Is Richard Dawkins evil?
I recently visited a new dentist and both he and his assistant commented on my 'Born Again Atheist' button, along the lines of, 'I love your badge'. Once my torture in the chair was over, the dentist chatted some more, and we were seemingly in agreement regarding atheism, religion and science. But then he made a comment or argument that is a recent favourite of the religious, and that, annoyingly, many atheists also make.
This comment was that while he agreed with the arguments of science and atheism, he felt that evolutionary biologist Prof Richard Dawkins was an embarrassment to the notion of atheism. I can't remember his exact words, but basically the argument is that Dawkins' manner and speech is seen as — to offer a few adjectives — arrogant, insolent, insulting, rude, mocking, cynical, disrespectful, bellicose, contemptuous, snobbish, bullying, domineering etc etc.
This dislike, hostility and even hatred towards Dawkins emanates mainly from Christians, which in one sense is understandable, but it is frustrating that too many agnostics, non-religious and atheists side with Christians and argue that Richard Dawkins — if he can't say something good about god — should just shut up and keep his views to himself.
My dentist, and other non-believers that I know of, argue that while they don't disagree with Dawkins exactly, he shouldn't have written his book 'The God Delusion' in such an assertive manner. Evidently it's fine to be an atheist, but writing a best-selling book and going on TV confidently proclaiming that there is no god is going too far. This obvious confidence and conviction that gods don't exist, from a well-spoken and respected scientist, is seen as insulting and disrespectful to those that do believe in gods. They reject Dawkins' confidence, claiming that while gods probably don't exist, we shouldn't go around asserting that they definitely don't exist. For some unexplained reason we can say gods such as Zeus and Osiris definitely don't exist, but we shouldn't express such confidence with gods such as Jehovah and Jesus. Evidently this is insulting, offensive and rude to believers and upsets them a great deal. And a reason that isn't often expressed, but seems to float in-between the lines, is that these gods might just exist (Jehovah that is, not Zeus), in which case perhaps we shouldn't be seen to be anti-god and end up as lightning fodder.
We can see why the religious hate being told that they are deluded and that their gods don't exist, and why they respond by heaping invective and abuse onto Dawkins et al. Historically the religious have always responded to criticism of their beliefs with anger, hostility, loathing and violence. Luckily these days the law has removed the option of physical violence, so they must fall back on verbal attacks. Through the centuries a meagre few have attempted to respond to criticism with reason, but that has never really worked for them.
But is it going too far to confidently announce in public your view on the existence of god? Many religious and even non-believers believe that one man, Richard Dawkins, is being offensive and arrogant by openly claiming that there is no god. But these same people have no problem with tens of thousands of men and women designated pope, archbishop, minister, bishop, priest, pastor, nun, monk, chaplain, sister, preacher, rabbi, imam, mufti etc all openly and repeatedly claiming that there is a god. And then we have millions of ordinary people who continually proclaim their belief in gods in public. The argument goes that to say there is no god is arrogant and offensive to believers, but conversely to say that there is a god should in no way be interpreted as arrogant and offensive to non-believers. The logic of this stance however escapes us. One man who expresses a certain view, and a handful that support him, must be silenced, but millions who express the opposite view are given free reign.
Richard Dawkins writes a single book on religion, 'The God Delusion', and is vilified for his view, by both believers and non-believers. Yet Christians have written numerous books attacking this single book, such as 'The Dawkins Delusion?' and including 'The Divinity Code' and 'Eve's Bite' by our own Christian fundamentalist Ian Wishart. The present pope is a prolific author on religion, having written numerous books and articles, as was the previous pope. Untold religious leaders, theologians and religious academics throughout history have written books promoting a belief in god. In addition to these libraries of books, a Christian book called the Bible will be found in most homes in the Western world, as well as most hotel and motel rooms. Likewise the Koran in the Muslim world. Christians claim that their Bible is the most published book in the world. The world is swimming in books claiming that gods exist, and not one person is complaining, but a single book is published with an opposing view and this is seen as offensive and insulting. Blindly ignoring millions of books proclaiming the reality of their god, books that clearly challenge the stance of every atheist, the offended Christians shout at Richard Dawkins: 'How dare you challenge our beliefs!' According to Christians, millions of books pushing belief in god shouldn't offend atheists, but one book by an atheist has Christians sharpening their pitchforks.
Apart from his actual book, people are annoyed with Dawkins because he has been able to promote this book and his views in the media, and this publicity causes further offence. But again, does Dawkins' publicity in any way compare to the media exposure that the religious have received over the years, and still receive. Can you recall ever seeing a religious leader or religious ritual on TV in recent years? Of course you can, untold times. We've had popes, archbishops, priests, rabbis, imams, pastors and Dalai Lamas featured in numerous news items and programs. And every week we have religious programs such as 'Destiny Television With Bishop Brian Tamaki' and 'Your Day With Benny Hinn', all pushing unwavering belief in god. Now try and recall one single program pushing atheism that has ever featured on TV? You probably can't. What about picturing where the nearest churches are in your community, dedicated places where the religious meet at least every week? Now try and think where your nearest atheist meeting place is, and how often they meet? Like us, your city or town probably has no such group to promote its views. And yet have you ever driven through a small town that didn't have at least a single church? Every year we have numerous religious holidays and festivals, and yet we have not a single atheist holiday. The religious worldview is ubiquitous, we are tripping over churches and are bombarded with TV news items where disaster victims praise their god and priests perform rituals. For every instant where you might recall seeing Dawkins and his viewpoint in the media, this will be swamped a thousand fold by images of the religious proclaiming their belief in some god. And yet still the religious are offended and threatened by this pinprick of contrary opinion. It's hypocritical that the religious claim that exposure to one man, Richard Dawkins, is threatening and offensive, while ignoring the vast influence millions of believers worldwide have on non-believers.
But how does Dawkins cause offence exactly? Basically he says confidently and assuredly, there is no god. To believers this assertion implies that consequently their religious beliefs and rituals are false and delusional, and their perceived purpose in life misguided. Of course this is exactly what it means, and they take great offence that someone should express this dismissive view of their beliefs. But does openly dismissing someone's strongly held beliefs really cause offence, or is it just telling the truth? Let's for a moment agree with Christians, that expressing the opinion that their worldview is wrong is indeed offensive, and Dawkins and his sort should be told to keep their views to themselves. But if this is true, then everyone should have the right not to have their worldview challenged or ridiculed, not just Christians. Dawkins has a worldview, based on science and reason, that has reached the conclusion that there are no gods. And yet worldwide there are millions of people indirectly informing Dawkins that his scientific view of the world is false and delusional, and his philosophical purpose to life misguided. Thousands are informing him personally of his error. And yet Christians apparently don't consider for one moment that Dawkins should be offended by this onslaught of criticism. One man challenging millions is offensive, but millions challenging one man is seemingly a fair and honest expression in Christian eyes.
Further to this argument that atheists such as Dawkins are corrupting the world, the weekend after my dentist encounter I received a rare visit from some Jehovah's Witnesses, who on being told I was an atheist, gave me one of their 'Awake!' magazines. They chose this one because on the cover was this question: 'Is Atheism on the March?' The article was headed with a simple graphic of an angry atheist crowd picketing a minister and followers outside a church. The text began:
'A new group of atheists has arisen in society. Called the new atheists, they are not content to keep their views to themselves. Rather, they are on a crusade, "actively, angrily, passionately trying to persuade the religious to their point of view," wrote columnist Richard Bernstein. Even agnostics are in their sights, for these new atheists allow no room for doubt. To them, there simply is no God. End of story.'
What a nerve these people have, what arrogance, what hypocrisy, to turn up uninvited on my doorstep to lecture me on how they are offended by atheists that openly deny the existence of gods. For a start, when have we ever seen a group of atheists protesting outside a church in the media? This is an invention to push a lie! We can think of untold examples of the religious protesting in public over all manner of childish things, but none of atheists protesting. According to this article, one major fault with atheists is that 'they are not content to keep their views to themselves'. How can they claim this with a straight face and not realise the hypocrisy of the claim? Since when in the entire history of Christianity have Christians ever been content to keep their views to themselves? Every town and city and indeed the world is awash with Christians and their churches actively promoting their religion and not in any way keeping their views to themselves. How is thousands of Christians knocking on door after door and pushing religious nonsense on to people not a fault but something to be encouraged, and yet a handful of atheists, none of which ever go door to door, are criticised for offering their views? The article is correct in that for true atheists, 'there simply is no God. End of story'. But the religious push this confidence as arrogance and dogmatic, a failing of atheists. And yet if this is true, the religious are the champions of arrogance and dogmatic beliefs, since their view has always been, 'there simply is a God. End of story'. Atheists are criticised for confidently stating their view, but have you ever heard a religious believer proclaim that they're not sure whether god exists or not? How do you think the Pope, the Archbishop of England or Destiny Church's Bishop Tamaki would reply if asked if their God really existed? Do you think they would be as confident and assertive in their answer as Richard Dawkins would be in his? We would argue that they would be far more so. Dawkins is on record as stating that he would reject his various views if sufficient evidence were produced, whereas numerous religious people have affirmed that NOTHING would make them reject their belief in god. The confidence the religious have in their belief is something to be admired and encouraged evidently, as well as publicised, but a similar confidence for atheists is something to be deplored. And if atheists can't avoid their convictions, they should at least keep them to themselves.
How dare the religious defend their right to intrude into my life to tell me that their god exists, and yet take great offence if I offer the view that no gods exist?
In a free religious magazine 'Tomorrow's World' that I picked up at the library, they pushed the same insults towards Dawkins and outspoken atheists:
'Today we have high-powered "scholars" like Richard Dawkins and critics such as Christopher Hitchens, writing about The God Delusion and similar topics. In their arrogant, high-handed, hyper-intellectual manner they certainly denigrate the very concept of a real God. Their vanity and arrogance is profound'.
They accuse Prof Richard Dawkins of denigrating their belief, and yet have no problem with personally denigrating Dawkins, by implying with their use of quotes, that he isn't really a scholar. They tell us that to write an opinion that challenges their beliefs is to exhibit vanity and arrogance in a high-handed and hyper-intellectual manner. They write their article attacking atheists to argue that it is not right and proper to attack those that disagree with you, perhaps not grasping that this is exactly what they are doing. They are either hypocrites or stupid, possibly both. We expect Christians to make bogus arguments, to vilify atheists, to attack intelligent and well-reasoned arguments from erudite atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens, but it is disappointing to hear non-believers like my dentist and two scientist acquaintances supporting Christians, unintentionally perhaps, by criticising Dawkins and wishing he would tone down his conviction. Popes can travel the world clearly expressing utter conviction regarding their view of god, but not atheists. That would be quite rude evidently.
Let's again consider the claim that expressing an opinion that someone's worldview is wrong is offensive and arrogant. Surely it is not offensive or arrogant to confidently express a differing opinion? People can have opposing views in politics, sport, art, literature and food tastes, and yet no one would call me offensive and arrogant because I choose one political party or burger chain over all others. You never hear a student accuse a teacher of being offensive and arrogant simply because they don't agree with their answers. Even within religion, you don't hear Catholics publicly labelling the differing beliefs of Methodists as offensive, or Christians labelling Muslims as being arrogant. You may feel disappointed or sad and even perplexed as to why people don't agree with your views, but unless people are deliberately taking an opposing view simply to insult and anger you, you can't claim that they are being offensive. Likewise, if they believe they have good reasons and evidence to support a view opposing yours, you can't accuse that person of being arrogant.
These insults that are aimed at Dawkins and other atheists are generated by fear. They are simply a childish and desperate attempt to hide the truth from the world. They want to maintain the vile stereotype that atheists are evil, immoral, domineering, offensive and arrogant. Even if you have real doubts about the existence of gods, they want to ensure that you will never feel comfortable identifying yourself as an atheist. If you must really express your doubt, then call yourself non-religious, a non-believer, agnostic, a freethinker, a humanist, a rationalist, pagan or simply undecided. The religious don't want people confidently identifying themselves as atheists and supporting and promoting the arguments and evidence for atheism. Keeping atheists in the closet is the only defence that the religious have left. Unable to win a debate based on reason and evidence, they pretend that the arguments of atheists are not only false, more importantly they are designed solely to create offence. They want the public to forget about the truth of the matter, and concentrate solely on being polite and sympathetic to Christians. The argument is that Christians don't like learning that they are wrong, therefore we should make sure atheists don't tell them.
Sorry Christians, if you don't like discovering how life and the universe really works, then you go in the closet. If you are offended by our view that gods don't exist, and that the silly stories about them are laughable, then so be it. Be offended by the truth.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Nov, 2011 ~
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Comment by Phill, 06 Nov, 2011
Hi guys — great site as always.
I haven't yet read Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion, but I have read one or two other of his books and seen several of his documentries on television, and read a few of his articles. To be honest I've always thought he was a bit of a moderate compared to Christopher Hitchens whose book God is not Great seemed to go for the jugular. I'd be very interested to know which Christians are the most upset by these works, my guess is that the more orthodox and long term groups like the Catholics, and Anglicans don't tend to get too up in arms, my suspicion is that its the more fundamentalist types who get very anti at any kind of challange. Afterall their theology tends not to be very sound and god help them if the membership ever started to think for themselves.
I guess I can understand some atheists also getting worried about someone being so forthright. After all it is a natural human reaction not to rock the boat and tolerance is normally a good thing. However, we should never backdown from the argument and should support those who put up the counter message. It was a lesson I had to learn as a new atheist. Years ago I was found reading a book on the Creation Evolution debate one lunch time by a co-worker who questioned me about it. He revealed that he was a born again christian and I felt caught, do I back off nicely and not offend his fragile ego, or do I go in for the kill. It was a hard decision, but I realised that if I didn't put my case forward he might never hear the counter argument, and worse might go away thinking that I was not truly committed and could be pushed into the light. So I went in for the kill, but it was a bit like shooting fish in the barrel, like many fundamentalists he didn't really know his bible very well. I'm still a bit haunted by his stunned mullet look. But it was the right thing to do. The fact is the reason that Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have become so strident is that fundamentalist Christianity has itself become more extreme, and these days seems to resemble modern day moslem jihadists. It's not just that they want you to come to their church on Sunday, its that they want to teach their religion to your children in science classes, and have you adhere to their own extreme form of morality by force of law. They would deny both men and women the right to control their own fertility, and god help anyone who deviated from the norm.
Not all of us are able to stand up and explain to people what our atheisim is, but we should never begrudge the courage of people like Dawkins and Hitchens who stand up for us and fight this growing scourge of fundamentalism.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Nov, 2011
Hi Phill. Those are our thoughts exactly. We view Richard Dawkins as the epitome of moderate and polite behaviour in manner and speech. In books, articles, TV documentaries and interviews we have never seen Dawkins resort to offensive or insulting language. He comes across as a nice guy to us, unlike some academics that we do find arrogant and annoying. We believe many people get angry with him simply because he is forcing them to confront a truth that they fear. Like being told your best friend is a serial axe murderer. And we think you're right, Christopher Hitchens' style is often much more direct. Graeme Hill on his weekend Radio Live show has been playing what are called Hitchslaps, brief recordings of quips and come-backs in debates that Hitchens has been involved. They can be viewed here, and are definitely recommended. Hitchens writes and says things that are far more abrasive and frank than does Dawkins, and we love it.
We didn't comment on books from other atheists such as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett and Victor J. Stenger, since most people aren't familiar with these authors. They're big in atheist circles, but only Dawkins is known by people that know nothing much about the debate. Of course the few that do know of these authors, and find Dawkins offensive and arrogant, have similar animosity towards them all. But for your average man and woman on the street who have only heard of Dawkins, for them he is seen as the spokesperson for atheism.
We agree that the more fundamentalist you are the more upset you'll be to hear views critical of yours, no matter how politely they are expressed. Tolerance is a good thing, but sometimes there are things that we should be prepared to show dissent for. If someone said they didn't think it was wrong for adults to have sex with children as long as the children were happy enough, we would immediately disagree, even if it created friction at someone's dinner party. Why? Because it's an important matter, not something frivolous like who is the best rugby fullback in the world. And the religious who might be upset by an atheist view would consider the existence of gods as an extremely important matter. So why shouldn't it be debated just like child sex? If it's not worth seriously debating in public then it's not worth getting upset if someone expresses a viewpoint contrary to yours. The fact is that the ramifications of god's existence is extremely important and we will not tolerate the religious arguing to get nonsense taught in science class or arguing against condoms being used to combat AIDS. We will not politely smile and pretend their fantasy deserves our silence lest we offend them. As the Jehovah's Witnesses said, the problem with atheists today is that they 'are not content to keep their views to themselves'. No longer will we ride meekly at the back of the bus or bow our heads respectfully in pretend prayer to their imaginary god. No longer are we prepared to tolerate their nonsense, and they have no answer to this bar a pleading request that we go back into the closet. Sorry, but it's too late for that, we've already sold the closet. We owe a great debt to the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who have given us the information and the confidence to speak up proudly for our beliefs, just as the religious have done for centuries.
Comment by Matthew, 18 Nov, 2011
Hi SB Team, I'm never surprised when I see religious people getting offended by Richard Dawkins — nobody likes being told "you are wrong" and it especially stings when deep down you know that the person telling you is right. It must be particularly grating to the ears when it refers to a deep seated belief that you've held all your life and where you hang all your concerns. I'm convinced that this offense people feel is always tinged with a bit of fear... it scares them to hear that the one thing they take comfort from in a life sometimes full of meaningless suffering and random events, might not be true. I also wonder (tongue in cheek) whether the offensiveness of Richards comments is amplified simply because he has a "proper" British accent. It doesn't for a second make me think that Dawkins should stop what he's doing — I think its massively important and I wish there were more like him — it just makes me pause for a second when I hear these people are offended and try and understand where that is coming from.
I try and balance my Dawkins thinking and quoting with a few chapters from Carl Sagan's book "Demon Haunted World" where he eloquently dismisses any evidence in a god but also spends a lot of time in sympathy with believers. We are all flawed as humans, all a bit illogical and emotional, many looking for some purpose that probably isn't there or simply a way to cope with the many ups and downs of life — I count myself extremely lucky that I've not really suffered in my life relatively speaking, compared to many others on the planet and sometimes wonder if had things been different (victim of sexual abuse, lost family early on, grew up in the third world country) would I have found atheism a harder conclusion to come to? For the record I was in my very late teens when I became a born again atheist and found that for me, it almost came as a relief and things started to make more sense. I count myself lucky that I can actually find great comfort in reading about science, the fact that nature never ceases to amaze me and that the universe has more secrets and is more strange and mysterious than any god could ever be. But I do try to remind myself that there are thousands of people out there who don't get that feeling of awe and wonder from the things I do and I try and be a little bit empathetic to the religious (my parents are still in that boat).
A big part of me still hates religion but not the majority of the religious — just those who use it to hurt, scam, justify violence or try to ram it down others throats. I'm still very much on the fence as to whether I think there is room for religion in a civilised and tolerant world... it certainly doesn't have a very good track record but I also don't want to replace it with new age garbage such as crystals, auras and the power of positive thinking. Perhaps the time has come that we atheists of the world need to figure out why the religious cling to their gods so fervently and figure out a way of offering some of the "perks" of religion without the dogma. I look at church as an example — for many it gives company, a feeling of community, a place to go to meet like minded people... I get all of that from hanging out in a pub with my mates but perhaps there needs to be an alternative that sits in the middle.
Final note, I can't understand why your atheist dentist would be offended by Richard Dawkins! Perhaps you could go and ask them for specific examples as to what it is he says that they found offensive... but not until after the root canal — nothing worse than an irate dentist working on your choppers.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Nov, 2011
Hi Matthew. Well said, and we concur. You're quite right that it isn't surprising that some religious types get offended when they are told, directly or indirectly, that they are wrong, but we must remember that this is what they have been telling non-believers for centuries, often violently. Even in the 21st century they still visit uninvited to tell me of my errors. And yet they don't think that we non-believers should take offence or be upset on being told our core beliefs are false and we are living a lie. It is this double standard that Christians can't grasp, or refuse to acknowledge, that annoys us. If being told that you are wrong about a core belief causes offence, then Christians should be as empathetic towards atheists as they expect us to be about them. But they aren't, and this shows them up as hypocrites.
Like you, we think it is fear that many people feel when atheism is discussed, whether they realise it of not, fear that a core belief crucial to their very being might be wrong, and many use feigned cries of offence to silence us. Others desperately change the subject, storm off in anger or deflect the criticism towards atheists like Dawkins who have the insensitivity and arrogance to voice an opposing view. They don't want to discuss Dawkins' arguments, they only want to discuss his attitude. Most people don't care too much if they are found wrong regarding the capital of Spain or the inventor of jandals, but the question of god, our origins and morals is a question that many people feel has been answered in the affirmative, an answer that makes them who they are, and they don't want to hear otherwise. It's not about the truth, it's about selecting a view of the world that you would like to be correct, and telling anyone who thinks otherwise that you consider it offensive to suggest that you might be wrong. Ignorance fuelled by fear supported by blind faith in dogmatic nonsense.
We agree that we should be empathetic towards the religious, since their childhood brainwashing has disadvantaged them. It's not their fault really. We need to challenge religion, not the religious, the beliefs, not the believers. Unfortunately some people can't separate beliefs from the believer, and view a challenge to one as criticism of the other. We've found that we can talk to the religious about many things and they don't take it personally, but mention god and suddenly it's like saying that they have a big nose.
As for religion, we don't think there is any real place for it in today's world. Of course we will never get rid of religion completely. Just as there are still people that believe the world is flat or that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden, there will always be some that believe in gods. True religions, fundamentalist religions, such as described in the holy books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, will always be dangerous and intolerant towards non-believers, and even to many of their adherents, such as the Catholic and Islamic attack on women and homosexuals. Religions that truly civilised ant tolerant societies tolerated would be that diluted that they would be little different to Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, harmless beliefs for naive minds. This is happening already, previously dogmatic beliefs such as Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, a young earth at the centre of the universe, angels on clouds, purgatory, heaven and hell, slavery, the inequality of the sexes etc, have been rejected by all but fundamentalists. Most Christians throughout history would not recognise, or accept, modern Christianity. We don't feel that a truly civilised society would encourage or make room for religious beliefs that deliberately misled their citizens, that filled their heads with falsehoods, that provided some comfort but only by lying to them, that suggested that their view of the world was correct and everyone else was wrong. This is not what enlightened people should want for their world.
As for the potential of New Age garbage filling the religion vacuum, this is happening to a degree, and there will always be people that prefer easy, comforting answers over complex, scientific ones. That said, we think in this day and age it will be difficult for any New Age belief to gain the influence and power of mainstream religions. And let's remember that New Agers don't seem to have a problem with women, nudity or sexuality, have never organised inquisitions or crusades, don't have a thing for sexually abusing children, aren't in Africa keeping condoms away from those that need them and aren't flying planes into buildings. Given the choice, we would prefer that there was a deluded crystal healer lurking at our local market than an Islamist with a bomb in their backpack.
Religion as God intended it, is something that needs to be made as popular and respected as pedophilia. And a bastardised religion that I would be happy telling a child was true doesn't exist.
Comment by Chris, 19 Nov, 2011
Hi. I think I know why the religious single out Dawkins above Hitchens, PZ Myers, Dan Dennett et al. And it isn't that Dawkins is more aggressive than Hitchens or PZ. It's just that Dawkins is so very good at what he does. He has a knack for writing interesting, clearly expressed and persuasive prose, whether it's on biology or religion. He doesn't need to be aggressive about that to incur the hatred of the religious — just successful.
Although 'The God Delusion', (probably because of the title) attracts most attention, and is his only book specifically anti-religion, he has a string of pro-evolution books to his credit — which of course collide with the fundamentalist views of creation. (Ironically, searching for 'Dawkins' books on Trademe brings up just as many God-squad books furiously name-dropping to try and sell copies. Including, predictably, Ian Wishart's.)
I'd been an atheist for many years, and while I thought the Bible could be completely discounted as a credible explanation of anything, the question of origins was a bit of a loose end (not that it bothered me unduly). I assumed that evolution was probably the answer but, like quantum theory, something I was unlikely to fully understand. Then I came across Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker and the explanations of evolution in it — and everything fitted. It made an atheist worldview logically coherent — there was no longer an untidy blank area marked 'origin?'
That's why Dawkins is so unsettling — he regards God as superfluous (like most atheists), but unlike most, he sees no reason not to say so, eloquently.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Nov, 2011
Exactly Chris. Dawkins not only has the confidence to tell the religious they are wrong, he has the skills to clearly explain why.
Comment by Graeme, 28 Nov, 2011
He's a sweetie!
