The Origin of Species'. They know most people will only read the ID foreword and very little of 'The Origin of Species'. Their ID foreword will have sown the seeds of doubt in the reader's mind, that evolution is bogus and that the universe and everything in it actually required an intelligent designer. You know, things like AIDS and cancer, parasitic worms and serial killers, earthquakes and floods. They were all deliberately designed. And we all know it's only a short hop from intelligent designer to God.

Targeting Richard Dawkins as they are, why weren't they brave enough to place their foreword in one of Dawkins' books, say 'The Selfish Gene', 'The Blind Watchmaker' or 'The God Delusion'? No doubt they would say copyright laws or whatever prevent them from doing this, but nothing stops them from buying Dawkins' books and giving them away along with a copy of their ID article. These evangelists aren't all that knowledgable, but they know full well that intelligent readers presented with a modern, well-written and scientifically supported argument from Dawkins would soon place his book on their bookshelf and throw the ID side of the story into the nearest rubbish bin.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Mar, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend


  1. Comment by Keri, 11 Mar, 2010

    This is a good & pertinent post.
    However, fundamentalists — of the sort who follow Comfort (I went to school with either him or one of his brothers — they were a well-respected Jewish business family in New Brighton) — actually never read anything outside their comfort field and are not interested in logic, rationality, history or reasoned responses.

    So, they'll think of this move as one of their 'outreaches' — and think they are being very clever.

    Instead of being shitwits who attempt to diminish what humans can do, can be -

  2. Comment by Caitlin, 08 Apr, 2010

    Hi, interesting post. I've never heard of the book before, but I agree that it does sound pretty biased. I'd love to read a book where qualified scientists clearly and equally argued both sides of the debate. Maybe I'll write one some day ;)

  3. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Apr, 2010

    Hi Caitlin. I'm not aware of any well-written books that present opposing voices in the evolution/ID debate, although there are many that explain evolution and ignore ID, a few that push ID and a few that rubbish it. Most people — scientific and religious — see ID as nothing other than a front for religion. ID proponents, and often the media, like to pretend that arguments and evidence for evolution and ID are evenly balanced, and that it could go either way. This is false. Most scientists think that debating evolution and ID is just as silly as debating flat earth verses round earth. To gain an understanding of evolution and ID you will have to read books from both sides and decide who has the better arguments.

The Science Knowledge Quiz
The other day I came across this question on the Internet: 'Are you more science-savvy than the average American? Take the quiz and find out'. The quick online quiz comprises 12 multi-choice questions that test your 'knowledge of scientific concepts and recent scientific findings and events'. The quiz, from the Pew Research Center in Washington, USA, and called 'The Science Knowledge Quiz', was originally given to 1,005 randomly sampled American adults, and by answering the same questions that they did you can see how you compare to the average American.

There are no trick questions and anyone that believes they have a reasonable knowledge of basic science and who keeps up with scientific topics in the media should be able to do quite well. If you don't do so well, then maybe it might motivate you to watch more documentaries on TV than sports matches, to choose Time magazine over the Woman's Weekly and to do a little reading before you wade into debates over genetic engineering or nuclear physics.

To take the quiz click here.

The questions were part of a much larger survey of science and how it is understood and viewed by both the public and by scientists. The full report can be read here. One of the main conclusions reached regarding the above quiz was that 'The public fared well on some of the items closely related to daily life but many people struggled with more basic scientific concepts.'

In the larger survey, one finding that contrasted the difference between scientific and public belief was this: '87% of scientists say that humans and other living things have evolved over time and that evolution is the result of natural processes such as natural selection. Just 32% of the public accepts this as true.' Of course this refers to the public in America, a very religious country, and thankfully the difference in New Zealand would be much less. It is amazing though that laypeople who have such confidence in scientists in other scientific areas can see themselves as scientifically more knowledgeable when it comes to the science of evolution. It is the classic example of science verses religion, of reason verses faith. Most people love what science and technology can do for them, be it medical advances or smaller cell phones, and yet they reject other scientific claims in a heartbeat if they conflict with their religious faith. Scientific geniuses suddenly become ignoramuses if they dare comment on matters sacred to religion. While most people have no idea how a gene sequencer or particle accelerator works they nevertheless feel they can dismiss any results they produce if they conflict with the fairy stories their parents told them when they were children. The 'reasoning' that allows them to do this shows that perhaps they only went to school to eat their lunch after all.

Unfortunately the above science quiz will only be taken by those few that have an interest in science, and most people will be no more tempted to take it than I would be to take a quiz entitled 'The Sports Knowledge Quiz'. The noticeable public difference is that I acknowledge that I know little about sport and I won't argue about who the greatest boxer or tennis player of all time is, whereas many people ignorant of science have no hesitation in challenging evolution, stem cell research or Big Bang cosmology. I've often thought that people should be compelled to sit some sort of test to prove that they have the basic knowledge to effectively participate in debates, and especially a vote. To argue about genetic engineering you must show that you know what DNA is, what a gene is and what mutation means. To protest about cell phone towers you must know what electromagnetic radiation is, what frequency cell phones use and at what power levels, and what damage the radiation has been shown to cause. A few years ago I saw a man who lived next to a cell phone tower increase the height of his wooden fence by a metre to block out the radiation, when any knowledgeable person knows that wood doesn't stop cell phones from working. I have often been amazed to hear how people voted on a particular topic when I know their knowledge of that topic is based on urban myths and hearsay. I suspect that many projects, especially if politics get involved, are approved or denied through ignorance and fear than on real knowledge.

From experience I also believe that many people that debate religion, the supernatural and the paranormal would not do well on the Science Knowledge Quiz, and surprisingly, many religious people would do just as badly on a Religion Knowledge Quiz if one existed. Many truly do argue from ignorance.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Feb, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend


  1. Comment by Ted, 08 Feb, 2010

    I have been reading Silly Beliefs for some months now and I find nothing you have said that I could take issue with. That figure of 32% regarding evolution is especially frightening. One thing I find very difficult to understand is why religious people assert that some particular belief or other is a deeper invariant than reason. A moment's thought is enough to realise that all mentally functioning human beings, regardless of their religious persuasion or lack of it are going to get the same answer to the same cubic equation — or any well defined problem. Therefore logic and reason are invariant over religion and not the other way around. Because of that property alone and without need to investigate further, religion in all its forms is a much weaker thing than science and a much less effective tool with which to understand the universe and ourselves.

    Should we then abandon fantasy, imagination, so called mystical experiences and the like altogether? No, I do not think so, we could not do it, they lie at the core of art, human experience and interaction, and probably even much scientific discovery. I for one would be immeasurably poorer without them — one of J.B Priestley's "nothing but" men. How then, in general social terms, do we prevent the transporting nature of visionary imagination and mystical experience from degenerating into the dangerous knee-jerk superstition and certainty of religion? I had never thought about it in precisely this way until I listened recently to an old interview with Aldous Huxley where he asked the question in this form. The trouble seems to be that while a solution can exist in an individual mind, as a species we almost seem to be rejecting the very logic which is essential for holding a global solution together. Why do you think this perverse behaviour is occurring?

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Feb, 2010

    Hi Ted. You pose some interesting questions, none of which I have definitive answers to, although of course like most people I have opinions.

    You asked, 'How then, in general social terms, do we prevent the transporting nature of visionary imagination and mystical experience from degenerating into the dangerous knee-jerk superstition and certainty of religion?'

    I suspect the only people that view visionary imagination and mystical experience as religious certainty are people that are already deeply convinced of their religion's truthfulness. They are simply using their religious convictions to interpret their visions and experiences. Only Catholics see visions of the Virgin Mary, and Muslims never report seeing Jesus while on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

    I agree wholeheartedly that imagination, fantasy and even thoughts of utter nonsense are essential for all human endeavours, including science. Most scientists not only enjoy science fiction, some even write it, and they are more likely to watch South Park than Coronation Street.

