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Stardate 12.023

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

Skeptic

NZ Christians lie to flee justice
Near the end of our last post I mentioned the recent tragic deaths of three Kiwi missionaries in Kenya, all connected to Bethlehem College in NZ. I highlighted (once again) how many Christians conveniently forget their god following bad times. That is, when something bad has happened they deliberately hide the fact that their god was nowhere to been seen, that at the very time that they needed his protection most he was conspicuously absent.

What happened to the divine promises that they were raised on and that they use to evangelise with? Such as: '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, and 'When you cross deep rivers, I will be with you, and you won't drown'. ISA 43:2. Is that why the 7 Christians from the Elim Christian College who drowned in a flooded stream in the Tongariro National Park in April 2008 thought they'd be safe?

But far more embarrassing than this hypocrisy, last night it was revealed that these righteous Christians lied about the road accident that killed three Kiwis and their Kenyan driver. With the surviving Kiwis safely back in NZ these devout Baptists have now admitted that the Kenyan they blamed for the deaths wasn't driving after all, he was a passenger. The real driver was another Kiwi Baptist from Bethlehem College, 18 year-old David Fellows. In collusion with the Kenyan Christians they were working with, these people deliberately and deviously lied to the Kenyan authorities, the media, and, we're asked to believe, their college in NZ and their families. The Bethlehem College Principal Eoin Crosbie claims that the decision to hide the truth was made by the Kenyans, and so he implies that the Kiwi Christians need feel no guilt. What bullshit! Perhaps a Kenyan decided they should lie, but the Kiwis willingly played along. That's as immoral as the Nazis who at the Nuremberg trials insisted they were only following orders. Are we expected to believe that good Christians will willingly lie, and who knows what else, if someone tells them to? The College Principal 'believes' that a cover-up was concocted because they needed to get the Kiwis back to NZ and 'they didn't want a police investigation to inhibit that in any way'. Update: (30 Jan) It appears that the full truth is still being hidden, with the Kenyan Liaison Officer Calvine Ominde denying that he was the instigator of the cover-up: 'Why should I cover up for them when I'm mourning?... When I'm mourning the death of my friend. I really feel offended'.

Imagine if that happened in NZ? Would we all be happy if foreign tourists causing fatal accidents on our roads routinely lied to enable them to flee the country, and so avoid a police investigation and potentially avoid justice? If we insist that those causing deaths on our roads, whether Kiwi or foreign, must face our legal system, why should we think it's moral to conspire to avoid similar justice in other countries?

When asked on the TV3 News, the College Principal wouldn't comment on whether he thought lying to the authorities to evade Kenyan justice was the right thing to do. And these bastards have the arrogance to preach to us about morality! How easily they brush aside their God-given morals for self interest. When it came to the crunch, their faith deserted them and they embraced the realities of a secular world. The Christians fled Kenya with hand on heart promoting a deception, convinced that their God couldn't protect them, and the College Principal seemingly supports their call that God had deserted them, and that lying and fleeing were the good Christian traits that were called for.

We also note that the College Principal broke news of the deception on Tuesday, although he found out on Saturday. Does the delay mean that the College debated whether they should even reveal that several of their upright Christians had lied about such a serious incident? Did some argue that they appeared to have gotten away with the cover-up, why not just keep mum?

How many Kiwis on hearing the news of three deaths might have felt some ill will towards the Kenyan driver that these Christians said was driving? How did the Kenyan's family fare on hearing that he was responsible for killing three selfless Kiwi missionaries that had travelled halfway around the world to help them? Were they persecuted by their neighbours and fellow church members? How could these people in all good conscience blame an innocent person for the deaths? It smacks of our dark past, with the slave taking the blame for the crimes of his master.

Of course in some countries, and I have little idea how just the legal system is in Kenya, it might be better to flee than face corrupt authorities. I might not be confident that I will get a fair trial, and unlike O. J. Simpson I wouldn't be able to afford the best defence lawyers that money could buy. But this incident is about far more than what I might do, it's about what moralising devout Christians should do. While I would have no powerful protector in foreign lands, Christians insist that they do. Remember their claim: 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me'. So with God on your team, watching your back, smiting your enemies, why should you need to lie and flee the country? Why wouldn't you be confident that if innocent then justice would prevail? I'd pay good money to see a trial with God as the defence lawyer.

Or is Kenya like some of those city neighbourhoods we hear of on TV, so dangerous and lawless that even the police refuse to patrol the streets? Is Kenya so wicked and corrupt — a modern Sodom and Gomorrah — that even God can't be found there? Is that why Christians feel compelled to do missionary work there, because God is too scared to set foot in the place? History would say yes.

Embarrassingly for Christians this incident has exposed more than just one cover-up. They weren't just caught lying about a road accident, their lies have exposed a monumental cover-up, with centuries upon centuries of lies all designed to hide the truth behind another unfortunate death. This one wasn't in a van, it was on a cross. The recent lie was: 'We weren't driving, it was the black guy'. The original lie was: 'We don't know where the body is. We left it right over there. OMG! He must have come back to life!'

Seemingly, as these devout Baptists recently realised, that guy didn't rise from the dead to walk alongside and protect his followers, and they were forced to put a new plan into action . The Christians have this silly saying: 'There are no atheists in foxholes', implying that when the going gets tough even atheists scream out for God's help. Of course this is as stupid as a Muslim insisting that 'There are no Christians in foxholes', meaning that Christians will quickly realise their error and scream out for Allah's help. But the fact is, if this incident demonstrates anything, it's that it is Christians that readily ditch their God when things get serious.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Jan, 2013 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Anonymous-1, 30 Jan, 2013

    Brilliant response! Thanks a million. Keep up the great work. Just a pity the news media don't have the guts to publish this, But then the 'System' is heavily weighted in all the offenders favour. As a result, the likes of this (truth) is always suppressed.

  2. Comment by Anonymous-2, 31 Jan, 2013

    Unbelieveable isn't it? How can they be so stupid as to not realise everyone can see their utter hypocrisy and the shallowness of their claimed Christian beliefs?

  3. Comment by Anonymous-3, 31 Jan, 2013

    Unbelievable pack of wankers! Let some poor native take the rap!

  4. Comment by Phill, 01 Feb, 2013

    Hi guys — though I concur with your views, I think you have forgotten the great Christian "out", which is when divine protection fails and one or more of their number are killed in tragic circumstances or even in normal ones. They will front up and say "Its all part of God's mysterious plan." Which you have to admit is a great "out". Normally God protects me while I walk through the valley of death, because I am a true believer, but if for some reason he doesn't and I don't make it out of the valley — well it was all part of some mysterious plan the almighty has for me and for the rest of us which we mere mortals could never fathom, I mean he is God after all! Which may explain why many Christians seem so paranoid, I mean you put your faith in this great sky hoping psycho, who says he will protect you from all harm, except when he doesn't because he has other plans for you. Hell it would give any one the heebee jeebees.

  5. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Feb, 2013

    Hi Phill. No, I hadn't overlooked that Christians would of course have excuses, they always do have. But, and I'm sure you'll agree, there is a huge difference between childishly pathetic excuses that explain nothing and excuses that are reasonable.

  6. Comment by H, 01 Feb, 2013

    John, request a copy of 'The Wisdom of Psychopaths' from your local library, apart from the fact that it is riveting reading, the last chapter suggest that saints are psychopaths.... specifically Saul/St Paul. I'm convinced.

    Given that the christian bible hangs on St Paul, that could be considered very eroding of the good ol faith :-)

  7. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Feb, 2013

    Thanks for the suggestion. Frankly I think there's a great deal of mental illness in religious history. You make another good point too, I don't think many people realise how important St Paul is to Christianity. He can be credited with creating it in my opinion, not Jesus. Much of what Christians now push would not have been supported by Jesus.

  8. Comment by Phill, 09 Feb, 2013

    Hi John — I agree, but then are not all religious beliefs really just childish? I would be pushed to consider what religious argument is in fact reasonable. Keep up the good work!

  9. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Feb, 2013

    Are not all religious beliefs really just childish, you ask? Indeed they are Phill. Indeed they are. As excuses go, I meant to argue that not all excuses offered in this world are unreasonable, such as I'm late because I got a flat tyre, but as you say, religious excuses always fail this test.

Spiritual beliefs and mental health
Psychiatrist's couch Recently I read an article entitled 'Spiritual people are more likely to be mentally ill' that stated that 'A study found that people professing to be spiritual, but not conventionally religious, were more likely to suffer from a host of mental challenges. They suffered problems including abnormal eating conditions, drug abuse, anxiety disorder, phobias and neurosis. They were also more likely than others to be taking medication for mental health problems'.

By 'religious' the study meant those that 'attended a church, mosque, synagogue or temple', while spiritual described those that had 'spiritual beliefs or experiences without following a specific religion'. The other group considered were those that 'were neither religious nor spiritual'.

On the bright side, the study said that 'Being spiritual may give life deeper meaning'. But then it's easy to give life greater meaning if you are deluded. For example, Xmas carries far greater meaning for young children than it does for adults solely because of their false belief in Santa Claus. If the goal is deeper meaning rather than facing reality, then perhaps we should just dope everyone with psychotropic drugs? Their fantasy world would be false, but at least they'd be happy and content. We must realise that just because someone claims to have found some deeper meaning to the universe doesn't mean they've found the truth, but merely an answer they like.

So if true, why might spiritual people be more likely to suffer from anxiety or some phobia? Does having silly beliefs cause mental problems or is it innate mental problems that prevent people from realising that their beliefs are silly? I suspect the latter. I used to believe in many silly things, mainly in what are deemed my formative years. I believed in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and talking rabbits wearing waistcoats. And although I'm a little vague on this one, I suspect that I once believed in God and his son whom he had killed. I used to believe that Robin Hood, William Tell and King Arthur were real characters from history and that politicians could be trusted.

But believing in these silly things in my childhood didn't lead to me develop mental or behavioural problems. On the contrary, I had a perfectly normal upbringing free of behavioural challenges. My early belief in things spiritual didn't cause problems, and as I matured my innate mental reasoning effortlessly dismissed belief in gods, fairies and ghosts. My brain and my upbringing, nature and nurture, gave me the tools to see and accept the world as it really is. Likewise the brain and upbringing of both the religious and the spiritual seemingly keeps them on their chosen yellow brick road. It's not the beliefs themselves that cause the mental problems (after all quantum mechanics is far weirder than the notion of a soul), it's fighting to keep them against all the contradictory evidence. How could you not develop a complex if most everyone was telling you that you were wrong? Of course you might argue that atheists are in the minority worldwide, so we should have a complex too. But even though the world's religious and spiritual majority say we're wrong, all the scientific, historical and philosophical evidence says we're right. And knowing you're right builds confidence, not neurosis. The religious and spiritual know only too well that they are standing on the products of science, not gifts from some god. How can it not be mentally troubling when confronted with this realisation that the world doesn't match your beliefs? How can people believe in telepathy but are still forced to use a cell phone like the rest of us? How can people believe in spirits that will tell mediums what colour we should paint our kitchen but will never tell us where a missing child is? Is it not a failing of the brain that allows people to maintain these silly beliefs against all reason and evidence?

To me it's the structure of your brain that's important, its ability to use reason to understand the world and accept what it finds rather than create fantasies of what it desires. It's not simply what beliefs you're fed that cause mental problems, it's the brain you're born with and how it's nurtured, both physically and intellectually.

But why might the spiritually inclined fare worse than others? I see the difference between mainstream religions and spiritual folk as only a matter of degree, they both believe in supernatural nonsense of some description, they just disagree on what god's name is, what he gets up to and just how he or his agents interact with the world. It's a little like, what's the difference between a religion and a cult? Answer: a religion has more members. For example, there can be no doubt that Christianity was a cult when it started. The only thing that's changed between then and now is the number of members. Likewise, while Christians and Muslims call themselves religious and disparage those that call themselves spiritual, to me they all have the same dodgy foundation — supernatural beliefs — and all ask their adherents to accept silly things with no evidential support. But religion is mainstream while spiritual beliefs are fringe. They're equally nutty, equally deluded, but the religious generally receive support and respect from society, which no doubt keeps their worries and anxieties in check to a large extent. They can wear their silly crosses and perform their primitive rituals in public and they don't attract strange glances or giggles, which causes them to think that they're normal. I've even heard of many that have lost their belief in God and yet still continue their church visits solely to retain the social benefits and fellowship that they offer. Spiritual believers however don't find the same acceptance by society, which could well generate a 'host of mental challenges' for some. The religious are supported in their delusions, the spiritual aren't. It's plausible that some might struggle with this realisation that no one understands them.

True atheists, like ourselves, take a humanistic approach, accepting that humans exist in a naturalistic universe. To lead a good life and live in a moral and progressive society is all up to human effort. We have the support of science and history and critical thinking to boost our confidence. Of course the natural world contains many elements that mystify us, that scare us and that even harm and kill us, but knowing that these things are often random in nature or can be predicted to a degree and prepared for, gives us a degree of comfort. They are natural. Knowing that some malicious god is not conspiring behind the scenes is very liberating, as is knowing that we're not being spied upon in the shower by a god with an unhealthy interest in our genitals. We are resigned to the fact that the universe is ignorant and indifferent to our presence and that it's up to us to make a difference, not some capricious god.

So as we see it, both the religious and the atheistic derive comfort from their worldview, and receive support from their like minded fellows. The religious have their popes and imams, Bibles and Korans and the fellowship of millions of people who think likewise. In times of trouble they are supported and comforted by comments such as: 'God moves in mysterious ways', 'You just have to have faith', and 'God did it'. Atheists on the other hand look to scientists and other academics, universities, science documentaries and textbooks, and are supported and reassured by comments such as: earthquakes are caused by plate tectonics not gods angry at homosexuals, disease is caused by pathogens not demons, people die of natural causes not because of sins, the history of life and the universe can be traced through billions of years, all completely natural with no hint of the fingerprints of gods.

But the spiritual are stuck somewhere in the middle, between the confident worldviews of the religious and the atheistic. To me, spiritual more often than not seems to describe people who believe in one or more of the following: fate, destiny, witchcraft, curses, omens, psychic mediums, ghosts, souls, the supernatural, the paranormal and New Age religions etc. For example they can believe in an immaterial soul and ghosts and mediums talking to the dead, while apparently ignoring any connection to God or gods. Of course you only have to scratch the surface to discover that their concept of souls and an afterlife does necessitate a god of some description, although they often fail to grasp this. It's the same with fate and destiny, someone has to be running the show as they describe it.

The spiritual are intelligent and rational enough, but only just, to realise that the stories and claims put forward by all the mainstream religions are by equal measure quite barbaric and obscene, and quite unbelievable. But in some sense they like the overarching story idea, that the universe needs a creator, that humans are special, and that there exists a supernatural, immaterial or spiritual connection between life and the natural world, but they don't like the characters chosen by mainstream religions to play the parts of the gods. So spiritual believers don't believe the stories offered by the religious, or to be more accurate they don't believe the specifics offered by the mainstream religions. Several people have said to me that they're not religious and don't believe in God, and I think, good for you. Then I'm dismayed by their follow up statement: 'But I still think that there must be something out there that created all this… I mean, it can't have just happened'. What they're saying is that they don't believe in God A or God B or God C etc, the gods of the mainstream religions, but that they believe in God X, an unknown creator who, when you think about it, must be just as powerful and knowledgeable as God A etc to have created life, the universe and everything. The only difference between God X and the Jewish, Christian or Muslim God is that he/she/it doesn't demand to be worshiped and obeyed. He could still be interfering in the world, caring about what happens, but simply isn't desperate to be praised for his involvement, not desperate for celebrity, and not feeling the need that people cry out his name while having sex. Many spiritual people should be relabelled deists, believing in a god, but not a personal one. (Although how the Jewish, Christian and Muslim God can be called a personal God is beyond me, since he never interacts personally with anyone, or at least hasn't for thousands of years. And even then it was usually only to punish people. With friends like that, who needs enemies?!)

The religious are generally respected and supported in their beliefs by their family, friends, neighbours and community, with access to numerous places to observe their practices, but even though they have similar brain chemistry and wiring, the spiritual are not so lucky. Their fringe beliefs are often viewed as weird and wacky, respected by neither theists nor atheists. If you believe in witchcraft or chase ghosts or dance naked around a camp fire to appease the forest gods, you don't tend to admit this to many people. Where you live there most likely won't be a group or organisation offering you support and fellowship. There will be plenty of local churches but no local coven.

These people have the belief that the supernatural or paranormal influences their lives in some way, so just as the religious worry over offending their god, this otherworldly influence can equally cause them worry and stress. How well they deal with it no doubt affects their life to some degree. If you believe in some silly spiritual thing, say ghosts, who do you seek out for support and advice? The religious won't support your belief, neither will the skeptically inclined. So it could be easy to feel isolated and shunned. Psychologically, how do the spiritual come to terms with the knowledge that most of society think they're deluded? Most no doubt ignore popular opinion and convince themselves that it's the religious and atheists that are seriously mistaken. But considering all three groups, the religious, the spiritual and atheists, I suspect it would be hardest for the spiritual to support and maintain their beliefs. Might this struggle cause mental challenges for some? I see believing in things spiritual as a huge mental challenge in itself, and defending this belief to a disbelieving world can only tax the ol' neurons even more.

The world is a strange place, the great majority live their lives giving at the very least a cursory nod to the gods, while the world oblivious to what this nod means simply ignores them. A naturalistic world bereft of gods is swamped by supernatural believers living in societies that utilise science and technology to their advantage. They rush about with an iPhone in one hand and a holybook in the other, oblivious to how ridiculous this is. They regularly pray to their god but quickly rush to a hospital whenever they get sick. They talk about fate or destiny but then often strive to achieve some goal? What's the point, if it's going to happen then nothing you do will change that, why not just sit back and wait? When wanting to know whether drugs or cell phones are safe they demand evidence from academics, not priests or rabbis. Insurance companies call certain disasters Acts of God, and yet even the religious think they should be covered for them. They don't think, 'Well my god wanted it to happen so I can hardly demand compensation from secular sources'. In fact they often forget their god in bad times. Two weeks ago three Kiwis were tragically killed in a road accident in Kenya. TV reporters flew to Kenya to cover their anguish and interview the survivors, and they and family members and friends in NZ have featured on the TV news several times since. The interesting point is that the three were part of a NZ Baptist Church missionary group, but strangely missing from their tearful tales is any talk of God. Listening to them you'd think they were all atheists. Why when things like this happen do the religious hide their religion? Is it because the usual confident assertion that belief in their God will keep you save is proven blatantly false in these cases? If you're not safe as a devout believer doing God's work, then when are you safe? And just what is God doing that's so important that these selfless missionaries have to keep stepping in to do his work for him anyway? Hasn't God's break from the universe gone on just a little too long? These are all problems that the religious and the spiritual need to resolve.

It's no wonder that some of those with spiritual beliefs might develop mental challenges as they struggle to understand the universe as they dream it to be. Trying to convince yourself that there are invisible fairies at the bottom of your garden, contrary to all the evidence, can't be easy. The religious are more secure with their fairies since they have strength in numbers, all willing to stroke each others' fantasies. And again it must be their brain chemistry that allows them to blindly swallow this nonsense. I can't even imagine what smoke and mirrors their brain must employ to fool them, but I'm guessing that happy-clappy reinforcement from millions chanting the same thing helps a great deal. But spiritual believers, lacking this unity, struggle to find acceptance in a world that refuses to bend to their fantasies. And unable to come to terms with this disparity, some might well find themselves with mental issues.

Of course a competent god would have designed a brain that wouldn't run off the rails and lead its owner down blind alleys.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Jan, 2013 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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The Myths of Christmas
A local church, regular as clockwork, has once again erected its sign: 'Remember that Jesus is the Reason for the Season'. A desperate attempt to remind the community that Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, a small time Jewish carpenter who thought he was the son of a god. On the bright side — from an atheist point of view — churches only need to push this message at Xmas time because modern society is fast forgetting that old myth. Society has embraced a new myth, and to the extreme annoyance of Christians, have arrogantly placed it right on top of the old Christian myth. Just as Christians used to build their churches atop pagan temples. And to the horror of Christians everywhere, children and parents have happily opted for Santa over Jesus. And who wouldn't? Have you ever heard of Santa threatening a small child with an eternity in Hell, or seen a picture of Santa nailed to two pieces of wood, naked, bloody and dying? And Christians wonder why kids flock to Santa's Grotto rather than to churches and creepy old men dressed in black and wearing dog collars. They wonder why kids happily write and call Santa (and receive a reply) but never pen a note to Jesus. Perhaps it's because God and Jesus won't give out their contact details, and that Santa only asks for some milk and cookies, not your total obedience. Evidently God or Jesus might call you, if the need arises, but to date that has never happened. And seriously, why would God ever NEED to call anyone?