I was lucky to have about an hour with him face to face. If you want to hear it here's the link:
Richard Dawkins: eminent zoologist, evolutionary biologist and devout non-believer in the studio and taking calls.
Comment by Foxy, 30 Nov, 2011
If Richard Dawkins had tried to explain his scientific research by a god who controls the universe, such as Zeus, he would not be doing his job properly. Any scientist who believes in a god is being dishonest, not just to the public through his research, but to himself or herself because there will always be a point where his or her research will be undermined by his or her own religious beliefs. As an example there is a well known physicist who became a priest. This physicist sees the balance of forces in the universe as created by a god and by seeing the forces of the universe in this way he failed to understand or explain the unifying force which creates the others. It is such a tragedy when an scientist is influenced by the irrational thinking which the brain has evolved for the social control of the least intelligent members of society. In early warlike societies (and sometimes in modern societies) it was of course important that the least intelligent were more susceptible to believe whatever they were told, no matter how ridiculous, so that without any reward they would die for everyone else and die willingly. It is worrying that, recently, the religious susceptibility of these unfortunates to be controlled, has been used by faith healers and other charletons in the USA to con these poor people out of millions of dollars and sometimes these poor people lose their lives too if they stop taking a medication verified by science and biological research, and based on work done by people like Richard Dawkins.
Comment by Phill, 19 Dec, 2011
Hi guys, it's sad to see that we lost another great voice for truth last week with the death of Christopher Hitchens. Though even in death Christopher Hitchens put paid to another stupid myth "that there are no atheists in foxholes". There are too!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Dec, 2011
Yes Phill, I was shocked to hear that he had died so soon. I knew he had cancer but was expecting him to last into 2012 at least, as he was booked as a speaker at an atheist conference in Melbourne. I heard on Graeme Hill's radio show that he had died, and Graeme played two 'Hitch Slaps' in his memory. Even though he has gone, I hope Graeme keeps playing these excepts of Christopher demolishing the religious in debates. Perhaps like Shakespeare, they will be required viewing in schools in the future? And of course we still have his books. As for that foxhole myth, it really shows how brainwashed, not to mention stupid, that those that believe in it are. Thankfully due to the intelligence, wit and energy of Christopher Hitchens, there are less religious nutters in the world today than if he had never existed. We can all honour his memory by carrying on his work and refusing to stay silent when deluded souls say, 'Thank God' and 'Let us pray'.
Comment by Graeme, 21 Dec, 2011
We atheists (I define that here as I certainly hope religious people are visiting this site and shan't assume) will miss his formidable intelligence, his wit and his bravery but like Silly Beliefs said... it's up to us to step up to the plate in his absence. We've been spoiled! To mix a metaphor, he's an impossibly high bar for most of us to aim for on qualities 1 & 2 that I mention above, but #3 we can all hit.
My all time favourite Hitchens performance here on a fundamentalist radio show founded by New Zealander Ray Comfort.
It's in 2 parts. This is part 1 and part 2 should be nearby. If you like part 1 part 2 should be irresistible.
Host Todd Friel attempts to smartarse Hitchens and gets a bloody nose as he hits a brick wall of wit, knowledge and logic.
Also, here is a picture [of Christopher Hitchens & Richard Dawkins] that says it all for me ==>
Comment by Anonymous, 31 Dec, 2011
I think that rationality, reason, logic and plain common sense are lucky to have such high profile defenders prepared to stand in the face of superstitious nonsense and to delare it to be so.
Atheists, heretics, infidels etc have been persecuted, villified, discriminated against for far too long.
I wish I could be so confident!
Thanks for an excellent site.
Comment by Fred, 12 Jan, 2013
Hey guys, just want to say this is a fantastic post and captures the sentiments of what I have been thinking about for the past few years. You may have read recently that a Christian science teacher in a US public school was ordered to take down religious quotes from the wall of her classroom (full story here: http://tinyurl.com/bkn8njb). The list of egregious intrusions of religion into her classroom was simply mindblowing. What's her response when students complained to the Freedom From Religion foundation? Sue the district!?
The irony and hypocrisy by Christians, as this women exemplifies, is simply breathtaking. The Jehovah's Witness example you use is golden — atheists are not keeping their views to themselves!!! Who is on my doorstep completely uninterested in my viewpoint thrusting a pamphlet comprised of sheer fantasy? Dawkins even forewarns of this in The God Delusion.
What I would like to know from Christians is, if the shoe was on the other foot — say a Muslim teacher posting Koranic references on the school wall, and furnishing her classroom with a prayer box to Allah. Would the Christian in question be as certain that religious propaganda belongs in a public school classroom? We see the same shit year after year regarding Christmas. Celebrate the birth of your deity if you wish but don't foist it on the rest of us.
Anyway, as a person who finds religious certainty utterly unconvincing, I just want to be left alone to live my life. I don't need someone on my doorstep telling me that everyone else including me is in error and we're all doomed unless I believe their particular brand of bull shit.
Thanks for your usual injection of clarity — it has made my day much brighter :)
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Jan, 2013
Hi Fred, we're glad that you identified with our post. And thanks for the link to the silly teacher in a US public school. That she thought she was within the law is unbelievable. I think it's just this arrogance that they are right and should be able to do as they wish, or more accurately, as their god demands. They have their bloody churches, why can't they be content with those as indoctrination centres? And if they fear they are losing the battle, then they need to ask why that might be, haven't they got an all-powerful god on their side?
Catholic rape victim seeks forgiveness
In recent years we've all become used to an increasing number of people revealing that they have been raped by immoral predators belonging to the world's largest pedophile ring, the Catholic Church. We have had to listen to the disgusting abuse that both grubby young and old men, and occasionally women, have repeatedly forced on them to satisfy their criminal sexual urges. We have had to listen to the pathetic and transparent excuses from popes, bishops, cardinals and priests as they try and convince the world that they either didn't know of the abuse or that they thought they had taken steps to prevent it.
But from Australia we get a Catholic abuse horror story with a twist. John Hepworth was raped by three different Catholic clerics many times over a period of years before finding the courage to flee their slimy embrace. Nothing unusual there. He's now trying to get an apology and financial compensation from the Catholic Church for the abuse. So far he's got A$75,000. Still nothing unusual. But what is almost unbelievable is that the excommunicated Hepworth is also desperately trying to get the Catholic Church to accept him back into their den of iniquity. And not just as an ignorant and deluded believer in the Virgin Mary and all silly things Catholic, but as a Catholic priest. And not just content to descend into Hell himself, he's trying to convince many others to come with him. Hepworth's abuse began at 15 as he set out to become a Catholic priest. After he had become an ordained priest, and when he had tired of homosexual rape, he fled the world of religion and led a safe existence in the secular world. But thoughts of wispy beings, female virgins and crucifixions saw him return to the world of make-believe and train to become an Anglican priest, eventually becoming an Archbishop. But Hepworth's passionate love of the Catholic Church never left him, or was it their love for him? He states that 'I had an awareness of the illegality of homosexuality, a sense of gross sinfulness, but also a sense of the glamour of the group with which I had been involved'. What the hell is glamorous about belonging to a group of older men that rape and threaten you? Devout Catholics are certainly screwed up in the head, and even though Hepworth is now an Anglican he obviously still sees himself as a Catholic in Anglican dress. Catholic brainwashing of children seems to be particularly powerful and damaging, and even gross sexual, physical and emotional abuse by priests is insufficient to break the spell. It astounds us that someone can be raped and abused by priests and continue to believe in the priests' boss, that he is looking out for them and protecting them. So strong is the brainwashing that they can continue to believe in obvious falsehoods and nonsense. So fearful are they of losing their god's love, a god that watched while they were repeatedly sodomized and did nothing, that they plead for his embrace, even if it is from behind. While our disgust is aimed mainly at popes, bishops and priests who commit the abuse and/or conspire to hide it, we also have contempt for the ordinary Catholic who refuses to wake up and walk away from their church. The ordinary Catholic who continues to send their innocent children to monsters who, even if they don't abuse them sexually and physically, will certainly abuse them emotionally and intellectually.
Of the three Catholic clerics that abused Hepworth, he has publicly named two of them. One could be expected to believe that he has named them because these two priests are still in the community and might still be abusing vulnerable Catholics in their congregations. But no. Hepworth waited until they died before he made the public aware that there had been child abusers in their mist. 40 years he waited. He did tell church officials decades ago but they took no action, and actually made threats toward Hepworth rather than the abusive priests. And still he waited.
The third priest, whom he refuses to name, is still alive and still runs a parish in South Australia. This cowardly, uncaring bastard names two dead priests that can harm no one anymore and yet refuses to name the abusive elderly priest that is still cuddling up to children, and with the help of Viagra, probably far worse. How many other children and youths have these animals gone on to sexually abuse in these 40 years, while Hepworth was saying not a word? And men of god like Hepworth have the arrogance to claim that they love and care for us and are working hard to keep us safe!
If you're an Aussie Catholic you might be wondering if your local priest is the one that raped Hepworth and might now be grooming your child. Archbishop John Hepworth won't tell you, but Australian senator Nick Xenaphon evidently believes protecting children is more important than protecting a priest accused of criminal behaviour. He used parliamentary privilege to name the alleged perpetrator as Monsignor Ian Dempsey, a priest in the Adelaide suburb of Brighton. Dempsey has strongly denied the allegations, but then they almost always do.
Hepworth desperately wants to be a Catholic priest again, and yet his method of ingratiating himself into the pope's good books is to go to the media and demonize them. He publicly accuses several of the Church's clerics of sexually abusing him, and of the church hierarchy of blackmailing him and refusing to act on his complaints of abuse. What sane person would think that this would increase their chances of being welcomed back into the dank fold? And yet strangely, the Vatican is negotiating with Hepworth and other Anglican priests to bring them back into the Catholic Church, which betrays the Vatican desperation to boost its plummeting number of priests.
We suspect that Hepworth, like many Catholic priests, is mentally immature and unable to function fully in the real world. He says he has a passionate love for the Catholic Church and is determined to be part of it again. Yet he also says that he can't 'get rid of the panic attacks, nightmares, sleeplessness, dizziness, feelings of terror when the doorbell rings and spontaneous tears that have haunted him for half a century. At one point he was brought close to suicide'. Of the Church he tells us that ''I fled in fear, and I'm still afraid... I'm scared of the organisation', and that, 'four decades after the abuse ended, he is still afraid of going near a Catholic Church'. Why would any sane and intelligent person struggle to be accepted by an organisation that they fear, and strive to work in a building that they're afraid to approach? Hepworth obviously has problems that go way beyond a silly belief in imaginary beings, problems he is unable to cope with. Hepworth wrote that 'I ran away from that church, but I have never lost my love for it'. Although while in the real world Hepworth has been married twice and has 3 kids, he says of the Catholic Church, 'Perhaps it is the only real love that I have ever known, and it is a love distorted and beyond my reach over all of my adult life'. What does he mean by 'a love distorted'? Does he believe that being anally raped over 12 years, blackmailed, threatened and excommunicated is love distorted? He dismisses what ever he feels for his wife and children as not being real love, which is a real insult to them. Instead, he looks longingly to the organisation and people that have given him four decades of terror to again show him real love, and he strives to be back in their embrace. No doubt naked and on the beach like in the good old days.
Like the pope and most cardinals, bishops and priests, Hepworth is seemingly fixated on the Church, at the expense of its followers. Even though he himself has been abused and knows the horror and struggle that victims of abuse at the hands of priests have to endure, he isn't campaigning against the Church on behalf of tens of thousands of abuse victims worldwide. While identifying himself as a victim, he wants to be one of the very people that victims fear. This is where his concern lies, with the priests not the victims. Hepworth just wants to again wear the robes of a Catholic priest. There is no talk of becoming a priest so that he can fight the filth and rot from within, he merely wants to again be part of the priestly group that he finds glamorous. Hepworth, like the rest of us, knows full well the horrifying list of disgusting abuse perpetrated by the Catholic Church on its followers, not just over decades but centuries, and the deliberate conspiracy to hide this abuse from the public. What's more, he has experienced the horror of this abuse personally and the Church's manoeuvres to hide it and protect the priests that abused him. And yet even with this intimate knowledge of the evil, disgusting, vile and loathsome entity that is the Catholic Church, John Hepworth's dream is to once again become part of it. Of late the Vatican, in a futile attempt to redeem itself in the public eye, claims that it will undergo far more effective screening of those wishing to enter the priesthood. If this is true, based on Hepworth's sexual past and his obvious struggle with understanding who the real culprits are, he should never be admitted as a Catholic priest. That said, for the same reasons the Vatican will no doubt welcome him with open arms.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Oct, 2011 ~
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Comment by Mike, 20 Oct, 2011
Hey SB team, I love this site, I identify strongly with it, and the ethos and principles underlying it. I greatly respect the effort and energy that has gone into it.
I'm also all for calling a spade a spade, which you seem to do quite well.
I think, however, that you're allowing the conviction of your arguments to cause your recent blogs to run into unnecessary invective. Calling people "bastards" (the "Catholic rape victim" blog, and the "God and the right to die" blog) is simply rude, it seems abusive and lacking compassion (and is most probably incorrect at the literal level). Regardless of your opinion of people who act wrongly or believe irrationally, they deserve compassion and to be treated with dignity. The depth and quality of your blogs, and the serious topics covered, deserve objective, unbiased reporting. If you don't show these qualities, and compassion, you will lose your readers (or at least some of their respect).
Please keep them coming, however, this site keeps me hoping that we really are making progress after all.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Oct, 2011
Hi Mike. Thanks for your comments. Let's see if we can explain our reasoning. We like to be frank in our descriptions, and feel that religion is too often treated with kid gloves, letting it retain a position of authority that it doesn't deserve. We actually consider the term 'bastard' pretty mild in this day and age. You wouldn't have liked what we originally wrote, the words we use in private conversation to describe the likes of Hepworth, popes and those that claim that their god is our master, are far, far more descriptive and colourful.
While we try to be objective and unbiased in that we report the facts and don't suppress information or arguments that would harm our conclusions, we are of course biased in that we argue for science and atheism and don't give equal time to religious arguments. We don't subscribe to the media idea of balance, and while we try to justify our opinions, they are of course opinions and are coloured by our emotions.
You suggest that people that 'act wrongly or believe irrationally... deserve compassion and to be treated with dignity'. For a start, we feel that people that act wrongly are often different to those that believe irrationally. Children that believe in Santa are irrational, as is my aunt who believes in Jesus, but neither would normally act wrongly in the sense of committing immoral or illegal acts. However men that secretly rape little boys know that they are committing immoral and illegal acts. Others that conspire to hide these wrong acts also know that they are doing wrong, hence the secrecy. Do both my aunt and a criminal deserve equal treatment?
Let's look at the meaning of treating someone with compassion and dignity. Compassion means a 'deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it'. We certainly have compassion for Hepworth as a victim of sexual abuse. And the more we read of the horrific reports of the abuse suffered by tens of thousands of victims, the more our compassion for them increases, and we do indeed wish we could relieve their suffering. (And consequently our anger against those that committed the abuse and helped conceal it grows as well.) This compassion (and anger) also generates in us the desire that we should somehow help prevent further abuse. Perhaps by publicising the abuse committed by the Catholic Church, we can play a small part in keeping a few from trusting their children with priests. This is our gripe with Hepworth. He is doing nothing to help other victims of abuse, and nothing to prevent it happening again. His overriding desire is simply to get back into the Church, to have his excommunication revoked. He seeks their forgiveness and dreams of becoming a priest again, the very image of a person that give other victims nightmares. He has little compassion for other victims, his begging with the Vatican does nothing to relieve their suffering. It is this Hepworth that we call a bastard, the person that refuses to expose an abusive priest working with children and concentrates instead on becoming a priest himself.
What about treating people with dignity? Dignity means 'the quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect, Inherent nobility and worth'. So what does 'worthy of esteem or respect' mean? Does Hepworth deserve to be treated with dignity, with esteem? When we look up 'esteem' it provides these synonyms : 'appreciate, value, prize, treasure, cherish', and tells us that 'these verbs mean to have a favourable opinion of someone or something'. Respect means 'to feel or show deferential regard for; esteem'. But for 40 years Hepworth, with the intimate knowledge of how seriously he was harmed, has refused to publicly expose three Catholic priests that abused him, and were potentially abusing others. This is a person that did nothing to prevent the possibly that children were being sexually abused. Hepworth knew from the very beginning that the sexual abuse at the hands of his fellow Catholic clerics was wrong — morally, religiously and criminally. Hepworth would have known that others worldwide were being abused, and certainly knows now, but still won't publicly name his abuser that is still working as a priest. We would be expected, both morally and legally, to protect children from sexual abuse if we knew of it, and yet Hepworth knew and kept quiet. Why should we have deferential regard, respect and esteem for this person? Why should we appreciate, value, prize, treasure and cherish his decision to help the Catholic Church keep these abusive priests secret? Let's not confuse Hepworth the victim, whom we can feel compassion for, and Hepworth the priest who by his inaction has potentially permitted the abuse of numerous children. Rather than esteem and respect, we have nothing but contempt for Hepworth's actions. Sorry, Mike, but in our view he is a bastard, and far worse.
As regards our 'God and the right to die' post and the use of the word bastard towards people that try and control our lives to match their beliefs, we didn't use the word to be rude, we used it to show our annoyance. If people want to harm or limit themselves, then that's their option, but when their beliefs and actions harm others or attempt to control the personal, harmless behaviour of others, then they give us no reason to treat them with esteem and respect. Things such as abortion, suicide, euthanasia, divorce, masturbation, sex outside marriage, sex within marriage for pleasure only, homosexuality, blasphemy, atheism etc. are or were or would be illegal if the religious got their wishes. We are not going to pretend that we feel deferential regard for them or their belief that their god is our master and we are mere slaves created to praise him. And let's remember how the religious view the likes of us who don't believe as they do. We are told that we are all sinful, that man is inclined to evil, and without belief in their god we can't help but commit evil. Last night I read that even by masturbating we are committing 'seriously disordered acts', and by using contraception we are 'intrinsically evil'. The pope recently claimed that the Catholic sexual abuse in Ireland was caused by the 'rapid secularization of Irish society', implying that the evil secularists somehow forced his Catholic priests to rape little boys. The religious have been insulting non-believers for thousands of years, and one of the most disgusting insults can be found in every church, and in most homes and hotel rooms:
The fool says in his heart,
We have lost count at the number of times we have had this quote thrown at us. Evidently we are fools, corrupt, vile and incapable of doing good deeds! And we're being rude to them?
'There is no God.'
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
Comment by Phill, 22 Oct, 2011
Hi guys, just a quick word on Psalm 14:1, haven't had this one thrown at me yet (guess I'm not trying hard enough!) However, it is my understanding that most of the psalms were written by King David — you may remember this upstanding hero of the old testament and many of his notable deeds. Which among other things included stealing the wife of another man and then having that man killed. Betraying his people and serving in the army of their enemies. Dragging his first wife away from her second husband and locking her away for the rest of her life. Conniving in the murder of his own son and a number of other people — I could go on, he is after all my favourite of the old Testament types and supposedly the last one of them to directly talk to God.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Oct, 2011
Thanks Phill. And to think that Christians want us to use the Bible as our moral source! Perhaps that's why Catholic priests — Bible experts — commit such atrocities? They believe that they are simply living their life in god's image.
Comment by Foxy, 30 Nov, 2011
The fact that this guy wants to join the Catholic Church after being raped by Catholic priests follows a common pattern. The people involved are not necessarily homosexuals. What happens is that a chain of abuse is formed which is passed on from one generation to the next so that the victim in each generation wants to become the abuser in the next generation. The mental and sexual confusion actually make the victim want to join the church more than if there was no abuse. Most famously, homosexual rape was used for hundreds of years in Ancient Rome and Greece by the elite as a means of social control. It was passed from generation to generation for so long because it worked. There was a strict rule that the older person abused the younger, never the other way around, because it was not a mutual or homosexual relationship, like the relationships allowed today, which were illegal in Ancient Rome and Greece. What this means is that this guy Hepworth nees to be watched very closely even if he thinks he is not a homosexual. He does not have to be a homosexual to continue the pattern of homosexual rape.
Priests and teachers have always been the jobs which abusers prefer and both have developed a system of cover up and denial in the modern world.
Sex and the rise of herbal erections
Recently we were asked our view of 'the rising tide of herbal remedies advertised on the airwaves lately. Primarily Deer Velvet and the Herbal Ignite erectile cure'. So we decided to do a little research.
There are probably two questions here. Firstly, why the annoying rise in advertising, and secondly, do these age-old herbal remedies actually work as claimed? We'll discuss mainly Herbal Ignite, but our conclusions should be read to cover all the many herbal products claiming to improve your sex life. Let's start with the first question, why the sudden rise in ads about male erections, or more specifically, the lack of them.
Men wanting to boost their sexual prowess is nothing new. Throughout history there have been stories of potions, concoctions, substances, foods, spells and charms that promised to improve virility, to work as an aphrodisiac, to enlarge the male genitals and to generally improve sexual performance.
The Bible, a book written by men, tells us that even in ancient times men believed women preferred males with huge penises and sexual prowess. In Ezekiel God tells us of a young woman who 'lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses'. (Note to the offended, if you find frank descriptions like this embarrassing or even obscene, then ask a Christian why they're in the Bible and why they want this Bible taught in schools.)
Growing up we heard people talk of Spanish Fly, a substance claimed to be an aphrodisiac which evidently is a toxic preparation of crushed blister beetles. We've also heard of superstitious people using the likes of ground up rhinoceros horn, much to the annoyance and detriment of the rhinoceros that was killed to provide it. This is what is known as sympathetic magic, the silly belief that specific attributes of something or someone can be transferred to another person or object. A rhinoceros horn is phallic shaped, big and hard, so ignorant and superstitious men believe that by consuming ground up rhinoceros horn these attributes will — somehow — be transferred to their erect penis. Similarly some ancient people thought that consuming the heart of a powerful enemy warrior would give them his strength and bravery. Historically there is no shortage of substances that are claimed to enhance sexual prowess, either by evoking silly magic or by the physiological effect of some substance, such as herbs or eating oysters, or often by a combination of both.
So miracle claims of enhancing sexual performance are nothing new, mankind (primarily man rather than woman) has seemingly been fixated on turning himself into a well endowed stud ever since Adam got his first erection while naming all the animals for God. Unfortunately, to the distress of many of the cuter animals, this sexual arousal was misspent until God finally realised his error and created Eve. The problem with all these claims of sexual enhancement is that none have been able to convince the majority that they really work, and are safe to use. None have shown that there is a magic pill for restoring or improving sexual performance.
And then along comes a prescription drug called sildenafil citrate, aka Viagra. The recent medical success of this drug has convinced the general public that sexual problems can in many cases be alleviated and sexual performance can be restored or prolonged. The body really can react if given the right substance. Sex for some can be improved with a pill. Viagra has since been followed with Cialis and Levitra, chemical compounds that work in a similar manner.
So were the old stories true after all? The alternative health industry wants to take advantage of this breakthrough and change in public perception by offering its 'natural' alternatives to Viagra. These alternatives have become generally known as herbal viagra. Rather than admit that they failed where science succeeded, they want people to believe that they've had the cure all along, that the stories of old weren't all just myth, it's just taken science to convince the public that miracle pills are possible. And what's more, their potion, which isn't a drug, is natural, cheaper, easier to obtain and far safer than the likes of synthetic drugs such as Viagra and Cialis.
With dollar signs in their eyes, the success of Viagra has motivated alternative health companies such as Herbal Ignite and Silberhorn deer velvet to ramp up their advertising for herbal alternatives to Viagra. Viagra has proved that the right substance can make a difference, and the alternative health industry wants you to believe that their products can too, products that can be easily ordered with an anonymous email or phone call and delivered in a plain wrapper.
So the alternative health industry obviously has financial motivation to advertise their herbal Viagra, and luckily for them, advertising attitudes and rules have changed in recent decades. Sex can now be advertised. Ads on TV, radio and in print can now not just hint about sex, but actually talk about erections, and the lack of them. We generally still can't show full frontal nudity — male or female and sans erections — but talking about erections, the use to which they are put and utilising untold euphemisms are fine. Years ago advertising these sex products would have been as difficult as advertising child porn or publishing anti-Semitic material is today, but no more. So these products are now widely advertised because it's an anonymous way to learn of a fix for a problem that people don't want others to know they suffer from. They want to learn all they need to know from the ads so they don't have to talk to strangers about their sexual problems.
