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Stardate 11.019

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

Skeptic

The pope and phone hacking
Yesterday Graeme Hill made us aware of the following article: Irish PM in unprecedented attack on Vatican, with the comment, 'Common sense and decency breaks out in Northern Ireland?'.

Stainedglass Thanks Graeme. It certainly is refreshing to observe someone in authority with the nerve to challenge the lies and machinations emanating from the Vatican. We haven't heard much about the Catholic Church, the pope and the Vatican of late, which might lead one to assume that the disgusting sex scandals that they were involved in have all been satisfactorily resolved. That the guilty have been exposed, that those that committed the crimes and those that helped cover them up have been tried and punished. But is this actually the case, or have the public and the media just lost interest in the story? Certainly a handful of priests have been arrested, tried and sent to prison, and millions of dollars have been paid out in compensation to the victims of the priests' lustful urges. But other than that, it appears it is just business as usual for the Catholic Church, the pope and the Vatican. A while back the pope even went on a promotional visit to Britain, acting like a geriatric pop star. And this visit cost the British taxpayer millions, even though the Vatican is filthy rich and well able to pay its own way. Like the British Queen when she visits us, the pope arrogantly believes people should be happy and willing to help finance their visits. Although the pope did encounter unprecedented protests organised by the likes of Richard Dawkins, large numbers of Catholics still turned up to have the pope fondle their child and slaver over their babies. To them the sex scandals were either extremely minor, an aberration, had been resolved to their satisfaction or perhaps even an outright falsehood spread by evil atheists. Whatever their views, like the pope they had moved on, the sexual abuse was behind them and they were eager to once again scream like giddy schoolgirls when the pope drove pass in the Popemobile and to send their virginal children to confession and choir practice.

Let's compare how the British people, their government and their police force reacted to the claims that Catholic priests were sexually abusing children, and had been doing so for decades, and that the pope and the Vatican took extreme measures to hide this abuse from the public, preferring to leave abusive priests with children than reveal their crimes to the authorities. Let's compare this scandal with the one playing out at the moment in Britain: the scandal of phone hacking.

The British are outraged that employees of the News of the World tabloid allegedly hacked into the phone messages of numerous people, including celebrities, members of the Royal Family and even the phones of suspected murder victims and soldiers killed in the Middle East. They presumedly did this to get leads for stories and beat competing newspapers to the news. And let's remember that the more invasive technique of phone bugging is used and approved by government, police and security forces every day to expose terrorists, drug deals etc. We understand that the News of the World employees weren't listening to the actual calls, only the voice messages. No doubt messages like: 'Can you pick up some milk on your way home?', and 'Do you want to go to the movies? Give me a call'. To our knowledge no News of the World employee has killed anyone, assaulted anyone, threatened anyone, stolen any money or raped anyone. Is it right to listen to peoples' private phone messages?, of course not, and culprits should be prosecuted for doing so. But on the scale of crimes available, is the phone hacking scandal that serious when compared to what Catholic priests did to untold children? Given the choice of having my phone messages hacked and being buggered by an elderly priest, I'm going with the hacking, hell, I'll even give them my password to make it easy.

And yet look how the British have responded to each scandal. With the phone hacking, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation and owner of the News of the World, along with his son James Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corp International, have both been compelled to appear before a committee of British MPs who grilled them over what they knew of the illegal hacking. Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International and Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor, have both been arrested. The News of the World tabloid was closed down by Murdoch, putting everyone out of work, most of whom were not even involved in the hacking. After public outrage, dozens of companies cancelled their advertising with the tabloid, fearing their association would harm their sales. The British PM has instigated two judicial inquires into the scandal, one to investigate the hacking, and another into regulation of the media.

To summarise, the head of the organisation was called by the government to explain, the offending business was closed down, two inquires were begun, two police heads have resigned and two major players that most likely knew of the offending have been arrested. All this for listening to voice mail without permission.

Did we see similar moves when it was revealed that priests were sexually abusing children? No, not even remotely. The head of the organisation, the pope, never appeared before any body to explain what he knew of the offending. No senior officials in the Vatican have been arrested on suspicion of complicity. None of the numerous Catholic churches where sexual abuse took place have been closed down. Local investigations have been carried out but no wide reaching judicial inquires into what the Vatican knew have been conducted, or what measures need to be put in place to stop the Church abusing a new generation of children. And to show that the scandal was just a storm in a teacup, the British government then welcomed the pope, the leader of this pedophile ring, to visit with open arms, to hug more children and spread his poison to gullible minds.

Yes, some individual priests were arrested and incarcerated, but at no time has the pope and his cronies accepted that they knew that these offences were being committed, or that they conspired to hide them from the public. Unlike Rupert Murdoch who is being forced to take responsibility for the phone hacking, and the public who feels he should, the pope has apparently successfully distanced himself from the crimes of his priests, at least in the minds of many Catholics.

I guess that with the heinous crime of phone hacking, no one wants their messages listened to, so the public is united in their outrage. However with sexual abuse by Catholic priests there is a large proportion of the public that sides with the pope, believing that submission to their god is more important than a little bit of forced buggery. As long as it's not them or their children, then where's the harm? Since the sex scandal broke, I haven't noticed any real reduction in attendance at the local Catholic church. It seems Catholics are not as outraged as non-Catholics are, saving their anger for phone hacking.

Yes the Vatican has expressed regrets, they are sorry that the sexual abuse has damaged the reputation of the Church, that their priests are reviled by non-Catholics, but their thoughts are solely with themselves, not with their victims. And while the authorities are not overly interested in bringing the Vatican to account, the Vatican is evidently commencing their own work to make sure this doesn't happen again. We don't mean that the sexual abuse doesn't happen again, we mean that the public doesn't get to find out.

Again, phone hackers should be charged, but it seems to us that the authorities are prepared to put a lot more effort and resources into prosecuting hackers, and those that hid their activities, than they are in prosecuting those committing sex crimes, and those that hid their activities. On the scale of things, we think phone hacking is pretty harmless as crimes go, whereas sexual abuse is serious and deserving of more effort from authorities. Many powerful people are behind the outrage since it was their phones that were hacked, perhaps if it was them or their children who were abused then they would be equally outspoken against the Catholic Church and its CEO?

While the world would certainly be better off without powerful, manipulative media moguls like Rupert Murdoch, we think people should first be directing their anger and outrage at the pope, the Vatican and the Catholic Church who are concerned only at maintaining their evil empire. Let's worry about what priests are doing with our children before we start worrying about journalists getting into our phones.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Jul, 2011 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Graeme, 22 Jul, 2011

    Thanks Silly Beliefs Team. At the risk of going off topic immediately I'd like to address a couple of things about your reply. Firstly, I sincerely appreciate the time and thought you give to your posts. I run into some people who occasionally express their frustration that you are too wordy. Bless you for being so (just a phrase, of course). All you have to do is read for chrissakes, and there's gold therein. It makes a welcome change from the default setting of Twitter.

    My second off topic indulgence, please. I have no pressing problem with us paying for the Queen of Great Britain to visit here because, whether you like it or not, she's our head of state. If one doesn't like it, then by all means and with good argument and reasoning get to changing it. I may even support but until then, unlike the Pope, she actually does have a constitutional position in New Zealand.

    One more thing and perhaps I should put this in another spot... some hopefully interesting TV & Film:

    'Jesus, The Cold Case' is being screened at 8:30pm on TV1 this Sunday. It's one of those Bryan Bruce affairs (Bain re-addressing, Mark Lundy et al). It's 1 hour 30 though so may be a little more substantial. I've read Bryan Bruce's book of the same name from which the thrust of the documentary is taken. For those interested in Biblical Criticism it doesn't do much new but it may well shake a few foundations of the religious. We'll see. Sir Lloyd Geering gives it a thumbs up and he knows his Enoch from his Ecclesiastes. I always wonder though, why Geering still wants to call himself a Christian instead of what I think he really is... an atheist. Maybe it's the uniform. Maybe it's the Frankincense.

    Having seen a DVD version I recommend a film doing the rounds shortly called 'Oranges And Sunshine'. I can't vouch for its entire veracity when it comes to detail. It's a dramatisation of the post-war forced mass child emigration to Australia, Canada & New Zealand, but in this case concentrates on Australia and the work Margaret Humphreys did in uncovering the scandal and the subsequent mistreatment of innocent children. The Catholic Brothers of Australia get the review they deserve. You get to see them squirm at least. I found it quite moving, but unlike Christopher Hitchens, it doesn't take much at all to make me cry.

    Keep up the great work, team.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Jul, 2011

    Hi Graeme. Yes, you're right, some do say that we rant on at times, that's the problem with not having an editor, and an annoyance with typical forum comments, such as 'You've made many false claims. I'm not going to bother explaining which ones, you're just wrong', or 'Ken Ring did predict the Christchurch earthquake, end of story'. Concise and to the point, but it won't make us change our mind. And you're right about the Queen. I hadn't thought about that, but while she's our head of state I guess we are stuck with paying some of her travel costs. And yes, we'll be watching 'Jesus, The Cold Case'. As you say, I don't think we'll be surprised by the content, if anything we may be annoyed that certain aspects weren't mentioned (eg did Jesus even exist?), but your typical Christian will no doubt be annoyed but for different reasons.

  3. Comment by Bob, 24 Jul, 2011

    Hi John, your article has made me think more about Catholic Church. Nothing can be done to the Pope because he is the sovereign head of a state as small as it is. If the British government had cancelled the visit saying it was inadvisable considering the accusations surrounding the Church that alone would have been quite a slap in the face. But commissions of enquiry could have been held in any country with a substantial number of complaints against priests and bishops. The local bishops and cardinals could have been required to attend just as happens with any other commission of enquiry. Though I suspect in that case the Church would have engaged top legal representation and refused to answer questions.

    It is not only paedophilia but cases such as the treatment of young unmarried mothers referred to as Magdalens (reformed prostitutes) in Ireland where their babies were taken off them and adopted by "good" Catholic families. The young mothers had little choice but to agree. In Australia in the 1950s newsreels showed bright young children coming on ships from a weary war torn Britain to a new life in the sunshine of Australia. Until recently Australians were not told of the conditions under which some lived in church homes.

    Open criticism of the Catholic Church by the prime minister of Ireland seems to me to be a large nail in a Catholic coffin. The Catholic Church has no way of reviving itself now because it has lost it's authority. It no longer has exclusive control over knowledge or political control. Science and modern knowledge make it difficult to believe in religion any more. I stick by my prediction that by the end of this century the Catholic Church will be a shadow of itself and the Vatican will be little more than a religious museum.

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Jul, 2011

    Thanks Bob. You're right that the pope not being a British citizen makes things difficult, but remember that likewise neither were Rupert nor James Murdoch legally required to front up to a British government inquiry. It was public pressure and a desire on Murdoch's part to limit the damage to his business that saw him front up. Likewise there was no legal reason to close the News of the World tabloid, merely the belief that the public and advertisers wouldn't support them anymore. If only a similarly united public would target the same level of outrage towards the pope's business and its outlets in Britain. One country at a time the influence of the Vatican can be destroyed. Like you we believe religion is mortally wounded, at least in many Western countries, and hope that your vision is correct, that the Vatican becomes little more than a religious museum, like Buckingham Palace is to what used to be the divine rule of kings.

  5. Comment by Anonymous, 25 Jul, 2011

    Good morning All. Just received from my long time friend in Darwin. More evidence as to why my father had such an intense dislike for religion and this one in particular. Amazing that the 'System!!!!?' allows these vermin to escape legal proceedings.

    Church says sorry over forced adoptions — ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

    The Catholic Church in Australia will today issue a national apology over past adoption practices that have been described as a national disgrace..

  6. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Jul, 2011

    Thanks for the link, and as Graeme and Bob have also noted, the Catholic Church has a lot more than just sexual abuse crimes to be ashamed of, and yet more reasons why the public should be directing some of their outrage and disgust at the Vatican rather than venting it all on Rupert Murdoch.

  7. Comment by Chris, 27 Jul, 2011

    Hey John, don't let Murdoch off the hook so easily. We're all busy kicking him while he's down because it's the only chance we'll get and maybe if enough people kick him hard enough he won't get up again [wishful thinking surfaces here]. He asked for it, he's getting it. Plenty of time for the Pope later.

    If you're going to let one of the rich and powerful off the hook because another one is — arguably — worse, then you better let the Pope off because of, say, Slobodan Milosevic.

  8. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Jul, 2011

    Hi Chris. Oh no, we're not suggesting that Murdoch and his cronies should be let off the hook. As we said regarding the phone hacking, the 'culprits should be prosecuted', and 'the world would certainly be better off without powerful, manipulative media moguls like Rupert Murdoch'. Like you we hope that this scandal does seriously erode Murdoch's power and sees better controls placed over those that manipulate the media. We're not arguing that Murdoch should be treated more leniently, we're asking why the public isn't as outraged regarding child sex crimes as they are about the phone hacking of celebrities, and aren't demanding that the pope fronts up to a government inquiry? Why could public pressure seemingly cause the closing of the News of the World, but not the closure of one single Catholic Church? Regarding Murdoch's empire, the British PM said that he pledged to 'make doubly sure that we get to the bottom of this, and that we prosecute those who are responsible'. Why wasn't a similar commitment made by the PM regarding the Vatican's empire? We talk of the power and influence that Murdoch has, but seemingly it is nothing compared to the pope. It is this double standard that annoys us, that the public were vocal enough to force a response from the government and resignations in the police force and arrests in Murdoch's organisation but weren't equally committed regarding the pope and his crimes.

Earthquakes and Bible prophecy
We all accept that earthquakes are real, frighteningly real. But what causes them? Well surprisingly, for the 21st century, there are still various options as to what to believe. We have explanations offered by science, pseudoscience and the supernatural. Science talks of tectonic plates, suggesting that earthquakes are caused by geological activity along these plate boundaries. For pseudoscience we have the likes of astrologer Ken Ring telling all who will listen that earthquakes are actually caused by the position of celestial objects. Specifically a 'gigantic force' emanates from the Sun, and aided by planetary alignments, this energy is focused by the 'innocent-looking moon' to 'move and divide fields, shake entire cities and change the shape of a region'. Then we have the supernatural explanation, the religious who claim that nothing happens without god's knowledge and divine command. Tectonic plates may be real (or not) and may move, but if they do it's only because god pushed them.

In this post we're going to look at one of the supernatural arguments. We've already commented on how local Christians leaders responded to the Christchurch earthquakes by insisting that their god wasn't involved, and was seemingly as surprised as the rest of us. Of course we've never swallowed this argument, that an all-knowing and all-powerful god that evidently has our future all planned out didn't have his tentacles all over those quakes. And now Mike has told us of Christians that are willing to admit that their god was indeed behind the death and destruction:

I am writing to attract your attention to a newspaper advertisement in a Queensland newspaper I found this morning:

Sunday Mail, July 10, page 17, a 1/4 page ad entitled:

Why so many earthquakes?

Herbert W. Armstrong said the world's greatest newscaster told us to expect an increase in devastating earthquakes — over 2000 years ago! (Shock, horror, gasp — Jesus worked for Palestine Radio... umm... before there was TV/ Radio??? I wonder if it was AM or FM — LOL)

"Christchurch was devastated by an earthquake in February. Not even three weeks later, Japan suffered the most destructive earthquake and tsunami in memory. And these came after one of the most seismically violent decades, which saw 22 quakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater including the one that took 22,000 lives.

Why these massive earthquakes? In his Plain Truth magazine Herbert Armstrong pointed readers to Jesus' pivotal prophecy in Matthew 24".

It then waffles on for another 2 paragraphs gushing about how he is right because of recent events — I believe it is called attribution of events after the fact or putting the cart before the horse or just flat out lies.

It then goes on to offer you a — "Free copy of the booklet Why Natural Disasters? and Trumpet magazine as well as Plain Truth magazine". The blurb ends with a pithy "Together, they will give you peace of mind to understand the events we are witnessing today and to see the hope-filled prophecies of a better world tomorrow".

Thanks Mike. It is amazing that these silly Christians swallow this nonsense, and worrying that we share our communities with such gullible folk. No matter what happens or where it happens, they childishly proclaim that a long dead carpenter prophesised it. How can Armstrong say with a straight face that Jesus was the 'world's greatest newscaster', since when they claimed he lived and preached almost no one on the planet had heard of him? And even today the majority of the world's population still don't know what he said, or even care.

For those that might not be familiar with the Bible and what Matthew 24 proclaims about the earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan, let's have a quick look. In it Jesus points at the temple buildings and says to his disciples, "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." From this prophecy we are supposed to believe (according to Christians), that not only the temple buildings that Jesus was referring to, but all the buildings all over the world will be destroyed by earthquakes, and that these massive earthquakes will be caused not by plate tectonics, not by Ken Ring's moon, but by an angry god. Later his sycophants, understandably worried about this coming destruction, ask Jesus, "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?". And this is what Jesus told his worried disciples: "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." Let's be clear what Jesus is proclaiming here. He's saying that most definitely these disastrous earthquakes and the resulting end of the world will occur in the lifetimes of the disciples that surrounded him. That it will happen before the last of disciples, their families and other living Israelites and Romans die. Without doubt, according to Jesus, and heralded by earthquakes, wars and famines, the world would end sometime during the first century CE.

You might not have received the memo, but it didn't end. If Jesus was indeed telling the truth as he claimed, why didn't it happen? It pretty convincingly destroys his reputation as a prophet.

Any sane and rational person would quickly realise that Jesus was talking nonsense, that his disciples were foolish to believe him, and that he no more knew what the future held than did Zeus or Osiris before him or Homer Simpson after him, but Christians are not rational unfortunately. We believe Jesus even warned his disciples to think critically about what they were told, when he added, "Watch out that no one deceives you... many false prophets will appear and deceive many people." In this prophesy Jesus was correct, in the last 2,000 years millions have indeed been deceived. Every major war, famine and earthquake has prompted gullible and terrified Christians to proclaim that the end is nigh. And every time they have got it wrong, the world hasn't ended, and silly Christians have sheepishly slunk back to their churches.

When will they ever learn? For most, that's like asking when can I expect my water to turn into wine? Never.

Fundamentalist Christians like Armstrong believe that Matthew 24 and its prophesy of the end of the world provides signs that we can heed, signs to tell us when the end is nigh and when to turn out faces skyward. These Christians must also believe that it is futile and wasteful to help the injured and homeless and repair earthquake damage. These are our final days, these quakes are a sign from their god that the world is about to end, so why bother fixing anything to just have it destroyed outright by god on the last day? We're told that 'the stars will fall from the sky', so any repairs that you might make to your house and section will be for naught. We believe that stars are rather big things, and quite hot, but of course that is science talking and not the Bible. Just hope that none of these devout Christians are on the councils or committees or run the businesses that are involved in earthquake recovery, because they will have no real incentive to help those in need, regardless of what they might say in public. They know it's all a waste of time and are just waiting to 'see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky'.