Xmas So for the majority of people, Christmas is now Xmas, it's all about Santa Claus, flying reindeer and presents. Just as Easter is all about the Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs, the ancient god called Jesus that arose from God's rape of Mary and who was later murdered by his father has slowly faded from the festivals, replaced by Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Just as fictional of course, but far more child-friendly. And many children, when asked about Jesus at Xmas and Easter, exhibit utter ignorance: Who is this Jebus you speak of?

And that's got to be a good thing. Right?

It's quite fitting I think that Christians are now faced with this problem, their religious festival being hijacked by a new upstart on the block. One mythical being is replacing another. It's proper that Christians finally have to experience what it's like to have a cherished festival ripped out from under them and replaced with something foreign. Perhaps there's some justice in the world after all? This is because Christians have been through it all before, back some time around the 4th century CE, except that back then they were the new upstart hijacking a long standing religious festival. It's annoying that Christians are now playing the part of the aggrieved party, sorely miffed that their version of Xmas has been sidelined, but this is because they are ignorant of their own history and the part they played in destroying someone else's beliefs. The past has come back to haunt them, and they can't act offended or superior, since what Santa is doing to Jesus, pushing him towards oblivion, they did to pagan beliefs.

So what's special about Xmas day, December 25th? To counter the silly Christian slogan, we like to respond with the real reason December 25th gets its own festival:

MERRY SUMMER SOLSTICE
Remember the tilt of the Earth's axis
is the reason for the season

The Xmas season has nothing to do with the birth of mythical gods. It's all to do with the natural world, not the supernatural one.

Earth Axis The earth's axis, the imaginary line between the north and south poles around which the earth rotates, is tilted approximately 23.5 degrees off vertical (off the ecliptic), and it is this tilt that is the main cause of the seasons as the earth orbits the sun each year. Thus much of the earth experiences summer, autumn, winter and spring. If the earth's axis was vertical, then we would have no real seasons. This parade of the seasons has been known for thousands of years, long before Jesus decided to pay us a visit (not that he really did of course). People recognised that the position of the sun in the sky and the length of the day signalled when one season changed into another. Four such days were the summer solstice, the autumn equinox, the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Approaching the winter solstice, the path of the sun across the sky from east to west each day got lower each day, the days got shorter and the nights longer. No doubt in early times people feared that the sun would continue its fall and disappear forever. The world would be pitched into a dark winter. But then they discovered that there was a yearly cycle that could be predicted, and on the winter solstice the sun's apparent fall would cease, and it would once again begin its slow climb in the sky, heralding the coming of spring and summer. And people felt this turning point was cause for celebration, and midwinter feasts were held. Any excuse for a party. (Of course in the southern hemisphere, around Xmas time we celebrate the summer solstice, not the winter solstice, which is why our Xmas cards have images of Santa sunbathing at the beach rather than struggling through the snow. Summer is the reason we have extended holidays at this time , not Jesus. Socialising with family and friends is the reason we look forward to the Xmas season, not Jesus.)

But in the northern hemisphere it was winter. In Roman times, a pagan festival extending over many days know as Saturnalia was held as the winter solstice approached and they celebrated the 'Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus', the 'Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun', on December 25th. In our modern Gregorian calender the winter solstice is Dec 21st, but in the old Julian calendar Dec 25th was the winter solstice. As the Roman Empire gave way to Christian rule, people continued to celebrate Saturnalia, no doubt to the annoyance of the Church Fathers. So as the old saying goes, 'If you can't beat them, join them', and the Church set the cogs in motion to hijack the pagan Saturnalia / winter solstice festival and turn it into a festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ instead.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states that the midwinter pagan festivals may have influenced 'the choice of the December date', but falls short of admitting that they deliberately set out to destroy the pagan elements by replacing them with their own. But then they would say that, they are very reluctant to acknowledge that Christianity went out of its way to destroy pagan beliefs wherever they found them, tearing down temples, burning documents and killing pagans if need be.

Talk of the rising of the Sun, and of new life in the coming Spring, was easily changed to talk of the rising of the Son, and of the new life that Jesus promised. You can't say the early Christians weren't cunning. Hijacking the winter solstice festivals was a great PR move.

Apparently at that time Christians had no great interest in celebrating the birth of Jesus, probably because they didn't know when that was (and still don't), and they were already fixated on his horrible death at the hands of his father. But they didn't like Christians being involved with anything pagan. Even today some devout Christians forbid their kids from reading Harry Potter or participating in Halloween due to their pagan elements. Strangely, while trying to rid the pagan influence from Dec 25, for this particular feast they went with the name Easter, derived from the name of the pagan goddess Eastre. They changed Saturnalia into Christmas, meaning Christ's festival, or the feast of the nativity of Jesus, so why didn't they change Easter into something like 'Christmas 2: This Time it's Personal', or maybe 'Christdeeth', meaning Christ's death? I think they really dropped the ball on the Easter name.

So it's a complete myth that Jesus Christ was born on Dec 25th, or even at all in our view. But if he was a real person, he certainly wasn't born in the middle of winter. The meagre details in the Bible surrounding his birth definitely rule out a winter birth, most likely it was Spring if anything.

The real advantage with the Xmas Santa myth over the Jesus myth, is that kids always grow out of it, and it does no lasting harm. You never hear of adults waking in a cold sweat screaming, 'No, no, no... I don't what any new toys', unlike kids and adults alike that wake screaming, 'No, no, no... I don't want to go to Hell'. That one can haunt people for life it seems.

Merry Mythmas It's amazing the number of people that believe in the Christmas myths. Besides believing in the wrong birthday, there's the silly one that Mary was a virgin, that Jesus was born in a stable, that there were three wise men, that they followed a star (yeah right, like that would work), that Herod slaughtered all the new-born babies, that Jesus and his family fled to Egypt etc. None of these are true, none of them, and yet once again we have Christians insisting that Jesus is the reason for the season, not Santa Claus. They want to retain one fantasy over another. Many people are right when they say that Xmas is for kids, because only kids can be excused for believing in such nonsense. But what excuse can adult Christians provide for believing in a powerful, all knowing and unseen being that will reward them if they're good, and put their names on a different list if they're bad?

We can have respect for people that argue strongly for something that they have studied, but Christians in general argue for something they are largely ignorant of.

As an outspoken atheist, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that until recently my own mother thought that she was a good Christian solely because she tried to live a good life, to be kind and look out for others. I said, No, to be a Christian, good or bad, you had to believe in Jesus Christ, that he was the son of God, that he died for our sins and rose again. To be a Christian you had to be follower of Christ, hence the name. Her answer, 'Well... no... I don't believe in all that Jesus stuff'.

I didn't have a religious upbringing, we never went to church and Dad simply couldn't be bothered with religion, but it was Mum's idea to send me to Sunday School as a child. Thankfully I have no memory of a single lesson, but I am annoyed — now — that I was forced to waste so many hours where adults did nothing but lie to me. Or at least I hope that's all they did, you know what they say about churches, horrific events and repressed memories.

But seriously, the only person remotely interested in religion in my family was my mother. She believed in God and I was baptised a Methodist (which reminds me, I must get that cancelled), so why did she think she was a Christian when she had no time for this Jesus chap?

My mother grew up in a time when if someone did something despicable, such as keeping some money they had found when they knew who it probably belonged to, then people would say that that was a very un-Christian act, that it was not the Christian thing to do. Mum was of the opinion that people who tried to do the right thing, tried to live by a moral code, were Christians. This clearly shows how Christianity has convinced many people that to be good, to be moral, is to be a Christian. The Church has taught for centuries that a good person and a Christian are one and the same, and can't be separated. So we now have people like my mother that believed that if she was a good person, then she was by default a Christian as well. She had been suckered into this bogus notion that our morals come from God, and to live by God's morals made you a Christian. She believed that to be a moral person, to be a good person, that this was intimately connected to God and Christianity. Like many Christians still insist, she was told that God is the source of morals, the only source, and to deny God would be to give up on morality, to become immoral. She evidently remembered more from her childhood church visits than I did. Like everyone of her era she had heard of the Ten Commandments and knew they were important. I think this is why she was initially upset that I would happily and deliberately let people know that I was an atheist (by wearing my Born Again Atheist badge), and that they might think her son was an immoral, evil bastard, someone not to be trusted. Not that she thought I was immoral, but fearful that others didn't know me like she did, why might they not assume the worse? Without a belief in God, how could I be moral, how could I be good?

Of course like nearly everyone, including most real Christians, my mother can no more list the Ten Commandments than she can explain Einstein's Theory of Relativity, either one of them. Of course, again like everyone, she can name the don't kill, don't steal and maybe even the no adultery one, but that's about it. For a list that people claim is so vital, it's revealing that almost no one can list more than half of them. And yet they all claim to live by them, but how can you follow laws that you don't even know? Can you list all 10? Even most Christians flout at least one of the commandments, and that's: Respect the Sabbath. Until just a few decades ago, most Christians did rest on Sunday, avoiding work, movies, shopping etc., but few do now. And even if they did, the Sabbath is Saturday, so resting on Sunday doesn't count. And even if they followed every one of the Ten Commandments, there are actually 613 of God's commandments in the Bible. Following just ten is hardly making much of an effort, and it's surprising that Christians think God won't notice. Actually most Christians don't think this, since they don't know that there are more than the Ten Commandments. Just another example of their ignorance. And when I've informed them of these other commandments, not one has elected to live by them. They all say God must have made a mistake with those ones, or they were meant for someone else, not them, etc. Pathetic really, this arrogance that they would argue with God.

My mother insists she is a good person, and she is, even though she can't list the Ten Commandments. Mum is not a liar, and people often say one of the Ten Commandments is not to lie, but it's not. Likewise there is no commandment prohibiting sex with children, and look how priests have taken advantage of that omission. Priests know God's commandments intimately and my mother does not, by I know which I would happily leave small children with.

I explained to Mum that her being a good person proves that she, and everyone else, can be moral while at the same time being utterly ignorant of God's commandments. It proves that morality doesn't come from some old god and his silly list of laws. I reminded her that at one time good Christians thought that keeping slaves and burning witches and keeping women as second class citizens was the moral thing to do. Ratting out your neighbour or even your husband to the priest and the Inquisition was the way to be a good person, a good Christian, and anything less was the way to Hell. In 1600 CE, when philosopher Giordano Bruno looked at moving back to Italy a friend generously offered him a house, and when he arrived, his 'friend' turned him in to the Inquisition for heresy and blasphemy. The church burnt him at the stake. On reflection my mother now understands that her morality is far removed from Biblical morality, and this makes her a person with decent, humanist morals, and not barbaric God-given morals.

Discussing more of the things God demands of his followers, such as slaughtering atheists and disobedient children, such as women not being allowed to talk in church, such as banning the eating of shellfish and wearing clothes made of two different fabrics, Mum was shocked to learn that the God that she had sort of believed in her entire life could have demanded such things, and that Christians could think that this was a moral code worth following slavishly.

Mum, like most Christians, didn't know that the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John weren't written by the apostles of Jesus, or anybody that had even met Jesus. She didn't know that Christianity was really a creation of St Paul, not Jesus, and that Jesus would not recognise or agree with what is now preached under his name. Jesus was a xenophobe or racist, he had no intention of permitting non-Jews into his group. Jesus told his disciples: 'Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel'. MT 10:5-6. When a non-Jew approached him he initially ignored her, explaining that only the Jews are God's children and everyone else are just dogs in comparison. Mum did not know that Jesus, the alleged great man of peace and love, said that:

'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man's enemies will be the members of his own household'. 'Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;' MT 10:34-37
Devout Christians know all the quotes that make Jesus and God sound wonderful, but are woefully ignorant, or deceptively silent, on all the quotes that show them up as real bastards. While they're desperate to continue the feel-good Christmas myth of the baby Jesus in the manger, they're more than happy that other stories surrounding their long dead carpenter remain hidden.

And as an aside, what ever happened to all that treasure his parents received from the 'Three Kings', the gold, incense and myrrh? It's never mentioned again, and his parents continued to live a very basic life. Did Joseph gamble it all away, did they loose it all on some bad investments or did their accountant run off with it? Or was it yet another myth?

Thanks to conversations we've had of late, Mum no longer sees herself as a Christian, although she'll probably still tick Methodist in the next census. However I'd describe her as more of an agnostic.

So the silly season is nearly upon us, where a fantasy is perpetuated for yet another year. We already have Santa, surely one fantasy is enough for people to cope with? And at least kids grow out of that one. Make a choice between a harmful fantasy that terrifies kids and adults — Christianity — and a harmless one that can bring joy. Surely the choice is obvious? Let's make Christ's feast as unfamiliar as Saturnalia, and accept that the tilt of the Earth's axis really is the reason for the season. Happy holidays.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Dec, 2012 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Ailsa, 23 Dec, 2012

    I was intending to read the article on Ken Ring, and got involved with your article, and

    found two areas of agreement - 1. Saturday is the Sabbath, and 2. There is a difference between religiosity and genuine belief in Christ's teachings.

    The bulk of the article sounded quite mean-spirited though. and I found it sad that you took such pride in destroying your mother's faith (however ill-founded you considered it to be).

    Some Christians have taken an insulting, critical, attitude towards atheists which I, as a Christian, find equally insulting. We are free to choose our belief system, and should allow others the same freedom.

    so, while being at opposite ends of the scale, I wish you a Happy Christmas too!

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Dec, 2012

    Hi Ailsa. I did not take pride or pleasure in 'destroying' my mother's faith in Jesus. I simply told her a fact that no doubt you yourself would have happily told her if she had asked: That Christians believe in Jesus Christ, that he was the son of God, that he died for our sins and rose again. My mother's devout sister, her childhood in church and every Christian evangelist that has ever knocked on her door should have destroyed my mother's faith in Jesus if she had ever taken the time to listen to them. As a Christian, would you and your church happily accept new members even though you knew they were there for the wrong reasons, that they didn't believe in Jesus? I know you might befriend them, but would you assure them that they were indeed good Christians even though you knew they didn't believe in Jesus? Would you lie to them? Do Christians do that?

    Or perhaps you might attempt to educate them, to show them what you believed to be the truth about Jesus? And in doing so, you might cause them to turn away from their previous belief and take a new path? How is this different to what I did? I value the truth as I see it, as no doubt you do, and when I hear someone relating a falsehood, I don't nod meekly in support, I politely point out the flaws in their view. And I'm more than happy for people to challenge my views as well, I want the truth, not just a belief that's comfortable. Just yesterday I had Christian evangelists again knocking on my door, all in an attempt to get me to reassess my worldview. And yet when I stand up for the truth as I see it I'm arrogantly destroying people's faith? I'm being mean-spirited and sad and yet Christians, who seemingly have had an ongoing agenda to destroy my beliefs for decades now, aren't?

    I wonder how many people that blindly tick the Religion box would quickly reject it if they were exposed to arguments against it, if they actually learnt something about their religion other than what they learnt as a child and the carefully selected snippets that pastors and priests feed them. The fact is that if my mother's faith could not survive learning the truth about Jesus, it just shows how flawed it was in the first place.

    I applaud your support of freedom of belief, but let's remember that this is not a Biblical freedom. Only in our modern secular world are we free to choose our own beliefs. Well this is not quite true, people have always been free to choose their own beliefs, but not free to live by them. Atheists have always been free to blaspheme God and Muslims are free to reject Islam, but they face the threat of execution from believers for that choice. Thankfully today most Christians and Muslims are like you Ailsa and my mother, they have rejected certain divine commandments as offensive and quite simply wrong. For example God's 3rd Commandment states that:

    'You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected — even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me'.
    (Ex 20:4-5)
    Do you think it is just that a great-grandchild should be punished for something her great-grandfather did? I suspect you do not, and yet your God does! Like my mother, part of your faith has been destroyed compared to the faith that your distant ancestors held. And I would say that you are a far better person for following secular notions of justice rather than Biblical justice. My point is that the loss of faith can make you a better person.
  3. Comment by C, 05 Jan, 2013

    John, I have read your site a bit... I got there because I am interested in magnets and google brought me to your magnet therapy post. I agree with you that any medical benefit of permanent magnets is unproven -- and a lot of nonsense is claimed about them.

    I read your post on Christmas, and in the comments you had a a bible quote where God lays the sins of the fathers to the fourth generation.

    I want to preface the rest of this note with this -- I am in no way trying to convince you God is real with what I am about to say -- Even if God is a fictional character in a Book, we can use that book to try to understand that character...

    You concluded from the passage that it means God punishes children for their grandparents sins..... The thing is... God does not do that, and the Bible does not say he does.

    Partly, the problem is that you are using a "bad translation", if we look at Young's Literal translation, we can understand better what was written. (I say understand better because, we will never actually know precisely what was written -- none of us are native ancient hebrew speakers...)

    This is taken from www.biblegateway.com YLT Exodus 20:
    3 'Thou hast no other Gods before Me.
    4 'Thou dost not make to thyself a graven image, or any likeness which [is] in the heavens above, or which [is] in the earth beneath, or which [is] in the waters under the earth.
    5 Thou dost not bow thyself to them, nor serve them: for I, Jehovah thy God, [am] a zealous God, charging iniquity of fathers on sons, on the third [generation], and on the fourth, of those hating Me,
    6 and doing kindness to thousands, of those loving Me and keeping My commands.

    So you see, for one thing -- He "Charges iniquity" to the fourth generation ****of those hating him**** Meaning he charges iniquity on the grand children hating him, who continue in the sins of their grandparents...

    Yes that does sound Just to me because, should the grand children no longer hate God, and stop in sin, they are not charged with iniquity. That seems very fair to me.

    Plus you said they were punished.. But I do not see that. It says "charging iniquity" .... Do you think everyone who is charged with a crime is punished for it?

    In fact.. In our system of justice (I am in the USA) Many who are charged with crimes, and found guilty, are not punished. God does the same thing -- He pardons sinners all the time -- They only need to ask.

    Hope this helps...

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Jan, 2013

    Thanks for your comments, but no, sorry, it doesn't really help at all. I find these ongoing attempts to excuse or explain away embarrassing and reprehensible passages in the Bible as nothing other than peoples' desperation to cling to primitive, superstitious myths, such as a god cruelly turning an innocent, terrified woman into a pillar of salt and of flippantly slaughtering a father's children over a wager with a demon. Refusing to accept reality, there is this naļve belief amongst Christians that God can be given a makeover, changed into the sort of god that matches 21st century ethics rather than accepting him as the Bible clearly portrays. It is clear evidence that even they suspect that God is a fictional character, and thus he can be updated to suit today's world. If he were real, then his character is immutable, unchangeable. If he is a jealous god then he must remain a jealous god. If he tortured Job over a wager, then that obscene act can't be denied. Humans can change, God can not, it is an impossibility. Many Christians fail to grasp this about their god.

    Thus I still believe that our interpretation of God's threat is the correct one. As I see it, Bible translations are attempts by experts, generally believers, to set forth what the ancient writers attempted to convey, not necessarily what they literally said. I agree that we can analyse God simply as a fictional character, but hardly anyone would bother if people truly believed he was, so I won't bother either. Let's remember that if the Bible is true, then this isn't some hick writer talking to ignorant desert nomads, this is God, the greatest writer possible, and he knows that he's writing for everyone, and for all eternity, not just the Jews. Even if it made sense in the early days, God knows that his message has been misunderstood ever since it was translated into English, and yet, while he has had innumerable opportunities, he has made no attempt to change it, in fact all the major translations still continue to push the interpretation I've gone with. They clearly imply that the behaviour of one person can affect future generations, that hatred will be punished and love will be rewarded, not just with the specific person, but with four generations due to hatred and a thousand for love.

    It is quite clear that God (fictional or not) is issuing a threat: Mess with me and I'll punish your children. You may think that your punishment will end when you die, but it won't, I'll make your children, and your grandchildren and great-grandchildren suffer for your insolence. But love me, obey me, and I will smile on your children and their children for a thousand generations.

    It's obviously not just about those individuals that hate him or love him, it's about using the love of a parent for their child as a threat. To recap, this is what God said:

    'I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.' (Ex 20:4-5) (NIV)
    If your take on the commandment was true, then God would have simply said:
    'I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing those who hate me, but showing love to those who love me and keep my commandments.'
    The talk of future generations only makes sense as a threat.

    It's inclusion is terribly misleading if God is simply threatening those that hate him, since generations of believers and non-believers have (falsely in your opinion) read it to mean a vindictive God forcing compliance by threatening innocent children. Hardly the sign of an all-knowing writer clearly setting forth his wishes. Even I, a mere human, was able to write a clearer commandment, expressing what you suggest God actually meant to say.

    And why does God stop his charge of iniquity at the fourth generation? Does that mean if your family can hold out till then, the fifth and subsequent generations are forgiven or at least ignored? Yes, apparently, since he says that those who love him will be rewarded for a thousand generations, so he could just as easily have extended punishment for a thousand generations as well, but he deliberately stopped at four. But a mere four generations of punishing the innocent in no way makes it just. Again, this difference between four generations and a 1000 simply reinforces that it's not about what these future generations might do, it's what the original person did.