Unlike other advertised products, the question of whether any of these herbal products for sexual problems actually work will not affect the amount of advertising we are exposed to. The nature of these products has the advantage that the majority who purchase them would not be willing to go public and complain that they don't work. They're not going to tell all their mates at the pub, let alone shout the failure from the rooftops. Or conversely, even rave to everyone that they do work. These companies know that these people don't want their family, friends, colleagues and neighbours knowing that they have a problem with sexual performance. The companies go to great lengths explaining how they can help them keep their problems secret, with plain packaging, no revealing names on credit card invoices, no embarrassing visits to doctors or pharmacies etc. People are vocal about fast food restaurants or cell phones or movies that they like or don't like, but almost no one talks about their ability to become sexually aroused. Even if most purchasers of these herbal products are dissatisfied and stop using them, the advertising will continue apace, and the public will remain ignorant.
Also if clients of these products do complain, to the company not to the public, the companies may well decide to give them a refund. For example Herbal Ignite refunds the cost of any unopened bottles of pills, and so the client goes away relatively happy. Sure he still has a problem, but at least he hasn't lost money, or much money, and he probably reckons trying the product was worth a try. It just didn't work for him. If he has managed to get a refund, and even if he hasn't, he's very unlikely to publicise the ineffectiveness of this product, since people are naturally going to ask how he knows it doesn't work.
The fact is, whether these products work or not, whether their clients are happy or not, we can tell nothing about their effectiveness from the advertising, because either way their clients are not going to talk openly and publicly.
On to our second question, do these age-old herbal remedies actually work as claimed?
For a start, Viagra and similar products work differently to the herbal options such as Herbal Ignite. To our knowledge Viagra doesn't act as an aphrodisiac, it doesn't arouse or intensify sexual desire. It merely alters blood flow and creates an erection in those that have problems getting or maintaining an erection. Evidently Viagra will usually cause an erection within 30 minutes, which can then last for hours. There have even been media reports of men going to hospital to get rid of their long lasting erections. I recently saw a humorous ad for one of these pills that give long lasting erections, where you heard, but didn't see, a couple having sex. You only saw the side of the bed. There was continuous moaning and it went on and on and on, night turns to morning, and eventually you see the woman's arm extending into the picture as if in sexual ecstasy. However she grabs a bedside lamp and knocks the guy unconscious. Having an erection that will last for hours may not be as great as it sounds.
It should be noted that what Viagra treats is erectile dysfunction: 'the inability to sustain a satisfactory erection to complete intercourse'. It doesn't evidently restore libido or sexual desire, or increase the size of the erect penis. And contrary to what movies suggest, it doesn't even cause an erection if you don't think about sex. You have to combine it with sexual stimuli.
Herbal Ignite claims that 'It will help you achieve stronger erections, last longer, turbo charge your sexual performance, increase libido, and give you the sex stamina of your teenage years so you can be a better lover'. In addition they claim that it produces an 'aphrodisiac effect, better stress relief, improved energy, sense of well being, builds the immune system, improves liver function'. However Herbal Ignite will NOT cause an erection on demand as Viagra does. In fact it won't actually cause an erection at all. Supposedly what Herbal Ignite does is to improve your overall health, and this health improvement will — eventually — allow you do get an erection naturally, when you feel like one, just like you did when you were a teenager. A perfectly healthy male body gets erections naturally and spontaneously, whenever it is exposed to sexual stimuli. So unlike Viagra, which temporarily affects blood flow in the penis, Herbal Ignite claims to affect the entire body, in some sense it is claiming to be an elixir of youth. Herbal Ignite claims to restore your body of youth, and with this body comes naturally strong and frequent erections. We suspect they make this claim of an eventual overall health improvement that will take months from which erections will eventually arise because taking their pills doesn't seem to do anything obvious. Take Viagra and within the hour its effect will be obvious, both to you and your partner. Take Herbal Ignite and nothing happens, or at least nothing that you can take to an orgy or as an interesting prop to a 'Two And A Half Men' convention.
Herbal Ignite is a little like those other methods that promise an improved sex life for both men and women. Like dieting and exercising to obtain a healthy and attractive body, like throwing away your Destiny Church Purity Ring, like hanging out in bars in sexy clothing, like losing the Church instilled sense of guilt over sex, and like developing a personality that people would like to wake up next to. If you develop a naturally healthy body and an interesting and guilt-free personality then you increase your chances that sexual encounters will happen and that your body will perform naturally without the need of pills.
Herbal Ignite is a dietary supplement that you have to take several times a day for between two and three months before you're even likely to experience any change in whatever sexual problem you're taking it for. And even then you might not notice any improvement because we're told that it doesn't work for everyone and results can differ. It's funny how all alternative remedies offer that excuse! Herbal Ignite pills are like Lotto tickets, not everyone gets lucky. And for the one or two that do win, it was just a fluke. There was nothing special about your ticket, just as there's nothing special about those pills.
There are many websites promoting the likes of Herbal Ignite, many which pretend to be users recommending its effectiveness, but it is obvious in the phrases that they use that they are all just rehashing the same sales pitch. They are out to sell the stuff and make money by pretending to be satisfied customers, hiding the fact that they are nothing but salesmen pushing you towards their product. They label their products as dietary supplements rather than health products, even though clearly they are promoting health products. This allows them to sell them without having to prove they work or are safe to take, which is a requirement of real medicine.
The Herbal Ignite websites nearly all say that studies, research and clinical trials have proven the effectiveness and safety of their ingredients. For example, here is a typical claim:
Herbal Ignite is formulated with sound research... The active ingredients in Herbal Ignite have undergone clinical trials to provide further proof of their effectiveness...
But not one says that their actual product that combines the different ingredients has been tested for efficacy and safety. By themselves bullets and rifles are quite safe, but combined they become lethal. The actual product as it will be used must be tested, not the individual ingredients in isolation. But it appears that even the individual ingredients have not been tested as the Herbal Ignite websites falsely claim. This article from Wikipedia on Herbal viagra states that: 'There are many different products advertised as herbal viagra, but with varying ingredients... There are no clinical trials or scientific studies that support the effectiveness of any of these ingredients for the treatment of erectile dysfunction'.
In our view the claims that these herbal viagra products have been proven effective and safe is as empty as mediums claiming that they have helped police solve murders or Christians claiming that the Virgin Mary cured their acne. They are most likely lying, or at the very least deluded in their claims.
Apart from being expensive and needing a doctor's prescription to obtain, involving describing your intimate problems with strangers, promoters of herbal products tell us that Viagra contains drugs and chemicals that can cause harmful and even fatal side effects. Their products however contain neither drugs nor chemicals, only natural substances that have no negative side effects. They fail to understand or deliberately hide the fact that every substance, synthetic or natural, contains drugs and chemicals. And usually the only products that truly have no side effects are those that have no active ingredients, that is, worthless products that are just water or sugar pills. To markedly affect and improve the body's overall health as these products claim to do, it is unbelievable that every one of their many health effects is positive and not a single effect is negative. On the Herbal Ignite website they even scare people into buying their product with this line: 'why stopping sex can be dangerous for your health'.
Let's finish with this question: Did Herbal Ignite's developer believe in his own product?
According to this Herbal Ignite website article 'Tim Bickerstaff launched Herbal Ignite... in 1997... He was very closely involved in the business until his sudden death on October 31, 2009'. For some reason it didn't give him the natural health and longevity that their advertising implies. But this aside, by 1997 Herbal Ignite was a developed and tested product, supposedly proven effective and safe enough to put on the market. Bickerstaff claims to have developed Herbal Ignite because he was personally suffering from erectile dysfunction, and insists it is far superior in performance to the likes of Viagra, safer, cheaper and with no side effects whatsoever. Remember that Bickerstaff started marketing Herbal Ignite in 1997, and we can assume he had been using the product long before this. His sexual vitality would have returned, so much so that he felt he had to offer this amazing product to others. But according to the same article Bickerstaff was very quick to start using Viagra when it was released: 'Viagra, the little blue pill was launched in the US and Tim was one of the first New Zealanders to legally import it for his own use. But when it became an accepted pharmaceutical item Tim says "I didn't like having to go to the doctor to get it, I found sometimes it didn't work, and I got bad headaches with it." ' Viagra first became available in the US in late 1998, one year after Bickerstaff started marketing Herbal Ignite. But if Herbal Ignite was so effective and so wonderful, as Bickerstaff insists it is, why would he even have contemplated using Viagra? If Herbal Ignite will restore your sexual vitality, as he claims it did for him before Viagra was released, why did he switch to Viagra? Obviously Herbal Ignite wasn't doing anything for Bickerstaff's sexual problems for him to go to the hassle and expense of importing Viagra. No one buys a Toyota when they've already got a Ferrari parked in the garage, and especially not if they own and market the Ferrari brand. If Bickerstaff had developed Herbal Ignite through dissatisfaction with Viagra then this would be believable, but he actually switched from Herbal Ignite to Viagra as soon as it became available. It appears he returned to marketing Herbal Ignite only when he saw the lucrative potential for a natural alternative to Viagra. So why should the public have confidence in a product that its very developer and promoter tossed aside to go with Viagra? It wouldn't surprise us if Bickerstaff continued to use Viagra himself while selling Herbal Ignite to others. Perhaps that's what caused his unexpected death? Regardless, the fact is that he apparently didn't have the confidence in his own product that the advertising suggests.
Viagra and similar products have been clinically tested. We know how they work, when they will work and what the risks are. However herbal remedies for sexual problems have not been clinically tested. We do not know if they work, or if they are safe to use. There could indeed be some ingredient found in nature that will affect erectile dysfunction, but just like real medicine, these ingredients must be proved effective and safe in clinical trials. We cannot simply believe a company who places profit before safety and efficacy. And we certainly can't believe their advertising claims, since almost no one who has tried the products will speak openly, either to support or challenge their claims. Nor can we automatically believe the likes of Herbal Ignite developer Tim Bickerstaff or anyone else that is being paid to promote a herbal product for sex and erection problems.
The only thing we can believe is the results of clinical trials of the real products, not some of their ingredients. For all we know two ingredients that have a real effect may cancel each other out when combined in a herbal pill, or need to be taken at a certain level which isn't found in the pill. Likewise, an ingredient may have a real effect, but like Viagra, may kill you if all the risks are not understood. Remember that men, and women, that take these remedies often have other underlying health problems. Until these herbal products undergo clinical trials to prove their efficacy and safety, until they are prepared to take responsibility for the products that they want people to ingest daily, we should assume they are nothing but snake oil.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Oct, 2011 ~
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Comment by Bob, 08 Oct, 2011
I agree with everything you say in your article. Sex enhancing herbal products are just another alternative medicine fraud. One of the reasons all herbal products endure is that the users don't know each other so don't talk to each other. On a different tack but similar it was a another story when a well known self promoted psychic gave readings on a cruise ship. The only trouble was members of the audience were still there next morning and they talked. That didn't enhance the psychic's reputation.
There is one thing about aphrodisiacs which disturbs me very much. That is the belief by people, especially the Chinese, that ground up body parts of endangered species will enhance sexual performance. A demand for powdered horn and the like from animals like the white rhino is leading to their rapid extinction. It is probably impossible to convince them it is a waste of time and money. I wish they could be convinced that ground up horn and testicle from common cattle are just as good.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Oct, 2011
You're right Bob. It's terrible that superstitious people are not only killing animals, but also driving some to extinction to obtain products that don't even work. They die for nothing.
Comment by Phill, 11 Oct, 2011
I agree with what you say, I would add my own feeling that the aging baby boomers have also had an impact on these products after all they are heading into their later years when this kind of problem becomes more common (or so I'm told).
My real bug bear however is the use of the term "herbal". Most of these dietary supplements and other products all claim to be herbal, there are the herbal highs, and all the other things you find in the health shops and sadly chemists. Now I like herbs I enjoy cooking with herbs, I am willing (accepting that there have been no clinical trials) that perhaps some herbs are good for certain human ailments (this does not mean I don't go to the doctor or choose not to take the prescribed medication). But I question what is herbal about these supposed herbal supplements. I understand that most of the companies that provide things like the "herbal" sex drugs actually get all their ingredients from pharmaceutical companies.
I suspect that most of the guys making these things wouldn't know a herb if they fell over one. I'd argue that the real sham here is not the product but the use of the term "herbal" I believe that none of these things actually use herbs in anything like their original form and some may not use any herbs at all. But the manufactures use the term "herbal" to attempt to convince the public that somehow these untested medications are safe and good for you. Of course you can't help but wonder what Tim Bickerstaff actually died of.
Really what is being sold to the public are not herbal remedies but alternative and untested drugs.
Comment by Alison, 12 Oct, 2011
Hi guys — nice post. I think the other thing we need to bear in mind is that many of these ‘herbal' products are not as pure & natural as they make out. We're constantly hearing of such products that have been adulterated with prescription drugs such as Viagra & Cialis, this being the only way that they can actually have some of the effects claimed for them: http://sci.waikato.ac.nz/bioblog/2010/05/erectile-dysfunction-products.shtml
Keep up the good work
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Oct, 2011
Thanks for the link Alison, and you're right of course, if these products had a real effect then they would have been embraced by real medicine by now, and thus any rare effect must be produced by secretly adding prescription drugs.
I think the main problem with all these herbal products is the naïve belief in the myth that everything found in nature is, to use your phrase, 'pure & natural', or as Phill said, 'are safe and good for you'. Why don't the promoters and users of natural products think about these claims? What about anthrax and arsenic, AIDS and Ebola, earthquakes and tornadoes, scorpions and sharks? These are all natural products!
We need to convince people that just because something is found in nature doesn't mean that it is safe to ingest or seek out. Science is the best way to separate the good from the bad, the useful from the worthless, the safe from the dangerous.
Comment by Mikaere, 13 Nov, 2011
In response to a phrase by Phill referring to modern medicine — I take advantage of the benefits of medical science but have learned the hard way not to see it as an infallible, universal panacea. I take note of the dodgyness of some 'alternative' therapies but that does not automatically confer supreme status to the medical profession. Several misdiagnoses (of serious conditions) by medical professionals have established a 'healthy' distrust and I have learned to question and investigate more. I believe in being sceptical now, not just with the easy targets but also with established, mainstream practices. Usually the latter have been superb for me but it's basically my responsibility not to blindly expect perfection.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Nov, 2011
We agree Mikaere. As wonderful as medical advances have been in the last 100 years, we feel that media soundbites often give people the view that doctors can cure almost everything or at least will within the year. People then get disillusioned when they or a family member is misdiagnosed or correctly diagnosed but find that no cure is available. Doctors are not infallible and some are more skilled than others, hospitals are understaffed and some incompetent. However as imperfect as individuals and institutions are, modern medicine has saved far more lives than it has harmed, unlike alternative therapies. It still has great potential, but as you say we need to be skeptical of these upcoming medical cures for cancer, AIDS and aging etc that the media suggests will be delivered tomorrow, or at least the next day.
God and the right to die
This is a story of a child with a degenerative brain disease, who died at 20 months, and his family who generated a 'right-to-life' legal battle in Canada and the US. Arguments between the family and the hospital in Canada eventually saw a group called 'Priests for Life' flying him to the US for treatment that the Canadian experts considered 'medically unnecessary'. Like the Terri Schiavo case, the brain-damaged woman kept alive as an ornament by her religious family against the wishes of her husband, this case highlights the false belief of Christians that they have the right to use secular medicine and legal systems to challenge the wishes of their god. The stupid thing is that by using these methods Christians actually insist that they are following his wishes.
The source of this post is an email we received yesterday from Felicity:
I know this isn't a kiwi story but I thought I'd pass this on as I couldn't believe the nonsense in it about this being a "victory for life" and god choosing when the child should die: Priest says Baby Joseph 'fulfilled mission from God'. Not only does it bother me that people continue to say god is doing a good thing in not saving a dying child but that people couch their suffering in terms of god's choices, not human striving and responsibility. If we took away all the modern banners, words and journalistic style, this could be in a medieval or ancient text when people knew no better.
As Felicity said, these 'people continue to say god is doing a good thing in not saving a dying child'. They praise their god, not for saving a child, but for letting one die! Is this neglect something we should praise? Let's say you could save a child's life, perhaps from a burning building, with no risk whatsoever to your own life. And if you're shy of publicity, you don't even have to hang around, you can just carry the child to safety, ring the cops, and fade into the shadows. Let's say now that you refuse to save this child, and your community knows you could easily have saved the child, but didn't bother. Would you expect them to praise you, to thank you for your help and support, or would you expect them to call you an unfeeling monster? Would you think saying that you had a good reason for doing nothing, a reason you won't disclose, would make people think better of you? We would vilify a fellow human that refuses to save the life of a child, and yet Christians worship and give their lives to a demon that does exactly this every minute of the day. Not only that, they acknowledge that their god decides exactly when everyone dies, so it is God that actually kills them. It's not just God's inaction that kills people, as it would be with the man, the child and the burning building, God actually plans when everyone will die. And these deluded morons actually think this demon is on their side.
The Maraachli family refused to have life sustaining equipment removed so the baby could die naturally. They then convinced a group called 'Priests for Life' to fly him to the US for an operation that wouldn't save his life, but would allow them to take him home so that he could — wait for it — die naturally. They forced the child to undergo more operations and pain and suffering just so they — not God — could decide when and where the child would die. As one of the family said, 'We accepted death a long time ago. We just wanted it to be at home and that's what we got.'
When the child was removed from the hospital, taken home and finally took his last breath, his aunt said that 'It seemed like a relaxing breath, like he was OK. It didn't seem like he struggled. It was God's way of telling us his last breath was OK'. And yet just before this we were told that the baby 'was having a hard time breathing during the last two days'. So he was struggling, and probably in pain, regardless of how peaceful his last breath might have appeared. This all-powerful god that these morons keep telling us about always comes across as a pathetically weak god, unable to truly communicate to his followers, except by actions that are completely indistinguishable from natural ones. We read that years ago God could really talk to people, even if it was through a burning bush or stormy cloud, but now being a feeble, decrepit old god, the most he can do is float alongside a child's dying breath. Hardly a god worth believing in.
After the baby's death, his aunt said that 'We want to thank God and everyone else for the support. I don't think he would have made it that long if there [weren't] those prayers from all over the world'. Think about that for a minute. 'We want to thank God... for the support'. The baby is dead moron. What support did your god give him or you? The only reason he lasted this long is because of medical science and your blind insistence that every unnatural means available be used. God was trying to kill the kid since he was born, and the family fought him with every non-divine means they could find. The aunt goes on to say that 'I don't think he would have made it that long if there [weren't] those prayers', which again shows that they believe that they have circumvented God's wishes for a quick death. Prayer is simply begging that God will change his mind and grant an extension. A silly belief that you are having a say when someone dies, not just God. And anyway, should you need to beg a loving father to keep your child alive a little longer? Sounds more like a demon.
The Terri Schiavo Foundation lent their support to the Maraachli family and was glad that the child was able to die at home. Evidently it was 'all the family ever wanted'. What, they didn't want their child to live a long, healthy life instead? These bastards insist that we should 'let God decide when their child should leave this Earth, not doctors or the civil courts', and yet they fight their god every step of the way. They plead with the doctors to do something to stop a loved one from dying. This baby required a machine to breath and a feeding tube to gain nourishment, and probably numerous other medical interventions and drugs to keep it alive and relatively comfortable and pain free. Unable to survive without artificial and unnatural help, the family then insisted on a tracheotomy to prolong an inevitable death. In every part of history bar this one this baby would have died a natural death and gained a peaceful release not long after its birth, if indeed it had even survived its birth.
It is the deeply religious that refuse to let nature, or in their view, God's wishes, take its course. It is they that hook up the terminally ill and/or brain dead patients to artificial machines and then refuse to switch them off. It is they that rush their dying family members to hospitals and fill them full of antibiotics.
Why do these hypocrites plead with the doctors? If they really believe our survival is all up to their god's will, why don't they (as a few Christians do), refuse help from a materialistic world and wait to see what their god has planned for them? If God wants you to live, you don't need antibiotics. His power will see you through anything. If God wants you dead, no amount of antibiotics will make a difference. In reality it appears that these cruel bastards have very little faith in their god, and hence rush to the emergency department at the first hint of trouble, not to their church.
The national director of Priests for Life, Father Frank Pavone, said that 'This young boy and his parents fulfilled a special mission from God. Amidst a Culture of Death where despair leads us to dispose of the vulnerable, they upheld a Culture of Life where hope leads us to welcome and care for the vulnerable'. So what was the baby's 'special mission from God'? To create anguish, despair, sorrow, grief, heartache, depression, and if he's good at his job, anger, doubt and conflict? And are priests incapable of telling the truth? Can you really visualise chanting doctors picketing the family's home with placards reading: 'Kill the baby!' Or agree with the suggestion that hospitals live 'Amidst a Culture of Death where despair leads us to dispose of the vulnerable', and that hospitals are places that are unable to 'welcome and care for the vulnerable'? This is an obscene and disgusting accusation to make towards doctors and nurses, especially so since it comes from an organisation that have themselves been guilty of the most horrible sexual, physical and emotion abuse of the vulnerable for nearly 2,000 years. If Satan is real, he's running the Church, not the hospitals.
Carrying on with the theme of evil doctors, we're told that 'a Franciscan priest who grew close to the family' (which is usually priest-speak meaning he's abusing someone within the family), said 'Praise God he had seven precious months with his family to be surrounded by love and was not put to death at the hands of doctors'. Again this implies that doctors are forever conspiring to kill their patients, unlike God who gave the child the fatal degenerative brain disease in the first place (remember the special mission?), that would have killed him months earlier if not for the doctors. Amazingly, the article also notes that God had earlier killed the child's sister with a 'neurological disorder'. And this family thinks their god loves them and is looking out for them?
And this priest goes on to call this child's terrible death 'a victory for life'. Are these priests and their followers stupendously stupid or what? OK, the jury's back and its unanimous, they're stupid. If their god had miraculously saved the child then it would have been a victory for life, as it was it is clearly a victory for death. Only ignorant believers in another life beyond the physical could joyously claim that a child's suffering death is something worthy of calling a victory.
Felicity is correct, this view of life and death being under the control of some god is reminiscent of ancient thinking when ignorance and superstition ruled. It is disappointing and depressing that many people still think that they are nothing but slaves, that their life is not theirs to do as they wish, that they were created to do God's bidding. They are not free, but live merely to serve their god, and they have no right to decide when their life or that of a loved one should be allowed to meet a merciful end. It is no surprise that their ancient beliefs propose a master and slave world run by gods, since slavery was normal and ignorance common place, but that many modern humans still kneel down to an invisible master in the sky is embarrassing in the extreme. Worse still, they want those of us that have thrown off the shackles of blind submission to gods, to still let them control our lives. Not content with giving their life to their god, they insist that we also must submit, whether we believe or not. They are slaves to their god, and they want us to be slaves to them. If some deluded Christian wants to hook himself up to a machine so that get he can experience another decade of pain and suffering or exist in a persistent vegetative state, then fine, torture yourself and your family. But don't try and force your sadistic and subservient beliefs onto the rest of us. Your god may own you, he doesn't own us.
And we need to stop these slaves to God insisting that their children are also slaves to God by default. Ruin their own lives if they want, but they have no right to harm their children. If their god really wants his children to suffer, then he should be required to front up in person and sign the forms. It shouldn't be up to the parents to simply pass on his wishes.
Society seriously needs to have this debate over the right to a dignified death. We need to wrest control of our bodies away from the religious. And it's a debate that has more urgency than mere intellectual debates over whether God exists or evolution is real, since it can affect the very quality of our life here and now if we ever end up in a hospital or a rest home. The phrase 'Fight for Life' sounds great, and it is when that life will be valuable and worthwhile, but not when people are artificially kept alive in unbearable pain, against their wishes, when a recovery is impossible, and their dignity is stolen. Yes, doctors are expected to prolong life where they can, but they are not expected to prolong the process of dying. There is a major difference. When death is inevitable and imminent, and accompanied with pain and a loss of dignity, it should not be seen as a noble thing to prolong that painful and undignified death as long as medically possible. And Christians need to be reminded that it is their hijacking of medical science that is prolonging death, not the miracles of their god. It is medical intervention that is cheating the wishes of their god. These religious sadists claim that they are merely doing God's bidding, when in fact they are fighting their god every step of the way.
Unfortunately human bodies don't have a physical on/off switch like science fiction robots that we can flick when we've had enough of life. For reasons such as unbearable pain, incurable disease, increasing dementia and other causes that destroy the quality and dignity of life. But hidden within our bodies there are in effect several types of circuit breaker that will trip when the stress on the body gets too high, and when tripped the body dies. The Christian argument would be that these circuit breakers have been placed in our bodies by God for a purpose. We would argue that they have come about by evolution, but whatever their origin, Christians now want to hijack secular medical science and force it to effectively place some tape over these circuit breakers which will stop them tripping and circumvent their purpose. Circumvent, in their worldview, their God-given purpose. Christians are bloody hypocrites, and seemingly even ignorant of their hypocrisy.