    So how do we stop people confusing their imagination and visions with religion? As I've said, I believe only people that are already religious actually do this. Most scientists have no problem differentiating their imaginative visions from their factual data, likewise most authors and artists don't confuse their books and artwork with religion. I've had what others might call mystical experiences but I used reason to explain them, not religion. Contrary to other spheres of endeavour, in fact most people mired in religion never come up with anything imaginative or visionary, everything they recount was composed and written down thousands of years ago. There is nothing new in religion, there is no progress, everything remains the same.

    The problem is how should we interpret visionary imagination and mystical experience, and while religion exists there will always be the certainty of religion in the eyes of its followers. The only answer is to destroy religion, or at least make it as ineffectual as the Flat Earth Society.

    My answer would be education. First people need to be given the tools of reason and critical thinking with which to tell the difference between fact and fiction. All adults can and do dismiss thousands of religions, they are just hesitant over rejecting the one that their parents and priests threatened them with as children. This germ once planted is difficult to kill outright. We need to break the cycle. Forget about changing the minds of the older generations, take a lesson from religion and target the children, and the parents of young children. Already children in general have less exposure to religion in society, on TV and in schools than in the past, and much of what they do see shows religion in a negative light, from religious terrorism to trying to ban South Park. Many kids these days are anti-religion or at least ambivalent to religion. I'm not suggesting taking over the brainwashing from the priests, but merely that kids should be exposed to science, comparative religion classes, critical thinking classes and ethics classes. When kids ask about God we shouldn't just change the subject like when they ask about sex. Give them the tools and the skills to examine any and all contentious claims, from religion to pseudoscience. Religions do their utmost to keep their beliefs shielded from critical examination in schools and society. Like Superman and kryptonite, they are painfully aware of their weakness to reason. They know that their claims are ultimately just as weak as those proffered by the ancient Egyptians and Aztecs, and they know that the only ones that they have a hope of fooling are children. Parents tell their kids to wait until they are more mature before they think about sex, why don't they do the same with religion?

    Followers of religion have been brainwashed as children. They were told lies and fantasies that some are now simply incapable of seeing as false. Their belief in gods and miracles and demons is as real to them as the identical beliefs were to the ancient Egyptians and Aztecs, and just as false. What's more, their belief has instilled in them a fear of untold suffering if they were to reject their god, but promise of future bliss if they remain subservient. This reward/punishment mentality prevents them from even contemplating that their god is just one of a long line of false gods. Their fear of punishment or of forfeiting their reward keeps them focused solely on their primitive religious dogma and away from enlightenment through reason. Others that were brainwashed as children have thankfully managed to shake off much of what they were taught, yet they still can't dismiss God as they can the Tooth Fairy. For them, reason has pushed God from their lives, to the very edge of the abyss, but they just can't bring themselves to push him off. Others that weren't particularly religious as children sometimes adopt religion later in life. But it is never the religion of the ancient Greeks or Romans for example, it is almost always the religion they were exposed to as a child. The religious concepts that people hear as children are usually the only ones that they are prepared to take seriously in adult life. Their familiarity seems to give them validity.

    As long as impressionable, trusting young minds are filled with religious nonsense we will continue to have adults that choose faith over reason. Adults, no matter how strong their belief as children, seem to have little trouble in finally deciding that Santa Claus, talking rabbits in waistcoats and the Tooth Fairy are pure fantasy. So why can they see through the Tooth Fairy but not angels and demons? Perhaps because there aren't millions of apparently sane adults insisting that the Tooth Fairy is real, nor can one attend gatherings every Sunday where adults worship the Tooth Fairy. Even if adults did still believe in the Tooth Fairy, since adults no longer have spare teeth with which to profit by, then her existence has no real effect on their lives. Her existence, real or otherwise, would be irrelevant to them. But children are taught that their God is not only a loving God, he is a vengeful God. Disobey him, ignore him or reject him and he will hound you not just in this life, but will book you in for an eternity of suffering. Unlike the Tooth Fairy, if God is real then the consequences of ignoring him will be dire indeed. This fear of a vengeful God that was planted in the minds of children proves extremely hard to remove, thus we must try and stop it being planted in the first place.

    As you say, the realisation that religion is false and that reason is the key to knowledge can exist in an individual mind, such as yours and mine, so we merely need to increase the number of minds that realise this. At one time few minds believed slavery was wrong or that women deserved the vote, but eventually reason won out and their numbers reached critical mass. Even in the last few years I have seen many friends and associates slowly reject more and more of their religious beliefs, and globally there seems to be a similar move away from religion. For every Muslim that blows up a market place or Christian that murders an abortion doctor or priest that abuses a child or movie the Vatican tries to ban and for every religious claim that science proves false, more and more people distance themselves from their religion. We shouldn't be fooled by outspoken people on TV like the Pope, Bishop Brian Tamaki and Maori priests blessing everything from the opening of a stadium to the local portaloo, religion is on the wane.

  3. Comment by Ted, 09 Feb, 2010

    Thank you for your reply. It goes without saying that I hope you are right, and that an evolutionary process toward the rational and the kind is indeed slowly taking place, although at times I sincerely doubt it. I include kindness because it seems to me that compassion is also an important human invariant far more powerful than religion, but as this discussion is primarily about science let us adhere mostly to it.

    I concur with you that the future of reason lies mostly with education of children. I earnestly wish this were not so but I rather think it is. Still, there is a depressing heft of irrationality in the adult population and children are great imitators of their parents. Unless it is my imagination, words such as “psychic”, “medium” and the like have recently assumed an alarming tendency to imply real things, real occupations such as a baker or a doctor. My memory might be faulty, of course, but I do not recall more than a very small minority ever using these terms in this serious sense fifty years ago in this country. I sometimes wonder if the decline, in New Zealand at least, of the major organised religions, has resulted in a sort of rechannelling of the same old nonsense into more exotic forms, mostly among disillusioned adults.

    The results of the science quiz dismayed me, of course, but I cannot say I was surprised. Last year, the concert programme broadcast a wonderful weekly series centred on the thoughts and letters of Beatrice Tinsley. I suppose I have an average sized circle of friends and acquaintances, some very knowledgeable and clever in their own ways, but in conversations since the series finished not a single one knew who Beatrice Tinsley was, let alone what she did. Unless it has some vividly sensational aspect like creating explosions or dissecting bodies in seemingly interminable television crime series, science is usually relegated to the back page, literally and metaphorically. In other words, the dismal results of this little quiz might be due in large part to the fact that very many people just do not particularly like the quiet rationality, discipline and self-confident contemplation essential to scientific thought, and would rather somebody else do their thinking for them. Religion has always been only too pleased to oblige.

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Feb, 2010

    Hi Ted, I agree with all you say, although let's remember that modern spiritualism, the belief that we can communicate with the dead, evidently started with the Fox sisters in the USA in the late 1840s. Everyone was into seances and even Harry Houdini later became world famous, not just for his magic, but for exposing these fraudulent mediums. It's is disappointing in this age of knowledge that it has surfaced again, and it seems the medium of TV is the reason, and again originating in the USA. It is depressing the number of people who once again think these con-artists are genuine. And yes, I think you're right that the decline of mainstream religion has seen religiously inclined folk step sideways into equally ridiculous beliefs. They can't let go their childhood brainwashing that there must be some mysterious, intelligent force out there that created the world and life itself, even if it wasn't called Jehovah. They're like lost sheep looking for a new shepherd, lacking the confidence to tackle life without someone looking out for them. A few centuries ago many intelligent men and women rejected mainstream religion and called themselves deists rather than atheists because they still couldn't see how life could arise without some sort of god, even one that couldn't care less about us. Now we do have scientific theories on why gods aren't needed, and intelligent men and women now call themselves atheists, but the less educated among us now reject mainstream religion and become deists, although they wouldn't be familiar with the name. Change is happening, it may just take a few more years yet before we get most everyone on board.