    And it's not just this single Bible verse that needs to be rewritten for modern sensibilities. This web page gives 19 examples of God promising to punish the descendants of some poor unfortunate for no good reason other than that they are his children, knowing that no one likes to think that their children will suffer for their actions. (It also offers 4 examples of where God insists that children will never suffer at his hand for their father's sins, which just highlights the embarrassing problem of contradictions in the Bible. Too many authors with different agendas.)

    And yes, I did say that God would punish them, solely because this is what the consensus of Bible experts and translations says. If God has no intention of punishing those who hate him or reject him, and believers know this, then what use is that commandment? After enjoying my life free of god-fearing threats, on my death I'll just plead ignorance and ask for forgiveness on meeting God. And since he has ignored me my entire life he can hardly be surprised that I doubted his existence. I've had mail from Santa Claus, which is more than I can say about God.

    You claim that 'in fact' God 'pardons sinners all the time -- They only need to ask'. But if God happily considers requests to be pardoned, and most likely approves them, why then won't he answer any other queries people put to him, such as questions about his existence or why he permits evil? You imply that God is Small Gods

    In one of his humorous Discworld books — 'Small Gods' — Terry Pratchett wrote of how the gods of Discworld exist or fade away based on how many people believe in them. A once powerful and very real god can disappear if people stop believing in him. He doesn't simply go into retirement, he actually ceases to exist. Is that what the Christian God fears will happen to him as well, and thus he must keep people believing through threats and intimidation?

    While I am in no sense a model of virtue, the more I learn about God, the more I see myself as morally superior to believers who continually make excuses for their god. Even if I was to discover he really existed, like a vicious, barbaric and vindictive real-life dictator, I still wouldn't want to become one of his followers. Perhaps I would, but only because I feared for my wellbeing and that of my family and friends. But cowering fear is hardly a moral reason for becoming a Christian.

'Big earthquake ahoy' opines Ken Ring
Eschatology. The end of the world. It never rains but it pours.

As if we didn't have enough to worry about, what with the world evidently ending on Dec 21st, 2012.

Ken Ring Now infamous soothsayer Ken Ring has hopped back onto his soap box, proclaiming that he's consulted the ancient scrolls, massaged the natal charts, run the figures through his astrology software... and the seismic omens are not good, or so he opines. And it's got nothing to do with the anxiety inducing calamity coming on Dec 21st.

Ken, it's the end of the world, how could things get worse?

And no we don't usually use the word 'opine', meaning to hold or state as an opinion, but we need to remember that Ring, in a childish attempt to claim he can never be wrong, has for a while now insisted that he never makes predictions, he merely expresses his opinion. In his latest outing from Ringworld, he states:

'My conclusion is based ONLY on my own research, not stolen, not certain, just opinion... I'm not anything other than someone with an opinion, which I am willing to share in the hope that it may reduce anxieties.'
So what exactly has the Great Moon Man opined in this instance that should give us pause as we gird ourselves for the end of the world, or if for some strange reason that doesn't come to pass, the equally frightening visits from annoying relatives at Xmas?

Ring first revealed hints of his premonition on the misnamed 'nz.news.yahoo.com' website in the comments section following one of his fictional tales.

He has found himself in a quandary. The runes or something equally silly have spoken to him. Should he don his electronic version of 'The End is Nigh' sandwich boards and scream his warning, or should he, as he promised he would, just keep quiet and stop scaring people for no good reason? In his words, Ken asked:

'...is it ethical for someone to post warnings about earthquakes or not? ... You see, this is my dilemma. I DO think there is a big one coming in NZ fairly soon. I think I know roughly when and where, to within a day and within a 50 mile radius.' [24 Nov, 2012]
NZ having recently experienced the devastating Christchurch earthquakes, we know what a 'big one' means. So we're looking at destruction on a grand scale and many deaths, not just a shake that swings a few lights, shifts a few pictures and unsettles a couple of dogs. So how big a quake might that be, and how soon is soon? In a following post Ken elaborates, saying that he's talking about:
'...earthquakes coming in the next 4 weeks'
and implies that we should be worried:
'because believe me, there is a real doozy on the horizon'.
Note how when Ring gets excited he falls back on the technical language of his field. To save you the bother of looking up a seismology textbook, we have, and for us laypeople it seems 'a real doozy' means 'something that is extraordinary or outstanding of its kind'. So not a run-of-the-mill quake then. Unless you experienced the two major Christchurch earthquakes, the odds are that you haven't felt a quake that is 'a real doozy'. First we learnt what liquifaction was, now doozy.

Feeling slightly braver next Ring posted that:

'I AM LIKELY TO MAKE AN ANNOUNCEMENT ON UPCOMING EARTHQUAKES OVER THE FOLLOWING WEEK'
But then Ken has second thoughts, no doubt remembering what happened the last time he made silly quake predictions — the death threats, the terrified fleeing into hiding, and his promise to stop issuing unwarranted earthquake warnings. But of course time heals all wounds, even psychological ones, and for some people, promises are quickly forgotten. Believing that we shouldn't dwell on his multiple failures of the past, Ring wonders, like an exiled ex-dictator, if the time is right for his return. Have enough people forgotten he wonders? Again he pleads with his Internet readers, both supporters and critics:
'The very simple basic question is, should I warn of an earthquake or any other extreme event if I think one is coming, or not? The point being that it might cause anxiety... Should I ever outlay where and when I think an imminent earthquake will be in NZ, or not? Warn or not warn? Yes or no?'
Again, he reminds us that this isn't going to be a quake that could give us a good fright, this is going to be an 'extreme event' and it's 'imminent'. One can just picture Ring pacing the floor, tearing at his hair — what to do, what to do?

In another post he's still undecided, fearing that the public and media will again vilify him when nothing happens:

'the trouble is, I am a longrange forecaster, looking at the effects the moon can bring, and if I don't warn and a really big one comes, then I'm in the gun even more.'
Again he reinforces that he has knowledge of 'a really big one', but he's still trying to find the nerve to stand behind his convictions.

Then frustrated that not everyone believes, in the 21st century, that the position of the moon and the planets influence events here on earth, Ring hits out at one critic:

'At the moment, you... are singlehandedly preventing me from giving my opinion on the next earthquake to affect NZ and the Pacific.'
Ring believes, apparently sincerely, that untold lives might be saved through his predictions — if he reveals them — but note here how he is prepared to keep his lifesaving predictions secret, solely because he believes a single anonymous poster on the Internet might not want to hear them.

You may have also noticed that the location of this big earthquake is no longer confined to NZ, to within fifty miles, but now could strike the whole Pacific. It's going to be big alright, not just in magnitude but in area as well.

His next post on the topic confirms that it has now grown to cover the NZ-Pacific region, and will be of such a severity to attract the attention of the world's media:

'...my moon calculations tell me there is another earthquake in the NZ-Pacific region within a month that I imagine should create world headlines...
And for us naysayers, the resultant death and destruction will clearly be our fault for ignoring him:
'...if the earth-sciences in NZ choose to remain unprepared and incompetent then they may have to suffer the full brunt of what's coming to them.'
Thinking that readers might now be suitably terrified, desperate for him to consult his ancient astrology, Ring asks:
'Who NOW wants to know what large event for our region I THINK may be eventuating in coming months?'
No doubt he hopes that readers are now too anxious to note that his prediction, while still a 'large event', has shrunk back down to 'our region', and rather than happening 'fairly soon... in the next 4 weeks', it's now pushed out to the 'coming months'. Ring continues to build his case:
'From where I sit at the moment, I'm looking at a sudden fairly massive increase in activity, with the good chance of a sharp flag-bearer... and substantial enough to get into the media because it was unexpected by the science community... But I haven't said anywhere that it will be another Millennium Day fireworks display. Then again, not ruling anything out..hmm..'
Note how Ring cunningly covers all eventualities by stating that the quake won't be major, but then again it might be. By covering all the bases Ring can't lose, or so he believes, big or small or maybe nothing at all, he's predicted it. Ring says that:
'...you'd better be prepared for anything, and it may be just a bunch of smalls with a biggy, or an ongoing scare like a thunderstorm that is all noise and no action. All I've really promised is the probability of something worth discussing, something complying to the moon method...'
When Ring says that people need to 'be prepared for anything', this could cover earthquakes, big or small, attacks from aliens or swarms of locusts. Anything! So no matter what happens Ring will claim that he helped people get through. And note that his thunderstorm analogy is a sneaky way of admitting that nothing might happen earthquake-wise. He'll repeat that line when nothing does happen. It's a pretty pathetic prediction that says something may happen... or it may not. Who knows?

It's also gratifying to read that Ring now accepts that his earthquake opinions are 'something worth discussing', as we are now doing, so he should be pleased that his claims and ideas are reaching a wider audience.

When sane, rational people ask Ring to reaffirm that he thinks the quake could be large and damaging enough to attract the attention of the world's media, Ring's confidence stumbles:

'...you know I don't have control over world media. What if nothing makes world headlines? I didn't say it WOULD happen, I said the potential is there. If a whole lot of smaller ones over one region rumble away for a couple of days, will that be accepted as a hit?'
No Ken, of course a lot of small earthquakes will not be accepted as a hit. Don't be so stupid! That's as silly as someone predicting that they were going to win a $20 million dollar lottery and then claiming that they were correct when they only win two minor prizes of $100.

But this is exactly how Ken Ring works. He predicts a big one, a doozy, down to a specific location within fifty miles to within one day. When that doesn't eventuate, he'll deviously and childishly claims that a small quake, often in a completely different location, and often at a different time, should count as a hit, as a successful prediction. And the worrying and scary thing is that many people accept this nonsense. Ring was recently at the West Otago A&P Show and gave two talks on 'global warming and weather by the moon', and the local paper noted that 'Mr Ring, who famously predicted the Christchurch earthquakes, was among the celebrity guests'. The ignorance of the media helps perpetuate these myths regarding Ring's claims.

Ring then queries what will be said if a major quake does happen:

'And whatever does eventuate, will that just get to be called a fluke...'
Yes Ken, it will be called a fluke, since that's likely what it would be. People would say it's interesting, but that you need to show you can do it again, and again, and again. The reality is that Ring has no history whatsoever of successfully predicting earthquakes, not a single one, even though he claims otherwise. Likewise Ring has provided no evidence that the ancient astrological method that he uses has any validity, while there is much evidence that it is nothing but superstitious nonsense. The only true test to the accuracy of Ring's predictions is whether they can be repeated. Unfortunately for Ring, he hasn't even managed to get a single prediction correct, let alone be in the envious position to see if he can repeat it.

Unfortunately Ring and his supporters can't grasp that even getting a single prediction correct probably means nothing. They think it proves his method, so we'll try and explain to them why it doesn't. If I correctly call a single coin toss, then you'd say it was fluke, a lucky guess. No intelligent person should think otherwise. But if I correctly call a second, then a third and on and on, then people should assume I have access to some special knowledge. Perhaps I've found a way of predicting coin tosses, or perhaps I know the coin is fixed to behave in certain ways. Either way, if I can continually predict coin tosses, then people will take me seriously and look closely at what I'm doing. But no one should take me seriously after just a single coin toss. They'll all say: Do it again.

So Ken, even if against the odds a major quake happens when and where you predict one might, based on your past history it will just be a fluke. You'll need to do it again and again before anyone will take you seriously. And we wonder why to date you haven't been able to provide repeatable predictions that are accurate. While you admit that your method is not 100% accurate, you nevertheless boast that 'I have been repeatedly told that the best technology we have is me at the moment'. If I were religious, I'd say, 'God help us'.

Anyway, Ring finally decides to publish and be dammed:

'I will supply date and location, as I said I would. I will supply enough reasoning and historic examples, based just on local factors, in language easily understood, to enable readers to make the prediction(s) themselves, including ones down the track. Then they will only have themselves to blame if their prediction each time doesn't work out. You will get a quick course in successful earthquake prediction, which you can research and put into practice immediately, and all for free'
Ring then publishes an article on his website entitled 'Will there be an earthquake on the 13th?', and tweeted a warning of a big one to all his groupies, ending with a statement admitting that this prediction isn't all that clear, at least not to him:
'Will there be a significant seismic event on 13-14 December in the NZ-Pacific region? You decide.'
But before we look at that, let's look at what he wrote in that previous quote. He says that the information derived from his method will 'enable readers to make the prediction(s) themselves'. Why is it that when he, the expert, talks of what might happen, it's only an opinion, but when readers, mere laypeople, consider the same data, they are making predictions? He goes on to say if their 'predictions' — not their opinions — are wrong, then it's their fault. And this guy used to be a teacher? This is no different to arrogant religious morons who say that if you pray to God and your prayers are not answered, then you're not praying hard enough, you're not being sincere enough, it's your fault. He then — making it three in a row — claims he is providing 'a quick course in successful earthquake prediction'. Note that it is 'earthquake prediction', not earthquake opinions.

Ring is on record as saying:

'My business is only a bunch of opinions... There is no claim on accuracy, proof or anything other than that I have opinions.'

Look, let me spell this out more simply... I am selling opinions... The disclaimer always spells it out - opinions.

I certainly cannot predict earthquakes.

And yet the previous quote clearly shows what Ring really believes you arrive at when you consider his astrological data along with his reasoning and historic examples, you come up with a prediction. Not an opinion, a prediction.

And whenever Ring trumpets what he views as his successes in the media, he always talks of predictions, never opinions. For example:

'But I did predict the earthquake... a big earthquake in the South island'.

'Earthquakes are predictable... I've proven it can be done. I've also predicted when the next shakes will cluster'.

'These events can be predicted precisely... by two human teams working together - geologists and astrologers.'

'Two Chch above 4mags today,... as predicted on my tweet of 20 Aug'

'Australian weather predicted for whole of 2012'

'The reason Irene is a fizzer is because the moon is moving south, not north. It was predicted here.'

'Latest newsletter contains a way of predicting all earthquakes. The proof is shown. Join now'

Note that last quote from Ring regarding 'predicting all earthquakes'. He claims that 'The proof is shown'. Claiming to understand the scientific method and to being a mathematician, which we don't believe he is, Ring should know that if 'The proof is shown' then his claims have gone well beyond a mere opinion. And yet it appears that Ring is keeping this proof of his well away from the scientific community. We can all guess why.

The first sentence of his article 'Will there be an earthquake on the 13th?' continues this theme:

'I think we now have a reliable method of predicting seismic events...'

'I will set out some facts and the actual predictions will be up to the reader.'

For some reason he chooses not to reveal his proof, and his initial confidence fades and he falls back on his childish explanation:
'...this article is merely my opinion. It is what I believe, but only from my own private research.'
Regarding his statement that seismic events can be reliably predicted, he goes on to claim:
'On the other hand geologists say this can never be done because modern earth-science declares that such events will always be random in nature...'

'Either seismic action is predictable or it is not. Either it is random, as scientists say...'

It's claims like this that show Ring to be a total ignoramus when it comes to what science declares. In no way does science claim that seismic events are random in nature. Because seismologists, unlike certain astrologers, say they can't reliably predict seismic events, Ring takes this to mean that they must therefore believe that seismic events are random in nature, like a coin toss or radioactive decay. Ring also erroneously claims that scientists believe that weather is random in nature too. This is what happens when you immerse yourself in primitive, ancient beliefs. The fact is that there is nothing random with either seismic events or weather, they both follow cause and effect. An earthquake or thunderstorm is not random, they don't just suddenly happen for no discernible reason. Science knows the basics of why they happen, but their causes are so complex that they are presently unpredictable with current knowledge. Not theoretically unpredictable, but unpredictable with current knowledge.

You have to read through a lot of nonsense before Ring finally reveals his prediction for his real doozy of an earthquake:

'I will be showing you that the possible risk time is, from just after midnight on the 13th to just after lunchtime on 14th. The key area could be the Central Plateau but other areas affected may also be East Cape, Wellington, Northland and Christchurch.'
That's the 13th and 14th Dec 2012, roughly two weeks from when Ring wrote his prediction. You'll notice that there is no mention of 'a big one' or 'a real doozy' or that it will make world headlines. And rather than naming a location 'within a 50 mile radius', Ring has decided to offer us several choices, which frankly covers a large portion of NZ. The risk to the Pacific has evidently disappeared again. He doesn't even say it will be an earthquake. You're no doubt saying, well of course it will be an earthquake, that's what he's being talking about. And yet in his article Summary, Ring asks:
'So will there be an eruption, earthquake, or earthquake series on or around 13-14 December, targeting the central North Island, East Cape, Wellington or Christchurch? It is for the reader to decide'
So it could be a volcanic eruption rather than an earthquake. Isn't it a little suspicious that there is volcanic activity in the central North Island at the moment? No doubt Ring is desperately hoping that Mt. Tongariro will erupt again shortly, or perhaps Mt. Ruapehu, and he will pretend that he predicted these eruptions, when all he did was make predictions AFTER they became active. Note also that Northland is in his first prediction, but not his second. Ring is not big on accuracy. Also the first prediction said the timing was ON the 13th or 14th, and in the article Ring narrows it down even further: 'the potential does look high on 13 December for a significant event in NZ'. Surprisingly this is far more precise than Ring generally claims his method is capable of. He normally insists on a window of days and even weeks either side of his prediction dates. More typically for Ring in the summary this is extended to AROUND the 13-14 Dec. And as you know, January is around December, so too is February.

What we fail to understand is why would the moon's deadly rays, which according to Ring cause seismic events, hit the Nth Island creating havoc, but then somehow switch off until they get down to Christchurch, and then switch off again and go no further south? Is the Moon over Dunedin a different moon, a more kindly moon? The moon's gravitation is continuous and its distance unchanged as it passes over NZ, so why is it picking on Christchurch and leaving the rest of the South Island alone? And don't say it is acting on existing tectonic plates, since Ring insists that 'earthquakes create tectonic plate movements, not vice versa'. Ring also notes in his article that:

'The Moon will be unusually close that day, and it will be directly over the NZ and Pacific region.'
So again, why does it pick out certain locations and ignore others? As we've said before, if the moon influenced the earth the way Ring claims then earthquakes should continually trace a path of destruction along its surface like a Mexican wave. They don't.

To allay the fears that his silly predictions often cause, Ring goes on to say:

'I would not suggest packing up and leaving town, because such an event can happen anywhere in a seismically active country.'
This is nothing more than a frank admission that he has no idea when or where an earthquake might happen. He also goes on to say, in an attempt to explain away his many failures, that:
'it is impossible for my own small team to watch all locations every minute of the 24-hr day.'
But what's it got to do with locations here on earth, we thought it was the moon that you were watching? No doubt sensing his likely failure, Ring becomes less confidant with his method:
'Can we predict anything? That is entirely up to the reader. Because anxiety comes from the unexpected surprise, when you can anticipate something you remove surprise.'
Again the proclaimed expert puts the blame for his own inevitable failures onto the reader, who often wouldn't recognize a perigee or a natal chart if he or she fell over one. Ring believes that the uninitiated reader can make a prediction, but seemingly he can't make one himself, falling back on a mere opinion. Is this Ring acknowledging that most readers are more intelligent than him? What do you think Grasshopper? We'll leave that entirely up to the reader as well.

Look also at the faulty logic employed by Ring in that last quote: 'Because anxiety comes from the unexpected surprise, when you can anticipate something you remove surprise'. Yes, accurate prediction can remove surprise, but it doesn't remove the anxiety which is the actual emotion that you are claiming to remove. If people believe a devastating quake is going to strike, the anxiety, stress, fear and worry is still there as they wait for it to arrive. Ring goes on to say:

'Perhaps nothing will occur. If so then no harm has been done.'
But what about the anxiety that you've created for no good reason Ken? What if children have been traumatised as parents take them out of school on your risk days and adults lose their jobs when employers refuse to give them leave based on your nonsense?