Of course we all know that an embarrassing number of confident Christians have proclaimed the end of the world on a specific day or era and they've all been mistaken. But this doesn't stop them thinking up future dates, even though Jesus clearly says that no one will be able to determine when the Second Coming and the end of the world will happen. Jesus simply tells his follows to be ready and have their bags packed, 'because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him'. Any Christian who believes that a sign — massive earthquakes for example — has revealed when Jesus can be expected to return must be mistaken. Jesus has clearly said that he will not return when anyone expects him to, so signs or earthquakes that lead you to expect him must be false. Logically Jesus would thus return when there are no signs that give us cause to worry. Of course logically, this also means that safe, happy times are when we should expect Jesus to bring about the end of the world. But of course since we now have some people expecting Jesus when there are earthquakes and some when there aren't, Jesus, if he was telling the truth, must wait until not one person on the planet expects him to return. So if the prophesy of Jesus was real, Jesus will only return when there is not a single Christian left on the planet, and no one expects him to pop in. So we are all quite safe, since we have a long, long time to wait before Christianity finally dies out. Certainly not in the near future.

A Biblical prophesy we hadn't noticed before from Jesus was that after he claimed that the end of the world would happen before all his disciples had passed away, he also said this: 'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away' [MT 24:35]. He says that not just Earth, but also Heaven won't last forever. We thought Heaven was for all eternity? Do Christians realise that even if they survive the end of the world, they still aren't safe, they will have to go through it all again when the end of heaven arrives? And there is no suggestion that there is an afterlife after heaven.

As for the claim that their religious magazines will 'give you peace of mind to understand the events we are witnessing today and to see the hope-filled prophecies of a better world tomorrow', these deluded morons really don't understand what's important in life. After reading these Bible passages, can we imagine an earthquake survivor saying, 'Well, my family and friends are dead, my house and community have been destroyed, it's freezing out, I'm living in a tent and defecating into a bucket, and my future looks bleak, but at least I have the peace of mind that I understand the cause of these events. The loving god that I worship brought this terror and hardship to my door. Thank you God. I love you now more than ever'. The problem is that true believers don't really care what's important to us in this life, they are only concerned with the next life. No matter what horrors are visited upon us, they tell us we must have deserved it, and they dull the physical and emotional pain by fanaticising about how wonderful the next life will be, and to reach it, they only have to die. Then they will finally be in the loving embrace of the god that slaughtered their family and friends. And they can sing his praises for all eternity. Just don't ask him what happened to your family and friends, why they had to die horrible deaths, and why they need to be tortured for eternity, or you might find yourself joining them.

Also, why do these religious groups feel the need to put expensive ads in the media? We mean, why doesn't God himself advertise the pros and cons of believing in him? It's evidently of the utmost importance to him. Why is it left to his followers, none of whom have ever even met their god, or even got a phone call or email requesting that they undertake a promotional campaign on his behalf? Surely an all-powerful god could produce a miraculous advert that would have innumerable converts flocking to him in an instant? Why does god leave his promotion in the hands of these morons who produce ineffectual adverts that create far more giggles than believers? Let's remember that the majority of the world doesn't believe that this god even exists, so god's promoters are doing a pathetic job, and they've been at it for 2,000 years. Why are they telling us what he thinks, and not god himself? Why is god hiding? Is he dead perhaps? Or — horror of horrors — perhaps he has never existed? Why has no one ever seen him? Why do we have to accept the word of his followers, who admit they haven't seen him either? Would you vote for a candidate for prime minister or president whom you had never seen or heard from, and no one else had either? Would you buy a car that you had never seen, and even after you've paid for it you're told that you still won't be able to see or feel it? We hope you wouldn't, so why do people commit themselves to an invisible god that will remain invisible even if they commit every fibre of their being to him? Why are they willing to believe in an all-powerful and all-knowing — and invisible — god that can rain down destruction on random cities worldwide but he can't figure out how to put an advert in the local paper or negotiate a 30 second TV slot explaining why he had to do it? Why won't their god help them in his own promotion? Unless... he doesn't exist, he's never existed, and they're simply promoting a fantasy from our superstitious and primitive past?

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Jul, 2011 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Bob, 13 Jul, 2011

    Hi John, if you haven't read up on Herbert W. Armstrong you might be interested to know a little about him. He started a ministry called the Worldwide Church of God in the 1930s. About 30 years ago an unsolicited free magazine 'The Plain Truth' appeared in my letter box. It was a general rundown on world news with a bit of religion with a theme of what is behind world events with reference to the bible. I subscribed to it. One of the subjects claimed America and American power were foretold in the bible. He died in 1986 and that was the end of the magazine. Armstrong used to report discussions between himself and world leaders such as discussing the Middle East with Egyptian leaders. Whoever took over the Worldwide Church after his death wasn't too impressed with Armstrong's interpretation of the bible or current world events and the claims were toned down. A later commentator said Armstrong wasn't talking to world leaders to the extent he claimed. He managed to insinuate himself onto political junkets overseas and often supposed talks with leaders were nothing more than a polite handshake by a leader with every member of the group with an appropriate picture. In his late 70s he married a woman half his age. He was divorced 5 years later. A book written about him claimed he had an incestuous relationship with one of his two daughters, a claim he didn't deny but tried to stop the book being published. He didn't sue for defamation.

    It appears in America at least anyone with plenty of money, a big ego and a religious agenda can pay to push their ideas and sound much more influential than they are. Armstrong appeared to have been nothing more than a disgusting dishonest old man.

    It's very easy to take events such as earthquakes and other natural disasters and draw erroneous conclusions from them usually because other facts and reasonable conclusions are ignored. I think most creationists are ignorant people who look for simple answers. 40 years ago I worked with a creationist who belonged to the local Assembly of God. For some reason he used to come up to me and want to argue religion. One day he flourished a little book at me which gave a list of the number of earthquakes increasing over several centuries obviously leading to the end of the world. I asked him how many earthquakes occurred in New Zealand in the 17th century. He didn't know because no one was recording them. I can't understand how groups of these people can't see simple facts like that for themselves.

    Just a couple of days ago I watched a YouTube video on the Patrick Henry college in Virginia. It is the equivalent of a high school mainly taking in pupils who have been home schooled for the early years. Most home schoolers in America are fundamentalist Christians tutored by their parents to keep their fundamentalism untainted. The aim of the college is to teach all subjects with reference to God and Jesus. I was amazed at some of the video of classes. For instance in mathematics class pupils were told mathematics is a tool given them by God. In another assembly the pupils were told the earth is not millions of years old but just 6000 years. The topography of countries was not laid down over long periods but created instantly by the flood. A few years ago I was reading the web page of Answers in Genesis, an Australian based creationist movement, saying the same thing. I emailed them and asked if that was true how come a giant wave raced across New Zealand and Australia leaving vastly different landscapes. The answer came back — flood dynamics. So I emailed again and asked how did flood dynamics create different landforms. I got no answer that time.

    The difference between science and religious fundamentalism is that science works through evidence and arrives at a conclusion. Religion has a conclusion and works the evidence to fit. According to one ex creationist and intelligent designer, fundamentalists are not so much concerned about the science of evolution as the implications of the theory. It takes God out of the picture as the primary cause and leaves morals as a product of blind genes. The last thing they want is to know we are on our own.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Jul, 2011

    Hi Bob. Thanks very much for the info on Armstrong. The name Armstrong sounded familiar, probably because I've read a few Plain Truth magazines years ago, but apart from that I didn't know anything about him. It's amazing how the private lives of many high profile Christians doesn't match their public performances, of how they can't live up to their own sermons.

    Like you we can't understand how people can look at natural disasters and these bogus claims about earthquakes increasing and blindly think, well the world must be ending. It's seems to be just a failure to think about science and history, and to just accept whatever someone suggests. If they can't remember massive earthquakes happening in their lifetime, then something unusual must be going on.

    And yes, those being home schooled by religious parents and/or attending creationist schools haven't really got a chance, they're continually brainwashed throughout their school years. And you're right that 'fundamentalists are not so much concerned about the science of evolution as the implications of the theory. It takes God out of the picture'. That's why you don't generally hear fundamentalists condemning chemistry or mathematics or even biology, since they can't see a threat to god's existence with these. They're nearly always seen attacking evolution. Of course if you debate them, one finds that they do indeed have problems with physics (eg radiometric dating), cosmology (eg the Big Bang), palaeontology (eg the age of the earth), genetics (eg genetic crossover between humans and chimps), archaeology (eg ancient man that the Bible knew nothing of), geology (eg plate tectonics) etc etc., since science seems to be able to posit a world that doesn't need their god. As you say, they don't fear science per se, they merely fear anything that throws doubt on their god's existence. That can be evolution, public schools, secular governments, and even you and I Bob.

  3. Comment by Chris, 13 Jul, 2011

    Gosh, the name Armstrong brought back memories. But not Herbert W, Garner Ted. Herbert's offspring. For years we had 'The Plain Truth' lying around, probably due to the influence of my grandfather who was a Baptist/Methodist/Congregational/Presbyterian lay preacher when he was younger. Since it was full of stuff about End Times and lost tribes of Israel it just helped reinforce my scepticism. Wikipedia has a good page on Garner Ted Armstrong, the family had quite an entertaining history, though not that unusual for televangelists. At one point Herbert W excommunicated Garner Ted. Obviously he** must have had some redeeming features.
    (**Which he? — I ain't saying :)

    By the way, this discussion brought to mind an excellent satirical movie by the Coen Brothers, Pass the Ammo, in which some Arkansas backwoods boys (and one woman) try to rob a corrupt televangelist whose televised pleas for giving caused their aunt to leave all her money to him. The televangelist was played by Tim Curry who was perfectly cast and fully as outrageously over-the-top as you would expect. Well worth a watch if you can track it down.

    You said (about creationists): "they don't fear science per se, they merely fear anything that throws doubt on their god's existence." Or as Dawkins said, "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." That was in 'The Blind Watchmaker' and Dawkins was absolutely correct — in fact it was that very book (which explains convincingly how mindless evolutionary processes can produce apparent design) that filled in the last gap in my worldview. The fact that Dawkins is such a readable writer didn't hurt either. Of course science and evolution can't disprove God, it has absolutely nothing to say about God — it just neutralises the Argument from Design.

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Jul, 2011

    Hi Chris. We hadn't heard of that Coen Brothers movie, which is typical. It's annoying that our TV channels and movie theatres pretend that movies like The Sound of Music, Transformers, Toy Story and Rambo are pretty much all that there are out there. And yes, Dawkins' 'The Blind Watchmaker' is an excellent book.

    You're right that science can't disprove god, but we'd like to comment on whether science 'has absolutely nothing to say about God'. Again you're right that science and evolution normally ignores talk of gods, they simply offer explanations for the universe and life that makes talk of gods unnecessary. However science can say a great deal about gods if asked. If gods exist as the popular religions claim, then there should be a great deal of evidence for this existence. Just as science can comment on whether there is evidence for ghosts, dinosaurs, aliens or ESP, then they can offer comments on whether gods exist or are plausible. Science can't categorically prove King Kong or Santa Claus don't exist, but they can explain why they are so unlikely that any rational person would acknowledge that they don't exist. A book we would recommend is 'God: The Failed Hypotheisis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist', by Victor J Stenger.

  5. Comment by Mikaere, 14 Jul, 2011

    Hi John, whilst not disputing the content of Bob's contribution, I need to disagree with his assertion that most (US) homeschoolers are fundamentalist Christians. Agreed, there are those who wish to keep their children away from secular society and instil a religious doctrine but there are many other parents who choose to avoid the school systems for a variety of reasons. Many homeschoolers are atheists.

    I was a teacher in the state school system for many years and can confirm that most children were exposed to regular religious instruction. This often was taught by lay people belonging to all sorts of denominations, who presented the children with the most incredible material. Most teachers and parents thought it couldn't do any harm. That sort of attitude helped me decide to homeschool my children.

  6. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Jul, 2011

    Interesting comments Mikaere. We've never actually met any homeschoolers, either here or in the US, but we know you're correct, not all are religious fundamentalists. I guess outspoken fundamentalists and the media have created the stereotype that home schooling exists primarily to shield kids from evolution. And yes, we've noticed that being in a state school, especially in the US, is no guarantee that kids won't be exposed to religious beliefs. As you say, many teachers and parents, even if not overly religious, believe it won't do any harm, especially when it comes to morals. I also know of biology teachers here in NZ that don't teach evolution, even though they believe in it, just so they won't offend kids who are religious.

Next item: street lighting. Let us pray.
Pray It's the 21st century, we've flown above the clouds and found no angels, we've arrested an embarrassing number of god's representatives on earth for buggering little boys, we've discovered the cause of disease and lightning and how to create antimatter and photograph atoms, and yet, surprisingly, we're still praying to sky fairies at council meetings. Well, not all of us are. Someone has had the audacity to refuse to pray to these imaginary beings, and that has caused another problem for Wanganui. We've already commented before on other councillors and politicians and their silly prayers, here and here, but it seems they are in no hurry to truly have a separation between church and state.

Wanganui's fly-in-the-ointment is first-term Wanganui District Councillor Clive Solomon, who said he was astounded to discover that councillors had to recite a prayer at the beginning of each full council meeting. Clive's stance is that secular organisations such as local government should be free of religious coercion, and we fully agree. But is the reading of a prayer religious coercion within a secular organisation? Of course it is. A prayer by definition is an appeal to a god or object of worship, so it is without doubt religious in nature, and coercion is when one is forced to act or think in a certain way. Since councillors have no choice, since they must participate in the prayer (or leave the meeting), then their actions and thoughts are being manipulated. Councillors, regardless of their religious beliefs, are forced to participate in religious ritual. But apart from the name, is the prayer really referring to a god, some sort of supernatural being similar to what our cave dwelling ancestors used to believe in? Well, here it is:

Eternal God, source of all wisdom. As we reflect upon all those good things that we enjoy in this city and district, help us to make and keep our community a good place to be for all who live and work here.
Grant that through our deliberations and decisions we will provide wise and positive leadership, seeking to solve problems effectively and justly, so that with courage and compassion, vision and energy, we may instil in our community aroha and harmony.
Amen.
So yes, it clearly is a prayer to a god. The first sentence says it all, describing a timeless and all-knowing god. It then goes on to plead that this god helps us and that it grants or consents to our requests. It then ends with that age-old religious ending of 'Amen', meaning that the preceding statement is true, ie god is real and he really will help us.

A complaint has been made to the Human Rights Commission over whether this prayer is appropriate at council meetings. On July 5th the HRC will meet with the complainant and interested councillors to see whether a resolution can be reached, and if not, it may go on to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. Following the outcome it appears that the council will debate the suitability of the prayer. That said, it appears that the majority of councillors have no problems with the prayer.

We shouldn't have to but I guess we must add that there is no good reason to suggest that prayer actually works, or has ever worked. Innumerable civilisations and religions have come and gone, all have seen good fortune and misfortune, and the prayers of millions have helped none of them. And the same situation applies today, the occasional example of prayers apparently answered is swamped by a multitude of prayers ignored. Even to the most dim witted it should be obvious that praying is ineffective, and what scientific studies there have been back this conclusion. But even if it did work for a specific religion, say Christians did occasionally get their prayers answered, why would they think that forcing Muslims, Hindus, heathens, heretics and atheists to also pray would improve the outcome? Do they really believe that their god wouldn't realise that all these extra voices weren't believing Christians, that they have simply been coerced into professing belief? Is their god that stupid or desperate? Our point is, even if prayer did work, it would only work for adherents of that particular religion, and thus others shouldn't be compelled to participate.

There appears to be two main reasons that people give for the retention of the prayer. One, that we truly need god's help, and two, that it's tradition. The councillor whose wife wrote the prayer, Alan Anderson, said 'It was intended to say to the people of this city that... [councillors] don't have the wisdom to deal with certain issues'. Due to ignorance on certain issues, Anderson believes they need to ask for their god's help. Surely if you believe this then you must consult with god on even the most minor issue, since on what issue would god not have more wisdom than mere councillors? So who is running Wanganui, elected councillors or god? Do these councillors profess their ignorance and reveal their relationship with god when they campaign for election to council? Why don't we forget about the councillors, save ourselves money, and just vote god mayor of our cities if all the big, complicated decisions are coming from him?

As for tradition, the strange thing is that the prayer in its present form only exists because the Wanganui District Council actually refused to heed tradition. You see traditionally the council used to recite the Lord's Prayer, the principal Christian prayer that Jesus taught his disciples (or so the myth goes). But then in recent times they decided to forgo tradition and replace it with a prayer of a more vague, wish washy nature. Yet arguing for tradition, councillor Anderson says that regarding the present prayer, 'modifying it would fly in the face of Whanganui's Christian founders'. And yet surprisingly Anderson and the council had no qualms with deleting the Lord's Prayer entirely and seemingly weren't worried at what Wanganui's Christian founders might say.

But if it is simply tradition, that no one actually believes that the prayer really works or that a god would be offended if it was scrapped, then the question becomes: Should a tradition remain that is not only ineffectual and time wasting, but actually offends some of those forced to observe it? The rational answer would be no, it is not fair nor just that some people should be offended in suffering an ancient ritual that everyone agrees has no real worth in modern society. Tradition is a demonstrably bad argument for maintaining a belief or ritual.

For those that argue for the retention of traditions, albeit important traditions, from their Christian past, then they must also acknowledge that women remaining silent and obedient at home while their husband worked was also a long accepted tradition. Let's remember that it was good Christian tradition to burn witches at the stake, to own foreigners as slaves, to persecute Jews and homosexuals and to ban anyone who was not a Christian from entering university. It was traditional to refuse women the vote, to refuse them entry to university, even if they were Christian, and to refuse them the right to own property. It was traditional to execute those who questioned the Christian Trinity. Do these people mourn those lost traditions, do they still follow those traditions where they can? Or do they accept that it was high time that women, Jews, homosexuals and foreigners were treated as equals and accorded the same rights as Christian men?

Ignoring tradition, Wanganui now have a prayer that, given some low wattage thinking, might almost be swapped between several religions. Now perhaps a Christian, Jew or Muslim might think it refers to his or her god, although Hindus with their many gods and Buddhists with none will still feel left out. It obviously refers to a personal god that cares about us, so it is clearly a Christian prayer that might also be lent out to Muslims and Jews if need be.

But also blatantly obvious, the one group that most definitely can not perform mental gymnastics to have that statement apply to their worldview is atheists. Other supernatural believers like Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Satanists, New Age etc may be able to twist that prayer to their beliefs and embrace it, but not atheists. To atheists this is the equivalent of a Christian being compelled to proclaim 'There is no god, Amen'. And it should be noted that there is no occasion public or private where a Christian is ever required to make this affirmation. There is no ceremony, no workplace, no organisation, no club, no initiation, no situation at all where a Christian is expected to make a statement or perform an action where he or she apparently takes a stance that is totally contrary to their true beliefs. And if there were such an occasion, where Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus or anyone of a religious persuasion were required to deny belief in their gods, be it to get a government job or to register to vote, then there would be a public outcry, and rightly so. In a free society no one should be expected to deny their deeply held beliefs in order to join a council and discuss sewage or rates. Even if they were told, 'You don't have to really be an atheist, you just have to say the words and go through the motions', the religious would still consider this unacceptable. And again, rightly so.