    On the bright side, I always feel elated when I hear someone on TV or the radio or even in a local shop exclaim, 'How can those idiots believe such rubbish?', and I'd like to think that the number of rational, skeptical people out there really is increasing, albeit slowly. Most people respect science, they know its power, but you're right, they find it boring or difficult and leave it to other people to do the hard work. Most people just want the end products, the technology, and don't care how something works. The other aspect is that science isn't about ethics, about how we should live a good life, and as you say, religion is perfectly willing to claim that it has the answers about how we should live our lives. And the horrors that will befall us if we shun their advice. Science makes no such threats. You embrace it because of the enlightenment it provides; the amazing window on the universe that it opens. Science combined with philosophy makes religion superfluous and laughable, and while we still have a lot of progress to be made, I honestly believe that a far higher proportion of people believe that now than did so fifty years ago.

Are Christians morally superior?
I've just read an article in a local paper that talks about a new childcare facility started up by the Cornerstone New Life Church. Called 'Cornerstone Care', it 'provides after school and holiday care for children'. Saying that they are committed to quality care for kids, manager and senior pastor Bernadette Pope stated that their activities aren't just sitting in front of a TV, but are 'interactive and with good values and morals'. She goes on to say, 'We're church-run so we have Christian values, so we talk about respect and honesty and family values and all those sorts of things, love, kindness, being generous, helping your neighbour all those sorts of things — but in a fun way. It's not like school.'

This arrogance from Christians annoys me. This presumption that only Christians can have good values and morals is insulting and offensive. For someone to say, we're Christians, so we'll talk to your kids about respect, honesty, family values, love, kindness, generosity, helping others, those sorts of things, is to imply that all non-Christian childcare groups will be pushing just the opposite values onto your children. Teaching them how to be disrespectful, dishonest, hateful, uncaring, those sorts of things. This contemptuous, sanctimonious attitude teaches nothing but intolerance towards non-Christians.

This naive and ignorant belief by Christians that they, and only they, live their lives 'with good values and morals' does nothing to foster good relations between them and people holding other beliefs. Does this senior pastor really believe that non-Christian childcare centres are teaching their young charges values opposed to respect, honesty, love and caring for others? Are these kiddies being taught how to swear at their parents, how to graffiti their neighbour's fence, how to shoplift lollies, how to manipulate the love of their grandparents for more expensive gifts, and how to eat all the chocolate without sharing?

As soon as you insist that to be a good person, a moral person, and to lead a good life, you have to be a Christian, you are also insisting that all non-Christians must by default be immoral people, or at the very least, amoral. The Christian argument is that you can't be moral and not a Christian. A moral life can only be found in Christianity. If you want your children to have good valves and morals then they must become Christians and be exposed to Christian teaching. These values and morals can not be obtained outside Christianity, since morality itself comes from the Christian God.

Of course this argument immediately falls down when I ask these arrogant Christians if they are claiming that I therefore am immoral or amoral? They immediately reply that I in fact seem to be an honest, caring, respectful person. But how can this be I ask, not only am I not a Christian, I'm an atheist? Are they just being polite, or perhaps gutless, afraid to call me the son of Satan, or do they honestly accept that I am a paradox? A person that has good values and morals but who isn't a Christian? I suspect that most accept that I am genuinely a decent person, and yet they still can't grasp or admit therefore that morals are not the property of Christianity, or any religion. Ethics, the study of morals, is I believe the best source for determining what morals one should live by. One should be able to justify with reason the morals and values one lives by, rather than blindly following 'morals' or authoritative rules demanded by a god. Let's remember that not so long ago Christians taught that it was moral to own slaves and burn witches at the stake. Most modern Christians have stepped outside their religion and adopted secular ethics to now reject some of their Bible's morals. They no longer demand the deaths of homosexuals, mediums, atheists and disobedient children. Few parents today kill their children for religious reasons, and as regards mediums, Christians are now probably their biggest client group. What was once immoral is now moral, and good entertainment. Sex with choirboys is another thing that the Christian church once believed to be immoral, yet now its views have evidently changed, and note that you don't see Catholics deserting their church en masse when their priests are exposed in secular courts. Now it is seemingly only non-Christians that find this practice abhorrent and immoral. I say Christian rather than Catholic specifically, because every Christian accepts that their God could have stopped and/or exposed this sexual abuse, but he chose not to. They accept that their God's inaction is a moral act. To believe otherwise would mean that their God acted immorally. It makes you wonder what your typical Christian would do if they saw a priest abusing a child. Would they turn a blind eye and mirror their God's moral behaviour?

However, slowly your average Christian on the street is beginning to accept that their Muslim, Hindu or atheist neighbour or work colleague is actually a nice, honest, caring person, and that somehow, even without the benefit of Christian teaching, they have good values and morals. It is more the priests, ministers and pastors that have a religion to promote, a business to run, that continue to push the bogus belief that Christianity is the only source of good values and morals. Like all good scams, and contrary to all the evidence, they continue to push a lie, desperate to suck in the gullible and the fearful. And many parents are fearful. They naturally want to raise honest, respectful, caring kids, and yet whom do they turn to for education in morality? The Christian churches insist that they are the only source of a good moral education. They'll claim that Muslims will simply teach them how to kill infidels and to force their women to wear small tents. Hindus will teach them to worship elephant headed gods and to let sacred cows wander the streets. And evil atheists will teach them that since there are no god-given morals then anything is permissible, even murder and rape.

Of course this is just stereotypical nonsense. No one should look to a religion to educate themselves or their children in morality. Nor should they look to atheists for that matter, since atheism has nothing to say about morals. What we'd like to see happen is the teaching of ethics in schools. Some people confuse ethics and morals. Morals are the standards and values an individual or society have adopted as leading to good and correct behaviour. Ethics on the other hand, is the study of these morals. It's an examination using reason to determine if these 'morals' really do result in good and correct behaviour, or are they just rules made up by some authority. As I've said, years ago slave owners were seen to be acting morally, now they are considered immoral. The statement 'It is morally correct to own slaves', doesn't indicate whether this statement is true or false. Christians simply insisted that their God told them to obey it. It was secular ethics that convinced people, even some Christians, that owning slaves was immoral. And remember that it was the Christians that owned the slaves, not Muslims or Hindus or atheists. Every religion will have 'morals' that they promote that do lead to good behaviour, and yet every religion also has many 'morals' that are ethically immoral. Every religion has morals that can not be supported by reason or evidence, and that do harm rather than good. These 'morals' are promoted not because they have been found to be valid, but simply because they are believed to be commanded by an imaginary god. A moral that can not be justified by ethical examination is not a truly good moral, it is simply a command by an authority. And while we have to obey laws, the fact that we have to obey them does not necessarily make them morally correct laws. Think of racial segregation in the US last century. Legally they had to be obeyed, but ethically they were eventually exposed as being immoral and overturned. Christians can call the commandments they find in the Bible morals if they wish, but only ethics will reveal the good from the bad. Of course the teaching of ethics is feared by religions since ethics gives no preference to any religion or to any moral held sacred by that religion. All religions are treated equally and the morals they push stand or fall based on reason, not the fear of retribution of a vengeful god. Unfortunately no religious parent wants their child to learn that commandments in their holy book are immoral, or moral but stolen from some earlier religion or philosophy. Since schools can't teach only the religious morals of the parents, and since these parents fear the revealing insight of an ethics class, then they settle for the status quo. If we can't have our morals taught, our religious morals, then we would prefer our child has no classes on morality. Of course this used to be the argument with the teaching of science, especially evolution, and still is in some schools. If our child can't be taught about Creationism, then we don't want him taught about evolution either. If he must learn about evolution, then we want equal time to teach about Creationism and/or Intelligent Design. All serious schools have rejected this argument and merely teach evolution and nothing else, evidence based knowledge rather than unsupported nonsense. The time has come where philosophy needs to take a lesson from science. We need to start teaching philosophy, especially ethics if nothing else, and like in science, religion can be given no special treatment. If people's religious beliefs and morals fail to stand up against the gaze of science and philosophy then they don't deserve our support. The only beliefs and morals that children stand to lose are false beliefs and immoral values. That is no loss at all, and can only lead to a better society.

