Naturopath kills with caring attitude
In the news this week is the depressing and shameful account of a naturopath's incompetence and lack of humanity that lead to the untimely and certainly painful death of a Fielding grandmother. The villain of this piece is one Ruth Nelson, an iridologist and naturopath who lives and practices her nonsense in Te Horo, south of Levin.
Yvonne Maine went to naturopath Nelson and asked her to examine a lesion on her scalp. Nelson later told the health and disability commissioner that she was 'repulsed' by the lesion, that it was 'rotting and oozing pus' and that it had 'eaten half [her] head off'. 'She admitted recognising that the lesion "looked cancerous" and that it was beyond her ability to treat, but she continued to do so anyway'.
For 18 months Nelson continued to treat Mrs Maine, all the time telling her it wasn't cancer and actively advising her not to see a doctor or go to hospital. Maine was scared of hospitals and surgery and Nelson built on this fear to keep her from seeking another opinion. Perhaps driven by the severe pain and suffering, eventually Maine did seek the opinion of real medical experts who immediately diagnosed cancer and undertook major surgery. She died the following year.
Two media accounts can be read here:
Iridologist's neglect led to 'avoidable' death
We read that 'Just before her death, Mrs Maine and her daughter laid a complaint with the health and disability commissioner, which was upheld in a written decision published yesterday'. The complaint was made in 2010 and yet the decision is not reached until 2012. Why did it take so long to investigate the complaint? Are we turning into a banana republic or what? We keep hearing of these trials and investigations on all manner of things and I think, I don't remember hearing about that event, then we learn that it happened many years ago and only now has it come to trial or been investigated. I have trouble remembering what I did last week, so how can witnesses be expected to accurately remember an event that happened some years ago?
Naturopath may face action over cancer patient care
But moving on, why are there no photos in the media of this woman, this Ruth Nelson? The media has been awash of late with photos and video of 'The Beast of Blenheim', and Wanganui's city council and citizens have been vociferously campaigning to prevent this sexual offender from living in their city. And yet this monster is granted partial anonymity, she can walk the streets without being recognised, and future clients can attend her practice and won't recognise her face from the news. And Nelson can continue to push her quackery because there is no law regulating people who want to push this alternative therapy nonsense. As for the complaint, 'Deputy commissioner Tania Thomas found Mrs Nelson had not kept written records of the care she gave, acted unethically by crossing professional boundaries and breached several rights under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights'. But because alternative therapists are not real medical practitioners like doctors and nurses, they can essentially say and do as they wish. It's also misleading to say she 'acted unethically by crossing professional boundaries', because this implies that Nelson was a medical professional, whereas she was merely a deluded nutter preying on gullible people. So Nelson can, if she wishes, simply ignore the findings of the health and disability commissioner. It seems that the Human Rights Tribunal could award damages against Nelson, but I guess that involves another investigation. Another couple of years perhaps?
As I was writing this, we received two comments on this very topic (see below). Both Phill and Bob thought this deliberate action on Nelson's part should result in a charge of manslaughter and/or jail time. We tend to agree. We've all read about unfortunate cases where a husband accidentally kills his beloved wife in a car crash and yet is still convicted of manslaughter. So why should this naturopath, whose deliberate actions with little doubt caused an early and avoidable death, not to mention severe pain and suffering, face no legal consequences or punishment? Furthermore, like the Beast of Blenheim, Nelson apparently refuses to accept that she has really done anything wrong, telling the commission that 'The mistake I made was not anything to do with the skills or knowledge, it was caring too much'. This sounds like a deluded woman who is still a threat to the community, and who is being watched and monitored by no authority. No restrictions have been placed on her practicing her quackery, and no legal action or education has ensued to help her realise what a silly, deadly and harmful belief she follows.
What can we do to stop these witchdoctors from offering their treatments from their kitchens? 'Health sector lawyer Jonathan Coates said there was nothing to stop Mrs Nelson from continuing her practice because alternative therapists were not bound by any regulatory regime' and that this case would reignite the call for alternative therapists to be regulated. However, 'New Zealand Medical Association chairman Paul Ockelford said regulating alternative therapists risked giving legitimacy to some "dubious" medical treatments'. He goes on to say that 'Iridology is one of a number of alternative health practitioners that do not have a scientific basis'. This wishy-washy talk from experts is, in our opinion, one reason why many people are still willing to give this nonsense a try. He politely describes this therapy as 'dubious' rather than calling it utter crap that is useless and often dangerous. He says that these therapies 'do not have a scientific basis', which is academic speak for, 'they're bullshit'. I know scientists can never prove anything 100% and always frame their statements to reflect this uncertainty, but the general public often reads these noncommittal statements as meaning, 'Hey, we're simply not sure. It's looks dubious, but so were blood transfusions and continental drift once. And there is much that science still can't explain'. If you're going to communicate with sound bites, then to get the reality across authorities should ditch the geek talk and keep it simple and frank.
We agree that regulation would indeed give alternative therapies and the therapists legitimacy, unwarranted legitimacy. Giving therapists some form of certificate or permission to practice, or even acknowledging that therapists knew everything there was to know about their specific delusion, would in no way mean that what they were practicing was real medicine. What's next, regulating witches and psychic mediums?
We would only support regulation if the criteria for such meant that these therapists had to meet strict standards of efficacy, safety and competency. Like conventional medicine they would have to provide scientific, evidential proof of their claims. If they say they can diagnose disease solely by looking at a patient's eye or foot or left nipple, then they need to prove this with large, randomised, double blind, controlled medical trials, just as conventional medicine must. If they say they can consistently and reliably cure disease and afflictions with their potions or hand waving or incantations then again they must show this in medical trials. If they can't clearly demonstrate that their therapies work and are safe, and that they are competent to provide them, then regulation must be denied. Furthermore, without regulation it must be deemed illegal to operate a business that offers health therapies on the unproven claim or implication that they are effective or safe.
The law doesn't let the general public examine, repair and then issue a Warrant of Fitness for motor vehicles, even if they do it for free, and yet it does let any old quack examine and diagnose disease, attempt repairs and then issue a warrant of fitness for human beings. And to charge a fee for doing so. Why is it illegal for me to tinker with your car, with no thought about regulations, but not your body, even if my incompetence ends up killing you? Are cars more valuable than people? Some might argue that by not fixing a car properly maverick mechanics might end up indirectly killing someone on the road. But equally, by not diagnosing and treating a fellow human being correctly, quacks may, and do, end up indirectly killing people. Again, why must people that check my old Toyota be qualified and licensed, but not those that check my old aunt?
We suspect that there is little motivation to improve our laws around these superstitious, medieval quacks because an embarrassing proportion of both the public and the actual lawmakers believe that some of these alternative therapies might actually work. And those therapies that don't work are so ridiculous that we don't need to make laws around them because surely no one is that stupid to use them? Are they? Unfortunately there are no alternative therapists that test explicitly for stupidity, although we could argue that simply going to an alternative therapist is a positive test for stupidity.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Sep, 2012 ~
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Comment by Phill, 05 Sep, 2012
When I first read an earlier version of the article it mentioned that the natural healer had taken a holiday with her victim. I can only speculate on how much money the supposed healer charged for her time.
The only surprise I have is that there is a call for natural healers to be regulated, surely a charge of manslaughter would be more appropriate. It seems the healer was aware that this lesion was out of her league and dangerous. Yet it seems she happily told her victim that there was nothing to worry about.
You know we often hear the chant from true believers, leave the spiritualists and natural healers alone, who do they hurt? Well this is the perfect example, my guess is not the only one. How many others have died because they were too late seeking medical help because they first resorted to natural healers for their problems? How many of them were put off going to a proper doctor because the natural healer told them everything was fine and not to worry? One question I would like to know is how much money was sucked from this victim before she finally sort medical help?
Because, really isn't that the bottom line with natural healers? The money.
Comment by Bob, 05 Sep, 2012
This article shows how dangerous alternative treatments from naturopaths and other quacks can be. If this woman charged for her advice she should face jail. Of course the victim should have had enough sense to go to a doctor. Perhaps she wasn't too bright and easily led.
Comment by David, 07 Sep, 2012
John, didn't I read that Steve Jobs went to one of these people and subsequently said it had delayed proper treatment that could have cured him if started early enough? It shows that even for intelligent people hope can overcome reason. Public opinion might make forcing them out of business difficult, but in a clear case like this, a manslaughter charge is surely appropriate.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Sep, 2012
Yes David, I heard that too re Steve Jobs. I can understand how people with a terminal illness and/or intolerable pain and offered no hope of a cure from conventional medicine might grasp at anything and everything in desperation, but not why intelligent, rational people that aren't ill are willing to entertain such nonsense. Is it just intellectual laziness?
Comment by Graeme, 07 Sep, 2012
Vicki Hyde slams "alternative" medicine with specific regard to this story and the lack of accountability; Science Report, 12:40pm, Saturday September 8th on Radio live with Graeme Hill.
Comment by Megan, 08 Sep, 2012
@Phill — [Comment #1] — if you actually read the report you would note that it says Mrs Nelson received nothing from Mrs Maine in the way of financial gain, in fact she never charged her a cent. In relation to the practitioner going on holiday with the client — this client actually followed Mrs Nelson away. Mrs Nelson had gone to the other end of the country to get away from this client, only to receive a phone call from the client's daughter the next day telling her she had left her mother in a motel down the road from where Mrs Nelson was staying and that she could go and look after her as she was going to continue her holiday.
We talk about charging the practitioner with manslaughter — how about charging the client's family with failing to provide the necessities of life, namely adequate healthcare? After all, this woman had a husband who lived with her for the entire duration of which she demanded Mrs Nelson's care. She had a daughter who did nothing because her mother sat in the middle of the floor and would not go to a doctor — well, hello — call 111? If it was my husband, mother, father or child this is what I would have done and would do, not walk away and ignore her for weeks. She also has two other children who were not interested. If this client was a child, her parent's would be charged with failing to provide the necessities of life.
This practitioner has thousands of satisfied clients, and has worked along side many GPs and specialists in their treatment of some of her clients. This is why the client's and her daughter's claims in this case do now ring true to so many people. To compare her to Murray Wilson is legitimately insane as there is absolutely no comparison. Mrs Maine flatly refused to seek the assistance of a GP or hospital despite being told by Mrs Nelson and many others, including myself to seek further assistance. I myself told her that she needed to be in hospital, and actually recommended Hutt Hospital to her as my daughter had previously and continues to receive treatment there. Her response: "there is no way I am going to hospital, they already told me there was nothing they could do". Mrs Maine therefore made her own choices. She lied to Mrs Nelson from day one, by telling her that she had seen a doctor, already had the lesion removed once and that they had told her there was nothing more they could do.
Before people judge, they should endeavour to find the whole story, not believe what is presented to the media instantly.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Sep, 2012
Thanks for your comments Megan, however I have several problems with your spirited defence of iridologist and naturopath Ruth Nelson. Regarding her client Yvonne Maine, much of your argument seems to be based around your specious comment: 'If this client was a child, her parent's would be charged with failing to provide the necessities of life'. But Maine was not a child, she was an adult, and as you later clearly state: 'Mrs Maine therefore made her own choices'. Thus it is irrelevant to base your argument on a fantasy.
Rather than place any blame whatsoever on Nelson's shoulders, you ask: 'how about charging the client's family with failing to provide the necessities of life, namely adequate healthcare?', and you say, 'call 111... this is what I would have done'. Again, Maine was not a child, and her family had no legal right or duty to force their idea of healthcare onto her. They can offer advice, but no more. I know stupid people ring 111 to order taxis and complain that their parents won't let them stay up late, but in actuality you can't ring 111 and complain that an adult won't go to a doctor or dentist or hospital. This aside, you said that if she was your family member that this is what you 'would do, not walk away and ignore her'. But seemingly because she wasn't family, this is exactly what you did. When she ignored your advice you then ignored her. Emergency 111 calls aren't just for family you know.
But the gist of your 111 comments seems to be that you'd make considerable effort to ensure conventional medical specialists saw people in situations like that of Maine's. And yet you fail to grasp that Nelson made no such effort. She failed to live up to your standards of care.
You say that Nelson never charged Maine a cent for her services. Are we to believe that 'After several years of treatment for various ailments' by Nelson, for which we assume she was charged, Maine again seeks Nelson's services, but this time Nelson suddenly decides not to charge her for services rendered? Why didn't this therapist charge her client? And she was just a client, as you yourself describe her. Nelson continued to offer her services to treat a condition that repulsed her for 18 months, sometimes for days on end. Maine was not a friend of Nelson when the treatment started, so why did Nelson not charge for a year and a half's work? But regardless of whether money changed hands, the core complaint with Nelson's actions involves the ethics of the treatment. The HDC has said that 'Nelson had recognised from the beginning that the lesion "looked cancerous" and that it was beyond her ability to treat'. It also said that Nelson 'knew that she had exceeded the limits of her expertise and that the woman required advice from another practitioner, but she did not appropriately communicate this or discontinue her treatment of the woman, and she gave the woman information which accentuated the woman's fear of conventional treatment'. Nelson, knowing full well that she was incapable of effectively treating Maine, knowing that the lesion was cancerous, knowing that Maine was in considerable pain, and knowing that Maine feared hospitals, Nelson not only refused to reveal the truth to Maine, she deliberately sought to maintain Maine's delusion. Nelson caused Maine unnecessary suffering and brought about her untimely death. She kept Maine under her spell by pretending to be a health professional, whereas she could have used her influence to get Maine the help she needed. You apparently recognised that Maine had a serious problem that needed specialist hospital treatment, you criticise her family for not ensuring she got it, and yet you refuse to criticise Nelson, the health practitioner that Maine obviously trusted for medical advice. Nelson was the most influential person in Maine's life regarding her health options, possibly the one person that could have convinced Maine to seek conventional treatment. Why won't you condemn Nelson for not taking the action that you would have? You saw the need, why didn't Nelson? Children often fear hospitals and doctors, but caring parents don't refuse treatment just to please the children. Likewise Nelson should have placed Maine's physical wellbeing above her childish fears. She didn't. Her actions were unethical and deplorable. In defending her behaviour you are defending the indefensible.
You also suggest that Maine was stalking Nelson, who was desperate to get away from her. So why did Nelson continue offering treatment, at no charge as well, when all she had to do was tell the truth to rid herself of Maine?
You say that 'Before people judge, they should endeavour to find the whole story, not believe what is presented to the media instantly'. Since your view of Nelson and this case is markedly different to that of the HDC, it appears that you either didn't bother to give them 'the whole story', or if you did, they didn't believe you. Which is it? You suggest we read the report, so please let us know where we can get a copy.
Describing Nelson you claim that 'This practitioner has thousands of satisfied clients, and has worked along side many GPs and specialists in their treatment of some of her clients'. I have some problems with this statement. Firstly this statement is as bogus as a similar claim that many psychic mediums make: that they have numerous satisfied clients and that they have worked alongside the police and solved many crimes. Yes they may have many satisfied clients, but then so too does Santa Claus. The client's satisfaction is based on ignorance. And their claims that they have assisted, and are supported by, real experts are all lies told solely for promotional purposes. Secondly, you claim that Nelson 'has worked along side many GPs and specialists in their treatment of some of her clients'. The revealing part is 'THEIR treatment of some of HER clients'. 'THEIR', meaning doctors and specialists, are having to treat 'HER' clients, meaning Nelson's clients. If her quackery worked then her clients should never have to go anywhere near doctors and specialists. What that statement is admitting is that Nelson has experienced numerous examples of doctors and specialists being called upon to fix up her failures. Furthermore, if Nelson regularly worked with real doctors, why didn't she consult with them in this case?
You claim that 'Maine flatly refused to seek the assistance of a GP or hospital despite being told by Mrs Nelson... ', which implies that Nelson, like Maine's daughter and friends, was actively and continuously trying to get Maine to seek real help. There is no evidence of this, in fact Maine 'was warned against this by Mrs Nelson, who told her "it wasn't cancer and they probably wouldn't treat it now" and that she would "get a bug or swine flu" if she went to hospital'. You also claim that Maine said that 'there is no way I am going to hospital, they already told me there was nothing they could do'. How could both statements be true? If Maine had flatly refused to go to a doctor or hospital, then HOW could they have examined her and told her there was nothing they could do for her? And we know that when she was eventually examined at hospital, they immediately operated and improved her quality of life, so there were things they could do. Both these claims are apparently fabrications.
You claim that Maine 'lied to Mrs Nelson from day one, by telling her that she had seen a doctor, already had the lesion removed once and that they had told her there was nothing more they could do'. You imply that you got this information from the HDC report. So are you saying that ALL the different media articles are suppressing the important fact that Nelson honestly and sincerely believed that Maine had been seen by hospital specialists and been told that they could do NOTHING, and that therefore another visit would be utterly futile? But if Nelson believed this, then why do you also claim that Nelson tried to get Maine to see a doctor or go to hospital? Again, two claims that you make that both can't be true. If Nelson sincerely believed that conventional medicine had wiped their hands of Maine (which in itself is unbelievable), then she could not be blamed for trying to do what she could to help Maine. But there is no evidence that Nelson believed this (as you claim). The evidence is that Nelson believed that Maine had an irrational fear of hospitals and thus had not been anywhere near one to get examined or be told that she had a condition that they couldn't treat.
As for Nelson, you say that for us 'To compare her to Murray Wilson is legitimately insane as there is absolutely no comparison'. I disagree. Of course the specifics of their offending is different, and Stewart Murray Wilson, the Beast of Blenheim, never actually killed anyone. However they can be compared on several points. Both deliberately harmed others through their uncaring actions, the law is frustrated on how it deals with both of them, both refuse to acknowledge that they have done anything wrong, and consequently both are still a threat to their community. Where they don't compare is that the media seems to have gone out of their way to avoid publishing pictures of Ruth Nelson. They've found and published several different pictures of Maine, including images of her cancerous lesion, but the guilty person in this case remains faceless.
Nelson told the commission that 'The mistake I made was not anything to do with the skills or knowledge, it was caring too much'. In letting Maine suffer, Nelson obviously doesn't know what it really means to care about the well being of another human being.
UPDATE: I have now located and read the full HDC report on this case — Natural Therapist and Iridologist, Mrs C — and would make some additional comments.
Megan said that 'Mrs Nelson received nothing from Mrs Maine in the way of financial gain, in fact she never charged her a cent'. But this is misleading. It's evidently true that Nelson received no payment from Maine for 18 months treatment. However it was also stated in the report that Maine knew that 'Nelson had an understanding with her clients that they would pay between $20 and $50 depending on the length of the appointment and the client's ability to pay'. Also, 'Nelson said that she accepts payment from her clients in money or goods on a voluntary basis'. So quite clearly Nelson expected payment from her clients, including Maine, although exactly why none was received in this case is not revealed.
Megan also claimed: 'In relation to the practitioner going on holiday with the client - this client actually followed Mrs Nelson away. Mrs Nelson had gone to the other end of the country to get away from this client, only to receive a phone call from the client's daughter the next day telling her she had left her mother in a motel down the road from where Mrs Nelson was staying and that she could go and look after her as she was going to continue her holiday'.
In fact all the report says is this: 'In Easter 2009, when Mrs Nelson went to stay with her family, Mrs Maine stayed in a motel close to her so that Mrs Nelson would be able to continue the treatment'. There is no mention of Nelson saying she was fleeing from Maine, no mention that Maine staying in a motel nearby wasn't planned between them beforehand, and no mention of the daughter dumping her mother in the motel and going on holiday. Reading the report as Megan suggests people do does not reveal or support her claims. Not only that, the report actually states that 'In 2008, a member of Mrs Nelson's family won free flights for two passengers. On 26 December 2008, Mrs Maine and Mrs Nelson used the free flights to travel together for a few days, and stayed with Mrs Maine's family'. Here Nelson has clearly invited Maine to holiday with her.
Megan also said that Nelson 'has worked along side many GPs and specialists in their treatment of some of her clients'. Yet in the report, 'When asked whether Mrs Nelson went to anyone for professional support during her treatment of Mrs Maine, Mrs Nelson replied, "No, where would I go? There aren't any natural therapists or iridologists in this area." Mrs Nelson further stated that she did not have the time anyway'. The report also does not support the claim or even make any mention of Nelson having 'thousands of satisfied clients'.
And worryingly the report quotes Nelson as saying 'If I came across a similar situation in the future I wouldn't do what I did with Mrs Maine. I would ask [such a client] to give me proof that they had been to the doctors/hospital." '
This is a clear indication that Nelson fully intends to keep practicing her quackery. It also shows that she still doesn't grasp what her failings were. They have little to do with whether her client has seen a real doctor or what they may have been told, they have to do with Nelson's treatment of her client. Nelson failed her client badly, and having a note from a doctor or hospital wouldn't have absolved Nelson from her poorly chosen actions.
Megan implores critics to 'actually read the report', that 'Before people judge, they should endeavour to find the whole story', and yet many of the claims that she implies are in the report are not. Having now read it my view of this case has not changed, in fact it has only been strengthened.
Comment by Alison, 10 Sep, 2012
Hi John. This has been discussed over at Sciblogs as well (Iridologistís treatment of cancer criticised by Health and Disability Commissioner), with Megan dropping by there to make pretty much the same comments. She has said (among much else) that Mrs Maine's lesion was not diagnosed with iridology.
To which inquiring minds must respond, why not? If Mrs Nelson was using iridology with her client, for other issues, why didn't the iridology also indicate the developing cancer? As one Sciblogs commenter said: "So if iris examination reveals no indication that there is a fecking great tumour eating one's head, I have to wonder, what *is* it good for?"
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Sep, 2012
Thanks for the link Alison, very interesting reading. Also found there a link to the full HDC report — Natural Therapist and Iridologist, Mrs C.
As for the question, what good is iridology? For taking money from suckers.
MP John Banks and that naked woman
Do you believe that a talking snake convinced a naked woman by the name of Eve to eat a forbidden fruit, or that God made the universe and all life in six days, then had a well deserved day off? Of course not, I'm sure you're too intelligent and knowledgable to be sucked in by such primitive nonsense. But amazingly, Auckland politician John Banks has fallen for this ancient ignorance as revealed in the following NZ Herald article. It's brief so we'll quote it in full:
Banks: I believe Bible's account of how life began
We were alerted to this article by Miles who noted that 'The civilised world will be envious of us having an "associate" Minister of Education who is a young earther. I hope the good folk of Epsom (boy, am I glad I moved out thirty years ago) are pleased with their choice. So, we might wonder what was on that teapot tape — Banksie explaining to Johnboy that he'd support National provided he could have a charter school to push creationism. Jeeze ......'
