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Comments:

  1. Comment by Bruce, 10 Sep, 2007

    Good Site.

    Have a look at this: www.prophet.co.nz in particular the avatar course.

    these guys are out there!

    this kind of bullshit is unfortunately spreading like a cancer in this country, lets not make it too easy for them.

    keep up the good work

  2. Comment by Dana, 16 Oct, 2007

    Sorry didnt really enjoy your site!

  3. Comment by Sam, 14 Nov, 2007

    You need to update your website, or wait maybe you don't because you can't find new things to cittersize!
    SILLY beliefs is right

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Nov, 2007

    Thanks for the suggestion Sam, but we don't need to update "facts". The beliefs we denounce on our website are still false and still silly as far as we can determine. You certainly don't give us any information to make us question our stance, you don't even mention what silly belief you have attached yourself to.
    If you can point out errors please let us know what they are. It's easy to tell someone they're wrong, the difficult part is to explain why. We eagerly await your revelations.
    And might we suggest you get someone to show you how to switch on your email spell checker. Atrocious spelling only leaves us with other things to criticise. We assume that's what you meant with "cittersize"? And it seems rather ironic that you write a vague letter of criticism complaining about people that criticise.

  5. Comment by Sam, 14 Nov, 2007

    Watever!
    It's called txt(text) language

  6. Comment by Sam, 14 Nov, 2007

    n dnt b so bloody picky!

  7. Comment by Glenn, 03 Jul, 2008

    Hi John, just come across your website. Brilliant, all power to you. I endorse your comments 100%. My area of expertise is Astronomy and I have spent much of my time educating people about the science of Astronomy or more particularly Cosmology. Religion is a social disease born of ignorance, fear and superstition. I am currently developing a series of presentations to educate people about Cosmology in order to counter much of the ignorance and mis-information out there.

  8. Comment by Bob, 28 Dec, 2008

    Hi John, I should have my own web page where I can post my ideas. Unfortunately I don't know how to go about it and don't want to pay someone to do it. In the meantime I have to be content with posting to other people's blogs.

    A few days ago there was an article in the media on spare fertilised human eggs left over from fertility treatments. The eggs belong to the donors so they have the right to decide on their disposal. The problem is some have been frozen for several years and the owners have gone. The laboratories where they are stored have three choices, destroy them, use them for egg donations or use them for experiments. The Catholic Church has jumped in and demanded they be destroyed. It regards life as starting at conception. God inserts souls into fertilised eggs and they have the status of fully formed humans. In fact the Catholic Church regards all life as belonging to God so no interference can be allowed in the natural process of conception and birth at all. In fact if childless couples can't conceive then they must go childless. Artificial insemination or removal of eggs for in vitro fertilisation is out. Medical experiments on fertilised eggs are totally out of the question.

    A few weeks ago I read a very interesting book called The Story of God, written by Robert Winston a doctor scientist, author and television presenter who has specialised in human fertility. He hosted a series recently on the development of children from birth shown here on local TV. The Story of God was in fact a BBC television series on the history of religion. Winston asked for and got permission to turn the series into a book. If you see it in your local library I can recommend reading it. One chapter is on his experience with attempts to carry out studies of early embryos.

    The earlier work on in vitro fertilisation did not cause too much controversy until Dolly the sheep was born. That combined with genetic modification and suggestions for experiments on embryos really set the cat among the pigeons. These scientists were acting as God! Laws were set in place particularly by the fundamentalist Bush administration defining the limits of research. The Winston laboratory wanted to experiment on early embryos where the fertilised eggs were allowed to split 8 times. This was still a tiny speck visible only under a fairly strong microscope. The trouble was the law didn't allow them to do it. Members of the British parliament either religious themselves or mindful of upsetting the religious establishment had to be pushed hard to enact laws to allow the experiments. Winston pointed out eggs often split several times before they even implant on the uterus. The embryo at this stage has no recognisable human cells, no brain or nerve cells. That didn't deter the opponents. Groups like the Right to Life printed out pictures of fully formed fetuses in their leaflets opposing the experiments. The Catholic Church placed petitions of opposition at the doors of their churches asking members to sign them on their way out. Yet Winston says little effort was made to explain the issues to them. He had Catholic couples come to him for help with their infertility and were puzzled to find they were doing something wrong. It wasn't only Catholics opposing. He had Rabbis and Protestant ministers. He invited them to come to the laboratory to see for themselves. Few would. A handful who did went away admitting there didn't seem to be anything evil about the work.

    Because of his media work Winston's face with a thick moustache is well known. He was attacked in the street, abused and sometimes threatened. He received death threats by mail. He didn't even tell his wife because he didn't want to upset her. Yet as he said his experiments could lead to more births of healthy babies, more infertile couples getting the chance to have a baby and a chance to avoid hereditary conditions. To me it seems like we haven't gone too far from the days of the Spanish Inquisition or the witch trials.

  9. Comment by Ryan, 29 Oct, 2008

    Hey thanks heaps for a great site!!!!!!
    It scares me that no 1 is standing up 2 this bullshit called religon in NZ!!!!!!!!!!!
    no 1 cares anough to say hang on... what your talking about is not only bullshit but is also dangrous!!!!!!
    please keep up the good work
    spread the gospallllllllllll
    thanks again

  10. Comment by Bob, 09 May, 2009

    Hullo John. Today (Saturday) I have seen two items of interest. One is an article in the Herald and the other comes from an atheists blog site.

    The Herald article concerns Sikh policemen in Britain. Sikhs have recently been accepted into the police and allowed to wear their turbans in place of helmets. I think this is good as members of a particular culture can handle problems in that cultural neighbourhood and help with language problems. The trouble is those Sikh policemen now want to join the armed police similar to our armed offenders squad. However they don't want to take off their turbans and wear the bullet proof helmets normally used. They want the police to design a bullet proof turban just for them. Imagine if all police members of different races and cultures want the police administration to change the rules and design clothing especially for them. What about all other government institutions such as the hospital system? Should there be a number of different uniforms available covering all cultures? Where would it end?

    Too many foreigners coming into our free and open European societies seem to think our societies should change to accommodate them. I would remind them they have left their societies and come to ours. If they want to be integrated here they must follow our rules. In New Zealand we have had problems with totally covered Islamic women refusing to uncover their faces when giving evidence in court or in front of a traffic officer so he can check their faces against the photos on the licences. The difference between them and us is not just culture but is mainly religious culture. Once again religious belief hamstrings societies and progress.

    The other topic is to do with euthanasia. It comes from an American atheists website. I didn't know assisted suicide was legal in Oregon. It doesn't appear to have given rise to any evil in that state. In principle I am in favour of voluntary euthanasia provided there are strong safeguards against abuse. The Catholic Church is totally against it on the grounds that only God can take life. No matter how much pain is suffered mentally or physically a person must wait for natural death. Many terminally ill patients need so much morphine to dull pain that they are virually drugged until nearly comatose. Hospital staff will tell you of cases where doctors have given that little bit extra morphine to a patient to hasten the end. When commenting on cases of human suffering the Catholic Church always emphasises it's compassion then proceeds to insist on courses of action which lead to more suffering and very little compassion. Nurses see heart wrenching cases where the patients want to die but they are not allowed to openly intervene. Oregon has a population of just under 3 million so 341 assisted suicides in 10 years is not many. Opponents always use scare tactics such as claiming people who are only depressed will be helped to die. The small Oregon numbers give the lie to that. In fact they suggest fewer people are helped to die than might want to end their lives.

    Religious representatives have a right to their opinions but rarely shine much light on a subject like this generally obfuscating the issues.

  11. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 May, 2009

    As for those Sikh policemen in Britain, I'm with you. The police and in fact every government department, business etc should ideally reflect the ethnic make up of society. Ethic and religious groups insist that they should be viewed equally when it comes to entry and treatment in these organisations, but once in they then try to insist on special treatment.

    When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Muslims especially annoy me with their silly dress codes. They say that their women should be able to remain covered, like in court or getting a photographic ID. Yet when I worked in Iran, even as a male, I wasn't allowed to dress according to my dress code, and Western women had to wear a headscarf and long coat at all times in public. When I've tried to enter mosques overseas I've had to obey their dress code. Even a Catholic priest in the Notre Dame in Paris made me conform to their dress code. When in a Muslim country why do we have to obey their laws but when they come here they don't have to obey ours? Religion aside, why when I go to the USA am I not allowed to drive on the left because that is what I'm comfortable with? If Muslim women don't want to uncover their face then they must simply forgo doing anything that requires getting a photographic ID for example. It's their choice. Things like driver's licences require certain conditions be met, photographic ID is one of them. Likewise being in public, and especially flying in aircraft, requires that we don't carry knifes, so if Sikhs can't leave their daggers at home, then they need to stay at home as well. Do you remember the news item about Sikhs wanting to be able to carry their ceremonial — but very real — daggers onto planes in NZ? They have five things, including their turbans, that they must wear. If Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Christians or whatever refuse to fulfil certain conditions required to gain entrance to particular employment or get a driver's or firearm's licence etc, then they must be refused, rather than making exceptions. It's like MP Nandor Tanchos being allowed to ride a bike without a helmet because of his religion, and they say that we're all treated equally under the law. Yeah right! Our secular laws that treat everyone equally are not perfect but they are the best we can probably hope to achieve. Otherwise, as you say, where would it end? Would Hindu police recruits insist that their religious caste puts them above the Police Commissioner? Would Muslim police recruits refuse to work with heretics and insist on separate cars, patrols and courts? And why stop at religion? Would police recruits who were also nudists want the right to patrol naked? Would petrol head cops only drive Fords and not Holdens? Would fashion mad policewomen refuse to wear hats because it mussed up their hair or the stab proof vests because they didn't complement their figure? It would be a nightmare, and we haven't even thought about other careers.

    You said, 'I would remind them they have left their societies and come to ours'. How quickly they forget that they left these societies probably because their freedoms were being abused, but rather than embrace this new culture that has offered them an escape, they try and recreate a mini version of the very society they left. Some politicians (especially in Britain) encourage this cultural diversity, that different communities with different languages, beliefs and even laws should be encouraged, rather than pushing for true integration into society. This is only a recipe for disaster. If you want to move to Britain, France, the US or NZ, then you must be prepared to learn the language, accept the culture and its laws, otherwise stay where you are. But the British are often no better, they move to France or Spain to live and refuse to learn the language. If they are allowed to prosper, religious communities in Britain or NZ will only recreate the very restrictions that these people fled in the first place. We must remain secular, where everyone sees themselves as Kiwis, not as Muslims or Sikhs or Baptists. We must not encourage separate communities, different laws and different employment rights based on religion.

    As for euthanasia, I also didn't know assisted suicide was legal in Oregon. I'm definitely a supporter of voluntary euthanasia. It amazes me that the law allows us to euthanize our pets and will even prosecute us if we allow them to suffer unnecessarily. Yet when it comes to our family or ourselves the law insists we must let them die naturally, regardless of the amount of suffering. Why do we have more compassion for animals than for humans?

    You said that 'Nurses see heart wrenching cases where the patients want to die but they are not allowed to openly intervene'. In fact they do openly intervene, not to help them die, but to keep them alive unnaturally. If the body is trying to die, following God's will, then putting them on a respirator and artificially feeding them is just as much an example of 'playing God' as is euthanasia. Ending a life prior to its natural death is just as much a human intervention as prolonging a life past what should have been its natural death. Rather than submitting to God's will, Christians are fighting it with every marvel of modern medicine they can muster.

    Christians are utter hypocrites, pretending to be following God's will and spouting their superior God-given morals to the rest of us, while they are using man-made medicine to battle God's powers. But they become cruel when they selfishly refuse to let an incurable person in terrible pain die a natural death or provide the means to painlessly accelerate their inevitable death. Their own selfish and superstitious desires override the compassion they should have for the patient, usually a close family member or friend. Their cruel and selfish desire to keep them alive overrides the intense pain, suffering, indignity, humiliation, and maybe even pleading, in the bed in front of them. These people disgust me. Definitely fight for life when there is hope, but to continue this when all hope has been dashed and replaced with unspeakable suffering is abhorrent.

  12. Comment by Bob, 21 May, 2009

    I read the following article on the Stuff newspaper summary this morning Harrowing Irish church abuse revealed. It's not a new story now. I remember seeing a documentary when an English television team looked into the subject. They went to one of the homes for supposedly wayward girls who were called Magdalens. Young unmarried mothers had their babies stolen and adopted by Catholic families. No one would talk to the journalists. They waited until nuns opened the solid gate and came out onto the street. They tried to talk to the nuns but were ignored.

    That and the pedophile priests shows me in spite of it's supposed Christian principles the Catholic Church is no different from any other human organisation which grows large and powerful without having to answer to anybody.

  13. Comment by Bob, 22 May, 2009

    I have just found another treasure: muslim-chef-refused-to-cook-sausages-and-bacon-for-police-officers-breakfasts. Anybody wanting a job cooking plain fare for people like the police, soldiers, firemen etc. are going to be expected to cook bacon in America. This idiot actually thinks the police should pay him for not respecting his religion. If he feels so strongly he should stick to cooking for his own people. Do you remember some years ago a Muslim wanting to sue a takeaway bar for putting bacon on his pizza claiming he had sinned for eating it before he noticed the bacon here in New Zealand? As I asked in the post about Sikhs, where will it end?

  14. Comment by Bob, 12 Jun, 2009

    In Thursday's Herald, 11th June, there is a piece about another weeping icon in a Greek Orthodox church in Ramia, Israel. I am not sure if it is a painting or a statue of St. George. It's very indistinct and has streaks of oil running down. Not surprisingly Christians have been flocking there. Out of interest I looked up weeping statues on Google. There are a number of websites however I settled on http://www.crystalinks.com/weepingstatues.html. I was surprised to see how many were shown. What are they and how does it happen? Well I work on the sceptics principle that the simplest explanation is the most likely - they are faked except for an occasional natural explanation such as water absorbancy by the material used to make the statue. That was the explanation for one. The eyes had been made from a material different from the rest of the statue and more absorbent. Going back quite a long time one was shown on a current affairs programme on television. In a Catholic country of poor and poorly educated people, probably South America, a roadside statue of the Virgin was weeping clear tears out of one eye and blood red tears out of the other. A sceptical well experienced American lady reporter went to have a look. She got the name of the maker and went to see him. She asked why clear liquid was running out of one eye. He answered it sounded like the glue was running. Why was the other one red? It sounded like the glue was running bringing a bit of red colouring with it. In another case from America a young girl suffering brain damage lay permanently in a deep coma at home. In her room was a statue of the Virgin with oil running down it, mysteriously of course. The father explained it as the Virgin looking over his daughter. Word got around and large numbers of people were calling. The family allowed them in to walk around bed and out. If I recall correctly there was a collection box for offerings. Money wasn't directly asked for. The interested people were only allowed in during the day but not at night so the family could have peace and privacy. Next morning there was fresh oil. There was the usual claim of miraculous cures of people who called in and said a prayer. I suspect the parents were chuckling over the gullibility of people.

  15. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Jun, 2009

    Those weeping icons also surprise me. Apart from being bogus as you say, I can't understand how believers can downgrade god's powers to such a degree that all he can do these days is make the odd stature cry occasionally and produce a vague image of Jesus or Mary on a piece of toast. Why aren't they demanding their god gets off his arse and does something about the real problems in the world, rather than mucking around with third rate magic tricks?

  16. Comment by Bob, 26 Jun, 2009

    Over the last few days there have been two items in the Herald of religious fundamentalist ignorance one funny and one tragic. In Oregan USA a couple refused medical attention for their baby sick with pneumonia. Instead they prayed over the child while watching it deteriorate then die. They were charged with denying the necessities of life. This is the danger of ignorant belief. Similar cases have happened her including allowing a 13 year old boy to die of cancer.

    The other concerned a Jewish couple living in a highrise block of flats. When they come out of the front door into a corridor a light automatically comes on. Now to line up with the bible the couple interpret a light as a fire. Jews are forbidden from lighting fires on the Sabbath so they believe that causing the light to come on the Sabbath violates their religion. But they can't stop the light coming on so they wanted to sue the building management for not respecting their religion. The article didn't say if they were successful. I must say it is the first time I have heard such a complaint from Jews. It is usually Muslims who easily get up in arms over supposed slights.

    A few years ago a conman in France advertised astrology charts made up for a fee. He made up four standard charts. When people from all around the country ordered them he sent one of the four of course pretending to make them up after getting personal details. If two people from the same town ordered them he would send two different ones just in case they knew each other and compared them. But he was likely to send the same one to people in different parts. Apparently the police didn't see the funny side and charged him with fraud.

    A lady appeared on TV warning people against telephone psychics. She took a job as a psychic working alongside several other women. She was given instructions on what to say the main thing being to keep the caller on the line as long as possible. 0900 numbers were used so the longer the call the greater the income. On one call a lady asked her if she should go ahead with medical treatment and an operation advised by her doctor. The "psychic" had a touch of conscience. She didn't want someone taking false advice from her and suffering for it. She tossed the job in and warned people on the television show against ringing psychic lines.

    Gullible people are a rich vein for fraudsters to mine.

  17. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Jun, 2009

    I guess I can understand why the Oregon couple refused medical help. Imagine you had a sick child and you put your confidence in your local doctor to bring about a cure. However your neighbour, a recent immigrant from Africa, wants you to consult a witch doctor friend of his. You refuse, firmly believing that your doctor is your best hope. The Oregon couple is similar. They have put their confidence in their God to bring about a cure, refusing to consult these doctors that others recommend. They firmly believe that God is their best hope. Just as you fervently believe you're doing the right thing by consulting doctors, they also believe they are doing the right thing by following God. I don't think we can criticise them on the grounds that they aren't trying to do the right thing. The danger is, as you say, acting on 'ignorant belief'. These people must be criticised and punished for failing to use reason to form their beliefs. Obviously, to you and me anyway, you refusing to consult witch doctors is not the same as a religious couple refusing to consult medical doctors. Evidence and reason support the efficacy of doctors, and equally debunk the claims of witch doctors. Likewise there is no evidence of God bringing about cures. These people no doubt love their children and suffer psychologically when they die. We can't challenge their concern for their children, but we need to do everything we can to destroy their 'ignorant belief' in a God that has no interest in curing their children.

    It's a weird thing that Sabbath condition of doing no work. Some observant Jews go to great lengths to get around it. They obviously prepare all their meals and such beforehand, but I saw one TV doco where there are Jewish companies that invent all these devices that start and run appliances automatically so that people don't have to. Timers switch on heaters and TVs and turn taps on and off at specific times. They even showed a hospital that was designed to run automatically during the Sabbath so that Jews wouldn't have to lift a finger and break the Sabbath. Some of the devices were like that apartment light that you described, yet these Jews believed that switching on something by breaking an infrared beam with your body was OK, but physically flicking a switch wasn't. As long as they didn't physically exert themselves they didn't class it as work. It makes their god look like an imbecile if the use of modern technology can fool him. Of course from a physics viewpoint, just walking, eating and breathing is performing work, so to really obey the Sabbath they would have to be placed in some sort of suspended animation for the day.

    As for that French conman making bogus astrology charts, it's a shame that the police wouldn't charge ALL astrologers with fraud, since they can all be show to be bogus. It's good to see that at least one person operating as a psychic had a 'touch of conscience' and quit and spoke out against them. Unfortunately many really do believe in what they do, and you can only have a 'touch of conscience' if you know that you're lying to people. I think many manage to delude themselves as well as their clients. It's back to that ignorant belief again. Of course there are also many that are just plain crooks. They know what they're doing is wrong and a lie, but it's safer than robbing banks or dealing drugs. Either way it's still criminal.

  18. Comment by Bob, 27 Jun, 2009

    Thanks for your reply John. Logically you are right about the sincerity of the parents but that attitude can't be allowed. For one thing the parents are making harmful decisions for another human being, albeit their own child. Some time ago I saw a website where an American had gone back over newspaper reports for 50 years and listed cases of child deaths because the parents who were Jehovah's witnesses refused blood transfusions for their children. Imagine if you were blind because your parents had refused treatment for an eye condition on the grounds God would cure it. How would you feel towards your parents now?

    As far as the phone psychics go many callers have mental or emotional problems. One woman who was on her own and very lonely spent a fortune on psychic phone lines just to have someone to talk to. The conmen who run the lines take advantage of distressed people who in reality need help. In my area there is a charitable organisation which asks for volunteers to visit people mainly the elderly who have no family or friends.

    I'd like to see all forms of fraud prosecuted but it is not as easy as it sounds. The fraudsters are smart enough to use loopholes or alter their techniques to circumvent the law. Some of the laws fail to achieve their aims and end up causing more problems. Look at the anti-smacking law. That law is basically unenforceable unless there is a policeman in every home. In any case it has no effect on serious abuse. Also all the laws in the world won't protect people from themselves.

    Unfortunately I doubt if many of the people who need enlightening read your website.

  19. Comment by Anonymous-1, 02 Sep, 2009

    great site guys! it's a 'godsend' haha

  20. Comment by Andrew, 14 Sep, 2009

    Hi John, I recently stubbled upon your site — fantastic by the way.

    One thing that could be a useful addition would be a reading/viewing list. I am a fan of Carl Sagan and all his works. The television serie he created back in 79/80 "Cosmos" is a must for everyone. Also his books, especially "The Demon Haunted World: Science as a candle in the dark" are a great read.

  21. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Sep, 2009

    Thanks for your support Andrew. As for your suggestion for a 'reading/viewing list', are you sure you're not psychic? I'm actually working on one at this very moment. A while back we put our 'Recommended Book of the Week' on our homepage, with the intention that this would be a sample from a list of books or documentaries we would recommend. Hopefully your email will push me to get that list online.

    You're right about Carl Sagan. 'The Demon Haunted World' is a classic and could change the thinking of a lot of people if they would only read it. I've often wished they would repeat his very successful Cosmos series. That said, there have been a lot of advances in astronomy and cosmology since it was made, such as planetary data and dark matter and dark energy, so parts might be a little dated. However the public interest it generated in astronomy and the universe was amazing, and I would certainly watch it again. What we really need is an updated version containing Sagan's enthusiasm. It may have even been made, but our TV channels refuse to purchase shows like this, going instead with cheaply made shows featuring lowly celebrities 'surviving' on islands or tramping through Libya. I don't know if you've ever watched Penn and Teller: Bullshit!? This is now on its sixth season, yet our TV channels have only shown us the first two seasons. If we rely on TV and our large bookstores to provide us with thought provoking shows and books then we'll be disappointed.

  22. Comment by Marie, 01 Dec, 2009

    Denial is always the best outcome for something you don't understand, It is time that you think about yourself and open your eyes instead to be scarred of it and who knows, you could become a peasant yourself....

  23. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Dec, 2009

    Hi Marie. Your vague comments don't actually say what it is that you believe we're denying, that we don't understand and that we're scared of. Is it something to do with the supernatural, the paranormal or pseudoscience, or all three? How can we think about what it is that you have a problem with if you don't mention it or point out any obvious errors? Note that contrary to many people that we expose, we don't claim to be psychic.

    And quite frankly I'm surprised that you would think that I would want to become an ignorant peasant. I don't know where you live and work, but in our area you don't see many adverts that say: 'Wanted: Ignorant peasant. Must believe in gods, psychics, alien abductions, crystal healing and all manner of spooky things. Poor working conditions and low pay guaranteed'.

    If what you call 'opening your eyes' would turn me into a peasant, either intellectually or financially, then I think I will continue using reason and evidence rather than simply trusting my eyes.

  24. Comment by David, 02 Jan, 2010

    Read Richard Dawkins The God Delusion. I cannot recommend highly enough! It also explores why religious belief is so ubiquitous.

  25. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Jan, 2010

    Hi David, we've all read The God Delusion and agree, it's an excellent book. I've read several of Richard Dawkins books and he would be one of my favourite authors. Not only do I agree with him on most things, he has a great writing style. It's one thing to know what you're talking about but quite another to be able to explain it to a layperson. There are several other excellent books I've read on religion and atheism but it is brilliant to see The God Delusion in ordinary bookshops and being read by ordinary people.

  26. Comment by Matt, 09 Feb, 2010

    Here's a silly belief. My friends used to talk in tongues. They claimed it was the language of angels and the like, I just thought they might need medication. When I say used to talk in tongues what i mean is, they still do, it's the friends part that changed.

  27. Comment by Bob-2, 18 Feb, 2010

    John, you are of course entitled to your own views re Jeanette Wilson (or any other medium for that matter), however please refrain from deriding Jeanette (and others) to those among the population who see things differently from the way you apparently do.