Interesting, in his article Ring again addresses his annoyance that people call him an astrologer, and rather confusingly, who also refuse to accept astrology as anything but superstitious nonsense. He tells us that he wishes geologists could:

'...rid themselves of their 'astrology' phobia'
Geologists, and science and rational folk in general, have no phobia regarding astrology. It was rejected centuries ago because it is pseudoscience and has no evidence to support it, and much evidence to debunk it. He goes on to say that:
'Some have a problem with astrology because planets are mentioned as having a gravitational stress on the earth.'
The clear fact is that astrology, by the way it makes its predictions, can have no connection to gravity. If astrology was found to work, it CAN'T be due to gravity. Furthermore, planets and gravity and their relationships with each other is investigated by astronomy, not astrology. But Ring is enamoured with astrology and tries to insist that:
'many think that astrology only refers to the light entertainment fortune-telling that can be found in the back pages of women's magazines. Most astrologers would distance themselves from that form of it, and lean more towards astronomy.'
Ring is one of a handful or maybe the only astrologer on the planet that believes that astrology is something completely different to this typical definition of astrology: 'a form of divination based on the theory that movements of the celestial bodies (stars, planets, sun, and moon) influence human affairs and determine events'. Ring then offers this cogent argument, no doubt provided by some kindergarten kid:
'If one thinks that reciting planets makes one an astrologer, then anyone who mentions the days of the week must also be an astrologer, as they are named after the planets.'
Astrology Who, beyond you Ken, ever said that simply talking about the planets makes one an astrologer? We've said you're an astrologer because you continually say you use astrology to make your calculations, not astronomy. You've said you've used Astrolog, Solar Fires De Luxe and Janus4, all astrology programs, and that you used an astrology program called Kepler 6.0 to create the diagrams in your article. We've said you're an astrologer because you've referred to yourself several times as an astrologer when discussing earthquake prediction, eg it requires a geologist and an astrologer (you). We've said you're an astrologer because you claim that you follow 'astrological physics' and the 'mechanics of fundamental Astrology'. We've said you're an astrologer because you insist that 'It is the old principles of Astrology that we should be turning back to' and 'I use the ancient astrological energy grid of the constellations'. We've said you're an astrologer because you say silly things like: 'Cancer typically brings downpours [and] the Moon will be in Pisces, a wet sign' and 'For anyone to state they don't believe in astrology is to say they don't believe in the fact that stars are out there.' You hate that people accurately refer to you as an astrologer, but we only do so because your method is riddled with astrology: its ancient foundation is astrology, its moth-eaten cloak is astrology and even its modern software is astrology. You need to come out of the astrology closet Ken.

In the article Ring also said:

'For those already familiar with the language of astrology, Jupiter/Saturn is an earthquake midpoint, also Jupiter/Uranus, and Uranus/Pluto. We are also looking for crossings overhead of Mars, Venus and Mercury, the inner planets...'

'This is not astrology, it is astrometeorology. Usually natal charts are set for each particular person in astrology. In astrometeorology natal charts are set for locations. The influences are then plotted as to what is affecting that location, or is about to do so. So we have the concept of "my" Mars, and the real Mars, in astrology, but in astrometeorology we have Taupo's Mars at a particular moment in sky-time. So, say, as Mars embodies action, Taupo's Mars (the red line with the Mars symbol along the bottom) intesecting with the real Mars(yellow), would be a conjunction, which is considered very powerful.'

This is pure astrology bullshit! And astrometeorology is just an invented term for an astrologer who tries to predict the weather using astrology. And didn't you know Ken, Pluto isn't classed as a planet anymore, so why are you still taking it into your calculations, especially when you're ignoring the influence of all those other equally sized bodies? Because your predictions are based on superstition not science.

When a comment was made on the Internet that you were an astrologer, you replied, or should we say you lied:

'That isn't me, sorry, I wouldn't know the first thing about the subject.'
And yet we've just quoted you saying 'For those already familiar with the language of astrology' and explaining that 'Usually natal charts are set for each particular person in astrology'. And need we remind you of the book you wrote: 'Pawmistry: How to Read Your Cat's Paws', which, even if you're embarrassed by it now, required a working knowledge of astrology.

And yet now you unashamedly say: 'I wouldn't know the first thing about the subject'. Lying comes easily to you doesn't it Ken?

To wrap up, there is no good reason to believe that a real doozy of an earthquake will strike NZ, or perhaps the Pacific, on the 13-14th of Dec. Infamous astrologer Ken Ring has no proven record of reliably predicting seismic events, or even a single earthquake. Of course the vague predictions that astrologers always provide makes it easy for them to make the odd childish claim of success, but they should no more be taken seriously than your local witch. Of course there might be a major earthquake, but it is no more likely then than any other day of the year, and you should take the same precautions that you would take on any day. If a quake matches Ring's prediction, it will have been a fluke on his part. Ring can no more predict earthquakes than he can predict winning lottery numbers, or the weather.

The most promising comment for the NZ public at large is this one that Ring makes regarding his latest prediction:

'When the time comes around, in about two weeks from this writing, we will be able to see how well this method performed. It will then be encumbent on either the geologists or those like myself with alternative ideas to re-examine their beliefs.'
This would be fantastic news if Ring could be trusted, if he were a man of his word, but of course he's not. Following his last embarrassing earthquake failures he promised to withdraw, to make no more predictions and to stop scaring people merely to promote his celebrity. But he was soon back in business, his promise forgotten. Ken Ring is very apt at forgetting things from his past that he now finds embarrassing, like his prediction failures, both seismic and weather wise.

The notion that when Ken Ring's latest prediction fails, he might seriously re-examine his medieval beliefs is as ridiculous as the thought that the Pope might soon re-examine his beliefs in God, celibacy and abortion due to the rise in atheism.

Speaking of God, and as an aside, because we are critical of Ring's prediction claims, and because he can think of no rational and civil response, he has resorted to defaming us, both on this website and on others, referring to us as 'white supremacist red-neck jack-booted fascist nazis' and 'racist homophobes' lurking about 'with their black Hitler armbands'. Being outspoken atheists, we've always wondered why he hasn't thrown any evil, immoral atheist insults at us, and now we think we know why. It appears that we have something in common with Ken Ring. Like us he apparently doesn't believe in God. We glean this from his comment in an article decrying climate change:

'Man can not have created the universe, nor can anything create the universe such as the notion of a deity that has arisen from Man.'
Surprisingly not all of Ken Ring's beliefs are silly. Who would have guessed?

UPDATE: 07 Dec.

If readers refer to Ken Ring's article where he makes his 'clear' prediction so that the public can clearly see he made it prior to the specific dates, they will see that it is no longer entitled:

Will there be an earthquake on the 13th?
Ring has altered its title to:
Significant seismic activity on 7 and 13 December?
In doing so he has begun his typical sneaky, devious and underhanded manoeuvring to increase the window of when something may potentially strike.

In his original article Ring clearly and confidently stated that his prediction was for the 13th and 14th Dec:

We have already established that for the 13 December, after midnight and for the next 24 hours we have the potential for seismic strikes in the NZ region based on where the Moon will be.
13th: 1.17am: Coromandel - E Cape-Wellington - Christchurch
14th: lunchtime: Central Plateau
Now he has altered this to include the 7th of Dec:
We have already established that for the 7 and 13 December, after midnight and for the next 24 hours we have the potential for seismic strikes in the NZ region based on where the Moon will be.
7th: 5-8am: Tongariro, Gisborne, Wellington, Christchurch
13th: 1.17am: Coromandel - E Cape-Wellington - Christchurch
14th: lunchtime: Central Plateau
And Ring has also issued a new tweet that now includes the 7th as if it was always part of his prediction:
Seismic activity on 7th and 13-14th? Often pre-event a few days before perigee. Perigee on 13th. Tongariro again?
Elsewhere in his article Ring has even increased it from just the 7th to include the 8th and 9th as well:
7-9 December
In our last newsletter we listed 7 December as powerful, possibly up to 6+M somewhere.
Note that he also predicts the quake may be of magnitude 6+, even though when critics have said that Ring has mentioned magnitude in connection with his predictions, Ring has angrily replied:
I did not predict a magnitude, I NEVER do, unlike GNS... Please don't misquote me all the time. It only makes you look like what you really are, a petty liar out to denigrate me and mislead people from the truth of what occurred...

I have repeatedly said I never suggest magnitudes, only the timing.

And for readers that say that Ring should be allowed to change his predictions, perhaps as new data comes in, afterall it's what science does to improve its accuracy. But we must remember that Ring is not doing science, and Ring has continually said that the accuracy of his predictions would not change closer to the time of the event, in fact CAN NOT change:
'...as you know what I say is fixed in concrete because I use a mathematical algorithm.'
And the fact that he made his prediction a couple of weeks ago is immaterial:
'...it could just as easily have been 30 or 300 years.'
At the end of his altered article, Ring then adds his new prediction for seismic activity, but makes no note for readers to realise that this is quite different to what he originally predicted:
Potential risk times for NZ,
(daylight saving adjusted)
7 Dec. 5-8am, Moon overhead
9 Dec: 9am, Moon overhead
13 Dec 1.45pm, Moon overhead
13 Dec, 6.45pm, Moon on horizon
14 Dec, 0:45am, Moon underfoot
14 Dec, 6.45am, Moon on horizon
14 Dec, 1.45pm, Moon overhead
This is how Ring fools the public and the media into believing that he can predict earthquakes and the weather. He lies, he insults critics to silence them and he continually alters his vague predictions. As we said in our main article debunking Ring:

This is dishonest. This is fraudulent. This is a scam.

And let's also remember, since Ken certainly won't mention it, that yesterday — Dec 6th — an extreme weather event struck Hobsonville, part of Auckland. A tornado killed three people, put 7 people in hospital, cut off power, uprooted trees and seriously damaged up to 200 homes. And what did Ken, whose almanac contains several sections devoted to warning people about extreme weather events, have to say about Dec 6th, and specifically Auckland: 'A mild, pleasant day for most. Auckland: Sunny, fine'. Who but a fool or con-man would describe a killer tornado in this way? But Ring will say that if those reading his almanac couldn't interpret the phrase 'A mild, pleasant day for most' to mean killer tornado then they 'only have themselves to blame'.

So once again Ken Ring's PREDICT WEATHER Almanac failed to predict the weather, the very thing that it claims to do. Beyond use as an expensive doorstop or as a fire starter, what use is his almanac? Seriously... what use?

UPDATE: 17 Dec.

Well, the dates for Ken's 'significant seismic activity' in NZ have come and gone, and the 'big one... a real doozy... [that] should create world headlines' and that Ken claimed he could predict 'to within a day and within a 50 mile radius' failed to eventuate. Who would have guessed that astrologers can't predict earthquakes after all? Certainly not Ken. He will no doubt be rechecking his astrology data, gently sobbing, wondering where he went wrong. Perhaps he didn't account for leap years, didn't carry the one, didn't sacrifice a goat or... didn't drag himself into the 21st century?

Ken said that this prediction of his would be a good public test 'to see how well this method performed'. Well, it performed really badly. No ifs and no buts, no confusion, no ambiguity, his method failed big time. Following a failure he said that 'It will then be encumbent on... those like myself with alternative ideas to re-examine their beliefs'. Of course this honest re-examination won't happen, since Ring won't admit that his method has failed. And to Ring's advantage, the media failed or refused to report his quake prediction so the public will largely be ignorant of it and its subsequent failure. Thus Ring will never mention it again, and he will keep a low profile until the few people that are aware of his failure have lost interest and moved on. On the Yahoo News site where Ring first made his prediction, a few critics and supporters were commenting on the validity of Ring's claims, and were looking forward to the outcome. Unfortunately, in the spirit of openness and fair play, Ring himself had the comments section closed down to silence his critics. He did this just prior to his prediction dates. This is how 'science' works in Ringworld. Although he'll never admit it, it looks as though he knew, subconsciously at least, that he would fail, and wasn't waiting around for the obvious question: What went wrong Ken?

But of course he'll never answer. He's perfectly happy to trumpet his apparent successes (which are nothing but lucky guesses), but quickly becomes media shy when his predictions fail. And they are predictions Ken, not just opinions. As we've said, a prediction is 'To state, tell about, or make known in advance, especially on the basis of special knowledge'. Ring is making known in advance what he thinks will likely happen regarding seismic activity based on his special knowledge: astrology. You can dress it up in a clown suit if you want Ken, it's still a prediction.

And with Ring, what he doesn't say can be just as embarrassing as what he does say. As I write this, cyclone Evan is heading towards Fiji having just hit Samoa causing death and destruction. On the Yahoo site Ring was giving weather advice to a Fiji local, a rabid supporter of his, and yet for some reason he elected not to mention the coming cyclone? Why not? Simple, he didn't know about it. Obviously another embarrassing failure of weather prediction using astrology.

Ring has also, yet again, deviously modified his prediction article to subtly alter the strength of conviction he had in his quake prediction. Now that it's failed, he doesn't want to look so certain, changing it from a real prediction to a fluffy opinion piece on future possibilities. Initially he confidently claimed:

'I think we now have a reliable method of predicting seismic events.'
He asserted that HE HAD a 'reliable method' for 'predicting' earthquakes, not that he was merely working towards one. Now Ring has changed the article's opening sentence to read:
'I think a reliable method of predicting seismic events is a distinct possibility.'
This is a completely different claim, although unfortunately new readers will never know that Ring is altering history. It's like me saying, 'I think I have won Lotto' versus 'I think that someone winning Lotto at some time in the future is a distinct possibility'. But of course Ring's lying, cheating ways are no surprise to us. He has a scam to protect, and by their very nature this requires dishonest, underhanded methods. If the foundation of your business is bogus, and astrology certainly is, then you have no option but to quickly and quietly bury your many failures as if they were some stinking, rotting carcass, before your gullible clients detect the smell and start asking embarrassing questions.

UPDATE: 19 Dec.

Can you believe it? Ring has modified the title and opening sentence of his prediction article for a third time? It began as:

Will there be an earthquake on the 13th?
Ring then altered its title to give himself a wider window of success:
Significant seismic activity on 7 and 13 December?
Now, after his prediction has failed, he's changed it to:
The Moon and recent seismic activity
Ring's original opening sentence, brimming with confidence, was:
'I think we now have a reliable method of predicting seismic events.'
After his method was clearly shown to fail, he altered it to suggest that he now just believes that someone might come up with a prediction method in the future:
'I think a reliable method of predicting seismic events is a distinct possibility.'
Now, after another all night thinking session, and no doubt consulting the paws of his cat, he has changed it yet again:
'One day a reliable method of predicting seismic events by mainsream scientists will be a possibility'.
Ring, to his credit, or most likely his cat's, has finally realised that if and when a reliable method for predicting seismic events is discovered, it will be mainstream scientists that discover this method, NOT astrologers!

And while he's seems more than able to change the text of his article, Ring seems completely incapable of changing the date that he claims the article was written. He clearly doesn't want readers to realise that these weren't his original thoughts that made up his prediction. No doubt soon the article will disappear entirely from Ring's website.

UPDATE: 20 Dec.

Newsflash: Ken Ring has written to us to explain why the big earthquake didn't happen. He's now claiming that he just made it all up, it was a hoax, a cruel lie, created evidently because he was annoyed with critics challenging him, and seemingly with no thought of the anxiety that he was creating in the minds of believers looking to flee the coming quake. He doesn't apologise for lying, it's our fault evidently for believing him, it's a trap we fell into for blindly accepting that we could trust what he says. Read the sorry details here.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Dec, 2012 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Miles, 08 Dec, 2012

    Hi, John. I've just been reading SB about RingK and his "predictions". I'm glad you've pointed out to the world at large that he originally "predicted" 13-14th December (I pulled a copy of the offending page last week), and then changed it. The man is — as you say — a liar and a cheat. FYI, I am putting together a few thoughts (as you already have), such as earthquakes do *not* tend to happen at the full moon or perigree or whatever, and CO2 doesn't lie in a layer on the ground, and so on. But I'm not really sure that I want to waste time on it. He is a total fraud, and a dopey little oik.

    And he missed the tornado in Henderson. This should have been a doddle for him: a few million tons of cold air getting confused over a few million tons of hot air. It must have happened a few times in the last 50,000 years, you'd think.

    This morning I have also read this — 'Finding the Source of the Pioneer Anomaly' — which is a humbling story about how dedicated people tried to work out why the Pioneers 10 and 11 were not quite in the right place. This is what enquiring minds do: not ranting about non-existant phenomena, misquoting evidence, and calling critics Nazis. Keep up the good work. And, enjoy your festive whats-its.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Dec, 2012

    Hey Miles. Regarding exposing Ring, what we would say is that you'd be totally wasting your time if you thought that Ring might be convinced that he's mistaken in his beliefs, or that he might even seriously consider your arguments and evidence. All challenges to Ring's method must, first and foremost, be aimed at those that might be tempted to believe his nonsense, and unlike Ring, might be prepared to listen to reason. While of course it is fun to point out the numerous errors Ring makes to the man himself, and giggle at his inane responses, this only serves two purposes. It's good sport for those of us who don't follow rugby or cricket, and it throws up even more evidence that Ring is trapped in the ignorant, superstitious past.

    Of course Ring knows only too well that we pay special attention to his numerous public claims and responses to criticism, but unfortunately, for Ring, he's in the unenviable position that he needs to actively promote and defend his business/scam, so he must appear in the media, write articles and respond to Internet comments. But of course whenever he does this he can't help but introduce yet more nonsense — or Ringisms — with his comments.

    At the end of the day we must reach those that are tempted to buy into his fantasy and purchase his almanac, which are little more than weather horoscopes.

    Fascinating article about the Pioneer anomaly. Of course Ring would have put it down to the fact that the stupid scientists were using astronomy software, not astrology software, and relying on Einstein's description of gravity, not Newton's.

  3. Comment by Keri, 15 Dec, 2012

    Hmmm.
    Doozy didnt happen
    -o! What a surprise!

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Dec, 2012

    Hi Keri. Yes... no earthquake... who would have guessed? Certainly not Ken.

    I'm going to give him the weekend then make a note of his latest failure. What's the bet that he won't try and claim the cyclone in Samoa as being what he really meant? Although a cyclone isn't an earthquake and Samoa isn't NZ, it will no doubt be close enough in Ken's book. It has made media headlines, so does one out of three count as a hit? And he's closed down comments on the Yahoo site so that no one can comment on his failure. Typical!

  5. Comment by Ken Ring, 20 Dec, 2012

    John

    I feel you have rather wasted a lot of time with this. I do not predict anything in the sense that you are using the word, as I use the word as opinion, not expression of certainty. This I make very clear in all my books and other writings. I am not God, so would not ever know for sure what was going to happen.

    Also, I do not focus on magnitudes, as my method is only set up for timing. You have been led into a trap of your own making. Because you subscribe to blogs attended by scientists that do not see eye to eye with my science, largely because I caught them out over the Christchurch earthquakes, when the Head Geologist said in September 2010 in the Press that Christchurch would not see another destructive earthquake for 18000 years, then changed that to the next 500-600 years, whereupon I immediately tweeted that there could be another destructive one in 6 months time, then the "Valentines day tweet" of 14 February when I said there could be a big one in Christchurch in a week and the reality was that I was more correct, and they have never gotten over that. It was only because I was correct and subsequently on the nail with tweets that warned just before every next-largest earthquake in the region, that all the fuss was about. I had been in the media for only 10 minutes in 10 months (the Campbell Show on 28 February) between Sept 2010 and July 2011, and yet the media invented all sorts of stories to raise their own ratings.

    When I blogged recently about a "real doozy", it was a set up, because I knew those opposing my method ignore that I claim no knowledge of magnitudes, but as they don't read properly simply don't listen and make up what they wish to about what I say, as you do, and proceed to attack that. 'Doozy' relates to magnitude, and my method is about timing. I wrote doozy because I knew it would send them off in a tangent, and as Yahoo were threatening to close the blogs because the likes of yourself and your mates with your insulting comments were verging on slander, I introduced a distraction. However it didn't work and you and your friends continued your hate-speech, which saw Yahoo, as they said they would, close its blogs.

    You are still doing your hate-antics here, but no one really takes 'silly beliefs' seriously, the joke being that it is referred to as the silly-website. In a free speech society there is no serious place for a hate-blog that many liken to white supremacy exponents.

    I am conducting an honest opinion-website and business. People can buy into it or not. There is much that is free on my website and in newsletters. I have been supported by the agricultural community for the past 14 years. They are not collectively all fools, and to infer that they are for buying my products is to insult them. The public know my method can deliver about trends and timing. They know it is a better oracle than NIWA, who said last summer would be a scorcher (it wasn't), that winter would end in July(it didn't), and that spring would be warmer (it wasn't), and they missed the cold bite at the end. In comparison my 2012 almanac got all of those correct.

    For what is happening this summer, and indeed what has just occurred in the Pacific, readers need only go to Summer for travellers on Yahoo written and posted up on 23 November and unchanged since then, at

    http://nz.news.yahoo.com/opinion/post/-/blog/15454648/summer-for-travellers/

    or the same article "NZ Summer for travellers",.

    http://www.predictweather.co.nz/ArticleShow.aspx?ID=433&type=home

    5 paragraphs from the bottom it may be seen where I have written

    "From then to 9 December a low extends from Vanuatu to the Solomons and then builds in strength to become seriously menacing around 15 December, centered on Fiji and likely to bring thunderstorms, destructive kingtides and strong winds, enough to warrant the battening down of hatches"

    I couldn't have made it clearer.

  6. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Dec, 2012

    So let's get this straight, you're admitting that you lied Ken, is that what you're going with now? When you wrote on separate occasions that you expected 'Significant seismic activity... a big one... a real doozy... [that] should create world headlines', you were lying? And seriously, you wonder why people don't trust you?