As they say, everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die. And Christians are the worst of the lot, they are the ones who dream of reuniting with their god but they're the ones who will never turn off that bloody God-defying machine. Seemingly a persistent vegetative state is preferable to meeting God.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Sep, 2011 ~
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Comment by Keri, 30 Sep, 2011
Um, Terri Schiavo was a female.
Other than. totally agree with all your comments.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Oct, 2011
Thanks Keri. And yes, we know Terri was a female. We assume the sentence that caused the confusion was this one: 'The Terri Schiavo Foundation supported the family and was glad that he was able to die at home'. We've changed it to make it clearer that the Terri Schiavo Foundation was lending their support to the Maraachli family.
Comment by Bob, 01 Oct, 2011
Such attacks on doctors make me see red. Doctors save the lives of thousands of people every day. Sure there are difficulties knowing when to give treatment and when to allow the person to die. To talk about a culture of death and disposal of people is gross defamation of doctors. On any day at major hospitals a number of people will be sitting for several hours hooked up to dialysis machines. Is that an example of a death culture? This baby apparently had no hope of reviving. All that happened is it was kept alive artificially a little longer. In trying to make their God relevant the religions like the Catholic Church are distorting life. Sometimes it is kinder to let a person go.
The picture of God and life painted by the religions is very distorted. Stories about babies like this one bring on more emotion than logic because everyone likes babies and babies are helpless, bringing out the caring nature of people. However I can never understand why life is regarded as sacred so much so that anybody in any condition should be kept alive. Why does the caring God allow conjoined twins to be born? Have you seen pictures of Treacher-Collins victims? These suffer physical facial and head abnormalities due to genetic faults. Some are only slight, some are hardly recognisable as human. To make matters worse they can be mentally normal and only too well aware of their physical distortion which make it impossible for them to have any sort of normal life
Over the last 200 years there has been a medical revolution. Even though before then there were well meaning early doctors who did their best to help sufferers. God didn't do much to keep people alive with short life spans and disease causing organisms which are natural creatures as much as elephants. The trouble with religion is it wants to cling desperately to its beliefs. The Catholic Church is a house of cards. If it admits its beliefs are hollow the whole house will come crashing down.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Oct, 2011
Thanks for your comments Bob. I think we all agree that the Church will never admit that its beliefs are false. What we have to do is to keep making these arguments and observations to our family, friends and colleagues. Destroy their support base and they'll eventually become as inconsequential as the Flat Earth Society.
Comment by Phill, 03 Oct, 2011
I agree with your points but I can't help but feel some sympathy for the family in what can only have been an emotional roller coaster ride when dealing with a dying child. My own suspicion is that God had very little to do with the families decisions and it was more a case of "while there is life there's hope." That this was a family desperate to keep their son alive for as long as it took, because so long as he breaths a miracle either medical or religious might happen to save his live. I don't condone it but I can't help but wonder if I was in the same circumstance, a desperate parent, might I not be fighting for that one last hope. Of course after the event, when death has finally come you might then revise your reasons for your choices and talk about god's will and the desire for a natural death at home or what other nonsense makes the whole horrible ghastly experience more bearable.
One of the more scarier things I once saw was a copy of the Jehovah Witness Magazine festooned with photographs of children (as I recall from about ages twelve to sixteen) I guessed that these were all kids who had refused tainted blood and blood products. I assumed that the stories would be of the Ben refused the tainted blood being forced on him by his doctors and still survived whatever medical condition he was suffering from genre. But no, they were all stories of the Ben refused the tainted blood transfusion that his doctors wanted him to take and then died genre. The mag was really pushing these kids as martyrs, better death than accept modern medical practise.
I can understand the Canadian case, as a parent I can sympathise with that desire to keep your baby alive for as long as you can. To me it seems a more natural desire than that of the I'm really happy that my Ben chose death before having a routine life saving medical procedure that my brand of religious stupidity deems unholy. But then I might be a little biased.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Oct, 2011
Like you Phill we also have sympathy for the family, or anyone, dealing with a dying loved one. We also agree that most of the family's motivation was no doubt 'while there is life there's hope'. What we have a problem with is the hypocrisy of claiming that their god makes the decision of who lives and who dies, and at the same time pleading with doctors and lawyers to save their child. But it's the bigger picture that really worries us. If people clearly make it known that if they go into a persistent vegetative state or are terminally ill and suffering etc, they nevertheless want to be keep alive for decades by artificial means, then that's their call. But these same people should not be allowed to force their beliefs and wishes onto others, be it family, or strangers like us. You mentioned the Jehovah Witness crowd, and there are others, who refuse medical treatment, not just for themselves, but for their children. Hospitals and our legal system have an origin in the religious belief that our lives and our bodies are not our own, but belong to god. Why is suicide illegal? Who owns your body if not you? This underlying belief that god controls when you die influences everyone from doctors, nurses and rest home staff to lawyers and family members. We need to restore control of our body and life back to the individual.
Personally I fear reaching old age and approaching death. I don't fear death at all, but I do fear the process of dying. I fear religious and well-meaning people trying to keep me alive with drugs and medical interventions when all I'm trying to do is die naturally, especially if I am suffering and have lost my dignity and any meaning in life. I fear that people will only let me die when they are ready. It shouldn't be about how they feel.
Comment by Felicity, 06 Oct, 2011
Hi John, thanks so much for exploring this topic — you did a fantastic summation of the issues involved. And I agree it's a very important discussion that still needs to happen to get real results rather than fudging around the edges of some people's fantasy sensibilities. Nobody's telling me I don't have rights to my body because god has allegedly said so through the mouthpiece of the vain and self-righteous.
Not related to above but still about devolving responsibility to some figment in the sky, you might also like the studies mentioned in this article: How Conservative Politicians Wait for God to Fix the Economy, With Frightening Results. No worries that humans invent economic systems, now god gets to take all the credit. Literally.
Thanks for continuing to share great information and for continuing to confirm that it's a good thing to question and explore the inanities of religious sensibilities.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Oct, 2011
Thanks for the comments and the link Felicity. Even the economy is the work of god?! It's scary to think how many people believe that we're just puppets of their god, and that they're still allowed to vote.
God to visit death on Christchurch
Ken Ring must be on holiday, or maybe Canterbury residents have sensibly started to ignore his predictions on impending doom. Whatever the reason, another deluded individual has stepped up to keep the pressure on and keep Cantabrians living in fear of another deadly disaster. According to an item on TV3's 'Campbell Live' last night, an anonymous person has been placing warning pamphlets in letterboxes, especially those near the coast, entitled:
28 SEPTEMBER 20011 — EARTHQUAKE — FLOOD WARNINGS!
They have also spread the warning via the Internet to Christian networks nationwide. This should give you a hint as to the deluded nutters spreading the latest reason to flee Christchurch with soiled pants.
Yes, the people stirring up fear this time are evidently good ol' Christians, one of which has a hot line to their vindictive, barbaric and dangerous god and has been let in on his next attempt at destroying Canterbury. According to their information, and unlike the nonsense Ken Ring offered based on silly astrology, this prediction is accurate and completely reliable, since it comes from a god. Not a fairy or a leprechaun or a troll, but a god. And quite a powerful god it seems, who, according to legend and myth, has quite a reputation for visiting untold death and suffering onto innocent humans. So when this god says he's going to drown babies in their cots we should take him seriously, or so we're told.
Those promoting Canterbury Armageddon on Sept 28th claim that on top of a devastating earthquake, this time there will be a deadly tsunami as well. Hence the reason these people personally visited the Woodend Christian Holiday Camp, which is on the coast, and urged them to evacuate the camp at this time, for the sake of the children (They are ignoring the warning). So why a tsunami this time? Well, these religious souls believe that the two previous earthquakes that have struck Canterbury, and the hundreds of aftershocks, were not natural events. They were deliberate attempts by their god to attack the region and cause death, destruction, hardship and suffering. But as bad as these events were, evidently they did not achieve their god's objective. Hence their god is returning to have another go, and learning from his mistakes of the past, has decided to create a devastating tsunami this time to inflict more damage, more death and more terror. You Cantabrians have obviously done something major to really piss off this god, since he's really got it in for you it seems. Are you the 21st century version of Sodom and Gomorrah? Is it your casino, your prostitutes, your old fashioned boats on the Avon, your Islamic mosque, or is it the blasphemy of calling your city after his son? A son he had tortured and killed and is trying to forget? Remember the commandments, that this god is a jealous god who won't stand any competition or suggestions of false idols?
So how did these people learn of their god's most recent dastardly plan, a quick phone call perhaps? No, their god did it the old fashioned way. No, not a talkative burning bush, but similar. Only one of the group is evidently in communication with their god, and he came to her while she was doing the ironing. In the pamphlet dropped in mailboxes we gleaned that this woman has been chatting to god since the previous quakes, and he told her that he was working on something big: '...God had answered me... and said to me "There is more to come"'
Recently he has revealed more:
'...while I was doing the ironing and talking to the Lord He spoke to me that there would be water and drownings. I asked Him for "Chapter and verse" from the Bible, because I wanted to get a scriptural base to what I was hearing.'
We're not exactly sure what's meant by 'the Lord quickened to me several passages', it's probably some divine form of texting. Or why god would want to chat while you're doing the ironing? Ironing is a dangerous job, a loss of concentration can cause burnt fingers, or worse, a ruined shirt. But even more inexplicable for a devout and fearful believer in this god, a god who is callously plotting murder, she questions him. She demands evidence and wants to know his motivation. She is effectively asking her god, Do you have any justification to take this action? Has she not read her Bible? Her god slaughtered Job's entire family when he questioned god, and turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt when she looked at the result of one of god's earlier destructive and murderous rages. No sane, religious person (yes, I known that's an oxymoron) would dare to question their god and his motives. It's quite obvious that the only thing going on between this woman's ears is blind faith, ignorance, superstition and delusion.
'Since then the Lord has quickened to me several passages of scripture, which I will share here.'
As silly and ridiculous as this woman's prediction is, it seems that an embarrassing number of people are taking it seriously. Steve Graham, Dean of Laidlaw Bible College, told reporter Natasha Utting of:
'People coming to see me in tears, going... what do I do, I'm terrified, I need to tell my friends... There's people planning on leaving the city, even going to Australia for the week. I know someone who runs an education program where some parents have pulled their children out, even though it means they're going to fail the year.'
New Brighton resident Mel Pitcher received the warning in her mailbox and it immediately affected her, invoking both fear and anger. She has since decided that the calamitous event won't happen, well... probably not. Just in case she is not going to wander far from her children. Regarding this prophecy, Natasha also told us that 'Leaders of the biggest churches in the region have been urged by their congregations to evaluate it', and we saw a weak attempt by some minister trying to allay the fears of his gullible flock. The trouble is that Christians are caught between a rock and a hard place. They want to say that this prophecy is absolute nonsense and should be ignored as the rubbish it is. But to do so they must denounce a fellow Christian as a deluded nutter. They can't say, as we most definitely do say, that god doesn't chat with people doing the ironing, and he doesn't send horrible death to innocent cities. Because of course Christians do believe that their god talks to them, and that he has destroyed innocent lives multiple times, if their holy book is to be believed, and of course they believe it is. How do they debunk a fellow believer without debunking their own beliefs?
Steve Graham from the Bible College made an attempt:
'The picture of god is angry with the city, it's quite compelling when you're in it, but when you step outside you go, it doesn't really make sense. I mean, are we really that bad compared to things like... God have you not been to Auckland or Wellington?'
But here even Graham appears to agree that his god does indeed destroy the wicked, but that there are far more wicked places that should be destroyed first. It's amazing that he pleads with his god, 'Don't kill us, kill them, they're the evil ones.' Aren't Christian morals wonderful? Graham doesn't argue that his god would never destroy cities, and thus the prophecy is bogus, but that Christchurch would be well down god's list.
Natasha attempted to interview the woman that chats with god, but a man ordered her from the property. She drives away none the wiser and muses:
'I can't help but find this puzzling. If you believe that god wants you to warn as many people as possible of an imminent tsunami, wouldn't TV be a good way to reach the whole region?'
And we agree. Why are they suddenly hiding? Why are they disobeying their god? In their pamphlet they state that he's '...a loving, caring, God who wants to save people so He is warning through this dream so people can be safe'. Their god has chosen them to warn us, and yet now they become afraid and hide, failing to perform their god-given mission. Will their god be pleased? Of course you also have to ask why, if god wants to warn everyone, why he doesn't simply talk to everyone? Isn't god all-powerful and up to the task? Or at the very least, why doesn't he talk to the Prime Minister or the Mayor of Christchurch or Civil Defence heads or even to a seismologist? Why waste his one warning on an ironing woman who isn't prepared to go public? Unless of course these Christians only want to warn fellow Christians and not evil atheists like us? That would explain the warning going to Christian networks, but why go to random mailboxes? And why this fear of speaking with Natasha, a cute and friendly TV reporter? This anonymous woman is a person that is confident enough, not only to speak with god, but to question god, and yet they evidently feel intimidated by Natasha's intellect.
Natasha also asks geologist Mark Quigley for his view, and he's brave enough to doubt this message from god, and state it on TV:
'Basically I think you should ignore any of these kind of prophecies because they're not grounded in anything other than one person's random dream that they had.'
Asked the crucial question, 'Is there any scientific evidence to suggest that anything is going to happen on the 28th?', Quigley replies,
'Not more than any other day. The probability of a tsunami impacting on the Canterbury coastline would be very low, just like it would be any other day. There's no prophetic... you know, there's no reason to believe any prophetic dates, there's no reason that we would do anything differently that day than we would do any other day.'
While technically correct, this is where scientists often fail in communicating with non-scientists. Most people don't want to know about probability. The correct answer when talking to the public Mark is: 'No. None whatsoever. There is no scientific evidence suggesting that any natural disaster is going to occur on the 28th or any other day. These types of prophecy are absolute nonsense and are based on ignorance and superstition. To believe that a vindictive god is out to kill us is as silly as believing in earthquake demons and tooth fairies.'
If only we could get skeptical people to speak the blunt truth. Many believers will go on TV and proudly and confidently say that there is a god, but almost no one is prepared to voice the opposite view, that belief in a god, let alone a petty god stalking Christchurch, is absolute nonsense. TV ratings will allow an item that suggests that perhaps god didn't make a specific prophecy, but not that god doesn't exist at all. They can expose the fringe believers as delusional, but not the mainstream. That it seems is a stance too far. Talking to god while you iron is OK. Believing that god talks back is not.
Update: It shouldn't need to be said, but Sep 28th has now past and surprise, surprise, Canterbury was not struck by a tsunami created by an irate god. Will this blatant and embarrassing failure have convinced these religious morons that a voice in their head isn't some god talking to them? Not at all, they will be just as convinced today as to the existence of their god as they were when promoting this prophecy. They will have simply concocted another delusion that explains the failure of the first. And their ignorance is maintained.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Sep, 2011 ~
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Comment by Keri, 27 Sep, 2011
When Ring made a similarly stupid prophecy — based on a similarly bizarre belief — thousands fled CHCH.
It is possible that this resulted in one death.
This latest load of tripe has potential to cause panic among the stupid...
As an atheist, I am perfectly happy to lend my name to any general 'educating people about gods & other silly beliefs' programme — but I expect the money-oriented sharks who control mass media aren't really interested in this...
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Sep, 2011
We agree Keri, the media are more interested in profit than truly informing their audience. We suspect that if you met them in the pub they would be more than happy to tell you that this stuff was nonsense, but not publicly when it might alienate some of the plebs.
Muslim terrorist gets name suppression
Muslim terrorism has finally reached NZ shores with an 18 year-old Auckland student threatening in a YouTube video that bombs had been placed in Government buildings. Fortunately the police managed to find and arrest the student before any bombs were planted and innocent people killed, and have charged him with 'threats of harm to people and property'.
One would hope that our authorities would be united in throwing the book at this terrorist, and let's not fool ourselves, anyone who claims that he has placed bombs in undisclosed public places, whether he has or not, is terrorising the public. A terrorist is not someone who kills people, they are someone who terrorises. But no, not everyone thinks that this man should be made an example of or that we should show that we won't give terrorists an easy ride. The student's solicitor Nicole Smith argued that this brave terrorist should be granted name suppression. And the judge duly granted interim name suppression.
Why name suppression? Well, according to the solicitor, since the student's family was Muslim, revealing this man's name, and thus his crime to those that know him, would 'bring extreme shame to the family'. (Read article here:
YouTube bomb threat charges shame student's family)
Yet isn't this one of the deterrents and punishments of committing crimes, that your identity will be revealed? We suspect that a lot more people would commit crimes if they knew that if caught, while they may have to pay some penalty, their community would never know that they had done anything wrong.
What typical family isn't ashamed when one of their own commits a crime? But this isn't about family, otherwise this argument would apply to every criminal, since every criminal has a family that may well be ashamed of what they did. This name suppression was granted solely because the family was Muslim, because evidently there is something special about being Muslim. Ross wrote to us and noted: 'What a bloody cheek! I can't recall anybody asking for name suppression because they were from an atheist family, but I know I'll be trying if I ever end up in front of a judge!.' This suggests that atheists and their families can also feel shame, it's not just Muslims, and Ross concurs: 'I'm damned sure my family would be shamed if I were to do something so stupid and I am fairly sure there's not a religious nutter among them!'
So why does the solicitor and the judge seemingly believe that a Muslim's family can feel, not just shame, but extreme shame that they need to be protected from, and yet imply that an atheist's family would evidently feel no shame?
Ross succinctly sums up the real problem with name suppression with this comment: 'I must admit I'm getting a little tired of religions asking for... and worse, getting special treatment and leniency from society because of their imaginary friends. One must ask why this all-powerful mate of theirs didn't prevent them from getting into strife in the first place.'
Why is a court protecting a Muslim family and their imaginary god? As they say, if you do the crime you do the time. And your identity is published. And no, we're not picking on Muslims, no one, not Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans or Jedi Knights should get special treatment because of their religion. Remember that this suppression is about the family being religious, specifically Muslim, not about a family feeling shame, otherwise this suppression would be automatic for everyone.
And being brutally honest, why should we believe that all Muslim families would even feel shame on learning that their son is a terrorist? For many this would be seen as a proud boast, having a son that is fighting for Islam and Allah. The only shameful thing is that he was caught before carrying out his threats. But at least he tried, which is kind of something for devout parents to be proud of.
This conspiracy to hide the identities of those that commit heinous crimes against their community reminds us of the untold number of crimes committed by another religion, Christianity. We're thinking specifically of the sexual and physical abuse against children by Catholic priests. But not only did Catholic priests, bishops and popes conspire to stay hidden, they were assisted in this ploy by lawyers, insurance companies, judges, police, the media and ordinary Catholics, all hiding the truth so as not 'to embarrass Holy Mother the Church'.
We had hoped that society had advanced ethically in recent years and that people in authority would no longer assist deluded religious morons to hide their crimes and identities, but this case would say no. It's depressing and annoying that we still have intelligent people helping criminals that believe in sky fairies to retain their anonymity, solely because of this belief in nonsense.
We feel extreme shame, not because someone in our families threatened to slaughter people, which they haven't, but because in NZ there are still people arguing that the religious should be afforded special treatment, and that their crimes against humanity should be hidden from us. It's not the job of our justice system to protect the followers of some god during his lengthy and embarrassing absence.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Sep, 2011 ~
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Comment by Chris, 24 Sep, 2011
Hi John, I think you're over-reacting to this one. It's only *interim* name suppression, to quote the article: "Judge Ellis granted name suppression until the boy was able to get legal aid but said he would need solid grounds for it to be further suppressed."
This is quite common and easily explained - after all the guy hasn't been tried yet so has not - yet - been found guilty of anything. In this sort of circumstances interim name suppression is very easy to get, for almost any reason, and so it should be.
I think you're also reaching too far when you say 'before any bombs were planted'. The kid has only been charged with making threats, it seems unlikely he actually did anything more or I'm sure charges would have been laid.
I'd be extremely annoyed if anyone got off lightly by virtue of their religion, but so far, I can't see it in this case.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Sep, 2011
Hi Chris. Yes we agree that only 'interim' name suppression was granted by the judge, but according to the article the accused is 'seeking name suppression so his Muslim family avoids the "extreme shame" the charges bring'. If it had nothing to do with being a Muslim and the implication that Muslims would suffer far more than non-Muslim families, why was religion mentioned? Also how will 'interim' name suppression ensure that 'his Muslim family avoids the "extreme shame" the charges bring'? This suggests that they want full name suppression, otherwise they have only postponed their shame by a month or so. As we said, if this name suppression was simply to give time to advise his extended family, rather than Muslim shame, then this suppression would be relatively automatic for everyone. There would be no need to use the Muslim argument. We agree that this case and the name suppression seemed quite common, except for the argument as to why name suppression was requested.
And yes, the student has only been charged with making threats, but as we said, terrorism is not specifically about physically planting bombs and killing people. It is a psychological attack. Most of the fear of terrorism in the world today is because of threats, few people are actually killed. When a school in the US, and hopefully here, or a political camp in Denmark, hears of someone making threats or plans to murder innocent people, then we would hope they take them seriously and don't just treat these threats as youthful pranks. Might we suggest you mention to an air hostess that you've planted a bomb on the plane and see how they react. How would we ever know if people caught making terrorist threats would have carried them out if they weren't caught before hand? Wouldn't most say they had no intention of actually carrying out the threat? Until they actually kill people should we treat these threats and those that utter them like shoplifting or pirating movies on the internet?
Like you we'd be 'be extremely annoyed if anyone got off lightly by virtue of their religion', and to us it appears that this was the only reason religion was mentioned in this case.
Comment by Mike, 25 Sep, 2011
The judge is 100% wrong. Time to bring back the stocks, the 2011 version.
The use of billboards bearing his name and face on a couple of major roads and outside his university might go a long way of making sure that the zealots get all the publicity they want.
Also televise the trial with breaking updates via Facebook/Twitter/ whatever.
He wants publicity give it to him in spades, have every TV/radio station have a reporter camped outside his parents doorstep 24/7.
Shame him and his family because if they supported him and his radical cause then they are also terrorists and the next logical step would be to deport the lot of them.
NZ doesn't need religious radicals nor does Australia nor any other civilised country.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Sep, 2011
Yes Mike, we agree. No adult or even high school student that has lived through the last decade should think he can make a terrorist threat and believe that it will be treated as something minor and frivolous if they're caught. If you think you or your family, friends and community will be ashamed of your actions, then the answer is simple, don't do it. If you go ahead regardless, then you must live with the consequences, as must your family etc.
And let's be frank here, Muslims have complained vocally and rightly that they shouldn't all be viewed as potential terrorists simply because of their religion. So when a Muslim then turns around and makes a terrorist threat he shouldn't expect to be treated leniently, and especially not by Muslims that have screamed false persecution.
Comment by Ion, 08 Oct, 2011
Hi Silly Beliefs. I disagree with Mike and to some extent your own argument on this matter Why? Because the person at the centre of the case has merely been charged, not yet been tried. I'm one who still would prefer our system of jurisprudence to presume a charged person/suspect/defendant to be innocent until found guilty. A fiction, meybe, but it's a polite fiction. And it does protect to some extent the non-guilty in my view.
So I have no quarrel with name suppression for the time being, unless and until the silly sod's guilt has been determined. Properly and with due process. Then his name ought indeed to be published for all to see and to vilify if they choose. And, yes, if it were merely a threat or a hoax call (i.e. a marginally different kind of threat), then the name still ought to be published, even if no further conviction were forthcoming.
Like you, I believe one's religion, one's sexuality, one's socio-economic status, one's ancestry should neither mitigate what's coming to transgressors, nor exacerbate the same. Of course, That's an ideal that in the real world won't be realised any time soon.
And before we rush headlong into condemning this kid, there are two things to remember (1) we don't really know the facts of the case beyond what has been reported (and we know how much we can trust the media in this country for the accuracy and integrity of their reportage, don't we?) and (2) the greatest threat to any nation's security is its own government (if you don't get the relevance, check out some of the legislation that the present administration has been shoving through Parliament in recent weeks, and then tell me your views on what should happen to terrorists). Even Thos Jefferson and Ben Franklin nutted that one out.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Oct, 2011
Thanks for your comments Ion. Our main gripe with this case was not that name suppression was requested, but that the reason used was that his family was Muslim. We would have had no problem with the request if they had merely said that they needed to notify his family. Our problem was with the implication that being a Muslim gave his family an advantage, and that they would feel a greater shame than non-Muslim families. The way we see it, the accused family being Muslim was used as leverage and justified special treatment. We don't care if he was accused of making a bomb threat or shoplifting. His religion should not be factor in whether the public is told of his arrest.