John Banks, associate Education Minister, believes in the Genesis account of how life began.
Associate Education Minister John Banks says he believes the Genesis account of the start of life on Earth. According to the Bible, God made the world in six days, with Adam and Eve being his last act of creation.
John Banks told Radio Rhema that he has no doubts the first chapters of Genesis are true. "That's what I believe, but I'm not going to impose my beliefs on other people, especially in this post-Christian society that we live in, especially in these lamentable times.'' "There are reactionaries out there, humanists in particular, that overrun the bureaucracies in Wellington and state education.'' Mr Banks says he's too old, these days, to be 'judgemental'.
Bible scholars are divided over whether this is a literal description or an allegory to help people understand how the world came into being.
I probably shouldn't be, but I'm surprised that Banks — ex-Auckland mayor, Epsom MP and leader of the Act party — is a creationist. I didn't even pick him as a religious nutter, let alone a creationist nutter. And perhaps even Aucklanders, Epsom and Act voters didn't know either, or else why did this revelation make the news?
I tend to think of all religious people as creationists, people who believe in creationism. That is, that the world and life was created by a god or gods, rather than arising naturally without purpose or divine help. However in the narrow sense a creationist is one who believes that the stories in Genesis of the Old Testament describing the creation of the world are literally true. That God created light before he created the Sun, that Adam and Eve and that talking snake were real, and that Noah's ark stuffed full of animals really rode out a worldwide flood for over a year. And various other equally ridiculous stories that have no basis in fact.
We were annoyed to see that the article concluded with this view of Genesis: 'Bible scholars are divided over whether this is a literal description or an allegory to help people understand how the world came into being'. This can only be taken as suggesting that Banks may or may not be right, scholars are themselves still undecided. What deceptive bullshit. Most Biblical scholars are of no doubt that the Genesis stories are pure allegory, and even if they weren't, their opinions are irrelevant. Rational and intelligent people long ago stopped consulting Bible scholars regarding the origin of the universe and life. Science is what we now consult, and it is not divided. It is to science that we look to see whether Banks' belief in creationism might even be remotely justified. And it is not. It's as silly as belief in Santa Claus, and would you vote for a person who couldn't grasp that Santa wasn't really real? People in power making important decisions on behalf of society should not suffer from delusions.
I'm not sure, based on that article, that we can definitively call Banks a 'young earther', a creationist that believes the universe and the world is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old, rather than 13.7 billion years old. Outspoken creationists usually do push a young earth, but some, such as Christian fundamentalist Ian Wishart supports belief in a universe billions of years old, even though he still believes in Adam and Eve and Noah's Ark etc. Banks is definitely a creationist, but whether he's a young earther requires another interview.
That aside, it's worrying that our country's associate Education Minister is a creationist, someone that believes in these silly Bible stories. Especially as Miles points out that Banks has been a key promoter of introducing charter schools into NZ, schools that can write their own curriculum, need not have qualified teachers and can be run by churches and creationist organisations. Obviously those schools with a religious agenda will teach their creationist nonsense as fact. As if there's not enough ignorant people in NZ now without charter schools turning out another generation of kids who believe in talking snakes and gods clicking their fingers or wispy tentacles to create new worlds.
We're all familiar with American local and federal government being overrun with creationists, who openly campaign on their primitive, superstitious and ignorant beliefs and are elected by a public who overwhelmingly concur with a creationist worldview. In the USA clear religious belief is essential to get elected, whereas in NZ it's generally unimportant and perhaps even has a negative impact. NZ Christian-based political parties have consistently performed badly and usually disappear from the scene after their election failures. For example, Destiny Church's political party. Our last two prime ministers, John Key and Helen Clark, have openly declared that they don't believe in a god and yet both remain popular and both gained re-election. Their disbelief did not harm their political goals.
Perhaps the time has come that we need to ask our political candidates, as they often do in the USA, whether they believe in evolution or creationism, science or religious nonsense. Creationism is definitely a problem in NZ, in education and in society in general, but unlike in the US, its proponents here are generally quite reluctant to openly admit to their creationist beliefs. They are still pushing for their silly beliefs to be taught in schools and attempting to influence decisions and laws made in local and central government, but they are mostly doing it all under the radar. I've worked with people for years before I discovered that they were creationists. Creationists and fundamentalists these days seem to be taking over the closet space that has been vacated by homosexuals. But hiding as they are, they're still annoyed that NZ society is following science rather than religion, and are actively trying to drag us back into the dark ages at every opportunity. These people with hidden religious agendas are deviously seeking positions of power in local and central government and on school and health boards etc.
We think it is critically important that elected officials divulge their creationist leanings, since this will allow voters to make assumptions as to what decisions they might make in the future on our behalf. For example, things like gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, prostitution and climate change are all topics that creationists and fundamentalists have views on that are not debatable. If elected officials have secret beliefs that are set in stone, that they will not change and that will influence their decisions, regardless of the wishes of their constituents, then we need to know this in advance, before we vote for them. If elected officials secretly believe in creationism then they are going to want to see it taught in schools, or at the very least will see nothing wrong with schools that do teach creationism rather than evolution. They are entitled to their views, but they should be brave enough to admit to their views so we know if they are actually the people that we want to represent our views. Is being deceptive really a part of being a Christian these days? Fundamentalist belief is not something minor and insignificant, like enjoying Mexican food or Mills and Boon books, which won't affect how political decisions are reached. But a secret belief in a vengeful god that is closely watching your every action will crucially influence your every decision. The public needs to know if those seeking public office are being controlled by their fantasies, and following a path chosen by a mythical god rather than the dictates of their electorate.
I'm brave enough and confident enough to publicly declare myself an atheist. Why do creationists generally lack the confidence to declare their stance, especially when their beliefs create and inform their entire world? Why do they feel the need to project a facade of rationality and science to advance in the world? Why do they generally refuse to proudly reveal their fundamentalist belief in their God? Note that even Banks only made his fundamentalist beliefs known to fellow Christians on Radio Rhema, not to the mainstream media. Are they ashamed of their God and woefully ill equipped to defend him? Apparently so.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Aug, 2012 ~
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Comment by John, 25 Aug, 2012
The US is still filled with people who believe the snake story. Two are running for President. Its amazing we can't teach our children the truth. Its illegal in most schools to teach our kids about religion. I'm not saying we should indoctrinate them, but teach them how illogical religion is, why people believe, and how to get free of a religion.
Some good lessons on Christianity, History, Philosophy, and Sociology all centered around why people created their Gods and their religion would do wonders for our children, and when they grow up to be politicians, they would not hold these silly and outdated ideas.
I ended up writing a book for my own children because good information about why people believe in God is so very hard to find. www.wecreatedgod.com. It is very difficult to raise atheist children, when the schools are prohibited from supporting them. I'm glad to see people fighting the good fight, but more religious education is needed in our classrooms. If we can better educate our population of voters, then maybe we'll start electing politicians who can critically think.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Aug, 2012
We agree John, schools should teach our kids about religion, all religions. Not as you say to indoctrinate them in one religion, but to demonstrate how silly all religions are. Unfortunately religious people in positions of power, such as politicians and members of school boards, are not going to let that happen any day soon. But opposition to religious belief is growing, eg your book and others, so perhaps classes in comparative religion will be normal in schools one day.
Comment by Ron, 26 Aug, 2012
Hi John. For someone as intelligent and clued up as you appear to be it astounds me that you did not know John Banks' leanings and beliefs in any way. Thousands in NZ know. He made it quite clear in many little ways when he was a talkback host in Auckland and was occasionally vilified by some callers as a result. Of course he never said outright "I am a creationist". I guess talkback radio was/is not your scene. Matter of opinion whether that is a positive or negative choice but look what world shaking knowledge you missed.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Aug, 2012
Hi Ron. Thanks for that. You're right, talkback radio is not my scene, and not living in Auckland, or even on that offshore island, I'm normally little interested in John Banks' beliefs, or anyone for that matter that I can't vote for. If as you say, thousands in NZ know of Banks' creationist beliefs, does that include all Act Party voters I wonder? And does that in some sense now make Act a creationist party since Banks is their leader and only MP? I'd love to see Banks, and all candidates, clearly state their religious beliefs as they campaign and then see how they perform. There should be this disclosure because devoutly religious people are guided by their beliefs, and voters deserve to know what beliefs are informing the candidates.
Comment by H, 26 Aug, 2012
Aucklanders should be well aware of John Banks being a fundamentalist-bornagainery christian, think back to Auckland University and their Craccum mag year after year producing some kind of a parody on Banks and his extreme christian beliefs to the extent that one year they had Banks on the front cover umm "bumming" or being "bummed", I can't remember which way round it was now because of his outspoken and very unreasonable stance on decriminalising homosexuality
Horrible horrible little man
Comment by Mikaere, 26 Aug, 2012
Hi John, I have been sitting on an email to you re Mr Banks, so it's great that Miles brought his latest utterances to your attention. I agree that the prospect of unregistered teachers in a few charter schools delivering such nonsense is a problem but I'm wondering if this is all a bit of a smokescreen for some really worrying issues in education.
I know Silly Beliefs primarily focuses on superstition and scams but you may wish to know that many people feel that an essentially sound system is being presented as faulty; parents are being presented with half-truths and dodgy research and politicians are attempting to convince them that teachers are letting the students — and the economy, according to Treasury, down. The above link is to the latest article by someone who wishes to stand out as a voice of reason (although his prose can be a bit flighty and no punches are pulled), who considers the evidence and makes sound conclusions — just like scientists!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Aug, 2012
Thanks for the interesting link Mikaere. To be honest I'm suspicious of pretty much every politician and what their true agenda might be, not the least when it comes to education.
Comment by Phill, 29 Aug, 2012
Hi guys — well it has certainly cleared up one mystery for me — why Act was so keen for Charter Schools. The creationists must be over the moon — (as I understand it) public money can now be diverted into teaching their hogwash. As to Mr Banks — part of me is not totally convinced, after all Banks has always seemed to be the perfect example of the opportunistic politician willing to reflect back to his audience what they wish to hear. Is it possible that because he was speaking on Radio Rhema Banks took a more extreme stance? That if he was speaking to another audience (say a science teacher's convention) we might hear more support for Darwin? What does trouble me though is that this man is an associate minister of education — dare I say it "God help us all!"
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Aug, 2012
Oh my gawd Phill! What are you saying, that we might not be able to trust our politicians?
Comment by Miles, 08 Sep, 2012
Good morning, John. You might be interested in this, re our Associate "Education" Minister.
Science wins over creationism in South Korea
Comment by Miles, 14 Sep, 2012
Hi, John. On the radio a couple of days ago (National Program I suspect, but can't quite remember), I came across aforementioned Banks saying that "nobody should have to suffer like him over anonymous donations." He's quoted in the Herald this morning, at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10833584.
Does this mean that he thinks the law does not apply to him? In my view, *everyone* — and not just those in public office — *must* be prepared to "suffer" — for starters, Banksie acted unlawfully, that was his choice, and he is responsible for his own actions.
The Police report has also been obtained by the Herald (and others, probably). It's at https://zen.nzherald.co.nz/media/webcontent/document/pdf/201237/Banks%20inquiry%20OIA%20response.pdf. How Banksie can quite get "totally exonerated" (can't cite a source for this one) out of it *astounds* me.
But there is something else, too. In the Cabinet Handbook (at http://cabinetmanual.cabinetoffice.govt.nz/node/89#2.50):
"2.53 In all these roles and at all times, Ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards."
So, he's ignoring that too — but we know his boss, Johnboy, is not too concerned with "ethics".
More follows (section 2.56 and following), including what constitutes a conflict of interest, and what should happen in such cases. As I read it, the charter schools performance is probably such a conflict, because Banksie is promoting a cause which is getting government funding. But maybe that doesn't apply to Banksie either.
And we haven't got on to the philosophical problem of teaching young ones that the book about the talking snake has "all the answers for today."
If Winnie was a loose cannon, Banksie is an Exocet without its nav chips.
Anyway, have a nice weekend.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Sep, 2012
I guess Miles that this is why politicians are seen as one of the most untrustworthy species on the planet, and deservedly so.
Psychic seeks better class of client
A friend sent us this Facebook link featuring psychic medium 'Deb Webber trying to cash in on the Christchurch earthquake and the Greymouth mining tragedy':
Graeme Hill (Radio Live Weekend Host) has commented on this latest move by Webber and suggests that Webber sees them as 'celebrity dead people'. Which is quite true, since people that I've known that have been killed in accidents never had their death even mentioned in the media, let alone had TV journalists interviewing their family or had the Prime Minister attending their funeral. Why was their life and death so unimportant to the country? Why do family members of Christchurch and Pike River victims get special access to Deb Webber for a reading, no doubt pushing aside those that don't have celebrity victims?
Tuesday at 4:38pm
Can any immediate family members of people who passed in the Christchurch earthquake or Pike river mining tragedy please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to meet with Deb.
Why is Webber deliberately targeting the families of these victims? Is the pool of idiots eager to pay her exorbitant fees drying up? One can only hope. Unfortunately some of these family members will believe in this nonsense and will perhaps feel important and rather chuffed that Deb Webber, a minor celebrity in some spheres, infamous in others, has made a personal appeal to them. Some will no doubt find it hard to reject this attention and offer from Webber. Is she just trying to take advantage of the public interest in these tragedies, associating herself with these family members that still get media attention in a shameless attempt to raise her own profile? Probably. Also, unlike the Christchurch families, the families of the Pike River tragedy received a financial handout from the government so Webber no doubt believes she deserves some of it for the considerable stress she suffers everyday. The stress caused by knowing that eventually people will wake up and realise she is an utter fraud and has sold them a fantasy. She probably has nightmares of pitchfork and torch wielding villagers chasing her screaming through the streets, or at least we can hope she does.
But this aside, the existence of 'celebrity' victims gives Webber (or any psychic medium) an enormous advantage if she ever gets to provide a reading for a family member. It exposes another example of how they cheat and fool gullible people.
Due to the nature of her request, Webber will have advance knowledge of who the people seeking readings are and who exactly they are trying to contact. Those arranging the meetings for Webber, eg Trish, will no doubt want some sort of proof that they did indeed lose family members in one of these tragedies, otherwise anyone could jump the queue and get a sought after reading with Webber with a simple lie. Once Webber knows who the victim is then it would be child's play to research what media reports have revealed about them. On the bogus TV show 'Sensing Murder', which Webber was a part of, the producers said they rejected any psychic medium if it was suspected that they had any prior knowledge of the featured murder victim. Even they knew that any fool could accurately describe a victim if they first read up on the murder. Rather than really contact the ghost of the dead victim they could simply construct a fantasy conversation based on what they had read about the victim. The only amazing thing about this type of fraud that is played out time and time again in psychic readings worldwide is that people are stupid enough to fall for it. And in this specific case, Webber can't even deny that she has no knowledge of who the victim is and how they may have died. And yet still these suckers flock to Webber and pay her lots of money, all so she can lie to them and tell them things that they already know.
There has naturally been a lot of media exposure of those who died, with photos and descriptions of their characters and general life. On top of this, even if Webber is able to learn little about the personal details of the deceased from the media, there is still much that she does know. For example, regarding Pike River, she knows that everyone was male, an adult, lived on the West Coast, worked in a coal mine and she knows when, where and exactly how they died. She can make educated guesses as to the characters and interests of these miners. For example, it's unlikely that any are university graduates or hate rugby, racing and beer. This means that she doesn't have to throw out guesses about women, children or the elderly as she tries to get her client to reveal who died. Likewise she doesn't have to quiz them as to when, where or how the death occurred, no vague questions about chest pains or motor accidents. And since the mine hasn't been accessed or the bodies recovered, Webber can make up any detail about the actual deaths and no one can challenge her.
The same with the earthquake victims, once details such as the person's age, sex, nationality, occupation, marital status, location and cause of death have been obtained from media reports then it would be very easy for someone with Webber's cold-reading skills to make educated guesses about the deceased. Furthermore, meeting and talking with the family member or members seeking the reading will provide Webber with a lot more material with which she can pretend to describe this person.
We know full well that if I fronted up to Webber as a distraught family member she would pretend to talk with this deceased person, even though I lost no one in either disaster. We know this because Webber has been exposed on Australian TV on three occasions pretending to talk to dead people that never existed. She was approached separately by three undercover journalists who all invented dead family members, and in all three cases Webber still claimed she was able to contact these imaginary people. For money, Webber, and in fact all psychic mediums, will happily and willingly make up conversations with not just dead people, but even imaginary people. If you told her you wanted to contact your grandfather who was killed in the war, a man by the name of Darth Vader, and she had never seen Star Wars, I'm sure she would pretend that a kindly old man had just walked into the room and was now standing next to you.
Graeme Hill said that he finds Webber's antics sickening, and we can't but agree with this sentiment. The families involved in these tragedies have suffered greatly, as does any family who loses a loved one, and that scum like Webber deliberately targets them in their grief, takes advantage of their loss, and shamelessly takes money from them while lying to them is despicable and obscene. Like the Catholic priests that rape small children, psychic mediums are another group of humans that I'm utterly ashamed of, and I'm embarrassed to admit that we belong to the same species. It's yet another example that there is no divine afterlife and that evolution rules, since evolution has no motivation to prevent scum from getting a foothold.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Aug, 2012 ~
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Comment by Ross, 22 Aug, 2012
Iím glad to see some well written condemnation of this fraudster — everything else Iíve seen seems to gush about the fact that weíre so lucky to have such a nice Sheila coming to visit ChCh— and isnít she clever being able to talk to the dead.
Itís just sickening — and seriously —(& I donít say this to be provocative) — Apart from 2 negative comments from men — All the comments are positive and are from women... Whatís that about ??!! Into the rescue remedy for me...
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Aug, 2012
Hi Ross, thanks for your comments. Good to see that there are others out there that see through this nonsense. We hadn't heard much from these psychic mediums for some time, but it just goes to show that they never completely go away, they're always trolling our communities for suckers. Looking for people ill equipped to comprehend how the world really works and that fail to grasp that when you're dead, you are really dead. There is no Facebook or Twitter or cell phone access in the afterlife, since there is no afterlife.
Comment by Ross, 23 Aug, 2012
Gidday John — I find my tolerance for this sort of rubbish runs thinner as I stack on the years. Great blog you have. I managed a whimpy kicking on her facebook page anyway so hope she squirmed — but I doubt it. I suspect my short reply has been deleted tho.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Aug, 2012
Hi Ross. No, your comments are still there, so well done. Of course one has more chance teaching a cat to play chess than getting through to these idiots, but we do have to keep reminding them that not everyone accepts their silly beliefs.
Comment by Debbie, 27 Aug, 2012
Hi. I can not believe people actually get up in the morning and do the kind of destuctive work you do. If people are being scammed, that's their problem. It's not up to you to sneak around dashing hopes. There is enough nasty stuff going on in this world. Let people believe in something other than hate and violence. You really need to take a good look at yourself, and I hope some magic comes into your life one day, that can't be explained.
Always hoping there are good things out there
And no, I am not a medium or anything special, wish I was, but the spirits don't seem to want to talk to me. I'm always hopeful they're talking to someone though.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Aug, 2012
Debbie, has it ever occurred to you that your silly spirits don't talk to you for the same reason that trolls aren't found under bridges, that fairies aren't seen frolicking at the bottom of gardens, and rabbits in the wild don't wear cute waistcoats and answer to Peter? And that reason is, none of these things are real.
And frankly we consider it quite deplorable on your part to say, 'If people are being scammed, that's their problem. It's not up to you to sneak around dashing hopes'. Would you say the same thing to the police: Stop sneaking around, if people are going to get ripped off, that's their problem. Criminals have to live too you know! Seemingly you don't mind that people are being lied to, being harmed and having money taken from them under false pretences? And we're not sneaking around. We're quite open in our criticism of mediums and this silly belief in talking spirits. And we provide reasons and evidence to support our claims, unlike mediums and their groupies.
Furthermore, what gives you the right to express your opinion, that we are being destructive by exposing scammers and fraudsters, and yet we can't express our opinion, that scamming people is wrong? Don't you think this is rather arrogant on your part? Why is it that you believers in this nonsense are always demanding that skeptics stay silent about what we discover? Are you that fearful of honest inquiry, are your claims that weak, that your only response to criticism is a begging plea to let the delusions remain and the scamming continue? You know — don't you — that you could silence us by simply providing evidence of these spirits? We're waiting.
And do you really think that if people don't believe in spooky spirits then the only other thing to believe in is 'hate and violence'? Is that what it's like in your world? Superstitious nonsense or hate and violence, it's one or the other, take your choice. Do you really fear that people, or at least the people you know, will opt for hate and violence on rejecting belief in spirits?
Finally, we don't need your silly magic in our lives, there is more than enough beauty, wonder, awe and mystery in the real material world to keep us happy and satisfied. We don't need or desire to flee to fantasy worlds to feel our life is worth living.
Comment by Bob, 28 Aug, 2012
I feel very angry at Debbie. She sounds to me like a hard nosed fraud. Her real gripe against you is that you are queering her pitch by exposing her. She is no different from any other fraud trying to separate people from their money. She doesn't contribute to society but takes advantage of weak easily influenced people. I wish the entertainment industry would stop encouraging people like her but there is too much money to be made. I would like the law to declare contact with the dead is impossible so all claims to the contrary are fraudulent. Making such claims and charging for such services would then be an offence against the law. There is one precedent for that I know of. Some years ago computer programmes were offered for sale which supposedly predicted the outcomes of horse races. They didn't work. It was declared that horse races were unpredictable and the programmes were banned in Australia.
It stands to reason if contact with the dead is possible it should be fairly common. Murder victims should be naming their killers so often murderers would think twice about killing.
Shame on you Debbie.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Aug, 2012
We'd like to see these fraudsters outlawed as well Bob, unfortunately there is no public or political will to make the changes. It is, from a rational and evidential point of view, fairly simple to produce an argument that we should prevent mediums from charging gullible people for this nonsense, but unfortunately lawyers would have a field day dragging it through the courts. Instead, skeptics need to convince our family, friends and associates that pretending to talk to dead people is just really silly, and eventually, just like fairies, leprechauns and trolls, belief in mediums will fade from society.