  28. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Feb, 2010

    Bob, you are of course entitled to your own views re Jeanette Wilson (or any other medium for that matter), however please refrain from praising Jeanette (and others) to those among the population who see things differently from the way you apparently do.

    Seriously Bob, I find it strange that you say we are entitled to our opinion, but then ask us not to express it. If we can't express our opinion then you have censored us, we effectively have no opinion if we aren't allowed to express it. Your grand gesture of granting us an opinion is worthless if we must then hide it.

    Furthermore, mediums such as Wilson, as well as their supporters, display no hesitation in criticising and deriding skeptics at every opportunity. I'll repeat what I've said before. Jeanette Wilson and other mediums have it in their power to prove it to skeptics that we shouldn't look upon them with contempt and scorn, and yet they all refuse to do so, leaving it up to supporters such as yourself to fight their battles for them. Rather than producing evidence, why is their very survival seemingly based on encouraging others to silence the voice of skeptics?

  29. Comment by Matt, 07 Mar, 2010

    Thanks for your work on this website. I am an american doctor working in New Zealand, and I'm glad to see there's a skeptic movement afoot here. I'm constantly surprised by the willingness of some to take advantage of people when they're sick and desperate for miracle cures, and your team is obviously working hard to debunk many of these quacks. I'm sometimes tempted to bite my tongue and let people believe what they wish, but your site reminded me that a public outcry and confrontation may actually decrease the amount of lies and deception in the world. Keep up the good work.

  30. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Mar, 2010

    Hi Matt. Thanks for your positive comments. Like you we're also tempted to say nothing on occasion rather than create a fuss, but I suspect that many people have their silly beliefs bolstered when no one challenges them. Often people just want the truth, and if they recount a controversial belief that they've picked up, and if no one challenges this belief, then its veracity is increased in their mind. And this is especially so if they view the person that appears to be agreeing with them as intelligent and well educated, such as doctors and other professionals. Many people in my view continue to hold beliefs in miracle cures etc simply because no one wants to embarrass them by pointing out flaws in their arguments. Adults see it as their responsiblity to correct a child's naive view of the world, yet many are unwilling to do the same for their fellow adults. As long as we smile and nod and politely change the subject, then we must accept some responsiblity for the continuation of silly beliefs in society. The real challenge is to be able to discuss these topics rationally and calmly, without causing offense.

  31. Comment by Bob, 25 Mar, 2010

    Hello John, I don't know if you subscribe to Rationalist International. If not I can recommend it. I am pasting the contents of their latest email:

    "When a famous tantric guru boasted on television that he could kill another man using only his mystical powers, most viewers either gasped in awe or merely nodded unquestioningly. Sanal Edamaruku's response was different. "Go on then — kill me," he said.

    Mr Edamaruku had been invited to the same talk show as head of the Indian Rationalists' Association — the country's self-appointed sceptic-in-chief. At first the holy man, Pandit Surender Sharma, was reluctant, but eventually he agreed to perform a series of rituals designed to kill Mr Edamaruku live on television. Millions tuned in as the channel cancelled scheduled programming to continue broadcasting the showdown, which can still be viewed on YouTube.

    First, the master chanted mantras, then he sprinkled water on his intended victim. He brandished a knife, ruffled the sceptic's hair and pressed his temples. But after several hours of similar antics, Mr Edamaruku was still very much alive — smiling for the cameras and taunting the furious holy man.

    "He was over, finished, completely destroyed!" Mr Edamaruku chuckles triumphantly as he concludes the tale in the Rationalist Centre, his second-floor office in the town of Noida, just outside Delhi.

    Rationalising India has never been easy. Given the country's vast population, its pervasive poverty and its dizzying array of ethnic groups, languages and religions, many deem it impossible.

    Nevertheless, Mr Edamaruku has dedicated his life to exposing the charlatans — from levitating village fakirs to televangelist yoga masters — who he says are obstructing an Indian Enlightenment. He has had a busy month, with one guru arrested over prostitution, another caught in a sex-tape scandal, a third kidnapping a female follower and a fourth allegedly causing a stampede that killed 63 people.

    This week India's most popular yoga master, Baba Ramdev, announced plans to launch a political party, promising to cleanse India of corruption and introduce the death penalty for slaughtering cows. Then, on Wednesday, police arrested a couple in Maharashtra state on suspicion of killing five boys on the advice of a tantric master who said their sacrifice would help the childless couple to conceive.

    "The immediate goal I have is to stop these fraudulent babas and gurus," says Mr Edamaruku, 55, a part-time journalist and publisher from the southern state of Kerala. "I want people to make their own decisions. They should not be guided by ignorance, but by knowledge.

    "I'd like to see a post-religious society — that would be an ideal dream, but I don't know how long it would take."

    His organisation traces its origins to the 1930s when the "Thinker's Library" series of books, published by Britain's Rationalist Press Association, were first imported to India. They included works by Aldous Huxley, Charles Darwin and H.G. Wells; among the early subscribers was Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister.

    The Indian Rationalist Association was founded officially in Madras in 1949 with the encouragement of the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, who sent a long letter of congratulations. For the next three decades it had no more than 300 members and focused on publishing pamphlets and debating within the country's intellectual elite.

    But since Mr Edamaruku took over in 1985, it has grown into a grass-roots organisation of more than 100,000 members — mainly young professionals, teachers and students — covering most of India. Members now spend much of their time investigating and reverse-engineering "miracles" performed by self-styled holy men who often claim millions of followers and amass huge wealth from donations.

    One common trick they expose is levitation, usually done using an accomplice who lies on the ground under a blanket and then raises his upper body while holding out two hockey sticks under the blanket to make it look like his feet are also rising. "It's quite easy really," said Mr Edamaruku, who teaches members to perform the tricks in villages and then explains how they are done, or demonstrates them at press conferences.

    Other simple tricks include walking on hot coals (the skin does not burn if you walk fast enough) and lying on a bed of nails (your weight is spread evenly across the bed). The "weeping statue" trick is usually done by melting a thin layer of wax covering a small deposit of water.

    Some tricks require closer scrutiny. One guru in the state of Andhra Pradesh used to boil a pot of tea using a small fire on his head. The secret was to place a non-conductive pad made of compacted wheat flour between his head and the fire. "I was so excited when I exposed him. I should have been more reasonable but sometimes you get so angry," he said. "I cried: 'Look, even I can do this and I'm not a baba — I'm a rationalist!'."

    Exposing such tricks can be risky. A guru called Balti (Bucket) Baba once smashed a burning hot clay pot in Mr Edamaruku's face after he revealed that the holy man was using a heat resistant pad to pick it up.

    The chief rationalist was almost arrested by the government of Kerala for revealing that it was behind an annual apparition of flames in the night sky — in fact, several state officials lighting bonfires on a nearby hill — which attracted millions of pilgrims. Despite his efforts, he admits that people still go to the festival and continue to revere self-styled holy men.

    One reason is that Indian politicians nurture and shelter gurus to give them spiritual credibility, use their followers as vote banks, or to mask sexual or criminal activity. That explains why India's Parliament has never tightened the 1954 Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, under which the maximum punishment is two months in prison and a 2,000 rupee (£29) fine.

    Another reason is that educated, middle-class Indians are feeling increasingly alienated from mainstream religion but still in need of spiritual sustenance. "When traditional religion collapses people still need spirituality," he says. "So they usually go one of two directions: towards extremism and fundamentalism or to these kinds of people."

    Since richer, urban Indians have little time for long pilgrimages orpujas (prayer ceremonies), they are often attracted by holy men who offer instant gratification — for a fee. The development of the Indian media over the past decade has also allowed some holy men to reach ever larger audiences via television and the internet. "Small ones have gone out of business while the big ones have become like corporations," says Mr Edamaruku.

    But the media revolution has also helped Mr Edamaruku, who made 225 appearances on television last year, and gets up to 70 inquiries about membership daily. Thanks to his confrontation in 2008 with the tantric master, the rationalist is now a national celebrity, too.

    When the guru's initial efforts failed, he accused Mr Edamaruku of praying to gods to protect him. "No, I'm an atheist," came the response. The holy man then said he needed to conduct a ritual that could only be done at night, outdoors, and after he had slept with a woman, drunk alcohol and rubbed himself in ash.

    The men agreed to go to an outdoor studio that night — all to no avail. At midnight, the anchor declared the contest over. Reason had prevailed."

    Jeremy Page, Delhi
    From The Times

    It is interesting to note that the antidote to superstition in India as elsewhere is education. Superstition can ruin health, destroy wealth and even result in death. It is not helped by the fact that in countries like India corrupt politicians support cheats and frauds in return for bribes. The bribes are not always money but the promise of getting their followers' votes. It's a long hard road to convince people of reason but it is good to see you are doing your bit.

    I was reading a short history of the life of Houdini the famous stage magician of the early 20th century. He partly devoted his life to exposing psychics and the like using magic and mental tricks then claiming supernatural abilities. Nothing seems to change in the world. If Houdini came back he would still have work to do. Barnum's dictum seems to be eternally true - there is a sucker born every minute.

  32. Comment by Clive, 29 Mar, 2010

    To the dum dums at silly idiots.com. im a dick head. im blind and but yet i can see.

    To whoever is going to read this, the greatest bible prophecy ever to come to pass occurred in 1948 when the most persecuted the most mightiest the most powerful the most greatest the most deadliest the most secret the most hated nation of Israel was formed. To all the atheists haters of the truth the evolutionists you are all blinded by the truth by wicked spiritual forces and mighty fallen angels that have cosmic powers who dwell in heavenly places far beyond any human can understand that is why the creator of the universe impregnated a womans womb and come in the flesh to defeat Lucifer once and forever as the scripture is written THE WORD BECOME FLESH AND LIVED AMONG US DIED AND ROSE TO HIS GLORY KNOW THAT I DID NOT COME TO BRING PEACE TO THE WORLD BUT TO TURN MEN AGAINEST ONE ANOTHER BECAUSE OF MY NAMES SAKE. WHEN YOU DESIDE TO FOLLOW ME KNOW THIS ALSO THAT YOU WILL HATED BY THE WORLD BECAUSE OF MY NAMES SAKE. We all living in the time of Jacobs trouble the last generation the last world empire, you may ask who are they, they are the European union, the last world empire, who ok they are the revised roman empire there will only be ten in the end the real antichrist of the bible will be the leader of this wicked, wicked group he the AC will bring about a peace treaty in the middle east for a period of 1 week, hip-tad meaning a 7 year period it wont be human power that will bring this to pass it will be Lucifer himself fully inside this man. I believe it to be Hendry Kissinger, now the four horseman, the truth about this is, it is the reign of the antichrist on the earth, white horse peace in the middle east, 3 and a half of glory times made to deceive people, 3 and a half totally wicked judgements more than any human could ever imagine. What to do when this comes about. The real meaning for this number 666 is all to do with money. In the near future it will crash like a 100 cubic mile asteroid crashing into the earth. Then there will be no rich anymore no poor anymore everybody will be equal. If you ever get the chance read a book called privatising the world, and another book that is banned here by Robert Muldoon is called cosmic conspiracy, I have probably the only copy left in new Zealand, last point one that the EVIL WICKED MAN HATING FEMINESTS WILL HATE, TO YOU IT IS NOT BLOODY MOTHER EARTH, IT IS THE LIVING EARTH, IT IS NOT BLOODY MOTHER NATURE, IT IS LIVING NATURE, OK THAT IS IT. LAST COMMENT, AFTER THE TROUBLE OF THOSE DAYS THE SUN WAS DARKENED THE MOON TURNED TO BLOOD THE STARS VANISHED THEN I SAW THE SKY RESEED LIKE A SCROLL BEING ROLLED UP IT WAS THE RIDER ON THE WHITE HORSE THE SON OF MAN THE OMNIPOTENT CREATOR THE LION OF JUDA THE ONE WHO WILL RULE WITH A IRON FIST WEARING POLISHED GOLDEN BREAST PLATES AND EYES BLAZING BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN AND HE TREADS THE WINE PRESS OF FURY OF ALMIGHTY GOD AND HIS JUDGEMENT IS JUST AND TRUE, EVERY EYE IN AND OUTSIDE CREATION WILL SEE HIM EVEN THOSE WHO PIERCED HIM, I SAY LOOK UP BECAUSE THERE IS A TIME COMING UPON THE EARTH THAT WILL MIND BOGGLE PEOPLE MORE THAN THEY COULD EVER, EVER IMAGINE, ALL WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN IS NOT BULLSHIT.

  33. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Mar, 2010

    Clive, what can we say? You are the perfect example of why unthinking, blind faith in sky fairies has caused so much death, misery and suffering throughout history and still continues to do so today. Your rant is some of the most mindless, paranoid drivel, not to mention poorly punctuated, that it has been our misfortune to read in some time.

    Bible prophecy? Surely you realise that that sort of nonsense went out of favour along with reading tea leaves and avoiding black cats? And you seriously believe that Henry Kissinger is the Antichrist? You must be joking! Who do you believe is really Santa Claus? How many people are going to follow a man that is nearly ninety years old into a war against a mythical being? And this mythical being's claim to fame? That he got a young woman pregnant without her knowledge and then allowed the torture and murder of their own son. Maybe your Antichrist is right, monsters like this should be challenged.

    And what's this rubbish about Robert Muldoon banning a book called 'Cosmic Conspiracy', and you having the only NZ copy? You do realise Muldoon is dead and his government has been out of power for over a quarter of a century? It never amazes me to learn just how weak your god must be if even the likes of Robert Muldoon can thwart his plans by supposedly just banning a silly book. And even after he's long gone, your ineffectual god still can't have the ban overturned, can't defeat government red tape. He hasn't got a hope against Lucifer then. In reality, there is no ban on that silly book, but obviously your all-knowing god doesn't know that.

    You finish with, 'ALL WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN IS NOT BULLSHIT'. You're quite right, it's not all bullshit, and the one statement you made that isn't bullshit is in your opening line where you admit: 'im a dick head'.

    I go now to pray and make a sacrifice of a naked virgin to the gods of atheism that you don't occupy any positions of authority or influence in society.

  34. Comment by Paul, 28 May, 2010

    Hi. Did you see that Rural Women New Zealand have given an award to Tineke Verkade and her Waikato-based business Homeopathic Farm Support Ltd.

    "Rural Women New Zealand national president Margaret Chapman said rural businesswomen often have to overcome additional geographical and technological challenges in running their businesses. In the case of this year's Supreme Winner she says "Tineke has over the years had to show real resilience and a determination to succeed in the face of skepticism and little belief in alternative methods of healing."

    I e-mailed RWNZ bitching about it promoting pseudoscience but I doubt I will get a reply. Below is the e-mail I sent to RWNZ:

    I am very disappointed that you have decided to give an award to Tineke Verkade and her Waikato-based business Homeopathic Farm Support Ltd.
    Do you know that this business is a fraud?
    Do you know that the Homeopathic Farm Support Ltd website is full of lies and misinformation?
    Your promotion of this fraud business is silly and ignorant. Look at the Wiki page for Homeopathy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy
    Compare statements from the Homeopathic Farm Support Ltd website like "Homeopathy is a gentle, effective and scientifically based system of healing" with the reality that "Homeopathy's efficacy beyond the placebo effect is unsupported by the collective weight of scientific and clinical evidence."
    By giving this award to this business your organisation is supporting an outdated and dangerous practice.
    The reality is that homeopathy is pseudoscience and it can not do what it claims.

  35. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 May, 2010

    Hi Paul. No, we hadn't seen anything about that award to a homoeopathic business. Your email to the RWNZ says it all really. It's great that more people are letting these people know that they are supporting dangerous nonsense. It might make them think more carefully about their next award recipient. Maybe in a weird sense Tineke does deserve some credit for managing to promote her business, but this is at the expense of ignoring what her business is. It's like giving a drug ring an award for their perseverance and the skills required to grow their business in the face of increased police surveillance.

  36. Comment by Bob, 06 Jun, 2010

    Hullo John, you might or might not know that Ninox Television makers of Sensing Murder is in receivership. There is an article today in the Sunday Herald. Receivers have laid a complaint with the police against a director, John McEwen. It appears payments for programmes due to the company have been siphoned off. As well company property has disappeared.

    What has that got to say for the validity of Sensing Murder? When you were criticisng the programme in your blog you were tending to cruel a good money maker. Apparently it was a commercial money spinner sold overseas. What value were the producers' protestations that the psychics were genuine and the programme was not a setup? No doubt Nigel Latta was a godsend as a gullible observer helping to legitimise the show.

    If the whole population were well educated and possessed a healthy degree of scepticism shows like this would be laughed off the air. No wonder the phrase "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the public".

  37. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Jun, 2010

    Hi Bob. Yes we did know that Ninox was in receivership (as of Feb 26, 2009), but we hadn't heard of the complaint against director John McEwen. In an Oct 2009 article the ODT noted that 'The receivers have said... Ninox... went into receivership to avoid problems with a dysfunctional board', and that 'director John McEwen reassured suppliers it had an exciting future'. It will be interesting to see where all this leads.

    It is an unfortunate fact that programs promoting utter nonsense, such as Sensing Murder, are screened in primetime and do attract large audiences. Rubbish sells. Good documentaries are almost non-existent on our screens these days. Look at TV1's attitude, at present it is intermittently screening new episodes of 'Planet Science' on Sundays at lunchtime, merely as a filler until the sports shows come on. What an utter waste!! Neither 'Planet Science' nor a similar show 'Naked Science', which it also occasionally plays as a filler at weird hours, has ever screened in primetime or on a regular basis. Kim Hill was taken off to give us what, more screenings of Coro St? Also missing from our screens are the latest series of the likes of 'Mythbusters', 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart', 'Penn & Teller's Bullshit' etc, in fact anything intellectual that requires people to think about what is happening in the world around them other than sports, movies, music and fashion.

    Look at some of the crap that primetime TV offers us at present, shows like Shortland Street, Coronation Street, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, Glee, RadiRadiRah, America's Next Top Model, Danger Beach: Muriwai, Hell's Kitchen, Deal Or No Deal, Desperate Housewives, Destroyed In Seconds, The Crowd Goes Wild, Don't Forget The Lyrics and Dr Who. These are all shows that lower the IQ of those watching them and should contain a mental health warning. I'm not saying that these shows shouldn't be screened for those dullards that are already playing at the top of their intellectual game, but why can't we have some variety and screen some of the many excellent programs on science, history, arts, current events etc. Wasn't the idea of multiple channels to give us variety and to cater for different tastes, so why are the different channels basically clones of each other? The only free to air channel that broadcasts something different is the TAB channel, although it's still low IQ programming. Even a new range of movies would be nice, as we only get a fraction of what has been produced? Do I need to email them and tell them I've actually seen 'The Sound of Music' and 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory' so they can stop repeating them? Why does every bloody channel think that it's their mission to broadcast to the idiots in society? Was the same memo mistakenly sent to them all? Quite simply because it is cheap and easy to make crap programs, and there is a large undiscerning audience that is more than willing to watch them. Recently I spied an entire family watching infomercials on a TV in the Warehouse. They watched for the entire time I was in the store. What moron goes downtown and gets captivated by infomercials on a shop TV? Unfortunately the advertisers and the money follows the viewers, and if the majority want to watch brain numbing rubbish, then so be it, seems to be their response. As long as the advertisers sell their products then TV producers will produce rubbish to fit around their ads, and the TV channels will continue to buy it and screen it in primetime. Greed drives the planning of primetime viewing and what new programs will be made. Bob, we both know that the executives, directors, board members and programming staff of TV companies are generally intelligent, educated people, as are even some politicians, and yet they still collude to give us rubbish. If these people can't (or more likely won't) stop producing and screening this nonsense, then what hope is their for their audience — who is often less educated, far more gullible and with a short attention span? These people that are dictating what we view on TV are just as despicable as the Sensing Murder psychics themselves, knowingly lying to us to make money out of deception.

    Our guess is that many people that plan and work on these shows that 'investigate' mysteries such ghosts, Bigfoot, aliens, conspiracies etc know only too well that what they are claiming is nonsense, but it is a nonsense that many of their target audience believe in and want to watch. One single episode would have explained why psychics are lying and cheating when they say they are talking to dead murder victims, which of course doesn't make your production company much money, but taking the opposite view lets you produce endless episodes and finance a better lifestyle. No doubt some psychics and their believers are sincere and are truly deluded rather than outright cheats, but the producers, directors, editors, camera crews etc that make these shows will be well aware that they are making a show that is as false as Batman and Harry Potter.

    We agree that better education and a little skepticism would greatly reduce these types of shows, so it's actually a little embarrassing that our Aussie friends ditched Sensing Murder early into its first series, whereas we have made five series and many Kiwis are crying out for more, still unable to see that they have been conned. What are Aussies teaching their citizens that we aren't?

  38. Comment by Brett, 07 Jun, 2010

    'Destroyed in Seconds' has a pretty good scientific basis, other than that I fully agree with you.

  39. Comment by Bob, 07 Jun, 2010

    The answer to all your questions is simple. Television is used to make money. Television shows are treated like commercial products. If it doesn't sell take it off. Serious programmes can't sell because the number of people who watch them is too small a proportion of viewers to attract advertisers. Coronation Street might have 30% of the viewing public while a science programme might have 3%.

    Sky television overcomes this to some extent by making money from subscriptions independently of advertisers. Also it is in their interest to broadcast every type of programme so as to attract the maximum number of subscribers. In Britain I found hundreds of programmes on Sky. Name a subject and it was covered. I joked that there was probably a channel devoted to hanging out washing. There are many news channels from all around the world allowing a wide perspective on world news. There were a large number of channels devoted to science, technology, history etc. We do have Sky here of course but with fewer channels. That is not a bad thing because it is a bit overwhelming in Britain.

    I had some sympathy for Marion Hobbs in the last government with her broadcasting charter. She was trying to lift standards. However she was doomed to failure because TVNZ was required to make a profit while quality and profit do not go together. Unfortunately the way to make a profit out of broadcasting is to cater for the lowest common denominator. I've largely given up on television. I prefer to read and pick subjects off the internet.

    It is bad enough screening worthless rubbish. What is worse is giving people erroneous information such as convincing them the dead can be contacted, aliens have landed etc. I long for the day when TVNZ will invite the Skeptics society to make some half hour programmes. The trouble is it would probably kill the golden gooses.

  40. Comment by Bob, 27 Jun, 2010

    Hullo John, I am just musing at the moment. This morning I read an article in the Herald on Sunday regarding IVF treatment. The government is considering approving IVF treatment involving donated sperm and egg for the rare case where both partners are infertile. It is of course opposed by the Catholic Church. I looked up a Catholic website and found the following gem on a readers comments site:

    My experience with IVF
    "First off, this is not a thread about what is right and wrong. I KNOW what I did was wrong. I have since prayed about it, gone to confession, and been absolved. What I want to do with this thread is bring up a couple of things for anyone of the mind set I was in to think about. That being said:

    My wife and I have a very strong desire to have more children. After many miscarriages, our doctor (we had already been seeing a reproductive endocrinologist due to the miscarriages) said our last hope was IVF. We had already told him this was off the table due to our religious beliefs. He respected that decision, but IVF is his bread and butter. So we discussed a plan in which we would not fertilize any more eggs than he thought prudent to implant (i.e. we would not freeze any babys or worse). So after much thought, prayer, and tears, we decided to proceed. At this point I was sick about entering into sin with so much pre-meditated thought beforehand. This was not just a slip up, this was full out willful disobedience to the Church and God!

    So by now I'm trying to convince myself what we are doing is OK since we are not creating any extra children, and the first alarm goes off when we are signing the paperwork. We had to sign a form that specified what we wanted in the event that we both died in the three days between when they fertilize the eggs and implant them. As unlikely as that situation is, there it was on paper in black and white....only two choices....either destroy the child or donate to science. That was almost a deal breaker. I just couldn't get past that. Even though the odds were one in a million, how could I sign that paper. In the end, I told myself if this was a natural pregnancy, the child would be in my wife, and pass with her.

    The second alarm went off when I had to supply my part of the process. I'm a man and I would be lieing if I said I had never fallen to this sin before, but this was different. As I was carrying the beaker to the nurse, I was just thinking that this was part of a new life about to be created....in a lab. It just felt wrong. Alarm number three was when we got the call later that day that two eggs had accepted my sperm. There were two babies of ours in that lab, and we were not there with them. Three days later the babies were implanted in my wife. Seeing the nurse carrying a syringe, knowing our babies were in there; more alarms.