So why when this situation is reversed, do the religious consider it perfectly appropriate that atheists and others are forced to say the words and go through the motions to apparently agree with a belief system that contradicts everything they believe in? How is that fair and just? Is it that Christians don't believe atheists deserve equal treatment? Why, in council meetings, and the opening of parliament, must we submit to a type of treatment that they themselves would never accept? Is this refusal by Christians to read their prayer in private before the meeting begins, arrogance or ignorance?

Is it ethically right for a religious person to force non-believers in their faith to participate in their religious rituals? No devout Christian, Muslim, Jew etc would willingly and knowingly offer prayers to what they view as false gods, and indeed throughout history many have gone to their deaths rather than make supplications to other gods. Yet historically Christians (eg the inquisitions) and Muslims (eg wars of conquest) are infamous for forcing others to convert to their faith or suffer the consequences, whereas the ancient Hebrews didn't even bother with conversion, they just slaughtered outsiders (eg the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites). They were all intimately familiar with the horror of being forced to submit to a false belief, and yet none had a problem of enforcing submission when they were the dominant religion. And now with councils and parliament, the dominant religions again see no problem with compelling non-believers to join in their religious rituals. And as to how some respond to those that question their dominance, such as Clive Solomon, it never fails to amaze us that a religion that preaches love, compassion and tolerance and that asks us to love our enemies and to turn the other check, often replies with hate mail and intolerance.

Many Christians really need to develop their empathy skills. To understand how non-believers might feel when they are compelled to recite a prayer to god, Christians need to imagine how they would feel if they were placed in the reverse position. Imagine if at the start of council meetings they were compelled to recite a statement that went something along the lines of this: 'There are no gods, so we humans pledge to work together to make this world a better place. We promise to help one another since there are no gods coming to our rescue. We will endeavour to make wise decisions based on reason and not the silly whims of the imaginary gods of our ancestors. We believe this statement to be true to the best of our knowledge'. Would any religious person be prepared to repeatedly read this statement at their workplace? Of course not. And this is the opposite position. A prayer is an affirmation that god exists, that he cares about you, and that you can communicate with him. The opposite is an affirmation that gods don't exist, and that it is therefore futile to expect help from them. But this opposite affirmation is also most definitely not what is recited at any council meeting in NZ. And nor should it be.

So to be fair to all, what is needed is a neutral position that promotes neither the beliefs of the religious nor the atheist. And in reality we already have that neutral position, a position that gives no party undue influence over others. It's called secularism, the idea that religious views should be excluded from civil affairs. However we believe that many Christians confuse secularism with atheism, intimating that if god isn't mentioned then that is little different to proclaiming that god doesn't exist from the rooftops. But as we've explained, denying the existence of gods is hugely different from simply not discussing gods at all.

Thus central and local government departments are secular, they are concerned with the economy, taxes and rates, education, health, roads and rubbish disposal etc, and they are not concerned with religion. But most importantly, they are supposedly concerned with not giving one religious belief undue influence over their decisions. We expect them to operate in a sphere where no religious belief — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Maori or whatever — gets a special seat. There's a place for god and angels and demons, but that place isn't at a debate over recycling. If you want to see naked women, go to a strip club, if you want to express your submission to your god, go to a church.

We think it comes down to the question of why do certain people really want the prayer? We believe the honest answer is that they believe their god demands it. And that naturally their beliefs, being true, override all others, but this honest answer is not the one that most people will offer. Afraid to reveal their true thoughts, afraid to wholeheartedly support a superstition, most will fall back on the answer that it's 'tradition'. But we've already shown that tradition is an empty argument. Traditionally we lived in caves.

The retention of the prayer can only be defended on the grounds that one believes a jealous god demands it. That one truly believes prayer really works, that the council will benefit greatly from offering it, and that it could suffer by not offering it and acknowledging the part their god plays in human affairs. This is the only defence that makes sense, but of course it demands non-believers place control in the hands of the devout. This defence makes the argument that their religious beliefs are true and therefore they must necessarily reject and condemn other beliefs, demanding that their beliefs, and their beliefs alone, must guide council business. This of course completely destroys the legal right, not to mention the ethical right, of all New Zealander's to 'freedom of religion or belief'. The demand that a prayer must be uttered prior to meetings of national and local politics removes the freedom of thought to everyone but the group who utters the prayer. While historically this arrogance of the religious majority is nothing new, in a 21st century secular society that is trying to treat multiple beliefs equally and fairly, allowing one religion out of many to influence civic affairs is anything but just.

With news of the prayer problem spreading, the 'Prayer Action Group' has been formed to convince the council to retain the prayer. It is reported that 'Mr Parnell, a Christian, said he was motivated to start the action group "not by religion but by tradition".' If we take Mr Parnell by his word, then it appears that his motivation is solely to keep his family history connected to the district council through its coat of arms. Since the coat of arms mentions the word God (in French), Parnell is fearful that getting rid of the prayer will possibly motivate councillors to get rid of the coat of arms as well, no doubt, reminiscent of Christians in days gone by on a book burning rampage. If this is the case then Mr Parnell evidently cares nothing about the prayer or the wishes of the people in Wanganui, he merely wants his family connection retained for posterity, for all to see. And as we've already noted, tradition was already destroyed when the Lord's Prayer was removed from council meetings and replaced with a vague, watered down prayer. Why isn't Mr Parnell campaigning to get the traditional prayer reinstated?

Even though it is noted that Mr Parnell is a Christian, he's evidently not a very committed one, since although he states that, 'The point is that a prayer should be said before council meetings', he also states that it doesn't have to be a Christian prayer, he'd be comfortable with 'a prayer from any other religion'. But if as Mr Parnell says, he's not motivated by religion, then why should a prayer be said at all? If you take away a prayer's religious purpose, then what's the point of saying one? And would the Christian Mr Parnell really be happy with any old prayer, and even if he were, it's not him that's going to have to recite it time after time, it's the councillors. Would the Christian Mr Parnell or a Christian councillor happily prostrate themselves towards Mecca and pray to Allah, or wave incense about and pray to Vishnu? If they would then it shows that the prayers are worthless and probably even offensive to true believers. Let's say you're religious and your council cycles through the prayers of half a dozen different religions to keep every religion happy, that means that in only one meeting in six is a prayer offered to your god, whom we'll assume is the only true god. Effectively five out of six meetings are conducted without the benefit or need of a prayer to your god, and if these meetings don't result in anarchy, then we can assume your specific prayer isn't needed. But even worse, for five out of six meetings you offer prayers to false gods, which can do nothing but anger your god and turn him against you. To us it appears that any person claiming to be religious but who is also willing to offer prayers to other, presumably false, gods, is not as religious as they claim to be. From a similar prospective, as atheists we could not and would not pretend to sincerely offer prayers to gods we claim don't exist. We are not hypocrites, but it appears many religious people are. But even if an atheist did pretend to offer prayers at a council meeting, all that happens is that his integrity takes a knock. But for a committed Christian or Muslim or other religious person, for them to offer prayers to a false god would be to jeopardise, if not this life, then certainly the next one, and they know this. So it would appear that the only people that are willing to offer vague prayers to many different gods are those that aren't all that committed to their religion at all, and for whom religion really matters little. The truly religious know that you go to a church or a mosque to speak to god, not council meetings, and if you must address god at council meetings, you pray to one god, not many.

In our view there is only one rational and sensible solution that is fair and just to all parties. Firstly, it has nothing to do with tradition, if it did Wanganui wouldn't have a female mayor. Secondly, councils are secular organisations designed to have no bias towards any religion, and to maintain this impartiality they can not open meetings with a religious ritual. And especially not a religious ritual that represents a specific religion. Offering different prayers from numerous religions on a rotation basis only serves to highlight their worthlessness. Prayers are like seatbelts, if you don't need to say a specific prayer every meeting, then you don't need to say it at all. Furthermore it is not fair to compel councillors to recite prayers that they may not agree with, effectively removing their right to freedom of religion, thought and belief. Religious compulsion in the workplace is not something a council should be proud to uphold. The fact is that people that are truly committed to either religion or atheism are not willing to utter statements that contradict their beliefs. Only those that aren't committed, that haven't thought about what they're saying, are happy to pray to multiple gods (Today is Tuesday so it must be Allah), and thus these council prayers suit only those that don't really care at all.

It's time to rid our councils of prayers and be true to both religion and secularism.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Jun, 2011 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Jul, 2011

    We've come across a Christian site where Michael Duncan, a Carey Baptist College lecturer and pastor of Manurewa Baptist, writes in support of public prayers. To us the sentiments in this article typify the arrogance of true believers that refuse to accept that they aren't in charge. Duncan states that:

    'I tend to think that it is good for non-Christians to participate in Christian practices. Those Christian practices can be a means of grace to the non-Christian. It can be a door, a window, a path that God can come to them in grace to affect their minds and hearts.'
    In other words, Duncan thinks it is good, moral even, to FORCE his personal beliefs onto others. Yet what's the difference between what he said and a homosexual stating the following: 'I tend to think that it is good for non-homosexuals to participate in homosexual practices. It can be a door, a window, a path that homosexuals can come to them to affect their minds and hearts.'

    Would Duncan support this view, or a thousand others where someone insisted that he participate in their personal beliefs? Of course he wouldn't, but when it comes to his Christian belief, the idea of what is fair and just to all vanishes, and Duncan believes non-Christians should happily get down on their knees and say, 'Let us pray'. Let's remember that this debate is not about stopping Christians praying, it is about stopping them forcing non-Christians to participate in their personal rituals. Christians can pray as much as they want before, during (quietly), and after council meetings, but why, why, why do they feel compelled to force others to join in, and not believe that this isn't playing god?

    The article also noted that 'Glyn Carpenter, national director of New Zealand Christian Network, said non-Christians get the wrong end of the stick on these issues. "They act as if we're trying to impose something for our own benefit," said Mr Carpenter.'

    We take from this that Carpenter is also admitting that Christians are IMPOSING prayers on the arrogant assumption that they will benefit non-believers. Christians assuming that they alone know what will benefit silly non-believers, and that they have the right to impose their rituals to 'improve' our lives. Carpenter claims that 'The fact is that prayer in council, like limits on Easter trading, are good for most people in society. If people pray for better government, and God answers that prayer, we all win'. But again, Christians are not being stopped from praying for better government, we simply want them to stop forcing us to pray with them. We want them to stop telling us what to do. We want to achieve better government by reason and effort, not by begging.

    Carpenter goes on to ask, 'why do they feel compelled to drive Christian prayer and symbols out of every last area of public life? That's forcing half the country to live with no religious symbolism in public...' Note how Carpenter thinks it is wrong to force Christian ritual out of the secular sphere, but not wrong to force it into the secular sphere. It is wrong in his view not to let Christianity run roughshod over everyone that isn't Christian. News flash people, it's not the Middle Ages.

    To balance the above article, here is another — Not a Christian Theocracy — that argues against prayer within councils.

  2. Comment by Clive, 11 Feb, 2012

    Bideford council prayer case prompts delight and dismay

    This is a very important decision.

    Forward we go!

  3. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Feb, 2012

    NZ, first in the world to grant women the vote, but sadly dragging the chain with regard to council prayers. We notice Clive, that the atheist councillor that brought the case on the other side of the world was also named Clive. Shades of a parallel universe? If people would only call praying by its more accurate description — begging — then perhaps it would be easier to get rid of it, or at least make Christians embarrassed to be seen doing it in public.

Jesus, the Last Supper and nails
Back in April, with Easter in the air, the world was made aware of two new controversial discoveries concerning the Christian worldview. While science is decoding the human genome and its implication to health, and landing probes on asteroids to better understand the origin of the solar system, what weighty, serious and important topics are Christians investigating? Well... you might want to sit down for this... we were told that the so-called Last Supper might have happened on a Wednesday and not a Thursday, and that two old nails found in a tomb may have been the ones used to nail up the guest of honour following that Last Supper. I know, these are extraordinary and shattering revelations, and how they will impact on the future of humanity only time will tell.

To truly understand the gravity of these discoveries, a little background is needed. The Last Supper, as you may remember from your school mythology lessons, was when Jesus of Nazareth hired out an ancient forerunner of Hooters to dine out with the senior male members of his newly formed cult. Whether there were strippers jumping out of cakes, or harlots as they were known then, was never written down. We know there was food and alcohol, so no doubt waitresses, and as often happens when males and alcohol mix, there were vague and rambling monologues that no one else understood, and there were arguments. The major argument involved a falling out between the host and one of the diners, perhaps over whether they were going to split the bill or pay individually. What ever it was about, the night went down hill from there, eventually seeing the host being arrested by the cops and the other diners fleeing into the night, busily creating false alibis. To cut a long story short, Jesus, the host of the shindig, was put on trial, found guilty of driving a donkey while intoxicated and without a licence, or something along those lines, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. They were fair but stern back in those days.

So concerning this party gone wrong and the execution of their leader, a carpenter turned preacher, what is it that modern Christians focus on? It's the crucial question of when the Last Supper was held, was it on a Wednesday or Thursday night? Well, what does their holy text say you might ask? This is the embarrassing part for Christians since the Bible says both Wednesday and Thursday, and even Christians realise that this is a problem. You see, unlike ordinary books, the Bible is supposedly without error, written or dictated as it was by a perfect god, and perfect gods don't — can't — make mistakes. But there obviously is a mistake, well there's actually many, many mistakes, but let's stick with this one for now. The New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all say that the Last Supper was on night of the Jewish Passover meal (Thursday), but the gospel of John says it was on the day before (Wednesday). At the very least only one account can be true, we suspect neither, but it can't be both Wednesday and Thursday. So one or more of the gospels must be in error, and if they got this bit wrong, what else did they get wrong? What other things did they just make up? This is what worries Christians, and rightly so. Let's remember that no one knows who wrote the gospels, only that they were written long after the event and that none of the gospel writers were actually there.

For ages now Christians have either conveniently ignored this Biblical contradiction or tried to show why it isn't actually a contradiction at all. The latest attempt is revealed in a just published book:' The Mystery of the Last Supper', written by Cambridge University physicist Professor Sir Colin Humphreys. (More details here, here, here and here) The answer it seems is that 'Prof Humphreys has now concluded that Jesus — along with Matthew, Mark and Luke — may have been using a different calendar to John'. He claims that 'Jesus went by an old-fashioned Jewish calendar rather than the official lunar calendar which was in widespread use at the time of his death', and that 'I think Jesus is really reaching out to all sorts of people when he chooses not to use this official Jewish calendar.'

Note that last claim, that Jesus 'is really reaching out to all sorts of people when he chooses not to use this official Jewish calendar.' If this is the case then Jesus failed miserably as a communicator, since until Humphreys came along no one knew that Jesus wasn't using the official Jewish calendar. There is no suggestion whatsoever in the Bible that Jesus was working to a different calendar, and if this was an important element of his ministry then surely it would have been mentioned. Remember that if true then Jesus and his cohorts would have been a day out with many religious observations and festivals and this would have created considerable problems to work around. Why did no one notice that Jesus was out of sync with society? Think of a modern day example. Do you think a group could claim that Xmas Day was a day earlier than everyone else and no one would notice? Wouldn't they complain that people were still at work and shops still open when they were eating Xmas turkey? And then on Boxing Day when they wanted to return their unwanted gifts to the Warehouse they would be annoyed to find everything shut. This is evidently what happened at the Last Supper according to Humphreys, but no one thought it was a discrepancy worth mentioning. This is clutching at straws in the extreme in our view, and demonstrates the smoke and mirrors that Christians are forced to employ to continue the myth that the stories in their holy book actually happened. Humphreys has also studied the biblical Star of Bethlehem and the numbers involved in the Exodus from Egypt. All these studies make the erroneous assumption that these things actually happened, and are as futile as studying how a serpent could talk to Eve or why the donkey in Shrek can talk.

Nails OK, onto that other dramatic discovery, that the nails used to crucify Jesus after his wild night out may have been found. Like the Last Supper, Christians are again making the assumption that the crucifixion actually happened, and indeed that Jesus even existed at all. There is no denying that the Romans crucified tens of thousands of people during the era that Jesus supposedly lived, but no evidence independent of the Bible that they crucified someone called Jesus of Nazareth. There is also little evidence as to the specifics of crucifixion, was the use of nails common, or did they just use rope? There is evidently only one plausible piece of physical evidence for crucifixion using nails, and that is an iron nail in a fossilised heel bone. We suspect iron nails would have been quite valuable in Roman times, there were no cheap hardware stores down every alley. Even if they used them to nail people to crosses, it seems reasonable that they would retrieve them and reuse them.

Recent articles (here and here), tell us that an 'Israeli television journalist has produced a pair of nails he says may have been used to crucify Jesus Christ'. To link these two nails to Jesus, we are told of the discovery of a Jewish tomb 20 years ago that contained within it a reference to someone called Caiaphas. If you've ever watched the movie 'Jesus Christ Superstar', you may remember that Caiaphas was a chief priest intimately connected to the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. The journalist Simcha Jacobovici suggests that the Caiaphas from the movie and the tomb are one and the same, and since Caiaphas was only ever involved with a single crucifixion, that of Jesus, then logically the nails must be the ones from his cross. Since of course the man that desperately wanted Jesus dead would naturally want a reminder and relic of his nemesis to take to his grave. But how do we know that Caiaphas was only involved with the crucifixion of Jesus? Thousands of Jews were crucified and he could have experienced a large number of them, even if he didn't bring them about, and of course the Bible is only going to go on about Caiaphas and Jesus, not Caiaphas and Brian or Caiaphas and Roger. Isn't it fascinating how the Christian mind builds up an argument?

There are of course many problems with this naive argument. Of the two nails found in the tomb, only one was found in an ossuary or box that contain the bones, the other was found on the floor. There were also 12 ossuaries in the tomb, and no one knows which box the nail was actually in, whether it even had any connection to Caiaphas. If these nails were so important to Caiaphas, then why was one just lying on the floor? And what happened to the third nail, the one that went through the legs? Did Caiaphas sell that one when times were tough? But it gets worse. These two nails from the tomb disappeared almost immediately after they were found. The two nails that the journalist has produced turned up at Tel Aviv University laboratory at around the same time. However, there is no evidence that these nails are the ones from the tomb. The iron nails evidently do date to the first century, and they are around eight centimetres long. Jacobovici states that 'The length of the nails and the fact they were bent at one end were both consistent with the crucifixion of hands'. Professor Israel Hershkowitz, a forensic expert from the lab that had the nails, says that the two nails 'appear long enough to have been driven through a hand'. We're not experts of course, but we are a little suspicious of these claims. Modern research has also shown that, contrary to what is stated in the Bible, nails if used would not be put through the hands. The hand is not strong enough to support the weight of the body, the nails would simply pull through, so they would go through the wrists. So this is another claim from the Bible that we know must be false, that Jesus had holes in his hands from his crucifixion. It matters not whether the nails are long enough to go through the hands if they would not have been used in this manner. Jacobovici states that it is 'consistent with the crucifixion of hands', but consistent with what evidence, surely not the Bible? Also we question the bending over of the tips of the nails. We aren't sure this would be necessary, or even possible. We doubt whether the hand would be strong enough to pull out a thick iron nail driven through the palm, and that the end had to be bent over to stop this happening. This is why we have claws on our hammers since we can't pull out nails with our hands. Also the nail would have to go through the hand and right through the wood of the cross with still enough length remaining to bend over. With an eight centimetre nail, this would require the cross to be quite thin, and definitely not the thick, heavy, solid cross bar that Christians have Jesus carry through the streets.