Comment by Bob, 29 Sep, 2012
Deb Webber must have a hide like a rhinoceros. She has no shame simply changing her stance to counter criticism. Now she wants to have a meeting with earthquake and Pike River relatives to give them "closure".
I only want to help: Psychic to sceptics
The entrance fee suggested is $70. Say 50 people turn up at $70 a head that's not a bad income for an evening. Unfortunately some will go in case there is something in it encouraging them and her. There can't be a law against them. It is too easy to wriggle around it. Just don't make specific promises. It makes me angry when sleazy frauds take advantage of people who are depressed and looking for comfort. At least one man realised when asked for his dead wife's name that would be enough to be able to look up a lot of information on her.
The answer is to educate people. Show plenty of programmes mainly on television highlighting fraud, false claims and shonky reasoning. Needless to say if she really had the interests of these people at heart would she be charging them at all?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Sep, 2012
Thanks for the link Bob. If Webber truly wants to help people, she should tell them it's time they grew up and to stop believing in fantasies. Santa Claus does not deliver toys, the Tooth Fairy does not purchase teeth, and psychic mediums do not talk to dead people.
So what is it with Webber, is she knowingly lying to people to steal money from them, or is she astoundingly stupid and ignorant, utterly convinced that she is communicating with spooks? We suspect she has a foot in both camps.
It was also disappointing to read in that article that 'Most of the Pike River victims' families would attend the Greymouth session, and about 35 people had confirmed in Christchurch'. Why is there apparently still so many gullible and ignorant people in our modern knowledge society that still believe in this nonsense? Why can most people accept, at least in a disinterested way, things like genes and black holes and dinosaurs, and yet when it comes to spooks, they revert back to beliefs from the Dark Ages? Education seems to be failing on this count, and like the media in general, seems, if anything, to encourage belief in primitive, superstitious nonsense. There are good TV programs that debunk this crap, such as Penn & Teller's 'Bullshit!' documentary series, but our local programmers give us 'Sensing Murder' and numerous other programs promoting mediums instead. Society is kept ignorant, because for both the media and mediums like Webber, there is good money to be made from peoples' ignorance.
Witchdoctor wanted for hospital work
Let's imagine for a moment that, Zeus forbid, you have fallen seriously ill. If you had the ability to travel into the past, which period of history would you prefer to live in, in order to give you the best chance of correct diagnosis and a safe and effective cure?
I suspect you're thinking: Are you mad? There was no time and place in history that had medical treatment even remotely comparable to what is available in modern 21st century hospitals. Why would you even consider ditching modern medical knowledge and technology and retreat into the primitive, ignorant and superstitious past?
And you'd be right, who but a fool would opt for the ignorance of the old days? For much of history mankind was utterly mistaken as to how the human body worked and what caused disease, and consequently powerless to effect cures in most cases. Not that this stopped them trying, but often the 'cure' was worse than the disease. Potions were administered that we now know were toxic and treatments attempted that actually hastened death. In many cases it was safer to just let a disease take its course and hope for the best than submit to the medical treatments of the time. I'm not criticising these doctors and healers, they were often working with the best knowledge and ideas available at the time, and their investigations into health cures contributed to medical progress, but in hindsight their patients would have suffered greatly, and probably still died.
But recent history has seen great progress and we now have a very good working knowledge of the body and disease, along with amazing technology for diagnosis, surgery and the advancement of medicine. Now medical knowledge truly is the safest and most effective way to combat disease. While there is still much to learn and achieve, there is no denying that modern medicine is the only healing method that actually works, and that is backed by real evidence that it works. As such, evidence based medicine is the only form of healing that we find in our hospitals and doctors' surgeries.
Or at least it was. Now Wanganui Hospital is looking at turning back the centuries and offering treatments that would have been familiar in Medieval Europe and certain Stone Age cultures, such as Christian prayer and Maori healing.
In this media release from Whanganui DHB, we read that:
Wanganui Hospital is to join the handful of New Zealand hospitals now offering a natural therapy service for those keen to receive therapies and treatments very much focused on spirituality and the healing and strengthening of the mind...
In the 21st century, what sane, educated person would swap antibiotics for prayer, an MRI scanner for witchcraft or a doctor's diagnosis for that of a tribal shaman? Of course we know that there are people, even among literate and educated NZers, that do reject modern knowledge and do consult a tribal shaman or rely on prayer to cure them of their ills. But these people must actively seek out these primitive healers that operate from a back bedroom in the family home or local marae and who advertise in free newspapers next to psychics and prostitutes. You don't expect there to be departments at your local modern hospital that offer therapies that include superstitious nonsense such as Christian prayer, Maori healing and Reiki that all invoke the supernatural. The media release also states that 'a small number of New Zealand hospitals are offering such clinics', but this is misleading, implying that there are already other hospitals where one can go to receive Reiki, Christian prayer or Maori healing. Elsewhere Maori health director Gilbert Taurua, one of the clinic's creators, states that 'He believed Whanganui would be the first hospital to have an onsite natural therapy service'.
Therapies offered at Wanganui Hospital natural therapy service will include Maori healing, Christian prayer, massage, Reiki and meditation training...
My dictionary defines 'therapy' as 'Treatment of illness or disability; Healing power or quality', and yet it is quite clear that these therapies have no chance or record of successful 'Treatment of illness' and no evidence of 'Healing power'. The normal and reasonable expectancy in today's society is to only find safe and efficacious therapies offered in our hospitals, so what a backward step it is to place primitive, superstitious, and most importantly, failed healing methods in our hospitals alongside modern, proven therapies. What can we expect in the future? In Wanganui Hospital's operating theatres will patients get the choice between a modern anaesthetic or a swig of whisky and a simple piece of cloth to clench between their teeth? For infection will they be given the option of antibiotics or a treatment of leeches? When updating their ambulances will Wanganui Hospital's drivers be offered one with air bags and disc brakes or the cheaper option of just a crucifix and some rosary beads?
See also this Dominion Post article: 'Can prayer heal the sick? Hospital's new faith healing labelled 'witchcraft'.
Michael Laws, a member of the Whanganui DHB board, has written: 'What next?? WITCHCRAFT! A seriously stupid decision that hasn't gone anywhere NEAR the DHB board table!' Fellow board member Dr Clive Solomon agrees with Laws and notes that 'Best practice, evidence based medicine is the foundation of the scientific practice of medicine... This is an utter disgrace. Another example of management totally at sea and out of control... Dr Cresswell [who helped set up the service] is employed as a medical practitioner under his practicing certificate of the NZ Medical Council. Such practice is not only unethical and unscientific but seriously outside his scope of practice'. And if you think that Maori healing has nothing to do with witchcraft, see some of our previous posts, such as 'Of Makutu, Maori Curses and Witchcraft' or 'Tapu lifted from crime scenes' or 'Maori curse seeks Chinese thief'. And we're not saying that Maori couldn't have discovered some plant with medicinal properties, like other primitive Stone Age tribes have done, but like all medicine it must be isolated and proven safe and effective. The possibility of having one or two effective treatments is no justification to allocate Maori healing its own hospital department. And regarding prayer, why would devout Christians drive past their local church whose sole purpose is as a place of prayer and head to their hospital instead? Not for recognised medical treatment, but to seek out someone who would pray for them, someone that expects payment for this service? At least the church would have been free. Going to a hospital seeking someone to pray for you seems to me as ridiculous as going to a brothel looking for someone to do your taxes.
There is a bumper sticker that says: 'Prayer has no place in our schools, just as facts have no place in religion'. We never thought we'd see the day that this would need to be modified to read 'Prayer has no place in our schools or our hospitals'. So much for progress. One step towards the future, two back towards the Dark Ages.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Jul, 2012 ~
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Comment by Phil, 25 Jul, 2012
There seems to be no limit to the depths of stupidity to which some choose to sink. Surely the board can torpedo this one.
Or maybe it will require depth charges.
Keep up the good work, people.
Comment by Mike, 26 Jul, 2012
Hospitals have had chapels in them for as long as I can remember (Chch hospital in the 1960ís) — & whether god exists or not (Iím punting for not), the placebo effect is real (& scientifically proven even!), and if it helps people feel better and recover faster then I think we should make use of it... even if it is mumbo-jumbo.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Jul, 2012
Hi Mike, I see your point and agree with it to a degree. I see a placebo as lying to people to manipulate their emotions. Yes the placebo effect is real, but it only works for a small fraction of medical problems. It won't cure cancer or hepatitis or HIV. It won't set a broken leg, mend a failing kidney or fix a detached retina. In cases of an affliction that one generally requires only time to recover from, then definitely a placebo can be beneficial and should be used, but the real danger with mumbo-jumbo is that its true believers don't, unlike you and me, actually believe in the placebo effect. When they say that God through prayer or Reiki cured them, they aren't saying that they were temporarily fooled by a lie, which reduced their pain and sped their inevitable recovery, they're saying that God actually cured them. And this belief that God cured their flu also entails the sincere belief that God will also cure their cancer. These clinics will not be labelled the 'Placebo Effect' clinics, nor will it's effect be explained or even mentioned to its patients. If you hide the nature of the placebo effect from people then you encourage them to believe that God or something equally wacky cured them. And so they will naturally return to the prayer clinic or the Reiki clinic with a more serious affliction when they should be going straight to a real hospital clinic, and they squander the time when perhaps their illness could have been cured.
I fully support the use of placebos in medical trials, where participants are fully aware that they may only be receiving a placebo. But when I seek treatment in a hospital I want to know that the treatment is a real attempt to effect a cure. Medical ethics say that it's unethical to give placebos when there are known safe and effective treatments available. Medical trials have even been cancelled when the initial success of a drug was so clear that it was deemed unethical to keep giving some participants a placebo.
Placing these supernatural treatments within a hospital, calling them clinics and their staff therapists is totally blurring the line between evidence-based medicine and wishful thinking. If people want their priest to pray for them or their Reiki Master to wave their hands over them while imploring their god to heal them then that's their choice, but there shouldn't be a hospital clinic offering this service. Just as we argue that children shouldn't encounter religious indoctrination in our schools, a place for facts, likewise people shouldn't encounter superstition clinics in our evidence-based hospitals. The place for religious indoctrination and healing prayer is the church, not the school or the hospital. Believers in the healing power of prayer or Reiki or Maori healing are not being denied these beliefs or easy access to them, the are merely being told that it is not appropriate to incorporate them into the hospital system. No doubt the mental and physical wellbeing of some hospital patients would benefit from hospitals having government-funded brothels on-site. So where do we draw the line? As you say, 'if it helps people feel better and recover faster then I think we should make use of it'. So should prostitutes wander the wards along with chaplains? Or should people have to seek out these alternative methods of feeling better outside the hospital grounds?
The crucial reason these people want a hospital clinic offering prayer, Reiki and Maori healing is so that the success, reputation and authority of conventional medicine will mistakenly be seen to envelop them as well. People won't have to hide that they're going to see a priest or a quack for that strange lump, they can now say that they're going to hospital, to a real clinic. And yes, some hospitals do have chapels and chaplains. But these chapels are called chapels, not clinics, and the chaplains are called chaplains not therapists. We all know that chapels and chaplains are there to offer emotional support in times of stress, just as visiting hours for family and friends are.
Would you support churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and Scientology offices being allowed to erect signs saying 'Health Clinic', accompanied by an equally large sign saying: 'Approved by your District Health Board', with the priests, imams, rabbis and monks calling themselves therapists? What about that church that recently erected that large sign that said "Jesus heals cancer'? I think we need to draw a clear line between what prayer, Reiki and Maori healing might sometimes achieve through the placebo effect and what hospitals actually do achieve. Again, we aren't denying believers their beliefs, we just think that they have no right, or need, to have their own presence in hospitals. Just as prostitutes don't.
Comment by Mike, 06 Aug, 2012
Actually I wouldnít mind all those religious institutions being approved by the DHBís as "Health Clinics" — as long as they had truth in advertising their "product" — "Placebos dispensed here. For real medicine try a doctor".
Sex abuse and Catholic confessions
Graeme sent us this link from the Aussie media, a brief article that we have reprinted in its entirety:
Priests could be ordered to report confessions of sex abuse to police
Let's hope that this law is passed, and widely adopted by others, although what effect it might have is debatable since this problem only exists because priests and the Vatican have no respect for the law. Their blind allegiance is to a mythical being and they don't feel they need obey the laws of heathens.
July 18, 2012
UPDATE: The prospect of government forcing priests to report what was said in confession is the sign of a "police state mentality", says a priest and law professor. Hundreds of years of Catholic tradition in the confessional could be overturned by Victoria's inquiry into child sex abuse. Priests would be ordered to reveal crimes told to them in private confessions under one proposal before the inquiry. But priests say they will resist being forced to reveal secrets of the confessional.
But in the real world, should everybody, not just priests, be compelled to reveal what they know about serious crimes that are being committed or are going to be committed? If someone knows their neighbour is a rapist or murderer or is abusing children, or is planing to rape or murder, should they report this to authorities? I'm not sure what the law says about this, and I don't really care, since ethically I believe everyone should report knowledge of crimes in an attempt to prevent harm to the innocent. But of course I'm thinking of decent people, which obviously many priests aren't.
I sometimes think of these priests as nothing but animals, but that is an insult to animals, since animals don't have the ability to reason about right and wrong, to consider that what they're doing might be evil. Many of these priests might be quite ignorant and stupid, but they are still intellectually far superior to any animal. And yet still they blindly and arrogantly refuse to divulge what they know about children being sexually abused in their flock. Any genuine concern rests solely with their fellow priests and the reputation of their church. That there exists in our midst adults that actively hide knowledge of child sex abuse and vociferously argue for their right to silence is nothing short of evil.
These child-abusing priests disgust me, as do their colleagues that conspire to hide and protect them. And let's not forget the Catholic on the street who continues to give their moral and financial support, knowing full well of the heinous crimes that have been and are still being committed by priests worldwide and hidden by the Vatican.
It's not just about evil Catholic priests raping children, or their equally screwed up colleagues protecting them, but that my — or your — Catholic neighbour or cousin or associate is continuing to support their church and its pedophiles. I know that if I discovered that some members of an organisation I belonged to were sexually abusing children and its hierarchy was trying to protect its members and reputation rather than the children, then I would resign immediately and condemn them widely. It's the height of hypocrisy that Catholics claim superior morality and yet remain with a church whose priests commit the most disgusting crimes. The Vatican only wields the power to fight laws such as that proposed in Victoria because of the continued blind support from ordinary Catholics worldwide. While much of our abhorrence must be directed at guilty priests and the Vatican, we must also challenge the grass roots of Catholicism from which they get their power, the ordinary Catholic and their willingness to turn a blind eye to the horrors of their church.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Jul, 2012 ~
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Comment by Anonymous, 22 Jul, 2012
Great effort John. Astonishing how utterly ignorant some people can be. But then it is understandable when these rats realise they can make a fortune out of the situation. Our greatest weapon now is the internet which is a most powerful weapon to wage war on these scum.
Comment by Mike, 23 Jul, 2012
"Client privilege" is not restricted to the confessional, and as an atheist I have no problem with the concept of applying in there. I do not see this as a religious issue, but a conscience issue, but I guess the argument is that someone who can feel "forgiven" for sins should not be allowed to feel that way? Ideally I would see priests in this position require "penance" that includes confessing to the secular authorities rather than just a few "Hail Mary's".
And the question arises — why only for sex abuse? Why not for murder and burglary and fraud? And why only remove this privilege from priests? Why not lawyers too?? And accountants, and psychotherapists (are they so different from priest in this respect??) and reporters?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Jul, 2012
I don't care about the feelings of the confessor, whether they feel forgiven for their 'sins' or not. I care for the people they have harmed that are being denied justice or help because the priest views these serious crimes not as crimes at all but as mere transgressions that are no ones business except God. These priests care only about the salvation of the perpetrator of crimes, not the victims, and this disgusts me.
I have an ethical problem with 'client privilege' when it involves conspiring to hide serious crimes, and I think that everybody — priests, doctors, lawyers, reporters etc — should be compelled to reveal what they know about these crimes. Of course it would be tricky for everyone to agree on what was a serious crime, priests think masturbation is.
Comment by Mike, 24 Jul, 2012
I do not believe that priests think of these crimes as "not crimes at all". Religion has many stupid beliefs, I do not think that you can rationally support this statement.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Jul, 2012
OK Mike, let's see if I can explain my reasoning for saying that 'the priest views these serious crimes not as crimes at all but as mere transgressions'. I agree that priests and the Vatican do at times refer to the likes of child sex abuse as crimes, but I think they are being disingenuous. Consider this analogy. If you and I are both talking about murder, but then it transpires that by murder you mean an unlawful killing that deserves imprisonment, and I mean a killing in self-defence that entails no punishment, then it's obvious we are talking about different things even though we're using the same term. One of us, me in this case, is using a term in a way that is not accepted by the general public. And I see a similar problem between priests and the secular world concerning our talk of crimes. By crime I mean an act that is a violation of 'social behaviour codified in secular criminal law, for which punishment is imposed upon conviction'. I mean something that involves police and the justice system, and that these secular authorities will deliberate and punish accordingly. I see no other body as having the authority to deal with crime. Priests on the other hand, if they were to refer to sex abuse as a crime, see no connection with police and the secular justice system, and deny that they have any right to deliberate and punish these 'crimes'. The Vatican clearly does not accept that they are bound by secular criminal law, hence their refusal to divulge knowledge of crimes, most of it gained outside of confession, to secular authorities.
Of course there are people in society that do commit crimes and refuse to reveal knowledge of crimes, but they know full well that this is criminal behaviour. Priests however do not see themselves as criminals for committing and/or hiding crimes, thus their definition of crime and criminal does not match that of mine or society. Since they strongly deny that they are criminals or are exhibiting criminal behaviour, then they cannot logically admit that they have committed crimes, either the actual crime, or conspired to hide the crime. They can only deny criminality by denying a crime was ever committed, and they do this by redefining the crime as a sin. If they viewed crime the same way that I as a law-abiding citizen viewed crime, then they would behave as I would. The fact that they don't shows that our understanding of what the term 'crime' means is different, and thus we are not justified in saying that crime has the same meaning for both of us.
Where I see a crime as having been committed, they see a sin — 'a transgression of a religious or moral law' — for which God will judge and punish, not a secular crime that concerns secular authorities. They are of course well aware that secular authorities view these sins as crimes that will be prosecuted if possible, and thus actively conspire to hide this knowledge from authorities. They feel this action is justifiable because no crime has been committed, a sin has, and God deals with sins, not the police. Some priests may well view child abuse as a serious problem (many obvious don't or wouldn't keep doing it), but their view of the seriousness of fellow priests raping little boys is far removed from mine or the justice system, since we would arrest and incarcerate them to prevent further offending, whereas they secretly move them to another diocese where the offending can continue. I see serious crime as where grave harm occurs and where considerable effort must be expended to prevent its occurrence. I don't see the secular definition of a serious crime like child sex abuse, and the resultant punishments, as in any way matching the Vatican's view of a serious sin, and the action they take. Where I see a crime and call the cops, they see a sin and call the priest a getaway taxi.
In the same way that, unlike priests, I don't view or define masturbation as a sin, they don't view or define child abuse as a crime. I may insist that in the secular world child abuse is a crime and must be reported, but they will correct me and insist that in their world it's a sin, and must be handled by the Church. Since the same incident — child sex abuse — is viewed and treated completely differently by the church and secular authorities, I don't believe we can both use the same term — a crime — to refer to it. And we don't, hence a crime and a sin.
Perhaps I can express it as a logical argument:
People who commit crimes such as child abuse are criminals
But priests who have abused children don't see themselves as criminals but as sinners
Therefore priests believe they have committed a sin, not a crime.
Comment by Fred, 10 Aug, 2012
Hi John, this is a spot on piece of writing, and honestly, I hadnít considered that because priests and bishops view an action as a sin and therefore may not necessarily regard it a crime. This to me is the reason why religion is dangerous — it dictates that the believer turns off their normal moral sense and turns it towards an unquestionable authority with ethics mired in bronze age myths. The consequence is that believers are more concerned about the what you, me and the next person are doing in the privacy of our own homes than with what priests are doing out the back with the altar boys. This is wicked in the extreme and the subsequent failure to address this and the apologetic excuses after the fact proves once and for all that the Catholic Church has no business/authority whatsoever to tell people what is right and wrong. They have failed dismally at that.
As Hitchens said, religion is our first and therefore worst attempt at ethics and philosophy. Time to move on.
P.S. I've written about the Catholic Church before at my blog, if you like, read my latest piece about the Bible in Schools and tell me what you think: Bible in Kiwi schools? For what reason?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Aug, 2012
Thanks Fred. As you said, it certainly is time to move on from believing that ancient holy books should be our source of morality. I enjoyed your blog on Bible in schools, all very good points. I think it is a debate that we need to have, as far too many people blindly support Bible in schools while being completely ignorant of the horrendous morality the Bible contains, and oblivious to the fact that these Christians 'are primarily concerned with bringing 'sheep' to Jesus'.
Comment by Mike, 12 Aug, 2012
"Perhaps I can express it as a logical argument:
I see the logic — but I do not think it is correct.
People who commit crimes such as child abuse are criminals
But priests who have abused children don't see themselves as criminals but as sinners
Therefore priests believe they have committed a sin, not a crime"
By your logic you could excuse them due to a sincerely held belief that they have not committed a crime. IMO even the suggestion of this is repugnant. I think priests and the Catholic hierarchy in general know full well that crimes have been committed — and they are trying to HIDE that from the general populace. I suspect they do this for a couple of reasons — firstly (and primarily?) to protect the "reputation" of the church — ironically of course when it is discovered the reputational loss is vastly more than the conviction for a few priests would have entailed! Secondly — there is a shortage of clergy — it is difficult to recruit for a job that has crap pay, huge responsibilities, a massive brainwashing/training requirement, and awful social possibilities!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Aug, 2012
Hi Mike, I've been thinking about your comments and I agree completely that the Vatican and its priests know that crimes — crimes under secular law — have been committed and that they desperately try and hide them for the reasons you gave. They have good reason to fear the justice system, but for them this is secondary to their childish fear of some bearded old guy on a cloud.