    Just when we thought it couldn't, your deviousness, and your stupidity, has sunk to a new low Ken. You are prepared to label yourself a liar over this failed quake prediction rather than admit defeat. You say that 'When I blogged recently about a "real doozy", it was a set up... I knew it would send them off in a tangent, and as Yahoo were threatening to close the blogs... I introduced a distraction. However it didn't work... ' So you weren't telling the truth when you claimed to foresee 'a big one... a real doozy', but now you are, is that correct? Now you've decided to front up and come clean? Evidently you also lied when you implied that the quake could be so extraordinary that it 'should create world headlines'. Explaining all this, you say you lied simply because your critics 'don't read properly, simply don't listen and make up what they wish to about what I say, as you do'. You've moaned for years that people always misunderstand your comments, and you now evidently think that telling outright lies will somehow make things clearer? What planet are you from Ken? To back up your fake Yahoo prediction, you then went on to write your prediction article 'Will there be an earthquake on the 13th?', which listed large magnitude earthquakes from history to support your claims, and this was further bolstered by warning tweets, all of which implied that a large magnitude quake was on the horizon. And now you're claiming that this was all a lie? Just a hoax, a distraction that you hoped would somehow silence your critics? Really? That's how your mind works? You seriously think your critics will be won over by lies, and that your supporters won't think less of you for lying to them as well?

    We agree that there are definitely lies being told on your part Ken, but your big quake predictions weren't them. Your critics and supporters on Yahoo both believed, as did we, that you were serious and sincere in your prediction of a big quake. The lies, we believe, are in these recent comments of yours, where you now claim that your quake prediction — after it failed — was all a lie, a deception, a falsehood. We repeat, you seem prepared to label yourself a liar over your quake prediction rather than simply admit it failed. How childish is that? And you have the arrogance to claim that 'I am conducting an honest opinion-website and business'.

    Furthermore, your lying is also exposed regarding the reason that you claim Yahoo deleted the comments section that follows some of your articles. You claim that Yahoo deleted them following threats that they would if 'hate-speech' comments continued. Of course there were no offensive hate speech comments, only honest criticism and questions that exposed your method as bogus. As for the comments that you saw as attacks on you personally, you initially responded with your own comments such as these:

    '...actually the more they do it, the better Yahoo like it.'

    '...you do Yahoo a big favour because even your endless and inane comments help bring in a wider audience.'

    However, when — naturally — criticism of your method didn't stop, you then rolled out the threats:
    'Well, I have decided that enough is enough, and children may be reading this, so unless things improve I intend to ask Yahoo to close the Comments on my future articles, so please be warned... Is that what you want?'
    So Ken, you clearly argued that Yahoo loved the debate, it promoted their business, and thus they wouldn't close the comments section. And if true hate speech was occurring, one would expect that they would ban the poster and their comments, not close the comments section. You then told posters, on more than one occasion, that you intended asking Yahoo to close the comments section if future comments didn't meet your criteria. And that criteria being: criticism stopping and worshipping beginning. And then following more comments critical of your method, the comments section suddenly disappears. What is the most reasonable explanation for this Ken? That you have followed through on your threats and demanded that Yahoo delete the comments, or that Yahoo, knowing that it would kill traffic to their site, decided to assist an astrologer by hiding all his embarrassing comments? Our opinion? Yahoo didn't independently delete the comments Ken, you instructed them to, because the debate was doing your profile more harm than good. We suspect that you lie when you accuse Yahoo of forcing the deletion. Prove us wrong.

    The prediction versus opinion debate. Ken, you do NOT make it clear in your books etc that you do not predict anything. Just the opposite in fact.

    We've never said that your predictions or forecasts are based on absolute certainty. Scientists make predictions all the time, and yet never attach certainty to them. Some are borne out, many are not. We've tried to explain to you that to make a prediction or forecast is 'To state, tell about, or make known in advance, especially on the basis of special knowledge' and 'To estimate or calculate in advance, especially to predict (weather conditions)'. You, on the basis of special knowledge, claim to tell about or make known or calculate in advance the state of future weather and seismic activity. All your soothsaying involves claims of predictions and forecasts, not of 100% certainly, but predictions and forecasts nonetheless. It is deceptive of you to deliberately wrap yourself in these terms, knowing that the public understand them as we do, and then claim that they were really only opinions when they fail.

    Ring's Logo Just look at how you prostitute yourself to the public Ken. Before you altered it, the opening sentence of your article: 'Will there be an earthquake on the 13th?', confidently claimed that you believed you had 'a reliable method of predicting seismic events.' Your website and business is called 'Predict Weather'. You called them that, not us. Your almanac has for years been called 'Ken Ring's Predict Weather'. In the article you promote in your above comments — 'Summer for travellers' — your opening statement is as follows: 'The early golden weather has come exactly on time and in accordance with predictions that were made in our almanac 2012 and in our online articles'. (Our emphasis in bold). Time and time again you impress on the public how accurate your PREDICTIONS are. We repeat, you continually boast how accurate your predictions are, not how surprised you are that one of your naļve opinions about the future appears to have come true.

    You are claiming to have a far more accurate idea as to what the future holds regarding the weather and seismic events than mere plebs or scientists do. We're not saying you are certain as to what will happen, but we are saying that you are claiming — with no evidence to back it up by the way — to be correct around 85% of the time. You are claiming that on average at least eight out of every ten of your predictions will be correct. If I could claim an 85% success rate in picking winning Lotto numbers then I would certainly claim that I had a reasonably reliable method for predicting winners. I wouldn't claim that I merely had opinions about lottery numbers that strangely won more often than not. Furthermore, regardless of how you, tucked up snugly in your little bed, define 'prediction' and 'forecast', you and I both know that your business survives only on the falsehood that your clients believe that when you say weather prediction you mean weather prediction, and not opinion or guess.

    Moving on, you say you 'claim no knowledge of magnitudes'. Then what use are your predictions, since you say that earthquakes happen everyday? The language of your predictions clearly imply large magnitude earthquakes. You say that you feel you have the duty to warn people. A warning implies danger. When you say people should stay away from certain buildings at certain times, are you really saying you have no idea what magnitude earthquake you are warning against? Are you and your method really that ignorant of what might occur? Do you really think people believe that you might be warning them of a quake so small that they'll need their own seismograph to even register it? When you suggest people avoid a city because of the danger of earthquakes, as you did on TV after the September Christchurch quake, do you really expect anyone to believe that you have no idea about potential magnitude? Who has ever heard of people being anxious of little earthquakes that most won't even feel?

    If we're not going to mean and talk about 'Significant seismic activity' (as you tweeted), then we're wasting our time talking about seismic activity at all. If your talk of seismic activity can mean big, small and everything in between, then it's worthless, as it covers every day of the year. Or was your tweet a lie as well, another set up like your Internet comments? It must be a lie as it implies magnitude to normal people. Your Twitter followers would rightly think that your warning about 'Significant seismic activity' meant one or two quakes of large magnitude rather than a large number of quakes that might barely register.

    And you do talk of magnitudes Ken, all the time. You're trying to argue that you never reveal whether a quake will be big or small, only of when a quake of some unknown size might occur. Yet in your comments above you again explicitly talk of magnitude, that is, the approximate size to be expected. You write that you predicted that 'there could be another destructive one in 6 months time' and 'there could be a big one in Christchurch in a week'. We agree that you haven't mentioned a specific magnitude value, but at the end of the day, who cares what the number is? People only care about whether they're going to be large enough to potentially cause death and destruction. And you imply that they could be. You talk magnitude. Stop trying to weasel out of your own statements.

    You claim that scientists 'do not see eye to eye with my science, largely because I caught them out over the Christchurch earthquakes'.

    Firstly, in no way can what you do — astrology — be called science, and you have noted numerous times that your method is not scientific, for example:

    '...what I am doing is pre-science, and cannot fit present day rigor. That is why I don't claim that it can be tested and suggest it objectively can't be.'

    'My work... is not intended for the scientific community. It will not be peer-reviewed anywhere... I am claiming my method has use and could be explored, but not by scientists... '

    '...I don't think weather is about science... so I have no need to prove anything'

    So why do you keep contradicting yourself by occasionally insisting that you are doing science afterall? You appear to be arguing with yourself. Not a good sign.

    Secondly, as we've already explained to you here, you did not catch scientists out since you haven't predicted a single Christchurch earthquake. But let's remind readers how you expressed your argument to us back then: 'But I did predict the earthquake, and was on the radio the day before with the prediction for a big earthquake in the South island'. There you go again insisting that whenever you appear to get opinions right, they quickly turn into predictions, and you again suggest a magnitude: 'a big earthquake'. How quickly your story can flip-flop. Let's also remember that we've listed 11 predictions of yours following the Sept quake and prior to the Feb quake that ALL predicted that there would be no Feb quake, for example:

    '...my guess is that these aftershocks will end soon for Christchurch, probably around the end of November.'

    'it is reasonable to relax and asume that another devastating shake is unlikely to repeat anytime soon, despite a seismology-department knee-jerk reaction that a 6+ mag. earthquake aftershock could be arriving in the district at any time.'

    'There is no reason to suppose any aftershocks of significance will occur... '

    'In a day or so things should be back to normal... Please share this article if you think there could be anxieties in your social circle.'

    We accept that in mid-February you made the following tweet: 'Earthquakes again in Christchurch? The 15-25 February window is coming. Watch out around the 18th'. However by this time you have made at least 11 predictions that there most likely won't be any devastating quake, and only one prediction that there might be. Why does your one tweet cancel all your 11-plus predictions? Why did you expect people to believe your tweet when you had already told them over and over again that another quake wasn't going to happen? It is patently obvious that your tweet was a lucky guess, one that you were forced to make because the Christchurch aftershocks kept happening, much to your surprise and annoyance.

    A question for you Ken. If as you claim no one takes our debunking of you seriously, then why are you bothering to? Why are you trying to argue with us? You say you are very busy, so why are you wasting time over something that you view as a joke? Of course we know that many do take us seriously, as well as you, so it's a win-win situation for us.

    And as we've told you before Ken, we don't hate you, we simply disagree with some — well many actually — of your silly beliefs. And there is only one person on the planet that likens us to white supremacy exponents Ken, and that's you. Don't try and pretend that this hate speech is only you relating what your imaginary friends are saying. Remember that we have numerous examples of your vile insults, and you didn't seem at all concerned that children might be reading what you wrote, unlike on Yahoo.

    You provide as an argument for the validity of your method, the dubious claim that the agricultural community has supported you for 14 years. Yet only in Ringworld would one believe that the truth of a matter is arrived at by counting who has the most supporters. Both Christianity and Islam have been supported by millions of people over, not a mere 14 years, but centuries, and yet you and I would both agree that this support is misbegotten, based as it is on false beliefs. These Christians and Muslims 'are not collectively all fools', to use your phrase, and yet their support is ill-conceived and foolhardy. Are you insulting Christians and Muslims by not buying into their belief, as you accuse us of insulting farmers, or are you merely upholding the right to hold a different view? Should Christians, based on the many comments you make about their persecution of your method, view your website as a 'hate-blog'?

    The number of supporters you might or might not have is irrelevant. Just because Jesus has millions of supporters doesn't make him right (or real), just because Allah has millions of supporters doesn't make him right (or real), and just because you have a modicum of supporters — can you see where we're going with this? — doesn't make you right either. We are not impressed or swayed by your talk of supporters, only robust evidence and cogent reasoning could cause us to reconsider your method, neither of which are you prepared to provide. You opt instead to scam us with a hoax prediction, or so you now claim.

    Also it's rather revealing that you refer to yourself as 'a better oracle than NIWA'. And you wonder why we have trouble taking you seriously when you give yourself the primitive, superstitious title of someone who offers prophetic opinions.

    Regarding Cyclone Evan that struck Samoa causing deaths and destruction, and then moved onto Fiji, you refer us to an article of yours and insist that it has been unchanged since you wrote it. Since you are infamous for altering your articles that contain predictions after the fact, how do we know it is original? We don't! Look at the many alterations you've made to the topic of this post, all to hide your failures. Furthermore, your prediction makes no mention of Samoa where the deaths occurred, or of a cyclone. Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Fiji may have all battened down the hatches, it's just a shame the cyclone struck Samoa instead.

    And since you're quoting your articles to support your case, we will do likewise. In your article 'Cyclone season may be a fizzer' which covered NZ, Australia and the Pacific, you predicted that 'In 2012 we were only at risk until... after March. ... So this coming season should be mostly light for cyclones, with systems developing late but petering out quickly...' So if the comments in your articles can be trusted — yeah right! — then the prediction in your 'Summer for travellers' was NOT referring to cyclones, since your 'Cyclone season may be a fizzer' prediction had already ruled them out. You're not going to admit to placing contradictory predictions in different articles are you Ken, knowing that one version of the future will happen, and you'll just quote that one and ignore the other? Which, when we think about it, is exactly what you've now appeared to do?

    You finish by claiming: 'I couldn't have made it clearer'. Of course you could have been clearer Ken. Next time try mentioning Samoa and cyclone and leave out Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. And harking back to your claimed earthquake hoax, let us try and explain something to you about making things clearer, since you seem to be struggling here. When you're trying to explain the truth of something to someone, lying doesn't help to make things clearer, it only makes things murkier. No new facts are revealed, no new understanding is reached, only a falsehood is promoted, and only a few deluded converts are gained. But I guess that's the nature of your business, the nature of a scam.

    Frankly we don't understand what you thought you could gain by either creating an elaborate prediction hoax in the first place or by pretending you did after your predictions failed. Your critics accuse you of lying in the past, of simply making things up, and you somehow think that by lying and creating a fake prediction that it will do what exactly? In your mind, how was your claimed hoax expected to embarrass, confound or silence your critics? It only confirms their accusations that you are a fraud, that you willingly lie and manufacture fake data to promote your reputation. From your supporters point of view, your callous hoax only served to terrify them, you gave no thought to their anxiety. One of your supporters even told you that she had convinced her daughter to stay away from work during your prediction. Do you have no comprehension of the worry you caused with your lies? And once you've admitted your lies, your supporters will be forced to agree with your critics, that you do indeed lie about your predictions. You were happy to put them through hell just to prove what exactly, that you could smoothly lie to critics and supporters alike and they would all trust you to be telling the truth?

    If you really can predict destructive quakes, why did you need to resort to making up a fake one? Wouldn't it have made more sense to feed your critics a real prediction and then simply sit back and gloat when it happened? Your critics would be shaken and your reputation would be bolstered, but instead you create a heartless hoax that only exposes the fact that you have no access to real predictive data. You deliberately orchestrate your own embarrassing failure. The world doesn't need the likes of us to expose you, you're doing a great job yourself.

    And let's remind readers that Ring continually bleats on about not wanting to scare people unnecessarily, and yet this is exactly what he claims he did, he created a false scare. And Ring doesn't even feel the need to apologise for lying, for the harm he created. It's our fault evidently for believing him, it's a trap we ignorant skeptics fell into by blindly accepting that we could trust what he says. We took him as a man of his word, that while he might be wrong, he at least had integrity, he believed what he was saying was true and was honestly trying to prove his case. So thanks for setting us straight on that point Ken, that nothing could be further from the truth, that you will quickly and without remorse resort to lying to stay in business.

  7. Comment by Anonymous, 24 Dec, 2012

    Thank you for keeping on at Ken Ring. What a nerve the guy has to make the statements he has in his comment here. He really is an idiot if he believes that anyone will be impressed by his — after the fact — "admission" that it was a setup. It is so typical and his supporters will feel had. Now that he has closed off the comments where we can challenge his ridiculous statements that he makes on his Yahoo site, this remains a valuable service to those of us who hold that reason and evidence are important foundations to our knowledge base. The ideal step now would be for either the comments to be reopened so that we can continue to question Ring's statements or for it to be removed entirely. How can Yahoo be contacted to discuss their editorial policy? So thanks again and keep up the good work.

  8. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Dec, 2012

    Thanks for your comments. Like you we'd like to discuss Yahoo's editorial policy with them, but we see no easy way of doing that. There were some older articles by Ring on Yahoo that still had their comments section open, but I see that he's now had them deleted as well. It's seems he's desperate to prevent the public discussing his latest prediction failure, and his embarrassing and childish attempt to cover it up. I'd love to know how his supporters now view him, especially as he showed no concern for the fear he caused them, solely — as he now claims — to annoy his critics. Now that it's clearly been shown by Ring's own admission that he's willing to lie, not just to his critics, but to his supporters as well, then how can anyone ever trust anything he ever says in future? How do we know his next big prediction is not just another set up, another hoax, another lie? We'll never know when Ring is telling the truth and when he's lying. No wonder he's trying to censor the Internet.

  9. Comment by Miles, 24 Dec, 2012

    Hi, John. Good article replying to Ken Ring's claims, or lies.

    Four things strike me:

    a) There is no evidence (that I can find, but I am happy to be proved wrong) that there is *any* validity to Ken's claim that things either do or do not happen more at full moon, or new moon, or apogeee or perigee. Certainly for the months I have looked at there seemed to be no tendency for events to group at certain times. There are buckets of data available for earthquakes at the US Geological Service ( http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqarchives/epic/ ) for anyone who is interested.

    b) Anyone with a "scientific" outlook wouldn't change a prediction (as Ken did, fraudulently, on the page about the event on 13 Dec 2012 — I have a copy of the pages before and after), and they wouldn't remove the link from the front page to the article (hoping no-one would find it). Instead, they would be open to discussion as to what was valid or not, and how the model could be improved.

    c) Ken claims to have a "theory", but he is fooling himself. He has a hypothesis, but there does not seem to be any data to substantiate it. His "predictions" are both good and original, but the original bits aren't good and the good bits aren't original (with thanks to Samuel Johnson). Perhaps this is Ring's Syndrome: lying to cover up an irrelevant hypothesis.

    d) Nothing you, John, have written, or what your correspondents have written, has had any effect on the events that Ken has "predicted". That is to say, Ken has only himself to blame if his "predictions" fail to eventuate. Further, to now claim that they were not "predictions" and that the whole thing was a setup is beyond foolish.

    I think the greatest disservice we can do to society and (especially) our children is to lead them to believe irrational, superstitious claptrap. You're doing a good job — keep it up.

  10. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Dec, 2012

    Ken's problem as we see it Miles is that he has a 'business' to promote (generally pronounced 'scam'), and as we all know, once you tell one lie you're then forced to tell many more to hide your first lie. As Ring seeks greater profits he naturally craves more attention, more publicity, but unfortunately for someone whose method has no substance, a method built with smoke and mirrors, this increased interest brings with it difficult questions and challenges from skeptics. Ring wants and desperately needs people to be interested in what he says, but not the intelligent, critically thinking people, just the gullible, scientifically illiterate people. Ring is caught between a rock and a hard place, he needs to reach the morons in society, but his outspokenness also attracts criticism and laughter from the non-morons. And the brighter of the morons, dimly aware of their intellectual failings, are worried that they might be missing something when they hear others criticising Ring.

    If one of my beliefs was shown to be bogus, I know by experience that I would quickly reject it and not speak of it again. But Ring isn't seeking an understanding of the world, he's seeking paying customers. Ring, unless he has an attack of conscience, has no choice, he must behave deviously to have any chance of selling his books, founded as they are on nonsense. He must maintain the falsehood, and bravely if hesitantly he will again appear on some Internet forum, throwing out his ridiculous and unfounded claims and seeing if someone thinks it makes sense. If he strikes a challenging and inquiring question, he'll throw an insult and flee to safer waters. That said, the playschool paddling pools where Ring might still feel safe and not encounter doubting looks are becoming thin on the ground. That's the problem that Ring now has, how to make the public aware of his service without at the same time making the public aware of its silly pseudoscientific foundation. And his growing annoyance and frustration with an increasing public skepticism over his claims has resulted in this sorry incident with Ring not only lying, but openly admitting that he lied. The mind boggles as to how he thought he would profit from labelling himself dishonest, as someone not to be trusted. How can anyone now trust that his next prediction is not another set up, another hoax, another lie? They can't. His integrity has gone forever.

    You're right that we're doing a great disservice to society if through our apathy we allow people to believe irrational, superstitious claptrap. Where scientists are seeking the truth, trying to understand how the universe works on some level, the truth doesn't concern Ring, he's merely seeking a livelihood, by whatever means necessary, fair or foul. He's said on numerous occasions that his claims are of no concern to scientists, that they cannot be proved, cannot be scientifically tested, and has begged to be left alone. Clear signs of someone with something to hide. And if a few fibs, or many, have to be spun to keep his business alive, then so be it. As Ring has explained in the past, he has a family to feed.

  11. Comment by Anonymous, 27 Dec, 2012

    Hi John. I have followed your blog with great interest concerning Ken Ring because I became quite the outspoken critic while reading his opinions section on Yahoo, and your website got mentioned. I hope you find my experience worth reading as the more I dug into it, the more enjoyable and true your blog was to me.