    Well, the procedure did not take, the babies died, and there are two new souls in heaven. I now know better than ever why this is a sin, even if we were not creating any additional children. If you are of the mind set that IVF can be acceptable to Catholics, please think about these points long and hard."

    You made a comment recently about the mind conditioning by the Catholic Church. Here is a prime example of it. A young couple are full of guilt over the natural desire to have children and using science to achieve that end. Notice how he refers to fertilised eggs as babies. That serves to increase the feelings of guilt. Notice the pathetic cringing attitude to having to supply a sample of sperm. According to the Catholic Church unhappy childless couples have to stay that way rather than use medical science for fear of committing sin. To me it is an outrage to put guilt into the minds of otherwise loving parents who have the natural desire to fulfill their biological functions. In the past it was a ban on dissecting human bodies because they were the temples of God. Then there was the disapproval of giving pain relief to mothers in labour because the bible said women would give birth in pain. I feel sorry for Catholics caught up in Catholic propaganda. It is largely the old story of persuasive leaders influencing people of lesser drive and intelligence.

    Recently I was talking to an old neighbour about the Catholic Church. Apparently years ago he was friends of a young couple who were Catholics. They asked him if he would be godfather to their baby when it was christened. He was very happy to do so. At the church the priest took him aside and asked if he was a Catholic . He said no. Then the priest said he could not be the godfather. The priest was stepping in creating a rift in a friendship. I thought that was a good example of the divisiveness of religion.

  41. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Jun, 2010

    Thanks Bob for that example of 'mind conditioning by the Catholic Church', and your excellent comments. It's not really needed, but I can't resist commenting as well.

    He says that 'I KNOW what I did was wrong. I have since prayed about it, gone to confession, and been absolved'. Isn't Catholicism wonderful, you can knowingly and wilfully sin, even commit murder it seems, and yet a mere confession and all is forgiven. If these 'sins' are so easily forgiven and forgotten, it makes you wonder if they were all that serious in the eyes of the Catholics in the first place.

    This Catholic says they considered IVF 'after many miscarriages'. You'd think that a devoutly religious couple would have realised by now that God is trying to tell them something. He doesn't want them to have children!! It's 'a sign' morons, that's how your god works.

    When their doctor suggested IVF, they said that 'We had already told him this was off the table due to our religious beliefs. He respected that decision', but he then convinced them to ignore their religious beliefs and go ahead. How is that respecting their decision?

    You mentioned his pathetic cringing attitude to having to supply a sample of sperm. He admits that he is not unfamiliar with masturbation, and acknowledges this is a grave sin, not that it stopped him in past. It is a sin in Catholic eyes because sex and sperm must only be used to create life, and of course there is no chance of that with masturbation. Yet this one special case of masturbation is the one time out of hundreds or thousands of times he has willingly sinned that his sperm could actually lead to creating a new life, through IVF. It could be argued that this case is not a sin at all, and yet he worries about it more than all the rest.

    He states that 'the babies died, and there are two new souls in heaven'. As you said, those cells were no more babies than sperm or eggs are babies, and why are there two new souls in heaven? Their God long ago decided that these two were not going to be allowed children, so why would he put two good, working souls into a collection of cells that he knew he was going to abort a few days later? Are they saying their God is stupid or inefficient or that he didn't know that this was going to happen? This moron implores his fellow Catholics to 'please think about these points long and hard'. It is blatantly obvious that very little intelligent thought is involved when devout Catholics think about these issues.

    As for that priest stopping your neighbour becoming a godfather, just another example of religious intolerance that is anything but consigned to the history books.

  42. Comment by Bob, 18 Jul, 2010

    This week there were two interesting articles in the NZ Herald. They weren't displayed prominently and might not have been copied by other papers around the country probably because they are not of huge interest to most people.

    1. The Human Rights Commission is updating its statement on human rights in New Zealand. The Commissioner Joris de Bres intended stressing New Zealand is a secular state where religion is a private matter. The Catholic Church immediately objected saying it would undermine it's ability to influence public opinion and political decision making. De Bres answered not as a news item but merely a letter to the editor saying he would review that decision. He had received submissions from the Catholic Church and the Humanist Society. The Catholic Church stressed their importance to society by the fact that in the 2006 census 52.9% of people claimed to be Christians while only 32.2% were listed as "no religion". Mind you 9.8% did not answer. My feeling is most of them could be included under "no religion". I think the next census will be held next year. I would bet the figure for Christian members would be down another 1% possibly more.

    The Catholic Church doesn't need special recognition. Any group in our democracy has a right to lobby government or approach the media. The Catholics can take out a full page advertisement in a newspaper anytime they like. Their views are often picked up by the media as news. The problem with Catholics is they are becoming irrelevant and don't like it. Brian Tamaki was asked for his opinion which was predictable that New Zealand is a Christian country, it's institutions underpinned by Christianity.

    I accept Christianity has influenced our society. A society is formed by many influences. The Magna Carta for instance had a huge influence in establishing democracies. With democracy came more respect for ordinary people. British democracy underpinned American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand societies. The Catholic Church is not democratic as was stressed by a recent pope over protests within the church.

    I don't want to see our politicians going along to the Catholics asking them what they think about a particular issue or making room for them at conferences as a special privilege.

    2. The second article came from the British Telegraph. The Vatican has made ordination of women a crime against the faith. Attempts to ordinate women are regarded as serious crimes along the level of pedophilia. Women attempting to be priests along with those attempting to ordain them are automatically excommunicated. This appears to have come about as a sop to a number of Anglican clergy wanting to convert to Roman Catholicism. Women have been Anglican priests for a long time now but there are moves afoot to allow them to become bishops. It seems women haters in that church can't stomach the idea so are going over to the Vatican.

    A Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said ordination of women is a crime against sacraments while pedophilia is a crime against morals. Treating women who want the same rights as men as religious criminals smacks of Iran or the Spanish Inquisition. Saying pedophilia is a crime against morals seems to overlook the crime against children. Perhaps that is why pedophile priests have been kept away from the law. Pedophilia is not a civil crime just a sin against God which can be treated in the confessional.

    Stopping women from becoming priests is out of line with our present day culture. The reasons given for it are flimsy, based on what people thought 2000 years ago. I think that and the refusal to allow priests to marry are nails in the Catholic coffin.

  43. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jul, 2010

    Thanks for letting us know about those two articles Bob, and we agree completely with your comments. The days of the Church controlling governments and the people are thankfully long gone. As you say, they are irrelevant, and about as popular as syphilis. They are still free to propagate their concerns, this article and the back down of The Human Rights Commission proves that. The bishops moan that the wording 'undermines the right of churches to seek to influence public opinion and political decision making'. Bullshit. Every time another child sex abuse case and its associated Vatican cover-ups is revealed 'public opinion and political decision making' is influenced. We have no problem with the Commission altering the phrasing from 'private' to 'personal', but this is really just semantics, they both mean the same thing when the intent is clarified. However we don't agree with the proposal that 'secular state' be deleted from the statement: 'New Zealand is a secular state with no state religion'. This is a fact, and deleting the phrase won't somehow make us into a Christian state. We need to call a spade a spade, rather than pander to the insecurities of the Church.

    As for making the ordination of women a crime along the level of paedophilia, and the church is an expert in that particular crime, this is a perfect example why any public or political influence the Church has should be looked upon as demented, biased, corrupt, ignorant and downright evil.

  44. Comment by Tom, 18 Jul, 2010

    John, I thought you might like to read the following story on Stuff.co.nz — Heavens aligning for fiery possum cure. 'Possum skins burnt to ashes under the right alignment of the Moon and stars could be an alternative to 1080, says a group which wants a $330,000 ratepayer-funded trial to test it.'

    Just how stupid are these people??

  45. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jul, 2010

    Very stupid Tom. I thought we'd seen the end of possum peppering. I think the Greens were the last ones to push for its use. It's depressing that reasonably intelligent people can fall for nonsense like this, but then many do. As the article says, Rudolf Steiner dreamt up this bullshit in the 1920s, and no one has yet been able to prove it works, even though many have proved it doesn't. If it did work there would be at least one country on the planet that was using it to control pests, and their data could be produced as evidence to convince our government to seriously consider it. But it seems no one uses it on a scale or in a way that verifies its efficacy. Perhaps because it doesn't bloody work, just as we don't use astrology to predict the weather. If these deluded idiots are so convinced that it works then why aren't they using their own money to fund scientific trials? Any money they spent would be returned a million fold if they produced a safe, organic method of controlling pests that could be marketed worldwide. They could be the Microsoft or Apple of the pest eradication world. What's holding them back? Don't they care enough for our environment and our native species to fork out a few dollars and do the experiments? No, it seems the gutless wonders want the taxpayer to pay so that they can indulge their delusion. Quite similar to that MP renting numerous porn movies on taxpayer funds. Both wankers want to watch fantasies and have you and I pay for it.

  46. Comment by Bob, 22 Jul, 2010

    Hullo John, the following report from The Press shows that Christians can no longer get away with discriminating against people on the basis of their beliefs. They have to obey the law like everybody else. They were warned some time ago they could not foment hatred against individuals and groups purely on the basis of their beliefs while hiding behind their pulpits. The fact that this man might be quite a decent person and good at coaching means less than his sexuality. It is not far from this back to niggers and good white folks. As David Farrar points out the girls are probably safer with him than with a heterosexual coach.

    "The Press reports:

    "A Christchurch man has claimed he was sacked from a coaching job at a Christchurch Christian school because he is gay. The 28-year-old man told The Star newspaper he was employed at Middleton Grange School to coach one of the girls' netball teams in February. However, he was later told by the principal that the school's Board of Trustees has decided his homosexuality was a problem and he could not continue in the position. The newspaper reports today that the decision was made based on Christian beliefs that homosexuality is a sin. It is understood the school has been ordered to apologise to the 28-year-old and pay him compensation. He now has a coaching job at another school."
  47. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Jul, 2010

    Yes Bob, Christians continue to drop the ball and reveal just how intolerant they truly are, how obscene their morals are, and how rooted they are in centuries old dogma. And they have the insolence to preach to the rest of us about how we should treat our fellow man.

  48. Comment by Bob, 01 Sep, 2010

    ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES: There is an article on Stuff.co.nz today reporting a speech made by a professor Shaun Holt to a university audience at Wellington. He criticised all alternative treatments for cancer saying they don't work and can be dangerous. There are a list of them in the article (and below).

    True to form the alternate therapy practitioners insisted their therapies do work even if they don't know how. The one which intrigued me was colonic irrigation. This works on the principle that cancer is caused by poisons in the body. So a probe is pushed up the back to wash out the bowel. That reminds me of standard medical practice in the 18th century of administering harsh purgatives and blood letting. Of course homeopathy still works according to homeopaths.

    "SHAUN HOLT'S VERDICT

    WHAT WORKS

    Acupuncture: Can be used to relieve a number of symptoms that are commonly experienced by cancer patients.

    Massage therapy: Can help reduce stress, anxiety, pain and other symptoms.

    Aromatherapy: Can reduce anxiety, depression, tension, pain and nausea. There are no important safety issues, so aromatherapy is recommended as a pleasant and medically useful treatment.

    Art therapy: An excellent option for people with cancer who are looking to reduce symptoms and help with the psychological trauma of a cancer diagnosis.

    WHAT DOESN'T WORK

    Colonic irrigation: Professor Holt says many people are at risk of adverse effects from this therapy, which he says is as ineffective and dangerous as it is ridiculous.

    Cupping: Celebrities photographed with cupping marks have increased the demand for a procedure with no scientific plausibility or research evidence to support its use.

    Ear candling: Associated dangers include external burns, obstruction of the ear canal with wax, and perforated eardrums resulting from hot wax dripping on them.

    Psychic surgery: The practitioner's hands appear to magically penetrate the patient's body, after which they are removed holding organic matter claimed to be the tumour. Professor Holt says psychic surgeons are basically skilled magicians and the operation is actually an optical illusion using sleight of hand, animal tissue and clotted blood."

    It is interesting that the treatments he doesn't condemn work on the psychological area making people feel better but do nothing for the underlying disease. I would like to see all alternative practitioners licensed starting by having to show proof their treatments have any benefits. They should be required to tell their clients clearly the treatments cannot cure but can alleviate symptoms. A few prosecutions with hefty fines would sort a lot out.

    I feel strongly about alternative medicine because I think making money out of desperate people is the lowest of the low, especially cancer patients.

  49. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Sep, 2010

    Thanks Bob and we couldn't agree more with your comments. As Prof Holt says, 'While some therapies could be useful in helping to reduce symptoms or could improve quality of life, others would not'. As you say this point can not be stressed highly enough, although even Holt himself appears to be guilty of fudging the issue with this comment: 'Prof Holt's "No1 recommendation" was yoga, which was particularly effective for breast cancer patients'. Of course yoga is not effective in curing breast cancer, and people should learn to say exactly what they mean. The article reports the Cancer Society as saying 'Many complementary therapies could help cancer sufferers', which appears to contradict Prof Holt's findings. But again they probably mean one or two might 'reduce symptoms or could improve quality of life' rather than actually cure cancer, which let's be honest here, is the real help that cancer sufferers are seeking. While reducing pain and suffering is vitally important, these treatments need to be clearly separated from those that are trying to cure.

    The article also reported that 'Wellington Hospital said its oncologists would not comment on complementary therapies in cancer treatments, because their effect on individuals varied'. What does this nonsense mean? Psychic surgery might work on some patients but not others, it depends on how strongly you believe? This gutless evasion from experts only encourages people to try every alternative treatment that comes their way.

    We also read that 'Wellington naturopath Jill Casey said she would recommend homoeopathy as a treatment for cancer patients as it was "fairly innocuous", although this was a treatment Prof Holt said would have no effects'. Again Prof Holt (or perhaps media reporting) is fudging the issue. Homoeopathy could have fatal effects if sufferers elected to be treated with expensive water rather than seeking conventional treatments. The naturopath then parrots the Wellington Hospital oncologists' statement: 'She said complementary therapies were unfairly judged by people who had not tried them, and it was important not to make sweeping statements about how they would affect individuals'. Again, homoeopathy either works or it doesn't (it doesn't), it is not dependant on the individual. Doctors when they suggest antibiotics, codeine, chemotherapy or an X-ray don't say that they might not be effective because human physiology differs greatly from person to person, that X-rays just don't work on some people and antibiotics only seem to work on redheads. Conventional medicines and treatments are proven to have an effect on human physiology, and that's all humans, not just some. Of course some treatments may appear more effective on some people compared to others depending on how advanced an illness is, but chemicals and radiation affect every body they enter. It's like alcohol, it certainly affects individuals differently, some more than others, but it does affect everyone, everyone gets drunk eventually. No one is immune from its effect as alternative therapists try to pretend is sometimes the case with their concoctions and laying on of hands.

    This crap from alternative therapists that you can't judge treatments if you haven't personally tried them or that they only work on some people is bullshit. I've never tried a firing squad, but I know they work, and on everyone. These quacks have to continually offer these excuses because they need to be able to 'explain' why their treatments only appear to work infrequently. Of course their treatments never work, they only appear to work when the person just recovered naturally or was healed by conventional treatments that they were also undergoing.

    Why do not only doctors and nurses but even plumbers, builders and electricians have to be licensed and yet some uneducated quack can come into our houses, examine us, diagnose an illness and offer a treatment with no licence to practice medicine and no recognised qualifications? Why can some moron attempt to treat cancer by shoving a tube up your arse and her patients don't even wonder why she doesn't have to be licensed, and aren't at all concerned when she says she knows her method is 'not scientifically proven'? Why do authorities believe that unlicensed tradespeople can cause us sufficient harm that we need protection from them, and yet 'pretend doctors' have free rein to practise their nonsense?

    More certainly needs to be done to drive these witchdoctors back into their caves and to educate a gullible public into what silly nonsense most alternative therapies really are, how they are wasting their money and quite possibly risking their health, the very thing they are trying to improve. Authorities need to enact new regulations that recognise that these quacks are practising medicine, even though they cunningly try and pretend they're not, and if they can't prove the efficacy, safety etc of their treatments as convention medicine must do, then they must be prosecuted and driven out of business. Like doctors and electricians, they must be prepared to stand behind their claims of expert knowledge and skills.

    People are rightly dismissive of any doctor that loses his licence to practice, and yet many happily go to quacks that couldn't even get a license in the first place. The alternative therapist's lack of a license, qualifications and evidence that their treatments work, and their unwillingness to get any of these things, needs to be viewed by the public as deeply suspicious.

  50. Comment by Bob, 02 Oct, 2010

    I didn't know that Christopher Hitchens has cancer of the oesophagus until I read a commentary on him in the Herald. He is probably second to Richard Dawkins as the world's most prominent atheist. Christians regard him as a bitter enemy. Now they are coming out wanting to pray for Hitchens on the basis of praying for their enemies. What riles me is the self righteous attitude of Christians who assume they are right and Hitchens has no right to be against them. There is no question he might be right. He is automatically a bad person who has to be turned on his deathbed to God. Take the following comment from a Jesuit Catholic priest:

    ""Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and popular writer on all things spiritual, noted Jesus' admonition in the Gospel of Matthew not only to love your enemies but to "bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." God sends "rain on the just and on the unjust," Jesus said, and anybody — even the pagans — can be nice to people they like.

    "The mark of a Christian is if we pray for those we dislike or disagree with," said Martin, author of "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life." He said the late Mother Teresa, who Hitchens vilified in a number of writings and commentaries, was certainly in heaven praying for him. "Which is probably driving him nuts."

    If all this supplicating is irritating Hitchens, then, isn't that a reason to at least keep quiet about one's prayer intentions — because they might backfire and turn Hitchens further away from belief?

    "Frankly, I don't think he could be any further away from God than he has been," Martin said.""

    Hitchens is far from being the only person to vilify Mother Theresa but James Martin has his head in the clouds and won't hear anything against her. The Catholic church espouses a superiority which says they can't be wrong. The Pope has been shocked at the avalanche of disgust and criticism of his Godly organisation over the pedophile and abuse scandals. No wonder he hit back at atheist extremism and secularisation of Britain in particular as a way of deflecting criticism.

    We need the Dawkins and Hitchens of the world as a timely counterbalance to the excesses of religion.

  51. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Sep, 2010

    No, we didn't know Christopher Hitchens was ill either, but thankfully he will be using conventional medicine to treat his condition and not worthless prayer.

    That priest's attitude is just another example of hypocritical Christians picking and choosing what commandments of Jesus they will follow and ignoring the rest. Note that Jesus didn't just say to pray for your enemies, but to also 'bless them' and 'do good to them'. But none of them, let alone the pope with his vindictive accusations, are truly able to 'turn the other cheek'.

    And to claim that Hitchens is probably being driven nuts by the belief that Mother Teresa is in heaven praying for him is to display profound ignorance of what an atheist believes. That in these enlightened times these clueless dinosaurs still have access to children, whether to 'educate' or rape them, is a sad comment on our society.

  52. Comment by Bob, 04 Oct, 2010

    Hi John, I was looking at a talk given by an ex Catholic priest on YouTube. This man read the bible and decided the Church was wrong in one interpretation of belief. He voiced his idea to superiors and fellow priests. The only reaction he got was 'who do you think you are?' The subject would mean nothing to an atheist just a spat over a meaningless detail of belief. For himself he decided he was right and the Church was wrong. He was sent to a seminary in Rome for further instruction but he stuck to his guns. Being deeply religious and very loyal to the Catholic Church he was deeply affected. Eventually he was told to leave. The Church is monolithic and can't abide dissention when it comes to basic beliefs.

    What staggered me was that this man was eased out of the Church for daring to question Catholic beliefs regardless of his sincerity. In contrast priests committed crimes against children but were not expelled. Instead they were protected and covered for. I think the Catholic Church is little more than a typically corrupt power hungry organisation. I think he was a naive man who had led a sheltered life. He had originally come from Dublin and was shocked at what he saw of immorality in Rome. In one incident a group of priests and nuns at the seminary with him took him downtown in street clothes to a strip joint. He was absolutely amazed at what he saw. Bits and pieces of what I have read and heard over the years suggests there is a lot of hypocrisy in the Catholic Church.

    Some years ago I was reading a book about a prominent New Zealand politician. He mention when he was still a teenager he was Catholic and also had worked on the Cook Strait ferries. One of the crewman told him he would be sleeping with a nun in his cabin. The young man thought he was having his leg pulled. The next morning he saw a nun coming out of man's cabin early in the morning. It was quite a shock.

    A few years ago the biggest brothel in Dublin was called the Casbah. It was too prominent for some people so a move was mounted by Churchmen, politicians and right minded civic leaders to get rid of it. What rankled with the woman who owned it was that some of those against it had frequented the establishment and used it's services including priests. The book was ghost written by a journalist who completely agreed with her. He was happy to write it. Apparently quite a few priests came in with plenty of money. One bishop would not go in for fear of being seen. Instead he rented a hotel room and had two women sent over. One of the prostitutes had a seven year old son. He was to be confirmed so she took him to mass on the appointed morning. She was shocked to see the priest who was giving his usual holier-than-thou sermon had been cavorting at the brothel just the night before. There are also the priests with girl friends and even children.

    Perhaps I am naive but how can priests and nuns who supposedly believe in mortal sins and eternal damnation act with such hypocrisy? Another incident occurred recently which was overshadowed by the pedophile scandals. The Bishop of Rome who is in charge of the business side of the Church in Rome was questioned in regard to property dealings with shady characters.

    I am beginning to think I am the naive one.

  53. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Sep, 2010

    It would appear Bob that the Catholic Church lost its way centuries ago, and as they say, if Jesus did return he wouldn't recognise the corrupt business they've built around his name, and he certainly wouldn't approve of it. The average Catholic on the street needs to wake up and realise what most popes, bishops, priests and nuns have long realised, their God doesn't exist, and so no one will punish them for grabbing as much sex, wealth and power as they can.

  54. Comment by Bob, 09 Oct, 2010

    You might be interested in the following if you haven't already read it for yourself.

    http://travel.msn.co.nz/travelnews/8101861/ufo-closes-chinese-airport

    It is a genuine sighting seen by a number of people and acted on by the airport authorities. The report and clear picture of something real shows up the usual hazy vague UFO reports. It was identified as a Chinese missile test. Presumably the Chinese had wanted to keep their tests secret.

  55. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Sep, 2010

    What amazes us about these types of UFO sightings Bob is how they conflict with the explanations put out by ufologists. Some of the public believes they are alien spacecraft, and yet ufologists insist that visiting aliens are technologically far in advance of us, with faster-than-light propulsion systems, anti-gravity drives etc. And yet their craft blaze across the sky like a spectacular space shuttle launch or a spaceship from an old Flash Gordon movie, using old fashioned chemical rockets. We have also developed primitive stealth technology aircraft and yet we are expected to believe that advanced aliens haven't yet figured out how to switch off their cabin lights to fly overhead unseen.

    I agree that it is most likely to be a missile test, or barring that, the re-entry of some space junk or a fireball.

  56. Comment by Joe, 12 Oct, 2010

    Hi, I followed the link to the herald article ............it didnt mention aliens at all .....you seem to be the one putting the Alien theory on the table. I have never presumed the Lights to be Aliens, as i stated earlier I could only "guess" that perhaps there was a possibility of the lights being some form of experimental craft........just a guess. I would say that if the lights were Alien craft they were rubbish at flying. Why zip round all over the place like that? I did meet a man who lived up the Clarence river during the 30s and he reckons he had seen similar lights when he was ten on two occasions he was told to say nothing more about them. If his story is true it would make the experimental craft '"guess" very unlikely.

  57. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Sep, 2010

    Joe, you must be one of the few people on the planet that hears the word UFO and never thinks of aliens. For most people UFO and alien spacecraft are synonymous. That's what we take the statement 'The US has long laid claim to being the world's UFO superpower — now China is giving it a run for its money' to mean, and also why it caused a 'media frenzy'. They weren't thinking about an unusual flight from the local airforce base.

    Also your account of the Clarence river sighting really only makes sense if the people thought they were aliens and would be ridiculed if they mentioned it. No one is advised to keep it quiet when they see an unusual plane fly over. You're right that people shouldn't think aliens when they see something in the sky that they can't identify, but as your story suggests, they usually do.

    You rightly note that 'I would say that if the lights were Alien craft they were rubbish at flying. Why zip round all over the place like that?' However the same argument destroys the idea of secret experimental craft. No company trying to keep their test flights secret flies over a civilian airport while lit up like a Xmas tree.