Comment by Phill, 16 Oct, 2011
Like a lot of people I'm not very keen on name suppression especially if you are rich and or famous. Its an advantage that normal people such as my self will never enjoy. However, in this case I suspect that the name suppression had very little to do with the shame that these charges would bring upon this muslim family but rather an attempt to protect the family from the hatred and bigotory that we are starting to see even in this country. We know nothing of the family and there is nothing to suggest that they have encouraged the actions of this young man. But reveal his name and what are the chances that the evil minded in our own society would vent their vileness upon his family. Who knows what outrages might be committed, be it rocks through the windows of their home or molatov cocktails hurled into their bedrooms.
Also lets consider the real threat here, a secondary student, a teenager, makes a stupid video and loads it on youtube. How many of us as teenagers have not done stupid things? Fortunately, in the dark ages of my youth the lack of electronic access to the world kept knowledge of my stupidity to a small group. I have real difficulty in accepting that someone who has claimed to have planted bombs is terrorising the public and by implacation that they are the same as those who actually do plant bombs. Surely this reaks of the old Christian claim that thinking about adultery is the same as committing adultery — If my eye offend me pluck it out! Surely we as sceptics should be more able to apply a bit of critical thinking to such claims. If a teenager makes a video claiming that he has planted bombs in Government buildings then we might want to consider some basic questions, is he part of a larger group? Really would a larger more dedicated group of terrorists have allowed him to make such a video? If he is acting on his own how able is he to construct a bomb, (yes I know you can down load the banned books) but really could he access the materials? If so how big a bomb could he make? Finally the targets are government buildings, what does this mean, his local Winz office, the local police station? Parliment? Just what access would he have? Now I'm not saying he could not do all of this, but really, whats more likely, a truckload of homemade explosive or perhaps a bit of dry ice in a plastic bottle? Or perhaps the most likely explanation a kid screwing around with a video camera then hooking it up to the internet. What would Occam say?
Personally I think this terrorist word has been a bit over used in the past decade, and it worries me that the media have been too quick to link terrorist and muslim together and make them interchangable. The real danger here is not the shame that might be brought to his muslim family but the real danger that there are those amongst us who would use this as an excuse for their bigotry and violence.
I think we have seen this kind of thing before, back in the thirties when the German Nazi party painted another religious group as enemies of the state. There were sceptics back then, brave men and women who challenged such nonsense, some of them paid for it with their lives I would have hoped that we might have learned from their sacrifice.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Oct, 2011
Thanks for your thought provoking comments Phill. Like you, we also have a negative view of who can gain name suppression in NZ. If you're a well-known entertainer or sportsperson, it seems that the courts will often help you keep your offending secret. We have no problem with the notion and need for name suppression in certain cases, but it is an option that should be applied equally, not just to the rich and famous.
As you suggested, perhaps name suppression was justified in this case of a youth making bomb threats if there was a chance that his family, being Muslim, might be unfairly targeted by low lives in society. We have a perfect example of this behaviour when last week the captain of the grounded container ship the Rena was granted name suppression because of a fear for his safety. This week we hear of scum harassing innocent Filipinos just because the captain was Filipino. So there are cases for name suppression, but let's remember that in this youth's case suppression was not requested, or apparently granted, for reasons of safety, but evidently 'because the family was Muslim, the charges would "bring extreme shame to the family" '. This youth was given interim name suppression because of religion and the clear implication that shame is more harmful to Muslim families than non-Muslims.
You're also right Phill in your question, 'How many of us as teenagers have not done stupid things?'. We certainly have, it's part of growing up unfortunately. And we certainly aren't implying that those that make stupid threats are equal to those that carry them out. There is a big difference between making a threat and actually intending to go through with it. But that said, threats are made for a purpose, to intimidate others, and as such are still wrong. If skinheads threaten to assault me if they see me on the street, then they are terrorising me, forcing me to cower at home. They may have no intention of actually harming me, but if I believe they will, then they are terrorising me. However those that that blow up a building I'm in aren't terrorising me, they are murdering me. To terrorise means to 'coerce by intimidation or fear'. We've all heard of Americans that refused to fly after 9/11. When I've travelled overseas, threats of terrorism have certainly affected my behaviour, London with the IRA bombs, Jerusalem with suicide bombers, Cuzco with the Sendero Luminoso terrorists, and of late al-Qaeda. Of course silly threats made by disgruntled teenagers are poles apart from actually harming people physically, but emotional harm is also a crime. If someone is controlling my actions by my fear of what they might do to harm me, then they are terrorising me.
Of course it is most likely that this youth was just making stupid threats, that's why he was charged with 'threats of harm to people and property' and not attempted murder, and the conclusion of his case will reflect this. But we must take threats like this seriously, even if made by mere teenagers, since teenagers are not always helpless or harmless. Think Colorado, April 20, 1999, as two teenagers enter their high school called Columbine.
We didn't blindly assume a Muslim youth must be a terrorist simply because he was a Muslim. We accused him of being a terrorist because he had threatened to kill innocent people with hidden bombs. It was his solicitor that tied this act of terrorism to religion. This youth will only have made his bomb threats because, based on a recent history of very real bombs in planes, trains, buses, public buildings, nightclubs, restaurants etc, he would have been fully aware of the fear, alarm, dread and terror that his threats had the potential to cause. I think we would be a little naïve if we thought that this youth from a Muslim family was completely oblivious to the many real incidents where Islamists not only threatened to blow up innocent people, they actually did so. If there is a public stereotype of Muslims as terrorists, then this youth by threatening to commit terrorist acts was only confirming it, as was his solicitor by highlighting the Islamic connection. Of course most Muslims are not terrorists, just as most Christians don't murder abortion doctors, but a Muslim youth that threatens a terrorist act is doing the majority of peaceful Muslims a disservice. It is for this very reason that the stereotype of Muslims as terrorists is perpetuated.
You're right that the media have made little effort, and George W Bush none at all, to make it clear that Muslim does not mean terrorist, and vice versa. But some Muslims are terrorists, just as some Christians are homophobes, and there is no doubt that it is their blind belief in Islam and Christianity respectively that makes them so.
It's difficult to deny that Muslims aren't terrorists when a Muslim commits a terrorist act and says that he did it in the name of Islam. It's difficult to deny that Christians aren't intolerant bastards when a Christian persecutes homosexuals and women and says that he does it in the name of Christianity. Ditto for Jews. Who are the real Muslims, Christians and Jews? Muslims shocked by terrorist acts deny that those that committed them are true Muslims, just as Christians and Jews insist that those that persecute homosexuals aren't true Christians or Jews. If the likes of al-Qaeda is true Islam then all Muslims are indeed what we in the West call terrorists, since those that don't support them are not Muslims at all in their view. We have met many Christians who when confronted by other Christians who don't believe exactly as they do insist that those people are not even real Christians. If we define Islamic terrorism as the willingness to kill non-believers and create an Islamic world, then many Muslims would agree that Muslims are, or should be, 'terrorists'. But the majority of Muslims disagree that this should be their goal. But which group is right? It's like asking, is it Catholics, Baptists or Mormons that are pushing the correct view of Christianity? We do need to educate people that so called Muslims — just like Christians, Jews and Buddhists — are made up of numerous groups all claiming that their specific beliefs are correct and the rest are misguided. There are indeed Muslims who promote terrorism, just as there are Christians who persecute homosexuals and ban contraception. If they are following their true religion, then all Muslims are indeed terrorists and all Christians are intolerant bastards, and the rest are just deluded pretenders. The West has decided, thankfully, to believe that the Muslims that reject terrorism are the true followers of Islam, but a humanistic desire rather than true insight apparently motivates this stance. The fact is that claiming Muslims aren't terrorists is as simplistic and false as claiming that they are. The fact is that some are, some aren't. We need to realise that just as different Christians look differently at masturbation, different Muslims look differently at terrorism. Some are appalled, others embrace it. The public needs to be aware that most Muslims are kind, loving people, as are most Christians, but some are plotting against you. It's not an either or situation where all Muslims are terrorists or none are. While we must strive to destroy the stereotype that all Muslims are terrorists, we must not replace it with the politically correct notion that no Muslims are.
There truly are religious groups out there that we should view as enemies of the state. While we should demolish the stereotypes, we should still remain suspicious of a Muslim that asks us to take a package onto a plane or a Christian that invites a child on a sleep over.
Comment by Ion, 18 Oct, 2011
Hi John — I accept your argument that religious belief should be no ground for name suppression when facing charges. Mind you, I would have no special quarrel with a blanket name suppression until charges have been laid and the trial date set... I'd even prefer until sentencing. But that would probably be an unrealisable ideal, for several reasons. Apart from anything else, if justice has to be seen to be done, to whom it is being done needs to be equally visible. But what were the real grounds?
I can see that knowing the guy's religion might have the effect of prejudicing the public mind against the dude facing charges, especially in a case like this. That possibility might arguably constitute grounds for interim name suppression. For all we know that was how it was presented to the judge. If that were the case, the judge's decision sounds (to me) reasonable - or at least not unreasonable. Given the standard of journalism in this country, the thing is likely to have been reported as it has been even if the argument and the decision were as I have suggested it might have been.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Oct, 2011
Yes Ion, there are arguments for blanket name suppression, for example the case where someone is found not guilty but the publicity has already harmed their reputation. But we must also remember that one problem with name suppression is similar to keeping suicide secret. Everyone involved in the case — extended family, friends, associates and the local community — all know the person's identity and what is alleged to have happened. Also anyone of the public can often attend the trial and hear all the information that is suppressed. The media know the name and have the photos. The only people that don't know the person's identity are people that don't know the person, and usually couldn't care less even if they were told their name.
As for the reason for interim name suppression in this case, we can only go by what was reported. The print report and TV report that we saw, from independent sources, both stated that suppression was requested 'because the family was Muslim, the charges would "bring extreme shame to the family" ' There was no suggestion that the judge or the youth's solicitor feared for the safety of the youth or his family because of their religion.
Comment by Phill, 23 Oct, 2011
Ah you have to love that old time religion!
We are always going to agree on the fundamentals, as atheists we long ago gave up (if of course we ever had it) a concept of pure faith as our principal world view and relied on a more material, empirical, and scientific world view. There are questions out there that we (as a human species) don't know the answers too yet. This has not stopped our scientific community from attempting to answer them, and we know that the answers will be found in the written word of these men and women of science, not from the pulpits of fundamentalist preachers of whatever particular brand of faith they come from.
But I think as sceptics we should be also careful of stereotypes, they exist yes, they are an easy shorthand for the purposes of communication and we all do it. Especially in the last few weeks, bellyaching about the bloody French or the Australians. It is a natural thing to do. I think in part it derives from our origins as a social animal and our need to define ourselves by which group we are a part of and of course which groups we are not a part of.
You ask the question what is a true Muslim? A true Christian? I think the answer is that there is of course no such beast. Take Christian's; you have a group of people who say they follow the teachings of one Jesus Christ and I suspect that's about where it stops, because at that point we drill down the next level with the multiple groups with their many and varied beliefs many in contradiction with each other. Even at this point its difficult to generalise. We have the Catholic Church with its shared belief structure and dogma but even here there are extremes from the ultra conservative groups as represented by people like Mel Gibson with their hatred of Jews, strict concepts of the place of women in society and other such views, to the other extreme and the radical priests who formulated Liberation Theology in Latin America in the fifties and sixties. We are all too aware these days that some Catholic priests abuse children. Yet we also have examples of Catholic Priests who have risked their lives to protect children (Here I would direct your attention to one Angelo Roncalli who as the Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey during World War Two saved thousands of Jewish refugees including specifically a boat load of Jewish children.)
What does this all mean, it means there is actually no one group which represents the whole. Someone once told me there is no such thing as an American. There are people who live in America (or more specifically the United States) There is a government that acts in the name of these people but you are never going to find such a thing as an American. His explanation was that the guy from Texas was very different from the guy from Maine. Those from the west coast differ from those of the East, the north from the south. The Black experience of America is different from the White experience. They may have a shared history and some shared cultural values but its very superficial.
You ask who are the true Muslims? Could it be those who fly plane loads of innocent people into populated buildings? Or are the true Muslims those who decry such actions. The answer is they all are. In reality there is no such thing as a Muslim just as there is no such thing as a Christian, nor do I think is there even a stereotype that represents either group. Rather we pick the stereotype that best reflects the point we are trying make. That best suites our particular rant of the moment. Yes some of those who are Muslim have sanctioned and committed acts of terror. Yet all the Muslims I have met have been decent, hard working, family orientated men and women. As to acts of terror many Muslims might point out that we of the West are much more responsible for acts of terror against them. Lets be honest how many Westerners have died because of Muslim terrorists since say the 1960's. A few thousand, maybe ten thousand, I shouldn't think the number extends much beyond this. In the last decade how many tens of thousands of Muslims have died because of Western actions, how many Muslim children have been maimed or killed because of the brightly coloured cluster bombs we of the West are so keen to fire into their territory. How many tens of thousands of family members have cried over the graves of those slaughtered by Western Military forces? Of course we might say, well its not us, not all Westerners are involved in these atrocities, but I'm sure those ranting from the pulpits on the other side don't bother to make that distinction.
If a Muslim asks me to take a package on a plane should I be suspicious? The question I ask is should it matter whether they are a Muslim or not, the fact is I'd be suspicious of anyone I did not know well asking me to carry something for them and as many of my friends would tell you I'd be even suspicious of people I know well asking me such a favour. What I would argue is that we should drop the stereotyping and use critical thinking and apply its tools. The questions we should be asking is not what is your fundamental faith system; but who are you? And what's in the package?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Oct, 2011
Excellent points Phill. We do need to be wary of stereotypes, most of which are false. Many are embraced because they appear to confirm some prejudice people have against others. I've never been a fan of identifying myself with certain groups based on nationality, ethnicity, religion, culture etc. at the expense of others, groups for which I had no choice in belonging to. Even as a kid I would annoy people by saying that I would rather see myself as a human and a citizen of the world than a New Zealander. While I love being a Kiwi and love NZ and the life it offers me, I don't see why I have to view other countries as outsiders and myself a traitor if I agree with some aspect of their culture or law over what NZ offers. You mentioned the recent insults aimed at the Australians and the French over a simple game. This embarrasses us no end. I've been to Australia and France several times and I like them. Of course there are obnoxious and annoying Aussies, Frenchmen, Americans, Swiss and any other nationality you can name, including of course Kiwis. I get annoyed with stereotypes, although as you said we are all guilty of using them at times to varying degrees. We, us included, need to guard against dismissing or insulting an entire country or culture or religion simply because we have a gripe against one element of it, invoking a stereotype to rail against it.
So if the stereotypes are false, what of our question, 'Who are the real Muslims, Christians and Jews?'. It is no doubt difficult if not impossible to answer, and no matter what answer was reached, the majority would disagree with it. Our view would be that those believers that faithfully and blindly follow the original beliefs as set out in their holy books are closer to being true believers than are those that have rejected most of what is proclaimed in their religion. For example, we see the likes of Christian fundamentalist Ian Wishart who believes Adam and Eve were real as being a more committed Christian than the likes of Christian Ian Harris who doesn't believe a supernatural God even exists. Wishart's belief in Adam and Eve is essential since their sinning is what introduced sin into humans and necessitated the killing of Jesus years later to forgive these sins. Harris's belief that god doesn't exist on the other hand means that Adam and Eve and sin likewise don't exist, and thus Jesus isn't needed, or even possible since his father doesn't exist. Both Wishart and Harris will insist that they are the true Christian, but we see the religious fundamentalist as the one that more truly represents the ideals of the original, ancient religion, be it Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc. These days your average Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu is one that has rejected much of what the ancients believed, embracing scientific views and a humanistic philosophy to get them through a typical day. They are far closer to being humanists than true believers, although of course they would deny this. Even today's fundamentalists can't be called true believers since even they won't commit themselves to all the beliefs and commandments that their religion actually demands. Few fundamentalists still believe the world is flat as their god says it is, and they will rail against evil homosexuals, but thankfully almost none will kill them as their god demands. But there are differences even within Jewish, Christian and Muslim fundamentalist beliefs, with some believing certain things and not others.
Because there are so many errors and contradictions within holy books, no fundamentalist can believe it in its entirety, no matter how much they desire to. That said, the more nonsense you can believe the closer you become to a true believer, and the more you remove yourself from the real world. Apart from hating seeing people suffering from a delusion, we don't have a problem with most Christians or Muslims because most aren't fundamentalists, they live their lives almost as if they weren't religious. They are Sunday Christians or Wedding and Funeral Christians, only letting religion intrude on their lives occasionally.
And you're right, the West is guilty of its own fair share of atrocities. There is no simple us and them, saints and sinners. Jews, Christians and Muslims have done obscene things to each other, both historically and still today. Likewise religious individuals have also performed selfless acts to help others, such as the Apostolic Nuncio you mentioned. However to do this they have often set aside basic tenets to act instead in a humanitarian way. For example today we have Catholic organisations, priest and nuns in Africa disobeying the Vatican by issuing condoms to combat the AIDS epidemic. They are choosing to behave as humans rather than Catholics. Often it appears that when the religious speak up for homosexuals, slaves or women etc, they must first reject what their holy book commands. Rather than the religious acting in a noble manner because of their religion, the religious are doing the right thing by letting their humanity act for them.
And then we get those religious types that do good things not because they really want to, but because they believe their god commands it, and will punish them if they don't. The ones that say that god has sent them to evangelise or open a mission in a foreign country. They go not because they want to help others, but because their god demands it. Or at least this is how they tell it. They don't say 'I just wanted to help', as an atheist would, they say 'God spoke to me', and 'I'm doing God's work'. They're doing what they believe a watching god demands, fearing his displeasure and expecting a reward. This is like a dishonest person handing me back my dropped wallet only because he knows a policeman is watching him. We shouldn't praise him for this action, because we know he would rather steal it, and is only doing the right thing through fear of punishment.
So even though someone may identify themselves as a Christian or Muslim, you're right Phill that this tells us very little. They are labelling themselves with a vague stereotype, that we are left to interpret, the result of which may be quite different to what they intended. We must see them as individuals and find out who they are as people, stripped of worthless titles such as Christian or Muslim, most likely given to them as babies.
Wouldn't it be great if children were left as atheists until they had the maturity and knowledge to make a decision for themselves as to how they view the origin of life and the universe? We don't force political affiliations, career choices or food tastes on to babies, and it's time we stopped forcing a religion on to them as well. Unfortunately the religious know that if you don't force a religion onto them while they are children then you most likely never will get them to believe in one. Religions require great ignorance and trust to take hold, hence babies are defenceless to its assault.
A feeble 'Natural Health Products Bill'
Last week the Natural Health Products Bill was tabled in the NZ Parliament. In this article the Associate Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman states that it's 'a scheme that gives the public an assurance that the natural health products they use are true to label and can provide the health benefits claimed for them'. Will this new legislation help people tell the difference between medicine and magic, and push those selling quack products and therapies from the market? For the money being spent we would hope so, but we doubt it.
Proponents of natural therapies use the childish argument: why would so many people buy and use them if they didn't work? It's similar in form to one of the most stupid arguments that is used to defend religion: why would so many people throughout history have believed in gods if they didn't exist? The answer is the same for both questions, because they're ignorant and/or superstitious. In the past humans had an excuse for believing in nonsense, 21st century humans do not.
So what are natural health products exactly? We're told that 'They are defined in the bill, among other things, as bringing a health benefit, and that implies that there will need to be some degree of proof.' That still doesn't really tell us much, although it sounds to be describing medicine and associated therapies. In supporting the Bill, Te Ururoa Flavell of the Maori Party mentions the 'new trans-Tasman agency to regulate medicines, medical devices, and new medical interventions.' So would the likes of homeopathy products be included? What about magnetic healing, Reiki and other energy healing, bioresonance therapy, moxa, massage and hot towel treatments, The Journey, naturopathy, bowen therapy, iridology, reflexology, applied kinesiology, Kirlian photography, ear candling, acupuncture, acupressure, enemas, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, fasting, detox, joint manipulation, "realignment" of the cranial bones, chiropractic, faith healing, Ayurvedic healing practices, Maori traditional healing, homeobotanical therapy etc. etc? All these products and therapies are readily available in NZ, all imply a health benefit, and none provide any degree of proof that they actually work. So it would appear that all these should be considered by this Bill, if only to ban their sale.
Unfortunately it appears that none of these natural, alternative or complementary products or therapies are covered by the Bill. Sue Kedgley of the Green Party notes that 'The practice of rongoa Maori will be exempt from the bill... Products made for consumers and low-risk products like homeopathy products will also be exempt'. So worried homeopaths and Maori healers can rest easy, no one is going to check their claims of health benefits. And what exactly does this mean: 'Products made for consumers... will also be exempt'? Wouldn't that exempt every conceivable product?
So what are we left with in this area of flaky healing? In this article we're told that 'Blackmores supports the establishment of a separate regulatory authority... to oversee the regulation of complementary medicines'. Blackmores market bottles of vitamins and nutritional supplements that can be purchased in supermarkets and pharmacies. So that's it, does this Natural Health Products Bill just cover the likes of bottles of vitamins? (And we've already written a post on this topic: 'Can we trust natural products?')
We're told that an enormous amount of money is spent (wasted) on the natural health products industry. This article suggests an 'estimated $760 million dollars', while this one offers 'a conservative valuation of NZ $1billion'. And this is seemingly just the money spent on vitamins and such. What must be spent on that long list of alternative therapies that we provided above? A bottle of supplements might only cost $10, whereas those therapies and products could cost tens, hundreds and thousands of dollars.
Of course it's important that vitamins, nutritional supplements and such are deemed safe and effective, but this Bill appears to be policing only one small part of the natural and alternative heath sector. It's a little like the government saying that seat belts in cars can save lives, so all Toyotas must be fitted with approved seat belts. You query them with: Don't you mean all cars? They reply with: No, we're just looking at Toyotas. That should save enough lives.
As for the cost of checking our vitamins, Steve Chadwick of the Labour Party reveals that 'there will be a cost of $1.1 million to set up the regulator, $1.8 million for operating costs, and then $36 million every year to maintain it'. Wow, perhaps we couldn't afford to check all those other products and therapies even if we wanted to? But the fact remains, after spending $36 million a year we will still not be one inch closer to regulating and licensing or exposing and banning the likes of homeopathic products, magnetic healing, Reiki healers, ear candling and hot towel treatments.
I think we're fooling ourselves if we think this Bill is going to have any real effect on the huge number of uncontrolled alternative therapies out there in society. Yes, it may be a welcomed improvement for one small sector, but why is it that the authorities feel that they must warn us that a nutritional supplement is worthless, ineffective and a waste of money, and yet they will make no pronouncement on worthless homeopathic cures, magnetic products or energy healing claims?
To us, prefixing the words 'product' or 'health' or 'healing' with the words 'natural, alternative or complementary' is just another way of saying 'not real and/or not proven medicine or therapies'. You never see real medicines and real medical devices clamouring to prefix their product names with 'natural' or 'alternative'. We don't see 'natural' paracetamol or 'alternative' MRI scanners.
The criteria that we would like to see is that any product or therapy that promises or even cunningly hints at a health benefit must undergo the same testing regime that real medicine must pass. If they refuse or fail to make the grade, then it should be illegal to offer the product for sale. It's illegal to sell cheap crocheted seat belts, papier-mache crash helmets or university degrees, since all these must pass a specific standard, and it should be no different with natural therapies. If we don't say it's freedom of choice and 'buyer beware' with regard to crocheted seat belts, why do we say exactly this with regard to natural therapies? Is it because the authorities believe that no one but an idiot would use Reiki or a magnetic underlay or homeopathy when we have proven 21st century medicine available? Why outlaw obvious nonsense? What's next, banning belief in fairies and leprechauns? But don't we have a responsibility to protect the idiots in society? Isn't that why we ban crocheted seat belts? Surely far, far less people would buy them than apparently use Reiki and homeopathy? And yet we ban crocheted seat belts and not Reiki? Haven't we got this backwards? Isn't it the natural therapies that many people have trouble distinguishing from nonsense? Isn't it time we protected these idiots from themselves? Would that not be a sign of a truly enlightened society?