Society won't improve with people like pastor Pope brainwashing children that Christians are morally superior. I read a Christian flyer the other day from a local church that listed some prayers that their followers had submitted. Prayers were directed at all the Christian teachers, all the Christian charities working worldwide, all the Christian doctors and nurses, all the Christian schools etc. Their prayers were all directed at fellow Christians. Reading between the lines, their prayers evidently asked God not to help doctors, nurses, teachers and charities that weren't Christian. Why else specify 'Christian' doctor? What a wonderful, caring, compassionate, Christian attitude. And these arrogant Christians claim that we need to go to them to learn about 'good values and morals'.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Jan, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend


  1. Comment by Ben, 14 Mar, 2010

    Actually, it's worse than that.

    Christians frequently do good (where good is defined, of course, as their adherence to the tenets of a rather infamous text) in the hope of eternal reward. The Bible is full of instructions telling its readers what they must do in order to live forever or not to have God make mean eyes at them. Often they will admit, without seeing any problem with it, that they do good in order to be rewarded.

    Compare that with an atheist who does good without the promise of everlasting life or whatnot. Whether altruism exists is a topic for another time, but doing the right thing just so you can feel happy that you've done the right thing — maybe "compersion" is the relevant word here — seems infinitely preferable to doing good because it is the basis of the financial exchange described in the Bible. Forget external consequences — we've all been in situations where our choices would have none. Do you do the right thing because you fear God? Or because you want to behave morally for your own sake?

    Of course there are also millions of Christians who do the right thing because they feel good doing it. They're surely no worse than an ethical atheist. But those who hope to earn a reward are nothing more than moral mercenaries.

Maori Drivers Licence Scam
It's not just pseudoscience, fake healing and talking to the dead that attracts fraudsters and scam artists eager to make a quick buck. There are always desperate and gullible people in society that are prepared to believe anything that some huckster tells them. And thus there are always charlatans that are prepared to fill the void and take advantage of their gullibility.

Otimi I heard on the TV News last night that two groups of Maori in Waikato and Auckland are producing Maori driver licences, and evidently thousands have been handed out. The 'driving force' behind producing these bogus licences is a Maori from Auckland called Gerrard Otimi. Otimi is already facing police charges for selling home made Maori passports, so I guess he has decided to expand his counterfeit business. No doubt his experience with desperate people exposed this need. They probably said, 'It's great that I've finally got a passport. Now if only I had a driver's licence.'

Otimi claims that the licences are legitimate, but then he claimed the same thing about his bogus Maori passports. The news item reported that 'He's organised driver training lessons every Saturday, the learners are then given a Maori drivers licence.'

There are many groups that can legitimately train people how to drive, yet Otimi fails to understand that they aren't allowed to issue licences at the end of the day.

Otimi went on to say that 'It's no difference from you going to church and getting confirmed, like in the Catholic Church, it's no difference, because all it's saying is that you are capable of driving a vehicle.'

We've accused the Catholic Church of many things, but to our knowledge they've never issued Catholics with drivers licences after a quick drive around the car park with the local priest. The Catholic Church can be arrogant, authoritative, condescending and annoying but even they don't claim that what they do in the pews gives them the right to produce their own legal documents. Does Otimi's analogy arise from stupidity or has it been deviously crafted to fool his religious and poorly educated clients?

Otimi said that 'If you look at the standard drivers licence issued by the LTSA, for one thing, it hasn't got the Maori flag on it. If Maori are there, they're a sovereign people, they're an indigenous people to this country, you know, why do they have to have that other flag?'

That 'other flag' that Otimi is referring to is of course the NZ flag that features on the real 'New Zealand Driver Licence'. The car that was associated with Otimi had two different Maori flags flying on it, and yet only one appears on the Maori licence, and it's not the one adopted by the majority of Maori to fly on Waitangi Day on the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The fake Maori drivers licence has a coat of arms with what appears to be a young Queen Elizabeth on one side holding the NZ flag and an old time Maori warrior with a spear on the other side. There is a Maori flag above it and the word 'Aotearoa' beneath. But Otimi is wrong. Maori are not a sovereign people. Sovereign means 'One that exercises supreme, permanent authority, especially in a nation or other governmental unit', and Maori have never been a sovereign people. Even before the arrival of Europeans there was never a 'supreme, permanent authority' exercised in NZ. Traditionally Maori never even had a flag or knew what one was. This argument that Maori is one of the treaty partners and deserves to have its flag flown alongside the NZ flag is bogus. The treaty partners were Maori and the British, not Maori and New Zealand. The flags were the British flag and any one of several Maori flags. The treaty was an agreement that formalised a union between Britain and Maori, and a new flag symbolised this union. Not a British flag or a Maori flag, but a New Zealand flag. The fact that Maori still can't agree on what flag is really the Maori flag has just taken them back to the tribal warfare of colonial times.

And what does Otimi mean by saying that Maori are 'an indigenous people to this country'? You can hardly claim to be indigenous and yet come from another country. And if he was truly upset that licences don't reflect traditional Maori values, why was his Maori licence in English, and not Maori?

Otimi called his Maori licence an 'International Drivers Licence'. Why designate it an 'International' driver's licence? Even if his 'sovereign people, indigenous people' argument did allow them to have their own licences, how does that give them the right to drive in Peru or Germany? The right to drive in these other countries has to be negotiated, you can't just write 'International' on a piece of paper. And surprisingly, a piece of paper was all the licence was printed on. It wasn't on plastic like a real licence or even on a thick cardboard. I suspect that many of the people that get sucked into buying these fake licences, as with the false passports, will be Polynesians, many of whom will be illegal over-stayers, and thus unable to obtain a real licence. They might think that an 'International' drivers licence will let them drive if they ever go back home.

I also noted that Otimi's own Maori drivers licence had the following listed:

4. New Zealand Maori
5. D.O.B. xxxxxxxx
6. High Chief Tiati (Judge)
7. Inventor - Maindustry
8. Rangatira - Hapu Sustainability

a: Private Vehicle
b: Motor Cycle
c: Lift Truck
d: Earth Equipment

Apart from Date of Birth, a real licence has none of these numbered categories. Maori obviously feel it is important to identify your race for some reason. Also I didn't realise that Maori came from places other than 'New Zealand', and why wasn't it 'Aotearoa' Maori? #6 appears to be an item where you can impress people with a showy title. #7 appears to be 'occupation', and Otimi claims to be an inventor, although it is usually spelt 'fraudster'. I have no idea what 'Maindustry' means. #8 seems to be a place where you can identify some of your goals, like raising money for your Hapu though bogus money making schemes.

And look at some of his vehicle classes. 'Private Vehicle' could be anything from a tricycle to an army tank as long as it's privately owned. The word 'motorcar' is not mentioned. And what exactly is a 'Lift Truck'? Is it a light or heavy truck, or simply a truck with some sort on crane attached to it? And what about 'Earth Equipment'? Is it a humongous bulldozer or simply a bucket and spade?