  58. Comment by Bob, 17 Oct, 2010

    Just a comment on your remarks regarding the Chinese UFO. Taking the article at face value that it was a Chinese missile test it is most likely it was off course. No test missile will be deliberately flown over an airport. Countries only announce their missile tests when they are successful. It's hard to threaten your enemy with a dud missile.

  59. Comment by Bob, 17 Oct, 2010

    A prominent story this week has been the canonisation of Mary MacKillop as a Catholic saint. Now I have no problem with honouring her. She brought education to people in remote places such as aborigines in the outback no mean feat in the 1870's. If she hadn't been a religious nun she might still have deserved a civil recognition. What annoys me is the stupidity of having to prove she helped bring about two miracles before she could have been given the Catholic Church's highest award.

    The miracles involved medical cures both of cancer, lung cancer and brain tumor in one person and leukemia in another. How many people prayed to this dead woman to heal them of medical problems with no result? Of course she doesn't heal she just has a word with God. There must be several million people praying to saints at any one time. As Vicki Hyde said, the cures are always of the cancer or severe arthritis types, both of which are known to disappear in spontaneous remissions. She pointed out the obvious that nobody ever grows a replacement leg.

    I decided to look into spontaneous remission of cancer. In one media article a doctor claimed the rate is 2% of all cancers. I found a web page which appears to be a bona fide medical source. It stated breast cancer remissions occur in one out of five cases. Assuming other forms of cancer are not that high the 2% figure might be right or at least a figure down that way.

    http://dartmed.dartmouth.edu/spring09/html/disc_remission.php

    Why does the Catholic Church continue pushing ideas which are little more than superstition? I did read that the Church no longer accepts miracles from Lourdes. It is because there is more understanding of spontaneous remission and a realisation that sometimes it takes a while for treatments to take effect. Sometimes claimed miraculous cures are delayed effects of drugs. In my opinion the whole episode of saints and miraculous cures serves to keep the faithful in ignorance and under the Church's control.

  60. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Sep, 2010

    It's stupid alright Bob. Of course you can never prove any of these miracles, so even pretending to do so shows up the ignorance of the Vatican and its followers. Also it shows up other notions that contradict Christian belief, that you can persuade a God that is unchanging and all-knowing to change his mind. That is, by praying (or begging) you can convince God to cure someone whom he had earmarked for death. Also the Ten Commandants say you are not to worship false idols, that you are only to pray to God. And yet these morons pray to all manner of religious figures, and in the case of MacKillop and Mother Teresa, nuns who aren't even saints. In the movie 'Religulous' a Catholic priest revealed that in a survey in Italy, on a list of people that Catholics pray to for help, Jesus was number seven on the list (if I remember correctly, but certainly no higher than number five). God himself wasn't even in the top ten it seems, the rest were saints and other religious figures.

    This notion of miracle cures may have worked on ignorant peasants in the Middle Ages, but to think that Catholics today still swallow this nonsense just shows, as you say, how much control the Church still has over their minds.

    I also heard on Radio NZ National this morning that the Vatican had excommunicated Mary MacKillop for a while, which I knew, but that this was partly over her exposing a paedophile priest. So even back then they were deviously trying to hide their sexual abuse of children by attacking those that raised the alarm rather than those committing the abuse. These bastards deserve our contempt. This belated move to recognise Mary MacKillop is nothing but an attempt by the Vatican to get some positive exposure in the media.

  61. Comment by Bob, 22 Oct, 2010

    Hullo John, this post is just musing.

    Your blog has caused me to think to rejuvenate my scepticism which I have always had. Even when I was young I was aware of things which did not make sense. I think I was 14 or 15 when I heard a voluble American on the radio describing how he had been taken to Venus in a space craft by Venusians. I thought it was a load of guff. However what puzzled me was the way this man spoke with such confidence. I couldn't understand how a person could spout total nonsense loudly without missing a word. Nowadays I am only too aware of people's ability to do just that. At that time scientists thought Venus was too hot for life but weren't sure until the first space probe arrived there.

    I have wondered why people go to alternate health practitioners instead of being content with conventional medicine. There was an item on one of the documentary series a couple of weeks ago which gave me a clue. The subject was cupping which I had heard of but didn't know what it was. I was amazed when I saw it. A man was lying face down with raised welts all over his back caused by drawing up the skin with a cup under vacuum. It reminded me of love bites. The practitioner was a lady probably in her 40's, an attractive woman with a great smile and manner. To his credit the interviewer did ask her how it worked and did it cure anybody of anything, even pressing her when she gave unsatisfactory answers. She must have been annoyed and irritated to be questioned at all but she didn't show it. She sidestepped talk of a cure by saying her clients say they feel better.

    Generally doctors don't have great manners. They have an annoying habit of telling you what you don't want to hear. Give up smoking and cut down on alcohol. Give up half the things you like to eat and get more exercise. Here are some pills which won't cure you but will help you to breathe easier and sleep better — next patient. By contrast the alternative practitioner will tell you it is not your fault you feel so lousy. It is the poisons in your body and unequal energy levels. While talking soothingly she will run her hands over your body without actually touching you. She will tell you she is evening out the energy and drawing poisons. That will be $100. Come back next week and I will relieve you of another $100. What man in particular won't lap up that sort of attention from an attractive woman?

    I think doctors are reluctant to down alternative medicine because they know they don't have all the answers themselves. It might well give the patient a feeling of well being which helps the placebo effect to work. It is like prayer — useless — but it makes the believer feel better.

    It seems to be human nature to be attracted to someone with a dominating and attractive personality. That is why cult leaders, fraudsters and quacks flourish. You wouldn't believe the number of supposedly smart people who were taken in by Bernie Madoff running a massive Ponzi scheme in New York to the tune of $60 billion dollars. Investment companies handed over hundreds of millions of dollars of their clients money without checking Madoff's operation. Like the alternative medicine brigade he had answers off pat for most questions.

    The answer is education. But who is going to do the educating? A man I knew was in the business of sorting out people's financial messes. He told me he had teachers coming in for help. They weren't a lot of help to their pupils.

  62. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Sep, 2010

    It's a pity Bob, that we can't give people skepticism shots as we do with flu shots to boost their resistance to nonsense. I think most people, even those that support alternative therapies, are perfectly happy with conventional medicine and treatments, and only seek out quack cures when they come down with something that conventional medicine can't fix. This is understandable, since if one has a fatal illness or uncontrollable pain then one will clutch at straws in an attempt to get some relief and/or survive. The question is which alternative treatments might you try and which would you immediately reject as nonsense and a waste of time and money? As you say, the answer is education. There are some unusual and unconventional treatments that just might work, but there are many others that could never work. Society needs to be educated into which ones are remotely plausible and perhaps worth the risk if you're desperate, and which ones have been exposed as fraudulent and often even break several scientific principles.

    It a shame that schools don't teach a class on skepticism. Not only would it be extremely valuable, I think most students would find it fascinating. They could good look at everything from medical trials involving blind testing, control groups and placebos, propaganda in media advertising, to claims around Bigfoot, alien abduction, the Loch Ness Monster, psychics and urban myths. It could be a fun course.

    Just this week I had two elderly relatives that are both suffering from melanoma inform me that melanoma is not skin cancer, and that Negroes get more skin cancer than Caucasians. Both claims are false, but they are spreading them to anyone who will listen. It is this ignorance and an unwillingness to check their 'facts' that creates an environment where nonsense can flourish and even the most outlandish treatments seem plausible and worth handing over your credit card for.

    Many people talk of the widening gulf between the rich and the poor. I think there is also a widening gulf between the scientifically literate and the scientifically illiterate. Medieval peasants with cell phones, little different from chimps wearing clothes.

  63. Comment by Bob, 31 Oct, 2010

    Hi John, have you seen the following article from the Sunday Herald? —

    'Appointment with death' cards shocking for elderly

    The forms sent to elderly people appear to have come from Ray Comfort's organisation in America — called Living Waters. There is a local Living Waters which claims to have no connection with Comfort. What crass stupid insensitivity! Anyone over 70 knows most of their life has gone and they will die in time. An 89 year old doesn't need to be reminded of that. These idiots seem to think their beliefs give them the right to impose on anybody.

  64. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Nov, 2010

    Your anger is justified Bob, and no, we weren't aware of the article. It states that:

    'Religious extremists have been sending cards to elderly people asking them to pick the date they are going to die... and advise them to get in touch with evangelists to avoid going to hell'.
    These insensitive morons have no empathy and probably see themselves as no different to insurance agents or civil defence organisers trying to ensure that you are prepared for unwanted future events. That's the trouble with people who think they are doing God's work. These fundamentalists have a different mindset and simply can't grasp how others with freedom of thought might view the world and their place in it. For example, they can't accept that atheists don't believe in God. They are convinced that we are simply dismissing God or are angry with God, in the same way that one might ignore or avoid an abusive parent or school bully. It is nigh on impossible to reason with people that have been brainwashed by a belief in invisible fairies, and who think that their own future wellbeing is dependent on bringing us under their God's spell as well. They don't care about the elderly, but only with their own standing with God and whether they have done enough to please him and guarantee their own salvation.

    The elderly usually have enough worries without being told that tentative reservations have been made for them in hell, and that they seriously need to think about swearing their loyalty to a new master as the only way of avoiding this eternal torture. Even the elderly with religious convictions could be unsettled by this unthinking approach. Believing they have lived a good life in the eyes of their God, they are now informed that this is not the case, and that more needs to be urgently done to avoid their descent into hell. Time is running out and God is evidently not pleased. Their assumed room in heaven that Jesus has supposedly been preparing for the last 2000 years has not been confirmed.

  65. Comment by Bob, 12 Nov, 2010

    On 60 Minutes, Wednesday 10th, an item was shown on an unusual family. Two lesbians lived together each having a son through insemination by a homosexual friend. The homosexual lives with another man. The women are highly qualified with high level jobs. They live closely with the father of their sons who see him regularly.

    The purpose of the item was to highlight a finding from a professional group of psychiatrists in America showing children brought up by lesbian couples in fact do better and are less inclined to violence and trouble than those from average conventional families. Thinking about it I can see that lesbians wanting a child are similar to couples adopting. They have a definite desire for children, going to a lot of trouble to get them and are likely to look after them better than ordinary couples who have children simply because they fall pregnant. That of course is averaging ordinary couples out, most of whom look after their children just as well, while some don't.

    Amanda Miller fronting the show got the opinion of a Catholic bishop. He insisted children brought up by lesbians or homosexuals are deprived by not having their father living with them in a marriage. They definitely suffer. Miller asked him if they would be any worse off than children brought up by a solo mother. He seemed to skirt that question. He refused to accept the psychiatric report claiming it was biased. 30 years ago the churches wouldn't believe the psychiatric reports which said there was nothing mentally wrong with homosexuals. They were normal apart from being different with their sexual preferences.

    The Catholic Church has its beliefs which can't be challenged. They will claim black is white to avoid admitting they are wrong. If you look back 200 years before modern communications the Catholic Church had a distinct advantage in mass communication. It could print a letter and deliver it to all its churches around the country to be read out to congregations. Anyone disagreeing with the message could only contact a small number of people. Times have changed. A message disagreeing with the Catholic Church can be disseminated well around the country by television and newspaper in a couple of days.

    It is modern communications which is killing the Catholic Church. The Pope has now been to Spain with the same results as other countries. Those pesky atheist secularists are at it there undermining God. Around the world it appears the number of priests and nuns is diminishing, down by around 25%. An item in today's Herald says that the order of Capuchin monks in Switzerland might have to close down because no new members are coming forward. The average age of present members is 70.

    I made a prediction that at the end of this century the Catholic Church will be a shadow of its former self while the Vatican will become a religious museum. I'm sticking to that prediction, not that I will be around to check on it.

  66. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Nov, 2010

    Rachel watched part of that 60 Minutes item but I wasn't in the mood to listen to ignorant priests condemning the child rearing abilities of homosexual parents. Especially since their view is based not on objective facts, but merely on a burning hatred of homosexuals expressed by their intolerant God in the Bible. The irony is that for all their hatred of homosexuality, priests and nuns, due to the Church's ridiculous celibacy rule, are probably partaking in more covert homosexual sex than any other professional class.

    Some in the Church try to pretend that it is not about homosexuality per se, but as you say, that children will suffer if they are deprived of either a mother or father, and for this reason single sex families must be banned. But if women or men raising children without the benefit of a member of the opposite sex is so harmful to the child that it must be made illegal, then every heterosexual solo parent, male or female, whether they are single by choice or by the death of their spouse, must have their children taken from them. The fact that the Church ignores this inconvenient point shows just how weak their argument truly is.

    We'd like to think that you're right in your prediction regarding the future of the Catholic Church. I've been to the Vatican a couple of times and in my view it is already a museum in the eyes of many of its visitors. The scientific age, the reason of secularism and the revelation of the army of child abusers in their midst have all served to push them screaming ever closer to the edge of the precipice. Their demise is inevitable, and in the future people will look on the abuses of the Catholic Church the way we look on the human sacrifices of the Aztec. Atrocities visited on the innocent by an ignorant few in blind obedience to imaginary gods.

    For a very insightful and humorous look at homosexuality by philosopher Stephen Law, we highly recommend people read this chapter — 'What's wrong with gay sex?' — from his book 'The Philosophy Gym'. It may very well change the way you view homosexuality or the arguments you use when you discuss it. Law looks at such arguments as 'Homosexuality is unnatural, Homosexuality is dirty, Homosexuality is unhealthy, Homosexuality and "family values", Homosexuality corrupts the young' etc.

  67. Comment by Bob, 14 Nov, 2010

    Hi John, I am a grandparent so I have had a lot of years to learn about life and children. I have found what children want most is security and love. Other things such as having a father for boys are important but of lesser importance than the first two. At one time I would have thought homosexuals bringing up children was bizarre. Now I see no reason why sensible caring homosexuals can't make a good job of bringing them up. There are enough heterosexual couples who make a hash of it.

    I would like to have put a hypothetical case to the bishop. Imagine a woman with a young child loses her husband who dies of a medical problem. She goes and lives with her sister who never married. The child addresses the women as mum and aunty. Is that child deprived? The interviewer told the lesbian mother what the bishop had said. Her comment was what does a 70 year old celibate priest know about bringing up children.

    The disapproval of homosexuality comes from the past when the science of psychology and human behaviour did not exist. The ancients thought whatever people did was a result of deliberate choice or freewill. That wasn't unreasonable in light of their limited knowledge. It is ridiculous now to live by those standards and ignore modern knowledge.

    It's interesting how society's ideas change with time. When I was young homosexuals caught in sex acts were arrested and jailed. I recall a couple of homosexuals sentenced to 18 months in jail. Nowadays homosexuals open about their sexuality get good jobs in society even becoming politicians because nobody cares anymore.

    I've been to the Vatican once years ago. I didn't have any feeling of reverence. It seemed to be just a monument to Roman Catholicism. There was a kind of altar with the skeletal body of a previous pope in glass. I remember it looked ghoulish. I felt it should have been taken out and given a decent burial. I don't know if it is still there.

  68. Comment by Richard, 08 Dec, 2010

    Hi John, see below — The Press (Stuff) Website 08/12/10.

    I wonder by what process this blessing helps "relieve strain and keep us healthy"?

    — at least they don't charge for the service (I hope!)

    Greymouth police station blessed

    Pike River Mining Disaster

    The Greymouth police station has been blessed this morning to help relieve the stress of those involved in the Pike River recovery operation.

    Up to 80 police from throughout New Zealand have been in working on the operation in Greymouth since the first explosion on November 19. Tasman police district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said the pressure on local police had been significant.

    "Many of our people have connections with the mining families. They are suffering along with everyone else in this community and they have coped admirably with the disruption to their daily lives. This is just a part of policing. When a big operation is launched, everyone has to chip in."

    West Coast police chaplain Derek Cone, who led this morning's 6am blessing, said it was common to bless homes and businesses where people were under stress.

    "As humans we can handle a certain amount of strain. The service helps relieve that and keep us healthy," he said.

  69. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Dec, 2010

    Thanks for bringing that to our attention Richard. The only process that we can think of where a religious blessing might help some people feel less stressful is the placebo effect. Where deluded people versed in a fantasy lie to other gullible and vulnerable people and together they convince each other that angels will make everything better and their boss will put a protective fairy ring around their business to prevent further trouble.

    We can never understand the logic of these belated blessings. If their God really existed and really cared about them then tragedy and stress would never have happened in the first place. If God wanted those miners dead, and it's well documented that he's an uncaring, murderous bastard, then he is unlikely to start worrying now about the stress levels of a few police. Are we to believe that God has a guilty conscience over those he kills and tries to alleviate this by calming the lives of those that have to clean up his mess?

    If following the blessing the police are convinced that God is now looking over them and helping them with the stress of the job, surely they need to ask, where was God at the time of the mine explosion? Has God reduced his job description from an all-knowing, all-powerful protector to that of a mere counsellor that only turns up after 'acts of God' have occurred? Disasters like this should make believers question their understanding of their God and his absence in times of need, and yet few do. Most continue to praise him, while blindly accepting that he killed their loved ones or at least did nothing to save them. They continue to give support to a master that continually fails them, childishly telling themselves that God has his reasons for deserting them on this occasion.

    And unfortunately it appears that the bogus blessing service might not have been free. It was performed by the West Coast police chaplain, and if he is employed by the Police then every taxpayer, even atheists like us, is paying for his silly ritual to beg favours from a fictional character from ancient literature.

  70. Comment by Richard, 09 Dec, 2010

    Thanks for your reply John. Quite right in all that you say. And it is unfortunate that you are correct, we are paying by employing dedicated God botherers in the police force. If he were really doing his job then he could convince his boss (the big fella (fairy) in the sky, not the commissioner) to stop the criminals, and we'd all be happy. Then I wouldn't mind paying his salary

    One thing I've noticed with some Christians (such as my parents-in-law who are dedicated Baptists, and, to be honest, very naïve simple folk), is that sometimes when bad shit happens and people ask how their god could let that happen, the response was that it was the "devils" work, not god.

    This is interesting in many ways. But what particularly springs to mind is a) these christians admits that their god is not perfect, and I suppose is constantly in battle with that other guy with the horns and tail.

    But also b) it intrigues me because the Christian Go(o)d vs (D)evil/sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses kind of "rationale" doesn't seem to be widely held up as a reason for bad stuff happening (by a lot of other Christians). It doesn't seem PC to mention the other side of the god equation these days, or something, I don't know. Yet I would have thought this was a fairly good "out clause" for their god failing them. Instead they just maintain their other delusion that he IS all powerful yet bad stuff still manages to happen, but it is still worth praying to him after the event ?!?.

    I guess I'll just never understand these people (because when I do I will have truly succumbed to their madness).

    Thanks anyway, love your stuff.

  71. Comment by Bob, 21 Jan, 2011

    I am having a little bit of a moan this morning. It's over misuse of language and expressions. One of my pet peeves is the overuse of the word "miracle", mainly by TV1 newsreaders. Every time someone escapes serious injury in an accident or is saved from death or lifelong paralysis by a very skilled surgeon it is a miracle. It is not a bloody miracle! It is not a miracle no one died in the Christchurch earthquake. It was a set of fortuitous circumstances. A miracle by definition is a case of divine intervention. I have yet to hear of a case of a true miracle. Mind you, believers usually retort that sceptics are pigheaded in refusing to believe.

    On the other hand when someone is killed by tragic circumstances nobody claims divine intervention — why not? Apparently God does nice things never bad things. In an accident in Auckland the wheel of a heavy truck disintegrated sending a piece of metal into the head of a nearby pedestrian killing him. Six inches one side or the other would have missed him. Wasn't this a nasty miracle by God? If the metal had just missed him I am sure it would have been reported as a miracle he wasn't killed.

    However apart from TV1 newsreaders the word "miracle" is not used sometimes when you might expect it to be. A man who did some charitable work was shown on television mainly because he sat with patients in hospital in spite of being blind. However he had been blind, but out of the blue his sight returned. There was no mention at least on television of miracles or divine intervention. A few years ago a young woman got a lot of publicity after her blindness was cured by a bump on her head, with no suggestion of religion or miracles. Perhaps the general population is realising we are no longer governed by unseen spirits.

    That very popular pet pope John Paul 11 caused a French nun to be cured of Parkinson's disease by a miracle according to Catholic claims. Who decided that? Catholic picked doctors of course. The canonisation of saints is a process which is supposed to take many years, sometimes stretching into centuries. This pope died only 6 years ago. I wonder why the haste? Could it be the Church wants a spectacle to deflect attention from its scandals? The latest pope has faced questions over his involvement with cover ups. What of John Paul? The cover ups were going on during his watch. I don't think the Catholic hierarchy care what you and I and our ilk think of them. We are a lost cause anyway. They are afraid their present members might start thinking and resign.

    As far as that miracle is concerned there have been suggestions the nun was not suffering from Parkinsons at all but a condition mimicking it. How could anyone know exactly what was going on in her brain without an autopsy? Could it be the unblocking of a tiny vein or God's intervention.

    While on the subject of the Catholic Church the Pope wants people to name their children after biblical characters and saints not popular singers and actors. So perhaps children should be called Abraham or Ishmael. I have no problem with Matthew, Mark Luke or John. David from King David is no problem. As long as a name doesn't sound ridiculous but is easy to pronounce and spell and gives dignity to the child it is OK by me. Jebidiah — nono! Of course the pope doesn't care about names he just wants to attract adherents anyway he can.

    I was surprised to see the Catholic Church taking in married Anglican clergy. No doubt this has them whooping with joy that Anglicans are finally returning. It should be tempered by the fact it is based on discrimination against women. Those Anglicans don't want women in their ranks. Not only that but the pope has said that NOT putting down women is actually a sin against the sacraments — institutionalising discrimination when the rest of the world is going the other way.

    Catholic watching is quite interesting.

  72. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Jan, 2011

    Ahhh yes, the old nonsense that is miracles. We've also argued against the unjustified use of this word in the media. But why? Even back in the 1700s David Hume effectively reasoned why real miracles could be ignored. Why do the media even pretend that miracles have occurred? I think the word miracle will be one of those words that change their meaning over the coming years, from meaning divine intervention to merely meaning an outcome that was extremely unlikely or rare. Most people that we know now associate the word miracle in news reports with blind good luck. They don't think, even if they are religious, that the Christian god stepped in to save someone. Most now realise that it is just an emotive word bandied around by the media and it says nothing about what some imaginary being might have done. When the miners were rescued in Chile it was deemed a miracle, and locals were seen thanking their god, but when the miners failed to be rescued in Pike River, we saw no family members or priests shaking their fist at their god. As you said Bob, the public and the media only invoke the word miracle when good things happen, and refuse to hold their gods accountable when tragedies occur. They're hypocrites, knowing deep down that no gods were involved, whether the outcome was good or bad.

    In a similar vein, one of my peeves at the moment is the media use of the word carnage. It of course means 'massive slaughter, as in war; corpses'. Yet reporters continually use it to describe an embarrassing loss by the All Blacks, the Black Caps or some other sports team, or to describe mayhem at some event. There was carnage on the field last night, is the soundbite that leads the news report. Like miracle, this word is changing, and in another generation will have no connection whatsoever to death. I know language evolves, but it should evolve for the better. We already have words that describe a severe defeat in sports, massacre has this informal meaning. It is only through ignorance that some idiot has thought, well massacre and carnage are similar, so carnage must mean a severe defeat in sports as well. Language is powerful because we have different words that convey different, sometimes subtle meanings. The words carnage and defeat both exist so that we can explain different things. But to your average teenager today they have the same meaning. The media could be helping language retain its power, but instead are dumbing it down: Carnage on the playing field, it will be a miracle if they win.

    As for making saints out of these dead Catholics, their claimed miracles are laughable. It's all just magical thinking designed to keep them in the news and, as you say, deflect attention away from their raping of little boys. And you're right about the Catholics poaching from the other team. It doesn't say much for the conviction of their beliefs if the Anglicans are prepared to move and the Catholics prepared to accept them. They are united only in their belief in discrimination against women and homosexuals. They truly are rejects from the past, and the sooner their beliefs go the way of the Greek gods the better.

  73. Comment by Bob, 02 Feb, 2011

    There is an interesting series of medical documentaries showing on Prime Sunday nights. Last Sunday the subject was heart operations. The first heart transplant was carried out by Christian Barnard in South Africa in 1967. Soon after a team started doing them at the National Heart Hospital in England under the direction of a Doctor Longmore. The interesting thing is that these transplants were opposed by idiot religious fundamentalists. Longmore was threatened by them even threatening his life. He had to have police protection when he went out even having police accompany him when he took his kids to school. Police were on guard at the hospital.