Of course Christians have a great history of faking and flogging holy relics to gullible believers. Did you know that there have been between 26 and 40 'authentic' burial shrouds of Jesus, not just the Shroud of Turin, or that Jesus' foreskin was once preserved in at least six churches? Have you heard the joke about the gullible Christian (that term is really redundant as they're all gullible), who was offered the skull of Jesus by a roadside hawker? He queried the hawker, how can this be the real skull of Jesus, since I was offered a slightly smaller skull in the last village that was also claimed to be the skull of Jesus? The hawker replied that he wasn't scamming him, that the two skulls can be easily explained. He said that the smaller skull you saw was of Jesus when he was a boy, this skull is of Jesus when he was an adult.

It really surprises us that Christians, or people of any religious persuasion really, spend so much time and money trying to support their fantasies and yet these are the best sort of arguments they can produce. That Jesus might have been using an unknown calendar and therefore his booze up with the boys was on a Wednesday and not Thursday, and that two old nails, hardly unusual in themselves, might have been used to show him that the Romans were serious about disorderly behaviour. Of course Christians will see these two new 'discoveries' as two more nails in the coffin of science, reason and real history, and that Jesus and his merry band of men really did exist. No wait a minute, that was that other fictional character, Robin Hood. It was Jesus and his disciples, who by all accounts weren't at all merry. Or even loyal or courageous, running for the hills when the cops turned up. It's weird that Christians want us to follow Jesus, when even those that knew him best, quickly realised that they had backed the wrong horse and that he wouldn't be climbing down off that cross. And they were right. It truly was his last supper.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Jun, 2011 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by mikey, 27 Jun, 2011

    G'day SB team, a recent letter to our local newspaper was a typical religious type defending their indefensible beliefs, and he made the following comment which i found extraordinary: "For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible". He stated this was a quote but did not cite the source. Irrespective, i find the statement incredibly offensive. First, why would someone believe in the absence of any proof? Secondly, as an atheist i have never said that i will not believe anything under any circumstances, just that no evidence that would give me reason to believe has yet been offered. To say that my position is that no proof is possible is daft. Stump up the evidence and i'll fall right into line as a "believer", but i'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.
    The letter was well structured and articulate, indicating a level of basic intelligence and education (not always the same thing, i know), but still this blind belief in the absence of ANY compelling evidence. I just don't get it.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Jun, 2011

    Yes Mikey, we've heard that stupid quote as well. It appears to be the delusional frame of mind that you must retreat into, in an attempt to fool yourself that you alone know the truth, and that everyone else is in denial. As you say, why would someone believe fervently about something with no proof whatsoever? But then that is the nature of faith, and it's the only thing that keeps religion afloat. The second half of the statement is just a rewording of the insult that skeptics and atheists are closed minded and dogmatic, when it is in fact a description of the religious. Only if you believe without proof, and often in spite of contrary evidence, does this statement make sense. Only the truly religious can claim that nothing, ie no proof, will convince them that their god doesn't exist, since faith ignores proof.

    Like you we can't comprehend how apparently intelligent and educated people can have such confidence in a belief for which they not only have no evidence, they believe that this lack of evidence somehow strengthens their belief. They're probably the sort that still hang out a stocking at Christmas, just in case.

  3. Comment by mikey, 01 Jul, 2011

    Hi John, if you've not seen it, the song "Thank you god" by Aussie comedic singer/songwriter Tim Minchin is BRILLIANT. Seems it not on youtube, but you can see the full lyrics at the following link:

    http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=14661

    He sets up the song by recounting a discussion he had with some punters after a show. One of them, Sam, tells Tim how his atheistic views are wrong and he'll given him the evidence to support his claim. His "evidence" is no more than an anecdote in which he says that his Mum had debilitating cataracts and that when she went to their local happy-clapper palace the congregation agreed to pray for her. A week later she was miraculously cured.

    Here's a little taste, from towards the end of the song.

    Now I understand how prayer can work: a particular prayer in a particular church in a particular style with a particular stuff and a particular book for particular problems that aren’t particularly tough, and for particular people, preferably white, for particular senses, preferably sight — a particular prayer in a particular spot, to a particular version of a particular god.
    It's a top-shelf performance.
  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Jul, 2011

    Thanks for the link Mikey. You're right it's very good, and highlights just how little religious people think about what their god is doing, or not doing.

God & the 'Nature Discoveries' stores
Nature Discoveries If you live in NZ, have you ever had the opportunity to visit a store called 'Nature Discoveries'? We have several times, in Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill. They're aimed mainly at kids and are full of crystals, rocks, fossils, telescopes, microscopes, numerous animals both plastic and furry, kit set models of the solar system and human body etc, science experiments, books on animals and the environment etc, in short a treasure trove of items displaying and investigating the natural world. But there is an evil presence lurking in these stores, as Brian recently discovered:
Hi there! I write as a Scottish skeptic who was recently on holiday in your rather wonderful country. I was enjoying almost everything about your country until I happened across a little shop in the Queensgate shopping centre in Lower Hutt called 'Nature Discoveries'. As far as I can tell this seems to be a young earth creationist propaganda shop masquerading as a science shop. They have all sorts of cool sciencey things, but along side them loads of creationist literature, DVDs etc. I guess they are doing this to try and get people to subconsciously associate creationism with science, a rather cynical ploy given that it is anti-science. Anyway, was just wondering whether you NZ skeptics know of this place, and whether you think there is anything that can be done about it??

cheers, brian (Aberdeen Skeptics in the Pub)

So yes Brian, we are aware of them and their hidden agenda. And thanks for visiting from the other side of the globe, sorry that we have tarnished our image with this nonsense. We assume that probably quite a few skeptics/atheists are aware of the creationist element of 'Nature Discoveries' stores, and your take on them matches ours. However that said, we've never heard anyone mention their god stance, either pro or con, so maybe most people just don't notice. We haven't been in them all, but they seem to vary as to how blatant their display of creationist material is. I first struck them in Christchurch and was dumbfounded that a store decked out to apparently promote science had a small section of books at the back pushing creationism. It is a franchise and initially we thought that individual owners could perhaps sell an 'alternative view' if they wished, as the store in Invercargill had no creationist material on display. But it may be the only one. However this article at 'Answers in Genesis' clearly states that the stores were created to bring 'the wonders of God's role in creation to the shopping malls of New Zealand'. As it says, 'primarily Nature Discoveries is in the marketplace to let people know God created this awesome universe, and ourselves, just as the Bible states'. The Invercargill store has recently gone out of business so perhaps that was God's retribution for not toeing the line. We agree that they obviously want people to believe science and creationism are compatible, and that impressionable children can be comfortable believing in both. Although not that evil evolution though, but then that's not real science anyway. The above article states that the stores do 'not stock any material supporting the theory of evolution'. We've even read that where some stocked items had some reference to evolution, that text has been blacked out.

It is of course very devious and underhanded to pretend to support science and promote astronomy and geology and biology to children while not believing a word of it. It's like a pedophile tempting a small child into his car with a sweet, and once they have the child enjoying their lollipop, or marvelling over a telescope, they whip out their books on god. It is pleasing in one sense that creationists know that they can't be honest and upfront even with children, that they must be deceptive and pander towards the public's acceptance of science, and vainly hope that they can sneak in some creationist nonsense before they close the sale. We would be surprised if most people that visit these stores even notice the creationist material, and the few that do hopefully, like you, dismiss it immediately, or are already dyed in the wool creationists and a lost cause. But when the store ever comes up in conversation we certainly point out its hidden god agenda and ask why good Christians are so unethical, two-faced and sneaky, that they feel they must clothe themselves in the garb of their enemy in an attempt to poison the minds of children. At least churches are upfront in what they're really trying to sell you.

So again, it is pleasing that these Creationists feel they must hide behind the skirts of science to tempt children, another clear sign that they know that openly promoting the nonsense of creationism would never succeed in this age of knowledge. It would be better if they weren't lurking in our malls at all, but again, like pedophiles, they know they can't reveal their true intentions and so this really does limit their impact.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Jun, 2011 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Phill, 14 Jun, 2011

    Hi John — Yeah I noticed the creationist literature at Queensgate Nature Discoveries as well, I assumed it was just an aberration. However, if they are trying to get to the kids it ain't working. Nature Discoveries is a favourite family store for us because there is so little science out there and we like to encourage scientific interest in our children, who happily go off to look at the glowing creatures in the cave, and the things you can make, and the other interesting things in the store.

    So far at no point have either of my two looked at the stand with the creationist magazines and books on it let alone gone over to pick one up and skip through it. So if Nature Discoveries are hoping to lure the unwary and the innocent into unquestioning belief in the supernatural I have some bad news for them.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Jun, 2011

    Yes, that's our impression as well Phill. They may fool themselves into thinking that simply having the Creationist material for sale is getting their message across, but kids aren't interested. They're attracted by the real science items that make up the bulk of the items on display. It's weird that Creationists are actually doing more to promote science than any other store.

Worthless celebrity endorsements
Recently we've read that 'Celebrities who make misleading endorsements of finance companies will face hefty fines under laws being drafted by the Government'. Evidently they 'will be liable for a penalty of up to $1 million, plus compensation orders. Companies would face fines of up to $5 million, as well as compensation'.

As examples of celebrities used to endorse finance companies they gave ex-TV newsreader Richard Long and ex-All Black Colin Meads who promoted Hanover Finance and Provincial Finance respectively. Both companies failed owing hundreds of millions of dollars to investors. It wasn't revealed if either Long or Meads actually invested in the companies they helped sell and got their own fingers burnt.

Hopefully when they say that this rewrite of securities law will target 'anyone making misleading comments in a disclosure statement or advertisement for a financial product', it means 'anyone' and not just celebrities. The need for these changes suggests that at present it's perfectly legal to make misleading statements in your promotions, and makes us wonder who writes some of our laws, highly trained lawyers or kindergarten children? Wouldn't you think that it would already be illegal to mislead potential clients in whatever business you operate, not just finance? Perhaps it is already illegal to mislead, but the fine or punishment is so ridiculously minor that companies and individuals ignore it?

Long Long has now said that he wouldn't have made his endorsement if such large fines existed back then. It's said that neither Long or Meads 'knowingly made misleading statements', but Long has now said that 'it was "a bit unfair" to hold celebrities responsible, as it was unlikely they would ever have known how sound the firm they were backing was'. Yet both Long and Meads did claim to know 'how sound the firm they were backing was'. Long claimed that Hanover had 'the size and strength to withstand any conditions', and Meads claimed Provincial was "solid as". If Long and Meads didn't know the true financial standing of the companies they were being paid to promote, then making these statements was misleading, since many potential clients would, and did, assume that these statements were factual, not just wishful thinking on the part of Long and Meads. If they didn't know the truthfulness of the statements they were making, then they shouldn't have made them. The dirty fact is that they didn't make those endorsements because they truly understood the reality behind those companies and wanted to spread the good news. They endorsed them because they were paid to. They were bribed. Like prostitutes, they did it for the money.

While we support stiffer penalties for celebrities making misleading endorsements, we wonder if it will make any difference. If it's true that experts believe that neither Long or Meads 'knowingly made misleading statements',then what have we to gain? As long as the celebrity isn't made aware that he is misleading clients, then he can't be prosecuted. But we thought ignorance of the law wasn't an excuse? A lawyer, obviously thinking how to get around the new laws, asked how you can even define who's a celebrity and who isn't? A reporter answered that it's some well-known person that the public trusts. But it's obvious that there are many well-known people out there — celebrities — that most of the public don't trust. For example astrologer Ken Ring, medium Kelvin Cruickshank, Bishop Brian Tamaki and numerous politicians.

Celebrity shouldn't come into it, if you make misleading endorsements to promote a product or service then you should be prosecuted. We don't care whether we know who you are, whether we liked you in the sports arena or that old TV show, if you're lying to us for your thirty pieces of silver then you should be exposed and punished.

Why do some of us get sucked into celebrity endorsements? Why do we trust the advice of someone we have probably never met? Why do we trust someone whom we know, if we think about it for just a second, has no expertise whatsoever in the particular product they are endorsing? Of course we generally trust scientists, doctors, judges and other experts whom we've never met, but only when they are discussing their area of expertise. In general people only trust people that they know well, family, friends, associates etc. We don't trust those we don't know, simply because we don't know enough about them to know whether they are trustworthy. It's the same with gossip evidently, we only gossip about people we know. The problem with modern media is that we are fooled into thinking we do know celebrities. We often see them everyday on TV, we read about them in magazines, we're told if they are ill or pregnant or on holiday. We're told what their favourite food is, favourite movies and what their child's name means. Some we've seen naked, and we know their face and voice as well as we know our closest friends. Some we get Twitter tweets from, just like our real friends, and thus we are fooled into thinking that we truly know this person, this celebrity, and we like them. And we feel we can trust them. We gossip about them because we don't see them as strangers, we feel we know them as well as our friends and associates, whom we also gossip about.

The weird thing is that many of these celebrities are actors, or at least are trained in public relations, in how to present a positive media image. Actors, believe it or not, act, and not just in their movies. They generally say what they believe their fans want them to say. It always amazes us when family or friends say they saw a particular actor or celebrity being interviewed on Oprah or some other silly show and they say they appeared to be really nice and genuine. They're just acting moron! It's what they do. Just as they can appear as 'real' scientists, lawyers, cops, serial killers or zombies in their movies, they can also act the part of a real nice person in real life. Only rarely do we get to see the true personality and beliefs of celebrities, such as Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic outbursts when drunk or Charlie Sheen's or Lindsay Lohan's behaviour when on drugs and/or alcohol. A person trained to present a convincing false persona is the last person that we should automatically trust.

And think about it, what celebrity endorsement on TV or radio can you recall that wasn't scripted by the company being promoted? Every word of a celebrity's endorsement has been written for them, they are simply acting (sometimes badly), merely playing a role.

And when we talk about celebrity endorsements, unlike the government, we don't think that their fines should only specify misleading endorsements of finance companies. Any misleading endorsement to promote any product or service should be illegal. No matter the company, no matter your celebrity status or lack thereof, if your face and/or reputation in some unrelated field is being used to promote a product, then you should be subject to scrutiny and potential prosecution.

KiwiBank Let us give you some recent examples that spring to mind. In TV adverts Richie McCaw has endorsed MasterCard on behalf of Westpac. Is he used because he has a degree in finance or simply because he is the captain of the All Blacks? How does rugby make one an expert in banking? Actor Sam Neill endorses KiwiBank in numerous ads. Again, how does playing a palaeontologist being chased by dinosaurs in the movies make one an expert in banking? Ex-squash player Susan Devoy and ex-netballer Bernice Mene both endorse Centrum Vitamins supplements, and cyclist Sarah Ulmer and ex-rugby player Jonah Lomah have both endorsed McDonald's range of food. How does their success in the sports world make them experts on nutrition? Ex-All Black Colin Meads, he of Provincial Finance fame, also makes money endorsing Bob Charles Deer Velvet. On TV adverts he swore deer velvet had improved his stiff joints — and his wife's sense of humour. Yet strangely at the same time Meads was raving about the health giving powers of deer velvet, he appears on the TV news saying that he's selling the farm and moving into town because of failing health. Stephen Fleming, ex-cricketer and captain of the NZ Black Caps is forever on our screens endorsing Fujitsu heat pumps, and also Rexona antiperspirant at one stage. All Black Dan Carter is now also pushing Daikan heat pumps, not to mention underwear, and ex-rugby player and TV personality Marc Ellis is forever pestering us to buy the HRV Home Ventilation System. Again, how does chasing a ball around a paddock give you the expertise to endorse home heating systems? Marc EllisAnother ad tells us that Rexona is the official antiperspirant of the All Blacks. Can you imagine what the odds would be that every single All Black used and recommended Rexona before they were paid to? Is it at all likely that Rexona merely discovered that all the All Blacks used their product and asked if they could advertise that fact? Not likely at all, their endorsement has been bought. Weet-Bix is promoted by some All Blacks, Hellers Bacon is promoted by Leigh Hart, Beef + Lamb New Zealand is pushed by cyclist Sarah Ulmer and the Evers-Swindell twins, Olympic Gold Medalist rowers. We even had comedian Mike King pushing pork, and then, surprisingly, changing his mind. Even he would now agree that he definitely mislead the public with his endorsements, albeit naively he would claim. Would you ask a plumber for legal advice or a lawyer for plumbing advice? So why spend thousands on the advice of some celebrity, who knows little or nothing about what he or she is recommending, and is merely being paid to read from a prepared script? Is this just an excuse not to have to think? Perhaps if Tiger Woods was promoting golf clubs of the make that he personally uses, or condoms, then we could trust his advice, but when these celebrities promote products that they have no expertise in then they are misleading the public.

We're sure you can think of many other examples of celebrities endorsing products and services that they obviously have no expertise in and who possibly didn't even use these products until they were approached by the specific companies to lend their face to their sales campaign. How can it be anything but misleading when a celebrity authoritatively makes claims that we are expected to believe is coming from them personally, when in fact they have all been scripted by the company paying their fee? It's not just a familiar face or cultured voice for their TV ad, these companies want us to believe that these celebrities have investigated their products — and their competitors for a balanced view, have deep knowledge of the products, use them personally and can confidently recommend them to others. You never see a TV ad that goes: 'Hi, I'm a famous actor and I've been asked to read the following sales pitch by Company X'. These celebrities want you to believe that they have intimate knowledge of the product they're pushing, when in reality they only know what the said company wants them to know. They're like talking parrots, they sound as though they know what they're talking about, but they're actually only repeating what they've been taught to say, or in their case, paid to say.

The fact is that celebrity endorsements offer no proof that the product works and/or is good value, only that its makers have bribed a celebrity to say they use it and recommend it.

Professor Larry Rose from Massey University's College of Business has said that 'it is one thing to be attracted to a product or service by a celebrity endorsement, but it is quite another to hand your money over on the basis of that endorsement', and that the onus is on the public 'to make sure they get expert advice'. We agree, but honestly, how many people do go on to get expert advice? Advertising agencies use celebrity endorsements because they know that many people think that the claims of the celebrities do constitute expert advice. It's not the company saying these things, but an apparently independent member of the public, and someone whom they trust.