I'm certainly not suggesting we excuse priests because of their sincerely held beliefs. My logical argument wasn't designed to determine what was right or wrong, but merely to show how priests justified their actions. What I'm suggesting is that priests view certain human actions in a completely different light to normal people. For example in the past Church authorities viewed sex as 'reprehensible and evil' (and possibly still does) and claimed that 'There can be no sexual pleasure without sin'. As for women, Albert the Great, the teacher of Thomas Aquinas, claimed that their 'feelings drive woman towards every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good'. Let's also remember that the Church once believed (and again perhaps still believes) that if a male couldn't control his sexual urges it was preferable that he commit rape, even of his own mother, rather than masturbate. The secular crime of rape was seen as a lesser sin than masturbation because at least rape might result in a pregnancy which is good in God's eyes, whereas masturbation never could. That they sincerely believed this nonsense doesn't make them right of course, or their actions defensible.
I think it is difficult to argue that a church that sincerely believes that masturbation is more evil than rape could suddenly see reason when it comes to sexual abuse committed by their priests.
Of course it seems almost unbelievable that adults could be more fearful of how an imaginary god might view sexual abuse than what secular authorities might do, but these bastards are not rational, morals adults like you and me. Anybody that can't see that masturbation isn't a sin can't be trusted to decide who should investigate and rule on sexual abuse accusations. As has been shown numerous times, the church is solely concerned with saving the soul of the offending priests and has no concern for the victims. If the church viewed the offending as secular authorities do, as a serious crime, then the priests would immediately be denied access to children, tried and punished, even if this was kept secret from the public to protect their reputation. But this is not how they act, they either ignore the accusations or quietly move the priests to other dioceses where the offending continues. The victims are threatened and blackmailed to keep them quiet with no attempt made to alleviate their suffering, while the priests are given a fresh flock of children or perhaps sent on a retreat to contemplate on their sinful behaviour. The priests are not tried and imprisoned and their victims recognised and compensated as they would be in a secular court, because the church doesn't see a crime where punishment must be imposed, but a sin where a priest must be helped back onto the path to God. They certainly know it's a crime in the secular world, and hence hide from secular authorities, but within the church the accused priest becomes the victim to be helped and the real victim becomes the one to be attacked. Within the church a crime against a child morphs into a priest who has sinned.
Comment by Bob, 05 Mar, 2013
The first problem is that the Catholic Church considers it is responsible only to God not to civil authorities. Saving a personís soul is more important than seeing they get a few years in jail. When a follower is confessing a sin he is talking directly to God through the priest. This is an extremely privileged position and the priest is totally forbidden from revealing secrets confessed to anyone. Iím not sure of this but I think if a priest believes authorities should be warned of a person who is a risk to other people he can go to his bishop and discuss it and might get permission to break the silence. But as for potting their own no chance of handing them over. The reputation of the Church itself is at stake.
I was reading a book about crime in Australia. One of the cases involved a Catholic priest who had been abusing children since 1961. The Church knew about him from 1971 but nothing was done for 30 years except for shifting him from parish to parish. Some parents complained to the police which resulted in his being jailed three times for abuse of 40 children. In one attack he abused a brother and sister just a few hours after their fatherís funeral. Obviously he was the lowest of the low regardless of who he was. The author suggests the 40 children were merely the tip of the iceberg that in fact he had abused hundreds. In later years some of his victims had mental and emotional problems. Two committed suicide. I canít understand why at the very least these priests werenít dismissed out of the church so they couldnít get at the children as soon as the complaints came in.
When I saw the thousands of adoring fans packed into St. Peters square to farewell the existing pope I wondered why these criminal events donít seem to sink in and cause them to leave the Church in disgust. Itís like the followers of a sports team. Their team can do no wrong.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Mar, 2013
Of course Bob you've highlighted one of the reasons for the Reformation, the schism of the Roman Catholic Church leading to Protestant churches, and that is that contrary to Catholic dogma, people should have direct communication with God and not have to line up for a priest to pass their message on. I could be wrong but I don't think Catholics believe, or at least shouldn't, that they're 'talking directly to God through the priest'. It should be pretty obvious that they are giving details for the priest's benefit, not God's, who after all, being all-knowing, already knows. And clearly it is the priest who responds with his lowly opinion, at no time does the priest suddenly become possessed by God and starts speaking in a booming voice. That ignorant, simple-minded people believed this hundreds of years ago is perhaps understandable, but that they still fall for it today in their millions is embarrassing for us as a species.
As you say, seeing those thousands of tearful, adoring fans farewelling Benedict, and in doing so supporting the church and ignoring the sex abuse scandal, is both amazing and depressing. People that are probaly quite sensible in their day to day lives become quite stupid when it comes to religion.
Have you had your bars run?
Are you serious about your mental and physical health? Do you regularly get your aura waxed and polished, give your chakras a coffee enema, send your guardian angel off for a relaxing massage and a muffin, and have your energy flows checked by a Reiki Master? Perhaps you've kept up with all these important things, but are still not feeling at the top of your game? Well fear not, the other day we stumbled across another alternative therapy that might be right for you, and unlike untold others, might actually work for you.
Seriously though, of course it's not going to work, not in a million years. Recently we came across a copy of the Fiordland Advocate, a free weekly paper focusing on Te Anau and surrounds, which included an article informing readers about 'a relatively unknown therapy know as Access Bars Therapy'. We say article, but it was really just a glorified advert for this alternative therapy and Karen Cooper, the local trying to make money from it. Cooper, a Te Anau hairdresser, became curious about the therapy and was so impressed that she has now become a 'licensed access consciousness facilitator'. And why wouldn't you go to a hairdresser if you had health concerns?
So what exactly is Access Bars Therapy? According to the article:
'Access bars work on the theory that there are 32 bars of energy running through and around your head that store the electromagnetic component of your thoughts, attitudes, ideas, decisions and beliefs. By activating these points through light touch, energy flows through these bars, dissipating barriers and releasing stuck energy. The resulting accessed consciousness is likened to deleting old files from your computer, creating more space and thus capacity to receive more information and be open to more opportunities.'
You'll immediately notice the use of scientific terms like theory, energy, electromagnetic component and computers to give the impression that there is science, evidence and reason behind this therapy, when of course everything claimed is pure nonsense with no scientific support whatsoever. There are no more bars of real, detectable energy running around your head than there are demons inside it. Nor do these non-existent 32 bars of energy store the 'electromagnetic component' of your thoughts. Your thoughts are created by the mind, which is generated by the brain. Have these morons not been paying attention to what has been discovered in neuroscience? They're spouting primitive, superstitious nonsense that no educated person has believed for hundreds of years. We know that memories, thoughts and beliefs are occurring and stored in the brain, and that no amount of massaging of the head will access, change or delete a single memory or belief. To use their computer analogy, it would be like trying to delete a computer file by simply placing a light touch on the computer case. We know for a fact that computer files are stored inside on the hard drive, and that no amount of massaging of the case, even if accompanied by relaxing music and incense, will change one single file on that hard drive.
This ridiculous suggestion that practitioners can access specific 'thoughts, attitudes, ideas, decisions and beliefs' within someone's mind by simply using their forehead like a computer keyboard is just laughable. We must remember that while most people find computer architecture and programming utterly incomprehensible, the most complex computer on the planet is mere child's play compared to the human mind. While these people no doubt struggle with the most basic of computer commands, we are expected to believe that they can interface with the astronomically complex human mind using a 'keyboard' that has no labelled keys or even keys — the forehead — and no output screen to view the result of their input, their messing around. They claim to be able to effectively reprogram the most complex thing we know of in the universe, and do it blindly. On the scam's website we're told that 'These processes look no more dramatic than what some may call "laying on of hands." They are as simple as putting your hands on the body and asking the particular energy that [the] body requires to "turn on".' This implies that the body, in addition to the mind, is a conscious being, and can hear our thoughts and respond, and this is actually what these practitioners believe. In their blurb they state that 'this inclusion of the body makes Access Consciousness markedly different from many other approaches to spirituality and enlightenment... What if your body were as conscious as you are, and could be your partner in this journey? If your body were actually more conscious than you are, would you be willing to listen to it? What if the consciousness you are seeking were only possible by including your body in the process?... ' You may have thought your body was yours and under your control, but evidently it's a separate conscious being that you need to negotiate with, and hopefully convince to work towards they same goals that you desire. And these Access Bars morons claim that they can act as interpreter, able to detect, converse with and alter the energy bars of this body consciousness. But these are people that probably couldn't hope to delete a simple virus from a computer, and yet they tell us that they can influence how 'energy flows through these bars, dissipating barriers and releasing stuck energy'. How would they know what particular energy needs to turn on to fix a particular problem? And what the hell is stuck energy anyway? This just highlights their scientific ignorance. These morons wouldn't recognise stuck energy if they put their fingers into an electrical socket.
And if the body really is a separate consciousness, surely it would be in its best interest to be in perfect health, so why doesn't it alter its own energy bars to ensure optimum health? Why does it wait for a request from another consciousness, that of the facilitator, before it will make changes? If the body is actually more conscious than we are, as is claimed, then why isn't it running at perfect health and controlling us instead, ensuring that the inferior conscious mind is working to aid the body, rather than the other way around? What conscious being has the ability, desire and intelligence to improve its lot, and yet quietly sits back, puts up with suffering and awaits an unnecessary death? Our bodies evidently.
The website also tells us that 'Each Bars session can release 5-10 thousand years of limitations in the area of your life that corresponds with the specific Bar being touched'. No wonder these morons struggle with comprehending modern society and knowledge, their minds are still running software that is 5-10 thousand years old! Failing to keep up with regular program updates and progress, they essentially have the knowledge of primitive hunter-gatherers, and frankly, it shows.
According to the website 'Access Bars Facilitators... clear any energetic blockages that are limiting you', and that these '32 points on your head which, when gently touched, effortlessly and easily release anything that doesn't allow you to receive... This is an opportunity for you to let go of everything!' Unfortunately one thing you need to let go of to experience Access Bars is money, which rather contradicts this enticement:
'How much of your life do you spend doing rather than receiving? Have you noticed that your life is not yet what you would like it to be? You could have everything you desire (and then some!) if you are willing to receive lots more and maybe do a little less! Receiving or learning The Bars will allow this and so much more to show up for you!'
But like your typical Nigerian bank scams, before you can receive the rewards that you so justly deserve, you first have to give some of your money to them. And like Nigerian bank scams, what happens when you pay your money and you don't receive what you expected? Well, Te Anau hairdresser turned health professional Karen Cooper explains that 'For some people nothing happens but what they don't realise is that something has happened'. With bullshit like this Cooper can never be shown to be wrong. No matter how much of a failure her treatments appear to be, in that your life and/or health is getting worse, Cooper will argue that as bad as things seem, evidently without her running your bars you would be far worse off than you are.
But is it claimed that this nonsense can actually cure anything serious? Yes it is, and this is from their website:
'Many other miracles have occurred for ordinary lay people using the Access body processes. One man, diagnosed with third stage bone cancer, had his wife do the processes on him in bed every night for six weeks. On his return visit to the doctors, they found him in remission. Remissions from cancer this advanced do not normally occur, and certainly are not explainable by "evidence-based medicine," which is all the rage in medical circles these days. Two brief sessions using one of these techniques enabled a man with prostate cancer to shrink his prostate back to normal size... Many others have used these body processes to heal themselves and their families and clients of other life-threatening diseases, including uterine cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, fibroids, arthritis of various kinds, and more.'
Clearly they claim to be able to cure life-threatening diseases, not just improve your mood or mess with your mind. And note how they criticise the failure of evidence-based medicine 'which is all the rage in medical circles these days'. They describe modern medicine as just a current fashion or craze, a fad that will soon be forgotten. They are implying that people are silly to seek conventional medical treatment, and should consult them instead. This is very dangerous and irresponsible advice. If these morons could cure any illness, be it arthritis or cancer or even depression, then it would be very simple to demonstrate this, and their silly alternative therapy would quickly become what is called evidence-based medicine. But these scammers dismiss evidence-based medicine because it requires proof that their therapy actually works. Without evidence, they must ridicule conventional medicine and its obvious successes and convince their ignorant clients to rely solely on blind faith that their therapy works. Like all alternative therapies, if they actually worked, then we would find them in hospitals and offered by doctors, we wouldn't have to visit a hairdresser to seek a cancer cure.
You'll have noticed that they've mentioned 'enlightenment' and 'spirituality', what has that to do with these fanciful energy bars? Is there also some connection with religion and supernatural beings? It appears that this alternative therapy nonsense does indeed involve the supernatural, just as the likes of Reiki does. Just as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism believe in reincarnation, a repeating cycle of births and deaths that are influenced by one's behaviour, so too does this silly belief. In this website article we're told that:
'Including our bodies in the process of becoming more conscious and aware is an essential part of Access Consciousness. Its founder, Gary Douglas, has stated repeatedly that until we get the greatness of embodiment, we are destined to return to earth again and again until we get it. Once we can truly get the greatness of embodiment, then we have a choice about coming back here or not... '
So obviously some supernatural being is judging whether we have to go around again, but like all the reincarnation religions, our memory is wiped each time and we have no recollection of our past lives. The major problem with this method, that even the gods don't seem to have grasped, is that no matter how much we learn in one life, no matter how close we may come to reaching embodiment or nirvana, we lose all this knowledge on our death and have to start again from complete ignorance. You are no more likely to reach enlightenment on your millionth life than you were on your first. Repeating your life over and over again doesn't improve your odds, as you can't learn from mistakes that you can't remember. I've never understood how Buddhists and Hindus can't see the flaws in their reincarnation fantasy, and now this Access Consciousness scam has lumbered their followers with the same impossible notion. And like all religions, they rely on their followers being too ignorant to notice. As they say in learning to be an Access Bar facilitator, their tools 'make this process of embodiment easier... These energetic processes are easily learned... There is no minimum education level...' It doesn't matter if you struggled to graduate from Kindergarten, in fact the less that you know about these crazy fads such as evidence-based medicine and science and reason then the easier it will be for you to accept the ridiculous claims made by Access Bar facilitators. And although it was founded in the USA, and isn't yet well known in NZ, there are courses being run later this year in Whangarei, Rotorua and Auckland, where gullible Kiwis can donate to this scam.
We've said it before, that in this age of knowledge it's embarrassing that far too many people refuse to drag themselves into the 21st century and instead prefer to reside, intellectually, in medieval times, in the dark ages. Modern knowledge is wasted on these types, it's akin to buying a smartphone for your dog. These types may appear knowledgeable talking about energy, electromagnetic components and enlightenment, but they are truly just as ignorant about these things as that dog is about his smartphone. When I spy Fido installing an app on his smartphone, then I might suspect that he knows more than he lets on, and these deluded alternative therapists will have to do something equally amazing before I'll take them seriously.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Jul, 2012 ~
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Comment by Phil, 10 Jul, 2012
A copy of Scientology, I understand. Just as loopy and dangerous to the wallets and minds of the gullible. Gary Douglas was a senior scientologist. Avoid.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jul, 2012
Thanks very much for the info Phil. A quick search on Google does indeed throw up the connection with Scientology and the cult-like nature of Access Consciousness. We knew it was stupid and ripped people off, but didn't realise how screwed up it actually is. For readers interested in the cult's view on casual sex and how the founder claimed to learn the method by channelling Rasputin might start with these links:
ACCESS Consciousness: a cult (or scam) by any other name...
Information about "Access" A Scientology offshoot
Access Consciousness Cult Scam
The mysterious Rasputinian origins of Access Consciousness
There is also comment that NZ is one of the countries that Access Consciousness is presently focusing on, so we can expect to hear more about it.
Comment by Alison, 24 Jul, 2012
"Access bars therapy" — for a minute there you had me thinking it might involve popping down to the local for a quick drink J
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Jul, 2012
Ahhhh... if only that were true Alison. Considering NZ's love of bars and alcohol, we would be one of the healthiest nations on the planet.
Christian dogma in our schools
Do you believe that children should be in a safe environment while at school, kept away from adult predators salivating over their naivety, and surely most importantly for a school, learning stuff that is actually true? Well, the scary thing for you parents out there is, that evidently around 40% of public schools are voluntarily putting young children at risk. Every now and then the teachers are disappearing for a coffee or whatever and handing their classes of vulnerable charges over to strangers, unqualified adults that have no connection with the school or the syllabus. And they know that these strangers will be talking nonsense to the children, talk of humans walking with dinosaurs, tales of talking snakes, original sin and of men rising from the dead, and amazingly, insisting that it is all true. Knowing all this, the teachers still elect to go for their coffee and fear not for the minds of the children.
The adult predators we refer to are of course Christian evangelists, and many parents will know their work as 'Bible in Schools' or religious instruction. And if you're curious, as far as we know there are no Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or representatives from any other religion given access to young children during the school day when you thought they were learning important things like reading, writing and arithmetic, not to mention science and history. Only Christians get free access. It's not religious education, as in comparative religion, learning about the world's many religions. It's called religious INSTRUCTION, although even this is a misnomer, it's actually CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTION.
Today Ross sent us a link to this article: Christians target schools in 'mission', the opening sentence of which was this:
'Church recruiters are using schools as "mission fields" to convert children to Christianity, despite claiming their aim was to educate not evangelise.'
Ross went on to note:
'It's insidious stuff isn't it? A bit like the stories a while back about muslims using the prison system to recruit for their "cause".
I love that quote from Mulholland, from the Churches Education Commission who help provide religious instruction, that 'the organisation's aim was to "sow a seed" of Christianity, not to convert children'. What a terrible analogy, which actually shows exactly what they intend. If you sow the seed of a tomato plant you obviously want a tomato to grow, not a daffodil. Likewise if you "sow a seed" of Christianity' then you obviously want the seed to grow into a Christian, not an atheist or a Muslim. Very clearly they want to convert children to Christianity. Mulholland also said that 'parents might misinterpret the word "mission" as conversion, but... Christians... would know the difference'. What garbage. My dictionary gives two definitions of 'mission' that fit this context: (1) 'A series of special Christian services for purposes of proselytising [converting], (2) A body of persons sent to a foreign land by a religious organisation, especially a Christian organisation, to spread its faith... ' Mission means exactly what we all know it means, to convert heathens to the Christian faith, and it's just another example of their willingness to lie to disguise what they're doing with the children.
As has been bought up before on your site, there's no better, easier way to increase the flock than by getting them young!
I've long held the belief that the only difference between those wacky 'fringe religions or cults' and mainstream religion is time. What a cult does in weeks brainwashing its members takes the big religions a few years. Result is sadly the same however.
Quotes from the article:
"Churches by and large have not woken up to the fact that this is a mission field on our doorstep. The children are right there and we don't have to supply buildings, seating, lighting or heating," commission director David Mulholland wrote
Without dissecting things too much I don't think the first two quotes quite gel with the third!
Christian followers were also encouraged to join school boards so they could have "more influence" on holding religious study in class.
Mulholland, who referred to schools as mission fields, said the organisation's aim was to "sow a seed" of Christianity, not to convert children.
They can't even lie convincingly in a short article!
Mulholland says that 'Most children do not attend Sunday schools and their parents are often "ignorant of Christian things'. We would argue that they're not necessarily 'ignorant of Christian things', it could well be that their knowledge of Christian things, eg a silly belief in a universe created in six days and priests raping little boys, causes them to deliberately keep their children far away from Sunday Schools. Mulholland reckons that access to real schools 'is an opportunity for that seed sowing to take place'. In an unfortunate turn of phrase, it's a form of 'seed sowing' by priests worldwide that is the very thing that is seeing parents desert the church in droves. He goes on to say that the classes teach 'what the Bible says, what Christians believe about the Bible. It's not our responsibility to convert'. Then whose responsibility is it convert these children if they don't go to church or Sunday School and the religious instruction isn't intended to convert them? Does he think passing atheists or Muslims will convert children to Christianity on his behalf?
Mulholland also wants more Christians to join school boards so they can have "more influence" on the boards, to ensure them ready access to the children. And yet he expects us to believe that he and his team of fantasy pushers aren't trying to influence or 'convert' the kids they're preaching their foolishness to. You only have to look to the USA to see what happens when Christians gain influence on schools boards, suddenly subjects such as science that conflict with their beliefs are banned and textbooks are censored.
Of course these devout Christians think they are helping children, not harming them, by filling their heads full of myths. The article noted that 'One reader, Liz Donnelly, said the moral state of the nation was a reason to teach basic Christian principles. "Looking at New Zealand at present, we see the lawlessness, lack of respect to those in authority and high teenage pregnancies"'. Doesn't she realise that most of these people will probably have had a Christian upbringing, and our prisons are full of mainly Christians, so 'basic Christian principles' hasn't led them to lead that moral life that these Christians fantasise about. Schools would serve the kids better by teaching classes in ethics and philosophy, as well as comparative religion.
But that's not going to happen any day soon. The article noted that, 'Ian Leckie, president of teachers' union the NZEI, said there was no need to review the rules of religious instruction in public schools, as the system was working. "I don't think anybody intends this as a [religious] conversion; it's more meeting a social need that's being asked for by the community."' So is Leckie one of these Christians put in place to influence school boards, or is he just very naive? Of course these classes work towards religious conversion to Christianity, how stupid must you be to think that these Christian instructors would be just as happy if the pupils suddenly all saw the light and became atheists or Muslims? And if some in the community really have a social need for instruction in the fables of Christianity, then there's already many places that provide that, they're called churches. Christians should try using them, instead of insisting secular schools occasionally put aside their obligation to educate children and instead let strangers in to lie to them.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Jun, 2012 ~
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Comment by Phill, 03 Jul, 2012
I remember reading this article when it came out and it reminded me of the religious instruction we had at school, most of it was pretty lame though I do recall with fondness that the Salvation Army guys were head and shoulders above the others (the worst were sadly the Anglicans, nice guy but he had no idea of how to deal with a class room of eleven year olds). Of course the Catholics had to go off to another room with one of the local Fathers but I suspect the least said about that the better. Now though back in my day it was compulsory I cannot say it had any lasting effect.
My eldest son spent a number of years going to Catholic schools (cause his mother was one) but eventually came to live with me. Whatever religious seed that may have been planted back then quickly withered and died under my care. He would occasionally ask me about god and I would answer honestly. Today he has little time for the mumbo jumbo and often points to me as someone who encouraged him to think for himself.
Now I think there may be some truth to the idea that we have a natural bent to believing in supernatural things (the god gene hypothesis) and I have developed my own ideas as to why such a human trait may have been selected for during our evolution. It's something you do notice in children, it's a hell of lot easier for them to believe in such mythical things than not too, look how quickly they take on the idea of Father Christmas, the tooth fairy, and so forth, how much harder it is for them to let those ideas go. But importantly they do let go of these ideas as they grow older. I think seeding is a good analogy because without the necessary care a seed with not survive. Any child who is taught to think critically about things is soon going to see the rather large holes in most religious theory.