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Sep, 2011 ~
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Comment by Alison, 20 Sep, 2011
Hmmmm. You have to wonder how this fits with the recent Royal Society submission on TCM. Essentially, because a ‘survey' (I use the term advisedly) of 30 users — of European, Maori, & Chinese backgrounds — indicated that at least some folks believe the treatments are beneficial, then practitioners should be given official recognition via a registration system. The tenor of the RS submission seemed to be that this would make practitioners more aware of the limitations of what they offer... Which of course is only true if the registration side of things actually has any teeth; otherwise, my bet would be that nothing will change.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Sep, 2011
I'm not a fan of registration or licensing if, as you say Alison, the registration doesn't have any teeth. If given out like bumper stickers at a political rally, then they would be worse than worthless, since they would imply a credibility and legitimacy to both practitioner and patient that wasn't warranted. Many people believe prayer is beneficial, so that means priests and ministers of every religion could gain registration. Then we have Jedi Knights and The Force. If to gain registration one had to prove that a 'therapy' worked and was safe, and registration was legally required to offer your service, I think all these practitioners would all be against registration, the same way they are against any legislation that makes them justify their claims.
Near Death Experiences and the soul
Last week '60 Minutes' once again offered viewers their take on a supernatural topic: life after death as told by those that have visited the next world, but only with a short stay visa. This insight to the other side is provided by those that have what is called a Near Death Experience, or NDE.
Near death experiences are events that a few people claim to have experienced after they have died. Yes, I know that sounds stupid. If they're dead how can they tell us anything? They can evidently tell us of these otherworldly experiences because after their death they were then restored back to life by a higher power. Usually because of a cock-up in administration they had been called to heaven before their correct time and so were sent back to continue their life. The common descriptions include their soul leaving their body on their death and of hanging around awhile on the ceiling to watch as doctors work on their body. They then travel down a dark tunnel towards a bright, white light where they often meet God, Jesus, deceased family members or some being that never identifies itself. This is where the truth is revealed... 'We're terribly sorry... mistakes have been made... blah blah blah... heads will roll... it's not your time... we're sending you back'. The soul, deeply despondent on being rejected, suddenly finds themselves back in their old body, and hear a doctor scream, 'We've got a pulse. They're back'.
The '60 Minutes' item was entitled 'Death's Door' and the reporter was Rod Vaughan. The first person we met to have undergone a NDE was 71 year old Trevor James, who related his experience: 'I must have felt ill, I lay on the bed, fully clothed, and became unconscious.' But how can he know that? You can't be conscious of the fact that you're unconscious. If you are thinking, and you know what you're thinking, then you are not unconscious, you're conscious. And if you're conscious then you're definitely not dead. You may not be able to respond or move, but you're not dead.
There were no witnesses to this event. We have no confirmation that James did die, was ill or even became unconscious. It could all have been a dream. Note also that James does not remember whether he was actually ill, he merely assumes he must have been for him to lie on the bed. Might not he just have been tired? Also why can James go on to tell us exactly what happened after he lost consciousness and yet has no memory of what was happening while he was conscious?
Next James claims that 'he' was floating near the ceiling, 'looking down at my dead body on the bed'. Vaughan asks him, 'You were clearly dead? How could you tell?' James answers, 'I'd been laid out, I was definitely dead, I knew'. By this we assume James means 'laid out' as an undertaker would lay out a corpse, so who laid out his body? He was alone. Even doctors sometimes have great difficulty in determining when a person dies. It used to be when the heart stopped, now it's more when brain activity ceases. Yet without examining his body at all James knew it was dead. And yet, James knew that his mind was still functioning normally, therefore there was still brain activity. This alone should have told James that he wasn't dead.
Just because his mind was creating a confusing worldview, one that he knew didn't make sense with how the world normally worked, doesn't mean that he was dead. When I find myself dreaming of being a superhero or winning an Olympic gold medal or having sex with a beautiful movie star I don't suddenly think, 'Oh damn... I must be dead'. I don't tell my friends, or go on nationwide TV, insisting that the previous night I died and went to heaven where wonderful things happened, but for some reason it wasn't my time to go and I was sent back to the real world. I simply accept that my mind created a fantasy world to which I retreated for a brief time.
Some might now argue that we can all tell the difference between the fantasy worlds created in dreams and what is experienced in a NDE. But this is blatantly not true for everyone. Dementia is a perfect example of where the mind can create a fantasy world where the sufferer is absolutely convinced it is real. We have all heard of, or even met, people that have the most outrageously impossible delusions that they can't be convinced are not real. People that insist that they have holidayed on Venus, that believe there is a real space shuttle in their bathroom, that insist Napoleon is sitting on the couch next to them or that have two way conversations with their pets.
We know that the brain can fool us into believing all manner of impossible things, especially when it is disconnected from the senses, or is receiving only partial information. The mind tries to make sense of its surroundings based on what sippets of information it has received, and sometimes it gets it badly wrong. It's not until the brain and senses return to normality that the person gets the chance to evaluate their surroundings and decide if what they think happened really did happen. If a person woke up in hospital believing that they had had a limp amputated only to find all their limbs intact, then most will accept that no matter how real their experience of losing a limb felt, it was just the mind playing tricks. And yet when people wake up believing that they have been to heaven and met god, they insist that this experience must have been real. The difficulty is that people can clearly be shown that all their limbs are intact, but they can't be shown that they didn't meet god (or the tooth fairy or any other fantasy being). Reason should show them that they didn't lose a limb, and it should also convince them that they didn't hang out with god, but for some desire and brain chemistry overrides reason.
Our view of the world is what our brain decides it is. How well this view matches reality depends on how well our brain is functioning. If our brain is confused, through injury, drugs or strange sensory inputs, then the view it concocts will not match reality. We know that under these conditions reports of perceived experiences are at least unreliable if not completely delusional. When an epileptic says they regularly chat with Jesus during their seizures we don't believe them. When a P or methamphetamine addict says that Satan is talking to them we don't believe them. So why should we believe a person whose brain is damaged or shutting down and close to death that they were talking to god and dead people? Why is an epileptic or a P user's experiences the result of illness or drugs and yet those claiming near death experiences are real? Reason would suggest that for all these people their brains are struggling to make sense of the world, and consequently producing delusions that are only too obvious to the rest of us. Again, we don't ask drug users to describe the world to us in the belief that only they are seeing it as it really is. Likewise those claiming to have undergone near death experiences are people unfortunate enough to be in a state where their brain is failing and shutting down. There is no reason to suggest that when our brains become really degraded like this that they actually become more focused and reliable.
These people, if their claims are correct, are dead. It's not a near death experience. Their body and brain is dead, that's why their soul or spirit or whatever has fled the body and is floating on the ceiling waiting for a taxi to heaven. If anything their experience is reincarnation, with their soul going back into the same body that has been repaired rather than a new one. If they are not actually dead, just near death, and soon to be resuscitated, then there is no reason for their soul to flee their body. Let's remember that we are told that the soul has no need of the body, and can function even better without it, so a dead or dying body offers no threat to an immortal, immaterial soul. Humans must flee poisonous gas, for example, but why must a soul flee a body near death? Why can't it wait it out within the body where it has hidden for the life of the body, why does it rush to the ceiling at the first hint of danger?
While floating on the ceiling James claims to have seen his deceased parents and brother standing by the table. Strangely he doesn't mention them speaking to him, to comfort him, or him to them. You would think that if they've taken the bother to visit they would have said something! In fact James doesn't even indicate that they saw him on the ceiling. Unlike him, these spirits were standing on the floor, apparently looking at his body on the bed. Why were they standing like real people, rather than floating like James, since they also were spirits? Most likely James conjured up these people standing rather than floating because that is what our minds expect people to be doing. This is another indication that that this vision was a construct of his mind rather than being real.
Everyone accepts, even James, that people can become unconscious, and during this time they are completely oblivious to their surroundings and their thoughts. And yet the story is that souls never become unconscious. When the mind becomes unconscious, the soul keeps observing everything that happens, either from within the body or by leaving the body. Since a person can become unconscious and have no memory of this period of time, but a soul continues to observe, this would suggest that a person and their soul are two different, separate things. The person who we think we know is apparently not the same thing as the soul they claim to possess, otherwise they would know the same things. If a person and their soul were the same thing, then when a person appeared to become unconscious to others, this person would remain fully conscious of their surroundings and their thoughts. In this scenario the soul and what we call a person — their mind, their memories, their emotions, their desires, their personality etc — are one and the same thing. And yet nearly everyone who recovers from a period of unconsciousness says that they remember nothing. But if they are really just a immaterial soul in a physical body, a soul that can't become unconscious, then they should remember everything. Why don't they? Again, this suggests that the person that we know and love and interact with is created and maintained by the brain, and that the soul, if it exists, is merely some wispy voyeur hiding from us while recording our experiences.
If we are our soul, and our soul had originally come from heaven and had met god, Jesus and Elvis, and had perhaps lived other lives, then we would remember these things. If our soul knew it could leave our body and go to the movies without buying a ticket then we would do these things. If we are our soul then we would know everything our soul knows and have all its magical powers. But since we have no knowledge of our soul's memories or its abilities, or even if it exists, then obviously a person and a person's soul (if it existed) must be separate things, like a person and a person's pet. But unlike a pet which is a separate thing that we know about, we all live our lives oblivious to this soul.
If a soul is watching us make choices in life and silently tut tutting like a disapproving parent when we make the wrong choices, then obviously the soul is not who we are. When we die, this person that was oblivious to the soul's presence ceases to exist, and only a separate soul carrying a boxed DVD set of our life heads off to heaven to file it away. We really don't understand how believers can argue that a person's mind and their soul is one and the same thing.
When James was asked what happens when we die, he replied, 'You go to the spirit world, to another dimension, which is upstairs, somewhere up there, I don't know whereabouts, but it is up there'. Wow, that's pretty detailed and convincing! Obviously this reply is nothing more than a heartfelt desire based on a silly religion. Clearly James has no idea what being in 'another dimension' really means, it's certainly not just going 'upstairs'. It seems that he was given far less information about the next world than he realises. It appears that everyone that has a NDE remains as ignorant of the other side after their experience as they were before, the only thing that changes is that their conviction and certainly that this other world awaits them increases markedly. They become a committed believer, but certainly not an enlightened one.
A second believer featured on the program was an asthma sufferer by the name of Clark, who has been resuscitated five times, and has consequently had five NDEs. This would suggest that her experiences were completely physiological, and brought about by a brain struggling to function. The alternative is that the afterlife is run by an terribly incompetent bureaucracy that has got her death wrong five times now, and counting. Five times they have taken her on that final journey to heaven and five times they have realised their mistake and sent her back. Five times they have put Clark, her family and friends, and hospital and ambulance staff through unnecessary suffering and stress. Are we really to believe that the afterlife is run by Frank Spencer or Inspector Clouseau?
When Vaughan asks Clark if she encountered a god-like figure she is hesitant, but then she answers 'Yes. I did'. But then she continues, 'So many people make claims to having had god-like encounters. I would rather say I met someone I couldn't identify... ' Vaughan later asks her, 'Do you really think it was an encounter with God?', and she replies, 'I have no doubt that it was'. But this is a contradiction, if she honestly couldn't identify who she met, how can she now say she has no doubt that she met god? This is just blind desire filling in the gaps of her ignorance with what she wants to believe. All of these anecdotes from those claiming a NDE are fill of contradictions, inconsistencies and outright nonsense. By cherry-picking certain statements and ignoring others you can convince credulous people that souls and an afterlife exist, but the fact remains that none of their testimony would count as evidence in a court or science lab.
We have no doubt that people that experience NDEs are sincere and honest and are simply recounting what they believe to be true. But this is no different to someone insisting that the world is flat because to them it looks flat. It is no different to a dementia sufferer insisting that there is an elephant sitting across the table from them. They are not lying, they are honestly reporting what they believe they are seeing. But these are tricks of the mind. Our mind can be fooled by our senses, and it doesn't stop fooling us even when it isolates itself, eg when we dream.
Also interviewed were a psychologist and sociologist from Massey University who are conducting a two-year project into NDE, interviewing hundreds of New Zealanders. Neither offered anything of substance. When Vaughan asked about 'the possibility that consciousness could exist outside the human body?', the reply was simply that 'There's been lots of anecdotal reports... ' No evidence, only anecdotes, and no explanation of how consciousness could exist and wander about without the brain. The psychologist claimed that she had actually had a NDE as a teenager and got to come back when she convinced 'them' that 'I'm not ready... '. We didn't realise you got the choice regarding when you died? Seemingly you do, but considering the large number that die and the handful that come back, nearly everyone elects to ditch their loved ones and opts for the high life on the other side. In fact believers insist you don't get the choice, and many that have had NDEs are extremely peeved that they weren't given the choice and allowed to stay on the other side. It appears the psychologist as a teenager just made up an answer to explain to herself why she didn't die, and that answer was that she had convinced God that he had made a mistake. Even a teenager it seems knows more than God.
And why should a mere handful of people around the world — through a near death experience — be reassured that life after death is something wonderful and not to be feared, and yet billions of others are left to approach their death with abject terror? Why are these few people given an insight into the joy of death and everyone else is left in the dark? What sort of being would withhold this comforting information from mostly everyone, while rewarding a handful with the certainty of future bliss?
Vaughan also briefly interviewed over the Internet American oncologist Jeffery Long, author of the book 'Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences', which we are told is 'based on 1600 interviews with people who claim to have had near death experiences'. Note that the book's title talks of evidence and science, and yet it's really just a collection delusions. Rather than producing a book of scientific evidence supporting NDEs, he chose to go with simple stories. No doubt because there is no scientific evidence supporting NDE. Let's give one example of the nonsense that this book offers, and that Long is seemingly incapable of grasping.
One claim he makes is that blind people, people that have never experienced vision in their lives, on having NDEs are suddenly able to see. We assume this only lasts during their NDE, otherwise deliberately causing NDEs would be a simple way to restore sight, and that would be big news. We also assume he means that they might have described to him a white light or vague outline of a human body. But this is no different to a blind person describing a dog even though they have never really seen one. We don't believe they could suddenly see the surgeons around them and describe their appearance, or what colour the walls were or what colour gloves they were wearing. Their vision is all in their mind, and not a reflection of reality. But this aside, the important fact Long is claiming is that your soul doesn't need physical eyes to see with. This means that for the entire life of this unfortunate blind person, their soul, which has had perfect 20/20 vision of the world around them, has kept this vision hidden from the person whose body they inhabit, and has condemned them to a world of darkness. The person can't see, but the soul can, which again demonstrates that if the soul exists then the person we think we are and our soul are two separate entities. Our soul is not us. If it were, blind people would not be blind. And this realisation about the nature of souls, that they are immortal, immaterial beings with unconstrained sight, hearing, movement etc would allow them to counteract all human frailties. Paraplegics would not be tied to their wheelchairs, they could float off to the movies. Deaf people would not be deaf. People in excruciating pain would be pain free. Elderly people with dementia would be unheard of since they would have the perfect memories of their soul. But unfortunately for these people and proponents of NDE and the existence of souls, none of these things actually happen in real life. Again, if we all have souls then they want nothing to do with us and are just hiding in our bodies counting down the days until their earthly mission ends and they can flee back to heaven. In the TV show Star Trek the Federation had a rule called the Prime Directive. It was that when they encountered less advanced alien civilisations then they were to observe them only. They weren't to reveal their identity or superior technology. This was to allow each civilisation to progress and evolve at their own pace, without interference or guidance. By all reports, if souls exist, then they also are alien entities that have orders not to interfere, but merely to observe.
For some critical and scientific input, Vicki Hyde of the 'NZ Skeptics' was featured on the item and made some excellent observations, although not surprisingly on fluffy, supernatural items like this, the rational and scientific viewpoint was allocated less than one fifth of the total airtime. Even so, it was more than sufficient to explain why we can ignore the claims of NDE. As Vicki explained, there are natural explanations for all the features of NDEs, and nothing is a surprise to scientists or has them worried that spooky things are hiding within us all.
And as usual with these types of programmes, they always leave the viewer with a comment from a believer rather than a skeptic, almost as if they have to send the fragile believer off with a comforting and reassuring thought. James smugly told us that 'You'll have to die to find out the truth, just like I did'. It's amazing how many people think this claim makes sense, that we will all find out one way or the other when we die. Of course to think this you have to be a believer, already utterly convinced that Jesus will greet you upon your death. He couldn't be bothered to catch up when you were living, but now he can seemingly find the time. Bloody typical. Of course if this is true, then when you die you will indeed learn the truth, but if the more rational alternative is true, that there is no afterlife, no long dead carpenter, no other existence whatsoever, then you will never get the chance to realise how silly your belief in an afterlife was. You really will be dead. Atheists likewise will never get the chance to say, 'Yes, I knew that gods didn't exist'. This naive belief that we will all discover the truth when we die is just another example of how poorly thought out the arguments from believers truly are.
"Why should I fear death?
If I am, then death is not.
If death is, then I am not.
Why should I fear that which cannot exist when I do?"
Epicurus, 341-270 B.C.E, Greek philosopher
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Sep, 2011 ~
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Comment by Bob, 07 Sep, 2011
I saw the item on Near Death Experiences on 60 Minutes. I have always been intrigued by this phenomenon. Judging by the number of reports and reports by doctors of what their patients have told them I accept them as real mental experiences. I think the brain knows the body is slipping away and produces death images from it's memory. Under certain circumstances the brain can produce very vivid images. It also tends to translate one idea into something more recognisable. For instance if your system is short of sugar the brain translates that not into a picture of a spoonful of sugar but a piece of chocolate cake. People describing NDEs always talk about seeing their dead relatives. They don't say I saw Elvis Presley. For those of us whose parents are gone they are always in the backs of our minds.
The question then is are these experiences a real glimpse into the next life or just vivid hallucinations. Frankly I plump for hallucinations. If they are comforting to people that's good. Some people say after an NDE they no longer fear death. People dying do have hallucinations. My wife worked as a nurse in an old people's home for years. She told me that old people sometimes hallucinated as they were dying. I remember her telling me about one old lady. A young care giver dressed in a white overall was standing at the bottom of her bed when the old lady screamed that there was another lady in white standing beside her. The poor care giver was quite unnerved.
We know that dreams can be symbolic of what is on our minds. For instance we dream a tiger is chasing us and we can't escape it. The tiger might be a symbol for real money worries. One lady experiencing an NDE saw herself standing on rough grass looking over a fence to people who had died standing on a beautifully manicured lawn. She interpreted the perfect lawn as the perfection of the next life while on her side she was still in the imperfect world. Then some people talk of seeing a figure in white welcoming them. That figure is often claimed to be God or Jesus Christ. The interesting thing is they never see the face. Since we have no description of what Jesus might have looked like no one has an image of his face in their memory so a face never seems to be seen.
Many of the books on NDEs are written either by true believers who know the people involved have seen the next life. Others are written by Christian believers who want them to be glimpses of a life after death. One of the problems with these books is that the stories can be cherry picked. One author aware of this investigated reports from people of different cultures. He found the experiences were linked to beliefs and culture. Muslim experiences were different from Christian. Then there were some who had frightening experiences seeing demons. People taking LSD reported very vivid hallucinations. I think NDEs are similar bringing the brain to a state of high intensity.
I'm not surprised we have NDEs. We don't usually die instantly. The heart stops but the brain takes time to die. During that time hallucinations can be generated. I think overall after death we go out of existence just as we were before we were born.
And on a different but related theme, a week ago there was an item in the Bay of Plenty Times. A young married couple were driving along the water when they saw dolphins, quite common in Tauranga. They stopped to watch and the husband took photos. One of the dolphins created a splash which sent a narrow column of water several feet high straight up. The man got a perfect picture. Looking at it later his wife said it looked remarkably like her mother who died last year so much so she seemed to believe it was her mother. The picture was printed in the paper along with a photo of the mother. To me it was just a random pattern which looked like a person. She took it to Kelvin Cruickshank who assured her it was her mother. What surprised me was the paper giving quite a large space to the story. It must have been a slow news day. No doubt the young woman is still missing her mother. I see it as another case of people seeing what they want to see.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Sep, 2011
You're quite right Bob, these experiences do happen, just like people do see things which they describe as alien spaceships or ghosts. The question is whether their interpretation of their 'vision' is the correct one.
As for some god manipulating the antics of a dolphin to create a portrait of a dead woman, but not bothering to lift a wispy finger to save any of those 11 people that burned to death in that Aussie house fire recently, it really shows that this god has got his priorities seriously screwed up.
Comment by Rene, 13 Nov, 2015
NDE's can be simply proven wrong by collecting them, but from around the world and not just locally.
You see, each CULTURE has its own NDE version, and as you read from NDE's around the planet, they all match up to LOCAL beliefs. So in India, seeing multi-armed gods are common, seeing the prophet in Islam, etc.
Here's a collection from other cultures... to prove the point.
Now since they DON'T match up with the Christian experience (light, jesus, etc), then either there are multiple gods, or it's all in our heads. Since most religions really REALLY hate the idea of multiple gods, then it can only be the first explanation... it's in our heads.
Now I had a Christian TRY to explain it once by saying that THEIR God (jehova) would "tailor the experience to match the beliefs of the person, to make the transition easier, but on proper final death would reveal their true identity" To that I just replied something like "So you're saying that your god would purposely provide ANTI-PROOF of his existence to a follower he knows is returning to earth, then punish them for not believing in him as Jehova when he literally showed them evidence of their already-existing belief of a different god? What would be the point of that???" to which I got no meaningful reply.
So yeah, we only hear about NDE's that match our culture, but around the world it's a very different story. Yet you'd swear that EVERY NDE was always identical and that can be used as proof of God. When in fact they're just cherry-picking the stories that match what they want to say, and somehow silencing the contrary ones. Pretty much the way the religion works in general I guess.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Nov, 2015
I agree entirely Rene. The fact that believers in different religions and even no religion can all experience an NDE and may recall seeing visions that relate solely to their belief argues that it is all in the mind. Even children with no strong belief and no dead friends or family members to encounter on the 'other side' often report seeing living family or friends instead.
And it's not just belief in NDEs that is common to all religions and actually shows someone's religion to be false. A Christian will argue that he knows his God is real because he has experienced his presence, or witnessed his miracles, or had his prayers answered, or that his God provides him with a holy book of rules that makes him a moral person etc. but the likes of Muslims, Hindus and Jews say the same thing, as did the ancient Egyptians and Romans etc. At the very most only one religion can be true, so why have thousands of religions throughout history all felt convinced that their gods were real when clearly they were imaginary? And if as far as Christians are concerned, all Muslims, Hindus and Jews are simply imagining miracles and a meeting with their god, that their holy book is clearly false, that all these billions of people are being fooled by their mind into seeing a god that isn't really there, then isn't it likely that Christians are equally fooled? Why should we believe their claims when they won't believe similar claims from a Muslim or Hindu?
As for that Christian trying to explain why different religions see different visions Rene, it forever amazes me the pathetic mental contortions that true believers will resort to rather than accept the truth. They clearly recognise that there is a problem, hence the need for a ready answer, but once armed with an answer, no matter how silly, they never bother examining it to see if it really makes sense. When you're religious you're simply not encouraged to think deeply about these things. After all, you're supposed to believe on faith not reason.
Comment by Ron, 19 Feb, 2017
Hi there John. A new article appeared under the heading "Neuroscientists believe they have found proof for life after death and present it to the UN". A Dr Bruce Greyson from the university of Virginia spoke at a conference held by the UN. These neuroscientists and physicians focus on studying the relationship between mind, brain and consciousness, ie is the brain a receiver of consciousness or is consciousness a product of the brain. Uncertainty exists.
Evidence suggests consciousness is totally separate to our organs that it continues even after death. How we perceive and relate to the physical world is rapidly changing. I didn't see it straight away but what Greyson and the others are talking about are NDE's (near death experiences) which you have written quite a bit about on Silly Beliefs. Greyson is considered one of the best in NDE studies. He said "Our results show medical factors cannot account for the occurrence of NDE's". In 2001 a 13 yr study of NDE's was published in that well known medical journal The Lancet. I once read a story about the well known atheist A.J. Ayer who founded the philosophy of Positivism meaning that anything not verifiable by the senses is nonsense. NDE's are seen as nonsense because they mark the end of the senses thus positivists believe survival of the senses after death is bunk. However, Ayer had an NDE due to choking on food that stopped his heart for 4 mins and that made him challenge his own philosophy and changed him. 2 decades earlier Ayer was summoned to the deathbed of Somerset Maugham to assure him there was no afterlife. After his NDE Ayer said he saw and heard things he had spent a lifetime denying. On his return, from he knew not where, he wrote a chagrined but enigmatic account of his NDE. Just like there are many books and accounts on the subject there are also many theories on what is behind these experiences people have. Should we be more open-minded to topics like NDE's. Greyson even points out that studies like his are discouraged because science is completely materialistic. Seeing is believing in the scientific community. "Sadly just because we can't explain something via materialistic means, it must be instantly discredited. That consciousness is a non-physical thing troubles some scientists, therefore they believe it cannot be studied by science". Dr Gary Schwartz, Arizona University says: some materialistically inclined scientists and philosophers refuse to acknowledge these phenomena because they are not consistent with their conception of the world". Dr Carl Jung was quoted thus "I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud". John, do you know that all these near death experiences are not all bliss and light. Dr Raymond Moody in his well known book "Life after life" paints such a rosy picture that I imagine lots of readers can't wait to die!!! However, there are some awful accounts of dying people filled with horror at whatever they were seeing. These form a low percentage of stories but painful feelings such as fear, horror, terror, anger, loneliness, isolation and guilt have been recorded. Dinesh D'Souza wrote a book "Life after death-the evidence". Reviews say it presents a "reasoned scientifically based case that life after death is more than possible, it is highly probable. Indeed it has far more evidence on its side than atheistic arguments about death marking our complete and utter extinction".