    It appears that the soul resides in the heart. Transplanting a heart from one person to another transfers the soul which is an extremely sinful act. It amazes me how people can reject modern science and knowledge in favour of 2,000 year old thinking. There is an excuse for ancient people, not for people who are supposed to have a modern education.

  74. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Feb, 2011

    Unfortunately I wasn't aware that doco was on ('Blood And Guts - A History Of Surgery', Prime, 9:30pm), but I'll try and catch the remaining episodes. I suspect that most advances in medicine have been opposed by religious fundamentalists for one silly reason or another. Apart from going against their god's will, that is, if god wants them to die then it's not their place to challenge god with antibiotics and vaccines, it's also deemed unnatural.

    But the idea that the soul is attached to the heart and moves with it makes a joke of their other claim that the soul is not attached to the body and can flit off if it dies or even if it is merely unconscious on the operating table. These idiots really need to get their fantasies straight. As you say Bob, primitive people have an excuse for believing this nonsense, but contemporary, educated people in Western countries don't.

  75. Comment by Bob, 24 Feb, 2011

    Two days ago I was walking along my street going to the shops. Coming towards me were an oldish couple. Following them were two tall young men well dressed in long sleeved white shirts and black trousers with identity cards pinned to their shirts. Now my area is a retirement area where people are friendly and you get plenty of hellos in the street even though they might not know you. As I passed them one of the young men heard me speak to the old couple and said hello. Then he stopped and started to say something about Jesus. I turned and told him I wasn't the least interested in religion. That didn't stop him. He started on about God. I told him I was a solid atheist. That didn't stop him and he followed me. I turned around and raised my voice telling him to GO AWAY. Then he stopped. I got a better look at the identity. They were American Mormons.

    What a cheek! They are so righteous in their beliefs they are justified in annoying anybody anywhere.

    P.S. You wouldn't believe it! Just 20 minutes after typing the last snippet there was a knock on the door. Sure enough it was our friends the Jehovahs. I cut their spiel short. They were going to tell me about God's Kingdom. Instead I told them to go and shut the door on them.

    In view of the disastrous Christchurch earthquake, if God made the earth as a special act of creation, why make the crust so fragile that it could rupture and kill countless people around the world time and time again?

  76. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Feb, 2011

    Those evangelists are bloody annoying aren't they? We think that Mormons, like Muslims and their duty to perform the Haj if possible, have a duty to spend some time evangelising abroad. We've run into them all over the world, from Europe to Asia to South America. And they're nearly always male, although we have seen a couple of females. I guess any Mormons in Christchurch were unharmed in the quake since they all wear protective underwear. What's that all about? Why would people who see themselves as particularly close to God need to wear protective underwear? Don't they have trust in God's ability to protect them?

    And you're right of course Bob, the quake raises the age old question of suffering, of why God allows evil to occur? I've also noticed the destruction, sometimes total, of the many churches around Christchurch, including perhaps 20 deaths in their famous cathedral. I found it revealing that these religious ministers spoke on TV of the destruction to their churches with no mention of God, as if they were afraid the reporter would ask: 'Why would God do that, especially to his own house?'. Strangely it is a question that the religious have no answer to, even though they insist they have a loving relationship with their god. Are they too afraid to ask?

  77. Comment by Barry, 27 Feb, 2011

    Hi John, you have an interesting website. It's great to see such a resource available on the web.

    You're clearly interested in the sciences and I presume you have a scientific tertiary education. What scientific discoveries have genuinely surprised you by challenging your existing beliefs?

    I'm sure you'll agree, science is a serious matter. It's not about the personality or beliefs of the scientist, it's about the data they collect. Should not the refutation of apparently erroneous analysis also be done soberly, with scientific rigour? Or is it unneccesary to take the trouble where ad hominem argument will suffice?

    Last point. The belief that the earth is getting warmer and humans are the reason why has gone from Never Contemplated to Entirely Mainstream in my lifetime. What's your take on the global warming question?

  78. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Mar, 2011

    Hi Barry. Thanks for your comments and queries. Yes, we do all have an interest in the sciences, but nothing qualification wise. As we've said in our Ken Ring article and elsewhere, none of us are scientists of any description. Personally, I can't immediately think of any scientific discoveries that have 'genuinely surprised' me by 'challenging [my] existing beliefs', in the sense that I've had to struggle to accept them. Reading about both science frontiers and science fiction I think prepares one for future discoveries, and unlike religious types, I am not dogmatic about what is considered scientific 'fact'. People born in the early 20th century would no doubt have had some of their firm beliefs challenged, ie there are other galaxies, the universe had a beginning unrelated to the bible (Big Bang theory), not only can man fly, even space travel is possible, but there is no one living on Venus or Mars. A friend's mother still believes that travel to the moon is impossible. But these days we get such advanced warning of what might be possible, that when it happens it's not really a surprise, more inevitable. Even rejecting religion and embracing science as a child didn't challenge my existing beliefs, since I wasn't committed to religion. I have no problem in rejecting a belief if I'm replacing it with one with better support. I don't lose any sleep over the fact that I once believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Since I side with science these days, I don't really find believable discoveries that conflict with science.

    I would say that quantum mechanics and parts of relativity theory certainly challenge my 'common sense' views of how I see the world, but I am perfectly happy to take them on board even though I only grasp them in a basic sense. Of course there are areas of science that are very uncertain at present, such as the validity of superstring theory, but I don't commit myself firmly to this or that theory and will let scientists inform me as to which has the best support. I was surprised when they found that the expansion of the universe appears to be accelerating, but I wouldn't say it shook my beliefs at all. And again I won't lose sleep if superstring theory doesn't work out and is replaced by something else. Things that would challenge me would be evidence that the Big Bang theory or natural selection is completely wrong or that the supernatural exists. But I'd like to think I would still go where the evidence points, regardless of the shock.

    You're right of course, science is about the data, the evidence that supports a theory. The validity of a theory has nothing to do with individual scientists, their personalities, ethics or beliefs. Hitler's scientists first discovered that cigarettes were carcinogenic, co-discoverer of natural selection with Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, believed in talking to the dead, and astronomer Johannes Kepler practised astrology. It is the scientific advances that are really important, not the scientists.

    The ad hominem argument, attacking the person rather than their argument, is well recognised as being a badly flawed tactic. Ken Ring, for example, utilises this tactic often in an attempt to convince people that our criticism of his method is false. He has called us, on more than one occasion, a 'white supremacist red-neck jack-booted fascist nazi... that hates Catholics, the Irish, Muslims, Jews, people of alternative medicine, of alternative immigrant cultures and descents...'. He claims that we 'make money from dissing alternative practitioners, attracting a readership then selling book recommendations...They also sell weather to big companies and I am competition'. Of course every one of these scurrilous accusations are false and insulting, but even if they were true, they in no way demonstrate that our argument is false. Really obnoxious people can still be right and really nice people can be utterly wrong.

    We have indeed sometimes accused people of lying, including Ring and various psychics, but this is not an attack on the person per se, this is a fact that exposes their credibility and integrity. As you say, the 'science is about the data', and if a person is less than truthful in what they say, then this indicates that one should carefully check any data they provide. We have always tried to be careful to challenge the logic and integrity of claims and not be swayed by the person themselves. Only Ring has ever accused us of attacking him personally, even though it has been him that has been insistent that we tell him who we are and where we live, as if that would destroy our argument. Ring can not grasp the difference between attacking a belief such as Catholicism and personally attacking friends who are Catholic. Any argument won through ad hominem is a false and hollow victory that is meaningless.

    Global warming? It's true that the idea 'has gone from Never Contemplated to Entirely Mainstream in my lifetime', but then so too has the Big Bang theory, the existence of galaxies, genetic engineering, cell phones, computers and the internet, continental drift, civil unions and birds evolving from dinosaurs. To be honest we know far less about the climate change debate than we do about certain other scientific topics, but we are siding with the scientific community and its experts. The great majority of those that are qualified to talk on this topic, and we certainly don't mean the likes of Ian Wishart or Ken Ring, believe that there is good evidence to support the contention that mankind's activities are contributing to climate change. While many climate change deniers could no doubt confuse us, and perhaps even convince us, with their 'science', we will only be truly convinced when they can convince and sway the view of the scientific community. We are suspicious of scientists that can only convince the man on the street, and not their peers, and find it difficult to believe that a handful of scientists can clearly see what the majority cannot. Nor do we believe that scientists, and science writers, investigative journalists, politicians, government officials etc, are all part of a large conspiracy that are prepared to hide the truth and squander trillions trying to make changes to something that they know isn't real. There were only two people who knew of the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, and yet the secret still couldn't be contained. What chance is there of the thousands who supposedly know that climate change is a scam, that no one has squealed for fame and fortune, or even a guilty conscience?

    The scientific consensus may be wrong, but if it is, the reasons why are far more complex than what the likes of Ian Wishart or Ken Ring claim. The errors they believe they can see in climate change data will most likely be based on their lack of qualifications and expertise in the appropriate fields. Just as I'm not qualified to debate superstring theory with the experts, I'll let the climate scientists inform me as to whether there is anything to anthropogenic global warming.

  79. Comment by Chris, 01 Mar, 2011

    Yes [re comment #76] I believe young Mormons are sent out to do 'missionary work' as part of their apprenticeship, though one has to wonder about their success rate. Several decades ago I was on a boat to Pukapuka in the northern Cook Islands and there were a couple of young Mormon guys on board. Since Pukapuka is 2/3 LMS and 1/3 Catholic and quite content about it thank you, this seemed about as futile as the Childrens Crusade. Pukapuka is also locally famous for its relaxed and pragmatic attitude towards what young people do, so one wonders just what the Mormon hierarchy was expecting to happen. From all accounts the magic underwear didn't hold up for very long. At least the guys had a more enjoyable fiasco than the Childrens Crusaders.

    But, re Christchurch Cathedral, I'm saddened to see it in ruins. One doesn't have to believe the religion to appreciate the ambience it lent to the city centre, I hope it is rebuilt in the same style (with appropriate concealed reinforcing of course).

  80. Comment by Anonymous-2, 01 Mar, 2011

    Congratulations for the most necessary exposing of the increasing amounts of garbage that is being foisted on the gullible. As President of an Astronomical Society, I am becoming more angered too, to find increasing evidence of the 'Dark Age' people putting together video productions that features largely all the brilliant Hubble and other large telescope images to get the audience hooked, only to find towards the end, the subtle propaganda on creation is injected in a blantant effort cloud whatever gains the true knowledge might have been gained in the early part of these productions.

  81. Comment by Bob, 06 Mar, 2011

    There were two articles in today's Sunday Herald:

    1. Apparently there is an increase in parents enrolling their children in religious schools. They want values based education. Only two churches were mentioned the Catholic Church and the Elim Church. I went to Catholic schools and got a good education in spite of the religious propaganda which I threw off the moment I left at 15. I don't know much about the Catholic schools now but I understand they have a lot of lay teachers because the Church can't attract members to their orders.

    I am more concerned about the Elim Church. I suspect it is fundamentalist denying any science out of tune with it's beliefs. That would mean denial of evolution. I might be wrong however their web page doesn't enlighten me.

    I would support the right of church schools to exist provided they follow Education Dept. guidelines. They do have an advantage over state schools in that they can select who they want. Unruly pupils must be taken by the state schools.

    I have doubts about values based education. My experience is that Catholic school pupils grow up much the same as state school pupils. Their home backgrounds have much more influence.

    2. 12 months ago Deb Webber predicted the Christchurch earthquake. I'll bet you didn't know that! Why didn't she tell us all so people could have been evacuated? She didn't want to cause panic. According to the article she predicted a big earthquake would split the country in two. She did tell a certain Carolyn Rosenberg in Melbourne. Carolyn knew nothing about New Zealand so was amazed when the earthquake did occur. Webber has predicted there will be another one still later in March in line with Ring's prediction. Bob Parker of Christchurch wasn't impressed calling it scaremongering. If the Christchurch quake hadn't occurred no doubt she would have claimed any one of the small quakes we get constantly would have been the fulfilment of her prediction or quietly forgotten about it.

    It reminds me of Princess Diana's death. None of the well known psychics in Britain predicted it. Most were predicting remarriage and more children for her.

    I don't know if you saw the Campbell interview with Ring. Campbell had a scientist on, a specialist in geophysics. He said no scientist he knows of takes any notice of Ring's theories. He said the second big quake was predicted by scientists based on statistics. It seems among the after shocks of a big quake will be one on average about 1 point in magnitude less than the main quake. The second quake was larger about half a point less. The damage was caused by the position of this aftershock. People like Ring sound good until they are confronted with real facts.

    PS: I have discovered the Elim Church is Pentecostal meaning every word in the bible is absolutely true. Evolution is unproven, explains nothing and denies God. In their article proponents of evolution are aligned with atheists, humanists, communists and other undesirables. I hope not too many parents are opting for Elim church schools and other similar religious schools. They have an agenda to get at school kids to promote their ignorance.

  82. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Mar, 2011

    We're all for teaching values in school Bob, the problem arises when we have to decide whose values we teach. Catholic values, Pentecostal values, Muslim values, New Age values, Neo-Nazi values? And yes, these fundamentalist church schools like Elim are just promoting ignorance. I often see a mini school bus from a local fundamentalist church school go past as it collects kids from the entire city and takes them off for brainwashing. Yes children, your ancestors did live with dinosaurs.

    We hadn't heard that psychic Deb Webber had predicted the Christchurch quake, but that doesn't surprise us. These idiots are always reviewing what they might have said in years gone by to see if it might apply (with a little tweaking) to what has actually happened. To our knowledge the quake didn't split the country in two. And yes, we did see the Campbell interview with Ring. We've just had another go at debunking him here.

  83. Comment by Graeme, 19 Apr, 2011

    [From the 'The Dominion Post']:

    Mention of God bothers district councillors

    A fine example of how a little secularism could better protect the religious of all shapes, and the non-believer.

    Some of the quotes are hilarious.

  84. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Apr, 2011

    Thanks for the link Graeme. We've commented before on the prayers that our elected officials, both in councils and parliament, continue to utter at their meetings, and we are dismayed that a deluded few are still hanging on to worthless medieval practices. A secular attitude would treat every councillor equally, giving no belief preference over others and forcing no one to utter or sit through prayers that they might find hypocritical, if not offensive. Would Christians happily start every council meeting with the Muslim cry: 'Allahu Akbar'? Of course not, they would say it offends their beliefs and their God, and would campaign to have it removed. And yet when their childish prayer to an imaginary being offends non-Christians they cry ignorance, pretending to be completely unable to grasp how praying to a god you don't believe in could cause offence to the god you do perhaps believe in or to your integrity.

    The only people that challenge these outdated begging rituals are those of the minority, eg those that don't see the God mentioned in the prayer as running their lives and dictating their decisions. It's the arrogance of the majority, that while we are in control you will all pray to our God, and there will be no mention of what we view as false gods or false beliefs. And their stupidity is amazing as well, seemingly believing that as long as they continue to mention their God then that means he's still real, even while completely surrounded and immersed in a secular society. Their denial of reality is not something one should look for in an elected official.

    And some of the quotes are hilarious, and worrying. Take the one from Councillor Alan Anderson who admits that reciting the prayer means that 'we will step back and acknowledge we don't have the wisdom to deal with certain issues'. Then resign Mr Anderson and let someone who does have the knowledge do the job. Don't accept a salary while sitting back waiting for some fairy on a cloud to solve the city's problems. You were elected to consider issues and make intelligent decisions, not simply beg for help from sky fairies. That is not a sign of intelligence but an admission of incompetence.

    And councillor Sue Westwood fears altering the prayer might mean that the city motto 'Sans Dieu rien' — (Without God, nothing) might then be changed. Well wouldn't that be a good thing? Would we want a police force whose motto was: 'Women are second class citizens', or a health system whose motto was: 'Leeches are the cure'? We shouldn't perpetuate or live by mottos that are false or harmful or discriminatory. The fact is that most people in Wanganui wouldn't have the faintest idea what their city motto was, or even care. To be naive enough to think that removing it would have any affect on the city's wellbeing is truly primitive, superstitious thinking. It's worrying to contemplate how the religious thinking of some councillors might influence important issues that come before the council. Perhaps people running for office should clearly declare whether they personally would be making independent decisions or just asking 'What would Jesus do?'

    And of course it's not just Wanganui, most councils and even parliament start with prayers to God. We wonder if the Christchurch city council still thanks God for watching over them? We're sure they probably still do, but might they not feel a little silly now? Perhaps they should try changing God to Shiva and see how that works out?

  85. Comment by Bob, 29 Apr, 2011

    Hi John, I have a few snippets and comments on recent religious events:

    I saw a photo of a blind Muslim girl in America. She was going to school on a school bus with a small pony. The pony was a seeing eye guide. She was not allowed a seeing eye dog because dogs are unclean in Islam. A few years ago a Kiwi girl travelling in India was appalled to see dogs being abused, kicked and so on. It appeared that the souls of dead people come back to inhabit the bodies of animals hence the sacred cows. But only the souls of good people come back in cows. The souls of bad people come back in dogs so it's ok to mistreat dogs.

    A certain dangerous idiot by the name of Terry Jones publicly burned a copy of the Koran in America. He knew very well what was likely to happen. It was like poking a stick at a mad dog. It resulted in the deaths of several people. Crazed muslims could see no distinction between one idiot and all Europeans. Yet according to his remarks as reported he had no regrets about his action. Personally I also blame the media. They knew what publicising the action was likely to do. Unfortunately there is no law against what Jones did. Jones is the pastor of a very small religious group.

    The Catholic Church is reported to have paid out $166m to victims of pedophile priests in north west USA. Apparently priests were sent to this area after reports of child abuse by them because that took them far away from the more highly populated areas further south. Presumably the Church thought it would be out of sight out of mind. Of course all it did was to introduce a new set of unsuspecting kids to the priests.

    The Pope is still trying to entice people back to the church suggesting that people are making technology and modern knowledge their god. Stop learning and just believe.

    There has been some questioning of the unseemly haste with which the latest pope is trying to get Pope Paul II made a saint considering that he was in charge while most of the child abuse was going on. To me it's like panic repairs to a sinking ship. A report in the Herald said that upon his death two phials of blood were taken from his body to be kept as relics. This means it was decided to make him a saint even before he died. So far only one miracle can be attributed to him while two are required for sainthood. So good Catholics who have been praying to the dead pope have been asked to come forward if they think he has caused unusual medical cures. Knowing people and wishful thinking that probably won't be hard.

    A recent public comment by the Pope said that while evolution can be accepted God intended for human beings to arise. Evolution was guided to an end. I see it as the Pope wanting his cake and eat it too. If God wanted humans to arise why not just create them at once? What would have been the point of the dinosaurs and all the other unintelligent creatures. The Catholic Church can't let the bible stories go. If it did it would crumble.

    I took a book about Buddhism out of the library recently. The Lord Buddha seems to be the equivalent of Jesus. According to him people are born over and over again until they reach perfection and that is it. The Christian religion teaches each person has one life while the soul lives on forever. You would think the religions would get together and decide what all could believe. Scientist have diverging theories at times but then work to a consensus where all can agree. Forty years ago there were two theories on the development of the universe. One was the steady state theory and the other was the big bang theory. Eventually evidence supported the big bang and now there is a consensus on that theory. Without agreement on the real facts and insistence on unsubstantiated beliefs will see religion go the way of the dinosaurs.

  86. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Apr, 2011

    When I was in India a number of years ago Bob we were told in a talk that cows were originally only described as 'sacred' as a cunning ploy to stop people eating them. There weren't all that many compared to the human population and they were more valuable for their milk than a once only feed. Of course like the reasons for the origin of most religious practices, this has long been forgotten by your typical Hindu. It is quite amazing the ignorant arguments that adherents of all religions now use to protect or abuse various animals.

    As for pastor Terry Jones, we support his right to burn as many Korans as he wishes, but you're right, people like you or I wouldn't do that if we thought that this would harm others. In this latest episode I believe it was his posting of the video on YouTube that alerted the Islamists rather than the media, who just reported it after the fact. This shows that Jones wanted to incite hatred. Of course it does show that Jones was right that some Muslims are dangerous, unthinking killers. They slaughtered Europeans, beheading two of them, even though it was an American that taunted them.

    It is extremely suspicious that the Vatican is breaking its own rules in its haste to make Pope John Paul II a saint. We've already exposed their nonsense regarding these saints in our post 'Vatican proves another miracle'. Why are all these bloody selfish Catholics wasting their prayers on asking the dead Pope to cure their cancer or an ingrown toenail? Why aren't they praying for world peace or the end of hunger, something truly worthwhile and of benefit to all mankind? As for their acceptance of evolution, Catholics are caught by the intellectual realisation that science is correct but held back by the emotional need to be a fawning servant to a powerful god that occasionally hands out rewards.

    The weird thing about Buddhism is that when you reach Nirvana, the Christian equivalent to Heaven, rather than enjoying eternity, you more or less disappear. The goal is to cease to exist in any form. Of course the paradox with Buddhism is that one of the requirements to move up a step and eventually reach Nirvana is to give up on all desires. But if you don't have the desire to better yourself and reach Nirvana then you never will. If you do have the desire, they won't let you in. You're screwed whatever you do.

    Scientists are happy to debate various theories and change their minds because they recognise that they haven't reached the stage of knowing all the answers, and never will. Religions on the other hand won't consider debating their beliefs because each is utterly convinced that they are right and already have the correct answers. There is no room for compromise or need for adjustments. It is this arrogance and blind adherence to primitive ignorance that will, as you say Bob, see religion go the way of the dinosaurs. In many sectors of modern, western society religion has already vanished and nothing remains but occasional fossils, such as priest child abuse trials and young women wearing crosses as fashion accessories.

  87. Comment by Bob, 30 Apr, 2011

    A comment on your comment on sacred cows. A lot of religious beliefs and rules originally were sensible and practical coming from people's experience of life but the reasons are forgotten after a while and they become commands from God often in spite of no longer being necessary. Take the prohibition on eating pork. Pigs were subject to a disease called trichinosis which can infect humans. This disease is similar to hydatids in sheep. It's not a problem now with modern pig farming and hygienic handling of pork. Yet Jews and Muslims have a prohibition on eating pork.

    Both diseases are apparently caused by parasites in the meats. Thorough cooking of the meat will kill them. I can understand very backward uneducated people still believing God forbids eating pork but why do modern day Jews still adhere to it?

  88. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Apr, 2011

    As you say Bob, sensible reasons for doing something or avoiding something perhaps once made sense, but those pragmatic reasons have been lost in the mists of time. Furthermore, the deliberate transfer of these reasons of practicality to commandments of God by religious leaders means that Jews for example no longer connect pork with disease. That said, there are arguments that say that disease may not be the reason for the prohibition. The major civilisations of the time did not prohibit the eating of pork and were able to manage any health problems it might cause. The Hebrews should have been aware of how to eat pork safely. However modern Jews connect the prohibition of pork to God because to do otherwise would be to admit that this prohibition might actually be about health and not God, that these commandments were just a way to trick ignorant people into safe eating habits. We tell the same silly stories to children to stop them doing dangerous things — don't go outside in the dark or the bogeyman will get you — but when they grow up we tell them the true reasons why children shouldn't wander alone at night. Religious people just refuse to grow up and see the world as it really is.

  89. Comment by Bob, 05 May, 2011

    Liberal bishop 'forced' to quit

    How can the Catholic Church get rid of a priest so easily for voicing some doubt on basic Catholic principles but not get rid of pedophile priests as easily? What distorted values that church obviously has.

  90. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 May, 2011

    Thanks for the link Bob. I guess the views of this liberal priest were abhorrent to the church, whereas the behaviour of the pedophile priests is apparently only abhorrent to some of us on the outside. Distorted values indeed, and disgusting that millions still support them.

  91. Comment by MikeC, 09 May, 2011

    Re getting rid of liberal bishops — probably because there's a shortage of priests, but no great shortage of bishops!!

    However note the this guy remains a bishop — he has not been removed from that rank — "just" removed from the appointment to the particular bishopric.

  92. Comment by Anonymous-3, 18 May, 2011

    I received this earlier from a dear friend and I am pleased to send it on.