Is seeding going to work, I would argue that for any child coming from a secular, atheist home, no. Where it might have an impact is when the child comes from the secular, don't go to church on Sunday, but kind of believe all this bullshit environment. At that point all bets are off and we can only hope the poor brat has or will develop a more critical approach as they grow older.
Should our children be subjected to this kind of nonsense at school? No. I have heard arguments that this kind of religious instruction imparts some kind of good community values upon our young. Actually one of the things that started putting me off Christianity were some of its values. If our community has a set of core values let them be part of the core curriculum. Religious parents are going to indoctrinate their children in any case. Children who decide they want to believe in the Christian god, or Islamic god, or even the goddess will find their own way. The fact is religious instruction is only the tip of the ice berg, with many groups such as the old Youth for Christ (do they still exist?) mission which maintained a presence on many school campuses'. Should we ban the lot, there is part of me that says yes, keep our children free of the mindless bigotry, and stupidity that seems to make up a lot of religious belief and then part of me (that liberal bastard) says well it is a free society and freedom of thought and (urgggg) religious belief is all part of that. However, lets at least keep our schools secular in the classroom where it counts and perhaps keep an eye on the numbers of evangelical Christians who have entered the teaching profession, just in case.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Jul, 2012
Hi Phill. Thanks for your comments, with which I concur. I was lucky in that there was never any religion instruction in the schools that I attended. You're right that 'Any child who is taught to think critically about things is soon going to see the rather large holes in most religious theory', this is why we'd like to see critical thinking and comparative religion classes taught at schools. Whatever someone's preferred religion might be, once they critically compare it to all the other false religions, it's nigh impossible not to realise that their religion deserves to have the word false appended to it as well.
You mentioned 'the child that comes from the secular, don't go to church on Sunday, but kind of believe all this bullshit environment'. I was in the Warehouse looking at some DVDs and across from me a kid, perhaps around 10, showed a DVD to his father called something like 'Adventures from the Bible'. He then told his father that they had started being taught about the Bible the previous week at school. His father replied, 'Well that's great. What did you learn?' He said he was told about the Bible and a person called God, and then some things about God, but that he didn't understand any of that. The father seemed genuinely pleased that he was learning about God, but I was surprised that seemingly up to this point the kid knew nothing about God. Obviously the family never mentions God at home or goes to church, so why was the father happy that his child was learning about him at school? Can you imagine a parent who believed stealing was wrong, but never taught his child this lesson, and merely hoped that someone at school might one day teach him that stealing was wrong? I don't understand secular parents who obviously have a god belief, but for some reason — laziness? — never go to church where the religious experts are, but expect a secular school to perform the function of church and priest.
Can you imagine churches and mosques allowing atheistic physics and biology teachers access to their gatherings, to give talks after the sermons? If they wouldn't permit equal time for a talk about atheism, why do they expect, and why do we allow them time in our secular schools to push religion? We need to put religion back where it belongs, in the churches.
Comment by John, 04 Jul, 2012
I experienced church, sunday school, and religious instruction when I was a child. I've found it has given me a lot of useful information when confronted by Christians pushing their message, as it's difficult to debunk such nonsense unless you are armed with some background on what they believe. The most important lesson was learned (somehow) outside of the indoctrination, where I eventually found myself able to critically evaluate opposing evidence and make my own decisions. Without that tool, the Christians are much more likely to win.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Jul, 2012
Yes, you do have a point John. In my teens and twenties I couldn't debunk religious claims from door knocking evangelists since I knew nothing about it. I've always been a fan of science explanations, and coupled with an ignorance of the Bible, I consequently just dismissed talk of religion. During my early twenties, I remember a friend and me being accosted by an evangelist in the Square in Christchurch. I ignored him, but I was amazed when my friend started debunking the evangelist's claims. My friend wasn't religious, but he'd had a religious upbringing, and had obviously realised that there were many flaws in the Bible stories. This was probably the first time I'd ever heard anyone explain why the Bible didn't make sense or that it contradicted itself, and I was at a loss to participate in the debate.
I was certainly ignorant of the details of Christianity, but really this is no different to the way Christians are ignorant of Islam, and thousands of other religions. I would argue that only Christians need to study Christianity, just as Christians would argue that they don't need to study Islam. But if Christians happily ignore Islam, why do they insist that non-Christians shouldn't ignore Christianity? If children need to learn about a religion, why should it be theirs? If they're not prepared to learn about Islam, and they don't feel they're disadvantaged by this lack of knowledge, why should non-Christians have to learn about Christianity?
One major flaw I see in religious instruction — meaning Christianity — is that it is taught as the truth, and many children, once indoctrinated, can never completely let it go as adults, no matter what alternative explanations they hear. I think we should let children develop reasoning skills before we throw religion at them. We shouldn't tell children that God and Jesus are real and then hope that as they mature intellectually that they will realise that adults were lying to them and will reject what they've been told. If you and I both agree that Christianity is nonsense, why pretend to children that it is true, solely on the hope that they will reject it later on? We know that all children reject belief in Santa and the Tooth Fairy as they grow up, but equally we know that the majority of children never reject belief in gods on becoming adults.
I agree that in a straight debate over details of Bible stories, non-Christians are at a severe disadvantage if they've never been exposed to the Bible. But who cares if a door knocking Christian evangelist always wins debates over Scripture? In today's modern world when Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or Scientologists are pushing their message, Christians are equally at a loss to debate these religions, since they've had no religious instruction in those beliefs. If we need children to be exposed to Christian churches, sunday schools and religious instruction so that they can debunk Christianity, then we must also expose children to sermons at mosques, synagogues, temples etc and religious instruction from imams, rabbis, monks etc in our schools. Of course you might argue that on becoming adults children in NZ don't need to be able to grasp the problems with Islam or Hinduism, because most have never been told to believe them in the first place. But for the same reason, if we never told children to believe in Christianity, then Christianity would be in the same box with Islam and Hinduism. Christianity only needs to be challenged and debunked in NZ because we foist it on gullible, naÔve and trusting children in the first place. We are creating the very problem that we then have to try and fix.
How many parents in NZ would push for religious instruction in Islam or Hinduism, alongside Christianity? I don't mean comparative religion classes, I mean religious instruction where a Muslim imam tells children that Islam is the one true religion, just as Christians insist that their religion is the true one. Most NZ parents never worry that their children can't debate with Muslims or Scientologists, so why should secular NZers worry that their children can't debate with Christian evangelists? Why are they special? Just slam the door. And frankly, in today's world, I would rather people understand what radical Muslims' believe than meek and annoying Christians.
Comment by Heather, 18 Jul, 2012
NZ Herald poll on religion in schools...
So far we of the secular side are winning but heck let's really show them that the bible has no place in public schools, circulate to others before the other side does :-)
[The poll — Do you think the Bible should be taught in public schools? — can be found with these articles:]
NZ lags in teaching about religion — scholar
Schools drop Bible as interest falls
Editorial: Schools put onus back on churches
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jul, 2012
Thanks for the link to the poll Heather.
This was the poll question with the three options:
Do you think the Bible should be taught in public schools?
When I registered my vote, Bible pushers were leading at 46% (option 1), option 2 with 18%, and option 3 at 36%.
1. Yes, it's part of learning about the world
2. Yes, but other religions should be included as well as Christianity
3. No, it has no place in schools
We need to have this debate and demonstrate that religious instruction has no place in our schools, but I think these polls with their simplistic questions and options are all too often misunderstood by most people and result in meaningless results. For example, it is not clear whether the Bible should be taught as fact, or merely as something from history or culture, the same way that Shakespeare or 'Lord of the Rings' or ancient Egyptian culture is taught. Option 2 clearly only allows other religions be taught as false beliefs, since they can't all be true and taught as such. Yet few people would probably support teaching the Bible if it was to be clearly highlighted that it was false. Nor would most communities support religious instruction if the Koran were substituted for the Bible, not willing to risk having their children turned into Muslims. If religious instruction other than the Bible was offered, I believe that most people would opt to have no religion in schools rather than risk have their kids exposed to a belief that they didn't approve of.
Until the people that take these polls know exactly what the difference between religious instruction and comparative religion classes is, the result will be misleading. Furthermore, there will be Christians who do understand what religious instruction means — teaching the Bible as fact — and yet will pretend it's all about education rather than indoctrination, ie 'Yes, it's part of learning about the world'. Again, if the question was rephrased as 'Do you think the Koran should be taught in public schools?', then suddenly the notion of education would vanish and they would join atheists in insisting that religious instruction has no place in schools.
These media polls are often a waste of time because their format is poorly designed and many participants base their answers on ignorance of what the debate is actually about. The facts of the matter can't be revealed with simplistic questions where the truth of the Bible is implied.
Comment by Mikaere, 20 Jul, 2012
Hi John. I agree with your comments re the bible in schools poll, although sometimes I wonder that the wording of the questions may be deliberately designed to manipulate the results. Instead of a straight, yes and no poll, adding qualifiers to the questions or adding extra items, must influence how people respond. So rather than being a poorly constructed poll, by people with no understanding of such matters, I wonder if these compilers have some hidden agenda.
One historical example would be the referendum in the early twentieth century over prohibition. Rather than a having straight vote between continuance and prohibition, where the latter would have probably been chosen, the poll also offered the option of state control, thus splitting the vote and retaining the lucrative liquor industry.
I was once a teacher who was able to persuade the management to make parents opt in for religious instruction for their children, rather than the usual practice of making it the default. Many more students missed out on indoctrination as a result.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Jul, 2012
Maybe I'm getting too cynical but I agree with you Mikaere. There is a science to writing poll and survey questions so that you don't force the answer, even unintentionally. I've seen many that are just poorly written, but like you I'm also suspicious that some compilers might have hidden agendas. Religion is big business, both in the scale of money to be made and souls to be saved, so we'd be naÔve to believe that the religious weren't lobbying the media, politicians, schools, businesses etc. We know that churches spend a great deal of time and money on PR. And we know from history that many religious people, with no direct coercion from the church, would let their religious faith dictate their behaviour, eg, reporters, police, lawyers etc hiding or ignoring accusations of child sexual abuse so as not to harm the church. I'm doubtful whether a religious person that supported Bibles in schools could construct a poll that wasn't swayed towards that end. It may not be intentional but religious people often fail to see how loaded their questions are and how full of assumptions they are. For example, religion to a Christian is simply another word for Christianity, and Christians will only ever ask: 'Do you believe in God?' They never think to ask: 'Do you believe in gods?' Without realising it they imply that there is only one god in whom it is possible to believe, and they force your thoughts onto their particular god with a capital G.
Your mention of opting in or out for religious instruction is a perfect example of how a desired result can be achieved, where forcing children to opt out gives a direct and immediate advantage to the church. And yet many people honestly think it makes no difference which way it is set up, and Bible in schools proponents deceptively push this falsehood if asked. And well done by the way for saving a few innocent children from primitive brain washing.
I think it's just naive and perhaps lazy that far too many people think that we can arrive at the truth of a matter or decide the correct course of action by simply running a quick poll. It's like those people that vote on genetic engineering even though they have no real understanding of what DNA is. I've often thought that before you can vote in a poll you should have to first prove that you understand the debate. To paraphrase that old saying about only getting monkeys if you pay peanuts, if you let monkeys vote then you'll get Bible in schools.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Jul, 2012
Today on Radio Live Graeme Hill featured a debate on religion in schools between Peter Harrison of the NZARH (NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists) and Simon Greening of the Christian Education Council (formerly Bible In Schools). Evidently Simon Greening at first agreed to fronting for the debate, then changed his mind, and then finally agreed to do it over the phone. You can listen to the debate here:
In my opinion Greening was clearly the loser of the debate, and merely demonstrated that evangelising Christians want to go after the minds of children by fair means or foul. But have a listen and make up your own mind.
I thought Greening spent far too much time obsessing over his childish gripe that someone had called him a liar on a NZARH website because, and he admits this, he had mislead viewers on TV by telling an untruth. Of course the question is whether Greening told this untruth deliberately to deceive, or out of utter ignorance. Greening claims it was utter ignorance on his part, but we only have his word for this. That this false statement concerned a crucial element of his organisation's access to schools, it is surprising that Greening — the CEO — claims he didn't know that it is individual school boards that grant access, not the government. Greening insisted that the debate should be about the issues and not about individuals, and yet he couldn't stop talking about himself and the harm he was suffering, even threatening to end the debate if the relevant Internet phrase wasn't deleted. Peter Harrison agreed to edit the website solely to keep Greening from fleeing.
Greening was quite duplicitous in his comments, acknowledging that parents must be fully aware as to what they were signing their children up for, and apparently agreeing that the present system gave the church an unfair advantage. And yet he continually sidestepped any commitment to work towards changes to make the system equitable.
One valid point he did make was that it was the government that altered the law that allows religion to be taught in secular schools, so it is the government that should be lobbied, not his organisation, which is operating perfectly legally. However, having been granted this function, it is relevant to ask whether his organisation is misrepresenting what they're teaching in order to keep parents happy. Are they using a legal loophole to evangelise when they claim to be only teaching values?
Churches have always feared full disclosure, for centuries it was forbidden for ordinary Christians to even read the Bible, and today is little different. Churches must be very selective in what they reveal and what they keep hidden, knowing that what your typical knowledgeable atheist knows about Christianity is the reason that the atheist rejected Christianity as nonsense. You can't tell parents the full truth about the universe and about Christianity and still expect them to support religious instruction for their children. So Christians like Greening must lie — yes, lie — to parents and children and school boards otherwise their classes will go the way of ancient Greek and astrology. And that day can't come sooner enough in our opinion. In a place where children expect facts, we shouldn't be feeding them lies. That's what churches are for.
Comment by Mikaere, 22 Jul, 2012
'...if you let monkeys vote then you'll get Bible in schools'
Love it... you certainly wouldn't get evolution taught.
As a teacher, I experienced over two decades of religious instruction. Considering that NZ state schools were required to be secular, it always bothered me. By declaring the school to be closed during RI got around the legal aspect but it always seemed strange that teachers needed to be trained and registered but almost anyone could preach to children.
I often stayed in class to listen. Usually the 'teachers' were intelligent and friendly. Many did not belabour the point about theology but would discuss values and social rituals. One even informed a student who believed in 'hellfire and damnation' that his views were no longer shared in mainstream religion.
Others, however, used music and chanting to instil their particular version of mystical rubbish and I could imagine them, each Sunday, or Saturday, waving their arms and shouting hallelujah amidst a swaying, enraptured congregation. Cynical hypnosis! Please pass the collection bucket.
Talking with fellow teachers, the most common response to my concerns about RI (I refuse to call it 'religious education') was, 'it won't do any harm'. Two things wrong with that: firstly, much harm can come from indoctrinating children and also, precious morning time should be devoted to positive teaching and learning and 'not doing any harm' has no place as a rationale for a classroom curriculum.
Squeaky wheels are active in Tomorrow's Schools. We need to be aware of organised vested interests trying to push their ideas. A few years ago I became aware of a science education writer being instructed not to include evolution content in text resources below level 4 (about years 8/9) — probably a concession to creationist lobby groups. Scary stuff — our kids may yet be learning about Adam and Eve and their pet dinosaurs...
P.S.. You are probably aware of this site. The introductory paragraphs crack me up.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Jul, 2012
Like you Mikaere, I'm annoyed that many people refer to these religious evangelists as if they were real qualified teachers, and that it's wrongly referred to as religious education rather than religious instruction. This talk of 'teachers' and 'education' is all cunningly designed to imply that something more than superstitious dogma is being delivered.
My problem with these instructors discussing 'values and social rituals' is that the examples they provide are always from the Bible or from the actions of 'good' Christians. It may not be blatant evangelising but kids are left with the clear impression that the good people in this world are Christians. They won't be instructed in any good 'values and social rituals' from the Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim world. They won't be offered the argument that the 'values and social rituals' of atheists can also guide one to lead a good life. By definition, these Christian religious instructors believe there is only one correct path in life, the Christian one, and the sole purpose of their classes is to pass this realisation onto the kids.
We also agree that there definitely are 'organised vested interests trying to push their ideas' in our schools, not just with religious instruction, but with limiting or removing completely the teaching of evolution and introducing Intelligent Design, and opposing the likes of secular ethics and comparative religion classes. And they are doing this as covertly as they can, well aware that only sneaky and underhanded methods will serve their goals.
Your mention of that specious argument all too often offered by ignorant people — 'it won't do any harm' — reminded me
of this cartoon. It's not about religion, but its message is the same. Click on the image to view.
And yesterday I read about a documentary DVD called 'Beneath The Veil'. A description of its content started thus: 'An anonymous woman, covered from head to toe in a blue burka, is dragged across a football pitch and shot in front of 30,000 spectators. This haunting image of Taliban justice was filmed secretly... ' That's an example of the harm that religious belief causes and has caused throughout history.
And yes, I have seen that 'Answers in Genesis' site. All their pages are cause for mirth, but I guess that particular page does show that they have admitted defeat on many arguments and are annoyed that Christians on the street (and Internet) are still using them in their ignorance. But take away a Christian's ignorance and what are you left with? — a non-believer.
SkyCity & the case of the hidden Bible
All New Zealanders are equal, but evidently Christian New Zealanders are more equal than others. This week the media told us about a 'dispute' that SkyCity Casino was having with a long-standing employee over carrying a Bible at work. Employee Tuni Parata had Unite Union on her case, with the NZ Herald headline screaming: CASINO SCOLDS WORKER FOR BIBLE.
But was it ever really a dispute, as the media claimed? A dispute is when both sides believe they are in the right, that they have been wronged or accused of something that never occurred. And yet Parata clearly and knowingly broke employment rules. There was never a dispute on either side that she had broken the terms of her employment, several times.
SkyCity's employee uniform code evidently bans the carrying of personal items such as cell phones, wallets and books, items that could interfere or distract them in their work. This is completely reasonable, and no doubt many businesses have similar restrictions. Businesses don't want their staff, especially those dealing with the public, inconveniencing customers by taking or making personal telephone calls, writing a shopping list on their smartphone or reading the latest vampire book. They're paid to work, not to pursue personal interests. There is plenty of time in one's lunch hour to catch up with gossip or to contemplate a parable from some holy book. It's also not about the size of the book or it's subject matter. Simply put, books are for reading or quoting from, and if you're doing this then you're not working. If you have no intention of ever reading the book during work hours, then there is no reason whatsoever to have it in your pocket. It would be like carrying a condom in your wallet or purse but claiming that you were celibate.
Knowing the rules, Parata was recently caught carrying a Bible on her person while working, specifically the Christian New Testament Psalms and Proverbs. While in the toilets she had taken it from her pocket and left it on the basins while she went into a cubicle. Evidently another employee saw it and reported this infraction to management.
In one article Parata says she normally doesn't carry her Bible with her, she usually leaves it in her bag. With this comment she appears to imply that this recent incident has arisen over a mere oversight, and that SkyCity are being totally draconian in taking such action. Wouldn't a simple warning have been sufficient? But the facts of the matter are that she has already received two written warnings about carrying her Bible, which no doubt means she had also received a couple of verbal warnings before that. So time after time after time this obedient Christian has chosen to ignore her employers, and continually disobeyed a clear condition of her employment.
Typically the media have distorted the incident to make headlines. Not once have we heard the incident correctly described as: Employee warned about carrying personal items contrary to the rules. It's always been about carrying a BIBLE. Not simply a book, but a BIBLE. From this we are expected to infer that SkyCity is unjustly challenging someone's freedom of religion, that they are somehow knocking Christianity. Can you imagine this incident making headlines if the book a worker was carrying was entitled: 'The Dummies Book of Economics'? Likewise Unite Union has made a simple disciplinary case into a dispute about religious freedom. Can you imagine the union fighting for a member who wanted to carry 'The Little Book of Pornography', or even 'The Atheist Debater's Handbook' with them while they worked? They would have quickly told the employee to leave the offending book in their bag and get back to work, or face justified dismissal.
Casino employee and devout Christian Tuni Parata is shown as a very quiet and shy person, who is extremely grateful to have her job. But is this the character of a person that goes into battle with a large corporation, especially when it's quite clear that she has broken the rules and really has no defence? She has been warned several times that continued infractions could see her losing her job, and yet she continues to offend, thumbing her nose at them. On receiving the latest warning, rather than meekly and embarrassingly placing the Bible in her bag and getting back to work, she gets the union involved. She, or a friend or family member, has obviously bleated to the union that a Christian is being persecuted, that her religious rights are being infringed. Look at the obscene fuss Muslims make when their holy book is denigrated or belittled they no doubt said, so why should Christians accept that their holy book should be hidden in a bag or locker? Jesus said that the meek shall inherit the earth. He meant in a mythical future, but unions want them to get it now.
So why might Parata risk losing a job that she loves just to hide a book in her pocket? She claims she doesn't use the Bible to evangelise, that she never even takes it out while working. Of course if this were the case, that it never left her pocket, then how did people know she had one? At least five people saw her Bible outside her pocket, and complained to management, and many more probably saw it and never complained. We're often told that Christians derive great strength and confidence from their faith, but obviously not this Christian. Her faith alone is insufficient, she evidently needs to feel the weight of her concealed Bible as she mingles with the heathens at SkyCity, just like I would need to feel the weight of a concealed 9mm pistol if I was working in Afghanistan or the Vatican.
It's funny how those that claim to be devout believers are often the most ignorant of their particular faith. For does not their God demand in his Ten Commandments that his followers are not to find solace in false idols? And what is Parata's secret touch of her concealed Bible if not a false idol? That she would fight SkyCity and risk her job demonstrates what a powerful talisman she believes her silly little Bible to be. That she would choose unemployment over superstition in this economic climate shows just how damaging religion can be.