Even if you only use celebrities to attract people to your business, before handing them over to your experienced and qualified staff, shouldn't their claims have to be accurate and not misleading? Shouldn't you be able to rely on their endorsement? If you pay to get into a nightclub that advertises 'Naked Women Inside', shouldn't you expect that to be the case? On finding there wasn't, would you accept the excuse that you should have got expert advice prior to handing over your money? We would argue that all advertising should be legit and accurate, not that initial advertising can be false and misleading and expert advice should be employed to tell whether the advertising claims match reality. Even if the celebrity makes no misleading claims, it is his or her presence that often leads you go on to purchase a particular product or service. Rightly or wrongly, people trust these celebrities to varying degrees and assume that they would only promote a worthwhile cause. The celebrity should not able to use the excuse that they were only used to get the public's attention, and that they can't be expected to be knowledgeable about the product offered. A celebrity that allows the use of their face and/or voice to drawn clients to a product, knowing that they know little about the product or company, are misleading the public. Companies use these celebrities because they know that regardless of what the celebrity does or doesn't say, the public interprets their appearance as, 'Hi. You know me. You trust me. You should have a look at this product. Would I recommend it if it weren't a great deal?' Again, the real fact is that the celebrity is only saying these things because they have been paid to, and that is misleading the public. The public's introduction to a product is false, and they enter into their investigation of the product with the false assumption that at least Celebrity X thinks it's great, and that therefore they do have some important supporters. This is false and therefore misleading.

And forget about just targeting finance companies, any company and/or celebrity who makes misleading promotions should be prosecuted. Can you really tell us that losing $10,000 to a failed finance company is a personal disaster and yet losing $10,000 to a useless home ventilation system or magnetic therapy machine is nothing to be concerned about? A financial loss is a financial loss, regardless of the company or product that caused it. And isn't death even worse than a financial loss? If you had to make a poor decision because of a celebrity endorsement, which of these two options would you choose? Losing $10,000 because you invested in a dodgy finance company pushed by a celebrity, or losing your life because you opted for a bogus natural therapy pushed by a celebrity over conventional treatments?

Whether a company is using celebrity endorsements or not, whether they are pushing finance packages, magnetic underlays, Reiki healing, alternative health cures or earthquake predictions, if they can not produce good evidence for the validity of their claims — and testimonials don't count — then any suggestion that their product or service can be trusted to deliver is misleading. If it's a fact that there is no evidence, no proof, and this is not made perfectly clear, then this means that their promotion is misleading. And consequently they should be prosecuted for deliberately attempting to fool the public. The likes of doctors, lawyers, engineers etc have to have recognised qualifications and are forbidden from making unsubstantiated claims, and the same conditions should apply to people whether they are pushing finance packages or natural remedies.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jun, 2011 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Phill, 14 Jun, 2011

    Hi John, look for the most part I agree with what you are saying and its the flim flam of advertising that they will happily use celebrity to sell anything. However, it is also beholdin on the celebrity to be prepared to sink or swim with the product, it is also beholdin on us to accept that just because a major sporting star says product x is the best thing since what ever that does not mean to say they know anything about product x or even use the product. To my mind the All Blacks selling Rexona (or what ever) is as legitimate as them flogging off the best brand of tampons. Its as legitmate.

    However (yes there is always a however) you dragged dear Sam Neil into this debate. Suggesting his appearence in the Kiwi Bank adds is an endorsement of the product. I would make the following point about the Kiwi Bank adds. One Sam does not use his name and does not offer any personal claims about using the product, rather Sam appears in the adds as an actor playing a character. Yes he's a very big actor and a lot of people will take note of the adds because Sam Neil is in them but he appears in them as an actor performing a role. This is somewhat different to Colin Meads (or who ever) lumbering on screen saying he is Colin Meads and he thinks this finance company is really good and the implys that he has money invested with them so why not you. To my mind there is a big difference between personal endorsement of a product and performance in an add cycle. Besides Sam played a really good palaeontologist and those dinosaurs looked really really very good.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Jun, 2011

    Hi Phill, thanks for your comments. You say that 'just because a major sporting star says product x is the best thing since what ever, that does not mean to say they know anything about product x or even use the product'. We agree entirely, but we feel that generally this is not what the ads are trying to imply. To our mind you can promote something by giving good reasons why it is a good product, such as value for money, better or tastier than competing products, good for the environment, safer to use, more powerful, cheap to run, higher interest rates with less risk, etc etc. Or you can simply say that this particular celebrity uses your product. To us this second option helps form the view that if you like the celebrity, then you could well like the product they're promoting. But as you say, there is not necessarily any real connection between the celebrity and the product, and contrary to what the ad suggests, they may not even use it themselves. We can't see how this is not misleading, apparently suggesting that there is a positive connection between celebrity and product, a recommendation through knowledge, an endorsement from familiarity, but in the fine print admitting that the celebrity probably endorses your product and not your competitors simply because you offered the most money. Imagine if the All Blacks endorsed four different antiperspirants from competing companies, then no member of the public could say, 'You know, the one used by the All Blacks'. No company would use any celebrity that spread themselves around like this, they want the celebrity to be connected solely to their product. This perceived connection, and subsequent endorsement, is paramount. Even if the All Blacks don't use Rexona, and Sarah Ulmer never eats at McDonalds, the ads want us to believe that they do.

    Of course you, and we, know that these ads are all about money for the celebrity, merely a bribe to buy their feigned support for as long as the ad campaign lasts. But we believe that if everyone knew this, that like us they weren't sucked in by celebrity endorsements, that the ad companies knew that the expensive use of celebrities didn't increase sales, then all ads would be fronted by struggling, unknown, out-of-work actors that were paid a bare minimum. We see the use of celebrities as the belief that many of us can be tricked into buying a product simply because a celebrity tells us about it.

    Regarding Sam Neill's appearance in the KiwiBank ads, you argue that this should not be seen as an endorsement, in that, 'Sam does not use his name and does not offer any personal claims... rather Sam appears in the adds as an actor playing a character'. Technically this is correct, but we don't believe the general public, or even Neill himself, views his collaboration with KiwiBank as just another acting job.

    Let's look at the view that Neill is just acting. If Neill is not in any way to be seen as speaking for himself, but merely an actor reading a script, then we must assume that he could say anything at all in these ads, statements that have nothing whatsoever to do with him personally, just as he does in his movies. Thus we must assume he might also front a company's advert promoting genetic engineering for example. However the public knows that Neill is personally strongly against genetic engineering (perhaps influenced by genetically engineered dinosaurs running amuck in 'Jurassic Park'). Does the public believe that Neill is ethically the type of person that would help promote any product, good or bad, for a fee? We suggest that the public believes that Neill, an outspoken promoter of NZ, would not be the face and voice of a product or service that he didn't personally believe in. Thus Neill's presence in KiwiBank's ads is a clear implicit endorsement by Neill himself. To believe otherwise is to believe that Neill would lie to us for financial gain. Again, it doesn't matter whether Neill is lying to us, just acting a part, what matters is what the general public takes from his appearance in these ads. We believe the public is meant to see his participation as a personal endorsement. That's why KiwiBank used Neill rather than some unknown actor. Let's be honest here, acting in adverts is not rocket science, any third rate actor can do it, and usually does do it. Neill was hired because the public would recognise him, and rightly or wrongly, believe that he was doing more than just acting.

    If you believe Neill wouldn't hire himself out to promote a bogus product, then you must accept that anything he is associated with receives some level of endorsement from him. And that the public recognises this endorsement.

    But as we've said, we have no problem with endorsements, celebrity or otherwise, as long as they are sincere, genuine and based on statements of fact. What we hate are endorsements that are misleading, that are fake, that have been bought.

  3. Comment by Bob, 16 Jun, 2011

    Richard Long said he lost $50,000 invested in Hanover. That is probably not a lot of money for someone earning his level of income in TVNZ. I think such a celebrity should only be charged if he or she knowingly lied in endorsing products and companies. Why pick on fronting celebrities? The material they read out or promote with comforting homilies is prepared by advertising agencies approved by the principles of the company. I would say celebrities should have their lawyers check all offers of endorsement work if only to protect their own reputations. I presume nobody will ask Long to front anything publicly again though Meads did get another offer. He didn't learn. I doubt the product he endorses now is worth much, another alternative medicine.

    Do advertising agencies check the companies and products they are asked to promote? If not they should face the same penalties as suggested for celebrities. What of television and newspapers accepting such ads.? I don't for a moment suggest our television companies and newspapers would accept advertising from fraudulent businesses but they are doing just that if they accept ads without checking. Media defence would be that if their client's background has not been brought to their attention by the police or other authority it is OK to accept their business. Would this not then be a reasonable defence for Long and Meads who have no way themselves of knowing if the business is good or bad.

    The other thing is I doubt it matters whether the celebrity knows anything about the product or uses it. Advertising works on the principle of exposure as much as possible. Getting Long to front several short weather reports each night was smart. Even if you don't fall for it you can't help thinking of a well advertised name when thinking of a product. I don't blame celebrities for making the most of their talents in publicity by selling themselves. They want to make money as much as the rest of us doing it the way they know best.

    I do feel the rules for celebrities advertising products has been a kneejerk reaction by the government trying to be seen to do something about shady business people. I know it is another subject but Hanover should have been put under statutory management and the trustees asked what they had been doing for investors before jumping on high profile celebrities easy targets though they are.

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 Jun, 2011

    Ahhh, so Long did lose some money, but has you say Bob, not much considering the hundreds of thousands he was being paid.

    We think the new law is pretty useless, as you say just a kneejerk reaction, that will be difficult to enforce and does nothing for all the shady products that aren't finance companies, or even finance companies that don't use celebrities. As we said, anyone, celebrity or not, that knowingly makes misleading or false claims about any product should be liable to prosecution. The law will likely see finance companies using unknown actors in their ads, as most ads do, which doesn't in any way make the company more secure or your investment more robust.

    Of course you Bob, and most skeptics, realise that these celebrity endorsements are worthless, just another advertising ploy, but the reason that advertising is so successful and such a money making business is that far too many people are sucked in by their ploys. Celebrity endorsements work because some people truly believe that it is a sincere and heartfelt endorsement, rather than just a script written by the ad company and voiced by the celebrity. It's like the people that won't buy a product that is $1,000, but advertise it as $999 and they're fighting over it. Celebrity endorsements are simply another transparent method that encourages people to buy one product over another, a method that should be seen as bogus but far too often isn't.

    In most ads an actor is simply reading their lines, playing a part, and surely no one really thinks that large furry Kiwi in the Warehouse ads really understands the business? But in our view a celebrity endorsement is different, it is meant to imply that it is a knowledgable, independent, trustworthy, well-known individual passing on their informed view, and not that of the company whose product they are endorsing. That is why they spend enormous amounts on celebrities rather than a pittance on an unknown actor. I would have endorsed McDonalds' burgers for far less than the million plus dollars they paid Jonah Lomu. But they wanted a celebrity opinion. And far too many in the public take celebrity endorsements seriously. We don't expect actors to be knowledgeable about the product they're promoting, since they are acting, but we can expect celebrities promoting products to have some knowledge, since they are endorsing, not acting. Or at least that is what they want us to think they're doing. We need to educate the public to see through this advertising trick, and not just with finance companies, but with all products.

    As for TV and newspapers carrying ads, we don't see this as being quite the same as actually endorsing the products beings advertised. The media is not endorsing or sanctioning one product over another, they happily advertise competing products. As long as there is nothing obviously fraudulent about an ad then media will run them. If misleading or false claims are made then it is the company making them that should be prosecuted.

    As you say Bob, it's companies like Hanover that should be under investigation rather than the celebrities greedy enough to promote them.

In search of aliens, UFOs and loons
Two us of went to a talk recently that was advertised thus: 'The Haven, presents discussion on aliens, UFOs by Jim Brown...' We had no idea who or what The Haven was or who Jim Brown was, and thought at best he might be an amateur astronomer or such like explaining what sights in the night sky confused the general public, or at worst a UFO believer explaining why there is evidence for alien abductions. It turned out to be closer to the latter, only much more deluded than normal.

A woman began by introducing Brown, revealing nothing about him, but did tell the audience of around 17 people, approximately two thirds female, that The Haven was a group of people that got together to discuss things spiritual. The evening went down hill fast from that point. She said that in these talks there was no such thing as silly questions (which we kind of agree with), but that there was often silly answers. As it turned out Jim Brown's talk was just one huge silly answer. Below we'll relate some of Brown's descriptions of aliens and UFOs, the Galactic Federation of Light and his other equally weird beliefs, and ask, does he need psychiatric evaluation?

Brown began on a positive note, asking 'Is there such a thing as UFOs?', and wrote 'YES' on a little white board he had set up. We agree, UFOs are real. But as we explained in more detail in our article on UFOs and Aliens, the real question is what people interpret UFOs to be: something they can't identify or an alien spaceship? Brown next asked: 'Are there intelligent aliens out there in the universe?', and again wrote a big 'YES' on his little white board. That was all he ever used the white board for. So while Brown didn't actually say that UFOs were alien spacecraft, his second answer certainly implied that they are, and his talk left no doubt. He went on to tell us that there are billions (or trillions or quazillions, I can't remember exactly) of aliens in the universe, although according to Brown it's actually called the Grand Universe. The thing we call the universe is actually one of 7 Super Universes, all radiating out from a central hub — the Central Universe — like a flower with seven petals.

We're evidently situated in one of those 7 petals, or Super Universes. He then said that these innumerable aliens make up an organisation know as the 'Galactic Federation of Light' and are comprised of the following types:

Federation Humans
Cetaceans
Equians [sic]
Dinosaurian / Reptilian
Amphibians
Mixed
All these alien beings are what he called 'fully conscious', and even though we on Earth are humans, we're nowhere near as evolved as humans elsewhere in the universe, sorry, the Grand Universe. These other 'fully conscious' aliens are running 12 strand DNA, we're only at 2 strands, and they have many more chakras than we do as well. Yes, that's right, chakras. You may be surprised to learn that aliens have actually discovered that chakras, like DNA, really exist. Evidently we have a lot of evolving yet to do. And we didn't originate on Earth either, we actually started out as 'aquatic monkeys in Vega' (that's a star in the constellation Lyra, and the one Jodie Foster in the movie 'Contact' zipped off to through an alien wormhole). We moved to Earth from Vega two million years ago, although Brown didn't elaborate on whether we had mastered space travel and flew here under our own steam, or dilithium crystals, or whether we were herded up, sedated and shipped here by advanced aliens as a wildlife experiment. We suspect the latter, since if we were technologically advanced we would hardly have thrown it all away and reverted to living in caves and inventing religions.

So what, according to Brown, are these advanced aliens like? Well this depends, as they varied from story to story that Brown related. According to psychic and charlatan Edgar Cayce, who Brown gets some of his information from, one species of aliens called Arcturians (from the star Arcturus) live in five dimensions. Brown didn't explain why they look three dimensional and fly around in our three dimensional universe. Aliens are all extremely long lived, although Brown kept forgetting just how long. When he spoke of Arcturians he said an alien lifespan was 300-400 years, yet when he spoke of Sirians (from the star Sirius) he said aliens live for 5,000 years. At another point he said fully evolved humans are immortal. You might think that perhaps the different advanced alien species have different lifespans, abilities and technologies etc, but elsewhere Brown claimed that these 'fully conscious' aliens were all equal. Some may look like horses, other reptiles, other humans, but none is superior or more advanced than the other.

He said they don't need to eat as we do, what food they do require is taken as pure light energy. And so they are all very slim. They see telepathically and therefore don't need eyes. But strangely he tells us that they do all have eyes, some have quite large ones. He tells us that they all live underground in caverns and spend their lives maintaining everything in vibrational balance. They leave the surface of their planets to nature, which to us suggests they haven't learnt how to live in balance with nature at all. Using their minds they levitate everything, never physically lifting or moving anything, and this includes their spacecraft or UFOs. Later in his rambling talk Brown told us that the flying saucer that crashed at Roswell, New Mexico in January 1947 (it was actually July, and of course no saucer really crashed), was caused by the American military testing their recently invented radar system. He claimed that the radar signal interfered with the aliens' telepathy that was levitating their craft and they fell out of the sky, as did two or three other UFOs that most people aren't unaware of. But again this is just nonsense, we now have many more radar systems which are far more powerful than they were then, so if this were true aliens couldn't now come anywhere near Earth for fear of crashing. And radar is just microwaves which are a natural part of the universe meaning that aliens would be crashing all over the place. They'd be lucky to get off their own planet. But to contradict all this, at another point in his talk Brown said that aliens powered their craft by utilising zero point energy. He has so many fantasies that he doesn't realise which ones he's told. He said aliens didn't value or collect material possessions. If the aliens wanted something they just made their request to a device set in the wall called a replicator, and whatever they asked for popped out. His description sounded exactly like the devices featured in the science fiction show Star Trek, which amazingly were also called replicators. As for information, Brown said that everything in the alien world is holographic and views of history 'appear on a screen on wall'. Sounds suspiciously like a flat screen TV, which are two dimensional, maybe even '3D', but not holographic. Obviously Brown doesn't know what a true holographic image would look like, it wouldn't be 'on a screen on wall'. This is typical of these idiots, describing supposedly alien technology but unable to think of anything that they don't have at home.

Brown told us that these aliens have no competitiveness, and this is one reason why they have become so advanced and peaceful. But he also said that they have many leaders and organisations with people in authority, and didn't explain how this wouldn't generate competitiveness between say the leader of a Super Universe and the alien whose sole responsibility it was to clean the anal probes. He also didn't explain how the aliens could be so peaceful and non-competitive since he insisted that the asteroids, Saturn's rings and the unusual axis tilt of Uranus in our Solar System were all due to space wars. He also reckoned that some of the aliens watching Earth are the 'good' aliens here to protect us from the 'bad' aliens.

Brown also noted that some occasionally refer to these aliens as ascended beings. Those we called Moses, Jesus, Buddha etc are all ascended beings. They were mistaken as superior humans or gods by primitive man and religions developed around them, but they weren't gods at all but advanced aliens. The Central Universe is labelled as the 'Residence of the First Creator', and again some see the First Creator and God as being synonymous.

We were informed that Earth is hollow and another race of beings lives inside the Earth. There are entrances into the hollow Earth at both the North and South Poles, and these can be seen in some satellite photographs. Official maps for the South Pole actually have 'Exploration Prohibited' stamped on the area where the entrance is according to Brown. Unfortunately he didn't show us one of these maps, and actually he didn't show us one piece of evidence or one single photograph to support any of his alien stories. According to Brown all the planets in the universe are hollow, although moons aren't, and believe it or not, all stars are hollow too. Not only is the Sun hollow, there are beings living inside it as well. Brown maintained that stars are not as hot as scientists would have us believe, and the temperature inside is equivalent to what we would experience on a holiday in the tropics.

Because all planets are hollow, Brown told us all aliens live on the inside of their planets in order to leave the surface in its pristine natural environment. The weird thing is that evidently the inside of the Earth is just like the outside, there are rivers, mountains, animals and trees etc. But if this were true then the Earth isn't hollow at all, there's just a slightly smaller version of Earth inside. A hollow Earth would be like the inside of a balloon, and its inhabitants would probably just float around. And since we know that pretty much all life relies on the energy of the Sun to sustain it, how could a complex world, eg plants that use photosynthesis, flourish in complete darkness? And why would trillions of trillions of aliens all choose to live in dark, cold caverns underground and leave their planet surface to be enjoyed by bacteria, beetles and the three-toed sloth?