    Subject: Stephen Hawking

    Stephen Hawking interview: 'There is no heaven; it's a fairy story'

    tell the idiots to stick this in their pipe and smoke it

    This man is truly amazing, having lasted for 40 years now with this terrible disease. And what a legacy he is creating. Nearer home I am infuriated that the Catholics estimate it will cost a hundred million dollars to dismantle and rebuild their church in Christchurch. This doesn't include the Cathedral and all the other useless churches there. In my opinion, they should be left as they are as a memorial to the ignorance, brutality, torture and countless millions of murders that [have been] are being committed in the name of religion. Man made God...... not the other way round as these dumb idiots keep insisting. Just think of what all this colossal amount of money could do for better causes, like moving housing to a better area and improving education for starters.
  93. Comment by Graeme, 27 May, 2011

    Hi John. Parents Inc get 2.4 million from the Government without any other programmes getting a look in, because that's the programme they want and any other organisation would have to create the same thing. Really? What does this say about the Minister for Social stuff, Paula Bennett? Why doesn't the article below not mention the Christian basis of the organisation?

    http://www.odt.co.nz/news/politics/162045/govt-awards-24m-contract-without-tender

    Parents Inc. is a Christian organisation, they say so if you dig deeper into their material, though creepily they keep it pretty quiet in the open media. Why? Is it because they want to get their evangelical agenda in under the radar of scrutiny? i.e. secretly, i.e. dishonestly.

    Check out their line-up of staff.

    http://www.parentsinc..org.nz/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=19&Itemid=76

    Ian Grant at the top, who is anti-evolution, pro Noah's Ark (I heard him say so on ZB Easter Christian shows) and claims Jesus cured him of a stutter.

    And their CEO Bruce Pilbrow clearly proclaims he doesn't even put his own family first. Here's his header on Twitter.

    bruce pilbrow

    @brucepilbrow Auckland New Zealand

    God - Family - then Everything else

    And a revealing tweet from Bruce here.
    "Parents Inc. So humbled when I see young people give everything to God and find faith for themselves. As they say skux delux :)"
    I'm not saying Christians should be banned from such organisations, but this is a Christian organisation. There's a big difference.

    As the recipient of your and my money, I want the deception to cease at the very least, but they shouldn't be getting it anyway, let alone getting the cash without the ministry looking anywhere else. I believe that you and I are funding an evangelical Christian organisation to tour our schools and advise parents. They may argue that they do much good with their "toolbox" and I bet they say they don't push Jesus in their material, but I maintain they do have a deeper agenda. A subtle but effective promotion of a dangerous and morally redundant superstition. I wonder if they'd consider hiring a gay Jewish atheist? I wouldn't hold my breath even if it was Stephen Fry offering his services. What morality ARE they promoting when addressing homosexuality?

    I'm gobsmacked.

  94. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 May, 2011

    You're quite right Graeme. Taxpayer dollars and a secular government should not be 'funding an evangelical Christian organisation to tour our schools and advise parents'. And there is little doubt that they are an evangelical Christian organisation, and the government knows it. Here is an article from 2008: 'Nats to give cash from family body to churches', which quotes John Key:

    Key said he liked the work of Parents Inc, run by evangelical Christian Ian Grant.

    "The current Government won't touch them because they've got a Christian-based perspective," Key said.

    "I personally think they happen to deliver fantastic results, and I'm going to make sure they get some money to run their programmes far and wide."

    If this were the USA, under President George W Bush, then we could expect our government to throw money blindly at Christian-based organisations, but this is NZ. Key said that 'I personally think they happen to deliver fantastic results', so he should produce the evidence of these fantastic results. We need to know what's in this Parents Inc toolbox and how their belief in God influences their programs.

    As you say Graeme, if you dig deeper into the Parents Inc. website, they reveal where their values come from:

    Values: Judeo-Christian in our motivation and ethics
    Not that we have a problem with all Judeo-Christian 'motivation and ethics', but those that we do agree with are simply universal human 'motivation and ethics' and Christians have no ownership to them. They can and should be taught without the belief that some God is policing them.

    Also Christians, churches and Christian organisations clearly believe Parents Inc are pushing a Christian agenda as all these comments on various websites confirm:

    Parenting Magazine is published by Christian parenting not-for-profit, Parents Inc.

    Elim Christian Centre... has linked up with Parents Inc to inspire, encourage and teach practical parenting skills using the Toolbox program

    Leith Valley Presbyterian Church are hosting some parenting courses run by Parents Inc who are a Christian organization...

    Christian Lawyers Association Capital Prayer Breakfast [present] Bruce Pilbrow, CEO of Parents Inc as the guest speaker

    Bruce Pilbrow... was the marketing manager for Radio Rhema...

    Dr Emil Silvestru of Creation Ministries International [lectures on] Genesis, the Gospel and the Creation/Evolution Issue... Auckland Bible Church, Meeting at Parents Inc Centre...

    Christian Web Links
    The following links are to Christian organisations... Parents Inc

    Christian Network Supports Parenting Toolbox... Mr Carpenter said that Parents Inc has built up a long track record of quality programmes based on Judeo-Christian values... [and] New Zealand Christian Network... seeks to present a biblically orthodox position on issues, reflecting the views of the majority of Christians in New Zealand.

    We don't see how God and the Bible and 'What would Jesus do?' can be kept out of their silly toolbox. These are devout, fanatical, evangelical Christians, there is no way that they could leave their beliefs at the door, in the way that I could suppress my love of Monty Python while teaching a course on CPR. As you say, if homosexuality came up, or sex before marriage, masturbation, abortion, discipline of children with the rod, civil unions etc, can we really believe that these devout Christians would suggest a modern secular view rather than their religious one? What about a parent who says they're worried about their child because she says she's an atheist, or supports stem cell research or reckons the Big Bang created the universe, not god, or scoffs at talk of Noah's Ark? Is it likely that these deluded Christians will tell the parent to support their child, she's obviously quite bright, or will they suggest ways to bring her back to god? As you say Graeme, these courses are 'A subtle but effective promotion of a dangerous and morally redundant superstition', and anyone that would argue otherwise has no grasp of what truly believing in and following Jesus really means. True Christians are no more capable of teaching and promoting a secular philosophy than I am of sincerely thanking god for the Christchurch earthquake. To claim that the likes of Ian Grant and Bruce Pilbrow could happily set their fairytales aside when designing their toolbox is ridiculous and naive. To believe that they would let secular or atheistic philosophies into their strategies at the expense of their Judeo-Christian values is delusional.

    As Graeme points out, why should we let someone like Bruce Pilbrow lecture to vulnerable families that places God first and the family second, that says he feels 'So humbled when I see young people give everything to God/? This god botherer isn't interested in helping families find their way in the world, but to find their way to God.

    And frankly, if their programs are anything like others developed by Christian organisations in NZ, the USA and elsewhere, then they may well be not just worthless, but actually harmful. And it's not just religiously motivated counsellors, we actually have little confidence in many of the psychologists and poorly trained social workers that attempt to correct societies ills. Many quote Freud and Jung, supporting psychoanalysis and synchronicity and other nutty theories, without realising they have been debunked as bogus with no scientific support whatsoever. And look how easily psychologist Nigel Latta was fooled by the 'Sensing Murder' mediums, or how the deluded social workers and psychologists got Peter Ellis falsely imprisoned, or the apparently large number of social workers whose main qualification for the job seems to be that they have suffered the same abuse as their clients. And many politicians seem just as gullible, driven by primitive beliefs, superstition and outdated theories on how the mind functions.

    Before the government starts throwing taxpayer funds at any program — religious or secular — that's designed to improve societal values, they need to first provide proof that it actually works. And that the values it might deliver are the values we actually want. We suspect that all $2.4 million for this contract will be completely wasted, unless you work for Parents Inc. For them it's a godsend. New Bibles for everyone!

  95. Comment by Bob, 31 May, 2011

    On the front page of the Sunday Star Times there appeared an ad from the abeeco company selling a herbal product for the treatment of prostate problems which are common to old men. I looked up their web page for a description of how wonderful this product is. It came with one testimonial so I wrote them the following email:

    Re: Prostate formula.

    Can you please advise me if this product is approved by the NZMA or possibly the FDA? Also has it been subject to double blind testing? If not how can I possibly know if it works? I don't want to waste $ 73 on a product which might have no more than a placebo effect.

    Thank You,

    Bob.

    and their reply:
    Hi Bob,

    I think I chatted to you on the phone yesterday. We do offer a money back guarantee and our products are made in a GMP factory in New Zealand.

    Our website has reference to testimonials and other information you may find interesting.

    I hope you enjoy your holiday.

    Yours in good health

    Raewyn
    www.abeeco.co.nz

    On their website there are a number of different "natural" products all presented the same way, glowing reports backed by testimonials. Now I am not saying none of these products are beneficial. In pre-scientific days many indigenous people such as our own Maori knew the medical value of certain plants. I understand some of our approved drugs originated from plants. However as I said in the email without approved testing how can you possibly know these products do what is claimed.

    I am sceptical about their money back guarantee. How can you know it has or hasn't worked without a thorough medical check both before and after taking the product? Would they accept your word for it? I suspect you would have trouble collecting. Making unsupported claims for medical products are dubious at best fraudulent at worst. I was disappointed to see the Prime Minister has given this company credibility by praising it no doubt on it's business performance not on it's products.

    Why can't companies putting out products as health treatments have to prove they work? I have noticed on American websites with promotions of alternative medicines a disclaimer to the effect that the product has not been approved by the FDA. I assume that is mandatory.

    Incidentally I did not phone them nor am I going on holiday.

  96. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Jun, 2011

    We agree with your sentiments Bob. A large number of our medicines are indeed derived from plants, but without scientific testing and trials you can never know which actually work and which are safe. Testimonials are an admission that their products are worthless. Any product that has evidence that it works and is safe never ignores that evidence and falls back on silly testimonials.

    These charlatans are make making irresponsible and dangerous claims, for example, they state that: 'You should take this product if you..... want to PREVENT PROSTATE PROBLEMS'. This clearly states that their product can PREVENT prostate cancer, and this could potentially stop men seeking real medical treatment and real cures until it is too late.

    Governments need to force promoters of 'natural' health products to prove their efficacy and safety just like real medicines have to, and stop pretending that they're just some harmless backyard nonsense that few people take seriously.

  97. Comment by Renee, 15 Jun, 2011

    Just a short note to say THANK YOU. I have spent about 20 years gradually moving away from a very Christian upbringing. This is a long story which I will not bore you with. However, about 3 years ago my search finally ended and I most definitely became an atheist. The book that helped me here was Richard Dawkins 'The God Delusion'. At last everything fell into place and I cannot understand that anyone can think otherwise! Since then I have been like a sponge absorbing as much information as I can and loving it. Recently I came across your website — what a discovery! It is on my 'Favourites' and I read from it daily. Sometimes going over the same article several times. Your no-nonsense, well thought out arguments have helped me clarify many issues as well as giving me good advice for debating my new world view. However, now that close family and friends know that I am an atheist they are very reluctant to talk to me about my views. They seem to rather want to avoid any topics of this sort, but I will be ready when they are ready to question me. Among my top favourites are: Yourselves, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, P.Z.Myers. Thank you again for helping an unscientific mind to think scientifically. Is it possible to suggest topics for you to check up on or just to ask you the odd little question to get clarity as I often feel quite isolated. I live in a small town in Zululand, South Africa and do not have anyone close by to ask. Keep up the good work. Once again, many thanks.

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

    Thanks for your comments Renee, and we're glad we could be of help regarding atheism and thinking scientifically. The key to truly understanding the world and our place in it, as you've discovered, is to read up on science, philosophy, history, religion etc, and the authors you listed are certainly well worth reading on atheism. Asking a religious person or priest gets you nowhere.

    Most of our friends and family don't talk to us about atheism either, but no doubt for slightly different reasons, they just aren't that interested.

    You are welcome to ask us any questions you have, although of course we can't guarantee we can answer them. We only run this website as a hobby. Although none of us have ever really been religious, we also are still learning from the likes of Richard Dawkins about atheism and evolution etc.

  99. Comment by Graeme, 05 Sep, 2011

    Hi John, and all. I enjoy (yes, enjoy) listening to Radio Rhema. I'm going to have a crack at their Manna Bible quiz too one day (7:40am).

    It is the inadvertent comedic moment on Rhema that really cracks me up. Here I think is a beauty.

    Breakfast host Aaron Ironside wonders aloud if in fact it is a good idea to engage in argument about the existence of god because you might.... drum roll.... LOSE!

    Priceless I reckon.

    Here's the link:

    http://www.rhema.co.nz/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=1&Itemid=304

    Scroll down to..

    Friday 2 September 2011: Atheists & Conservative Party

    Atheist Conference — Feature Audio, listen below
    A conference focusing on how Christians should respond to the strident "New Atheism" movement that has emerged in recent years will be held at the University of Otago, Aaron chats with Professor Stephen Evans

  100. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Sep, 2011

    Thanks for the link Graeme. Discussions by religious types are often good for a laugh, although I haven't listened to Rhema for ages, my stereo tuner refuses to pick it up for some reason (maybe it's artificially intelligent?).

    I agree with host Aaron Ironside wondering whether it's a good idea to for Xians to question god's existence. It's not. Just yesterday I tried to explain to a lukewarm believer that people can only maintain these silly beliefs as long as they don't question them, as long as they don't think too deeply about them. It's no different to young children and Santa Claus, as soon as they start wondering how a fat guy can get down their chimney or fit all those toys in that one little bag then their belief starts down the hill to disbelief, gathering speed with each question asked.

    We hadn't heard of their 'Atheist Conference', and we suspect that there probably weren't many atheists invited, which is a shame. They could have held up large numbered cards to judge how effective the Christian arguments against atheism were. It's far too easy to delude yourself that you possess a killer argument if you don't let your opponents hear it.

    My friends, associates and family know only too well that I'm an atheist, and those that are religious maintain their faith by never discussing religion with me. Unlike Rhema's breakfast host, they have seemingly already realised that discussing god's existence is foolhardy, since if approached honestly it can only lead to doubt and atheism.

  101. Comment by Bob, 07 Sep, 2011

    Hi John, I can't help putting in a comment on Radio Rhema. A couple of times I have tuned across the band on my car radio to find something to listen to and found a station with very pleasant music. I was surprised to find it was Radio Rhema playing Christian music. As long as they stuck to music I didn't mind listening.

    If you can think back to prime minister Rob Muldoon's funeral you will recall he featured so large in our lives he was given a public funeral with the hearse driving a route around Wellington. All the TV and radio stations broke into their programmes to broadcast the funeral. One radio station didn't. You guessed it. It was Radio Rhema still going on about God and Jesus. It seemed they didn't live in the same world as the rest of us.

  102. Comment by Graeme, 07 Sep, 2011

    The Burkha, a cultural right?? Yeah, right.

    An appalling story here. I'm nearly crying, but unlike Hitchens it doesn't take much to make me cry.

    Afghans launch self-immolation campaign

  103. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Sep, 2011

    Like many stories regarding the Muslim religion and culture, that article makes depressing reading Graeme. To think that women are committing suicide because they're the victims of domestic violence and abuse, and then their families with their disgusting sense of honour claim that it is they that feel shame, it is they that are suffering.

  104. Comment by Bob, 09 Sep, 2011

    Circle of mistrust: Flab to abs ad banned

    The above ad has been banned by the Advertising Standards Board because it's claims are unrealistic. In my opinion it is only one of a flood of ads which should be banned for making outrageous claims. Turning flab into hard muscle can be achieved but it requires hard work and a long time exercising. Body builders are at it all the time. I have looked at this machine and wondered what it could do that a half hour of press-ups every day on the floor couldn't do along with a daily jog at no cost.

    So far as I can tell the main ingredient to losing weight and improving body tone is a good diet. Recently a series from England was shown on television fronted by a lady who was both a doctor and a scientist. In the first programme she looked at diets, diet pills and the like with most being useless. She then carried out an experiment. She had some pills made up of chalk and placed them in professional looking packets. She then got some women wanting to lose weight to take them and see how effective they were. As well she gave them a diet to go with them. The diet wasn't particularly strict just an emphasis on salads and other healthy food. Several months later she got them back and asked how they went. All had lost weight. Then she told them the pills did nothing. Their weight loss came from a better diet. Try telling that to people who can't resist their hamburgers and pizzas. Incidentally I feel sorry for McDonalds. They don't force their hamburgers down anyone's throats yet people call for them to be restricted.

    The programme I referred to looked at a variety of alternative medicines. She wasn't particularly critical letting the scenes speak for themselves. She spoke to a homeopath. He explained how he diluted his medicine so many times. She asked how such low dilutions could do anything especially when analysis showed them to be just water. He talked about water memory, admitted he couldn't explain and science couldn't explain, but they worked. Why aren't homeopaths prosecuted for selling water as active medicine?

  105. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Sep, 2011

    You're quite right Bob, there should be many ads banned for making outrageous claims, and many, many people should be encouraged to go on a critical thinking course so they can see through all this nonsense. And the excellent TV show you described was 'Can We Believe The Science?', with Professor Lesley Regan.

  106. Comment by David, 19 Sep, 2011

    John you don't have any leads on climate change. Not a topic that interests you?

  107. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Sep, 2011

    Hi David. To be honest, no, climate change doesn't push our buttons like gods or aliens do. Don't know why. I did recently buy Ian Plimer's book 'heaven+earth: Global Warming: The Missing Science', but haven't got around to reading it yet. He's an Aussie geologist and I enjoyed his previous book 'Telling Lies for God: Reason vs Creationism'. He thinks climate change is a con if you're not familiar with him. Along with Kiwis Ian Wishart and Ken Ring, who are both deluded on other matters of science. For the record we are siding with the majority scientific view at the moment, that climate change is real and humans are playing a part. As to how, or if, we can fix it, that's an entirely different story.

    We've read quite a bit on religion, the paranormal, evolution, cosmology, UFOs, psychics, ghosts etc and thus have an improved chance of realising when an author is fudging his case. When a person argues, as some do, that there are real fossil footprints of humans walking alongside dinosaurs in Texas, many people might provisionally accept this, whereas we know it is bullshit. Unfortunately we don't have the background knowledge to challenge those that have studied the climate change debate in depth. There are plenty of very knowledgeable and qualified people explaining why climate change is happening, or not, and our arguing with them would be like a kindergarten kid debating religion with me. The only arguments we can realistically apply to climate change debate are the simple ones that challenge any conspiracy theory, such as how many have to be lying to keep the secret, and do they have good reasons to do that? Also do the conspiracy proponents have the qualifications and experience to balance their opponents? For example the main proponents of the moon landing hoax are a retired carpenter, a librarian and a videographer, who go up against scientists. NZ's outspoken proponents against the science of climate change are Ian Wishart, a journalist who believes in Adam and Eve, and Ken Ring, an astrologer who believes Maori were brought to NZ as slaves 20,000 years ago. Is it likely that these people have discovered flaws in the science that the experts can't comprehend? Without us knowing much about the science, the conspiracy theorists must first explain why there is a conspiracy, who benefits to such a degree that they are willing to create such a massive lie?

    Real problems need to be resolved before we can believe in a conspiracy, such as this: Australian PM Julia Gillard and her government have recently brought in related changes that will cost Australia billions of dollars and some claim that this move may well cost them the next election. If all our government leaders know that this climate change nonsense is just a con to keep a handful of climate scientists in jobs, as the conspiracy theorists claim, why do they commit political and financial suicide just to help out a few scientists, while ruining their country in the process?

    Maybe the climate change debate will be like the evolution debate of the 18th century and the Big Bang debate of the 20th. Initially there were experts supporting both sides of these debates, but now the evidence has landed convincingly on evolution and the Big Bang, and even laypeople like us can understand the science of why. Perhaps it will take time before the climate change debate reaches that stage.

    Global Warming

  108. Comment by David, 20 Sep, 2011

    Fair enough John, and do I admit to being uncomfortable about sharing the views of Ken Ring and a raft of Christian fundamentalists although they are certainly not the only people who question the mainstream dogma. Climategate aside (where there was clear evidence of a conspiracy amongst a particular group of researchers) I don't see climate change as a conspiracy, more a bandwagon.

  109. Comment by Bob, 30 Oct, 2011

    NZHerald: Sick put faith in prayers, not pills

    I am absolutely appalled when people of influence push dangerous ignorant ideas on the gullible. Convincing people to stop taking essential medication is the height of criminal irresponsibility. HIV turning to AIDS was a fatal disease giving sufferers a maximum of ten years survivability. They were not good years either. As the body's resistance decreased the sufferers were constantly sick having no resistance to any bug which came by. Now by a stirling effort medical researchers have produced antiviral drugs which while they don't cure the disease have increased longevity from a sickly ten years to virtually normal lifetime with good health.

    To my mind stopping people taking treatment for mental illness is even worse. At least sufferers understand their physical ailments. On the other hand the very nature of mental illness means people don't understand themselves. They can't think straight. If the illness comes in episodes they are often appalled by their own behaviour when becoming unbalanced. Many of those who think they are God or Jesus are in fact under schizophrenic delusion. One lady convinced she was God took her young children down to a waterhole intending to walk on water. It's only their medication which keeps them mentally balanced. To talk people in deep depression out of taking their medication is simply criminal. If the sufferer commits suicide the other person is as guilty as if they had handed them a loaded pistol.

    Here we have enacted hate legislation applying to ministers of religion who encourage hatred of homosexuals from their pulpits. I would like to see legislation where religious leaders and others can be held responsible for the deaths of their followers when told not to take medication.

  110. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Oct, 2011

    As you correctly point out Bob, these are 'people of influence'. They shouldn't be in this modern day, but for far too many people, they are. These deluded people are seen as leaders in the community, and many gullible people look to them for guidance and advice. And these ministers and priests right up to archbishops and popes want to be leaders, to have their pronouncements taken seriously. They want to influence our thoughts and behaviour. When these ministers tell their followers to reject proven medication and put their health in god's hands they are playing god. When the pope says that Catholics can't use condoms to help prevent the spread of HIV or contraception to prevent pregnancy, these aren't just expressions of what he personally chooses to do. They are demands that he wishes everyone would follow, including non-Catholics. This is not like me recommending a movie, these people are playing with the lives of others, and losing. If someone dies or suffers because of their advice, they can't claim after the fact that they didn't expect people to take their comments seriously or literally. If I contributed to someone's unnecessary death because they valued my primitive, superstitious advice and even felt fearful not to follow it, I would at the very least be condemned by society and probably — hopefully — be investigated by the authorities.

    Religious people go to these supposed experts in the same way that we go to lawyers, doctors and engineers, and generally accept their advice as reliable. But while they may be experts in nonsense, their ignorant ideas are indeed dangerous and are killing people. If the aforementioned lawyers, doctors and engineers are found to give incompetent, irrational, life-threatening and wrongful advice, especially if it leads to deaths, then they are charged with crimes and stripped of their legal ability to practice their profession. It is totally irresponsible that religious leaders aren't treated as the experts they claim to be and are held accountable for the deaths that they cause. And as the article stated, the problem, just like child sex abuse by priests, is far worse in Africa than it is in the West. Religion is continuing with its proven track record of killing the innocent, and needs to be brought to account.

    Of course many people will gripe that enacting extra protections for gullible people is just turning us into a nanny-state, and that people should be able to do as they wish, even if it kills them. However we believe society has a duty to help those that can't think for themselves, those that let religious leaders think for them, and believe that their physical and mental ills will be cured by an old guy sitting on some cloud.

    Update: Prayer better than medicine, Nov 25, 'At least six people have died in Britain after being told they had been healed of HIV and could stop taking their medication': Church Tells HIV Patients To Stop Treatment.

  111. Comment by Roger, 05 Nov, 2011

    Great site. Keep it up

    Have you seen Crispian's table of irrational nonsense? ie very witty and much in keeping with your site

    As a doctor who has seen children die of vaccine preventable disease in the third world and middle class NZ I am interested in the thought processes that lend support to stupid thinking

  112. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Sep, 2011

    Thanks Roger, and no, we hadn't seen Crispian's table. It certainly is a humorous and organised overview of all the nonsense that's out there. There should be one on every science classroom wall.

    Like you we are also annoyed and frustrated when people die from preventable diseases, and it must be far worse when you experience this first hand with children. We all need to play our small part in helping reduce this stupid thinking, and get people to examine the logic of their choices.