Worse still, SkyCity has kowtowed to religion and has now given Parata special permission to carry a personal item at work, namely her book of fairy tales, but no one else it seems. An exemption is given to someone for no other reason than because she is a Christian. Christians now have rights at SkyCity that no other worker is entitled to. As an atheist I would not be permitted to carry a book on any topic, or any other small object that I might value, such as an autographed photograph of Homer Simpson. This would be denied, but an exception is made so a Christian can carry her Bible. One law for all? Yeah right! Religious believers cannot compete on an even playing field because they are truly mentally handicapped, and thus they must plead to be given special dispensation, for permission, not to display, but to keep their Bible hidden from sight. It is a victory for superstition over reason, but hardly one I would boast about.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Jun, 2012 ~
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Comment by Anonymous, 23 Jun, 2012
Hi. This is how this stupid episode should have been handled. I make the point that at the time of Lieutenant James Cook's first (and subsequent) contacts with the Maori of this new country during which he spent much time connecting with them while his ships were being serviced and replenished. He found there was no country wide organised order or rules as a community. They existed purely as fiercely separate and 'tribal' identities and Cook and Co had learnt from them and came to the conclusion that their philosophy was 'Kill or be Killed!' This is written in his Journals, the first time (apart from Tasman) any history about this country was written down for all to see.
Now days we hear all the angst from the 'Brown Necks' and how they have been so hard done by, which may have some merit. It was inevitable this country would be discovered by any of the nations that had developed ocean going ships back then. But. They conveniently overlook the terrible treatment the populations of other countries that were colonized by these other nations and who had their cultures overwhelmed, obliterated and a new religious culture forced on them. These 'Brown Necks' make no comment at all about the fact we have now have Maori Catholics, Maori Presbyterian's, Maori Anglicans, the Maori Ringatu and all the other splinter religious groups you can conjure up. All these religions have infiltrated every tribe throughout the country and we never hear any complaint about this, do we? And like this poor woman in question, with an intellect so shallow, it cannot be measured, caused, with the help of the our stupid Media, this situation to be country wide (and no doubt) international headlines. And here we are, doing our best to make secular headway against this tidal wave of ignorance.
Comment by Mike, 24 Jun, 2012
AFAIK [as far as I know] there is no commandment "thou shalt carry a bible"? And Jesus never said it was compulsory or a sacrament either did he (or at least was never "reported" as having said so)? A reminder of the rules & a warning would be appropriate — itís not a big deal, itís not a big offence, & it should not have been a big punishment!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Jun, 2012
You're right Mike, there is no requirement to carry a Bible. In fact in the time of Jesus the Bible didn't exist, nor did books even. You couldn't stuff all those scrolls into a pocket, and most people couldn't read anyway. But we mustn't lose sight of the fact that this employee was not being reprimanded for carrying a Bible, but for carrying a book and breaking the uniform rules. Also she had been reminded of the rules and given warnings, this was probably her fifth warning, it was an ongoing problem. It was the media and the union that made it into a big dispute about the Bible. If she was continually flouting the rules by carrying one of the other banned items, such as a cell phone or wallet, or even any book other then the Bible, the story would never have made the headlines. If you let one employee ignore the rules, then you can't stop other employees carrying their cell phones, iPods and books for use in a quiet moment. Anarchy rules. Unfortunately Christians have now been given permission to carry their specific book, but still no other non-Christian employee can be trusted to carry a book of their choice. Hardly seems fair.
Comment by Phill, 02 Jul, 2012
Hi guys I'm afraid I took a somewhat different track when I saw this piece. My first reaction was what a really stupid uniform code. I mean so long as I am doing my job and not in anyway being distracted from it what should it matter what I carry in my pockets. Just because someone pays me money for a specific service does not mean they have the right to control all aspects of my life for the period I am being paid. As an example my employer does not allow cell phones on the floor, and though a secure place is provided for storage few people use it. What do we do, we turn the things off and stick it in our pockets or bags, so long as its not ringing or being used during work time no one worries. A small book in the pocket does not distract one from one's work, and lets remember at no time did anyone claim that at any time her work had been neglected or below standard because of it.
My second thought on this was what a stupid rule from the management's side. I mean to do something that is going to bring such a lot of bad publicity down upon you? Like I say it was a bad rule and I'm so glad that someone stuck a knife into it.
As to the woman being a Christian, I have found that many believers put a lot of store into this book, for many of them it has magical properties and will protect them from harm, evil presences, vampiric assault, zombie attack, nuclear annihilation and so forth. They would feel naked and un-protected without the feel of soft fake leather vinyl, cigarette like paper and that nice black ink close to their skin. Quite frankly so long as they are not attempting to force me to carry one, read from it, or in any way accept any of its ludicrous nonsense as some kind of universal truth I have no problem with it, this is after all a free country and some of my relatives lie in foreign fields to ensure we have that freedom. And if I want to keep my magic yoyo which provides me with super strength and xray vision, in my pocket while I perform my duties to the agreed level set by the employer then I should. I think too often people seem to think that if they pay for my labour they own me body and soul, sorry guys slavery was outlawed some time ago.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Jul, 2012
Hi Phill. We agree that there are elements of the uniform code that appear over the top. You say that if 'I am doing my job and not in anyway being distracted from it what should it matter what I carry in my pockets'. This is true, but the problem is that many people are easily distracted. They can't be relied on to leave those items in their pocket. If their phone rings they can't resist answering it. If there is a ban on using phones, they put it on silent and vibrate and quietly check it when it calls. If there is a quiet moment during work, or they just get bored, why not take out that book and have a read? If employees can work and listen to a radio, why not listen to an iPod instead? You correctly say that as long these items are not 'being used during work time no one worries', but the temptation is just too great for many. If someone says that they will never take their phone, iPod, book or ouija board out of their pocket, then why do they need to carry it in the first place? Police are suspicious of someone found loitering around a house at 2am with lock picking tools in their pocket because this suggests intent. They would ask the suspect that if they had no intention of committing burglary, then why the need to carry the tools?
You're right that 'A small book in the pocket does not distract one from one's work', but then neither does a cell phone that is switched off, but it is the temptation to consult these items during work hours that has brought about the need to prohibit them. If employees could be trusted to NEVER use their phones, listen to their iPods or read their books then I'm sure SkyCity would have no problem with employees carrying them. But we all know that some employees would take these items from their pockets. This woman was only caught at least five times because she couldn't keep her Bible in her pocket. She wasn't confronted for keeping her Bible hidden, but for taking it out on multiple occasions.
As for attracting bad publicity, as we've said, this was at least the fifth time this woman had disobeyed the rules, and there were no publicity problems previously that would have altered management. Furthermore, most companies, especially those that deal with the public, including yours, have bans on carrying and using personal items. I couldn't understand a manger who argued that employees couldn't carry cell phones, even switched off, but could carry a book. If uniform rules create bad publicity, then most every business runs this risk, yours included.
I would also argue that being allowed to carry a cell phone is far more important than being able to carry a Bible. Imagine being caught in an earthquake, armed robbery or terrorist attack, with a cell phone you could call for help, with a Bible you could only call Jesus, who, as we all know, never returns calls. A cell phone might mean the difference between life and death, whereas a Bible might as well be a cell phone with a flat battery.
According to media reports, as a result of this dispute SkyCity uniform rules still prohibit employees from carrying small books, all they have done is add a special exemption. Christians can now carry a Bible. This was our main gripe. It wasn't about uniform rules, you should be allowed to keep anything in your pockets, just as you should be allowed any colour or style of underwear, as long as it stays hidden. We said that all New Zealanders are equal, but evidently Christian New Zealanders are more equal than others. It was never about uniform codes in general, or even carrying a book, it was always about carrying the Bible. If SkyCity had changed the rule to allow any employee to carry any book or the union had fought for this change, then we would have been happy, but SkyCity and Unite Union were both content to give a right to Christians, and only Christians. We're told that 'Parata, accompanied by her pastor and Unite boss Mike Treen, was informed the company would make an exception to its front-of-house uniform policy in her case'. Again, this dispute wasn't about uniform rules and employees carrying personal items, it was only about the Bible, and apart from this new special exemption for Christians, nothing has changed for other employees.
We have no problem with this Christian being allowed to keep her book of magic hidden in her pocket, our problem is that non-Christians still aren't allowed to keep their chosen book hidden in their pockets. You say that 'sorry guys slavery was outlawed some time ago', whereas we feel that rather than adopt enlightened and just rules fit for the 21st century, what has been achieved here takes us back to a time where a religious group is given special privileges over all others.
Comment by Phill, 05 Jul, 2012
Hi guys these are all good points, but much of them are made on assumptions. We assume that if workers are allowed to keep a cell phone in their pocket they will let it ring and disturb them. If they have a book in their pocket they will pull it out and read it. The assumption is also that they will do these things during work hours instead of the job they are required to do. This is the negative view of the work force, that they are a bunch of slackers who have to be kept in line with a stick. An alternative view and just as valid is that your workforce is made up of dedicated individuals who wish to do a good job and excel in their position. How many times have we seen things like TV's Undercover Boss where the company CEO is blown away by the fact that his workforce is made up of dedicated individuals who are often showing a dedication to the job in spite of personal issues and problems put in their way by Head Office. It's too easy to think the negative and not consider the positive. Yes in any work force there are those who may use their cell phones when they should be dealing with customers, who may read a book while the production line grinds to a halt because they are not doing their job. And strangely enough there are procedures that can be followed to ensure that one the worker understands that this is not acceptable, and two that they then have an opportunity to correct this bad behaviour or lose their jobs. Oh and if mangers follow the correct procedures then there is no comeback from the Employment Tribunal.
Also what is the problem with reading on the job? Especially if for what ever reason nothing is happening or you can do both the job and read. Example the Late Norman Kirk in his early days working the night shift was quite able to do his job and read a book a night. It was for him a chance at higher education. I've had many jobs where reading during down time was frowned upon. Yet there was no other alternative, so instead of having the chance of educating ourselves we sat twiddling our thumbs. Everyone talks about the need for a knowledge economy but no one really wants it, god help up us if the workforce were allowed to educate themselves! Yeah I know what someone will say, if we allowed them to read who says they would read things of value, wouldn't they instead be trash novels and trash magazines — more than likely, but at least the opportunity would exist and there would some there who take the opportunity, for instance, I did.
You have suggested that it's probably because workers flouted the rules that Sky City brought in these draconian measures. I would argue that they brought in the draconian measures for fear that some might flout the rules and perhaps to remind workers of their place in the scheme of things. You say the temptation to answer the phone or read the book would be too great, are you sure? Treat people in a positive way and often they will respond positively. I have worked with many decent and disciplined colleagues who did not answer the ringing phone when there was a job to be done, who did not pull out the book when the work load was climbing who often gave extra to the position than was in fact required. We have had thirty odd years of this negative view of workers, maybe its time we started challenging this myth as well, after all it is as much a myth as the hogwash found in the holy books.
Now at this point you are probably thinking Phill this aint Socialist Weekly. I agree. The argument is fundamentally that this woman has been given an exemption because she is a Christian and Sky City is bowing to the pressure of the Christian media and bad publicity this entire thing has generated. Surely a case of Christians getting special treatment over others. Quite possibly, but she's put a chink in the armour. The rule is no longer as strict as it once was, the next worker found with a prohibited item in their pocket, say Anarchy for Beginners, or even perhaps a copy of James Randi now has a fighting chance at a defence. Like I said before, my first thought was what a stupid rule, this was followed by what a silly woman and her magical book. However though I am atheist, I am also a sceptic, which means I like to test ideas, this kind of dress code tells me more about the management team than it does about the work force. I think it's time that big companies and even small companies realised that their organisations are made up of people, individuals, most of them decent, honest and dedicated. Perhaps they should start treating them as such.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Jul, 2012
Hi Phill. Thanks for your thoughts comrade. ;-) I think we both know that the rule is not about carrying a cell phone or book, it's about using them, and clearly the simplest way to ensure employees don't use them is, in my opinion, to insist that they keep them in their bags while working. Of course some workers can be trusted to keep things in their pockets, but obviously some can't. This SkyCity Christian for example. Perhaps you should switch from watching TV's Undercover Boss and try TV's Target and its hidden camera trials. This program highlights that many workers can't be trusted to deliver the commitment that they promised. One recent episode involved a worker masturbating into the householder's panties, for which he has now been charged. He was one that couldn't be trusted to keep things hidden in his pants while working, and couldn't resist whipping it out when he thought his boss wasn't watching. While I've worked with some very conscientious people over the years, I've also seen many that shirked their responsibilities at every opportunity. If employees agree that they will never use a personal item during work, as you apparently accept the ban on cell phone use where you work, then surely the simplest, most effective and fairest rule is simply to leave these items in your bag? It's far easier to enforce a rule like this, than wondering whether an employee is using his phone or simply fondling it. I've been in situations where people have been told to switch off their phones, but they only put them on silent and vibrate and covertly text away in their pockets, sneaking a look at the screen when they can. And drivers continuing to illegally text while driving is another perfect example. Some people just can't be trusted to carry something and not use it.
I see it as rather stupid that one would jeopardise one's job over demanding to carry a hidden book that they insisted they would never take out and read. Regardless of whether this 'no books' rule is just, my problem is with the fact that a special exemption was made to allow a Christian to carry her hidden book, but for everyone else the 'no books' rule still exists. It's not about an employee that has, unbeknownst to SkyCity's customers, a book hidden in her pocket, it's that a Christian can now legitimately carry a hidden personal item but no other employee can.
I'm annoyed that once this Christian got her exemption then the union, the media and the public all lost interest in the issue. Why didn't Unite Union say that it wasn't acceptable to just make a special case for Christians, all employees should be allowed to carry hidden books if they so choose? Why force them to make a separate stand? Why did the media and the public think justice had been served by simply excluding Bibles from the list of banned personal items? If everyone disagreed with SkyCity's front-of-house uniform policy, why were they content to let it stand essentially unchanged apart from one minor exemption? I don't care whether this Christian is now allowed to carry a Bible, MP3 player, cell phone or GPS unit, I question why all SkyCity employees weren't granted equal rights, and why no one else is concerned at this inequality.
Bishop Tamaki: 'Give it all to me'
I saw on TV3's Campbell Live last night that Destiny Church's Brian Tamaki is still pushing ahead with constructing South Auckland's version of Jonestown (or perhaps since this is NZ, land of the Hobbit & Lord of the Rings, and it all involves fantasy beings, Hobbiton would be a better comparison). We were told that 'The intention is to bring church members from the 11 branches around the country together to live in the suburbs around its big new complex'. See also this article: Bishop urges his flock to leave homes and jobs. We were shown part of Tamaki's video promo, where he was looking creepier than usual, if that's possible. In big letters it said:
Notice that last bit: 'GIVE BIG', because judging by the model of Tamaki's City of God it's going to take a hell of lot of money to finance the project. The model alone probably cost a fortune. Three minutes into the Destiny Church service that the Campbell Live reporter attended, in disguise, the church made its first plea for money, handing around not a plate, but buckets. Also handed out were automatic payment forms to help finance the new city, so that followers could direct their bank to automatically transfer money to Tamaki on a regular basis. Destiny Church is also one of those churches that encourage tithes, where followers donate a proportion of their wages to the church.
CHURCH OF THE FIRSTBORN
THE CITY OF GOD
Tamaki is at a disadvantage because his church is made up chiefly of low-income individuals and families, who can least afford to spare money for his grandiose project. His advantage is that they are uneducated and gullible as well. Christian churches proudly claim that one of their missions is to assist the poor and struggling, and yet almost without exception they plead that the poor donate their last cent so that they can construct sumptuous and splendiferous churches. But Tamaki doesn't let the unfortunate fact that only the poor and uneducated accept his message, he merely has to find a reason to convince them to give him their last dollar. And his latest scheme is to dupe his followers into believing that by giving big they will receive 21 special blessings from this invisible being that he keeps talking about. It's a shame that apparently only Tamaki gets to communicate with this god of his, imagine the following Tamaki would receive if Jesus would just occasionally give a sermon personally, instead of always relying on his underlings like Tamaki to draw the crowds and raise the funds.
In the promo Tamaki revealed this about Destiny Church:
ONLY THE CHURCH OF THE FIRSTBORN IS REGISTERED IN HEAVEN
So Tamaki wants us to believe that he talks with God, or at least to God's lawyer on this occasion, or else how would he know this? It's scary that his followers believe silly claims like this.
As to these special blessings from this invisible being, Tamiki tells his suckers... sorry, his followers, that: 'What comes with the birthright blessing is a huge material blessing' and that 'The birthright blessing will cause you to inherit land'. Tamaki informed them: 'What material things do I need that can contribute to building the church? That's the real thing about material possessions. Give it all to me. If I have all of that I'm going to sell it so I can invest it somewhere. The best of what we have goes to that [The City of God]. I need something, you need something to survive on, but if you bless God's church, he will bless you'.
How can people be so stupid as to obey a man that demands: 'Give it all to me. If I have all of that I'm going to sell it so I can invest it somewhere'. This is a man, and his wife, who have become filthy rich thanks solely to donations from the poor and suffering, and unfortunately, from the gullible and deluded. This is money they could ill afford to give away, and yet they still flock to his churches to give even more. And now like a typical Nigerian bank scam, they are told that their ship has finally come in. His followers are encouraged to think that if they give a few hundred dollars they will be rewarded with a huge financial return. But does this make any sense at all? Well of course not, but does it even make logical sense to finance a project like this? Let's say Tamaki needs $10 million to build his new house, sorry his City of God, and his followers eventually donate this amount by pushing themselves further into poverty, and then Tamaki's god somehow reimburses these followers 100 fold to reward them for their donation and their faith. So God has now forked out $1 billion dollars to build a meagre $10 million complex that he will never even visit. Instead of ensuring Tamaki's followers received $1 billion dollars, why wouldn't it make far more sense for God to just funnel $10 million straight into the City of God fund? Surely God has plenty of good lawyers and financial advisers in Heaven to consult, or does he think he knows everything?
We're also told that Tamaki's blessing # 14 went like this:
'The birthright blessing says whoever hurts, harms or criticises you will be cursed with misfortune and misery'.
Even Tamaki acknowledged the blatant malevolence in this blessing, saying, 'Sorry I can't change the word, I know it's not Christian but it is a birthright blessing, so... it's a son thing...'
We then get to hear from Prof. Peter Lineman, a Religious Studies Lecturer, who on being told of Tamiki's blessing, and apparently after consulting a bible, says, 'But the text doesn't say that'. Unfortunately we're not told what, if anything, the text does say, but the implication is that Tamaki has just made this bit up about curses. Lineman is apparently consulting the very start of the bible, so I did a quick search on the word 'blessing', and in Genesis, the first book of the bible, these two quotes appeared:
'The LORD had said to Abram... "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;' GE 12:1-3
And this is Isaac blessing (who he thought was) his first-born son:
'May God give you of heaven's dew and of earth's richness — an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed." ' GE 27:28-29
I'm no religious expert, but to me it appears that there is some truth to Tamaki's claim in these two quotes alone. God clearly says, 'whoever curses you I will curse', and one could easily interpret frank and outspoken criticism of Christianity these days as 'cursing' Christians. And while the bible doesn't detail the specifics of God's curse, it would most likely entail 'misfortune and misery', since this is the very definition of a curse. Furthermore, if God is going to curse and punish those who merely criticise Christians, he is surely going to also curse those who do Christians actual physical harm.
I think it's rather silly to apparently suggest that Tamaki is a fraud because his claims or sermons or blessings aren't in the bible, especially since they are in this case. But even if they weren't, there are plenty of passages in the bible which say you should give up everything you own, often to God or Jesus or one of their representatives, and that you should leave your family to follow Jesus. Likewise there are plenty of passages in the bible that say God will protect his followers and smite everyone else. No matter what you want to promote, good or bad, and especially bad, there are plenty of Biblical passages that support your stance. All you have to do is toss them at deluded Christians and thy will be done.
The thing to realise is that whether the quotes of religious morons like Tamaki are in the bible or not, we should not take any notice of them. It's just silly to say to a devout Christian, 'You can't do that because it's not in the Bible', because this is implying that if it is in the Bible, then they are justified, and they can do it. Don't think, 'I wonder if the Bible really does says that?', because it makes no difference whether the Bible does make a specific claim or not, people should not be looking to the Bible for guidance in their life, anymore than they should look to the Harry Potter books. It matters not whether Tamaki is accurately quoting his book of fiction or not, he is still quoting fiction, whether he read it or just made it up.
Anyone that attempts to defraud people with a Nigerian bank type scam is arrested and jailed and those that fall for it are pitied, and society tries to make them understand how foolish they were. And yet if someone claims that a reward is waiting not in a Nigerian bank but in Heaven, and that your 'donation' will see soon it released, no one even thinks of arresting the bishop that is pushing this blatant scam. And those that fall for this scam are not called the foolish but the faithful. Put the umbrella of religion over your claims and society will let you get away with, perhaps not murder, but certainly fraud.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Jun, 2012 ~
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Comment by Mike, 20 Jun, 2012
Abraham wasn't a Christian ... so why does Tamaki think he's entitled to the protection (or whatever) in the first place? According to myth/tradition/Mohammed, aren't Abraham's descendants the Jews and Arabs??
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Jun, 2012
You've hit on one of the major problems with religion in general and Christianity in particular Mike, that followers are happy to cherry pick passages from their holy books, even if they don't actually apply to them or even if there are other passages that contradict them. And the ignorance of most Christians regarding the Bible and its history means that they don't even realise that they're being duped. But the church and people like Tamaki rely on ignorance and stupidity.
Thank God... or maybe not
A week ago NZ sportsman and wannabe celebrity Sonny Bill Williams was out playing something and on returning home discovered he'd been burgled. Burglaries must be quite rare up north since this event made the prime time TV news, as well as radio and newspapers. My sympathy goes out to Sonny Bill as an aunt and uncle of mine got burgled a few years ago, so I understand the stress and negative emotions that this invasion of privacy and loss of possessions causes. But they live in a city where burglaries are unfortunately not unheard of and consequently don't make the evening news.
But by being made aware of this rare event up north, we were struck by something Williams said in a tweet he later sent into the Twitter universe to all those 'need to get a life' people that were following his every move. As no doubt were the burglars.
On discovering the burglary, he tweeted, 'Thank god no one was hurt'. While of course we concur with the general gist of this statement, that nobody was hurt, and that in Williams' words, 'Only materialistic things [were taken] nothing that cant be replaced', but what did Williams really mean when he said, 'Thank god no one was hurt'?
Williams is religious, a Muslim, so when he says 'Thank god', is he just being flippant, uttering a well worn phrase as many do with no more thought than when I exclaim 'Jesus H. Christ' on stubbing my toe, or does he really mean it? Is he really thanking God, acknowledging that it would have been far worse without God's intervention? But if Williams truly believes that God was on the scene, perhaps he even told the burglars when no one was at home to prevent potentially harmful encounters, why isn't Williams asking why God didn't prevent the burglary in the first place? Why no anonymous call to the police?