We were also informed that the Earth's magnetic field is collapsing, although since the Earth is hollow, we wonder why we even have a magnetic field? When this collapse occurs in 18 months to two years time the Earth will stop spinning completely, and then start spinning in the opposite direction. This will cause massive disruption but thankfully the advanced aliens are going to step in and put all humans in stasis for a week or two. This is evidently a type of suspended animation, or polar bear like hibernation as Brown described it, that we will be completely oblivious to. Brown says we were all put in stasis for a week back in 1992 when the Earth passed through the dangerous (and imaginary) Photon Belt, and I must admit, I didn't notice it. But strangely, we should have noticed something when we woke up. Brown said that the aliens held thousands of planes aloft for a week, frozen in time, but there were unfortunately a few accidents on the road he said as cars crashed when their drivers went to sleep. You'd think that advanced aliens who realised that planes would crash if the pilots went to sleep would know that the same would happen to cars? The need to go into stasis was to protect us from the deadly natural disasters that this Photon Belt would cause, such as earthquakes and tidal waves. But as one woman noted, surely we should have noticed the massive destruction when we woke up, that would have occurred seemingly in the blink of an eye? We may still be alive but our environment would be destroyed. Of course this killer Photon Belt and the Earth spinning in a different direction is just nonsense. The Earth's magnetic field has reduced to zero and also reversed its polarity many times, with over 20 reversals in the last 5 million years. However at no time has the Earth stopped spinning. If the earth did suddenly stop spinning (at around 1670 kph at the equator) and go into reverse, the inertia alone would probably have killed everyone, not to mention that the deceleration forces involved would have destroyed the planet, leaving nothing to put in reverse. Also if the Earth did stop spinning, there is no natural reason why it would start spinning again, in either direction. Like a child's spinning top, the Earth would only start spinning from a complete stop if something or someone imparted an astronomical amount of energy to it.

Brown also told us that the aliens reckon planets like Earth should only really have a population of half a billion people, not the nearly seven billion we presently have. To this end the energy of the cosmos is changing to bring about the ideal population numbers, and a lot of people will have to go. Brown asked if we had noticed that a lot of elderly people have been dying in the last few years? This is because they can't handle the energy change. And here we were thinking that elderly people have always been dying.

Did you know that the Russians and the Americans first landed on the Moon in the 1950s, it wasn't the Americans in 1969 as most believe, and it's not just the Moon either, there are 100,000 humans on Mars right now. Brown claimed that the Russians have explored the entire Solar System and are far more advanced than the Americans. He also said that the Apollo 13 spacecraft that was nearly lost wasn't an accident. It was a warning from the aliens: 'Don't go back to the Moon!' But this doesn't make sense, if the Americans knew it was a warning from advanced aliens then why did they ignore it, and go back to the Moon with Apollo 14, 15, 16 and 17? And if they already had advanced secret bases on the Moon and Mars why bother with the Apollo program at all? Brown claims that the first three space shuttles were 'lost' and kept secret and the others are just a front for their secret space exploits. This is just another point where Brown's story contradicts with other claims that he makes. One moment he's claiming that world governments know of the aliens and have been secretly working with them since at least the 1950s, giving them access to advanced alien technology, that the aliens have bases in Earth's mountains, especially the Himalayas, and then later he claims that governments are ignorant of the aliens and are struggling blindly to get into space. He claims that the American military are using zero point energy and cold fusion courtesy of the aliens and then criticises them for refusing to believe that aliens are real. So which is it, do they have alien technology or don't they, are they working with the aliens or aren't they?

And it's not just world governments that can't make up their minds as to whether these aliens exist. Brown says that anyone can see the alien spaceships in the night sky. The motherships are huge, some are 8,000 miles long and cigar shaped. He told us that the ships are cloaked but can be easily seen! By cloaked he means that alien technology makes them invisible, both to normal vision and radar etc. But how can you see things that are invisible? You may be thinking that you have to be mentally deranged like Brown to be able to see them, but no. Brown claimed that 'Astronomers see them but they don't care!' This really shows how stupid Brown is, to believe that astronomers, and that's all astronomers worldwide, have seen these huge alien spacecraft watching us and not one is interested in the slightest. His ignorance astounds us.

What about crop circles? Well, according to Brown they are the result of the aliens desperately trying to tell us that they are real and that they're here. He then went on to say that the circles contain coded information. But why? If you're trying to get a message across you don't put it into a code! If you want us to know of your existence you don't make the silly circles in secrecy and flee if we get too close. Why even make crop circles, why not just land on the White House lawn helipad? In NZ, Brown informed us that our very own Kaikora UFO sighting was a desperate attempt by aliens — a Sirian scout ship to be exact — to tell us that they are here and come in peace. The problem with Brown's many disparate stories of aliens is that they keep flipping, one minute they are cloaking their ships and the next they are chasing us and waving. Brown can't decide whether the aliens are hiding or advertising.

Brown also said that aliens are slowly making themselves known to humanity by helping out after earthquakes and tsunamis and with search and rescue. You could have fooled us! Have you noticed alien looking characters in the videos of recent natural disasters or their spacecraft hovering over collapsed buildings scanning for survivors? No, neither have we.

Speaking of apparent natural disasters, Brown claimed that the disastrous Hurricane Katrina that struck New Orleans wasn't natural, it was orchestrated by the American government to deliberately reduce the US population. They used a technology known as HARRP which gives them weather control and mind control. Brown didn't make it clear whether HARRP was alien technology or not. He was asked whether the satellite dishes being built at Awarua in Southland were involved with aliens, and he stated no, that they were solely for scientific use, and that we could support them. But again this doesn't make sense. If what Brown believes about the Universe is true, then all our science is complete nonsense and a monumental waste of time and money. How can he respect a scientist who believes stars are balls of gas when he knows, courtesy of the advanced aliens, that they're hollow?

Whether he realises it or not, Brown is pretty much rejecting all known science. Not just one or two astronomical claims, but the basics of physics, chemistry, biology, geology, archaeology, genetics etc are all wrong. Not only that, there is an astronomically vast conspiracy hiding the reality of aliens from the general population. Not just nearly every government and every scientist is willing to keep knowledge of these aliens secret, but even ordinary citizens if they discover the truth are for some reason committed to join the conspiracy. If I take out my telescope and spy one of these alien ships or a polar explorer stumbles across the entrance to the hollow Earth, we'll both decide to hide this information from our friends and family. We can seemingly adjust to the revelation that aliens are here and not panic, but arrogantly we don't think others could. And for some equally unknown reason, while governments are no doubt spending an untold fortune keeping all this secret, they have no problem with the likes of Brown and numerous others on the Internet revealing every one of their secrets to whomever will listen. No Men in Black turned up at Brown's lecture to take him away and convince us all that he was an escaped raving loon.

We left Brown's talk dumbstruck. How could someone truly believe in such nonsense? When do you cross the line from being eccentric to outright crazy? Should delusional people like this be allowed to hold responsible jobs in our communities? When might their delusions put us in harms way by them living in a fantasy world? Since Brown believes there are several 'end of the world' scenarios approaching, how might he behave based on his belief that the end is nigh? Why bother doing his job properly when it's all going to end in 18 months to 2 years, or conversely, the aliens will save us so we needn't worry. Let's remember that the members of Heaven's Gate all committed suicide because they believed advanced aliens were coming to save them as well. Like Brown they also believed they could see alien spaceships in our skies.

How can someone hold so many silly beliefs, many of which conflict even with each other, not to mention being totally at odds with scientific and historical accounts? Brown makes your typical UFO believer appear to be quite rational and sensible. It was difficult to tell how The Haven, this group of spiritual people, took Brown's view of the Universe, as only a couple had questions. However not one challenged any of his claims, and while they may have called them ascended beings rather then advanced aliens, they appeared to be generally on the same wavelength. We later learned that the woman that opened the talk was Karen Underhay, owner of 'Wytch Haven', a shop specialising in all things witchy, as well as offering the services of in-store mediums, clairvoyants and healers. Now the group's name — the Haven — makes sense. Their next talk Underhay told us would look at animal energy healing and cat whispering. Forewarned, we won't be attending. Like excessive alcohol, this nonsense must surely damage brain cells.

Again, we were quite shocked that apparently normal looking people in our community could so strongly believe such stupid things, and that they get together to reinforce and build on each others fantasies and delusions. This is the 21st century and we have vast knowledge at our disposal, so why have some people chosen to regress and live as ignorant, superstitious medieval peasants once did? When we described Brown's beliefs to friends and associates, like us they all expressed amazement that someone could believe such nonsense and that others would be sucked in to it. Surely they suggested, silly beliefs such as Brown's must be rare?

But then we thought, what is really different between the nonsense that Brown was spouting and the nonsense that your local religions spout every week? Brown claims that our universe and life was created by a being called the Creator, so does your local priest, minister, rabbi and imam. Brown claims that advanced beings called aliens are watching over us, whereas religions claim advanced beings called angels and gods are watching over us. Brown claims that there is a battle going on between good and evil aliens, whereas religions claim there is a battle going on between good and evil beings called gods and demons. Brown claims that if we believe in these advanced beings then they will offer us salvation and deliver us to a perfect world, religions do likewise. Brown claims that advanced beings have interfered in our history several times for our benefit, religions make similar claims, and call these events miracles. Brown claims that these advanced beings are far more intelligent and powerful than humans, religions also make this claim for their beings. Brown claims that the time for these aliens to reveal themselves and make first contact is near, religions claim that the second coming where Jesus reveals himself and/or judgement day is near. Brown claims that science and secular organisations are deliberately lying and misleading the public to hide the truth about these advanced beings, religions have made the same accusations for centuries. Brown claims that evidence of these advanced aliens is all around us, we only need to open our eyes, while religions have always claimed that evidence for their god is in a sunset and a baby's smile, we just need to look. Brown in reality has no evidence for his claims and relies instead on ignorance and blind faith, ditto religions. Brown's supporters are generally poorly educated and gullible, the same as the religious have always been. Etc, etc. So is Brown and his Galactic Federation of Light really any different to the nonsense offered by the religious? Not at all, it's the same childish beliefs taken out of a medieval chest and repackaged into a flashy 21st century box with new labels and USB ports.

Brown amazed us because we had never heard anyone confidently make such silly claims to an audience that blindly accepted them. Of course we've all heard priests and ministers and supporters of creationism make equally silly claims and be believed by their equally silly audience, but because we've all grown up to be familiar with these claims, they don't surprise us anymore. Priests and their nonsense have lost their shock value. We know that many believe their silly talk of Adam and Eve, talking snakes, worldwide floods and a Heaven paved with gold and high-speed broadband, and I guess we just feel pity for them. But when someone starts insisting that the Earth and the Sun are hollow, that we came from 'aquatic monkeys in Vega', that advanced aliens will soon make first contact as part of the next stage in our evolution, and that governments and scientists are hiding this from us all, then this nonsense is all new, and the only question we can think of asking these people is this:
'Have you stopped taking your medication?'

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Jun, 2011 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Heather, 02 Jun, 2011

    What's really scary, John, is that this fellow Brown is actually walking around the streets.

    I'm enjoying all your postings... could I guess that you are youngish? maybe 20s? This deduction is based on the absolute enthusiasm and no nonsense approach that comes thru with all your blogs :-)

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Jun, 2011

    Thanks for your comments Heather, and I know, it truly is scary that these people walk our streets. It's almost worse than zombies. It does shake up one's optimism a bit that everything is going to turn out for the best, that humanity will see positive progress, and that other adults in our community that vote and potentially hold responsible jobs have a firm grip on reality. Obviously many don't. What we need is something like those old x-ray glasses that lets you spot the medieval peasants through their 21st century clothes.

    On a lighter note, I take it you're not psychic then, because alas, my 20s and younger days are but a memory. Or perhaps you're channelling one of my previous lives? For several millennia I usually failed to make it past my 20's. ;-)

  3. Comment by Phill, 04 Jun, 2011

    Hi John, you get all the luck; I haven't had a chance to catch a talk like that ever! Though there is David Ick (I think that's the spelling) who believes all the world leaders are actually reptilian aliens in disguise and there is some kind of great one world conspiracy — or is that another guy? I forget.

    In a way these guys don't worry me that much, because their ideas are so outlandish that the average person isn't going to believe them. Mostly they exist on the fringe where seventeen people at a meeting is a big turnout. Though I wonder how many of those seventeen were going yeah right as well but were just too polite to say anything. Yes it is possible that such views could lead to another Heaven's Gate, but there is part of me that says if these guys are that deluded that they want to take themselves out of the gene pool is this a bad thing?

    Of course the problem does occur when such eccentrics get their hands on some kind of real power. Whether it is part of some organised religious group — Jim Jones for example or political power. As one historian noted, Himmler — without the Nazi party would probably have remained a successful chicken farmer with some rather peculiar eccentric beliefs that most people would have laughed off.

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Jun, 2011

    Hi Phill. You're right, David Icke is the idiot that believes in that reptilian alien conspiracy.

    Unable to help but overhear the casual conversation amongst the audience while waiting for Brown to arrive, we suspect that most people at the talk, while they may not have agreed with all the details, would have had a similar world view. Remember that unbeknownst to us at the time, this was a spiritual group that meet regularly. They seemed to believe that the scientific view is wrong, that higher beings are watching over us and will help us, and for many, that big changes for humanity are approaching.

    You've probably heard of the Darwin Awards? These are awards presented posthumously to people that kill themselves by doing utterly stupid things — before they have had children — and so take their genes out of the gene pool. So it doesn't worry us unnecessarily what these idiots do to themselves, but what does worry us is the harm that they can do to others through their stupidity. What if their day job is as a nurse, social worker, counsellor or engineer etc and their distrust of science and weird views affect how they do their job? We've all heard of nurses that decry vaccination, of social workers that believe in repressed memories and council officials who recommend water diviners. We can't see how their weird beliefs can be kept separate from their day jobs, and just wonder how much it influences any advice they might offer.

Quantum physics and magical healing
Amega Global Following our recent comments on bogus magnetic therapies, we've been asked our opinion of the Amega Global company and it's healing products, and whether we can provide any relevant papers.

We'd never heard of them, but we checked a Amega Global website and a few other sites and it appears that they are a Multi-level Marketing company (MLM), like Amway etc. According to Arun Kemer, CEO of Amega Global Business Associates: 'If you want to be part of something greater than yourself, if you want to be part of creating a world that is beautiful, then come and join us'. He says that 'The Amega vision is infectious, it gets one all fired up. Why? Because it is such a perfect opportunity: health and wealth in one'. Their vision is that 'Amega will be a household name by 2012, Be one of the top 10 companies in MLM [and] Create one million millionaires by 2012'. They want people to join their company, sell their products and in the process become wealthy. Their vision is wealth, not health. Health products are just the gimmick that they are peddling that they hope will make them wealthy.

So what are their health products and might they work, even slightly? Amega Global claim that they have developed an 'Approach for total wellness'. Their website tells us that:

Stress is the major cause of all sicknesses and diseases... However, one can prevent from getting sick and live a healty life if they were to take a Wellness care approach... Amega Global's products... supports Wellness Care...

Amega's products are an offshoot of Ancient natural therapeutic wisdom and applying Futuristic Technology in the Area of Quantum Physics to support Individuals with Natural Energies to eliminate stress and increase their immunity.

It is a proprietary technology that sources out Zero-point Life Force Energy from the environment which is needed by the human body to achieve and maintain its homeostasis state.

The Amega Amized Fusion Products... source the life force energy from the environment to promote general wellness... These products are designed based on the theory of zero point energy and human consciousness where one can experience the energy and benefits of it.

All these claims are simply pseudoscientific garbage. Pure nonsense. Scientific terms linked with superstition and lies to create a scientific sounding fantasy. There are no relevant scientific papers to point to since their claims are not based on accepted science. Stress is NOT 'the major cause of all sicknesses and diseases'. Haven't these idiots heard of viruses, bacteria, fungi and other harmful pathogens? Is AIDS, malaria, Ebola, influenza, dysentery and cancer caused by stress? No! They say that their products are 'an offshoot of Ancient natural therapeutic wisdom', which implies that ancient people were far healthier than we are, which is totally false. If ancient cultures were still around they would be begging for our modern knowledge and medicines, not the other way around. Amega Global claim to have utilised quantum physics and 'the theory of zero point energy and human consciousness where one can experience the energy and benefits of it'. While quantum physics, zero point energy and human consciousness are of course all real, there is no scientific theory that connects the energy of the quantum vacuum — zero point energy— with human consciousness or human health. They even go further and relabel it 'Zero-point Life Force Energy', which they say is the same as Prana and the Universal Life Force. We're surprised that they don't mention the Force from Star Wars as well. But this notion that there is a life force that animates all life is again nothing but superstitious nonsense.

They tell us that:

Matter has a bio energetic field (of which the aura is a part) that is constantly communicating with the wider field of energy. Due to numerous factors, and as we age, this bio energetic field becomes disrupted, and the eventual physical result is sickness. Everything interacts at an energetic level, never at a physical level, and as such, the human body... must be treated at an energetic level for proper healing.
Again just more rubbish, there is no evidence of our bodies having a bio energetic field or aura, only deluded psychics and 'energy healers' such as Reiki therapists have fooled themselves into thinking that they have detected these fields. And at no time do Amega Global even hint at how their products really work, at how they might interact with zero point energy and our bio energetic field, diagnose it's condition and initiate repairs. Simply saying something vague like, 'sickness begins in this field, and the wand supports the healing ability that is already within us', is explaining nothing. Anyone that had invented technology that could detect, manipulate and utilise zero point energy and had also proved the existence of a bio energetic field would have won several Nobel Prizes and be world famous. Strangely neither are true.

The wand that they refer to is one of their main products:

The Amega Black Tip AM Wand... has powerful qualities and is an energy amplifier that can receive, activate, store, transmit and regulate energy.
They call it a wand, and this really is quite appropriate, as it is nothing but magical thinking. We can just imagine the wizard Harry Potter wielding one of these wands, since it appears to do everything that magic wands do. Another product is the pendant, which can no doubt be likened to a good luck charm.

Finally, let's look at their disclaimer, which as usual exposes their lies:

Amega Global Disclaimer :

...Amega products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and no inference should be made in that regard about any of the information contained herein. Amega strictly prohibits its Independent Business Associates from making inappropriate statements or claims regarding possible health benefits or income potential.

They clearly say that their products 'are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease', and that 'no inference should be made in that regard', that is, we should not think that their products can help our health in any way. And yet all their material, bar their disclaimer, states very clearly that they can give us better health. They say that 'sickness begins in this [bio energetic ] field' and that they can sell us 'tools that enable the body's bio energetic field to become repaired'. They claim that the 'bio energetic field becomes disrupted, and the eventual physical result is sickness... [and] the human body... must be treated at an energetic level for proper healing. ZPE works at the source of all problems'. And again they claim that 'What the ZPE products do is repair this bio energetic field, hence why such (relatively) fast and lasting results can be experienced... Amega ZPE products... bring all aspects (mental, emotional, physical and spiritual) into balance'. And how about this boast" 'To see people's faces when their pain disappears, or their long-term condition goes, or their operation is no longer required, is priceless'.