    When I first entered Ken's blog I wanted to have an open mind and hear what people had to say. However things began to get heated after the reply I received by Ken and his supporters; when I quite innocently questioned the foundations of Ken's hypotheses. Talk about being on the defensive. I was gleaned an 'unenlightened scientific thinker' like the kind that killed Galileo and being lectured on how 'this is only an opinion not a prediction' and how I can never achieve the enlightenment that Ken and his supporters wallow in, because I had the audacity to question what was meant to be an opinion, even though it is clearly put forward in the form of a prediction. Forget the fact that this unsubstantiated hoodoo voodoo moon theory bugged me. After this attempt to publicly shut me down in what was meant to be a free speaking environment; I made it my mission to unstitch the fabric of hypocrisy lies that Ken had weaved, because he even admitted he couldn't be bothered proving his theory concrete by going through the right channels and still felt that it was OK to rubbish me and science in general publicly for not having an opinion conducive to his. I researched and compiled information for days on end and wasted grey matter by avidly reading more of Ken's blogs and predict weather site than I cared to. Armed with this information; I threw every hypocritical statement, contradiction and fact pertaining to the numerous forecasts gone wrong or subsequently wrangled to meet Ken's predictions back in their face. Ken and his supporters fired every shot they had in retaliation ranging from condescension to outright attempts at humiliation and threats because they had no evidence to support their beliefs so I guess there were no other tactics available to them.

    When it came up about that prediction of "a real doozy" of an earthquake on the 13th to 14th of Dec, Ken himself suggested what he called a 'vote' of when and where the earthquake would strike; and what magnitude; between the people who supported him and those that didn't; It felt like a bet. A bet that sickened me. Ken says that he does what he does because he wants to save lives and warn people where science falls short. Well that's kinda countered when you quite blatantly call for a 'vote' for a 'real doozy' that will obviously cause damage and / or possible loss of lives. And so frivolously, impulsively, and childishly trying to overawe his critics by standing by his unfounded prediction to the letter, obviously hoping like heck there will be an event true to it; Was the final straw for me. Despite his threats to shut down the comments blog "Volcanoes don't change climate" I persisted. Within a day or two it was shut down. I waited until the 14th to re-appear in another blog that was still open to nail it home how nothing had happened and yes, i admit gloat a bit because finally despite every underhanded attempt at squashing reason and common sense, the truth came to the surface. I couldn't believe my eyes as Ken's reply was that Cyclone Evan was enough vindication of his predictions coupled with seismic activity in NZ that no one even felt! Watching him cling so desperately to any event no matter the discrepancies was proof enough for me. As for Cyclone Evan. The fact that his prediction was in the whole of the Southern Convergence Zone or how it was 2 days before the prediction, much less how the cyclone moved not according to his prediction was unimportant of course.

    The final straw for Ken was when I made a comment (Only as a reflection of how insulting his theories are to scientists who actually do the work to prove their theories) I said that if I saw his almanac in the science section of a bookstore I wouldn't be responsible for my actions. He told me that he was contacting the police as he considered this an outright threat and his supporters egged him on to do it. However as yet nothing has come of that. Not long after this Ken said he was shutting all the comments section down because of the way we were acting and Yahoo weren't happy about it. I agree totally that its because the proof was in those comments sections for everyone to see that Ken really is a charlatan; acting like he is holier than thou, getting it wrong and doing something reminiscent of a botched CIA cover up operation to cover his tracks.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my account of events concerning this issue. I will be following your website in future, in the vague hope that someday, somehow, the pursuit of knowledge will overcome stupidity.

  12. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Dec, 2012

    Thanks for relating your interesting experience on Yahoo debating the astrologer. I agree that the vote that Ring called for was such a silly ploy, that he would keep his warning to himself, knowingly risking lives, solely because a single critic thought he was a fraud. And yes, running up to his prediction date I imagine Ring was furiously sacrificing goats to the earthquake gods to increase the chances that he would be right. I can't imagine that he was hoping to be proven wrong, as I was. He would have been hoping for death and destruction to prove his critics wrong. What a great attitude.

    And you're right, the threats and insults are because they have no other tactics available to them.

    And as if the police would act on your statement that you wouldn't be responsible for your actions if you saw his almanac in the science section of a bookstore. That might mean just that you would complain to the manager or picket the store. Whenever I see Ring's book in the science section I move it to the 'New Age' section next to the horoscopes or the 'Fantasy and Sci-Fi' section, or if they have neither, the 'Fiction' section. I hate seeing books in the wrong sections. Just doing my little bit to help shoppers.

  13. Comment by Miles, 27 Dec, 2012

    Hi, John.

    'Whenever I see Ring's book in the science section I move it to the 'New Age' section... '
    I do the same at my local library .... well, I don't actually move it, but I take it to the checkout desk and tell them it shouldn't be in the Science section.
  14. Comment by Tony, 27 Dec, 2012

    The little astrologer that couldn't cries wolf over his failed prediction . . . Pathetic!

The approach of the silly season
Xmas Well folks, it's nearly that time of year. The countdown is nearly over, with around a month to go. And naturally stress and anxiety is increasing as the deadline nears, with people inquiring how we're planning to spend the day. We're talking of course, not of Xmas Day, but that far more momentous day, the END OF THE WORLD. While Dec 25th is always a source of stress and problems for many, with rampant consumerism bringing financial hardship and the mixing of extended family causing relationship strife, no one need worry about it this year because on Dec 21st 2012 the world will come to a violent, cataclysmic end. Even if there are still some of us dying a slow death on Xmas Day, the last thing we will be concerned with is wrapping those final presents or ensuring we have enough desserts. Unless Jesus or Allah or the wizard Gandalf steps in, it seems we're all doomed. Doomed! Repent now, and return those rented DVDs while you still have the chance!

And yet leading up to this truly momentous and once in a life time event, the mainstream media are generally ignoring it. Which in our view is good. But why are the media apparently acting responsibly? Are they not promoting Dec 21st 2012 as the end of the world because of course it is absolute nonsense, and a responsible media shouldn't mislead it's audience, they should report the truth and not dupe gullible members of the public simply because nonsense sells? Or, even though they may think that it's almost unbelievable that anyone could believe such nonsense, they know that many people do believe that it is true, or at least would if they were told of the prediction? And filled with fears of doom and despair, the media know, or should know, that many deluded people will take actions that could seriously harm themselves or others. There have already been examples of people committing suicide rather than experience the horror and suffering of the end of the world. Others have said that they are thinking of killing their children and then themselves rather than wait for the end. Some have quit their jobs and rid themselves of all of their belongings and fled to remote underground shelters or mountain retreats in an attempt to survive the coming catastrophe. As a joke, the media may wish to publicise this silly prediction of doom, giggling at those naļve enough to believe it, but they need to balance this against the certainty that many people — far, far too many people — will take it seriously to various degrees. I know one woman and her 16-year-old son who have been duped by this nonsense. He is reasonably certain that the prediction is valid, and yet demonstrating his stupidity, is planning his Xmas holidays. Although his mother is not so certain, her doubt means she is naturally still quite worried. She is suffering unnecessary anxiety over a silly lie.

Whatever the reason, it's pleasing that the media generally aren't publicising the silly prediction. Unfortunately some are. A few weeks ago Maori TV screened 'Apocalypse 2012', an hour-long foreign documentary that brought people up to speed on the ancient Maya prophecy and the few weeks we have left. Hopefully not many people would have seen it, but we fear that NZ now has a few more morons fearing the coming destruction thanks to Maori TV and their willingness to fan the fires of delusion. Like most docos of this sort that feign investigations into mysteries or controversies, far more time and emphasis was given to those that believe than those that don't. While academics effectively debunked the claims of predicted doom, their sound bites were unfortunately swamped and sidelined by the claims of those that were promoting fear and the end of the world. These docos are designed to let emotion win over reason. The obvious questions or statements of fact that would stop these deluded believers in their tracks are never put to them. The doco producers are selling entertainment rather than seeking the truth. Mysteries fascinate the masses, prosaic facts don't.

Of course there's still a few weeks left, so still time for the media to promote the silly prophecy and terrify a proportion of the population that happily believe in all manner of nonsense. Silly beliefs like a mythical Jesus being born on Dec 25th or that astrologer Ken Ring can predict the weather on Xmas Day from one year out. We're just hoping that the media will resist the urge to mention the prophecy, but will then publicise its failure for all its worth when we all find that the world hasn't exploded, that Mayan gods didn't appear and that the consciousness of certain believers in this nonsense hasn't evolved to a new level. They're just as stupid as ever. It would be nice to see the media put a little effort into highlighting, even after the fact, how ridiculous these claims of apocalypse were, and how stupid people were to believe in them. If the media would only take the time to promote reason and science over superstition and religion then they might help reduce the chances of people believing the next idiot who proclaims the end is nigh.

We've already rubbished the claim that the ancient Maya prophesied the end of the world on Dec 21st 2012 (see here). Will the TV show '60 Minutes' be reinterviewing the likes of Jason Kerrison, lead singer of NZ band Opshop, to see how foolish they feel once the world spins on past their apocalyptic deadline? We suspect not.

If you're convinced that we're wrong, that the end truly is nigh, then we are happy to take a wager, large or small, with anyone who disagrees with us.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Nov, 2012 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Bob, 22 Dec, 2012

    I looked out my window this morning, 22/12/12, and saw everything was normal overcast sky threatening to rain. I was disappointed. I thought the end of the world would mean I wouldn't have to mow my lawn. Now there is nothing for it I will have to get the mower out. There is always someone ready to predict another end to the world. Then there are the excuses as to why it didn't happen. There seems to be plenty of gullible people ready to lap it up.

    Looking at it scientifically it is unlikely the earth would be destroyed but a fair chance most life could be after all we know of mass extinctions in the past. If a giant asteroid was destined to hit the earth it would be detected by scientists years before. Recently astronomers announced a meteorite could hit us or at least pass very close around 2032. A recalculation of it's path showed it would pass by at a greater distance than first thought. It will probably be an interesting spectacle in the sky for a few days.

    From what I have read it would appear the best candidate for a life destroying event would be a massive solar flare. We are in fact fortunate that our sun produces moderate flares with a consistent strength. Even so over time in the future the stronger flares will play havoc with our satellites and communications. Just recently astronomers detected a solar flare which went to the side and did not affect earth. However it was strong enough to have caused a lot of damage to satellites. Flares have been detected from other stars a lot stronger than ours. Our atmosphere and magnetic field shield us from radiation. However a strong enough flare could overcome these shields. That is at least a half reasonable explanation for a world destroying event.

    On another subject yesterday's herald included an interview with Vicki Hyde. She was asked what her greatest wish was. She said it was to see extra terrestrial creatures. On the basis of probabilities if evolution works on earth it must work on other planets considering the sheer number of them. My personal opinion is that life in the form of animals will be relatively common. Intelligent human like creatures will be very rare. The reason is that humans are physically weak and would have been wiped out by much stronger animals if it hadn't been for our intelligence. Mind you that might not apply in another world.

    One of the most interesting comments I saw was on YouTube from a Catholic priest/scientist, George Coyne. He seems to lean more to the scientific than the Catholic belief. As such he got himself into trouble with the Pope. He is a great believer in the power of probabilities. Given a lot of time and a huge number of possibilities a certain outcome is inevitable. He thinks the emergence of human beings was random and inevitable. He said plainly he doesn't believe God, who he does believe in, planned for humans. The present pope believes in ID but not the fundamentalist kind. In the course of his speech Coyne admitted he was getting into heresy territory. He was the director of the Vatican observatory but then sacked. The next director agreed with the pope. As Coyne is now in his seventies I don't suppose it bothers him too much.

    Coyne shows what it is like to rely on facts and not beliefs.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Dec, 2012

    I know what you mean Bob, I'm going to have to exercise my mower as well. That's all I keep my lawn for it seems. I just wish that the media would spend as much effort as they did publicising the doomsday event in reinterviewing the morons that claimed it would happen. I want to see them squirm and produce laughable excuses. It might help reduce the likelihood that it would happen again, and it would be good entertainment.

    I think there is a big difference in saying that the world or life might be destroyed, and predicting the exact day that it's going to happen.

    I suspect Catholic priest/scientist George Coyne is now a closet atheist who simply doesn't want to retrain for a new job this late in life.

Italian court and medieval justice
Stocks
'An Italian court has today convicted six scientists and a government official of manslaughter for failing to give adequate warning of the deadly earthquake in 2009'. [3]
They have all been sentenced to six years imprisonment. What is it with Italian authorities and their failure to understand science? Can't they learn from history? First it was the scientist Galileo, found guilty of telling the truth and sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life, nine years. The Roman Catholic Church's conviction of Galileo made them the laughing stock of the rest of the world for centuries. Even though his trial was in 1633, and their ignorance later became clear for all to see, they pointedly refused to admit their error until 1992. Now repeating the errors of the past, an Italian court convicts scientists for again, essentially telling the truth.

Of course people might argue that the scientists failed to predict the earthquake that killed more than 300 people, no doubt falsely claiming that they said an earthquake wouldn't happen. So how could the scientists have been telling the truth? An earthquake happened so they got it wrong, didn't they?

I don't speak Italian so I don't know exactly what the scientists claimed, but from what I've read the scientists never claimed an earthquake wouldn't happen. They would have talked about probability and the likelihood of one occurring, since as Chris Goldfinger, a professor of geology and geophysics at Oregon State University notes, 'scientists have almost zero ability to predict earthquakes' [2]. Evidently 'the experts concluded that it was 'improbable' that there would be a major quake though it added that one couldn't be excluded' [3]. It's also reported that 'After a series of small temblors in early 2009, the six seismologists and the government official... said it was "unlikely" that the shaking foreshadowed a larger quake' [2].

We read that 'The case focused in particular on a series of low-level tremors that hit the region in the months preceding the earthquake and which prosecutors said should have warned experts not to underestimate the risk of a major shock' [3]. But confusingly we're also told that 'Italy is among the most earthquake-prone countries in Europe' [1] and that 'Central Italy is continuously shaken by low level tremors, very few of which precede bigger earthquakes' [1]. Evidently 'One 1998 study of Italian earthquakes found that only 2 percent of small clusters of quakes predicted a large shock' [2]. That means that not quite 99 times out of a hundred, but 98 times out of a hundred there is no reason to worry about a big quake happening after small tremors.

So the scientists said a major quake was 'improbable' and 'unlikely' but also 'that one couldn't be excluded'. We also learn that other researchers have now confirmed that the scientist's 'assessment of risk as low was an accurate assessment' [2], and that John Vidale, a University of Washington seismologist agrees that 'the scientists' statements that the quake was unlikely were true. There was a very small chance of that earthquake' [2].

But how can their statements be true if they were wrong, a major earthquake did happen? Again, it's important to note that they weren't wrong, although many people interpret their statements this way. Let's look at an analogy. If you ask me whether you should buy a Lotto ticket, I would answer No. I'd say that the chance of wining the main prize in Lotto is around one in 38 million. Importantly, I'm not saying you won't win, since we all know some lucky person often does win every few weeks. I'm saying it's very, very, very unlikely and very, very, very improbable that you will win. I'd say that unless you have money to burn, then you shouldn't waste your money on a ticket. You have a better chance of being hit by a bus. If you ignore me and against all the odds end up winning, you can't gloat that I was wrong. I never said that you couldn't win, I said that the odds were greatly against you winning, that it would be very unlikely. Whether you win or lose at Lotto, my advice remains true. If I were to say you WON'T win Lotto or that you WILL win Lotto then I would be making a false statement since I'm talking about certainties. But concerning lotteries and earthquakes we're both taking about probabilities, about how likely something will happen, not whether it will actually happen. If you are lucky enough to win Lotto or unlucky enough to experience a major earthquake, it can still be said that there was a very, very small chance of that happening. If you win Lotto I will still tell you that it's still highly improbable that you won or will win again.

Unfortunately the public often confuses a low probability of something happening as the same as meaning it won't happen. Not only do they not understand probability and risk assessments, they don't want them, they want certainty. Will it or won't it happen? Don't talk about 'might' or 'unlikely' or 'a 38 million to one against chance', will it happen? Think about the safety of drugs and cell phone towers, the general public demands: 'Are you certain they're 100% safe, can you guarantee it?' They don't understand that science doesn't deal in absolute certainty. Some claims in science can be made with a very high level of certainty, but not absolute certainty, and other claims are less certain, with some little more than educated guesses. And when it comes to predicting earthquakes, scientists readily admit that seismology is still in its infancy. And yet still the public demands certainty! Referring to this case, Seth Stein, an earth scientist at Northwestern University in Illinois says, 'It reflects a kind of fundamental misunderstanding of what science can and can't do' [2].

If the Italian scientists suppressed real evidence, were incompetent in their investigation, or succumbed to public pressure, ditched their talk of probabilities and instead gave ironclad guarantees that nothing would happen, then they should be held accountable for misleading the public. But there is no suggestion that this is what happened, more likely the public misunderstood what the scientists said, and are now on a witch-hunt looking for someone to blame. Italian law grants two appeals before anyone goes to jail, so one can only hope that reason will prevail. If not, what is the likely outlook for seismology and science in general? Academics have now noted that 'the risk of litigation may deter scientists from advising governments or even working in seismology and seismic risk assessments' [3], or as one scientist bluntly put it, 'I'm afraid that many scientists are learning to keep their mouths shut' [2]. With the real threat of being found guilty in a kangaroo court and going to prison for simply doing science, this trial mirrors that of Galileo's. He and other Italian academics feared, correctly, that preventing the free discussion of science matters would turn Italy into an ignorant and fearful backwater, while the rest of Europe embraced scientific knowledge and progressed.

Could it happen here? Have seismologists in NZ got anything to fear? It was noted on TV3 news last night that 'a leading law expert said there is no chance that scientists would ever been held responsible for any deaths as the result of an earthquake'. But wasn't that what the Italian scientists thought as well? I was also disappointed to see GNS scientist Dr Kelvin Berryman, a 'prominent earthquake scientist' in NZ, defending the decision to jail the Italian scientists, since in his view they failed to do their job. But as leading NZ earthquake engineer Assoc. Prof. Stefano Pampanin correctly responded to Berryman's comments: 'We had an earthquake in September [in Christchurch], so should we condemn or put in jail those seismologists who could not predict the Feb [earthquake] or the local authorities in Christchurch or the government not to evacuate the South Island or the whole of NZ?' The seismologists, including Dr Berryman, failed to warn Christchurch, which was struck by the same size quake as L'Aquila. In Italy the prosecution also successfully argued that small clusters of quakes were a predictor of a bigger one to come, and yet even though Christchurch has since had hundreds if not thousands of tremors, Berryman is still not recommending the evacuation of Christchurch. As bad as the Feb quake was, why isn't he expecting an even bigger one? Earthquake predictor astrologer Ken Ring did predict a bigger one yet to come in March 2011 — 'It could be another for the history books' — but he was, as usual, wrong again. Seismologists are seemingly even supporting that Christchurch be rebuilt rather than deserted. I say this because this was another argument used against the scientists by the Italian prosecution. We were told that the town, L'Aquila, 'had already been partially destroyed three times by earthquakes over the centuries' [1], implying that disastrous quakes are a common occurrence, it should have been obvious it was going to happen again. But these quakes were in 1349, 1461 and 1703, which is hardly yesterday, or even in living memory. And if this is such a dangerous location, why did they kept rebuilding the town and remain living there? Why aren't the government and local authorities on trial for allowing people to remain there, for centuries? And why do we read that even though the town contains 'many ancient and fragile buildings... No charges have been brought in L'Aquila regarding building codes or standards'? [2] Scientists are placed on trial and builders and town planners are ignored.

The fact is that regarding Christchurch seismologists and astrologers both failed to give the public helpful advice. Berryman gave the public no reason to prepare for a more deadly quake, and they didn't, and yet one happened. And Ken Ring caused the public to fear a more deadly quake in March, and they did, and yet it didn't happen. Regardless of how sincere they might have been, should they both go to jail for misleading the public? Yes, according to Berryman and the Italian justice system. But thankfully Berryman is at odds with his colleagues: 'Last year, about 5,200 international researchers signed a petition supporting their Italian colleagues and the Seismological Society of America wrote to Italy's president expressing concern about what it called an unprecedented legal attack on science' [3].

If there was a miscommunication of risk between scientists and the general public, then this calls for better education, of both scientist communicator and Joe Public. Throwing the hapless scientist in prison because we're annoyed that nature can't be predicted will only hamper earthquake research and keep the public ignorant, and — horror of horrors — possibly even push them towards the likes of Ken Ring for answers. If science goes silent for fear of prosecution, then pseudoscience will soon fill the void.

It took the Vatican over three and half centuries to reverse their verdict on Galileo, let's hope that this Italian court doesn't take as long to see how backward they are being in not understanding science.