If God truly prevented people being hurt, as Williams implies, then he knew of and was complicit in the burglary, so is nothing but a common criminal. God has not been seen or heard of for centuries, and as people increasingly live their lives without him, has he, depressed and despondent, turned to a life of petty crime to make ends meet?
And of course it's not just Williams, time and time again we see some terrible calamity on the news where there is great loss of life and yet someone 'miraculously' survives, and others later proclaim: 'Thank God. My prayers were answered'. For example, some months ago a tornado killed many in the US, including an entire family apart from a baby that was flung several hundred metres and survived. Superstitious locals heaped their thanks onto God for saving the baby, but not one evidently thought to ask why this same God killed the baby's mother, or at the very least, refused to save her. One woman who had her house utterly demolished around her said she just cowered in the bathtub and prayed to God, and he saved her. Again, no thought of asking why God couldn't save her, and her neighbours, by simply stopping the tornado forming in the first place? To make things worse, after a few days of continually thanking God for saving the baby, the baby then died. Evidently God lost interest and had moved on. And again, no questioning of why God had changed his mind, or why he had decreed that all those people that had died in numerous tornados weren't worth saving. The religious are more than happy to give their god credit — 'Thank God... it's a miracle' — when something can be grasped as positive, even if only one person survives and a thousand die. But when nothing positive can be discerned from an event, then these same people never mention their god, he must have been busy elsewhere, and the event becomes a solely natural event.
I suspect that if you quizzed the likes of Sonny Bill Williams as to whether he believed God refused to prevent a crime that he was not only aware was happening, but knew long beforehand was going to happen, Williams would begrudgingly admit that God probably wasn't acting as a lookout for the burglars to make sure no one got hurt. So are people that exclaim 'Thank God' just hypocrites? Are they professing a faith that they don't actually hold? Are their expressions of belief empty, and is their piety just a mask?
In a similar vein, what is it about Muslims that see them forever proclaiming 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Great). Especially when it seems that they most often scream this phrase when they are usually getting their asses kicked. When they are being shot at, blown up, their family have been slaughtered, or their city has been destroyed by an earthquake or tsunami, as they flee in terror, they shout 'Allahu Akbar''. Why are they praising their god as they face imminent death or are burying their murdered loved ones? Do they really believe that their god is in the thick of the battle with them? Even that parrot from the Monty Python sketch pining for the fiords would realise that if there was a powerful god involved in the conflict, then he was helping the other side, not them.
Are they praising god in an attempt to manipulate his god-sized ego? By demonstrating their subservient, blind (and demonstrably unwarranted) faith in this god, are they hoping that God will relent and swap sides? Or at the very least not kill them even though he's killed their families and friends, or allowed others to do so? Is it just another form of praying, of begging God for a favour, pleading that he help them and smite their enemy? Or is 'Allahu Akbar' a euphemism, an angry retort along the lines of: 'What the fuck God?! Get off your ass and give me some help here. I don't pray to you five times a day for this shit. There are other gods out there wanting my business if you're not interested'.
What will it take for Christians, Muslims and Jews to grasp that if they're in an event where people are dying around them then there is obviously no benevolent God involved? And even if the hand of God could be discerned, then God obviously believes that they deserve this.
But is there any evidence that God or Allah is watching over us and protecting us? Is there any reason to ever say 'Thank God', knowing that gratitude really is deserved? Obviously not, since based on the stories in holy books and the untold companies worldwide that exist to compensate people against 'Acts of God', if God exists he is actually the cause of many or all of our disasters and loss of life. In fact disaster hits everyone — Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and atheists — no one group seems to be immune, so what advantage is there in belonging to any specific religion? Having a Christian majority didn't help Christchurch or America on Sept 11, a Muslim majority isn't helping Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, and a Hindu majority hasn't made India a paradise on Earth.
The lesson here is that if there is a god or gods, then quite clearly all these people are backing the wrong one, and their thanks and praises are wasted. To me the simple things are important, so I would want a god that doesn't help burgle me when I'm out.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Jun, 2012 ~
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Comment by Joe, 03 Jun, 2012
I see you are still hung up on polytheism. I think you might be getting desperate in picking out new arguments, when you have to highlight Williams' comments after he was burgled.
Truth be told he probably swore and cursed alot maybe. I know I would. What is wrong in also being relieved that nobody was hurt. It shows that his friends and family are more important than material possessions. A good lesson learned from God.
But, back to your reasoning on atheist morality, how again is burglary morally wrong in a naturalistic atheistic worldview? Isn't the burglar better off now with his new possessions? Survival of the fittest/smartest/quicknest/opportunist?
You have still not shown on our previous discussions how things like stealing are objectively wrong. Luckily as a Christian and Muslims too, stealing is objectively wrong. We all know it, and it is a law in our holy books too. But like you say under athesim, there is nothing wrong with stealing, if you think it is ok with yourself subjectively.
But if you expect your idea of a God would put a hand down and stop a burgulary happening to you, you have a silly belief about what a God is.
I still await your response from my challenge that you are mistaken by believing that all theists are mentally ill with a delusion. [Note from 'Silly Beliefs': Joe, my response can be read here, following your comments.]
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Jun, 2012
Joe, I'm not sure why you think I'm hung up on polytheism. Both Muslims and Christians are monotheists.
You ask: 'What is wrong in also being relieved that nobody was hurt. It shows that his friends and family are more important than material possessions. A good lesson learned from God'. I quite clearly said that 'of course we concur with the general gist of this statement, that nobody was hurt, and that in Williams' words, 'Only materialistic things [were taken] nothing that cant be replaced''. My comments had nothing to do with Williams being relieved that nobody was hurt. They were concerned with Williams implying that God was involved with his burglary, that he was to be thanked that no one got hurt. As for Williams believing that family and friends are more important than material possessions, I'm sure he knew that before he became a Muslim, and didn't just recently learn this lesson from Allah. And don't say he learnt it from the Christian God before he became a Muslim, because Williams reckons the Christian God isn't real, and you can't learn lessons from something that isn't real. That would be like me insisting that Xmas presents really did come from Santa while I believed in him as a child.
You say that I 'have still not shown... how things like stealing are objectively wrong'. And nor will I, as I don't claim that they are objective, only you do. You ask 'how again is burglary morally wrong in a naturalistic atheistic worldview? Isn't the burglar better off now with his new possessions? Survival of the fittest/smartest/quicknest/opportunist?' Burglary isn't morally wrong in a naturalistic atheistic worldview. It's only wrong in my ethical worldview because I choose it to be wrong. Of course the burglar is now better off, but in my ethical view he has caused an innocent person to suffer, and I have decided, on my own, no God told me, that this is wrong. You seem to view the phrase 'Survival of the fittest' the same way that Hitler did, as an excuse to kill. While atheists could go around eating babies, the same thing Christians used to accuse Jews of, you'll find that we seldom do. While we could all let our base instincts control our actions, as most animals do, with no thought of consequences or the suffering of others, you forget that humans have the unique ability to consider how our actions might affect others and act accordingly. We understand benevolence, altruism and compassion and can easily divorce ourselves from blind instincts. Atheists are more than simply ignorant animals. We can be good simply because we want to. It's not magic, or religion.
You claim that 'Luckily as a Christian and Muslims too, stealing is objectively wrong. We all know it, and it is a law in our holy books too'. And yet the odds say that it was probably a Christian that stole Williams' possessions. But that aside, you've already told me that I 'need to understand that morals laws from a God are different from objective morals. If a God from whatever religion you choose gives a law, that does not make it objective'. And yet now you're apparently saying that the moral laws in your holy books ARE objective morals. So why did God insist on making 'Thou shalt not steal' an objective moral law, along with 'Thou shalt not covet your neighbour's ass', but didn't think of prohibiting the rape of little children? Or slavery? Or witch burning?
And how can you believe that moral laws in the Koran are what we should all follow? Are you saying that Allah is the true god, and that his moral laws supersede those of the Christian God, just as Christians claim their god's moral laws supersede those of the Jewish god? Is the Islamic moral law that we should kill non-believers wherever we find them an objective moral? It's in their holy book so radical Muslims certainly think so.
You finish by saying, 'But if you expect your idea of a God would put a hand down and stop a burgulary happening to you, you have a silly belief about what a God is'.
So what you're saying is that we can expect no help from God? We're on our own. But does not your Bible state: 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (PS 23:4)' But now you're saying that I should gain no comfort whatsoever from a belief in God. Even if he's watching me, he's not going to lift a wispy tentacle to help me, no matter how loudly I scream, whether I'm being robbed or murdered, I'm on my own and shouldn't expect any divine assistance. I should just pretend as if there is no god, avoid dark alleys and take out insurance.
If this is true then how is this situation different to the view that God doesn't exist at all? If he's not going to interfere in human affairs, then he might as well not exist. At the very least you've just turned your God from a caring personal god into an apathetic deist god.
Comment by Joe, 05 Jun, 2012
"And yet the odds say that it was probably a Christian that stole Williams' possessions."
More blind faith dogmatic statements I see, nothing new here.
I would also love to know what you think a Christian's perception of God is. I think most atheists are mislead into believing God is a big man with a white beard, sitting on a cloud surrounded by angels with harps.
I believe this is what you think, as you are a common atheist it seems.
So do you think God should intervene with crime? Should God intervene with famine, war, injustice and poverty? I think you do believe God should do these things for you, if God exists. He should also help you win the lottery, for good measure.
Your trouble is you assume alot of silly things you thing theism is, and then proceed to base your weak arguments around them.
This argument that Williams said 'thank God no one was hurt' you put forward is laughable. You dogmatically assume Williams is literally thanking God, rather than using a common phrase of relief.
Your blind faith is yet again astounding, either that or your arguments are very, very weak ones against theism.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Jun, 2012
Joe, I said that 'the odds say that it was probably a Christian that stole Williams' possessions' since Christians loudly proclaim that NZ is a Christian nation, and that the census tells us that the majority of NZers are Christians. Statistically you're more likely to be living next door to a Christian, working with a Christian, being served by a Christian shop assistant or being annoyed by a Christian evangelist than you are by a person of any other religion or by an atheist. Likewise, by sheer numbers alone, you're more likely to be burgled by a Christian. What evidence do you have that a small number of atheists are committing all the crimes?
Many people, Christians as well as atheists, do view God as 'a big man with a white beard, sitting on a cloud surrounded by angels with harps', simply because this is how Christians have portrayed God in the Bible, in sermons and in art for centuries. Only modern scientific knowledge has made this view laughable to atheists and embarrassing to Christians. As to what I 'think a Christian's perception of God is', I've found that Christians don't have a unified perception of God, hence the thousands of different Christian sects, with beliefs ranging from fundamentalists believing in a God creating the universe 6,000 years ago right through to Christians that believe God doesn't even exist, but still believe in him. I've found that Christians, including you, are very reticent to describe their God in any sort of detail, and that many, when pressed, reveal considerable ignorance about the nature of God. Most haven't progressed beyond a childhood Sunday School level. When I think of how an enlightened Christian should perceive God, based on the Bible, Christian theorist Richard Swinburne's definition of the Christian God covers many of the points: 'A person without a body (ie a spirit), present everywhere, the creator and sustainer of the universe, able to do everything (ie omnipotent), knowing all things, perfectly good, a source of moral obligation, immutable, eternal, a necessary being, holy, and worthy of worship'.
As for God intervening with crime, famine, war, injustice, poverty and lotteries, his biography, the Bible, certainly has God intervening all the time in peoples' lives. Hell, he flooded the entire planet because he was peeved with certain people going about their own business, if that's not intervening I don't know what is. He went to war numerous times for and against the Hebrews. When the Pharaoh was to let the Hebrews go, God intervened to prevent this, several times. He prevented starvation during the exodus: 'Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. (Ex 16:4)' I can provide numerous examples of God intervening, and it is only this 'proven' past intervention that makes praying reasonable. It is only because Christians firmly believe that God will intervene that people pray to God during crimes, famines, war, injustice, disasters, poverty, lotteries and even sports events. If you're insisting that God will never intervene, then what is the point of praying? Again, you've turned your God from a caring personal god into an apathetic deist god.
You say that 'Your trouble is you assume alot of silly things you thing theism is...' and 'You dogmatically assume Williams is literally thanking God, rather than using a common phrase of relief'. So you're saying Williams is taking God's name in vain? I thought that was disrespectful? My trouble is that when I hear a Christian, or Muslim in Williams' case, say things like 'Thank God' or 'Praise the Lord, my prayers were answered' or 'It's a miracle' or 'Accept Jesus and you will be saved', I naively believe that they mean what they say. You've said that much of what is in the Bible is not to be believed, now you're saying that I shouldn't believe everything a believer says either. They often don't mean what they say. You see this is where atheists get confused, what do we believe and what do we treat as empty talk? Why can't Christians be honest? When I thank someone it's because I believe they actually deserve this expression of gratitude. Since you say God will never intervene in our affairs, how did this false habit of praising God arise in the first place?
To me it is obvious that for most of Christian history Christians clearly believed that God was intervening in their lives, only in recent times have Christians such as yourself realised that it was all a lie. There was no intervention, it all had a natural explanation, and here I agree with you. Your argument seems to be that this age-old habit of expressing false praise has yet to disappear from common usage. Until it does, we should treat the phrase 'Thank God' no differently to 'Thank the fairies'.
I don't need blind faith to take a Christian or Muslim at their word. I don't often believe what they say, but I usually believe that they are sincere, that they at least believe it. Now you claim that I shouldn't even assume that. And you wonder why I have problems with religion.
Comment by Graeme, 05 Jun, 2012
John. This is neither here nor there regarding your discussion about burglary and thanking God, but I want to challenge your assertion 'Joe, I'm not sure why you think I'm hung up on polytheism. Both Muslims and Christians are monotheists'.
I don't believe there's any difference in value between being mono or poly. One's way too many by me as you'd likely agree. However, Christians are monotheists? I've never really bought that one, for the following reasons... Here's an off the top of the head list of supernatural beings whose existence is generally believed in by Christians. While they have their super Zeus, the others are gods or demi gods by any regular description I reckon.
The first 3 get shoehorned into one through some less than elegant or satisfying philosophical gymnastics, but even by Christian theology they are each distinct and unified.
The Holy Ghost
Jesus of Nazareth
Demons (count them)
Archangels (Michael, Gabriel et al)
Regular angels (count them)
Saints (count them!)
While it's not a Hittite-like array it's starting to look a little Greek
But in the end, it doesn't matter to me at all. I don't think any better of a religion with one god or 100.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Jun, 2012
I agree with you completely Graeme. Christians have of course struggled greatly with this problem ever since they foolishly added Jesus and the Holy Ghost to the mix. Christians are dumbfounded when you ask: 'So is Jesus actually God or is he the son of God, both of which you claim at different times? '
I called Christians monotheists since that is the technical label for them, but you're quite right that it's just another thing about religion that turns into nonsense if you actually think about it. Thus Christians are taught not to question the Trinity, but simply to accept it, since great minds have decided that it is gibberish, or as you say, it requires philosophical gymnastics to appear valid. Martin Luther was completely sincere when he said, 'Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason'. The Christian response is typically that humans aren't intelligent enough to understand the mysteries of God. They should speak for themselves and not others.
Like you Graeme, I agree that even one god is one too many. However, one could perhaps make the argument that ancient polytheistic religions would be preferable to the modern 'monotheistic' ones. Worshippers actually had some degree of choice as to what god they wanted to follow, and they didn't have this hatred of women and sex, whereas Christianity is nothing more than a dictatorship. Also the pagan religions that were replaced by Christianity were relatively tolerant of other beliefs, whereas Christianity introduced vicious intolerance. You're either with us or you're against us, as Jesus said (MT 12:30). And you don't want to be against us, as the motto of the Christian inquisitions might well have been.
Comment by Graeme, 05 Jun, 2012
John. You stated: However, one could perhaps make the argument that ancient polytheistic religions would be preferable to the modern 'monotheistic' ones.
I'm not so sure about that. Give 'em an inch... but being fair you did say "perhaps".
I'm wary, because... in my interpretation Christianity is a polytheistic religion... but what harm has it ever caused? Rack "em up.
Oh. Here's a clincher (I hope). Exclude the trinity. Who is Archangel Gabriel or the warrior Archangel Michael? Do they exist or not? Yes or No? Do they have supernatural powers? Yes or No? Welcome to Greek-Style polytheistic religion. Like it or not you're in it up to your neck.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Jun, 2012
As we both agree Graeme, one god or many gods, it's all bullshit. I'm assuming some Christians would say that archangels do exist and do have supernatural powers, but would argue that they're merely servants or tools that their god uses, not gods in their own right. They are not independent beings with free will, just powerful automatons created and directed by God.
Monotheism is 'the doctrine or belief that there is only one God', so I think it all hinges around how one defines 'god', which my dictionary defines as follows:
Jews, Christians and Muslims select definition #1, and this defines a single god with very specific attributes. The creator, the ruler and the principal object of worship are all found in one god. While there may be other divine beings, all the important attributes exist in one god who runs the show, and the rest just do his will.
- A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.
- A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by a people, especially a male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality.
As for polytheism, here's one definition:
A belief in a plurality of gods, not necessarily equal in importance, each of which is distinguished by a special function. The Indian Vedas, for example, feature Agni the fire god, Vayu the wind god, and Indra the storm god. Dynastic Egypt had hundreds of deities, but worship (as in Greek Olympianism) was city-centered. The gods of polytheistic systems are organized into a cosmic family, featured in legend and myth and expressing beliefs about the individual's relationship to the universe. The lesser deities of polytheism tend to diminish with time until the religion exhibits monotheistic tendencies. Thus the Olympian sky god Zeus became the head of all Olympian deities; the Egyptian Ra became the supreme god; and the several thousand Vedic gods were gradually displaced by the trinity of Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma.
Polytheists would I believe select definition #2 for god, where there is no talk of omnipotence, omniscience, perfection or the creation of the universe. Gods seem to have different and limited powers and often operate independently. It's not one god and his created servants, it's a group of true gods with various powers and duties and often with different agendas. Perhaps an analogy for monotheism could be a human and his three obedient pet chimps, where there is obvious superiority and control by the human, and for polytheism would be a group of four humans, who act independently and all are roughly equal, although they may have different talents, tasks and agendas.
So, using these definitions, I wouldn't view archangels and other simple if not mindless servants of the Christian god as being gods themselves. You may call them demigods or minor gods, but if they don't have omnipotence, omniscience, perfection, creator of the universe etc, then monotheists would say they don't fit their definition of god (#1). They would argue that by monotheism they mean that there is only one god that carries all the necessary attributes, and that they worship this god alone. There may be other god-like beings around, eg angels, but these aren't worshiped and exist solely to serve God.
Where I see the main problem with Christianity's claim of monotheism is with good ol' Jesus. Unlike obsequious angels, Jesus claims and Christians grant him attributes that turn him into another definition #1 god. Here we have 'a being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship'. Many Christians speak of nothing but Jesus, God doesn't get a mention although they still believe he's sitting right there next to Jesus. As soon as they started calling Jesus God and worshiping him, they lost their claim to monotheism. And as you say, Satan is another problem. Unlike angels he's a divine being of apparently equal power to God and Jesus, and importantly, unlike angels, he has free will and is acting independently from God. So Satan, whatever his origins, has morphed into a god to rival God himself, and evidently some people do worship him. And of course we have the Holy Ghost and Wisdom, also called Sophia. So rather than one true god and a collection of fawning servants, we now have at least five powerful gods and a collection of fawning servants. And Christians certainly are conflicted as to whom they should worship. Some go with God, others Jesus, others to the so-called 'Virgin' Mary, others still to various saints with many even praying to the likes of Mother Teresa. As you say Graeme, they're up to it to the neck. But that's what happens when you let an untold number of superstitious people invent a religion over a period of centuries. It's no wonder that for a long time the church forbid people from reading the Bible.
Comment by Joe, 06 Jun, 2012
John. You claim to be an atheist, but at the same time you love quoting the Bible, and correcting people on their Christian behaviour. Is it appropriate for me to correct you on your atheist behaviour also?
I as an atheist didn't really care about religion as I thought it was irrelevant, but I wouldn't take the liberty of having such a biased view that I would correct them on their religous behaviour. It would make me seem rather silly. As it does when you try to do it to Christians and Muslims. Might I suggest that a better tactic would be to not pretend to be an expert on religion when you are an anti delusionist atheist.
Better you try and stick to justifying your positon as an anti delusionist atheist, rather than just trying to be an anti religious expert.
Do you agree that alot of theists, of which you say are the majority, are very nice people, who do alot of good in the world. Or do you still believe they only do these things because they are brainwashed and deluded. Therefore it will end in crime and atrocities, as religion is the breeding ground for terrorists and evil doers?
So I was right when I thought you thought the Christian God had a big white beard. This confirms that you are not an authority on Christianity at all. Your perception is rather like a child would perceive the Christian God from an old picture. This is not what Christians believe, only dogmatic atheists apparently.
Graeme, I think the word you are looking for in Christianity is trinitarian vs nontrinitarian. Otherwise you might as well add unicorns, flying spaghetti monsters and leprachauns to your list. The others are not Gods or counted as Gods in your list in Christianity, but other religions might worship one or many Gods.
So Christianity is still very monotheistic.
I might argue that atheists have their own demigods and idols of worhsip these days, and is polyatheistic in nature.
John, I'm still waiting for you answer on my challenge to you to see if I'm deluded, to prove your anti-delusionist position incorrect. Also I'm still waiting on evidence for your knowledge that God does not exist. As you claim also to be a 'strong' atheist. You go the extra mile where other atheists fear to tread. (so you claim).
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Jun, 2012
Joe, I quote the Bible merely to show up the error and hypocrisy of many Christian claims, for example when you said God never intervenes in famines: 'Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you'. I thought you'd want to know when you'd made a mistake about your God, who is important to you. I guess that was my mistake.
So when you were an atheist Joe you didn't really care about religion, you thought it was irrelevant. But now that you're a Christian you no longer see the opposing view as irrelevant, you suddenly care about atheism and what it's all about, which suggests that you knew nothing about it when you thought you were one. You also felt that challenging someone would have made you 'seem rather silly', and yet here you are challenging me on my morality and what support I have for atheism. Why doesn't that now make you 'seem rather silly'? Why can Christians criticise atheism but not vice versa? Can you justify your position as an expert on atheism, and if you need not be an expert, why do I have to be to offer an opinion? You say that you 'wouldn't take the liberty of having such a biased view that I would correct them', but isn't that exactly what you're attempting with me and all those other atheists that you say you've debated with? You're trying to show me the error of my ways, to change my behaviour, my morals and my worldview. This is apparently the problem Christians have with 'new' atheists, we are prepared to speak up for ourselves.