Note that they claim that regarding treating sickness that 'ZPE works at the source of all problems', that ' fast and lasting results can be experienced', and that 'pain disappears, or their long-term condition goes, or their operation is no longer required'. These are all clear assertions that their products can diagnose, treat, cure, and prevent disease, so why in their disclaimer to they deny it all? Because it's all a scam and they hope that their disclaimer will stop them from being hit with any legal action from disgruntled clients. Rather than their clients becoming healthy and wealthy, the opposite will happen.

You'll never encounter a real doctor who enthusiastically recommends a drug or operation saying that he really believes it could be effective, and who then hands you a legal piece of paper stating that what he recommends could never work, and don't ever try saying that he said otherwise. If these charlatans really thought their products did what they claimed, that disclaimer wouldn't exist. Avoid Amega Global and other energy healers like the plague. All they want is your money and your gullibility.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 May, 2011 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Masoud, 21 May, 2011

    hi dear john, i got so glad to receive your fast response, you are right about "disclaimer" and i get really surprised to see that.
    but there is something wrong here, the 'AmWand' you said, i have tested it, really you can sense it, it's energy is really powerful. when some one put it on your back without it touch you, you can say where is it,and even you can show the pass, you know. that is something which cannot be ignored. when you wand your hand, i mean, when you rotate the AmWand around your palm for more than ten time (relatively) you can sense your hot hand, it is some thing like you hold it on fire. i don't know the fact, the science on the back of these phenomena, i am so curious about that to know how it produces such effects.
    i can add also that, i know a physiotherapist who use that and he is really content, and also a doctor. i know a bodybuilder who said he can lift heavier lifts. they are all who have tested these products and then they bought it. i know my friend's mother who had suffering from migraine and know there is no trace of such pains.
    you know, all these people have jobs, the can earn money and their motivation was only to get released from pain or something like that.
    i am also so sensitive these days to mobile waves, you know, when i talk with my cell phone more than ten minute my head start to ache and i feel like Nausea. i suppose one of these product can help me.
    can you provide me with some information regarding germanium and its biological effects on our body. they claim their magnetic products contain germanium of course blended by nanotechnology.
    as you see in my signature, i am PhD student so don't fear to be more scientific.
    again i am go grateful of your kindness and your valueless information provided in past, now and in future.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 May, 2011

    To say that the wand appears to have an effect, with you and some you know, might be nothing other than the placebo effect and wishful thinking. If you can feel heat from the wand then it would be simple to measure if it was emitting any EMF, eg microwaves or infrared. If they claim that there are no instruments that can detect zero point energy, then how do they know it exists, or that their wand is charged with this energy, and that it emits it to heal your body? Why is there no scientific evidence for the efficacy of these products, only worthless testimonials? If it really works then the only people that could explain how are those that made it, and they refuse to do this, beyond saying silly things like this:

    Most of the Amega Global products work off of the foundation of zero point energy, ...the infinite, formless, non-frequency energy that contains all potential in the Cosmos' quantum vacuum. When this energy is condensed down into matter, information is stored in the molecular structures and has vibratory frequency, commonly known as the electromagnetic spectrum. Mized® Fusion Technology is a process that changes the structure of molecules and charges matter to give off a zero point energy force that is called AMized® resonance. This allows your body to be able to access the healing energy from within itself... All living organisms have a special structure in what is called a bio energy field... When you use a product that has been charged with zero point energy, it reminds your body cells "where they came from". In other words, it reminds them that they were once healthy cells and to return to such a state... it puts the body in a favorable state to return to "source".
    As we've already said, all these claims are simply pseudoscientific garbage, designed to fool the general public that doesn't understand science. Talk of bio energy fields and auras are nothing but paranormal nonsense, with no more credibility than psychics and ghosts. These explanations would be fine in some silly science fiction movie but have no place in the real world. This notion that some invisible, undetectable energy can be harnessed in a magic wand, even though mainstream scientists can't do this, and that this energy 'reminds your body cells "where they came from". In other words, it reminds them that they were once healthy cells and to return to such a state', is simply unbelievable. This is supernatural rubbish, the belief that our bio energy field or aura or soul or whatever name you want to give it is some perfect form that has been corrupted by mixing with matter and that it can be restored to its ideal form by waving a magic wand. There is no perfect human form. If there was then we all be one perfect height, one perfect weight, one perfect complexion, one perfect intelligence etc., and when the wand had performed its magic we would all look alike. There can't be millions of combinations of a perfect human. Many of our cells are the way they are because of our DNA. People are born with diseases and less than perfect cellular structures because that is what their DNA dictated. There is no 'healthy cell' state to return to courtesy of the wand because they were never healthy in the first place. The Amega Global nonsense is suggesting that their wand accesses some supernatural blueprint of a perfect human and rebuilds their cellular structure into something bigger, better, faster, healthier etc. Harry Potter might be able to do this with his wand, but the Amega Global wand definitely can not. Again, this wand would be one of the greatest inventions ever made, both from a health perspective and scientifically, if it really worked. So why is it that the ONLY people that claim that these products work are the people trying to sell them and a few others that believe these salespeople? Why is it that these people know nothing about science and are not interested in the slightest in proving their products? Why is it that Amega Global's scientists haven't revealed any scientific details on these revolutionary new breakthroughs in quantum physics, nanotechnology, biology and medicine? And why is it that the scientific and medical communities worldwide are not interested in investigating the claims or using the products, and instead claim that this energy healing talk is just superstitious nonsense wrapped up in complex scientific terms?

    The Amega Global salespeople may be able to make it appear that their products have a real effect, but let's remember that magicians are also able to make it appear that they are sawing a woman in half, and Nigeran Bank scams are able to make it appear that there really is millions of dollars just waiting for you to collect. This is why they're called scams, they wouldn't work if these fraudsters didn't have tricks to fool you into believing them. (Here's a website that exposes one of Amega Global's tricks regarding its Wand: The Strength Test Trick REVEALED.)

    For example, when promoting products like their wand, pendant and bracelets, you'll remember that Amega Global claim that 'Stress is the major cause of all sicknesses and diseases...', and yet when Amega Global promote their 'Dynamitic Nutritional Advantage (DNA)', they tell us that 'There is extensive research in this field [Epigenetics] to find the winning combinations to silence those "bad" Cancer, Alzheimer's, MS and all those nasty genes that cause diseases...' Now it's not stress that causes disease at all, now it's 'those nasty gene's. These charlatans are just telling whatever lies they think will work and aren't concerned if their stories contradict each other because most of their potential clients will never notice.

    Also we didn't mean that people buy these products to make money, for them it is about health, but that the goal of those selling them is to become wealthy. These multilevel marketing, network marketing or pyramid selling schemes require people to sell as much as they can, and better still, to recruit others to sell as much as they can, from which they take a cut. Money is the motivation of these salespeople, not the health of their potential clients. They would sell you a year old newspaper if they thought you might be interested.

    Regarding germanium and Amega Global's magnetic products, they tell us they have a 'Bio-Energetic (Magnetic) Product Line' and that, 'There is plenty of Scientific evidence that supports the use of magnets in the treatment of medical conditions. There are many testimonials of people who have used the Amega magnetic bracelet...' Of course this is just more lies, there is NO 'Scientific evidence that supports the use of magnets in the treatment of medical conditions', in the sense of the types of magnets that they are promoting. They even demonstrate this lack of evidence by failing to mention any and merely say that they can provide some testimonials instead. As for germanium, they go on to claim:

    Amega FIR: Far Infrared Energy (FIR) is made up of waves of energy that are invisible to the naked eye, that penetrate into the human body and gently elevate the surface temperature and activate major bodily functions. The germanium balls are 99.9% pure. At a temperature as low as 32° degrees centigrade, they emit far infrared rays that can stimulate enzyme activity and metabolism.
    Heat is principally what we feel when hit by infrared radiation, the heat of the sun and from a radiant heater, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that we feel better when we are warm. Infrared rays don't really penetrate the skin, in the way that some other radiation can, they strike the skin and their heat is absorbed. Here Amega Global appear to contradict themselves (again), saying the rays 'penetrate into the human body' and yet claiming that they only 'gently elevate the surface temperature'. Which is it, do they penetrate or just affect the surface? And note that they say that their 'germanium balls' will emit infrared rays even when the temperature is 'as low as 32° degrees centigrade'. We would have thought that when it was 32° degrees centigrade you would want to cool down, not wear something that makes you even hotter? And when it's less than 32° degrees centigrade obviously they stop working! Which means they would almost never work in NZ. Furthermore they claim that Far Infrared Energy, ie long wavelengths of infrared, transfer heat, when we believe it is actually the shorter wavelengths of infrared that we feel as heat. Another Amega Global site makes these claims:
    ROLE OF GERMANIUM ON OUR BODY
    Far Infrared (FIR) energy - an important energy force that promotes healing. When FIR is activated by heat, it emits energy that is absorbed by human cells causing a physical phenomenon called "resonance". Germanium is a semiconductor element that has a band gap that allows it to efficiently respond to infrared energy. It is transparent to FIR and has a unique absorbing powers. Far Infrared energy is able to activate, revitalize, reactivate, develop and strengthen the various organs in our bodies when it is absorbed.
    It's just more pseudoscience from idiots. Note they state that 'When FIR is activated by heat, it emits energy that is absorbed...? How can they claim that infrared is 'activated' by heat? What they are essentially saying is that 'When 'heat' is activated by heat, it emits 'heat' that is absorbed. And how can germanium respond to and absorb infrared radiation if it is transparent to infrared radiation (FIR)? This is just nonsense aimed at people to confuse them.

    This site also writes on germanium bracelets:

    As part of a line of germanium therapy products, the bracelets are supposed to be especially effective in protecting the body from invisible radiation that is emanated from many modern devices... [and] they can help heal damage that has already been done by radiation exposure.
    While it sounds more like an advertisement for the bracelets than a critical look at their claims, the important thing to take from the article is this statement:
    there is no solid body of scientific evidence that germanium health bracelets actually work
    Even if these silly bracelets did warm your wrist and improve your health, why not just sit naked out in the sun for free? This would warm your whole body. How would warming your wrist affect your feet or heart or brain? To answer this perplexing problem, Amega Global themselves ask: 'How Do Bio-Energetic Magnetic Products Work?', and provide this vague and worthless answer: 'The theory behind the use of magnets is that they improve the circulatory system and blood flow'. Think about it, only a fraction of your blood goes to your wrist, so how does the magnet affect the majority of your blood? They provide no hint of how wearing a magnetic bracelet might improve circulation. They can't explain why because magnets don't work.

    The above site also gives us stupid claims such as these:

    Blood Pressure:- Patients suffering from high blood pressure should wear Amega Magnetic bracelet on right hand and those with low blood pressure should wear it on left hand.

    Pregnancy:- Pregnant ladies are advised not to wear magnetic pracelets, since it is a strong magnetic product, it may cause miscarriage.

    How do the magnets know which arm they are being worn on, and how do they supposedly reverse their affect? Are magnets conscious and intelligent? Are my fridge magnets watching me? And what about that pregnancy warning? What if someone wearing a bracelet stands next to a pregnant woman on a bus and causes her to miscarriage? Can they be charged with second-degree murder? Why aren't there warnings for pregnant women on all the other things around us that produce magnetic fields?

    Because all these claims by ignorant and scientifically illiterate Amega Global salespeople have been invented solely to con equally ignorant and scientifically illiterate people to buy their worthless products. We can't explain how they work because they don't. Amega Global and all those other companies pushing energy healing and magnetic healing products are committing consumer fraud.

  3. Comment by Julian, 23 May, 2011

    Hey Guys
    Continuing your amazing work. Thank you. What about Melaluca? Apparently it can cure and clean every and anything? But can it? I know you will have the objective answers.
    Thanks

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 May, 2011

    Hi Julian. We could spend years dissecting these various companies, but they're really all the same with the same flaws. They are first and foremost trying to make money, lots of money, by selling a product, any product. They don't for a moment care about our health or the cleanliness of our homes. They want us to worry about our health, but unlike doctors, they don't worry about it. They worry about how they can convince us to buy their products and preferably join their scheme and become one of their salespeople. As we've said, these multilevel marketing, network marketing or pyramid selling schemes require people to sell as much as they can, and better still, to recruit others to sell as much as they can, from which they take a large cut. Money is the motivation of these salespeople, not the health of their potential clients. Other examples would be Amway, Avon, Herbalife etc.

    According to their own blurb: 'Melaleuca, The Wellness Company is an international manufacturer and marketer of unique health, home, and personal care products'. If you look on the internet, here and here for example, there is page after page of people debating whether Melaleuca is a scam. But they are NOT debating whether it's a scam because it products don't work, they're debating whether you can make your fortune by becoming a sales rep for the company and whether it's actually the company that is ripping off it's gullible salespeople. How good the products might be is occasionally mentioned in passing, ie one sales rep says the cleaning products have less caustic, poisonous, cancer causing, and other chemicals and that 'they work at least as good as common store-bought products', but all they're really concerned with is whether you can get rich by selling the stuff. Their motivation is the same as your local P or methamphetamine dealer. Those that are arguing that the company is legit are obviously biased as they are simply trying to protect the company image so they can sell more and recruit more minions. Here's what one person thought of Melaleuca: 'Well I'm sorry, but I don't trust Melaleuca... they take money out of your bank account, come on — they may not be a scam, but they sure act like one!'

    As end users, we've always viewed these pyramid selling schemes as horribly inconvenient, expensive and for most if not all of their products, an utter ripoff. The healing products, especially the energy healing products pushed by the likes of Amega Global, are utterly bogus, and even if some of the cleaning products work, for their cost I would expect a maid to come with them.

    They have to claim that their product, whatever it is, is far superior to what can be purchased in the local shops, otherwise people would naturally buy the local product today, at a reasonable price, rather than pay much, much more for a product that they must wait to be delivered and that works no better.

    These groups are like the Freemasons or the Illuminati, very secretive and hard to find. It's like when you're wanting to purchase some illegal drugs or child pornography, you have to put out feelers. They're not in the phonebook, they don't have a shop you can visit, you have to know someone. And that someone has to know someone who knows someone who knows a guy that can get you what you want. If these companies really had products that did what they say they do — they heal disease or they clean more effectively and they are far safer to our health and environment etc — then why aren't they selling them in the real market? They're missing out on enormous sales because of their underground sales method. If I wanted to buy a Melaleuca, Amway, Herbalife product today I couldn't, simply because I don't know a guy who knows a guy. Why aren't these companies willing to compete up front with the products they claim are inferior or harmful? Simply because many of their products such as the healing ones are bogus, and some that may work, eg some cleaning products, work no better than far cheaper products freely available in your supermarket. I remember an auntie who used to rave over a very expensive cleaner for her glasses that she bought off Amway. My mother tried it and it was good, but no better than the cleaner that her optician gives her for FREE.

    The fact is that these companies have to rely on the gullible and the financially desperate to sell their products because they know they couldn't compete in the real world. Just as you can sell a magic wand or a Jedi light sabre in a toy store because no adult expects them to work, you can't sell a magic wand in a pharmacy of a light sabre in a hardware store claiming that they really work, because customers would soon realise that they don't. Your name and product would be discredited, your business ruined. So these worthless products masquerading as real can't be put on open display in real shops, they must be sold via an underground club where salespeople working on commission sales can make sure you don't get too close a look at the product until money has changed hands. And if the product doesn't work when you finally receive it, well it must be the way you're holding it, or perhaps you're just not trying hard enough.

    Once again, if these companies had really discovered miracle cures and harnessed zero point energy and overturned certain biological theories then their products would be in every hospital and/or shop worldwide and textbooks would be rewritten. But it is quite obvious that the only thing that these companies have invented is fantasy, and they know it. Here again is Melaleuca denying that it should be taken seriously in matters of health:

    The Melaleuca Wellness Guide
    Healthy Body
    ...neither the publisher or the author is engaged in rendering professional advice or services... The ideas, procedures and suggestions in this book are not intended as a substitute for consulting with your physician. All matters regarding health require medical supervision.

    The information presented in this book is in no way intended as a substitute for medical counselling.

    The Melaleuca sales pitch is 'Trust us, we can help you', and yet their disclaimers always say, 'What were you thinking? Don't trust us, go and see a doctor!' Trust them on this one point, give them a wide berth, save your money, and put your trust in conventional medicine. It's not perfect by any means, but it's honest and it's far more effective than some magic wand or potion peddled by some door to door salesperson.
  5. Comment by Phill, 28 May, 2011

    Hi John, this reminds me of an outfit I came across in the early 1990's. The name of the company and of the product now escapes me. But it was the same set up. If I signed up to the scheme I would soon become a millionaire and live forever or so the poor sap who was trying to sell me on the idea claimed. I should point out that at the time I was long term unemployed and starting to get desparate for a job. I sent out applications every week and this one was amazing, they didn't want a CV and one telephone call secured an interview (in my own home!) So the poor guy arrives and he is obviously a genuine believer. But it didn't take me long to work out that this was multi-level marketing and even then I suspected that MLM was a scam. Also the product as far as I could tell was just a glorified protein drink that even if half the claims were true would have been found in a hospital and not here. My main memory though is of the hint of desperation around my recruiter, he had obviously read all the material provided by the company, had accepted it all (I suspect it must have been like a fundamentalist christian accepting Jesus Christ into his heart) was really focusing hard that all he had to do was work hard and drink the product and a healthy long life and prosperity awaited him. Except as he told me I would be his first recruit. I was guessing that like a lot of these people he had put in more money than he was getting out of it and those seeds of doubt were starting to grow. Long story short I was unemployed and desparate but not that desparate so I said no. I've always wondered what happened to the poor fellow. I also think that in these bad economic times we tend to see more of these MLM scams. Vultures feeding off the desparate and most vulnerable.

  6. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 May, 2011

    Thanks for that Phill. Even though these MLM companies are legal, like you we still view them as a scam. The best description is as a pyramid selling scheme, since like their cousins the illegal pyramid schemes, only a handful of people at the top ever make any money out of them. They are legal since there are real products to sell and theoretically you could earn a good income selling them, just like theoretically you could win Lotto, every week. But of course hardly anyone wins Lotto, and few people what to buy worthless products or even products that work where similar products can be bought for far less in the shops. So the reality is that almost no one will make money from these scams except those that start them off.

  7. Comment by LR, 07 Jun, 2011

    I have to say I have used a few good products sold by MLS reps; one is Isagenix protein powder and vitamins initially designed for weight loss. The only beef I have are the high prices and why one can’t purchase the product in a regular store. I have asked the reps and the answer is “the products need the ‘educational’ type marketing for weight-loss that is provided by the ‘associates’ so they can reach more people whereas in a store they would sit on the shelf.” I am always surprised by the inexperienced folks who often profess to know so much about health (and wealth). I haven’t met anyone yet who has made huge wealth from any of these MLS companies.