[1] Italian scientists convicted for failing to predict quake
[2] Earthquake Scientists Jailed Over 'Inexact' Statements Preceding 2009 L'Aquila Quake
[3] Italian scientists and one official jailed for six years for failing to predict 2009 earthquake that killed 300

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Oct, 2012 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Ross, 25 Oct, 2012

    Hi John. The obvious question in my mind (being as it is in Italy, home of the roman catholic church etc) is, Why isn't the legal system having a go at charging and suing the Pope? Surely as gods right-hand man here on earth, he would have had absolute knowledge of an impending 'act of god'! Far better inside information than can be gathered by our relatively primitive scientific instruments. Why didn't he warn the people, most of whom are probably devout believers in the almighty sky-fairy. Come to think of it, why does god keep hammering Italy with earthquakes at all? Best to victimise those evil scientists again I suppose.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Oct, 2012

    Unfortunately Ross, they are only obvious questions to people that don't fear said sky fairy.

  3. Comment by Mike, 25 Oct, 2012

    My understanding is that the headline "Jailed for failing to predict earthquake" is a media beatup.

    The actual charges were related to saying "all is safe" without having adequate reason to do so. Your article addresses this and notes that perhaps they did have good reason to do so, but the media headlines and subsequent publicity are completely out of whack IMO.

    The salient statement in the Daily Mail piece, for example, is: "At the heart of the case was whether the government-appointed experts gave an overly reassuring picture of the risks facing the town..." — that is NOT the same as failing to predict an earthquake.

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Oct, 2012

    You're quite right Mike. Media headlines along the lines of: 'Jailed for failing to predict earthquake' are quite misleading. But unfortunately the media are infamous for distorting the facts to sell their services. Evidently most of us are too dense to read and understand the full story or just too busy to absorb anything but snappy sound-bites. Also it seems that many of us would rather be entertained than informed.

Losing their religion
This week we read this encouraging article: US Protestants no longer a majority, which notes that the 'Percentage of Protestant adults in US hits new low as one in five Americans say they have no religious affiliation'. It goes on to say that 'For the first time since European settlement the US does not have a Protestant majority, according to a study, with the number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation on the rise'.

Church Contrary to what many Christians argue and desperately want to believe, in the West their flock is deserting them, and things are only going to get worse for them. The article notes that in the US 'One-third of adults under the age of 30 have no religious affiliation, compared with 9% of people aged 65 and older. Pew researchers wrote that "young adults today are much more likely to be unaffiliated than previous generations were at a similar stage in their lives", and aren't expected to become more religiously active as they age'. Religion is dying out, slowly but surely. When you have a smartphone in one hand and a Bible in the other, it's getting harder to believe in gods. The smartphone obviously works, and yet no matter how much you pray, Jesus is never the one that calls.

This study is revealed at the same time as the media reported that a letter written by Albert Einstein goes on sale this week in the US. In it he dismissed the idea of God: 'The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish'.

What pleasing, although not unexpected news this slide to disbelief is. Still, we shouldn't be planning the victory party just yet, since just as it is in NZ, many people that tick the 'no religion' box are often still religious, often still believing in a god of some vague description. They ignorantly believe that if they don't attend some Christian church or don't even see themselves as Christian at all, then they can claim that they have no religion. They naively believe that religion is just another word for Christianity (or Islam or Judaism), and that believing in a supernatural creator god other than the Biblical God doesn't make them religious, it makes them spiritual. Or some other weasel word.

But this is all good, at least they have consciously rejected the majority religions and are now on the slippery slope to atheism. They've accepted that gods Jesus and Jehovah, Yahweh and Allah are all unbelievable, and if they ever start thinking seriously about their newfound spiritual nonsense, they'll soon realise how pathetically weak it is as well. We need to remember that innumerable theologians have spent centuries trying to make a case for their god, and have failed miserably. There are library shelves chock full of ancient religious arguments for the existence of god, and not one of them succeeds in this modern age. That these modern spiritual believers with 'no religion' somehow think that they can support their silly beliefs in a creator where centuries of theologians have failed just shows how little they have thought about their beliefs. They're like children who believe in Santa or the Tooth Fairy, they just believe, they don't think about whether their belief actually makes sense. And like children, they'll slowly forget about their spiritual beliefs, which will become so irrelevant in their lives that these people are essentially atheists whether they realise it or not. Thankfully, perhaps realising how flimsy their spiritual beliefs are, these believers who tick 'no religion' are usually reluctant to reveal their silly beliefs, so in social situations intelligent conversations generally proceed as if we all believe in the likes of evolution and the big bang. Raising silly god stuff is as unwelcome as lighting up a cigarette.

First it was the lepers who were shunned, then the smokers, and now it's the religious believers who are being told to take their nonsense outside.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Oct, 2012 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Anonymous, 06 Dec, 2012

    I can't agree with your optimism. If there is one thing humanity has proven over and over again it's that the majority are still "sheep to be shorn" by those with a good story whether it be Mayan calendars predicting the end of the world, magnetism curing cancer, gods and goddesses waiting to grant your wishes "if only pray hard enough", politicians telling you ... well anything, psychics talking to your ancestors or dearly departed, Nigerian princes with money they need your help to access, technology companies charging you 3 x a products value because it's name has an "i" in front of it, and so on. If we survive long enough as a species that we leave this planet to find another to destroy I'm quietly confident somebody will get a seat on the first ship off because of the need for spiritual guidance in any new colony. Or more likely, the ship will be funded and crewed by the Church of Scientology (or a futuristic equivalent). I hope I am both wrong and entirely too pessimistic but I don't think I am.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Dec, 2012

    We agree with all you say, but being optimistic makes it easier to get up in the morning. Like you, we hope you're wrong regarding the future of humanity.

Is modern medicine killing you?
Poison At 8pm last Wednesday a NZ made series premiered on TV1: 'Is Modern Medicine Killing You?' The synopsis repeated the title in case you didn't get it: 'This new factual series challenges the way we look at our health and asks the question — is modern medicine killing you?'

The series will look at 20 Kiwis with chronic health problems for whom modern medicine has failed to find a cure. The first episode featured two cases. The first was Candace, a woman who developed a painful skin problem on her hands four years ago, chronic hand dermatitis. The second was Damien, a man who had suddenly got a painful headache three years ago and it has never gone away.

We weren't impressed with this program for a number of reasons. First, the title: 'Is Modern Medicine Killing You?'

Was modern medicine killing either of the featured people? NO, NO, NO! Was it even slightly harming them? Again, NO! The ONLY thing that was harming these people was nature, or if you're religious, God. The body is part of nature, and as such organs can fail or can be attacked by natural toxins, bacteria, viruses etc. By blaming God, we mean that they're ill because God had either been utterly incompetent in designing the human body or was deliberately visiting bodily pain and suffering on to individuals because of some indiscretion, eg as he did with Job. Since we don't believe some god was involved, that leaves us with nature as the culprit. Neither Candace nor Damien just went to their doctor or hospital for a routine checkup, in perfect health, and returned home with an affliction, an affliction caused by modern medicine. Both subjects had developed their condition due to a problem with their body. Their own natural body was performing below par, and they sought out modern medicine to correct a fault with nature, not to accuse it of trying to kill them. Rather than killing these people, it was, in the case of Damien, modern medicine that probably saved his life, and in the case of both of them, modern medicine that improved their lives. Damien's continual headache had made him suicidal in the first year, and it can probably be argued that the strong and effective painkillers administered by modern medicine, painkillers that made his life more bearable, were one of the reasons that he is still alive today. Without them, there was a high chance that the unremitting pain would have indirectly killed him. In neither case was modern medicine shown to be harming either subject, let alone slowly killing them. Of course the media often suggests that modern medicine can cure most anything, and for those things it can't, amazing cures are only a few months away. But any intelligent, well-informed citizen knows full well that modern medicine can't cure everything, not even close, and that it has never claimed to.

The program's voiceover noted that: 'They all feel conventional medicine has failed them'. But is this a problem with conventional medicine or with these people themselves? Conventional medicine can only fail people if they believe or have been told that conventional medicine WILL cure their affliction in the first place. Doctors and specialists are irresponsible if they guarantee success, they should only express probability. Of course with many conditions and treatments they can say that recovery is nigh on guaranteed, but for many, many medical conditions successful treatments either don't exist or are still relatively ineffective. Conventional medical professionals are generally honest as to where they can make a difference and where they can't, and if they don't promise a cure they can't fail their patients. Unfortunately many people have the false impression, bolstered by the media, that conventional medicine can cure anything and everything, and they visit doctors with these delusions. Conventional medicine hasn't failed these people, it's their false view of conventional medicine that has failed them.

The program appeared to be miffed that modern medicine can't immediately diagnosis and then cure everything. Completely ignoring all the many conditions that modern medicine can diagnose and treat, they have deliberately sought subjects with conditions that modern medicine has apparently been unable to cure. Of which there is still a great many. But we must remember that humans are generally healthier now than we have ever been in history, and no matter what affliction someone might have, today is the best time to ask a doctor about it. If they can't cure it, they can often limit its symptoms or make suggestions to make living with it a little more bearable.

A more honest title for the program might have been: 'Can modern medicine cure everything?' or 'Is modern medicine all knowing?'. The title they went with, 'Is Modern Medicine Killing You?', does nothing but imply that modern medicine is a threat to your health, that you're potentially risking your life accepting drugs from your doctor. And of course if you're asked to fear modern medicine, or at least look at with suspicion, then where might you turn for help? The only alternative to modern medicine is of course primitive medicine. Not liking this honest description, people that push primitive medicine usually refer to it as natural therapies or alternative therapies.

Regarding primitive medicine, during the program, Candace said something that I saw as weird. Before she saw any improvement in her condition and before any alternatives therapies were even mentioned, she said: 'One thing that came out of the terrible thing that just happened to me [her partner died of cancer], is that I'm really keen now to investigate more about alternative therapies and believe even more that that's possibly the way things should go'. Why did she say this, apparently giving alternative therapies a free plug for no obvious reason? Was she, along the lines of the program's title, blaming modern medicine for killing her partner and was now seeking answers elsewhere? Or had her partner tried alternative therapies for his cancer? But if that's the case, since they obviously didn't work that should have only made her suspicious of alternative therapies. Why was this comment included if not as just another gratuitous knock for conventional medicine?

Our second gripe: the implication that doctors and hospital specialists are incompetent and even injurious to your health. Not counting the doctor featured on the program of course, Dr Frances Pitsilis, who carried the label: GP Integrated Medicine. Both subjects had evidently seen numerous doctors over the years, and not one, using modern medicine, had been able to make a positive difference. They were either completely worthless, or if the program's title is to be believed, were slowly killing their patients through their misguided belief in modern medicine.

Regarding Candace, are we to believe that not one of the doctors and eight dermatologists she consulted realised there might be a problem with her diet since she was a vegetarian with a high starch and sugar intake? When she said she was a vegetarian, even I thought: 'Well, that could be your problem right there!'. Did she tell them she was a vegetarian, and if she did, did she steadfastly refuse to change, even for the benefit of her health, as she did with Dr Pitsilis? Candace said: 'If someone could fix my hands, it would mean the world to me. It would completely change my life'. But eating a little bit of beef was not a step she was willing to take to improve her life it seems. Obviously the pain wasn't as serious and debilitating as she suggested. On Candace revealing she was vegetarian, Dr Pitsilis immediately looked as though she also knew what the likely problem was, and recommended supplements such as B12, iron and zinc, as well as a gluten and sugar free diet.

After watching the program, a more accurate title based on their fears might have been: 'Are Pharmaceutical Drugs Harming You?' We say this because after listening to scary soundbites of people with chronic problems, and being shown pills being tipped from bottles, the program's voiceover said: 'This could affect you! Are prescription drugs always the answer, or is modern medicine killing you?' The program was in fact chock full of modern medicine, in a very positive sense. The program used Dr Pitsilis and other doctors trained in modern medicine, who behind the scenes no doubt used modern medicine to analyse blood samples and take and interpret scans etc. Surely it can be argued that after looking at technologically obtained test results and utilising the knowledge of modern medicine regarding the body's requirements and diet, that it was modern medicine that suggested a potential course of action for these two subjects? For example, Dr Pitsilis knew that Candace the vegetarian needed supplements such as vitamin B12, iron and zinc. Isn't it modern medicine that informs us of the crucial need of vitamins and minerals and the consequences of their deficiently? Damien had undergone both CAT and MRI scans to eliminate the possibility of tumours etc, was examined by a specialist oral surgeon who verified the probable cause of his headaches, and was sent for treatment by a physiotherapist. Why the high reliance on modern medicine?

If you're of the opinion that modern medicine is harming us, you can't just reject evil vaccines or killer chemotherapy drugs while happily embracing all the other impressive knowledge and tools that conventional medicine offers. Don't go and get an MRI scan to diagnose a problem and then rush off to ask a Reiki therapist to cure it. Don't plead that conventional medicine should help you and then vilify it when they admit that they, after probably identifying your problem, can't yet cure it.

Some people today look on modern medicine as not good for you, since it's not natural, in that synthetic drugs, medical scanners and surgical operations don't happen in nature, but in this sense vegetarians and vegans are not being natural either. They're going against what humans have been doing naturally since we first evolved. They are fighting nature, not returning to nature. Perhaps this particular episode should have been called: 'Is being a vegetarian killing you?' It's not natural for humans to be vegetarians. Whatever your view on eating meat, humans have evolved as omnivores, animals that eat both meat and vegetables. Our bodies need certain elements from our food to remain healthy, and it expects to get them from both meat and vegetables. Neglect one or the other and the body suffers, and death can result. If you have an aversion to eating certain foods, and they provide essential elements for health, then you must ensure you get those elements from some other source. Some vegetarians can be quite ignorant of this. It's important to again emphasise that it was modern medicine that discovered what essential vitamins and minerals the body needs to remain healthy, where we obtain them, and how we might get them artificially if a specific natural food isn't available, or acceptable in the case of vegetarians and vegans. But let's not pretend that being a vegetarian is natural, and by implication, good for us.

A third gripe with the program was this: Candace was sent to an acupuncturist, the only non-conventional therapy shown in this episode, and as she received her first treatment she gushed enthusiastically about how wonderful she felt. From her comments and attitude viewers were given the impression that acupuncture was the answer, she was cured. You couldn't help but think that acupuncture was a great therapy. Candace said: 'I don't know why I didn't do this before now!' The voiceover then added: 'Has Candace found her answer?' And yet deceptively we never heard acupuncture mentioned again in the episode. When they explained what treatments had benefited Candace, acupuncture received no mention. What can we assume from this omission? Obviously that acupuncture had no effect whatsoever on her problem. In fact one of the acupuncturist's recommendations may have even made her problem worse if it was acted on. He said that she might not have enough sugar in her diet, when in fact it was found that she had too much. He made this false diagnosis with no tests but a simple guess. The glowing recommendation that Candace gave acupuncture was not justified, and it should have been noted when explaining what treatments worked, as to what treatments DIDN'T work, ie acupuncture. It was deceptive that by the program's silence, viewers would have been left with the false impression that acupuncture fared well. It didn't.

There was also that old con-artist trick of using staged before and after photographs, where Damien's 'after' shot showed him smiling, animated, and with studio makeup, all which contrasted with his 'before' shot, which had him looking sullen, with 'sunglasses', no studio makeup and poor lighting. It's amazing that people are fooled by these tricks, and that a 'factual series' would resort to them.

So were our two sufferers cured sans modern medicine? Both subjects evidently saw varying improvement through a change of diet. Candace's dermatitis problem apparently cleared up through taking crucial supplements and adopting a gluten and sugar free diet. Damien's headaches were still with him, although not quite as severe. He felt that adopting exercise and a healthy diet were contributing to his improved outlook on life, although he still relies on modern medicine in the form of painkillers. But isn't recommending exercise and a healthy diet part of modern medicine as well? Of course it is. My conventional medicine doctor recommends it all the time. If the program were really willing to reject modern medicine, it would have been full of homeopathic remedies, Reiki therapists, crystal healing, colour therapists and psychic surgeons. Will this silly nonsense appear in later episodes, or will all 20 chronic sufferers be successfully treated simply with a change in their diet? Does anyone you know have phantom limb pain, cancer or a minor case of Ebola, ask them if they've considered their diet? In our view, implying that diet change is a cure-all is as irresponsible as pretending that modern medicine is. Especially if you vilify modern medicine in the process.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Oct, 2012 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Mike, 08 Oct, 2012

    Unfortunately modern pharma/medicine has a well-deserved and increasingly obvious reputation for chicanery and outright fraud. In some cases this can actually involve withholding test results that show that harm is being done — resulting in doctors ending up unknowingly subscribing in a way that can do their patients harm — Thalidomide is perhaps the best known case. Ben Goldacre is a well-known science writer from the UK who highlights the deceptive practices of pharma in his book "Bad Pharma" — the foreword is available to read on his blog —

    http://www.badscience.net/2012/09/heres-the-intro-to-my-new-book/

    Fortunately for rationalists everywhere this chicanery does not actually invalidate the scientific basis of modern medicine — it just goes to show that money can corrupt everything! The answer is, of course, to stop letting pharma get away with this nonsense — not to abandon modern medicine!

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Oct, 2012

    Hi Mike. I agree that there are major problems with many drug companies and the way some drugs are trialed and marketed, but I don't see it as an all or nothing problem, as many try to portray it. That pharmaceutical companies are evil and their drugs do nothing but harm. That we need to get rid of them and return to natural therapies, using only things found in nature that are good for us. I've been prescribed various drugs over the years that made a huge difference in my quality of life, and I still take painkillers for the occasional headache etc. They work as promised, it wasn't just in my mind. As Ben Goldacre says in his book's intro: 'Drug companies around the world have produced some of the most amazing innovations of the past fifty years, saving lives on an epic scale'. Note that final bit: 'saving lives on an epic scale'. We also need to remember that modern medicine is far more than just drugs, for example there's scans such as X-rays and MRI, blood tests and biopsies, surgery and lifestyle changes, eg stop smoking or inhaling asbestos, that improve our health that don't involve drugs.

    We also need to note that our gripe was against the program 'Is Modern Medicine Killing You?' Nowhere in the program were specific complaints or accusations made towards any prescription drug. While there are real problems with some pharmaceutical companies, none of this was addressed in this program. If they think modern medicine is killing us, it's by methods other than the real concerns that Ben Goldacre raises in his book.

    There is a problem, but as one reader's comment on Ben Goldacre's book said: 'Medicine is broken. ... but it is still better than the Alternative, yes?' We would argue yes, definitively. However a following reader asked: 'Hmmm.. in what way? ...it seems to be that real medicine has been corrupted to the point where it now resembles alternative medicine to a worrying extent'.

    We've got to be careful that we don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Most people that I encounter demonising big pharma are the same people that argue that vaccines are dangerous. But as Ben Goldacre says, the problem with pharmaceutical companies is not that drugs are just a big con: 'This isn't a simple story of cartoonish evil, and there will be no conspiracy theories. Drug companies are not withholding the secret to curing cancer, nor are they killing us all with vaccines'.

    The problems with pharmaceutical companies that Goldacre raises need to be urgently addressed, but in the meantime we shouldn't assume that conventional medicine is so corrupt, harmful and useless that we need to ditch it and return to the old ways. As you say Mike, 'The answer is, of course, to stop letting pharma get away with this nonsense — not to abandon modern medicine!'

The Christian fear of atheists
Yesterday, while on the Christian Radio Rema website listening to a recommended interview, I stumbled across this short 5-minute interview: Why the Catholic church remains stable

It featured Auckland Catholic Church Communications Spokeswoman, Lyndsay Freer, talking to Pat Brittenden.

Most of the interview was unremarkable, however when asked if the Catholic Church was worried about the historic lows of church membership — although they are the largest of the Christian churches, only 12% of the NZ population are Catholics — Freer replied:

Cross 'I actually think, and I'm sure we all think, that people of faith, it's very important that we have people of faith in our community, because people of faith have very strong values, they have a spirituality that makes a great contribution to the community, to society and so on. I think what is more worrying... is secularism, of people of no faith, I think that's something we need to be more concerned about'.
It's obvious when Freer talks of 'secularism, of people of no faith', she is actually referring to atheism. Secularism can mean skepticism or indifference towards religion, which implies atheism. However secularism today more generally means the notion that religion should be kept out of civil affairs, eg the separation of church and state. In this sense people can still be devout believers, but they don't allow their faith to intrude on their day jobs. You can still support secularism and have religious faith. Without secularism one religion, eg Catholics or Muslims, would be deemed the state religion and would influence the government, and all other religions would be sidelined or even banned. So it makes sense for all religions to support secularism, unless they are in a country where they can seize and hold absolute power. In fact if it weren't for secularism, the separation of religion from civil society, and especially from science and government, then rather than democracy we would have a vicious, dogmatic theocracy under the Pope's leadership. And rather than having our advanced society, we would still be ruled by ignorance and superstition. We wouldn't need to read about the frightening Dark Ages, we would still be living them. Belief in secularism help lead to the Renaissance and then the Enlightenment, without which the modern western world would be as ignorant and as dangerous as the Islamic world still is.