And it gets worse. Another Maori group claims to have started a native police service and to have handed out over 2,000 bogus documents they call 'Maori traveller's permits'. They were shown on the TV News driving an old black Mitsubishi car with siren blaring, headlights flashing, and red and blue flashing lights in the grill. It was also painted with police-like stripes and had the words 'NATIVE PIRIHIMANA' along the side and on the bonnet, in addition to one of the Maori flags. I assume 'NATIVE PIRIHIMANA' means 'native police', although perhaps it means, 'Native Piranha'. In a similar news report months ago, they said they chase speeding cars in their area but seldom catch them as most everyone has more powerful cars than theirs. You might also remember some time ago a Maori group was hassling motel owners in certain North island towns by showing up in uniforms with 'Maori Police' (or something similar) on them.

It is illegal to impersonate a police officer, and yet the Police and the government seem very reluctant to come down with the full force of the law on these Maori groups for producing fake licences and passports and for chasing people with flashing lights and wearing uniforms designed to make you think they are the Police. They promptly arrested that high school student for producing high quality fake drivers licences a few months back. He only made a few hundred and sold them to his friends, whereas Otimi and others have produced thousands of poorly made fakes. From a legal perspective it seems the student had the disadvantage of being Asian rather than Maori.

Is Otimi's scam and that of others based on pure arrogance, that Maori should be running the country and issuing legal documents, or is it simple ignorance? I suspect both. They arrogantly believe that they are the rightful heirs to these islands, and their ignorance allows them to maintain this belief.

And yet their imaginary governance of this land doesn't see them acting with benevolence to their subjects. Extremely amateurish licences and passports costing cents to produce (but actually worthless), are sold for hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars. One of their target markets is other Maori who feel aggrieved that their particular tribe isn't calling the shots, and want to pretend that they're living in an imaginary world or parallel universe where Maori make the laws. The other probably more lucrative market is that of illegal immigrants, people that can't obtain genuine passports, residency permits and drivers licences. These people, either through ignorance or desperation, provide the funds that keep these scams going. As long as there are desperate and gullible people in society there will be people like Gerrard Otimi lining up to rip them off.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Jan, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend


  1. Comment by Keri, 20 Jan, 2010

    Kia ora John:

    in your post on Maori Driver's Licence scams, there are matters I take issue with:

    'Aotearoa' was traditionally a name for Te Ika a Maui — while it has come to mean the entire archipelago, maybe Otimi is a traditionalist? (I personally think not — he comes across as an opportunistic ignoramus.)

    'Maori' is the name used in several East Polynesian island for the first inhabitants ( e.g. Tahiti, Rarotonga.) It just means 'normal', 'natural' (as opposed to later arriving Europeans for example.)

    And 'indigenous' — like indigene, it means 'native to/of a place.' By your definition, no human is indigenous except people in certain parts of Africa, given that the rest of us demonstrably left there. 7-800 years of occupation in these wonderful islands definitely gives people the right to call themselves indigenous.

    Thank you for your site — I enjoy visiting — cheers n/n Keri

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Jan, 2010

    Hi Keri, thanks for your comments. Regarding Otimi using 'Aotearoa' on his licences, he has made no indication that they don't apply to the entire archipelogo, and doing so would certainly limit his sales and destroy his argument of sovereignty of the entire nation.

    As for 'Maori' simply meaning 'normal', 'natural', I've also read of North American Indian and African tribes whose name arose from a simple descriptive word such as 'people' or 'inhabitants' etc. Many isolated tribes never needed to give themselves a distinct name until they encountered foreigners. Likewise the name we give the Inca of Peru is evidently not the name of the people, but simply the name of their kings.

    As for 'indigenous', I agree that Maori can call themselves indigenous. I was just being picky, in that I don't think that when someone claims to be the 'indigenous people', they need to add the words 'to this country'. If you're not indigenous to the country you're in and discussing, then your claim is misleading, as everyone can claim to be indigenous to some country, as you say, right back to Africa.

    Maori, Pakeha or Martian, we just get peeved at anyone that takes advantage of the gullibility of others.

  3. Comment by Keri, 23 Jan, 2010

    Kia ora John — thanks for this.
    I, too, get upset by the various scams going on — 'passports' being flogged off to vulnerable Polynesians, this 'licence' racket and non-Maori con-artists like ?Shane Weinzel going under a Maori name after having been 'adopted' by an 'independant hapu.'
    Good that you & the 'Silly Beliefs' team are on to them — cheers n/n Keri

Ken Ring — King of Plagiarism
In a recent comment to Ken Ring I touched on his ignorance of astronomy (Ken of weather forecasting by the moon fame), and said that it 'makes me wonder who wrote the astronomy content in your books, since it obviously wasn't you.' So on reading one of Ken's latest articles on his website entitled 'Sunspots' (Monday 23rd March 2009), which contained considerable astronomical details, I again wondered this. Did Ken really write this or is he paying some high school student to do it, or even worse, is he just stealing it from someone else and pretending that he wrote it? How can someone who claims that the stars that form constellations are 'a bunch of rocks millions of miles away', then turn around and write coherent statements about our own Sun, which I guess is also a big rock.

So using the power of Google I discovered within a few seconds that the astronomical text of Ring's article is actually the work of others.

If we look at the first section of his article, 'WHAT ARE SUNSPOTS?', we find that the first four paragraphs have been stolen word for word from this Web site. That's 701 words. If we look at the next section, 'Planets the probable cause of sunspots', we find that the first two paragraphs have again been stolen word for word (almost) from this Web site. There is actually a seven word difference since Ken has edited the text to hide the fact that he didn't steal their graphs as well. That's another 300 words. In an article of just over 3000 words, Ring has stolen at least 1000 words, that's around one third. At least one third of Ring's article is stolen, plagiarised, and shamelessly passed off as his own. And I say at least one third since it's obvious that those graphs of sunspot activity are not due to Ken's research either.

He even edits one of his stolen sentences to remove what he obviously considered a negative comment on astrologers. He changes 'It may well relate to what astrologers, those ancient students of planetary movements and Earthly happenings, called a trine' to 'It may well relate to what astrologers called a trine'.

Not only is this blatant plagiarism, it's also evidence of Ken's shoddy workmanship as he attempts to shuffle the stolen text around and cover his tracks. If you look at the first paragraph, you'll notice that the first three sentences are identical to the last three. Also the entire third paragraph is repeated as the second half of the forth paragraph. In his haste to 'cut and paste', to steal someone else's hard work and pass it off as his own, Ring doesn't even realise he's stealing text twice.

And I know Ken will argue about what 'plagiarise' really means, so let's get a dictionary definition:

1. To use and pass off as one's own (the ideas or writings of another).
2. To appropriate for use as one's own passages or ideas from (another).
3. To put forth as original to oneself the ideas or words of another.
Of course everyone quotes the work of others, but not large blocks of text and not without appropriate credit. The opening paragraph to Ken's article is obviously a quote and Ken correctly marks it as such, so he understands how to identify the work of others. But the rest of the article contains no hint that it is not Ken's own work. There is no obvious indication where the stolen text stops and Ken's own words begin. It is only Ken's ignorance of astronomy and science in general as evidenced by public comments that suggest that there must be someone else's work in much of that article. Of course Ken wants his followers to be impressed by his vast astronomical knowledge, which will generally lead them to trust him when he talks about the moon and the weather, even if they don't really understand it. He does understand it and that's enough for them. By stealing the work of others and passing it off as his own Ken build's up the lie that he can be trusted in matters of complex science, when just the opposite is true. His plagiarism is nothing but deceit.