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Feb, 2017
Hi Ron. You're right that we have written about NDE's in the past (see post above), we've dismissed them as superstitious nonsense to be precise, and nothing we've seen since has given us cause to change our minds. We believe the 'Collective Evolution' website is the original source of the article you refer to, 'Neuroscientists Believe They've Found Proof For Life After Death & Present It To The United Nations'. Among other things the website encourages people to create 'a spiritual relationship with oneself', and while they say they report on 'news, health, science, technology and an accessible ... brand of spirituality', they acknowledge that they belong to the world's 'alternative media'. Just as the world has medicine and alternative medicine, and according to President Donald Trump, facts and alternative facts, we also have the media and the alternative media. So if you don't like what medicine, facts and the media are telling you, you can turn to alternative sources that tells tales more to your liking.
Straight away we feel that the article's heading — 'Neuroscientists Believe ... ' — is very misleading, implying as it does that neuroscientists as a whole have found proof for life after death. The reality is that the majority of neuroscientists, as well as the majority of scientists and philosophers, believe that consciousness, our mind, is a product of the brain, and would strongly disagree with the article's claim that, 'there is a lot of evidence ... which indicates that consciousness is something completely separate — that it continues on even after we have deceased, that it is and can be a separate "thing" from the brain'. You're correct Ron that the article argues that 'Uncertainty exists' among neuroscientists over whether our mind is natural or supernatural, but this is an utterly bogus claim, since for the great majority there is no uncertainly whatsoever; the mind is completely natural. Yes, there are a handful of neuroscientists that believe God is creating our minds, our souls, just as there are a handful of evolutionary biologists that believe God created Adam and Eve some 6,000 years ago, and a handful of geologists that believe God created the Grand Canyon as the result of the flood of Noah, and a handful of astronomers that believe God created the entire universe, including all life, in six days. And all these deluded believers, who are also scientists, hold conferences and write books and are supported by websites run by like-minded believers, and if that's all the information people are exposed to, which is true for many churchgoers, then people can come away with the false belief that atheistic science is on the verge of collapse, to be replaced any day now with god-fearing science that reveals the true glory of God and the part he has played in, well, everything. But the truth is, that's not going to happen, and the majority of scientists conduct their research and gather their evidence without giving God a second thought, because they've long ago realised that there is no evidence of God, and they don't need a god to make the world work.
And why are we only hearing about this 2008 conference now, 9 years later in 2017, and only from this alternative media source, since the mainstream media aren't running the same story? And why was the conference, with their revolutionary new "evidence", presented at the United Nations to non-scientists rather than to scientists? Because, we suspect, the majority of the general public, especially in the US, believe in souls and life-after-death whereas the majority of scientists don't. So what might the typical scientific view of that conference have been at the time? A little research turned up an article discussing the conference in 'New Scientist' magazine by Amanda Gefter, that was entitled: 'Creationists declare war over the brain', and published in October 2008. You can read the first few paragraphs here, which, along with the title, clearly reveals that the mainstream scientific community has a quite different view to that pushed by the likes of Greyson, Schwartz and Beauregard at the conference. Beauregard even spoke of 'the "battle" between "maverick" scientists like himself' and mainstream scientists, revealing that their views are fringe views. The 'New Scientist' article explained that,
'Schwartz and Beauregard are part of a growing "non-material neuroscience" movement. They are attempting to resurrect Cartesian dualism — the idea that brain and mind are two fundamentally different kinds of things, material and immaterial — in the hope that it will make room in science both for supernatural forces and for a soul. The two have signed the "Scientific dissent from Darwinism" petition, spearheaded by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, headquarters of the intelligent design movement.'
So these few maverick neuroscientists are, as the title said, creationists, and that paragraph explains why they are. Like creationists trying to get God back into the science classroom, these ones are trying to get God back into neuroscience. And they've even thrown their support behind the infamous Discovery Institute, worldwide promoters of ID (intelligent design), which is just an alternative name for creation science for sneaky God believers too afraid to mention creation science.
Ron, you ask, 'Should we be more open-minded to topics like NDE's?' We'd reply that we're already quite open-minded to topics like NDE, as are scientists. Too often people confuse disbelief of something as being close-minded, but disbelief and close-mindedness are two different things. What you should really be asking is whether there is sufficient evidence for scientists to take NDEs seriously, meaning as clear examples of supernatural souls leaving the body? And the answer is no. You go on to write that in the article,
'Greyson even points out that studies like his are discouraged because science is completely materialistic. Seeing is believing in the scientific community. "Sadly just because we can't explain something via materialistic means, it must be instantly discredited. That consciousness is a non-physical thing troubles some scientists, therefore they believe it cannot be studied by science". Dr Gary Schwartz, Arizona University says: some materialistically inclined scientists and philosophers refuse to acknowledge these phenomena because they are not consistent with their conception of the world". Dr Carl Jung was quoted thus "I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud".'
It's almost as if those deceptive morons with all their scientific training have no understanding of science. First, saying that, 'Seeing is believing in the scientific community', is certainly not how science works. Scientists reach conclusions based on evidence, not on what they can see or experience with their human senses. Much of what we see and common sense tells us is true is often wrong. The world is not flat, the Sun doesn't go around the Earth and everything isn't made of water, earth, wind and fire. We can't see atoms, quarks, black holes, dark matter or dark energy but science believes they are real. Nor can we see thoughts and ideas or feelings of love, but again, science believes they are real. We can't see the past, only the present, but our memories and the evidence we see around us argues that it's real. 'Seeing is believing' is something children say, not scientists.
It's pure nonsense to claim, 'That consciousness is a non-physical thing troubles some scientists, therefore they believe it cannot be studied by science'. What do they think the science of neuroscience is studying then? If you leave out consciousness in the study of the mind and the brain and human behaviour, then what are you left with? What's the point of understanding the functioning of neurons if you're not interested in what they create, the mind? Consciousness is a huge area of research within science, and while there's still far more questions than answers, it's utterly false and deceptive to suggest that scientists view consciousness as off-limits to scientific investigation. That's akin to saying that scientists aren't interested in past or future events because they aren't physical things either. It's true that consciousness is a non-physical thing, in that you can't hold it, weigh it, dissect it or see it, but it is an emergent phenomenon that arises from the physical brain, it is a real thing that exists in the natural world. And anything in the natural world can be studied by science, whether it's hard like a rock or fleeting and immaterial like a sudden desire to eat pizza. Yes, scientists say that the natural, physical or material world is all that exists, meaning that there is no supernatural world beyond to worry about, but god believers twist this to argue that naturalists or materialists therefore don't believe in non-physical things. Rubbish, we believe in non-physical things, and study those things, if there is evidence that they exist in the natural world. Referring to the immaterial souls that god believers think run our bodies, Schwartz argues that, 'Some materialistically inclined scientists and philosophers refuse to acknowledge these phenomena because they are not consistent with their exclusive conception of the world'. Again that's rubbish. Scientists refuse to acknowledge the existence of souls for the same reason they dismiss belief in leprechauns and evil trolls, there simply is no good evidence for them. It's not because they're immaterial or difficult to see, after all, they believe in dark matter and dark energy, and nobody's snapped a photo of them on their iPhone. The reality is that if scientists detected strong evidence of souls or ghosts or even a god, then they wouldn't just ignore that evidence, they would in fact start investigating this new evidence in earnest. If souls or ghosts were seen by scientists to exist then they become part of the natural world, existing alongside genes and lighting and demanding an explanation. If God suddenly showed up, scientists wouldn't childishly close their eyes and ignore him. They'd go, Oh great! Now we've got something else to explain, as if life, the universe and everything wasn't tricky enough, now we have a bloody all-powerful, all-knowing god to explain, a god that's infamous for falsifying the physical evidence, like all those misleading fossils.
Greyson is certainly correct that studies into the likes of the soul, ghosts, NDEs and communication with the dead are discouraged by mainstream science, just as study into gremlins, trolls, fairies and leprechauns is discouraged. Not because gremlins and fairies are non-materialistic, but because everything that is known about the world says they don't exist and you'd be wasting your time and money looking for them. As for the quote by Jung, 'I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud', that is clearly not what science does. There are untold phenomena that science can't yet explain, from gamma ray bursts and what happened before the Big Bang to abiogenesis and consciousness, but they don't say these things aren't real and label them as fraudulent, they simply say they are mysterious and continue their research into them. Of course they do describe the psychic medium's explanation for consciousness as fraudulent, because clearly it is, but they are dismissing their silly explanation, not consciousness itself. There is an important difference.
And yes, we did know that not all NDEs are 'all bliss and light'. There are also NDE accounts from children who report meeting friends in heaven that weren't dead, since unlike adults who have lost family members, children often don't know anyone who has died, so they populate heaven with living people. All this suggests that NDEs are nothing but a neurochemical phenomenon, a vision conjured up in the mind by the brain's neurons and chemicals as it moves away from it normal functioning. And anyone who has ever dreamed knows that the brain is perfectly capable of creating utterly believable visions that never actually happened.
There is no doubt that NDEs are real, what is in contention is what causes them, brain neurochemistry or ghosts fleeing back to their homeland, only to be sent back to serve their time.
You wrote that 'Dinesh D'Souza wrote a book "Life after death-the evidence" [and that] Reviews say it presents a "reasoned scientifically based case that life after death is more than possible, it is highly probable".' Find us some scientists that aren't devout believers that also take that view. Those reviews are like Catholic bishops praising the Pope. Totally unconvincing.
In the article the author also brought up out-of-body experiences (OBEs) and remote viewing, for which, along with NDEs, there is no good evidence that anything supernatural occurs. They mentioned a study in The Lancet and another in the journal Resuscitation on NDEs, but the only people that these rare studies convince are the true believers. That's why the world at large has never heard of them. To support his belief that remote viewing works, the author writes that a study,
'...spanning more than two decades, was conducted by researchers at Stanford University in conjunction with the United States Department of Defense. It was called the "remote viewing program."
It's true that in the past the US government has used psychics and investigated the use of 'remote viewing' to spy on their enemies. At one time they foolishly used to stand around and watch nearby nuclear explosions too, and they even put radioactive radium in their toothpaste. One of the most famous wastes of taxpayer money was a remote viewing program called 'Stargate', which was a complete and utter failure and closed down decades ago. It's only mentioned these days by people trying to pretend that ESP research is ongoing. So how do we dismiss what Ingo Swann supposedly did? In their book 'Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction: Where Real Science Ends... and Pseudoscience Begins', Charles M. Wynn and Arthur W. Wiggins describe a form of out-of-body experience or remote viewing that some call astral flying:
A gentlemen by the name of Ingo Swann was able to successfully describe and view a ring around Jupiter, a ring that scientists had no idea existed. This took place precisely before the first ever flyby of Jupiter by NASA's Pioneer 10 spacecraft, which confirmed that the ring did actually exist. These results were published in advance of the rings' discovery. The successful viewing of the ring by Ingo came after scientists observed him identify physical objects in hidden envelopes that were placed a few hundred kilometers away.'
'The hypothesis predicts that the astral body can give descriptions of places visited during its astral travels. Purported evidence of this ability is predominantly anecdotal. One test of the ability to travel astrally was provided in 1978 by a psychic named Ingo Swann. Swann claimed he had traveled to the planet Jupiter and as a result could give details about things not known to scientists. He provided 65 revelations, some quite specific. Later, Mariner 10 and Pioneer 10 spacecraft obtained information about Jupiter. Swann's claimed observations were carefully compared with actual findings and information. According to an evaluation by James Randi, 11 were correct, but the information was available in reference books, 1 was correct and not obtainable from reference books, 7 were correct but obvious, 5 were probable fact (scientific speculation), 9 were unverifiable because they were too vague, 30 were definitely incorrect, and 2 were probably incorrect. At best (giving him the benefit of the doubt), Swann's accuracy was an unimpressive and unconvincing 37 percent. In addition, travel by Swann's astral body to and from Jupiter in a few hours would have had to be accomplished at speeds greater than the speed of light.'
So what the article's author conveniently neglected to mention was that Swann didn't just make one prediction about Jupiter, he made 65 predictions, only one of which was true and unexpected. Would you trust a doctor who only got one diagnosis correct from 65? Clearly Swann's prediction was a fluke, and is typical of all psychics who make a flood of guesses and hope that one by pure luck is true. And surely it is instructive that believers in this sort of nonsense have to go back to 1978 to try and find an example of remote viewing working, and even that turns out to be false!
And it's just the same with souls, NDEs and the communication with the dead by psychic mediums, something that Dr. Gary Schwartz studies and believes in. It all sounds well supported when reading the views of believers, but the reality is that there is no evidence for any of their claims, just wishful thinking.
Ken Ring and the weather — wrong again!
'My only living comes from weather, paid for by farmers and overseas television stations.' This was the final claim that long-range weather forecaster Ken Ring made in a recent comment to us which was basically a futile attempt to deny that he predicts earthquakes or wrote that dolphins beam sonar signals to the moon. It is weather prediction that generates his income claims Ken Ring.
So with this in mind, if weather predication is Ring's forte, how did the weather guru perform regarding the recent polar blast that the country has experienced? This struck on Sunday August 14th, and has been described as the worst experienced for decades. Even Auckland recorded snow, snow closed numerous roads and airports throughout the country, Queenstown was isolated, electricity was lost to several areas, stock suffered, and even in cities not normally affected, such as Wellington, snow prevented people from going to work. Needless to say, the likes of Christchurch and Dunedin were worse. This weather event was both extreme and severe, descriptive weather terms that Ring himself uses in his Predict Weather Almanac.
From the public's perspective, and especially those that purchase his almanac seeking guidance, we believe it is reasonable that the public expects to be advised of extreme weather, events that could potentially cause major disruptions, loss of livestock and property, and most importantly, loss of human life. Most sane people are not concerned over whether Ring correctly predicts a little drizzle around lunch time on Thursday, a dull day on Sunday or a slight frost on Monday. People want to know about weather that will have a real impact on their lives and activities. They want to know about downpours and floods, about blizzards and snow, so that they can move stock to safety, postpone events and stock up on supplies. They want to know about severe winds so they can secure objects and seek safety. They want to know about severe frosts so they can protect their crops. They want to know about droughts so they can manage stock levels and crops. They want to know about the coming weather so they can plan their holidays, weddings and field days. If Ring or anyone claiming to be a long-range weather forecaster can't successfully and reliably predict the type of weather that really impacts on our lives, then they are wasting their time and we are wasting our time and our money listening to them.
So, after reading Ring's claim to make a living from predicting weather, and further prompted by Ian, one of our readers, we looked up his Almanac predictions for a mention of the polar blast that struck the entire country on Sunday, and extended through to Wednesday.
First we looked up the obvious prediction, that for Sunday, 14th August:
Sunday 14th August
Maybe it's just us and our skeptical nature, but we can't get a severe polar blast that will chill the entire country from Ring's prediction. Showers and 'Dunedin: Mostly fine' doesn't suggest to us that we should have been worried. Even possible hail for Christchurch doesn't imply that anyone should panic. Of course Ring childishly claims that his predictions can be several days and up to a week out (which of course makes them worthless), but let's for the sake of argument look at the following days predictions:
Showers and rain for most of North Island. Showers in the east and south of the South Island. Fine Nelson and the West Coast.
Christchurch: Hail, showers possible.
Dunedin: Mostly fine...
Monday 15th August
Still no hint of severe weather. Rest assured that none of the predictions around August 14th show that Ring had any idea that a polar blast was going to hit. However, to make things a little more confusing, in his almanac Ring has numerous different sections where he predicts what weather will eventuate. For example, in addition to the above daily forecasts (page 332), he has a section called: 'Snow Expectations 2011' (page 519), another called 'Severe Weather' (page 25), another labelled 'Extreme Weather Events: August' (page 318), another called August: Monthly Summary' (page 313), another called 'Seasons: Winter' (page 29), and yet another called 'Summary for 2010 [sic]: August' (page 21). For that last one Ring obviously means 2011. We won't bore you with the details, but again no mention is made of severe weather in the 'Severe Weather' section, and there is no mention of extreme weather in the 'Extreme Weather Events' section. The 'Snow Expectations 2011' section fails to expect snow. In fact none of these many sections make any prediction of extreme weather around August 14th, not even for snow that isn't extreme. And who, on wondering what the weather was going to be like on August 14th, would check all these varied sections anyway? Ring provides a one page prediction for every single day of the year, meaning his readers need only consult his almanac for a minimum of 365 times for each year. Wouldn't this precise prediction mention extreme weather? Surely he doesn't expect readers to also consult sections labelled 'Snow Expectations 2011', 'Severe Weather', 'Extreme Weather Events', Monthly Summary', 'Seasons: Winter', and 'Summary for 2010 [sic]' and combine all these varied predictions to reach the real prediction for any particular day? This would mean that readers now have to consult over 2,500 different sections or different predictions, for each year, to ensure that they were getting all the necessary information, and this doesn't take into account the still other sections that must be consulted regarding rain, sunshine, cyclones etc.
Showers over the North Island. Showers clearing in the east and south of the South Island. Fine elsewhere.
Dunedin: Fine, windy, sunny.
Tuesday 16th August
Showers in Northland and in the east of the North Island. Fine elsewhere.
Dunedin: Fine, windy, sunny.
Obviously the one page prediction for every single day of the year is the one any sane and reasonable person would expect would provide the important information regarding the weather for that day. One should not have to flick from section to section, weighing up the different predictions, before concluding what the weather might be like for that day. That's Ring's job, that's what they pay him for, and he can't insist that his clients make these complex decisions.
In the past we have found many examples of where the predictions Ring makes in these various sections actually contradict each other. For example in the day forecast he will say probably rain, in the summary he'll say probably fine, and in the 'Snow Expectations' he'll say there's a possibility of snow. He knows his clients will not usually refer to these different sections and compare them and so won't pick up his deceptions. These contradictory predictions also give Ring the ability to claim that he did correctly predict snow or rain etc when challenged, by merely quoting the section where he did say snow or rain and ignoring the sections where he said the opposite. This devious manoeuvre aside, in this specific case not one single section in Ring's almanac predicted the polar blast, although we're sure he'll find some phrase that he'll claim clearly indicates that he did forecast it.
To make things even worse, in the previous month on July 24th the South Island was struck by another extreme polar blast. For me personally that blast was far worse than the August one. I had around 4 inches of real snow on my lawn and roof for several days, the first time for decades, whereas for this one I have none whatsoever. Consulting Ring's almanac shows that he was once again taken completely by surprise, making no mention of extreme weather for this period. Again, what use is a long-range weather predictor that can't predict severe or extreme weather, the very weather that we really need to know about?
It is true, Ring does indeed make a living from predicting weather. The only problem is that he doesn't predict the CORRECT weather! Anyone can predict nonsense, about anything. I can predict that NZ, from Auckland to Bluff, will be covered with 2 metres of snow on Xmas Day, 2011. I can predict that Jesus will return on Boxing Day, appearing first to Muslims in Mecca, or that aliens will arrive next Monday bent on our destruction. Anyone can make predictions, but we should only take them seriously if the person making them has a clear record of making accurate and reliable predictions, and that they can provide good reasons for making their predictions. Astrology doesn't count as a good reason. We shouldn't take any notice of predictions made by people that consistently get prediction after prediction wrong! Ergo we shouldn't take any notice of Ken Ring.
If you want to know what the weather might do, listen to a real weather forecast — for free — and take a look outside. Don't buy an astrology-based book of nonsense by Ken Ring. Make him get a respectable job.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Aug, 2011 ~
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Comment by Ken Ring, 17 Aug, 2011
It is amazing how selectively you cherrypick all to continue your tirade against me.
Simply check the relevant pages of my Predict Weather Almanac for 2011 if you want to see the polar blast prediction. Of course I am not going to use the words "polar blast" because that was not how I described it. But I did, using other words.
P313: "12th-21st: southerly over the South Island with the passage of a depression from the 14th. Southwesterlies on the 16th, easing later."
P29 North Island: "Heavy falls around the full moon of 14th.."
P30 South island: "Heavy and widespread precipitation 12th-14th"
Then look at my isobaric maps on 14-18 August; same as the Australian Metservice, showing the very deep southerlies, easing 18-19, just as is happening now as an anticyclone moves in, +/- 1-2 days in their detail. Bear in mind that the almanac and maps were worked out two years ago. Most farmers know by now that the winter full moon usually brings the potential for a heap of snow, and this one was no exception. This is because of the astronomical fact that the winter full moon is in the southern hemisphere and drags polar air up from Antarctica.
Also, please stop calling me an astrologer. I am an astrometeorologist, which simply means I work out trends and weather patterns using cycles of both sun, moon and planets. Anything above, around and to the side of that definition is made up by you. I have never done a horoscope for anyone in my entire life. I use a science that now combines astronomy and meteorology but was ancestrally called astrology. But then, so was medicine once and all other sciences besides, but no one calls doctors astrologers any more. My work is not about stars signs and anybody's love life, which the modern word astrology implies, and which you try to hook me up to, to denigrate my work. You do this, as many are aware, because you regard me as competition, seeing as your company is in the business of delivering weather advice to various companies. Please grow up and get over it, this is a free country, and I am trying to help farmers with my business. That farmers support me has kept my business going for 15 years.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Aug, 2011
Thankyou for proving us right Ken, that rather than honestly admitting that you missed this weather event (after all even you say you're only right around 85% of the time), you again insist that you knew that extreme weather was going to hit the entire country. And that this prediction was clearly set out in your almanac. What utter bullshit.
We didn't cherrypick from your almanac, we quoted your predictions for the very days that the polar blast hit (page 332). We also gave the page numbers to all your numerous other sections that discussed this period, so readers can look them up if they don't believe us. Your daily predictions are obviously the first page that any rational person would consult for the weather for that day. Why, if you knew that this extreme weather was due, did you give no hint whatsoever? Why if you had hidden this information on other pages did you not refer your readers to these sections? Some regions are saying this is the worst snow they've had for 80 years, and yet you didn't feel the need to mention it! Why not Ken, surely this is why morons buy your almanacs, to get warnings about these extreme events? You say that you're not going to use the words 'polar blast', fair enough, but there are many other phrases that would clearly tell your readers that extreme and severe weather was forecast. Even simple phrases like 'heavy snow falls'. But you didn't even use the word snow once did you?
You provide vague quotes from pages 313, 29 and 30, with no mention of snow and blizzards etc. A 'a depression', 'Heavy falls' and 'Heavy and widespread precipitation' give no hint of snow storms of historic proportions, and if you believe they do, why did you not include these warnings in your sections labelled 'Snow Expectations 2011', 'Severe Weather' or 'Extreme Weather Events'? Why did you change 'heavy snow' to 'heavy falls' and hide this warning in your summary and exclude it from your extreme weather sections? What are your extreme weather sections for if not events like this?
And what's this nonsense: 'Bear in mind that the almanac and maps were worked out two years ago.' To us that just says, 'Well of cause they're wrong, but only because I wrote them ages ago. The older they are the more inaccurate they'll be. You can't expect me to be as accurate as the MetService who are working on recent data'.
And then you follow it with more nonsense: 'Most farmers know by now that the winter full moon usually brings the potential for a heap of snow, and this one was no exception. This is because of the astronomical fact that the winter full moon is in the southern hemisphere and drags polar air up from Antarctica.' Most farmers know that winter brings the potential for a heap of snow, full stop. The winter full moon doesn't enter into their forecasts. Also, it is not an 'astronomical fact that the winter full moon is in the southern hemisphere and drags polar air up from Antarctica.' If it were, and since the moon is there every winter, then this polar blast would happen every year and we would not have been surprised. And you would have clearly mentioned it's annual chilly visit.