But when Freer talks of secularism, she is clearly targeting atheists: people of no religious faith. I doubt that she doesn't know the difference. I wonder why she isn't brave enough to say what she means? Has the Vatican ordered that their PR people fudge the issue by insisting that they refer to atheists as secularists?

And as an aside, isn't it utterly ironic that the Vatican, an organisation that refuses to acknowledge equality between men and women, that refuses to allow female priests, that refuses to let women gain positions of authority over men, employs a woman to publicly defend the males? By their logic, how could she ever hope to do as good a job as some man, any man? Why do the males of the NZ Catholic Church hide behind the skirts of a woman, imploring her to defend their mistakes while steadfastly refusing to see her as an equal? Freer no doubt would claim that she is serving God, not the priests, but that just moves the onus onto God. Why does he hate women?

Let's look at the despicable implications of Freer's veiled and barbed comments: 'it's very important that we have people of faith in our community', that is, we don't want atheists. Who's next in the Catholic gun sights, homosexuals? She claims 'people of faith have very strong values', implying that atheists don't have values, that we're amoral or perhaps even immoral. People of faith 'have a spirituality that makes a great contribution to the community, to society and so on', again implying that atheists make little or no positive contribution to society. I wonder if this is how Hitler started framing his argument against the Jews?

Of course Freer will defend her venom against atheists as being divinely revealed, quoting from the only book on her bookshelf such passages as:

'The fool says in his heart, "There is no God". They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.' (PS 14:1)

'That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the Lord your God... You must purge the evil from among you... Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death... Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the Lord your God...' (DT 13:1-11)

So there you go, atheists are foolish, corrupt and vile, and not one of us, in the long stretch of history, has ever done anything good. [Insert evil laugh here] Since atheists have certainly tried to point out how silly belief in gods is, and have definitely turned many people away from their god, then we are evidently an evil that must be purged from society. And as graphically and accurately portrayed in the Monty Python movie 'Life of Brian', we must be stoned to death.

Having now read how God and the Bible clearly commands Christians to behave towards atheists, and realising that many Christians still believe in this disgusting hate speech (although beyond insults most are too afraid to fully obey their God), if there truly is an evil lurking in society, which group might it be? The aforementioned Catholics or atheists, a group that has done nothing bar one thing: deny the existence of gods because there is no evidence of or need for gods?

Regarding atheism, made up of 'people of no faith', Freer asserts that: 'I think that's something we need to be more concerned about'. In one sense she couldn't be more correct, and this has been the Pope's message as well, which she is merely parroting. The Catholic Church, in fact every religion, needs to be concerned, terrified even, over the rise in atheistic belief worldwide. Surveys have shown that generally as educational levels rise then so too does disbelief in gods. Just as cars replaced horse drawn carriages, and antibiotics replaced leeches, atheism is slowly but surely replacing theism. The only question is how long will it take before God, Jehovah, Allah and Shiva are relegated to the mythology books alongside Zeus, Apollo, Maui and Thor? Of course in these more enlightened times we still have the occasional horse drawn carriage and even a use for leeches, and so likewise religious belief will not vanish entirely, but it will eventually shrink to obscure cults, giggled at in the same way that we now giggle at naked witches dancing and cackling around a bubbling cauldron.

When asked about her view of people joining non-denominational and Pentecostal churches rather than the Catholic Church, Freer replied:

'I think if people have faith, and if people believe in God, and if people's lives are actually geared up to be loving and serving, I think that's a good thing'.
So again the implication is that since (in the Christian worldview) having faith is a good thing, having no faith must be a bad thing. Evidently you have to believe in God to 'be loving and serving'. I can understand that the religious feel comfortable being nothing but a servant to an invisible being that never calls, but I can't for the life of me think why this blind, unwarranted obedience to a god that demands the death of those that think differently is a good thing. I also can't understand people like Freer who have the arrogance and/or ignorance to suggest that only the religiously deluded can be loving towards others. Again the implication is that atheists are evil and immoral. If I help someone up who has fallen, evidently it's only to steal their wallet. If I donate to charity, it's just to save on my taxes. If I call my mother on her birthday, it's not love, it's just to keep my name in her Will. Is Freer completely blind to the world around her, or just deliberately deceptive in describing it?

Freer also mentioned that Catholic numbers are actually increasing slightly, whereas other Christian cults are all decreasing. I don't understand that. Due to the extremely damaging publicity surrounding the Catholic Church in recent years, mainly regarding the rampant sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and the covering up of these heinous crimes by other priests, bishops and popes, the church should be haemorrhaging members. Griping their children, Catholics should be fleeing the pews, disgusted with the actions of their church. Many honest Catholics have left, yet overall their numbers are claimed to be increasing. Is this just creative accounting, or are we to believe that ignorant people are still falling for their fantasy in greater numbers than are leaving? Since the access to education and knowledge is improving, not just in NZ but worldwide, where is this pool of dullards coming from?

But again, Lyndsay Freer has every reason to be fearful of atheists, and the message that we seek to communicate. Fearful not for the reasons that she and her master imply: that we are foolish, corrupt and vile, lacking of morals and evil, since of course we are about as evil as the vampire Count on Sesame Street. But rightly fearful because we are sowing the seeds of the demise of all religion. As her God is claimed to have said: 'Let there be light', and eventually people will see the light, the light of reason that leads to revealing the reality of life, the universe and everything. And it doesn't include gods, or vampires. The end is nigh. For religion that is.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Oct, 2012 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Phill, 09 Oct, 2012

    Come on John — why are you surprised? The argument used by people of faith the world over about secularists is that we have no morals. We have no belief in some supernatural power that keeps us on the straight and narrow. Remember the basic strand of Christianity (and I think Islam and Judaism) is that we are born in sin and can only be saved by the grace of god, thus anyone without faith is naturally sinful and immoral, and evil, and despicable, and absolutely the world's worse sh*t.

    And people of faith will often point to examples of evil atheists to prove their point — you know atheists just like Hitler — oh! Damn! Of course he was a catholic. Well then there was Stalin — true he was a self proclaimed atheist during the height of his career, but originally he trained in a seminary. Now I'm no great intellectual, but my first thought is: what are the shared characteristics of these two men; who were the worst murderers of the 20th Century? And what I keep coming up with is of course Christianity — Hitler's Catholicism and Stalin's early Christian training.

    In fact, Fascism itself was seen as an off shoot of the Catholic church with many church leaders of the time supporting their local fascist groups, especially in Ireland and Spain. In Germany, Fascism rose in Bavaria, one of the Southern German states and primarily catholic.

    Should we be surprised about this? Of course not, the bible, especially the Old Testament is filled with divinely demanded examples of vicious ethnic cleansing where men, women, and children were ordered put to the sword by the Christians loving god. As we all know the list of religious intolerance and viciousness is long, lengthy, and pretty awful in its reading. And it's just not the Catholics, the Southern Baptists in America supplied the religious doctrine in support of both slavery and segregation that followed. They also provided the moral support for such Christian organisations as the Ku Klux Klan.

    I could go on but you've already covered a lot of this already on your wonderful site. I have a real fear, and that is the world is polarizing between the extremist religious types and us Secularists, it also worries me when I see a lot of Christian media picking up the extremism that comes currently out of America which is to my mind is not very healthy.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Oct, 2012

    Hi Phill. Like you I'm not in the slightest surprised to hear that Christians think we're immoral and that they fear our presence in society. We just like to remind people how ignorant, childish and intolerant many Christians are in not just believing such offensive things, but in openly saying such things.

    People have recently again been appalled at screaming Muslims threatening to butcher non-believers and blasphemers, and yet very few will realise that the Bible commands obedient Christians and Jews to do the same. Feeling superior, they'll parrot that old myth that Christianity is a religion of love, just as Muslims falsely claim that Islam is a religion of peace. Most Christians, most agnostics and probably even most atheists are utterly ignorant of what's in the Bible. Even non-Christians often still support Christianity since they falsely see it as a benevolent, if fundamentally misguided, force for good.

    While both you and I know that the Hitler and Stalin arguments are just childish, far too many are fooled by these arguments, and we need to keep explaining why until they get it. Surely they can't all be too stupid to see reason? Likewise we need to keep reminding them that saying we lack values and don't contribute to society is offensive and insulting, and of course utterly false. The religious demand respect and tolerance for their beliefs, it's high time that they realised that this commitment goes both ways.

    Of course the very nature of their belief, not just that they are right and we are wrong, but that blasphemy is highly offensive to their sky fairy and must not be tolerated, could well mean that it is impossible for good Christians to tolerate atheists as atheists tolerate them. Atheists can ignore Christians. We can shake our heads in disbelief and get on with our lives, unfortunately Christians can't do the same. They're not allowed to. Their god is a weak, insecure and vindictive god. Evidently their god can't sleep at night if you and I don't believe in him. And yet, amazingly, he still can't be bothered to come down here and see us personally, to give us a sign. I'm thinking that our disbelief is not as important to God as his believers think it is.

The Virgin Jesus and the Virgin Mary
Papyrus 'Who cares if Jesus was married? Geez, the rubbish they put on the news these days'. So moaned my uncle the other day. You may have seen the small ancient piece of papyrus in the media that has been called 'The Gospel of Jesus' Wife'. Believed to be from the fourth century it says, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife ...' "

Who cares if Jesus was married? Certainly not me, frankly I've yet to be convinced that he even existed. To me it's little different to discussing whether a fictional pair such as Harry Potter and Hermione or Captain James T Kirk and Uhura ever got together, entertaining perhaps, but hardly worthy of serious consideration. But that aside, there are millions of Christians, especially Catholics, for whom the marital status of Jesus is of great importance. And it's not just about whether Jesus was single, but more importantly, whether he was celibate and promoted the lifestyle. Like his mother before him, was Jesus a 30-year-old virgin?

Catholics especially are fixated on the marital status and sex life of Jesus (as well as his mother), and this has lead to an especially unhealthy fixation on the sex life of everyone else on the planet. As you'll know, the Catholic pope and all his sycophant crew — cardinals, bishops, priests, nuns etc — are all celibate, and view marriage and sex as disgusting, repulsive and something only the lower animals indulge in. Or so they say in public. And by lower animals, the Church doesn't just mean actual animals, they mean humans like you and me, whose base desires allow us to be used by the Church as breeding stock. Even the Church realised that it was necessary for humans to reproduce, so someone had to close their eyes, lie back and think of England. While these participants in the sexual Olympics would be forever sullied, some of their offspring might choose a life of celibacy and be saved by joining the priesthood.

Of course this wasn't always the case. In the early years of Christianity popes and priests were married and viewed sex as something to be enjoyed at every opportunity. It was only after 1139 CE that the Christian Church decreed priests were no longer to marry, which of course also meant that they were to remain celibate. How they ever got normal men to happily join their celibacy club is beyond me, and while their numbers are much reduced these days, young men — and women — are still joining and throwing their lives away. Nuns are told that they're the brides of Christ, and they obediently save themselves for their bridegroom Jesus. Muslim martyrs supposedly get 72 virgins when they go to heaven, but that's nothing compared to the virgins that Jesus has had and is yet to have. No wonder Jesus hasn't returned, he's far too busy keeping all his new brides satisfied. Unless of course the Church is lying to all these young women, and Jesus isn't waiting to take them in wedlock? And what are the men, the popes and priests, expecting when they meet Jesus in heaven, having given up earthly sex for him? He is their bridegroom as well?

In the early draft of the Bible, the part now called the Old Testament, sex and marriage was a positive thing, and someone wanting to remain a virgin for life would have been unthinkable. I mean, the Bible is full of people knowing other people in the Biblical sense, that is, having sex, and enjoying it. As the story goes, God created an unimaginably large and complex universe solely to place the idyllic Garden of Eden in it. And here he created two humans, male and female. We're told that 'The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame' (GE 2:25). Evidently God not only intended them to be naked, but also that they remain naked. God didn't find nudity shameful. Then God told his two beautiful nudists, 'Be fruitful and increase in number' (GE 2:25). God also didn't find sex shameful. People dream of going to Heaven, personally I'd rather go to the Garden of Eden, it seems more like paradise to me than an eternity of praising God in a heaven where nudity and sex are an abomination. And all the fun people are probably in Hell anyway.

But anyway, after a good start, God quickly loses interest after his human pets show an interest in knowledge in addition to having sex, and sneak into the Garden's forbidden library, poorly disguised as a tree. God only knows what they read in the library that so distorted their thinking regarding nudity and sex, but it made God realise that his idea of paradise on earth was impossible with these two, and he expelled them into the less-than-perfect world outside the garden. And things go down hill from there for both God and our ex-nudists. God occasionally looked in on them and tried to make some adjustments, often violent and usually poorly thought through, but things only got worse, so you could tell his heart really wasn't in it anymore. Eventually it got so bad and so depressing that it was decided to reboot the story with a new character with superhero powers, and a new name for the second book. Originally it was going to be 'Jesus versus Satan: This Time it's Personal', but the publishers went with 'The New Testament'. Boring!

Apparently it's only atheists that can see a problem with this Jesus character being far removed from the character that started it all, the one called God. Not only that, even though he's only introduced near the end of the overall story and dies a humiliating death, the book promotes him as the hero, relegating God, his father, to a bit part. In fact God, the hero in the original doesn't even make an appearance in the sequel, he's only mentioned in passing. It's almost as if the author has been swapped for another, one that had a different vision for the book. From a God who loved nudity and sex, women and marriage, and was prepared to get his hands bloody if someone crossed him, we move to his son, who if the stories written long after his death are to be believed, abhors nudity and sex, women and marriage. Gone also is the willingness to smite those that attack him, an insult would merely see him turning the other cheek, or at worst, perhaps a slap with his sandal. Of course this could be believable if it were simply a difference in outlook between father and son, but according to the story, and this is where it gets weird, the father and son are really the same person. Think of Doctor Who, of how he looks and sounds completely different in each series, but we all know that he's still the same person with the same memories and mental states who has merely morphed into a new physical body. And as silly as Doctor Who often is, amazingly it makes more sense than the Bible. The authors of the Bible really struggled with continuity, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that you were reading different stories with no thought to the overall story arc. In the New Testament, the original God is all but dead and forgotten, replaced by a reincarnation in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, a carpenter. What a come down, from the builder of the universe to a mere builder of lawn furniture. God's original promise is gone, his covenant has been replaced with another to a different people, with God seemingly ignorant to what the notion of a binding agreement means. And in the end not only does the hero not get the girl, he dies having achieved nothing and his disciples flee feeling utterly dejected, not to mention foolish. How this barbaric and disjointed story ever became popular is beyond me.

So pretending we care, was this Jesus married according to the officially released version of his book? Contrary to what Christians will tell you, especially Catholics, there is nothing in the Bible that clearly states that Jesus was or wasn't married. So, with no comments for or against, is it likely Jesus was married? Yes it is. In the time of Jesus it would have been so unusual, so strange for a Jewish male, and rabbi, to be unmarried that this fact would call out to be commented on in the Bible. Jesus as a single Jewish male would have stood out like a large black wolf that had forgotten his sheep's clothing in amongst a flock of small white sheep. Jews believed it was their duty to God to marry and produce children. Most everyone in the Bible, including Paul, was, or had been, married, except Jesus so we are asked to believe. And even though this must have seemed quite out of place for a Jew, no one mentioned it. If it happened today, people would no doubt say he was probably gay. As Rabbi Eleasar Ben-Asarja said, 'Whoever renounces marriage violates the commandment to increase and multiply; he is to be looked upon as a murderer who lessens the number of the beings created in the image of God.' There's no good reason to believe that Jesus wasn't in fact married, and as Ranke-Heinemann states, 'when Paul says that he knows of no saying by Jesus on celibacy, but can only present his personal opinion (1 Cor 7:25), that can hardly be made to square with the notion that Jesus was unmarried. Though Paul may have no saying by Jesus before him, if he could have cited the example of Jesus the celibate, he would hardly have been satisfied with pointing to the lack of a specific saying. There is no way he would have failed to mention the unusual example set by Jesus' own life — if Jesus had set it.'

Christians will argue that since the Bible neglects to mention that Jesus had red hair or was obese or worn women's clothing, then we can probably assume that he was just an average looking Jewish male. But if this is a good argument, and it is, then we can also add that since the marital status of Jesus wasn't mentioned, we are likewise justified to assume that Jesus was typical of the time. He was married. Let's remember that the Bible does indeed comment on the actions of Jesus that Jews of the time found contrary to their beliefs and traditions, such as mixing with women, tax collectors and Samaritans and healing on the Sabbath. If he didn't have a beard or somehow stood out from the accepted appearance and behaviour of the time then it would have been mentioned. So why didn't they comment on the unusual fact that not only was he not married, he was celibate and against marriage? Surely it was worth a mention, especially considering the enormous importance the church would later place on it?

Could the papyrus actually be from a genuine ancient document? Of course it could be. Like many documents and artefacts from ancient times, only a minute fraction concerning Christianity have survived, and of those, only a small fraction have been examined, translated and made public. What does exist often refers to these long lost documents, and we also know that the Church has throughout its history gone to great lengths to locate and destroy or hide anything it considered heretical. There is undoubtedly a large number of ancient documents in the hands of private collectors and hidden within the Vatican archives. The Christian Church not only erased all pagan religions it came into contact with, it systematically attacked and suppressed fellow Christians that had the arrogance to view things differently. When compiling the New Testament, the early Church very carefully only included those books that supported the story that they were creating, and excluded and banned all others, labelling them heretical and blasphemous. The New Testament only contains 4 gospels, but there were many more gospels circulating when the Bible content was formalised. However these other gospels revealed details about Jesus that embarrassed the Church, so were destroyed. In recent years a handful of incomplete gospels have been found, such as ones now called The Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Judas. The thing to realise is that the books in the New Testament are only a fraction of what existed in the formative years of Christianity, books that all revealed and discussed different aspects of the life and mission of Jesus. And most of them the Church decided must never see the light of day. The Church had concocted a life and death for Jesus to suit their ends and they were in no mood to let facts and opinions expressed in other books get in the way. That was true then and it is still true today. Just look at how upset they became over the book and movie 'The Da Vinci Code' that claimed Jesus and Mary were married, and the lengths they went to trying to suppress them. And this was a mere fictional book, not a factual challenge. We need to remember that the Church, from the moment they decided that Jesus was to be unmarried and celibate, have actively suppressed any talk or document that said otherwise.

So today, in less primitive and superstitious times, who still cares if Jesus was married? Well, mainly the Catholics, and especially the Vatican and all it's celibate employees, since if he was married then they've been living an enormous lie for centuries, and they've forced upon themselves a difficult and unnatural lifestyle for no good reason. Worse still, thousands of boys and girls have been raped and sexually abused in futile attempts to suppress their sexual appetites. Exposure of a monumental theological error like this that lead to atrocities would cause ordinary believers to question what else in Christianity might be false and mistaken. What else has the Church destroyed and hidden in their secret archives for their evil and misguided purposes? Married or not, Catholicism must now maintain the belief in a celibate Jesus or go out of business. Religions so commit themselves to knowing and communicating the truth, that any sign that they aren't divinely guided, that it's just mere mortals guessing poorly, will see them collapse. You can't argue that your God made a mistake. It's either all true or none of it is. Once a divine claim is shown to be false, then so is your God. So the Vatican will fight tooth and nail to keep Jesus a virgin. Like mother, like son. Not only do they claim to have the right to control your sex life and my sex life, but that of Jesus too. What arrogance!

As for other Christian sects, how much they care will depend on how far they have moved from the original Christian stance, ie the Catholic view. Those that value marriage and sex beyond mere reproduction will readily accept that Jesus was most likely married. To believe that Jesus was normal, that he was married and enjoyed sex, just like them, would only strengthen their faith.

Of course if Jesus was married and maybe had kids, then this means that it's possible that there exists descendants of Jesus walking around somewhere. And if Jesus was God as Christians believe, this means that there are chimeras — part divine being and part human — amongst us. Of course genetically their divine bits would be quite diluted now and they'd probably struggle to float in the pool like most of us rather than walk right across. Also, depending on how Jesus was created by God, the old virgin birth / parthenogenesis bit, then Jesus may have matured into an adult but he may have been sterile as a consequence. Let's remember that God's plan didn't include Jesus having kids, so it wouldn't matter.

But if descendants of Jesus did exist, then obviously they would have far more authority to lead the Christian Church than some degenerate pope pushing a dogma which is, if Jesus was married with kids, blatantly false. Thus the Vatican can never allow Jesus to lose his virginity, or if he did, let it be known that he did.

But of course if Jesus really did exist, the most likely explanation is that his father was no god but actually some Jew or Roman that scampered leaving a pregnant Mary to explain what she had been up to. And the worst case outcome would be her getting stoned. So if you thought those around you were gullible enough to swallow that God had raped you instead, why wouldn't you try?

And to think that people are still swallowing that old lie.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Sep, 2012 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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