And one also wonders who Ken is actually fabricating these articles for. He continually claims that farmers are his major supporters, yet in a recent communication with us he revealed the following:

"I am proud to say my peers are farmers and people who know about weather because they live out in it. ... Some of these farmers can't even read or write, but they sure know about weather."
So he's obviously not expecting many farmers to go online and read his article. Why they probably don't even have electricity.

UPDATE: — Oct 2010. In Comment #3 below Ken writes:

'Thank you for pointing out the websites I had quoted from. I have now included the references...'
As usual, Ken is once again not telling the truth. The article ''WHAT ARE SUNSPOTS?' has simply disappeared from his website, but the article 'Do planets have weather?' is still there (See Comment #1). He has edited it by adding a couple of sentences, but otherwise there is still no indication that two thirds of it is stolen text. The references he insists he has included are not there.

We have also noticed that this article by Ken — The Year The Moon Stands Still — has text stolen from this article — Druids and moon worship in the sacred landscape of Callanish. Ken has stolen nearly a third of his text and woven it into his own forged article. There is no chance that he has merely forgotten to put quotes around paragraphs he has 'borrowed', as he has deliberately edited out some words and sentences and inserted his own.

Glancing at his book 'The Lunar Code' the other day, specifically the sections entitled 'The Milankovitch Cycles' and 'Natural Cycles', we typed some of his paragraphs into Google. And sure enough, much of the text involving any sort of detail was also stolen, word for word, with a lot coming from this website.

The theft of the work of others for his own use is obviously not something Ken Ring personally has a problem with, and yet he has publicly threatened others with legal action over the ownership of his work. Different rules apply in RingWorld it seems.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Jan, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend


  1. Comment by William, 10 Jan, 2010

    More plagiarism on Ring's site appears in "Do planets have weather?", much of which was copied from http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/atmosphere/q0306.shtml

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Jan, 2010

    Thanks for that William. Apart from most of the opening paragraph and the closing paragraph, which are noticeably different in style, the entire article appears have been purloined by Ring from aerospaceweb.org. You might also have noticed that while stealing their information about weather on other planets, immediately after they had made this statement: 'The strong winds appeared to be generated by tidal forces from Saturn', Ring deviously inserted this sentence into their text: 'This suggests a tidal force for all weather on all planets, rather than to local, close-to-ground causes'. He then continues with the stolen text. Since his method relies on tidal forces from the moon, Ring wants his readers to believe that this article, even if they know he didn't write it, it still supports his method, which of course it doesn't. Update: After taking a closer look at Ring's article I noticed that he has also added his own paragraph in the middle. You can tell he wrote the paragraph that begins: ' The 4th layer of Earth's atmosphere, the thermosphere ... ', by the style, purpose and the scientific errors it contains. The thermosphere 'begins', not 'ends', at around this height miles, and the nitrogen/oxygen ratios are very close to four-fifths and one-fifth, not three-quarters and one-quarter. For someone that debates climate change with a passion you would think he would know the correct figures, as most high school students will.
    Adding up the words we find that a full two thirds of Ring's article was stolen and passed off as his own work (754 words stolen out of 1128 = 66.8%).

    I've downloaded several of Ring's articles, and given time we will look at them, and his books, to see how much of his writing is actually the work of others. So if you're reading this Ken, it's too late to change or delete them now.

  3. Comment by the Ken Ring, 15 Jan, 2010

    Thank you for pointing out the websites I had quoted from. I have now included the references. Readers can be be assured that I have no desire to deceive nor to claim ownership of what is not mine. If anybody has been offended by that then I apologise. Much material is sent to me to use, often without refs and I know information often goes from hand to hand many times. On the other hand, I often find bits of myself also turning up on other websites without reference. If you can find more unreferenced bits in my articles on www.predictweather.com I shall gladly attribute where appropriate.

    As to whether or not farmers can read and write, I expect most can. However the adult literacy rate in NZ is still alarmingly low and I remember when I was homeschooling in the 1970s that the published figure was 37%. It is slowly rising, and now, depending on source, is either just under a third of the population http://www.bsa.govt.nz/publications/Media_Literacy_Information_in_New_Zealand.pdf, around 46% http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/ED0907/S00054.htm or slightly above 50% http://www.socialreport.msd.govt.nz/knowledge-skills/adult-literacy-skills-in-english.html

    Presumably some of those having difficulty would be farmers or those of other outdoor pursuits, who do not really need to read much for their work and who have chosen such vocations because they depend less on the need for it. The shame is not on them, but on an education system that has always suffered from funding starvation.

Woman attacks Pope, again
Newsflash: Woman attacks Pope — God nowhere to be seen! As Pope Benedict XVI was shuffling past fawning groupies dressed as nuns and priests and untold others, a 25 year old woman leapt a low barrier and pulled him to the ground. Unfortunately before she could begin any sort of meaningful discussion about religion and the meaning of life, the pope's bodyguards finally decided to intervene and dragged her away. They couldn't even stop a woman who had attacked the Pope once before, in the same manner, dressed in the same clothes. She didn't disguise herself and they still let her get right next to the Pope once again. Luckily for the Pope this woman didn't bring a gun with speedy bullets or even a primitive knife.

But you have to wonder why the Pope can even be attacked if he has the protection of the most powerful Being in the universe? Why does he think he even needs bodyguards or a bulletproof 'Pope Mobile'? Is he not as close to God as he to tries to make out? Imagine how the firm that supplies security and bodyguards to the Pope would feel if they discovered that he has employed another group of bodyguards. Would this not suggest that he had lost confidence in their ability to protect him? But isn't this what the Pope is implying by employing human bodyguards in the first place, that he has little or no confidence that his employer God can or will protect him?

And this lack of confidence in God is well deserved. Although the Pope was evidently unharmed, an 87 year-old Cardinal that tried to intervene received a broken leg for his efforts. In 1970 Pope Paul VI was attacked by a knife wielding man and saved by guards. Pope John Paul II was shot and nearly killed by an assassin in 1981. Where was God on that day? Holidaying in the Bahamas with his cell phone switched off? He was attacked again by a knife wielding man in 1982 and saved by guards this time. As one report states 'Health problems were numerous late in the Pope's life. He had a tumour removed from his colon in 1992, dislocated his shoulder in 1993, broke his femur and had a hip joint replaced after a fall 1994 and had his appendix removed in 1996. He suffered from Parkinson's disease, an arthritic knee, an aching hip and the lingering effects of the 1981 assassination attempt.' It is readily apparent that as far as the Pope's health and safety is concerned, for all intents and purpose God doesn't exist.

The present 82 year old Pope Benedict has already suffered at least two strokes and broke his wrist in July after a fall. Does God not care about the health of his representative on Earth? Why does he want a decrepit old man with a diminishing intellect as his PR guy?

In the 1930's Pope Pius XI went for treatment to Switzerland where he was injected with extracts from sheep foetuses. Most did this in an attempt to boost their virility, but perhaps the Pope just did it to boost his longevity. Or maybe both. But if you're supposedly closer to God than anyone on the planet, why do you need to resort to quack therapies made by man? Obviously the pope knew that he was wasting his time expecting any help from God. Pope's deceitfully encourage their followers to pray to God for help, while scouring the world themselves with their followers donations looking for man-made cures.

And what hope can a poor ignorant Catholic peasant in Peru rightly have if their God won't even lift a wispy finger or tentacle or whatever to stop an attack on the pope in the Vatican? He didn't even have to go anywhere. He just had to look out the window of whatever God lives in and toss a lightning bolt.

The fact is that in this attack on the pope God was conspicuous by his absence, or at least he should have been! Notice that no one in the media and none of the devout Catholics interviewed uttered the obvious question: Where was God?