  113. Comment by Bob, 21 Dec, 2011

    Virgin Mary Hi John, I have been having a chuckle to myself over the St Matthew-in-the-City billboard. The vicar appears to be trying to put the birth of Jesus into a modern context. This has upset believers. The last thing they want is to bring biblical miracles down to earth. If Mary has morning sickness, backache and a painful delivery somehow it would diminish the nature of the miracle. It might even cause people to question whether a miracle really did take place. Beliefs seem to depend on the suspension of everyday experience. Those hundred or so Catholic activists who tore down the poster value their beliefs so highly they are prepared to forgo their intelligence. It's sobering to think that in the past it was people like that who made up the Spanish Inquisition and exercised control over European society. We see it today in Muslim societies.

    Cardy, the vicar of St Matthew, wrote an interesting article in yesterday's Herald, 20/12. He showed the 25th Dec. as an ancient day of celebration being the winter solstice. The virgin birth was a symbol of the emergence of the new warm season. Holly represented the growth of new greenery in the spring. Historians point out that Jesus was unlikely to be have been born on Dec 25th as the lambs mentioned would have been born months earlier. The birth and nativity story were placed on that date as a way of taking over pagan celebrations and diminishing them.

    Cardy seems to be joining that group of mainly Anglican clergy who can no longer ignore their intelligence. They seem to keep their belief in God while casting doubt on most of the biblical stories. I wonder if he will stay in the Church.

  114. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Dec, 2011

    Hi Bob. I find the yearly billboard stunt rather weird. If it was done by someone like us who are skeptical of Christianity and want to highlight the obvious flaws, then I would understand, but that the people that are questioning the validity of the virgin birth are professional Christians is surprising to say the least. They are essentially demolishing their own myths and doing our work for us. As you say, Jesus (if he even existed), was certainly not born on Dec 25th, and the Christian hierarchy have known and accepted this for ages, and yet your average Christian on the street is ignorant of this fact. And every church wants them to remain ignorant of the numerous problems surrounding the stories of the birth of Jesus. My local church has a large billboard on their lawn: 'Remember Jesus is the Reason for the Season'. Many Biblical scholars now agree that the phrase 'virgin Mary' is a mistranslation, and the word incorrectly translated as 'virgin' actually meant young woman. But even if it did mean virgin, all that means was that, like everyone, she was a virgin until she first had sex. If someone called Mary did, in a real world sense, give birth to someone called Jesus, then she was either a promiscuous harlot or she was raped. If the birth resulted from a divine cause as Christians maintain, then she was definitely raped. She was made pregnant against her will or even her knowledge. If a human did that to a young woman, he would be arrested, so why does a god expect us to worship him for treating an innocent young woman in this despicable way? These are the frank discussions that the billboard should be encouraging, and in doing so showing up the Bible and its silly stories as outright fantasy, and in many cases the work of a monster if they were true.

    As for the ignorant and arrogant Catholics who vandalised the billboard, as you say, these are the same as the people with the superstitious and fearful mindset that ran the inquisitions and crusades etc. Completely ignoring Jesus who told them to love their enemies, to turn the other cheek and not to judge others, like your typical mob fuelled by ignorance and hate they take the law into their own hands and destroy the property of others. If Jesus were real then he would be ashamed of them and what they are doing in his name. But then every religion throughout history has committed unspeakable atrocities in the name of their gods. We are just fortunate that modern secular laws prevent these fundamentalist religious bastards, or at least most of them, from torturing and slaughtering those of us whom they feel have insulted their imaginary god.

    I can understand how naive young children can be fooled into believing in a benevolent being on Dec 25th, and his flying reindeer, but how adults can maintain their nonsense beliefs in imaginary beings, and even attack those that giggle at the notion of virgins giving birth, is beyond me.

    And those at St Matthew-in-the-City need to grow a spine, leave their church, climb over the agnostic fence and admit to the world that their god, his son and his virginal mother don't exist.

  115. Comment by Bob, 10 Jan, 2012

    DESTINY CHURCH

    The Destiny church plans to have a complex in South Auckland including a school and university according to the media. In this mornings news it is suggested he might start up a charter school and be eligible for public money. What bothers me is what children would be taught in science class as Destiny as far as I know are creationists. I am totally against supporting any off beat school which does not teach fully recognised and approved science.

    In touring British schools Richard Dawkins showed examples of religious schools pushing their own agendas. One was a Muslim school another a Jewish Orthodox school. In the case of the Jewish school the children were kept in a tight community to avoid outside influence. When secular teachers tried to teach evolution and old earth science they received angry rebukes from parents. Some teachers were afraid to teach certain subjects and tried to avoid them. If they want to set up religious schools they should pay for them themselves.

    I have said in the past that I agree with some public money going to private schools on the basis that they take a load off the state system. That is only if the curriculums are government approved identical to state schools.

  116. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Jan, 2012

    We agree with your view entirely Bob. Approved qualifications should only come from approved schools that teach an approved curriculum, which naturally includes recognised science and history. Qualifications issued by 'schools' that ignore and even attempt to discredit modern science should be treated no differently than a secret agent badge one used to find in a box of cereal. We often refuse to accept qualifications from foreign institutions, believing them not up to standard, so it ridiculous that we allow schools within NZ to issue qualifications based on a curriculum that we know is substandard from the very outset.

    And taxpayers certainly should not be funding this substandard education. Religious schools, and it is typically religions that want their own schools, should fund their own brainwashing. We see nothing good coming from these charter schools. We know very well that religions only want control over the education of their followers so they can censor what they hear and keep them ignorant of modern scientific advances, as they have done for centuries. A compulsory, secular education is one reason that we have an advanced and more enlightened society today, placing the education of children back in the hands of religions intent on pushing a fantasy will only see society go backwards. There are enough ignorant creationists in NZ as it is without taxpayer funded schools creating more.

    And the religious are hypocrites, continually telling us that their god will provide for them, and yet they repeatedly beg non-believers for money to keep them afloat. Where is their bloody god in their time of need?

  117. Comment by Graeme, 10 Jan, 2012

    We should keep an eye on this little series the Herald is running. Breathlessly credulous by the looks. Let's hope it improves.

    Part one... Leeches anyone?

    Alternative therapies: Little suckers a first taste of unusual medicines

  118. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jan, 2012

    Thanks for the heads-up Graeme. The article tells us that 'In this new series Herald reporters try out alternative relaxation and remedies', offered by recent immigrants, such as Japanese ganbanyoku, Indian ayurveda, Korean jimjjilbang, Thai yoga massage and Greek leech therapy. We're also told that 'A UMR Research survey on the beliefs of New Zealanders... found a majority believed in alternative remedies'. It amazes us that people report survey results like this as if they give alternative remedies some credence. If a survey showed that a majority believed the world was flat, that doesn't make it flat. All it shows is that a majority are ignorant and wrong in their beliefs.

    The first in the series saw a reporter try out leech therapy, but since he wasn't suffering any aliment that they claimed to cure, how could he evaluate their effectiveness? It's as silly as taking a painkiller if you haven't got any pain, you would have no idea if it would work with real pain. Regarding leech therapy, the practitioner Mehdi Jaffari 'says the therapy has "gone global" since Greek physician Nicander in Colophon was recorded as using them in 200 BC'. What utter nonsense, that was 2,200 years ago, so why is leech therapy still a fringe therapy if it has 'gone global'? Things like antibiotics, vaccines and stethoscopes have gone global, leeches haven't and it is disingenuous to pretend to a gullible client that they have.

  119. Comment by Steve, 17 Jan, 2012

    Hi John. Your interest in investigating "silly beleifs" and publishing your findings and opinions on your website have covered a variety of topics.

    Would you be interested in applying your expertise in myth busting to what some are saying maybe the biggest scam perpertrated on the people of this country. I'm refering to the New Zealand Crown. Check if the NZ Crown AKA the "Government" is, in fact a company named The Queen in Right of New Zealand (google it) that John Key is the current CEO of. This company is registered with the Securities Exchange Commission in New York (see link below).
    http://www.secinfo.com/$/SEC/Registrant.asp?CIK=216105

    It would be interesting to see who the current shareholders of the "Queen in Right of NZ are.

  120. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jan, 2012

    Sorry Steve, there are only so many hours in the day, so we prefer to challenge the silly beliefs that most people have heard of and are using to influence their behaviour, such as belief in religion, mediums, Ken Ring, homeopathy and alien abduction.

    If you really have good evidence that NZ is just a secret company run by John Ring, and presumedly most other western countries are also companies run by their 'pretend' leaders, we suggest you take it to a lawyer, or at least the media. And if this really is a big scam, one wonders if registering the company with the Securities Exchange Commission in New York is such a good way of keeping it all secret?

  121. Comment by Ross, 17 Jan, 2012

    Hi guys, have you seen this?...

    Poland fines singer for bashing Bible

    A Polish court slapped a fine on a popular singer who bad-mouthed the Bible - the latest episode in which authorities grapple with religious defamation in a traditionally Catholic country that is growing increasingly secular.

    Dorota Rabczewska, a singer who uses the stage name Doda, said in a 2009 interview that she doubted the Bible "because it's hard to believe in something that was written by someone drunk on wine and smoking some herbs."

    A Warsaw court ordered her Monday to pay a fine of 5000 zlotys (NZ$1827) for offending religious feelings.

    The case comes months after another Polish court let off a death metal performer, Adam Darski, who tore a Bible during a 2007 performance. It deemed his act artistic expression.

    Darski and Rabczewska once dated.

    I guess we have a way to go yet... sigh....
  122. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jan, 2012

    Fined $1827 for telling the truth! Many Catholics have a major problem understanding that not everyone thinks as they do, that we are no longer in the Middle Ages and that the Inquisition is no longer in charge.

  123. Comment by Mike, 18 Jan, 2012

    I think that is a bit unfair — I'm pretty sure almost every catholic in the world actually does understand those 3 points.

    They just think that the people who believe the 1st are completely wrong, the 2nd is just the march of time & there is nothing to be done about that, & the 3rd is a grievous error of modern governments.

    OK — so actually I think most are pretty happy about the 3rd....even catholics don't expect the Inquisition......any more (whether Spanish, Roman, French or anywhere else)

  124. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jan, 2012

    We'd agree Mike that most Catholics in NZ, although not the ones that continually broke the law by vandalising that billboard in Auckland because they didn't like it, have relinquished the notion that they're running the world. We would suggest that many Catholics, and Christians in general, are nothing but Catholic and Christian in name. Jesus would not recognise the modern beliefs of most Christians, and be utterly astounded that they could reject so much of what the Bible proclaims and yet still call themselves Christians. But regarding that Polish singer, the fact is that the charge of blasphemy is a medieval type law, and that Catholics can bring blasphemers before a court, find them guilty and punish them, is nothing other than medieval thinking. An arrogance that insists non-Catholics will be punished for expressing views contrary to Catholic dogma. NZ still has the crime of blasphemy on our law books, but unlike Poland, our courts no longer act on it. And the Office of the Inquisition still actually exists, they've just renamed it because the word inquisition has a bad historical record, and the present pope was its head until he was promoted.

  125. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jan, 2012

    Heather sent us a link to this article on US politicians — Republicans turn their back on the Enlightenment — which looks at their 'uncomfortable relationship with scientific fact'. Heather suggested we 'read this. Not that there is too much in there that we didn't already know'. She's right of course, we knew that Republicans are generally very religious, many denying evolution and any inconvenient scientific fact that shows up the Bible and God as being primitive, superstitious nonsense. We knew that President George W Bush and his administration consulted God rather than scientists on matters of science, and consulted God rather than diplomats and academics for foreign policy advice when he wanted to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. And now the Republicans, both the politicians and their supporters, want to replace President Barack Obama and his Democrat administration with an ideology closer to the likes of the Taliban than they realise.

    It's depressing and worrying that possibly the most scientifically and technologically advanced country in the world, as well as militarily powerful, that contains many highly intelligent and highly educated Americans, runs the real risk of again being run by a political party that rejects scientific evidence and instead puts their faith in a jealous and vindictive — not to mention imaginary — god. As people outside the US often say, shaking their heads, Only in America!

  126. Comment by Alison, 25 Jan, 2012

    Hi guys. That Herald series on 'alternative therapies' is probably best described as unduly credulous & lacking any evidence of critical analysis. Over at Sciblogs we did do our best to counter it (see articles by me, Siouxsie Wiles, Michael Edmonds & Darcy Cowan), but sometimes I do wonder if the people we're aiming at actually read the material on offer.

    Keep up the good work!

  127. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Jan, 2012

    You're right Alison. The series [first mentioned by Graeme at Comment #117) was utter nonsense and typical of what one expects from true believers, not from independent journalists in the county's largest newspaper. They appeared to be fluff pieces aimed at gullible sunbathers to simply fill out the paper over the summer break. Your articles over at Sciblogs certainly did show up the numerous flaws, but we suspect you are correct. Those unfortunate souls that need enlightening regarding worthless alternative therapies are least likely to be seeking out articles that debunk them. The NZ Herald has done typical Kiwis a disservice by perpetuating the myth that any therapy or practice that has been around for hundreds or thousands of years must work and be good for us. People aren't lining up to swap their houses, cars and designer clothes with caves, horses and smelly animal skins, and yet for some silly reason many argue to swap proven conventional medicine with ancient, unproven healing nonsense.

  128. Comment by Anonymous-4, 30 Jan, 2012

    The very title of this series of articles is a give-away, and shows a prejudiced mind at work.
    When on the first page you try to define the different kinds of "medicine" as being either "scientific" or "alternative" you betray your narrowmindedness.
    'scientific' medical practitioners in past ages have upheld their old practices against new ideas and held back new developments which did not conform to their standard methods. Look at the opposition to just washing their hands !
    Also consider how much damage is being done by the big drug companies rushing through the development of new products. Very scientific, I am sure, but using one such approved drug last year nearly cost me my life.
    Using some of these 'alternatives' rarely causes such devastating results and if there is a chance of help why not use them? The big drug companies and traditional medical workers are in it for the money just as much as anyone else.....

    I think it is as silly just to trust 'science' as it is to uncritically accept other approaches.

  129. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 31 Jan, 2012

    In reply to Anonymous-4, we are of the view that there is only one type of medicine, not scientific medicine and alternative medicine. If it works (and is safe), it is medicine. If it works (and is safe), it will be able to be shown scientifically that there is good evidence for its efficacy and safety. There is no known healing therapy that works (and is safe) that conventional medicine refuses to adopt or consider. Alternative therapies continue to carry the 'alternative' tag because they refuse and fail to provide good evidence that they work (and are safe). If an 'alternative' therapy or drug ever gains acceptance by conventional medicine, its promoter drops the term 'alternative' with indecent haste and quickly migrates to the medicine club. They now proudly claim that there is scientific evidence for their product, that randomised, double blind, controlled trials have elevated them from an unproven alternative therapy to real medicine.

    We agree with you that in the past (and the present), many people steadfastly held onto old healing practices that were harmful and/or worthless, while refusing to accept new ideas that were proving effective and safer, like simply washing your hands to prevent the transfer of unseen germs. This is regretful, since no doubt many people suffered and died unnecessarily, and we should learn from these past mistakes. So it is strange that you present this cogent argument while trying to argue that we should return to embracing old healing practices that have no evidence supporting them, while at the same time being distrustful of new ideas, like synthetic drugs (antibiotics, vaccines, analgesics etc), germ theory, genetics, computerised scanners, ie modern medicine, and science in general.

    Supporting age old practices and arguing that science, and modern medicine, can't be trusted, one suspects that if you had lived a couple of hundred years ago you would have been in the group opposing hand washing. And perhaps it is our alleged narrowmindedness and prejudiced mind at work, but your refusal to trust 'science' suggests that you don't understand what science is, and how scientists using the scientific method reach their conclusions.

    You further confuse us when, based on your obvious support of alternative therapies, you nevertheless opted to start taking a modern medical drug, the use of which you say 'nearly cost me my life'. For a start, if this drug is so dangerous and life threatening, why aren't you telling us what it was and warning us not to take it? This aside, why did you even consider using a rushed into production, artificial, chemically synthesised drug from an untrustworthy company when there are untold alternative treatments available? Alternative therapies are claimed (by the therapists and their supporters) to be far more effective and far safer than conventional medicine. And they have the test of time. And yet, rather than going for a traditional, natural, alternative therapy that has been used by peasants worldwide for centuries, you opted instead for a product from a drug company motivated by profit rather than efficacy and safety? Why? Why did you lose confidence in alternative therapies?

    As for the drug's alleged effect, it's well known that every drug has side effects, some more serious than others. You correctly state that ''alternatives' rarely causes such devastating results'. This is because alternative therapies are normally worthless and have no active ingredients, or pretend to use 'energies' and such that don't exist. For example homeopathic remedies are just plain water and can't harm you, and chakras don't exist so can't be dangerously misaligned.

    Of course this is not saying that some alternative therapy or drug might not have a beneficial effect on some medical condition. However it's the responsibility of those making these claims to provide evidence, which they consistently refuse to do. You spoke of the conventional drug you took being 'approved' and of drug companies 'rushing through the development of new products'. The fact is that all drugs that are approved go through years of testing at great expense, with the great majority of drugs investigated failing to get to market. As insufficient and flawed as you believe this process to be, it must be remembered that the alternative therapies that you are recommending people adopt instead go through no testing whatsoever and are not approved by any testing body. Alternative therapists make no commitment whatsoever to safety or efficacy. If after years of testing, conventional drugs are still not safe, then alternative drugs that undergo no testing must be far more dangerous to take. Surely you can't be arguing that no testing makes them safer to use?

    Doctors undergo years of academic study and are legally constrained as to what they can offer you in the way of drugs and therapies. Alternative therapists, if they undergo any training at all it's at the equivalent of clown college, have no restrictions on what they can offer you from their kitchen in the way of natural drugs and unproven therapies. To us, it is clear that you are far safer with conventional medicine, and far more likely to be cured, than you are with alternative drugs and therapies that consistently fail to show that they work or are safe.

    Was it modern medicine that only recently eliminated smallpox from the planet, or was it some alternative therapy centuries ago? Was it modern medicine or some alternative therapy that has provided treatments to untold diseases that have afflicted mankind throughout history and dramatically increased our longevity? Can you in fact name one disease or affliction that alternative therapies have eliminated or proven effective against, and which century this therapy first started becoming widespread? And please explain why, if this alternative therapy works, and can be proven to work, why it is not used by conventional medicine.

  130. Comment by Anonymous-5, 06 Mar, 2012

    Hi John, I've been reading a lot of articles on your site lately ( which i've really enjoyed) and just wanted to say to you.
    Thank you !!!!
    It's so good to learn about all the scams (bullshit) out there (especially the sensing murder stuff. What a joke!).
    I think you should teach a course or something in critical thinking.
    I would take it.
    Everyone should think like this, then as a society we would not have these hang-ups, restrictions (i.e religion) or being preyed upon by scam artists.

    Keep up the good work.

    (support science not superstition)

  131. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Mar, 2012

    Thanks very much for your comments. While we're not sure we would be all that good at actual teaching, we agree 100% that there should be courses on critical thinking available, in schools and universities etc. Unfortunately interest in critical thinking and learning to be skeptical of weird claims is not at all popular in society, whereas people flock to blind belief in nonsense. Bookshops have all manner of books pushing religion, mediums, alien abductions and astrological weather prediction, but usually nothing that debunks this stuff. A while back a local organisation running adult night classes asked for suggestions on other courses it could offer the community. We suggested a critical thinking class or one examining fringe beliefs, such as ghosts, astrology and UFOs. They ignored us, but went on to offer courses on the likes of Reiki, Buddhism, crystal healing and scrap booking. It seems the majority prefer courses that don't involve thinking, just believing.

  132. Comment by Mike, 08 Mar, 2012

    G'day again John. This is interesting: Inventor Rejects Dick Smith Million Dollar Offer

    If his invention/discovery is so sound why would he not take $1m just to demonstrate in a controlled scientific environment the veracity of it?

  133. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Mar, 2012

    Thanks Mike, and yes, you have to wonder why someone trying to promote his cold fusion invention and raise funds wouldn't immediately accept Smith's 'no string's attached' offer. We're told that 'Smith told Rossi that "I do not want to know how the unit operates, nor to have a share in the profits from any sales. My satisfaction will come from knowing that if the unit is successful, some of the world's greatest problems — especially in relation to climate change — will be solved".'

    If I were thinking of investing in his project, this refusal would immediately make me smell a rat and change my mind. It's always the scammers that don't want you to look too closely at their demonstrations and claims, knowing that eventually you'll detect the strings, mirrors and deceptions that give the false appearance that what they're promoting actually works. We accept that magicians don't want us to look too closely, but they admit that it's all a trick for entertainment, unlike mediums, psychic healers, Nigerian bank scammers and Ken Ring. They refuse to admit it's all a trick, and for them close attention and critical thinking is a death sentence to their money making venture.

    Never trust anyone wanting your investment, who at the same time asks you not to discuss it with a lawyer, doctor, scientist or even with your family, and who refuses to be tested in a controlled scientific environment by experts. If they don't have the confidence that it would past real tests and the scrutiny of experts, then neither should you.

  134. Comment by Renee, 14 Mar, 2012

    Dear John. I live in South Africa (Zululand) and am an avid reader of your website and eagerly await each new blog. I read this article today and thought you might be interested.

    Red Bull's 'Jesus' ad slammed

    The Red Bull energy drink's "Jesus walks on water" campaign should be cancelled, the SA Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) said on Tuesday.

    Once again the christians being precious and offended. Keep up the good work.
  135. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Mar, 2012

    Thanks very much for the link Renee. We have the Red Bull ads in NZ, but not that one unfortunately, or not yet anyway. You're right of course, this is just another example of Christians, and the devoutly religious in general, demonstrating that they don't have a sense of humour. And that they're living in the distant, primitive past. Surely in this century few educated people believe Jesus actually walked on water? Red Bull is hardly challenging a widely believed and cherished fact.

    HIV/AIDS is a major problem in Africa, and made far worse by the Catholic prohibition on condom use, and yet what is the Catholic Church busy doing in SA? Indirectly promoting Red Bull by highlighting it in the media!! Didn't they learn when to keep quiet, after their tearful protests unintentionally gave huge worldwide publicity to the blasphemous 'Da Vinci Code' movie?

    Just as with that movie, the Church is terrified that their followers might be exposed to modern thought and might start thinking for themselves. Followers might admit to themselves that claiming that a man can walk on water really is a bit silly, as is turning water into wine or raising the dead for that matter.

    The SA Catholic Bishops' Conference suggest that the Red Bull people 'attend sensitivity training', but as the bumper sticker says, 'People who don't like their beliefs being laughed at shouldn't have such funny beliefs'.

  136. Comment by Ninnie, 29 Mar, 2012

    You poor little thing!

  137. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Mar, 2012

    Do we detect sarcasm in your comment Ninnie? You apparently disagree with some view of ours, but you don't give any hint as to what view that might be. It never fails to amaze us that some people are more than willing to tell us that we are wrong, but seemingly don't have the inclination and/or the knowledge to explain why. Why don't you inform us, firstly what we are mistaken about, and then explain how misinformed we are? Otherwise we will continue as normal, completely oblivious to what might have prompted you to write and pity us.

  138. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 May, 2012

    Graeme Hill of Radio Live fame has just informed us that 'Lawrence Krauss is my guest live in studio for an hour (minus ads & news) 10:30am to 11:30am, Sunday May 13. It will be available for a relisten almost immediately after broadcast too'. Click the above link, and the radio frequencies for your area are at bottom of page.

    Book For those unfamiliar with Lawrence Krauss, he's an American theoretical physicist, with a special interest in cosmology, as well as being a skeptic. He's the author of several books, such as 'The Physics of Star Trek', 'Beyond Star Trek', 'Quintessence', 'Fear of Physics', and his most recent book is 'A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing'.

    Lawrence Krauss, like Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan, is one of those rare scientists that is able to explain complex science to the layperson, and make it extremely interesting. Graeme's interview with Lawrence should be well worth listening to.

    UPDATE: Click here for the direct link to Lawrence Krauss & Graeme

  139. Comment by Bob, 27 Jun, 2012

    Hi John, just a few minutes ago I opened the computer on the news and was promptly shocked. The first article came from Germany.

    German court bans religious circumcision

    A German court ruled baby boys could not be circumcised unless they were old enough to decide for themselves. The head of the Central Committee of Jews in Germany protested that it was an infringement of their religious and cultural rights. I thought modern Jews were civilised. What if they thought they should cut off a baby's finger for religious reasons? Would that be justified? Besides at what age can a young person decide for themselves? I have heard of a Jehovahs Witness child of 13 saying she would die rather than accept a blood transfusion. Was that a clear personal decision or a whole childhood of indoctrination? If it is ok for Jews to mutilate their young is it not ok for Muslims to practice genital mutilation on their daughters?