    Today I was told about another product called ASEA www.amazingmolecules.com They are proclaiming to have a “Scientific breakthrough that was thought to be impossible.” It’s liquid sodium chloride ($50 bottle) that has been molecularly altered and has taken 16 years to develop...and you should see the claims they are making. I don’t want to be pessimistic but I am interested in your viewpoint. Thanks. Maybe I am one of those people who holds hope that someday there will be a magic potion for good health. Thanks.

  8. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Jun, 2011

    Certainly some of their products may work, but these are always products that are similar to those already found in stores. And those similar products are usually much cheaper and readily available. The bogus claim that their particular products if sold in stores would just sit on the shelves is just nonsense. If a product does what it claims and people want that function they will buy it, even if it is expensive. Look at the people that lined up to buy Apple's iPAds and iPhones, which aren't cheap. If their products would sit on the shelves it would be because either they didn't work or a much cheaper option was available. And yes it is amazing that these salespeople that wouldn't know a bacterium from a virus or a pandemic from an epidemic claim to know more about health than doctors and scientists do. Also the only people that make big money from these scams are the ones that start them, everyone else is being conned.

    As for ASEA and their liquid sodium chloride, let's remember that sodium chloride is just common table salt, and in liquid form is usually called a saline solution, as hospitals use in their IV drips. The body definitely needs sodium and chloride, but we get plenty, some say we now get too much, through our diet and the body has no problem utilising it. This scam is just as ridiculous as the notion that bottled water that is more expensive per litre than petrol is better for you than ordinary tap water. This is like selling ice to Eskimos.

  9. Comment by Chris, 10 Jun, 2011

    Just a note that the link in comment 7 should have a 'http://' in the HTML source before the www.amazingmolecules.com, as it's written it just directs to a non-existent URL on your site and gets a 404 Not Found.

    While I'm splitting hairs, liquid sodium chloride would be a rather alarming stuff to take, or even to have lying around, since it melts at 801 degrees C. I think your correspondent is talking about a solution (possibly saturated) in water. I myself take lots of it every time I go swimming at Piha. I'm not sure it does much for my health though.

  10. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Jun, 2011

    Thanks for that Chris, we've corrected the address. And we agree that certain concoctions may be beneficial for extreme athletes or people suffering dehydration from diarrhoea etc, but we don't think people of normal health need to down bottles of the stuff. I've often said to people that it's only my annoying conscience that is preventing me from promoting this nonsense and becoming filthy rich.

The world ends on Sunday
That's right, this Sunday, May 22nd, 2011, is Judgment Day and the beginning of the end. The end is nigh. You may be wondering why you're only hearing of this momentous and life changing, or life ending, event now, with only a few days to go? Well it seems the only people brought up to speed on the new date for Armageddon are a small church group in California, USA. (That date is NZ time, it's Saturday, May 21st if you live in the USA.) [Update: Well actually it was Saturday for us after all. See comment #5 below]

I know what you're thinking, but I thought it was Dec 2012? Jeez, there's so much to do, so much to organise and so little time. Do you write a new will leaving your treasured possessions to your nice but nonbelieving neighbours, who obviously won't be taken up into the clouds, or do you just let those left behind fight it out? What would Jesus do? Does one throw a going away party in these circumstances, and do you think they'll let you take your treasured 'Desperate Housewives' DVDs into heaven? Should you take a DVD player as well or will they have them up there? What about clothes, what should we pack, and for what sort of climate? Can we take our cat?

Camping This silly belief that Sunday is the day of reckoning originated with a religious nutter called Harold Camping, the elderly president of a Christian radio network in California called Family Radio. The amazing thing with these deluded idiots and their followers is that they never learn. The end of the world has been predicted innumerable times throughout history by the devoutly religious, and, as you're no doubt aware, they've been wrong every single time. Even Camping himself predicted the end in 1994, and wrote a book about it called '1994?' He now admits that 'he misunderstood Jesus' teaching' and got the date wrong. But he's certain about Sunday. Tell you what Harold, we'll bet our collection of 'Stargate' DVDs that you're wrong once again.

But we know what will happen when next week the world rolls on completely oblivious to what it was supposed to do. Camping and his fellow nutters will simply retreat back into their fantasy world and make up a new date, based on the revelation that they yet again 'misunderstood Jesus' teaching'. The media, if they even mention the fact that we didn't explode, may have another brief item noting the fact, but there will be no hard hitting item clearly stating how ridiculous and even how dangerous these unfounded beliefs of approaching Armageddon are, especially in the USA.

Plastered in large letters along one of their vehicles as they paraded in New York's Times Square were the words: 'Have you heard the awesome news? The End of the World is Almost Here! It begins on May 21, 2011. The Bible Guarantees It'. Note that they think that the death and horrible suffering of billions of people is something to look forward to. It is 'awesome news', and they just can't wait. As others have pointed out, if people who believe the end of the world is near, and who welcome it, are in positions of power they won't in any way be motivated to do anything that might forestall this event. If a US president or military commander thought that nuclear war signalled the second coming of Christ, then they would happily let it happen, and may even make it happen. If these people thought that climate change and environmental pollution were serious problems, but thought the world would end soon anyway, then they wouldn't be motivated to do anything to combat these problems. Others might think, why not steal from my boss or rape that cute secretary, we're all going to be dead shortly anyway? It's a little like someone who is told they have a fatal disease and only have 6 months to live. They change their behaviour based on this forecast, making no plans for the years ahead. It's the same with Armageddon, if we knew for certain that the world would really end on Sunday or next December, I know for certain that I'd make a short 'To Do List', I'd stop paying my insurance premiums, forget about house maintenance and recycling, and I'd cash in my superannuation fund. The point is, what important things are these religious nutters neglecting in the mistaken belief that the world is about to end? If they're only harming themselves then so be it, but what if their choices are harming innocent family members and the world at large? Do we want the world to really end because some nutter thought he would hasten the end by launching a nuclear missile?

As laughable as most sensible people think these predictions of doom are, far too many people think there might be something to them. An acquaintance of a friend asked her what she thought of this Sunday prediction, saying that while not immediately believing it, she thought it should at least be considered. She also said her teenage son was really convinced that the world is actually going to end in Dec 2012. Again, what harm might these people do to themselves (suicide, stop paying the mortgage and lose their house) and to others if they become convinced that the end is nigh? We need to start telling people, and the media have an important role to play here, that this talk of the end of the world is nonsense. There is no reason to believe that the ancient Hebrews or Maya or any living person claiming psychic powers has any knowledge about the Earth's imminent demise. If you want a rough scientific estimate on when the world might really be in trouble, try 5 billion years.

It may seem like childish nonsense hardly worth the effort to debunk, but perhaps that's what they said about Heaven's Gate, Waco and Jonestown too, and look how they turned out.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 May, 2011 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Bob, 19 May, 2011

    I was going to mow my lawn this weekend, weather permitting. Now I needn't bother.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 May, 2011

    I'm annoyed Bob because I already have mown mine. What a waste of time!!

  3. Comment by Chris, 20 May, 2011

    "Do we want the world to really end because some nutter thought he would hasten the end by launching a nuclear missile?"

    Wasn't that the plot of Dr Strangelove?

    So long as it's only confined to weirdos, we can afford to laugh at them. I liked the response (reported in the Herald's 'sideswipe' column:

    "Are you attending the Rapture on May 21?" asks the classified ad. "I expect to be left behind when it happens, so if you aren't going to need your worldly possessions, be they money, cars, canned food, durable goods etc, I would gladly take them off your hands. Serious responses only, please. And remember time is short ... Am willing to travel for said goods."
    (Source: New York Craigslist).
  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 May, 2011

    I couldn't remember what the motivation was in Dr Strangelove, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia it was due to a 'paranoid belief that there is a Communist conspiracy involving water fluoridation'.

    I like the classified ad, and perhaps we'll see more of these as Dec 2012 approaches. Re the rapture, for years you've been able to buy the following bumper sticker in the USA, so not everyone over there takes it seriously:

    Come the Rapture
    Can I have your car?

    And regarding the bogus belief that the Maya predicted the end of the world on December 21, 2012, we just came across this cartoon that reveals why people are worried unnecessarily:

    2012

  5. Comment by MikeC, 23 May, 2011

    I think you got the date wrong apparently the start of the end of the world was to be 10pm Sat night NZ time, starting in NZ, and then progressing around the world so that everyone could see it coming.

    I was in a comedy festival show at 10pm....... Steve Wrigley pointed to us all and told us we got left behind, and then spent another 5 minutes on the topic. It was rather funny J

  6. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 May, 2011

    Hi Mike. Well, firstly we think the one who got the date wrong was silly Harold Camping and his moronic followers! :-) But you're right, the end would have begun, for us, on Saturday night, not Sunday morning. We assumed that a loving God would at least let the Americans have a hearty breakfast before he rained down the destruction. If the apocalypse began spot on midnight of May 21st — USA time — then we think that would relate to somewhere between 4pm and 8pm for us in NZ, depending on what US time zone you refer to. Since the likes of NY enter the 21st first, that would mean 4pm was when we should have been hit. Did you feel anything?

    Amazingly one can't access Harold Camping's site any more, so maybe for them the world did end? Has anyone gone round and checked on them, or like embarrassed astrologer Ken Ring, have they gone into hiding? Maybe they're pretending that they did get taken up?

    We're not sure where the detail of the earthquake starting at midnight and rolling around the world comes from, Camping doesn't mention that on his website, although he did mention another detail that the media didn't report on. The world wouldn't actually end on the 21st, it was only going to be the beginning of the end. According to Camping 'Each day people will die until October 21, 2011 when God will completely destroy this earth and its surviving inhabitants'.

    Of course this is all moot since the world didn't experience the apocalypse, and another religious nutter has shown what happens when you believe in fantasy stories. So I didn't waste my time mowing my lawn after all, but now I have to hire a lawyer to argue with my gullible neighbours who want their stuff back since the world didn't end.

  7. Comment by Ross, 19 Oct, 2011

    Hi guys, just in case this one slipped past... [Harold Camping] is at it again. I wonder how many will be sucked into giving away all their retirement funds etc this time?

    The world will end (again) on Friday night

    I must draw your attention to this particular sentence, it's just wonderful!

    "You, too, without your knowledge may have become saved before that date. Anyone can continue to beseech God for mercy because salvation and the election program are entirely in God's hands."
    So not only is there still a chance I might be "chosen", apparently it depends on how well I beg and whether or not I can change gods'mind.

    You've got to give the guy points for perseverance and brass because he keeps putting it out there! But when they give you ammunition like that it's getting to be like shooting fish in a barrel!

  8. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Oct, 2011

    Thanks for the link Ross. I did hear a moronic radio DJ mention that Camping was again predicting the end of the world, but naturally I didn't take any notice. To be fair to Camping, he did originally say that May 21, 2011 would only be the beginning of the end: 'Each day people will die until October 21, 2011 when God will completely destroy this earth and its surviving inhabitants'. But after getting it badly wrong on May 21, and also September 6, 1994, you'd think that Camping would keep quiet this time.

    As the retired pastor said, 'I don't believe the world is about to end... The late night comics tend to make fun of Christians anyway and when this happens it gives them an opportunity to mock us'. He's right of course, but he misses the bigger picture. Pretty much everything about Christianity, not just their silly predictions, gives us reasons to mock them.

Diana conspiracy leads TV News
What is passing for major news these days, and why do people have silly beliefs? Well, last night TV3 News lead their news hour with a four-minute item promoting the conspiracy theory that Princess Diana didn't die as a senseless victim of a drink driving accident, she was murdered. Murdered by the British royal family. This news was seemingly the most important thing that happened, not just in NZ, but worldwide yesterday. We crossed to TV3 reporter Kate Roger at the Cannes film festival in France where, after watching celebrities parade on the red carpet, we're told that documentary 'Unlawful Killing' which pushed the claim that Princess Diana was murdered had 'hijacked' the festival.

We're shown video, one assumes from the doco, of some unknown moron called Kathleen Madigan saying in a surprised tone: 'When a woman left a note saying FYI, if I'm dead here's how it's going to happen, and then it happens exactly like that, I think someone should pay attention'.

Evidently Diana wrote in a letter to a friend that 'This particular phase in my life is the most dangerous — my husband is planning "an accident" in my car. brake failure & serious head injury in order to make the path clear for him to marry [Camilla]' She just mentioned this in passing, it was not a letter to a lawyer or the police revealing that she feared for her life. Let's remember that Diana herself was not the brightest bulb in the chandelier and regularly consulted psychics, none of whom it must be highlighted foresaw her death, not even the one she consulted the week of her accident. The fact is it did not happen 'exactly' has she described, she wasn't in her car, she didn't say when or where it would happen, and we also noted that the documentary changed 'brake failure AND serious head injury' to 'brake failure OR serious head injury', perhaps because brake failure has never been a credible cause for the accident. Remember the accident did not involve failing to stop at a T intersection or a red light or careering down a mountain road, it involved driving 'off' the road into a concrete column. If anything you'd suspect steering, not brakes. Roger's item also finished with this text flashed sequentially on the screen:

A woman wrote a letter to a friend

predicting her own violent death

Four year later

she was dead

We believe the letter was written ten months before the crash, not four years. So just how much in this silly documentary can you rely on? What else have they changed, what else have they got wrong and what evidence have they ignored because it's doesn't suit their version of events? We were told that the documentary was made by actor Keith Allen and funded by Mohamed Al Fayed whose son Dodi was also killed. We need to remember that Al Fayed is one of the major Diana conspiracy nutters, so it certainly can't be claimed that the documentary is independent and unbiased.

Describing his doco, director Keith Allen said that 'It's part of a story line that is trying to explain that she could well have had her life saved, if certain other steps had been taken, that's what I'm saying'. He also said 'I think it is a very forensic analysis of a process, the British legal process, and I think it reveals certain things that, I'm sorry, don't add up, and I believe they should be questioned'. We infer from this that Allen has problems with what happened after the accident and with the British legal process. In his 2010 book 'Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History', David Aaronovitch has a section on the Diana conspiracy and notes that 'An actor friend of Al Fayed's, Keith Allen, revealed that he is making an undercover documentary, filmed partly in the press overspill room at the inquest. "It's not about a conspiracy before the crash," said Allen, "but there definitely was a conspiracy after it." ' So again, this all suggests that Allen doesn't believe there was a conspiracy to murder Diana at all, only that some people stuffed up after she was injured in an accident, eg in the delay getting her to hospital. Is he just using all the typical Diana conspiracy nonsense to push his far more narrow agenda? Let's remember that there is no evidence supporting the notion that Diana was murdered, that people tampered with their Mercedes and drove them into that tunnel where a waiting white Fait Uno slammed them into a concrete pillar. How could the killers have predicted that they would make an unnecessary journey that night? How did they know which car they would use, where they were going, what route they would take or that they would chose to race at high speed through the streets of Paris? After all, those chasing her had cameras, not assault rifles. How did they know that Diana would have been stupid enough to let a man who had been drinking drive or not to wear her seat belt? And why didn't she belt up, is not wearing a seat belt a royal thing? Does the royal family proclaim that 'We rule by divine right, we have God on our side, we don't need seatbelts'? It's also been noted that 'The accident itself could easily have not been fatal, a collision investigator told the court'. Evidently if the car had struck other surfaces in the tunnel or the column at a different angle then the impact would have been much less. If Diana had been wearing a seat belt, like the front seat passenger, she probably would have survived. If Diana had simply belted up their extremely complex conspiracy would have failed.

But we know all this, we've already rubbished this conspiracy, what new information was presented by Allen that might suggest there was a murderous conspiracy? None whatsoever. And like the silly 'Sensing Murder' psychics, if you have information on a murder you go to the police, you don't make a TV show instead.

Roger informed viewers that 'At the post screening press conference here in Cannes things got pretty heated pretty quickly, film maker Keith Allen was on the defensive from the minute he sat down, facing a barrage of questions from a largely unimpressed media contingent'. And what inquiring, critical and intelligent questions did Allen face, well Roger only let us in on one question, and this in her view must have been the most damaging question asked: 'Why don't you leave her to rest in peace?' We guess this is why entertainment reporters shouldn't be doing real news stories.

It's important to note that TV3 News gave not one reason why viewers should be suspicious of the claims made by this documentary, and as we've said, by leading the News hour they've implied that it's a very important issue. We guess this means they've purchased it for our viewing pleasure in the near future.

This is why much of the public believe in this nonsense, in silly beliefs, because media that tout themselves as factual and responsible parade charlatans and their bogus claims in prime time and refuse, or are unable, to ask intelligent, critical questions. And viewers assume, wrongly, that if people and claims are featured uncritically as lead stories on the network news, then there must be some truth to the claims. Surely news reporters wouldn't lie to us they ask? If you see a seismologist, a lawyer and a psychic medium all interviewed on breakfast TV, then shouldn't we assume we're supposed to take them all seriously? The media don't say you can believe a doctor but the psychic that follows is just a joke. That's why far too many people took Ken Ring seriously, because the bloody media took him seriously and used him to boost their ratings. By all means tell us about conspiracy theories, but tell us why we shouldn't believe them, explain why they are conspiracy theories and not proven conspiracies. This Diana conspiracy item was nothing but a promo for Allen's documentary and only fuelled the belief that secret, dangerous powers really are behind much of what happens in the world. The media dupe viewers and readers with this nonsense to attract a gullible and naive audience, then when something gets serious, like Christchurch residents believing astrologer Ken Ring, they throw up their hands and cry, why do you people believe such nonsense?

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 May, 2011 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by H, 15 May, 2011

    I'd hazard a guess that John Campbell is the one and only intelligent life form at TV3 but he's up against the fruit cakes every inch of the way... other channels may not be any better

    Good job once again

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 May, 2011

    We know there are some very intelligent and rational folk working for TV3 both in front of and behind the scenes, the same with the other channels, but as you say, they're 'up against the fruit cakes every inch of the way'. Profits trump information, that's why we're flooded with reality TV shows and there's a dearth of documentaries. And we're fussy, we don't consider shows on the royal wedding or shows like 'When Animals Attack' to be documentaries.

  3. Comment by Graeme, 07 Jun, 2011

    Hello all. I think TV3 should have just played this. A beautiful deconstruction from Mitchell & Webb.

    They've done a few of these and you'll find some more on the right hand side.

    I can imagine exactly the same approach working well for JFK.

    'Where should we shoot him?'

    'I think the best place would be in broad daylight and from some distance while he's on the move during a parade or major public affair where people will most likely be taking photographs or filming.'

    http://www.radiolive.co.nz/Mitchell--Webb-The-Diana-Conspiracy/tabid/491/articleID/20619/Default.aspx
  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Jun, 2011

    Thanks for the links Graeme. If only our TV channels would play clips like these then there might be less conspiracy nutters out there. A few years ago Prime screened some of the excellent 'Penn & Teller: Bullshit!' series and promised that they would screen the rest, but they never have. Obviously nonsense and cooking shows generate more profit for them.

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