Where indeed! I'll tell you where, in books of fantasy stories called the Torah, the Bible and the Koran, and from there into the minds of gullible, superstitious people. But God is nowhere else. He exists only in people's imagination, not in reality. He lives next door to the Tooth Fairy and across the road from Santa Claus. He is not masturbating as he watches priests sexually abuse little boys, he is not pulling drowning Christian schoolchildren from flooded rivers, he is not rescuing his chosen people from concentration camps, he and his only begotten son are not busy refurbishing a room for each of us in Heaven, and he is most definitely NOT watching out for the Pope.

'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;' (Psalm 23:4)

Yeah right, sure you are.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Dec, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend

Of Xmas billboards and sex
Wishart In the lead up to Xmas, an enlightening billboard appeared in Auckland. As Lindsay Freer, spokeswoman for the Catholic Church, said, one would assume by its message that atheists or someone making fun of Christianity erected it. But no, it was erected by local church St. Matthew-in-the-City under the instructions of Archdeacon Glynn Cardy. The billboard depicted an apparently naked couple in bed (Click on the picture for a larger image). Going by the text we are expected to see them as Joseph and Mary, the parents, or perhaps only half the parents, of Jesus of Nazareth. The text reads, 'Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow.' What this means is not immediately clear, and this seemingly was the entire point of the billboard according to Archdeacon Glynn Cardy. He and the rest of St. Matthew-in-the-City wanted the public to seriously think about what this image of the Virgin Mary and her husband really means, and how it relates to the person known to Christians as Jesus. A weird element of the image is that while they want Christians to think about the Virgin Mary having sex, they seemingly didn't feel that they could show her with an uncovered head, and show her in what appears to be a nun's head-dress.

Evidently to Cardy and most people this image suggests sexual intercourse, and that after Mary had had sex with God — a real stud if there ever was one — then sex with Joseph could be nothing but disappointing. Cardy reckons that this scenario paints the popular conception that God was a male and that he impregnated Mary with sperm. Another billboard image that they rejected even had a glowing neon sperm coming down from on high. Of course the idea of God screwing Mary, even if she slept through it, is anathema to Christians. And it gets worse once you realise she was only around 12 years old, and since she didn't consent to getting pregnant or even to sex, it was in a very real sense rape.

Think about it. Imagine if your overbearing boss sneaked into your house under the cover of darkness, drugged your 12-year-old daughter and placed his sperm into her womb, either naturally or with a turkey baster. Having impregnated your child without her consent or even her knowledge, he then gets one of his minions to visit her some time later to tell her that he has made her pregnant and that she is carrying his child. And that she must call him Brian. Would you worship this man or call the police?

Though Cardy didn't go into detail, he obviously believes that once people start to think about Mary and God and the virgin birth — or should that be the virgin conception, one will reach the conclusion that the story of God getting Mary pregnant and her still remaining a virgin is just a fairytale. If it were real, then God would be a monster. Archdeacon Cardy stated on a TV3 News interview that he didn't think that most Christians take the virgin birth literally these days.

On the St Matthew-in-the-City website Archdeacon Cardy writes that their billboard 'lampoons literalism'. He tells us that 'Progressive Christianity believes the Christmas stories are fictitious accounts' and that 'What progressive interpretations try to do however is remove the supernatural obfuscation'. In his blog he evidently wrote "... I don't believe in a god who is a super being ...".

On the TV3 News Lindsay Freer informed us that the Catholic Church was outraged with these claims that stories of virgin births are not to be taken seriously. As an aside, I find it deceptive that the Catholic Church, an organisation run by old men that subjugates women and treats them as second class citizens, nevertheless uses a woman to act as their public voice. They obviously believe, and no doubt correctly, that much of the public will just see a grubby old man leering at children if they ask one of their priests to appear on TV. What a come down it must be to have to plead with someone they don't and will never consider their equal — a woman — to be their spokesperson. Gone are the days when priests and bishops went forth in power and glory and peasants and intellectuals alike feared them. Now they hide behind the skirts of a woman and furiously try to pull her strings from the shadows.

Regarding the Catholic Church's outrage, I thought a comment on the St Matthew-in-the-City website was quite apt:

Michael [USA]
It seems to me that the Catholic Church should spend its time making sure its clergy isn't raping children rather than whining about billboards. But obviously the virginity of a woman who died 2000 years ago is more important to them than present day children.
As for the billboard, unfortunately it didn't last all that long. First some unknown person painted over the billboard, then after being replaced an elderly lady was prevented from attacking it by some homeless people. However a third assailant or assailants did later slash and destroy the image and it was decided not to replace it. Isn't it amazing that a religion that calls for tolerance and tells us to love thy enemy and to turn the other cheek, can jettison their values in a heartbeat and turn on even fellow Christians. Of course history is full of this type of behaviour, only in the past those that erected the billboard would have been slashed as well. Then tortured a bit to see who else was involved, then burnt at the stake as a warning not to do it again.

Several people that I've spoken to voice the question as to why a church would put up such a controversial message? An atheist group sure, but a church?

We think that the likes of Archdeacon Glynn Cardy and his fellow supporters at St. Matthew-in-the-City, while having rightly rejected the myths of the virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus and even God himself, nonetheless still have delusions of their own. They fail to grasp that academic views are not the same as popular views, the views of the layperson.

We've met Christians who still believe that Adam and Eve and the Flood of Noah were real, and that God created the universe and all life in six days. However most Christians I know personally don't believe these old stories anymore, yet they still believe in the virgin birth, the resurrection, Heaven and Hell, and of course God himself. I also know many people that don't believe any of these things, only they call themselves atheists, not Christians. For Glynn Cardy to believe that most Christians essentially have the non-belief of atheists and yet still call themselves Christians and still attend church is to show that he has little contact with 'real' Christians. Perhaps everyone in St. Matthew-in-the-City and his social circle believes as he does, but you have to be rather naïve to believe that your typical Christian believes that the claims that make up the very foundation of Christianity are all false. To believe that they are knowingly following a lie, well, lots of lies actually, but that they feel it is still worthwhile to carry on with the façade and to pretend to be a Christian, to imply to the world that they believe, even though they don't anymore.

So why might Archdeacon Cardy believe what he does and confidently claim that most Christians also think the way he does?

I suspect that many people don't grasp the increasing gulf in belief that is opening up between many theologians and clergy and those in the pews and on the streets, and this includes Cardy. Those that study religion as theologians and to train for the clergy are exposed (although not always) to modern scholarship and research on Christianity and comparative religion, not to mention science, history and philosophy. Claims that were once accepted as factual and that were vigorously and violently defended have now been shown to be false. Thus many theologians and clergy, although obviously not all and probably few of the Catholic and fundamentalist persuasion, have been convinced to radically change the nature of their beliefs from that of their predecessors. This appears to be the stage that Cardy has reached.

Yet the beliefs of those in the pews effectively hasn't changed for centuries. In a very obvious sense, in the Bible there is no mention of Eve eating an apple or of three Kings at the birth of Jesus or of Jesus being born on Dec 25th, yet most Christians believe there is. They simply aren't aware of the gaping holes that modern research has revealed in the stories that their priests and parents told them. Many of these Christians who believe things that aren't mentioned in the Bible, however don't now believe things that are mentioned in the Bible, such as Adam and Eve, the Flood of Noah and the six days of creation. While there is now doubt about much that was told in the Old Testament of the Bible, your typical Christian still takes the New Testament as gospel.