Our understanding as you describe it is that an 'astrometeorologist' is someone that uses astrology to forecast the weather. That's you. We have never said you produce horoscopes as found in magazines, although a horoscope is simply a forecast based on the positions and cycles of the sun, moon and planets. So technically you do produce horoscopes for people that predicts the weather in their lives rather than their love life. Furthermore, you are on record telling people when they should wash their hair, when to buy a house, when to garden and when to go fishing, forecasts all based on cycles of the sun, moon and planets. It's astrology Ken no matter what shade of lipstick you put on it.
We don't care whether you are forecasting weather, earthquakes or someone's love life, the methods that you use are mired in astrology rather than science. That's why you call yourself an 'astrometeorologist' rather than a meteorologist, and erroneously talk about Sir Isaac Newton and his 'astrological physics' and claim that 'I use the ancient astrological energy grid of the constellations'.
And again you repeat your lies that we are in competition with you, producing our own weather forecasts. Once again, we ask you to produce evidence of this. Surely you have some? You keep saying farmers support you, but none of the farmers we know use your almanac Ken, although perhaps it's a little like pornography, no one wants to publicly admit that they have viewed it or still use it.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Aug, 2011
Ken Ring has now placed an article on his website where he tries to pretend that he predicted the recent polar blast, using basically the same silly argument he uses in Comment #1 above. This is how he links to that article on his home page:
Newsletter 16 August 2011
Like your typical psychic he only makes his predictions publicly known AFTER the events have happened. The polar blast or 'cold snap' hit on the 14th, and he first mentions it two days later. Any fool can make this type of 'prediction'. And regarding Ring's description of the event as a 'cold snap'. it should also be noted that on Aug 13th Met Service weather ambassador Bob McDavitt was reported as stating, 'This is not just a cold snap coming up. It's a major winter storm'.
A look at the recent cold snap, how it was predicted...
We have already shown that Ring's almanac makes no mention of this 'cold snap', but what about his more recent Newsletters, perhaps they gave us a clear warning of heavy snow to hit both islands?
Unfortunately for Ring, his newsletter published prior to the polar blast concludes with these predictions, which fail to see August 14th as significant:
Newsletter 29 July 2011
In late July Ring was completely ignorant of any polar blast for mid-August, and consequently fails to warn us. But note that he does predict 'cold stormy weather to both islands of NZ' for the end of August and for the first two weeks of September, which will 'close down much of NZ'. He also predicts an 'icy winter blast during the first week of October'. Will this weather eventuate? Only time will tell, but why could he make these very clear predictions regarding an 'icy winter blast', and yet failed to even hint at icy winter blasts around July 24th and August 14th? These predictions show that Ring does know what an 'icy winter blast' is and that he feels compelled to warn us when his 'astrological physics' forebode their approach.
The prospect for the rest of the year?
August is mainly an average month for temperatures in NZ. The last week of August and the first half of September brings cold stormy weather to both islands of NZ...
In the southern hemisphere there is more expected cold to come, especially the first half of September which should close down much of NZ, and an icy winter blast during the first week of October that may kill late lambs.
Ring now scrambles to explain to his clients why he didn't tell them of the polar blast, and attempts to do this by lying to them, and assumes that they won't notice. It was their fault that they didn't ignore the bland daily forecast in his almanac, and instead seek out the appropriate sections and reinterpret and decipher the codes words into clear warnings of heavy snow, blizzards and a icy winter blast which would close down much of NZ. Yeah right! Ring just can't admit that he failed, and resorts to deception. Typical. At least he's consistent.
Comment by Anonymous-1, 20 Aug, 2011
Good work Ken, it is amazing how some people denigrate others behind a mask claiming objectivity when all they are really doing is demonstrating avarice.
Comment by Anonymous-2, 21 Aug, 2011
Ring lacks any credibility whatsoever. I don't think he's ever apologised or admitted he got it wrong. In my dealings with him, there's always an excuse or outright denial. It was great to see in today's Sunday Star Times, the head of Federated Farmers thanking NIWA for their accurate and timely weather warnings. The farmers that Ring claims rely on him, would be very pissed off to say the least.
Islam, God and the Norway massacre
Following the mass slaughter committed by Anders Breivik in Norway last weekend, the media and everyone else have been asking why he did it, and lamenting that we may never know. And yet we believe it is apparently quite obvious what motivated him: religious intolerance. Once again firm belief in a fantasy being has caused untold suffering and the unnecessary deaths of the innocent.
Breivik, a Christian, has allegedly written that he was appalled at the encroachment of Islam into Europe, and specifically Norway. He sees himself as a warrior for God, likening his role to the Knights Templar, Christian warriors fighting the Muslims during the Crusades. Breivik evidently believes that the time has come to fight back, to drive Muslims from Europe and to return Christianity to dominance once more.
So why didn't Breivik kill local Muslims if they were the problem? Probably because he realised he could never kill them all, and anyway, more would just take their place. Breivik attacked what he saw as the main reason Muslims were in Europe — public opinion enacted by government. It was the government that made it legal for Muslims to immigrate to Europe, and public opinion that decreed that their borders and society should be open to all religions and ethnicities. It was this notion of religious equality that Breivik attacked when he bombed a government building in Oslo and shot people indiscriminately at a political youth camp. It was a deadly wakeup call to those that made the laws that welcomed Muslims into Europe. The idea that the war between Christianity and Islam ended with the Crusades and that Christian and Muslim could peacefully cohabitate was a lie in Breivik's view. The public needed a reminder that Europe was not the home of Islam, that this religion was corrupting traditional European Christian values, and that Christians needed to elect politicians that realised that the tide needed to turn, that Christians needed to retake Europe. Breivik wants to be the spark that ignites the next Christian crusade.
In other words, religious intolerance. A Christian intolerant of Islam decided that the public needed to be alerted to the negative impact Muslims were having in their country.
While we don't understand the details of Breivik's view of Muslims in Norway, we do agree that some Muslims are eroding the equality and secular values that presently exist in many Western countries (and so are some Christians for that matter). Some governments are enacting laws that give Muslims exceptions or rights that non-Muslim citizens don't have. In Britain some Muslims have argued to get the barbaric religious Islamic or Sharia law adopted for Muslims, and this move was even supported by some non-Muslims, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Some governments are encouraging the setting up of insular communities where immigrants such as Muslims can maintain their culture, language and religious beliefs, rather than fast tracking integration into their adopted country, in the false belief that to do otherwise would be to force their values onto immigrants. But all this is doing is setting up islands of opposing cultures that will eventually lead to conflict between these different communities, often violent conflict. In 2006 when Muslims were offended by the Danish cartoons, they marched through European cities, and even in Auckland, demanding that those who insulted Islam be slaughtered. Countries are successful, peaceful and stable when their citizens have integrated, and adhere to common values, a common language and place great value on equality and tolerance. This is not to say that immigrants cannot keep their languages and aspects of their cultures and religious beliefs alive, but each group cannot insist that their new country should now be run under their values. I've worked with Muslims in NZ and overseas, and have met many intelligent, kind and wonderful people. We got on with each other because neither of us tried to push our beliefs onto the other, we found common ground and built on that. The problem arises with those — Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist or whatever — who try to insist that their beliefs should take precedence over all others, that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Democracy and secular government works because no one group gets to make the laws based on their beliefs. Equality and tolerance rules. Religion is not banned, but it isn't in control either.
But that said, we are not as secular as we like to believe, and it is not always one rule for all. Even in NZ, I have to remove my baseball cap to enter a bank, but a Muslim woman can enter with a full-face veil. I have to wear a helmet while cycling, yet Rastafarian Nandor Tanczos gets an exemption because of his religion. My small pocket knife was confiscated as I entered a plane a few years ago, but Sikhs can enter carrying daggers because of their religion. By law NZers in the food industry have to kill animals in a humane manner, but Jews here get an exemption because it's a religious tradition. Our secular parliament and many city councils are opened with a Christian prayer. When it comes to religion we are not all equal in the eyes of the law.
So, no doubt like Breivik, we believe that the way some Muslims are destabilising Western countries does need to be urgently addressed, but of course the question is how do you fight for change? It shouldn't need saying, but it seems it does, you definitely don't start killing people. You make change through rational debate, peacefully convincing the majority of the need to change laws and/or attitudes. But history has shown us that religion offers believers a different path to resolving differences — unspeakable violence that will result in the destruction or submission of those that follow another path. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus (not to mention the thousands of long dead religions), have all used, and are still using, violence to fulfil the wishes of their gods. All can find in their holy books numerous examples of their god settling conflicts and disputes with violence, mass murder and genocide, and of approving and even ordering his followers to do the same.
People have said to us, how could Breivik kill his fellow citizens, innocent people, he must be insane? Is it insane to truly believe that your god exists and demands certain things of you? Is it insane to believe that if you fail to follow the wishes of your god that you will be punished? Is it insane to kill an enemy in a time of war, to defend your loved ones and your cherished way of life? If it is then all religious believers are insane, and all those who have gone to war in defence of their country were insane. As obscenely wrong as his actions were, Breivik sees himself as a soldier at war, attacking not innocent citizens but the enemy, an evil enemy no doubt under the command of Satan. Like any loyal and obedient soldier fighting and willing to lay down his life for the greater good, Breivik, like untold religious warriors before him, is determined to follow the orders of his commander — God — and he is utterly convinced that his course of action, what God has essentially ordered him to do, is the right thing to do.
When our soldiers went off to WWII or Vietnam or Afghanistan, we didn't label them insane and question their willingness to kill the enemy. Just the opposite, we created statues in their honour and turn out every year on ANZAC day to celebrate their sacrifice for us. We don't label them evil for killing innocent Nazis, because we don't believe the Nazis were innocent. In the same way, Breivik won't view those he killed as innocent, they were the enemy. In his eyes and those of his god these people were rebelling against god and needed to be stopped. The Bible is full of accounts of seemingly innocent people (in modern eyes), that nevertheless deserved to be slaughtered according to their god. If one truly believes in the Christian, Jewish or Muslim god, and believes without doubt that their holy books are the word of god, then it should be no surprise that true believers are more than willing to kill in their god's name. They have demonstrated this time and time again.
However it must be said that thankfully most Christians, Jews and Muslims are disgusted by those that kill others in the name of religion, but this is only because they have rejected those passages where their god specifically instructs them to kill in his name. For example they refuse to kill homosexuals, psychic mediums, disobedient children and atheists. They have rebelled against the clear wishes of their god. They straddle two worlds, the religious and the secular, embracing those commandments from their god that they like, and rejecting those that they find abhorrent, electing instead to follow a humanistic philosophy, quietly acknowledging that their god got a lot wrong when it came to good morals.
But only wishy-washy believers can do this, believing in their god while at the same time rejecting a lot of his claims as pure nonsense and/or obscene. True believers believe it all. When their god said something he meant it, god doesn't make mistakes or change his mind. If someone told me to kill my neighbour because she was a lesbian, I would utterly refuse, no matter what coercion they used. I believe this stance is the right one and I would not sway from it. I think we need to realise that Breivik no doubt feels as committed to his stance as I do to mine, he feels as strongly that he is doing the right thing by killing as I feel I'm doing the right thing by not killing. I am convinced and guided by a humanistic philosophy whereas Breivik is subservient to his god's wishes. I feel disgust at the thought of harming another human being, whereas Breivik can no doubt differentiate between true followers of his god and heathens, in the same way that I see a difference between humans and chickens. Religion if truly taken seriously, can elevate a chosen few to god's inner circle, and reduce the rest of humanity to the level of chickens, where their slaughter can be easily justified.
Only the religious can slaughter, persecute or harm fellow human beings and be utterly convinced that they are doing the right thing, that they are helping in a noble cause, fighting a just war and that their god will reward them greatly. Only Breivik's belief in the Christian god and this god's disgusting and barbaric desires and promises motivated him to bring about social change by slaughtering fellow human beings. Religious people that continue to take their fantasies seriously will continue to be the cause of atrocities and the source of conflict between communities worldwide.
And as others have argued, the wishy-washy believers that are our neighbours and work colleagues, by their insistence that their god is real, are naively lending support to the murderous fanatics of the world. Millions have indirectly reassured Breivik that his god is real and that following his message should be his paramount concern. Breivik is merely taking his religious responsibility more seriously than most. Should we solely blame him for this atrocity, or should the religious everywhere accept some of the guilt?
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Jul, 2011 ~
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Comment by Phill, 31 Jul, 2011
Hi John. I agree with many of your arguments, but I cannot help but wonder if in this case, as in so many other similar cases the religious and political beliefs spouted by Breivik are just so much camouflage for his real aim. Which was to achieve immortality in infamy. Now I should point out that I know nothing about Breivik and that I could be completely wrong in my assumptions about the man. But I would suspect that in the scheme of life Anders has always being something of a loser, a loner, and someone who has probably never had a successful relationship. I suspect he is someone who only is interested in the words and actions of Anders Breivik and his greatest fear was that he would pass through this life alone and forgotten. So to be remembered he has chosen the road to infamy. His aim is not to use this shocking tragedy to present some perverted religious political ideology to the world but rather to achieve immortality for Anders Breivik. The accompanying mumbo jumbo is just a vain attempt to hide the real motive. It is something killers do all the time.
Peter Sutcliffe the Yorkshire Ripper has often talked about god telling him to get down on whores. Bullshit, Sutcliffe got off on his murders, sex workers were easy targets and when it became to difficult to hunt in the red light areas he changed his MO and went after students. David Richard Berkowitz (Son of Sam) made a big thing about the devil talking to him though his neighbours dog ordering him to go out and kill. Berkowitz has later gone on to claim that he was part of a satanic cult and the murders were part of that (this is lapped up by the viewers of Shine Television) John Douglas (Ex FBI profiler) who interviewed Berkowitz argued that the dog, the devil, and the rest of it was rubbish. David got off on the murders he would hunt most nights, and if he could not find a target would return to previous crimes scenes and masturbate over the memory. Sirhan Sirhan, said something to the effect that the fame and renown that had taken Robert Kennedy forty years to achieve he had achieved in forty seconds when he shot him down in a California hotel kitchen. Killers will often attempt to cloak their deeds in some kind of noble sentiment, or even find some flimsy excuse that somehow mitigates what they have done.
Anders Breivik couldn't just go out and kill a whole lot of innocent people, no he has to claim that he is doing so for some great cause to better make his fellow Norwegians aware of the dangers of whatever bullshit he spouts off. I believe to understand his true stance and true reason for the attack you only have to look at his victims. This was a carefully planned attack to maximise the time he could spend killing. He chose an island so that the people there would be trapped, he sorted out young people because they were possibly easier targets and the tragedy of his deed would be so much the greater. At no time did he target the one group he claimed to hate and despise, he did not attack Muslims, he did not bomb a mosque, instead he murdered children. There are those who do kill for their beliefs, there are those who die for a cause. But I don't think Breivik is either of these, just another loser wanting his five minutes of fame on the blood of others.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Aug, 2011
Hi Phill. You could well be right, that Breivik staged this 'event' solely to get his name into the history books. And if he's a good actor and has prepared well, we may never know his true motivation.
However it seems to us that he's put a little too much effort into his 'excuse' to immediately dismiss it as a red herring. He's evidently been participating for a few years in debate over the evil of Islam (and Marxism) and has written a 1500 page manifesto. To us that suggests that Breivik truly did have a problem with Islam. If this hatred of Islam was all a ploy, then rather than research and write a long manifesto, a hate filled tweet on Twitter could have achieved the same thing, clearly explaining why he did it.
Of course it could be that Breivik just snapped and wanted people to notice him, his five minutes of fame as you say, and simply utilised what he was annoyed with at the time to vent his hatred.
And you're right, he didn't target Muslims directly, but we feel (assuming he has a reason), that Breivik was attacking the politics that allowed Muslims into Europe, and naively thought this action would be more effective overall than simply killing Muslim citizens. Furthermore, if he really wanted to clearly create the lie that his hatred was towards Muslims rather than just a desire to kill blindly, it would have made more sense to actually attack Muslims. This was a well-planned assault, organised over months and possibly years, even buying a farm so that he could gain access to the materials for explosives. Breivik was very clear whom he wanted to target. It wasn't random, with Breivik simply leaving home and shooting anyone that he met.
Of course there's nothing to say Breivik didn't simply have the urge to kill people, and perhaps gain infamy, but something in his subconscious forced him to invent an enemy, someone he would feel justified in attacking. Perhaps the reasons he provides for his attacks are bogus, but he's deluded even himself into thinking he's a warrior fighting for a just cause and not just an immoral killer.
While probably not insane, Breivik is no doubt a psychopath, and as such his reasoning is not something that you or I could endorse or understand, regardless of the true reason that he killed. Like the killers you mentioned, there truly are people out there that commit horrendous crimes and yet still question why we are prosecuting them.
Comment by Joe, 01 Aug, 2011
Hello again, John, I think that there is a danger in attributing political or religious motivations to crazy people. This Breviek character was simply insane, and if Islamophobia didn't set him off, something else would have.
Christian intolerance is a problem, to be sure. But crazy people will always find a reason. Environmentalism wasn't the cause of Ted Kaczynski (colloquially known as the "Unabomber"). Islam wasn't the cause of Major Hasan's rampage at Fort Hood. It's a bad rap to blame Christianity or even Christian intolerance for a sad, mentally unstable loner who was probably going to end up hurting someone if they didn't put him in a hospital, and the sad commentary on our modern society is we are reluctant to put these people in hospitals.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Aug, 2011
You're right Joe, crazy people will always act against the norm. However we feel that religion exacerbated the problem, and must take some of the responsibility, just as those that sold Breviek automatic weapons must. As much as we disagree with Breviek's actions, the fact remains that he claims that the presence of Islam in Norway is what motivated him to kill. It's also a fact that the Bible (and the Koran), if read selectively, supports Breviek's actions, and encouraged him to kill. There are untold examples throughout history where people have done what Breviek did and were praised for their actions, eg the Crusades.
Our view is that since mentally unstable individuals will naturally form false opinions and beliefs, should we make their potential actions more harmful by giving them access to weapons and actively giving them a barbaric fantasy to fixate on? If we know some people have trouble with reality and moral behaviour, how are we helping by giving them a fundamentalist religious worldview to adopt, a delusional worldview that merely feeds on their personal delusions? As you say, these people need medical and psychological help, not a barbaric fantasy that meshes with and intensifies their existing beliefs and urges.
We don't believe Breviek is insane, he knows exactly what he did and understands perfectly the harm that it would cause. He knows that society views his actions as immoral and illegal, and he wasn't surprised that he was arrested. In Breviek's mind it comes down to right and wrong. In what circumstances is it right to kill? Many would argue that it acceptable to kill in war and in self defence, and all Breviek has to do is convince himself that he is at war. Fundamentalist religion gives him that justification, it provides him with a ready made worldview that melds with his emotional and mental instability. Perhaps what drives some of these killers is just a strong urge to kill and inflict harm, and they seek a reason to act on these urges. The religious can give them that reason and trigger their murderous rampage by introducing them to a disgusting, barbaric killer called god, a being that millions worship and who is infamous for his own murderous rampages. The deaths and suffering that Breviek caused is inconsequential compared to the deaths and suffering that god has deliberately inflicted on mankind. This butcher is the one that Breviek claims to be using as his motivation and taking his orders from.
We believe that the religious must take some responsibility, as do those that sell firearms, because their beliefs (and weapons) can help channel the thoughts of a deranged mind to a specific course of deadly action. If Breviek was seeking a reason to rebel, then religion gave him one, and gun shops gave him the means. Without religion and guns at his disposal, then perhaps Breviek would still have found another reason to go crazy, but perhaps the outcome might not have been as deadly. Without the clear belief that their god approves of killing outsiders and those that challenge him, coupled with the access to weapons, troubled individuals might well employ less harmful methods to express their dissatisfaction with current events. If they do flip out, then far better that they're only holding a fork and a copy of Sherlock Holmes, not an assault rifle and a Bible or Koran.
Comment by Mikaere, 02 Aug, 2011
Hi John, your premise that religion can shoulder some of the blame for mass murders is valid. It provides psychopaths with a rationale to subject other people to a variety of atrocities; the perpetrators feeling justified and supported in their actions. Hence, the relegation of women to sub-human status and the persecution of 'deviant' sexual behaviour in cleric-controlled social systems. Religion has been a handmaiden to many oppressive political regimes.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Aug, 2011
Thanks Mikaere. We also think many religious people these days can't comprehend how others could use their religion to commit atrocities, since they have long ago learnt to ignore the barbaric and murderous commandments issued by their god. Since they would never consider killing a nonbeliever or a disobedient child (as their god commands), then they can't believe that their fellow believers would either, and thus proclaim religion innocent of any involvement. Unfortunately some people do take their religion seriously (and why shouldn't they if everyone says it is true?), and feel that persecuting nonbelievers or keeping women subservient is their duty to their god. Rather than question the commitment of the truly devout, many Christians should be asking themselves why they can't and won't believe much of what is written in their holy book. Thankfully these days the world sees few people that truly believe every word of their holy books, otherwise we would still be immersed in crusades, inquisitions, witch trials, theocracies, religious wars, racism, sexism and treating headaches with a priest's exorcism.
Unlike most hypocritical Christians, perhaps Breivik's mental state allowed him to become a truly committed Christian, a warrior that was prepared to do far more than just pay his religion lip service?
Comment by Chris, 02 Aug, 2011
Isn't it ironical, and I suppose morbidly satisfying, that Breivik has probably scored an own goal so far as Muslim immigration is concerned. If I was a Norwegian trying to point out the dangers of immigration, I'd be outraged at Breivik for bringing such disgrace on my viewpoint and tainting all my arguments.
I tend to agree with Joe that you can't really blame religion for a complete psycho whackjob like Breivik. The prejudices of the mass of religiosos, and evils like sharia law, yes by all means blame them on religion, but when you get an obsessive legend-in-his-own-mind like Breivik, then even if there was no religion at all, he'd find some reason for his loathsome stupidity. The Norwegian Nazi Party, or ethnic cleansing, or anything sufficiently loopy. Personally, I'm relieved that Breivik didn't spout some pseudo-Darwinian garbage about 'survival of the fittest'.
Oh and we keep hearing that the maximum sentence allowed by Norwegian law is 21 years. Well, all I can say is, if they don't manage to arrange that Breivik never sees the light of day again, they really aren't trying.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Aug, 2011
Yes Chris, regarding Muslim immigration Breivik certainly was his own worse enemy, and even those that agree that immigration needs to be managed better, condemn what he did. But screwing things up is what irrational thinking does.
And again, we're not saying that religion created Breivik, we're just saying that they, like the gun shops, gave him some of the tools that indirectly supported his murderous rampage. Without doubt the guilty person here is Breivik, but once he's safely locked away, perhaps we should look at gun laws and religious intolerance. We need to limit the reasons to hate that wackos can latch onto, be it religious intolerance, Neo-Nazi groups or proponents for ethnic cleansing.
It does seem amazing that the maximum sentence in Norway is 21 years, but we have some plenty light sentences too, especially when compared to the likes of the US, who can send people away for hundreds of years. Perhaps they could try him separately for each murder? It's always amazed me that courts often give no greater sentence for killing a dozen people than for killing one, or sentence someone to several different counts of say 10 years, but then say that they are to run concurrently. No wonder that they say, if you're going to be hung, you might well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb.
Comment by Phill, 07 Aug, 2011
Hi John, just a note about sentences. I don't know what the situation is in Norway but one should not confuse life sentences with non-parole periods. For instance in New Zealand a standard conviction for murder will be so many years non-parole (the average seems to be seventeens years) meaning of course that those sentenced cannot come up for parole before that period. However the sentence is for life. Meaning that even if a murderer is paroled at some later stage they are still under a life sentence and can be called back to prison at any point and at any time, it is unusual for this to happen but not unknown. Even when lifers do become eligible for parole its not an automatic right, I can imagine one or two who might have problems convincing a parole board to let them out. As I said, I don't know the legal situation in Norway but it would not surprise me if it is not similar to ours.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Aug, 2011
Thanks for that Phill. I've since read that for Norway, while 21 years is the maximum jail sentence, there is the option to extend that indefinitely if there is a risk of repeat offending.
Comment by Ion, 08 Oct, 2011
Hi Sillybeliefs. I believe Phill (Comment #1) has the right of it. This dude just got off on killing. I dare say he was a pissed off loser angry at the world at large, and he simply took it out on people who couldn't fight back. There went a terrorist, and a coward, moral and physical, to boot. When he is convicted, I hope he lies in whatever dungeon they throw him into for the rest of his natural, and lies there forgotten.
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