I do agree that most religious believers are decent people, and are decent in spite of religion, not because of it. They would be decent people even if they had never heard of their specific religion. Their humanity makes them decent people, not a belief in God, Allah, Shiva or Zeus. Were you still a nice, decent person when you had no belief in God Joe, or did you only become decent on finding Christianity? Religion doesn't make people nice. Religious people generally lead decent lives because they ignore their god's commandments to do evil, and those that do blindly obey their god do indeed become evil doers. Devout Christians persecuted witches and Jews in the past and homosexuals and abortion doctors today, and devout Muslims murder apostates and non-believers. Decent Christians and Muslims today don't do these things only because they ignore their God's commandments. Most Christians and Muslims I know are religious in name only, and are nearly as secular as I am.
Yes, religious commandments such as 'Love your neighbour' can make believers nice people, but equally, religious commandments such as 'Kill all non-believers where you find them' can make them monsters.
As Steven Weinberg said:
'With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.'
You say: 'So I was right when I thought you thought the Christian God had a big white beard'. I never said that at all, please stop making up answers to suit your purpose. I said that 'Christians don't have a unified perception of God', and that I thought Christians should perceive God along the lines of Christian theorist Richard Swinburne's definition. And how is it that you KNOW what Christians believe, are you not aware that there are thousands of Christian sects all with different beliefs? Which version of Christian are you actually speaking for? I've asked you before, as well as asking you to describe your god, which you haven't done. If you're annoyed that many people see god as an old guy with a white beard, perhaps this is because you won't tell us want he's like when we ask. Your silence and reluctance means many will fall back on old views of god sitting on his throne, as described in the Bible.
You challenge us on our definitions of monotheism, polytheism, gods etc, then you come out with this: 'I might argue that atheists have their own demigods and idols of worhsip these days, and is polyatheistic in nature'. It's a complete nonsense to pretend that atheists believe in demigods, worship idols and is based on polytheism. To believe this would require utter ignorance of what those words and concepts mean. And even if it were true, all it would show is that atheism is as fundamentally flawed as religion. You wouldn't have done anything to recommend religion, you would just have dragged atheism done into the gutter with religion, arguing that both are based on nonsense and blind faith.
You deliberately confuse respect for revolutionary scientists (such as Galileo, Darwin and Einstein) and outspoken atheists (such as Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens) as idol worship. Being religious it's obviously difficult for you to grasp, but atheists don't view these people as gods or even demigods. You moaned about how atheists think Christians see their God, perhaps you should likewise try and understand how atheists view people important to our stance.
Comment by Joe, 08 Jun, 2012
Hi John, I do believe atheism is based on nonsense and blind faith.
If I asked you for the evidence that God does not exist, you do not come up with any.
Do you even have any knowledge that God does not exist?
So all your comments are pure blind faith. It's funny how you have been indoctrinated by 'new atheism' to believe this.
You sure show more blind faith as an athiest, than most theists I know of. Most theists I know are skeptics and we always challenge our beliefs. All the arguments you show against theism are very simple ones, or mistaken ones, and most commonly just silly ones. Which are simple for me to answer, and most theists could anyway. That is why I believe atheism is a silly belief these days, and it's on the decline worldwide.
You even believe babies are atheists, that atheism requires no evidence, and that all theists are mentally ill. With clear evidence stacked against these silly beliefs of yours, you continue to believe your nonsense. Unfortunately for you, this is called a DELUSION.
But I think in your case it might just be that you have just fallen into 'new' atheism, and also have a beef with religion.
Demonstrated with this blog, when you think Williams is appealing to God literally, when he says 'thank God nobody was hurt'. That is not an intellectual atheist argument. It's just a beef with religion. You should get over it, and concentrate on evidence for atheism. Otherwise I'm not buying what you are selling (quoting the Dawkins demigod of atheism).
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Jun, 2012
Joe, you say, 'I asked you for the evidence that God does not exist, you do not come up with any'. As you well know I replied to you here as to why I say gods do not exist. Also you asked for one disproof of some god, any god, I gave you 10, and yet you now claim that I've ignored your requests. At considerable length I have explained my reasons for disbelief in gods. Yet you still ask, 'Do you even have any knowledge that God does not exist?' If you mean by knowledge the omniscient knowledge that you attribute to your god, then no, I do not have concrete, 100% certain knowledge that gods don't exist. But I do have very strong evidence that the natural universe exists and that it doesn't need a god to do so.
I could ask you, 'Do you even have any knowledge that your Christian God does exist?' And of course the answer is no, otherwise atheism wouldn't exist, nor would Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Scientology or Jedi Knights. You claim that my 'comments are pure blind faith', and in that case you're foolishly stating that the conclusions of science, philosophy and history are based on pure blind faith. But you should know that the naturalistic view of the universe is based on exceptionally strong evidence and reasoning, whereas 'pure blind faith' is 'A belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, and may exist even contrary to the evidence'. To pretend that science and religion both rest on blind faith may have worked before da Vinci, Galileo, Newton, Darwin and Einstein, but not anymore. You need to stop pretending that science and religion are evenly matched, and that each has an equal chance of being right. The world was not created in six days, it's not flat, it doesn't rest on pillars, and humans didn't originate in the Garden of Eden, the world's first nudist camp, as your religion claims. I'll put the claims of a modern science textbook against the claims of your Bible any day. Now there's a challenge for you Joe.
Demonstrating that you know very few theists, you claim that 'Most theists I know are skeptics... ' That's like me saying that most pregnant women I know are virgins, but being a Christian that probably makes sense to you too. You continue by claiming that 'we always challenge our beliefs'. Yeah, sure you do. A few weeks ago two theists knocked on my door and behaved like typical Christians when their beliefs were challenged. To my queries they replied, 'Well, we'd be happy to answer your questions but we can see you're busy'. I said, 'No, I'm not busy. Explain away'. They responded, 'No, no, we don't want to hold you up, we'll show you the evidence some other time'. I replied, 'No, I've got nothing else on. Please show me your evidence'. To which they replied, 'Look it's obvious that you don't want to listen, so we'll just go'. And I said, 'Do you actually have any answers or evidence? Why won't you at least try and convince me that you're right?' Their answer: 'Well, we'll be off then, our friends will be worried where we got to'. I'm not making this up, it went exactly like this. It was laughable. Most theists welcome a challenge to their beliefs like I welcome a bad case of food poisoning.
You state that 'All the arguments you show against theism are very simple ones, or mistaken ones, and most commonly just silly ones. Which are simple for me to answer... ' And yet, strangely, you don't answer them, not one of them. You claim there is 'clear evidence stacked against these silly beliefs of yours', but again, for reasons known only to you, you elect not to reveal any of it.
And speaking of delusions, you offer this gem: 'That is why I believe atheism is a silly belief these days, and it's on the decline worldwide'. I think you're confusing the issue here. Whether you agree with atheism or not, there is no denying that the ratio of atheists to believers in western countries is higher now than it has ever been, and it is increasing. Have you not seen the trend in the latest census? Or this article where US research reckons religion is on the road to extinction, not in the US obviously, but in a few sensible countries, including good ol' NZ. More importantly, in this chapter: 'Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns' by Phil Zuckerman from the 'Cambridge Companion to Atheism', the question is asked:
'Is worldwide atheism growing or declining? This is a difficult question to answer simply. On the one hand, there are more atheists in the world today than ever before. On the other hand, worldwide atheism overall may be in decline, due to the demographic fact that highly religious nations have the highest birthrates in the world, and highly irreligious nations have the lowest birthrates in the world...
It also states that 'the correlation between high rates of individual and societal security/well-being and high rates of non-belief in God remains strong'. In other words, educated, secure societies tend to give up on gods, but uneducated, poor countries tend to stick with begging a god for help. If the growth of theists worldwide outstrips atheists, it has nothing to do with theism being correct, merely that theists are breeding faster, helped by ignorance, no access to contraception, and the Catholic ban on contraception. Using your logic Joe, I could argue that literacy is decreasing worldwide, for the same reasons that atheism may be. But is this a good thing, should we push for an illiterate world? Of course not, and neither should we push for a world of ignorant theists. We've already suffered through the Dark Ages.
Thus, the picture is complicated, making definite predictions of the future growth or decline of atheism difficult. What is clear is that while most people continue to maintain a firm belief in deities (especially in the most populous countries) in certain societies, non-belief in God is definitely increasing...
In many societies atheism is growing, however, throughout much of the rest of the world — particularly among the poorest nations with highest birth rates — atheism is barely discernible.'
And what's with this phrase: 'the Dawkins demigod of atheism'? This is a problem with people who believe in gods Joe, you see gods everywhere. A demigod? Who do you believe sired him Joe, Zeus, Horus or Satan perhaps? You reckon I've 'fallen into 'new' atheism' and 'have been indoctrinated by 'new atheism'. Perhaps Joe you need to explain how 'new' atheism differs from 'old' atheism. For example how does that 'Problem of Evil' quote I gave from Epicurus (Greek philosopher, BC 341-270), which I assume is 'old' atheism, not fit into your conception of 'new' atheism? It's almost as if you're suggesting that 'old' atheists weren't really atheists? The only real difference between atheism today and yesteryear is that we have a mountain of evidence supporting a naturalistic universe today. The conclusion is the same: no gods.
You also say, 'I'm not buying what you are selling'. Fear not Joe, unlike religion, atheism is free. We won't be handing around a plate, asking for a tithe, or for a donation to built a church or pay a priest's salary.
As for the topic of this post, in centuries gone by Joe, when believers said 'Thankyou God', they really were thanking God, or thought they were. When believers said 'Praise God', they really were praising God. When believers said 'Please God, answer my prayers', they really were addressing God. When believers said 'It's a miracle', they really did believe that God had performed a miracle. Now, in the 21st century, you say I'm deluded if I actually 'think Williams is appealing to God literally'. Is that what's it's come to Joe? That when people that believe in God mention God I shouldn't for one moment think they're being serious? That when they say, 'I'll pray for you' or say Grace before a meal, I shouldn't take it literally? When they say that they'll be safe because God is watching over them, they don't really believe that, it's just a habit they've got into?
In my post I asked if people that exclaim 'Thank God' are just hypocrites? In a roundabout way you're appearing to say they are. I say that for many, the language of god we hear uttered today and the religious behaviour people exhibit is nothing but a facade and you're saying that I'm gullible to have thought otherwise. You tell me that your god most definitely does not intervene in our lives. All you've done Joe is confirm my claim that the religious today are often not sincere in their beliefs. They say the words, wear the crosses and go through the motions, but none are all that serious, they don't believe that their god is literally listening, literally watching over them, or even literally there. Like you, they've rejected Biblical creation claims and replaced it with cosmology. So again I say, you've turned your God from a caring personal god into an apathetic deist god. How do you respond to this challenge to your Christian belief? After all, was it not you who said, 'we always challenge our beliefs'.
Comment by Ross, 10 Jun, 2012
Hi John, you've gotta love those born-agains huh?...
I thought these cartoons kind of sum them up
And it seems you're up against this one again...
I think I've sent that one before but it exactly what's happening here!
All it would take to settle the argument in favour of the existence of their very secretive sky-fairy is to produce some irrefutable proof. Not a big ask considering how awesome he/she/it apparently is. Instead we get the same old "you prove he doesn't" bollocks. As you have repeatedly said, "the onus of proof is on the claim-maker"! Sad really.
Keep up the good work
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Jun, 2012
Thanks Ross, and here's another cartoon that really does demonstrate the thought that goes into the Christian argument:
Oh, how could I have been so blind? The evidence is overwhelming, the logic impeccable. I'm going out right now to sacrifice a virgin to placate the gods and to try and make amends for my stupidity and arrogance.
Comment by Joe, 10 Jun, 2012
Hi John, again I question whether you are able to debate something honestly, when you offer this corker:
"you offer this gem: 'That is why I believe atheism is a silly belief these days, and it's on the decline worldwide'. I think you're confusing the issue here. Whether you agree with atheism or not, there is no denying that the ratio of atheists to believers in western countries is higher now than it has ever been,"
So your small worldwide evidence is just based on the western world. Sorry I had to laugh, that you are so able to ignore facts, that worldwide atheism is on the big slump.
More and more people are realising that your demigods such as dawkins, harris, hitchens, have fed them lies and misdirection. There are very few real atheists, but there are plenty of hangers on. Oh and if you count all babies now as atheists and claim dog and cats too, I can see why you are deluded into thinking atheism is on the rise.
I find all your arguments for atheism laughable. It is honestly worse than the flat earth society. In spite of good evidence you choose to ignore it and make up some of your own!!
But still, your rantings are amusing, and give me good information on the silly belief system atheism is turning into. People do grow out of it fortunately.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jun, 2012
Joe, you stated categorically that atheism is declining worldwide, and implied that this was because people could see that it was a silly belief. One, you gave no evidence that 'worldwide atheism is on the big slump'. Please provide this evidence. Two, 'worldwide' means everywhere, and that includes western countries. If atheism is not declining in western countries, and unlike you I did provide evidence of this, then the decline is not worldwide. And three, I said that 'even if' the growth of theists worldwide outstrips atheists, it has nothing to do with theism being correct, merely that theists are breeding faster, helped by ignorance and no contraception. Your implication was that people are rejecting atheism because it was silly, whereas most people in developing countries that flock to religion are utterly ignorant of the arguments for atheism.
The reality is that many people that have read the likes of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens are turning to atheism, hence its rise in western countries, whereas in developing countries where religion continues unabated, few people have even heard of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. And I see you're still labouring under the delusion that certain atheists are demigods, and you're even trying to convince yourself that most atheists still believe in your god: 'There are very few real atheists, but there are plenty of hangers on'. No wonder you believe that atheism is in decline if you won't even count people that claim to be atheists.
You finish by stating that 'I find all your arguments for atheism laughable... In spite of good evidence you choose to ignore it and make up some of your own!!'
But Joe, you consistently fail to ever say why my arguments are laughable, you merely claim that they are. Why should I stop believing in them if you refuse to point out the errors? And how can I ignore the 'good evidence' you speak of when you never offer any? Perhaps you could start with your evidence that atheism is declining worldwide, and that this is directly because believers understand that it is silly. I've also asked how you explain the fact that you've turned your God from a caring personal god into an apathetic deist god, and you just ignore the question. What happened to 'we always challenge our beliefs'?
You also talk of 'the silly belief system atheism is turning into. People do grow out of it fortunately'. I would argue that the main evidence that supports atheism — science — is becoming increasingly more reliable, not getting sillier. Also the modern religiosity of western countries clearly shows that educated people tend to grow out of religion and into atheism, not the other way around, as you believe.
Comment by Graeme, 13 Jun, 2012
Joe. I don't understand you. This is really muddled.
"Graeme, I think the word you are looking for in Christianity is trinitarian vs nontrinitarian. Otherwise you might as well add unicorns, flying spaghetti monsters and leprachauns to your list. The others are not Gods or counted as Gods in your list in Christianity, but other religions might worship one or many Gods.
So Christianity is still very monotheistic."
From an outsider's point of view the holy ghost IS equivalent to a unicorn. You're already in Unicornland.
From an outsiders point of view it is also totally clear that Christians believe in multiple supernatural beings and these beings are described in your scriptures. Whether Christians worship only one or not I don't care. They believe in many. There's a reason the trinity is called the trinity. It defines the number 3. Anyway even if I was to buy the unconvincing 3=1 dogma then just one more is enough. Satan.
May I also extol you not to take John's statements out of context when quoting him. You must have known that the "... I hate God" quote in another post was not his position. For you to do that is duplicitous and malicious, and worst of all for you it is most revealing because I can only come to the conclusion that I am posting either to a fool or a rather nasty person.
Comment by Mike-1, 13 Jun, 2012
Atheism is declining worldwide? The Huffington Post begs to differ — Atheism to Defeat Religion By 2038
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Jun, 2012
Hi Mike, excellent article, thanks very much for the link.
Comment by Mike-2, 22 Jun, 2012
Joe really doesn't get it.
Atheism, by definition, is an ABSENCE of belief in gods. It is not necessarily an affirmative position ie. "i believe there is no god", though recognising degrees of atheism it certainly could be for some people. Therefore, saying that i don't believe doesn't require evidence to support it. In fact it is a challenge to those who do believe to convince me. Theists are the ones taking an affirmative position and in doing so should be able to offer reasons for believing in something for which they can provide zero evidence. The onus of proof is on them.
To be clear, i am not saying to theists "you are definitely wrong". I am saying the evidence hasn't led me to the same place you're at.
If i went out publicly and said i believed in Santa, people would laugh at me (i don't by the way). If i provided irrefutable proof, they'd stop laughing and believe too. Why does religion get a pass on this? Why is religion somehow untouchable?
Stump up some proof Joe. Any verifiable empirical evidence of the existence of a supernatural being controlling the world will do.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Jun, 2012
Thanks Mike. Of course I agree completely. I suspect that most Christians simply and honestly don't realise that the onus is on them to prove that gods do exist rather than atheists to prove they don't, since they don't know about the burden of proof. However, once they become aware of this burden, as Joe is, then their continued refusal to accept it is either due to stupidity or the simple realisation that their case is truly hopeless. The latter know that if an argument or evidence existed to prove their god, then it would have been provided long ago. Without this, their only way out of this embarrassing dilemma is to plead ignorance of the burden of proof and the definition of atheism. And then to plead with atheists to prove that a god that they won't even describe doesn't exist somewhere, perhaps hiding terrified behind a proton somewhere in some distant galaxy. They may think they're winning in their own little minds, but then they once thought the world was flat and at the centre of the universe too.
Comment by David, 19 Jul, 2012
John I enjoy your blogs and I agree with you on religion. Sometimes I disagree with other things you say. Since you obviously enjoy an argument, you won't mind if I take you to task on this statement:
While we could all let our base instincts control our actions, as most animals do, with no thought of consequences or the suffering of others, you forget that humans have the unique ability to consider how our actions might affect others and act accordingly. We understand benevolence, altruism and compassion and can easily divorce ourselves from blind instincts. Atheists are more than simply ignorant animals. We can be good simply because we want to. It's not magic, or religion.
There is plenty of evidence that we are not unique but that other animals do regulate their behaviour so as not to harm others. Watch this video that was recently featured in the NZ Herald:
At one point the Doberman has the kitten completely in its jaws. Crunch. But it knows it is playing a game and the kitten survives. There have been a number of research findings recently showing evidence of sympathy, altruism etc. in the behaviour of animals. The Darwinian explanation is that there is a survival benefit from looking after others, even if they don't carry common genes. Of course that makes benevolence etc. blind instinct!
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Jul, 2012
Hi David, and thanks for your comments. You're right of course that there is 'evidence of sympathy, altruism etc. in the behaviour of animals', however this is very rare. This is why I said that 'most animals', rather than all animals, are controlled by base instincts. Reciprocity is seen in the likes of apes, dolphins, elephants and a few other higher mammals, but most benevolent or altruistic behaviour in animals is due to nepotism, and doesn't extend beyond a few close relatives or their species. And this behaviour is, as you say, a blind instinct. When I said humans were unique, I didn't mean that we were the only animals able to act benevolently or altruistically, weren't not. I meant that we are special in that we can think and reason about the different ways we might behave towards others. I said that we 'understand benevolence, altruism and compassion'. No doubt a Doberman can decide whether to kill a kitten or not, as could a lion, who often kills the cubs of other males. But I don't believe these animals are thinking about the greater consequences of their actions, for example whether the kitten's mother or siblings would mourn its death or hate the dog if the kitten was killed. Certainly animals can appear to behave benevolently to others of their species or even other species, but they can also, to quote George Williams, commit 'crimes at least equivalent in their effects (if not their motives) to murder, rape, cannibalism, infanticide, deception, theft, torture and genocide'. We would never condemn or put animals on trial for these 'crimes' (as Christians once did!), so I think it's also wrong to praise them for nice behaviour. I don't believe moral behaviour, the knowledge of right and wrong, exists anywhere in the animal world bar in humans. While some higher mammals may exhibit rudimentary benevolent behaviour, I don't think they are reasoning about morality. And this is what essentially my comments were about, that while evolution has certainly caused humans to develop benevolence, altruism and compassion, only humans are able to rationally decide whether we want to continue following these urges. To decide whether they truly are the right way to behave towards others. My argument was that evolution has given us this ability, as opposed to Joe the Christian who claimed that his god brought morality into existence. He claimed that his god, not evolution, gave us free will to accept his god or not, but not the intellect to decide on right and wrong, good and bad. I see Dobermans the same way that Joe sees humans, they have the choice to obey me or not, but I don't think it's worth debating morality with them. It's beyond them.
Comment by David, 20 Jul, 2012
(and closer to the subject)
My ex brother in law is a fervent Christian, and I have on a number of occasions gone to their church (in Oman, part funded by the Sultan — keeper of the Muslim faith — but that's another story) to hear my nephews and niece perform for the congregation and I noted with interest how each time, the flock was led in prayer for the poor and the sick and that they asked God to help the said poor and the sick. A caring and noble act, one might think. But I couldn't help thinking a) hadn't they noticed that God had been singularly unresponsive to their prayers and b) how convenient it was that having asked their God to intervene on their behalf, their obligations to do something about the poor and sick had been met.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Jul, 2012
Exactly David. Like you I don't understand how devout believers (of any faith) can sincerely believe that their god is looking out for them and responding to their prayers. Take the Muslims screaming 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Great) as they're being shot at. And as you say, having begged god to help the poor and sick, these Xians happily retreat back to their luxury malls, swimming pools and Facebook pages completely unconcerned that the poor and sick are still with us. Bloody hypocrites.
Comment by David, 22 Jul, 2012
Hmm — It has been the teaching of religions that mankind is something apart from mere animals. It is a convenient world view. I am not sure that it is sustainable. We are by far the most successful and we have been able to extend our capabilities in ways other animals have not achieved, but are we really unique?
Two more clips for you:
We are missing something. The second is attributing human ability to use fire etc to mirror neurons that he says are unique to humans (and supports your and the Christian viewpoint). But the main behaviours he attributes to them are, according to the first clip, shared with other primates.
Anyway, it is tangential to your prime thesis with which I do agree.
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