However recent decades has seen the creation of another type of 'believer', and we now have Christians that don't even believe in the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, or, amazingly enough, God himself. While we applaud those that reach the realisation that these Bible stories are just myths, we are confounded when they chose to stay in their church and continue to identify themselves as Christians. We have already exposed this self-contradictory position in our essay on Ian Harris. People that are effectively atheists yet call themselves Christians. People who say that God doesn't exist and yet confusing say they still believe in God. There is no denying that this very strange type of Christian exists, but why Archdeacon Cardy believes that most Christians think as he does is a mystery. To believe that the typical person that identifies themselves as a Christian, that attend Catholic Mass, that fill the Destiny Church, that knock on our doors with religious pamphlets, that pray for the health of a friend or that argue against evolution and call atheists evil, to believe that most of these Christians know that the Bible stores are fictional is delusional in itself. Archdeacon Cardy really does need to get out more and mix with other Christians, not just those of St. Matthew-in-the-City.

So why might Archdeacon Cardy have decided to 'go public' with his views on Christianity? Perhaps integrity, perhaps guilt, perhaps the realisation that the old lies just aren't working any more as each year more and more religious claims are shown to be false. I think it's similar to children and their belief in Santa Claus. When they're young they'll believe anything they're told by an authority figure. However each year as children mature and become more knowledgeable about the world, their questions about Santa become more difficult to answer convincingly. Finally the parents reach a realisation: the time has come to admit to their children that Santa isn't real after all. I think many of the clergy like Cardy have reached the same realisation: it's time to tell their 'children' that God isn't real either.

In conclusion, Cardy wanted his billboard to generate thoughts as to what the image might have meant, so let's quickly look at some ways one could view that image of Joseph looking dejected and Mary looking longingly towards Heaven. As we've already said, they may have had sex and Mary is disappointed with Joseph's lack of finesse and size compared to her previous lover, God. Or having recently screwed God, Mary has no intention of cheating on him and having sex with Joseph, a mere mortal. She looks forward to their next tryst in some sleazy motel in Nazareth, and Joseph comes to the conclusion that his wife is either frigid or cheating on him, and that he's never going to get any satisfaction. This is the version the Catholic Church went with, since they believe that Mary NEVER had sex with Joseph, even after Jesus was born. Or maybe it's a play on the word 'hard'. Both want to have sex but Joseph fears he can't perform like God and therefore can't get an erection. He's depressed and his erectile problem is not helped by Mary looking up at her previous lover. Or perhaps they were about to have sex or have had sex, but then Joseph brought up the problem of her being pregnant to someone else and they've just had a huge argument about what they're going to tell the neighbours. Joseph didn't buy the God story. Another option is that this image depicts them on their wedding night, which the Bible doesn't mention. Some Christians, such as Catholics, believe it is forbidden to have sex with a pregnant woman, since the only reason to have sex is for procreation. Since she is already pregnant then sex would be merely for enjoyment, which is a sin. Thus Joseph is stuck with a wife that is already pregnant to someone else and a honeymoon of celibacy. And frustration it seems, since although God has placed a naked babe next to him, masturbation is also a sin. Or on the 'God was a hard act to follow' theme, perhaps this scene is after the birth of Jesus, since Mary doesn't look like a 12-year-old child anymore. After experiencing Mary's son Jesus, Joseph has lost interest in sex since he keeps asking himself, 'What hope have I got of producing a son like Jesus, with my sinful seed? I might as well not even try, and a child that couldn't do miracles might seem a little defective in comparison to Jesus.'

My choice would be this one: maybe the man isn't Joseph! After all we have no idea what he looked like and he was most likely much older than the man in the bed with Mary. Maybe this man is the real father of Jesus, and realising that Mary is pregnant, and not to her future husband but to her lover, they lie there and try to find a solution to their problem. Suddenly Mary looks skyward and gets an idea, 'My husband Joseph is one of these religious nutters' she says. 'What if we said that Jehovah had his wicked way with me?' 'You know, that's just ridiculous enough to work', replied her lover Biggus Maximus, and out of a deception a religion was born.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Dec, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend

Vatican proves another miracle
Religion We heard on the news this week that the late Catholic nun Mary McKillop, who died in 1909, is to become Australia's first saint. For the Vatican to make someone a saint it has to first prove that that person, that dead person, has performed not one but two miracles after they died. These are people that never performed any miracles when they were living, even though there was the desperate need for miracles all around them, but now that they are dead they have somehow learnt, night classes in heaven perhaps, to perform medical miracles. In the words of Penn & Teller, what utter bullshit this is.

If the Catholic Church wants to revere someone, to recognise the valuable work they did when they were alive, then fine, put up a photo in the Pope's Games Room, even make a movie about them if they wish with Mel Gibson, but don't make them into saints, the religious equivalent of superheroes. Don't feed us this bullshit that someone that couldn't cure a cold when they were alive are now curing cancer without even leaving their bean bag in Heaven. At first it is surprising to think how gullible that the Vatican believes their followers to be, but then this turns to depression when you realise that the Vatican is largely correct. Their followers do believe that these long dead corpses are out doing the work that the rest of us thought God was supposed to do, and only God could do. But no, it seems any old dead person with the right seminars behind them can perform miracles, not just God. And it seems that Catholics know this, and so they have stopped praying specifically to God for miracles, and have turned to praying to dead humans.

Of course some people might try to weasel out of this conclusion by insisting that God is merely working through these corpses, it's still only God that has the power to perform miracles. But this is just stupid. How are Catholics to know which corpse God has chosen to impersonate this year? And why would he pretend to work through others? Is it some legal malpractice thing in case his planned cure goes horribly wrong, or more likely, doesn't eventuate?

Does not God's 2nd Commandment say that his followers must not worship anyone other than God himself, 'for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God'? How can Christians follow this commandment and yet pray to all these people that they acknowledge are not God, such as Jesus, his only begotten son, or Mary, the frigid mother of Jesus, let alone an Australian nun who the Vatican even excommunicated during her lifetime?

The Vatican may have fooled their own followers and may be prepared to overlook them praying to dead people rather than to God just to keep them within the slimy grasp of the Church, but they demonstrate arrogance by thinking that the scientific and skeptical world will blindly accept their magical claims. They say they have to have definite proof of two miracles to make a corpse a saint. Yet the evidence of this proof that they offer is as weak as a wet tissue. Usually it comes down to them claiming that Person A had a specific incurable disease, and now they don't. Ergo, a miracle. Often the Vatican (or other religious group) is very reluctant to provide conclusive proof that Person A had the disease in the first place. False positives, where a test indicates that a disease is present but it actually isn't, are unfortunately too common. Also it is well known that some diseases can undergo spontaneous remission. All that you can honestly say is that the disease has remitted, you can not say why, or even if that condition is permanent. People such as Person A are all undergoing conventional treatments, this is how they can supposedly prove they had the disease, so they can not prove that some conventional treatment didn't cause the remission. Likewise many desperately ill people resort to alternative healing treatments in addition to conventional, so they can't deny that some unusual herb might have caused the remission. Likewise they could have unwittingly walked in front of some microwave transmitter or been hit by some ionising radiation from space that accidentally and positively impacted on their illness. Even if we were to accept that a supernatural miracle had occurred, that laws of physics had been broken, this doesn't tell you who waved their magic wand. Perhaps Person A, a devout Catholic, lived next door to a devout Hindu family, and she was extremely helpful and caring towards this family when they moved into the community. When Person A got sick, the Hindu family prayed to their gods to heal their neighbour to thank her for her kindness. She was healed by a miracle, but a miracle delivered by a Hindu god, not a Catholic one.

Quite simply there is no way that you can scientifically prove a miracle, and therefore this proof that the Vatican claims they have is bogus. And even if it has all the hallmarks of a miracle, there is no way that you can prove what god actually got off his arse and healed one sick person out of millions, while leaving all the others to suffer. If the Vatican wants to continue with this sham, then they should restrict their announcements to the pulpit and church newsletters to the faithful. Furthermore, if they do insist on telling their fairytales to the media, then the media should take off their kid gloves and demand that they produce their evidence of these miracles before they run their silly, superstitious propaganda for them.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Dec, 2009 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend

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