    I cannot believe a modern people can demand the right to mutilate their children. Jehovahs Witnesses I can understand because they are all idiots. But Jewish populations are supposed to be a cut above the average.

    It amazes me the irrational and irresponsible things people will do in the name of religion.

  140. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Jun, 2012

    You're right Bob, it is amazing 'the irrational and irresponsible things people will do in the name of religion'.

    And think of what this means for an all-knowing and all-perfect God. That his male followers must cut off a piece of their penis means that they weren't designed properly in the first place, thus he's not an all-perfect God, or a so-called 'all-knowing' God can't identify his followers until they expose themselves. Remember also that in the Exodus from Egypt God couldn't tell the Hebrews from the Egyptians, and told them to splatter their doors with blood so he wouldn't kill the wrong ones. What a pathetically weak god.

    Genital mutilation of children, both male and female, needs to outlawed everywhere. It's a disgusting, ignorant practice.

  141. Comment by Ross, 16 Jul, 2012

    Hi John, another couple of links for your perusal...

    Judge steps in to save sick girl's life

    It seems that science gets to trump religious idiocy before some innocent child dies this time. I just can't get my head around how these people can let their child suffer and die when there is an excellent chance of a full recovery and a long happy life for them. Even if it is one of helping push the 'god is great' wagon. (Although probably not if the wee girl gets shunned by church and family as being 'unclean'!)

    "...the medical team has worked closely with M's parents to date and she has no doubt that they have acted throughout in M's best interest..."
    I would strongly disagree with this statement! How could refusing medical help possibly be seen as being in the childs' best interest!???
    "Jehovah's Witnesses allow transplants but the faith is strict in rejecting the inevitable blood transfusions that would accompany such an operation. They believe blood that leaves the body must be disposed of and not consumed or transfused."
    WTF???? We'll let you replace an entire organ, but no transfusion to make it all work? Obviously a rule made up way before a transplant was ever considered a possibility. They knew a bit about blood, (probably because religions had spilled so much of it over the years!) but next to nothing about how a body actually worked and so the rules never had to cover those medical operations that are now very mainstream and reliable.

    "No thanks Doc, you can keep your transfusions, we're busy begging our god to step in and produce a full cure, but by all means keep pumping her full of drugs to dull her pain until she dies"

    Feckin nutters shouldn't be allowed to reproduce!

    Another instance of where sticking to strict religious dogma holds us all back as a race. Where could we be by now if these blinkers were taken off? Stem cell research is the obvious biggie at the moment that could (and will) make a huge difference to our health and well-being.

    I do hope the wee lass in the article gets the treatment she 'really' needs and goes on to become a worthwhile member of our society. Infants and the other innocents can really do without the 'help' the churches so often offer can't they?

    Which brings me to this little number....

    'Magic water' sales by churches raise health fears

    It does make you despair doesn't it. Really people... it's 2012 FFS!!!!

    I wonder what these ministers are really thinking while they espouse the wondrous qualities of 'tap water' and pocket $60 a bottle from a flock that can scarcely afford it.

    But not content to rip them off the 60 squids, he's telling them to stop the medications that are actually helping!

    The social workers and government officials are rightly 'worried' by these events but in true bureaucratic style, choose to do nothing but 'comment'

    Another example of leniency for the religious whacko's when criminal charges would be much more beneficial to the community at large. Get these people out of our midst and expose them for the lying, cheating, dangerous scammers that they are!

    Why isn't he being prosecuted for...

    a:- theft,

    b:- false advertising, and

    c:- fraudulently masquerading as a medical professional!

    Any comments you care to add??? I'm sure there's plenty of scope lol

  142. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jul, 2012

    Thanks for the links Ross and your comments. I'm not sure I can add anything but complete agreement, you seem to have covered the stupidity of it all. You make a very good point re the JWs, who happily allow organ transplants but reject the very stuff that make the organs function. We've said it before, these are people who walk around with 21st century technology such as smartphones while their worldview is mired in primitive, superstitious times. I truly don't understand how they can reconcile this major problem, how they can sincerely believe in their religious nonsense when confronted with modern knowledge. They must be in continual denial with their senses and the rational part of their mind. The ongoing struggle to remain ignorant and stupid while living in an advanced and secular society must be monumental. And to maintain this silly belief even at the expense of losing a child when medical treatment is available is the pinnacle of selfishness and cruelty. To force your child to die an unnecessary death just so you can continue your love affair with a fairytale should be reason enough to have your children removed from your care. Imagine if parents refused lifesaving medical treatments based on their love of the 'Lord of the Rings' books or the 'Star Wars' movies? It's time we treated, not just Jehovah's Witnesses, but all those that structure their lives around holy books and harm their children by reading to them from these books. We need to stop being polite and be honest instead, and ask them: 'You know it's not real don't you?'

    And as you say, it's the same with the churches selling that silly magic water to ignorant parishioners. Social workers and government officials won't condemn and arrest these scammers solely because they are basing their claims on a holy book, a book that many social workers and officials no doubt also believe in. This nonsense that we must respect religion is merely a specious argument that we must allow ignorant, uneducated citizens be disadvantaged, lied to and even harmed if the people doing the scamming are servants of some imaginary god. Again, we need to tell these people to grow up, and to at least read their silly Bible. Where is it written that Jesus went around hawking cure-all health juices? Like most Christians, their knowledge of their religion is abysmal. And like sexual offenders, we need to lock up those ministers that continue to prey on their innocent, deluded parishioners, requesting money for nothing but a scam, whether they offer bottles of magic water or just empty prayers.

  143. Comment by Anonymous-6, 24 Jul, 2012

    I just recently came across your site while searching around for myths, scams, frauds and other articles debunking bullshit in today's world. I get easily annoyed by such things especially when confronted with it — coworkers trying to sell me on multi level marketing, family members trying to convert me to their church, guys at the gym trying to sell me "the best supplements/vitamins ever!," etc. Going on the net and looking up factual information, which unsurprisingly always seems to easily disproves shit like this is not only comforting but enjoyable to me. Your site is one such a comfort. Your articles are well written, at times humorous, and just a plain joy to read. Thank you.

  144. Comment by Phill, 08 Aug, 2012

    Hi guys. Just a note about this JW child and the transfusion, we discussed this at work a few weeks back. One of my colleagues who is not a JW but a believer (eg Christian of a fundamentalist group), could understand the issue the parents of the child were faced with. As he said, you could use this piece of modern medical science to save the child's life but in doing so condemn the child to everlasting hell fire. Now this got me thinking, where did this bit of hokum come from? So I checked out Wikipedia (where else?). For years I had assumed that this anti-transfusion thing of JW's dated from their 19th Century origins. In part this is true, it derives from a biblical injunction not to eat blood (guess you do not offer a JW a blackpudding) but for many years this injunction did not include blood transfusions. The article suggests that up until the time the group chose the name JW back in 1931 blood transfusions were not liked but not disallowed. The article goes on to reference several old Watch Towers of the time which praised individuals who donated blood without requesting payment (this would have been in America, one assumes.)

    It goes on to state that the injunction against blood transfusions occurs in 1945, nearly a century after the formation of the group that eventually developed into the JW's and at least a decade and a half after the inception of JW into its current form. It's curious that at the time that blood transfusions finally became safe (it was about this time that the Rhesus factor in blood was identified) they ban it. I wondered at the time if there was a connection with this? The article did not specify. Yet again we see believers willing to sacrifice their loved ones because of what the local leadership says. The concerning thing about JW's is that they will make martyrs of those who sacrifice their lives for this injunction. I remember seeing a JW magazine the cover of which carried photographs of children from ages 8 to about 16. As I opened it I assumed there would be some piece in it about the joys of being a child in the JW movement or some such nonsense, but no, these were the kids who had chosen to die (or more exactly being encouraged to die) by refusing blood transfusions. Having grown up when the Jonestown massacre was part of my historical experience I always get a wee bit nervous of any group which starts to worship death in such a delightful manner. Of course the news is not all bad. If the child survives then as I understand the movements ideas (and not being a believer myself I could be wrong) it will be shunned and could never again be a JW! You know maybe there is a god after all! (Just kidding!!)

    Keep up the good work.

  145. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Aug, 2012

    Thanks for that Phill. You're right, it does seem ironic that when blood transfusions actually became safe, routine and lifesaving, the JWs finally decided to ban them outright. There really is no accounting for the feeble-mindedness of religious thinking, but in this case made all the more callous since they are willing to sacrifice the lives of their loved ones. Knowing full well that transfusions save lives, they nevertheless reject them after fixating on a vague commandment from a fantasy being, while happily ignoring clear commandments that ban eating shellfish or wearing clothing made from cotton and nylon. Here's a bumper sticker that is appropriate in this case: 'Nothing in the entire world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity'.

  146. Comment by Bob, 09 Sep, 2012

    Anglicans talk of super-cathedral

    "Anglicans in Christchurch are talking about rebuilding a shared super-cathedral with Catholics, a move that would be unprecedented worldwide."

    I read the above article with a smile. I can't see the Catholic Church ever cooperating with another faith which does not believe as they do. To do so would give it a recognition it would be very loth to. They might cooperate in a charitable pursuit which doesn't involve belief but that would be all. Talk about two bishops is only a red herring. The truth is the Catholic Church wants a big distance between them and the Protestants. They don't want to be tainted. In some remote area the two churches might use the same hall but only out of necessity and the fact the hall itself is neutral. The necessary altar and furniture is brought in as required. The amount of money involved won't be a consideration.
  147. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Sep, 2012

    I agree Bob. It would be like a reverse of the Reformation. The Catholics are not going to forget about centuries of animosity and bloodshed, not to mention serious doctrinal differences, and cosily get into bed with the Anglicans. It would probably result in another religious war just deciding what the cathedral was going to be called. The Vatican is too arrogant to use a cathedral that wasn't plainly Catholic. Catholics and Protestants (not to mention Muslims and Jews) are often willing to present a public image of friendship and cooperation, but this is merely superficial, a fragile truce maintained while they confront the real enemy of all religions, secularism.

    I think the fact that some Christians are willing to consider ideas like this shows that the dogma that in the past defined Christianity, is fast being eroded away. The growing list of Biblical 'truths' that your average Christian is now willing to ignore suggests that eventually Christianity will be so watered down and wishy-washy that even Christians will question as to why they bother with it at all.

    Regarding the damaged Anglican and Catholic cathedrals, one committed Anglican asked: 'How is it in the best interests of the poorest people of our community to rebuild them both? We have a God-given opportunity to do something different here'. Two thoughts occur to me. Why not give the poor people a real break and rebuild neither? And calling this a 'God-given opportunity' implies that God deliberately caused the devastating and fatal Christchurch earthquakes simply to get Anglicans and Catholics to consider a shared cathedral. What a complete bastard their God is.

  148. Comment by Phill, 26 Sep, 2012

    Hi guys just in regards to the shared cathedral idea, now I am neither a Catholic nor an Anglican (though my forbears were both) but I once studied history. To be honest I could see a shared cathedral, Anglican's are not that far removed from Catholics — As I understand it, High Anglicans can and sometimes do celebrate mass in latin, they can hold confession and basically do whatever the Catholics can do or even use to do (does that include the alter boys?) You should keep in mind that when Henry VIII broke with the Catholic church he did so purely because he needed to divorce his wife and marry another woman to produce an heir, and during his reign and that of his daughter Elizabeth the aim was to produce a religion both his Catholic and Protestant subjects could accept. Of course this never occurred. However to see the Anglican's as similar to Lutheran's Calvinists, and the other protestant sects is a bit of a mistake, I reckon they are the one protestant group who could swing it and New Zealand with our strong secular tradition the one country it could work in. So you never know perhaps that super cathedral will be built after all!

  149. Comment by Renee, 20 Oct, 2012

    Dear John. I thought you might be interested in an item that was on our news today.

    Sangoma sick note ruled valid

    Like New Zealand, South Africa also has people/government pandering to supernatural beliefs and not making the distinction between beliefs and what is required in the workplace. A "sangoma" is the Zulu word for a witch-doctor. Everything in this article is unbelievable. Mostly that the law is upholding not only the belief but the illegal leave taken.

    To whet your appetitie the first paragraph is as follows: "A woman who was 'badly tormented by her ancestors' has to be re-instated in her post, even if she took a month's leave without her employer's permission, the Labour Appeal Court has ruled"

    But there is even more incredulous stuff in the article.

    Is this the thin (or rather, large) edge-of-the-wedge for the decline of law in this country. I trust this matter will be taken further by the employers and that justice will prevail.

    Do hope you find it interesting.

    Thank you again for your site. I LOVE your article/ blogs etc. and always look forward to your new postings.

  150. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Oct, 2012

    Thanks for the link Renee. Isn't it frustrating that in this modern age authorities are still pandering to such nonsense? That a court would accept a 'sick note' from a sangoma or witchdoctor asserting that the woman was being 'badly tormented by her ancestors' is almost unbelievable. I say almost since in NZ we've had court trials where defence lawyers have argued that their clients had been talking with god or were being manipulated by Satan when crimes were committed. At no time did the prosecution try to argue that god and demons didn't exist or insist that the defence produce evidence that they did. And yet on any other unsupported claim the lawyers would immediately challenge its veracity. But religion is always given a free ride, people can say any silly thing and it's respectively accepted. Recently we've had trials involving some of our local natives, the Maori, and their belief in witchcraft. And since this is part of their religion and ancient culture, the courts respectively accept it, rather than exposing it as primitive nonsense.

    Let's hope that you're right, that in your sangoma case reason and justice eventually prevails. The article says that the court ruled that 'South Africa was a land of many cultures and that traditional Western culture could not be allowed to dominate the African culture of many of the country's inhabitants'. And yet a closer reading of the case shows that the woman's unauthorised absence from work had nothing to do with ill health, that she was 'badly tormented by her ancestors'. She simply wanted to attend a training course. It had nothing to do with different cultures, she was simply using a fake note to get time off work.

    In NZ many decades ago we used to have priests and ministers from the Christian churches chairing local committees, blessing the opening of buildings and splashing their holy water at accident scenes, but now it is rare. Which is very good. Unfortunately their spooky presence has been replaced in recent years by Maori. Now a kaumatua (who is a respected Maori tribal elder, although a more appropriate description in this context might be 'priest' or 'witchdoctor'), blesses the opening of the local police station, places a tapu or ban on visiting accident sites, and generally performs all the public supernatural nonsense that Christian priests used to perform. If they were to confine their superstitious chants to occasions that related to things Maori, eg the opening of a Maori meeting house or the funeral of a Maori, then we'd have no problem, they have the right to freedom of belief. As Christians did in the past, Maori now believe they have the right to officiate at any and all public events. Just as Christians believed in the past, that even non-Christians could only benefit from being prayed over, Maori now childishly believe that even the non-Maori majority will gain divine protection from their superstitious chants and dances. Why have we happily allowed one deluded group to replace another in our public ceremonies?

    While everyone has the right to their beliefs, Christian or Maori or Zulu, no one has the right to insist that we take their beliefs seriously. If you want to believe that you have an invisible pink elephant in your back yard, then fine, but don't expect your boss or neighbours to contribute to feeding it. However today far too many people elect to tiptoe around the silly beliefs of others, with comments such as: 'I respect your beliefs'. With regard to children and Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, if they don't make the move themselves, we eventually tell them it's time they knew the truth, it's time they grew up and faced reality. We don't want ignorant children continuing to believe in nonsense, so why do we happily let adults believe in equally ridiculous nonsense such as the spirits of vindictive ancestors? Again, if someone, in the privacy of their home or mind, wants to believe in nonsense then there is nothing we can do about that, but we shouldn't accommodate their belief in the workplace or the legal system or the community in general.

    Our view is that if you really want to help someone grow and mature intellectually, then tell them the truth. Don't wimp out with the weak stance: 'I respect your beliefs', insist that they at least support their beliefs first. I simply don't understand people that have such strongly held beliefs in gods or spirits but blatantly refuse to discuss why they hold their belief. I'm perfectly happy to explain why I disbelieve, but most believers are very reluctant, reticent, secretive even, as to revealing why they believe. Which is their right of course, but then many insist that we must respect their beliefs in the workplace, the very beliefs they won't talk about (and can't support). Be it gods, vindictive ancestors or invisible pink elephants, we are simply expected to accept their nonsense and respectively work around it. This has to change, if believers can't demonstrate that their claims and spooky fears are justified, then they shouldn't be allowed to intrude into the public sphere.

  151. Comment by David, 21 Oct, 2012

    Its trivial I know compared with belief in the supernatural, faith healing or Ken Ring. But it's a silly belief non-the-less: — that pressing the close doors button on an automatic lift will make any difference. Every day I watch people fall over each other in an attempt to press that button before the doors start closing by themselves.

    From observation it is an international phenomenon, although maybe the Chinese are the worst. They must press that button. And if the doors don't instantly close, they just keep pressing it until it does.

    It struck me that there are analogies (albeit imperfect) to belief in prayer. People pray for things that are probably going to happen anyway and then are gratified to find their prayers being answered. If the prayer is not answered immediately, that doesn't diminish their faith — in fact they keep on praying (pressing the button) until the doors eventually close — perversely reinforcing their belief. And when the prayer is not answered, it is not the prayer (button) that is at fault. Maybe the door is jammed — or the lift is overloaded.

  152. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Oct, 2012

    Ah yes, the ol' close door button in lifts. Of course the lift manufacturers create this behaviour in the first place by having a 'close door' button alongside the floor buttons and 'open door' button. They other buttons work as labelled and so people naturally assume that the 'close door' button also does what it claims, and that it is actually needed. Over the years I've struck lifts where no button is needed as the doors start closing as you walk in, and you have to press 'open door' or wrestle with the doors to let a second person in. Likewise I've been in lifts where the doors took so long to close automatically it was quicker to take the stairs. I often think that the 'close door' button in many lifts is a fake and not even connected to the system.

    Of course some annoying button pushers are probably just people who have no patience, living life at high speed, for who even fast food is not fast enough. But for many, you're probably right about button pushing and belief in prayer. You've no doubt heard of the research they've done with pigeons etc where animals push certain buttons at random and sometimes receive a reward. Even though the rewards are just random, the animal eventually devises a false chain of cause and effect, eg standing on one foot while pushing the button three times will get a reward more often than not. Everyone, including humans, can develop superstitious behaviour which includes lucky charms and certain rituals to bring about some desired result. Obsessive button pushers in lifts probably think they've developed a button ritual that works, even if the button is a fake and the doors are closing on their own terms.

  153. Comment by Bob, 30 Oct, 2012

    Man sues church after crucifix falls on him

    What does that tell you: —

    God has a nasty streak?

    David Jiminez is out of favour with God but his wife isn't?

    There is no God?

    It was a nasty accident and I would sympathise with the man losing a leg on top of his wife's cancer. Yet true to form for a blind believer God gets no blame for the events. He cures his wife but makes no attempt to stop Jesus' statue from doing him serious harm. Jiminez was right in accusing church personnel of carelessness and demanding compensation.

  154. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 31 Oct, 2012

    They're bloody hypocrites aren't they? God is the cause of good things but bad things just happen. Christians insist that nothing happens without God's knowledge, that every event is part of his mysterious divine plan. Then they conveniently forget about this and call their lawyer. By suing the church and the priest this devout Catholic is effectively suing God. Greed coupled with stupidity!

    And to answer what this event tells us: There is no God!

  155. Comment by Anonymous-7, 09 Dec, 2012

    With all this completely overpowering Christmas (Silly Season) nonsense again, I thought I would use the power of cyber space to check on a hint that I had heard previously "That Christmas is based on a Pagan tradition" and this is what I found. It is plainly obvious that millions of the brainwashed 'Sheeple' have no idea about it all, with their leaders urging millions of all the denominations to (flock/herd) to the special services put on for the duration. Hopefully, hopefully more and more 'wise' men and women are seeing through this monstrous charade, courtesy of the media you receive this from me.

    Christmas is Spiritual Adultery

    Look also at the additional link at the bottom of that page, and click on '120 reasons against Christmas' too, for more enlightenment.

  156. Comment by Doug, 18 Jan, 2013

    I went into a public library in Nelson and because I had nothing better to do after checking my emails I got onto your site to see if any new stuff had come up. I was refused access — on their system Sillybeliefs is apparently classified as containing offensive material. So they have presumably reacted to a complaint and now censor your comments. A travesty...

  157. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jan, 2013

    Yes, I've found the same thing at my local library. Are we banned because of a complaint, simply because we are critical of religion, or Ken Ring and psychic mediums etc.? Or is it solely because some poorly designed software, perhaps written by the Novapay company, is making all the decisions? The library suggested I email the company who operate the filtering software: The Aotearoa People's Network Kaharoa. I've tried twice to contact them regarding their reasoning for this ban, but I've received no reply.

    I suspect (I hope) they use filtering software to censor specific sites that simply looks for certain words, and having no idea about context, blindly bans sites that are quite innocent while letting through many that, according to their own criteria, should be banned. I experimented with just what types of sites I could visit, and found that it wouldn't let me access 'Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia' or Robert Spencer's book 'Onward Muslim Soldiers', but was happy to give me access to, and download if I wished, Madonna's photographic book: 'Sex'. Plus l could easily access plenty of hard-core pornography, but not Silly Beliefs. Are we really that immoral and injurious to the mental health of your typical library goer?

    We'd like to think that we could get Silly Beliefs off the banned list, but not if they won't communicate with us. Perhaps the program that filters the various sites is the one that checks their email too, and seeing the Silly Beliefs address, it automatically deletes our email? I'll have another try.

    UPDATE: I don't believe it. After sending another query to The Aotearoa People's Network Kaharoa, within an hour I received the following reply:

    'I've unblocked the website www.sillybeliefs.com and sent a request through to the third party content filtering service we subscribe to, asking for a reclassification of this website. Sometimes key words in the content of a website triggers incorrect classification... '
    So good news, it was all a simple misunderstanding. We're not an objectionable website after all. I have no idea where my earlier queries went to.
  158. Comment by Anonymous-8, 12 Feb, 2013

    This from today's Herald: Bob Jones: Bearded blokes spouting load of hogwash.

    I agree emphatically with every single word in this 'No holds Barred' opinion. Bravo Sir Robert! Bravo! Have experienced something similar here not so long ago and am still fuming. We are in the third millennium now and this sort of ignorance still exists. Human intelligence? Yeah! Right!!! A huge proportion of humanity is still floundering and blinkered in the beginning of the 'Dark Ages'.

  159. Comment by Bob, 12 Feb, 2013

    So we hear this morning that the Pope has resigned. If he had any decency he would have resigned long ago considering the scandals in the church brought to light under his watch.

  160. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Feb, 2013

    So true Bob, but then if the deluded employees and followers of the Vatican had even an ounce of integrity they would have wound up the Catholic Church centuries ago and donated their obscene fortune to charity, and actually helped those in need, rather than screwing them.

    I doubt if we'll see it, but the media heading for this unusual event should be: 'God gives up on Pope', or something similar. This again highlights that even if you are one of God's cherished friends, in this case his chosen emissary on Earth, you still won't receive any favours from him. If your health suffers, and it will, your life will progress just as if there was no God looking over you. The last Pope, John Paul II, suffered from Parkinson's Disease and other health problems, so quite clearly God looks on Catholics, pope or otherwise, and says: 'You're on your own'. For a God that attracts followers by promising his help and protection, the ongoing suffering of his flock prove that his promises are hollow. But even as a PR exercise, surely it would be in God's interest to have a physically and intellectually fit Pope representing him, not some decrepit old fool in a frock?

    It's being reported that the Pope is resigning because he feels he is no longer physically or intellectually able to lead the Church. But that has never stopped past popes, with them all stubbornly clinging to power until the annoying reality of death forced them to consider stepping down.

    Frankly I don't understand the logic of appointing a geriatric to control an organisation, any organisation. But with the Vatican I guess they need someone who isn't tempted to change the centuries old dogma and intolerance of the Catholic Church, someone who is effectively living in the distant past, and is convinced that women are second class citizens and must remain excluded. Now we'll have to watch the circus with their white and black smoke as they poll the Vatican rest home looking for another geriatric leader. One that hates women and homosexuals and hasn't yet been publicly exposed for committing or hiding child sex abuse. And it's really quite depressing, not to mention nauseating, to think that in this modern world there are still millions who will blindly kiss the feet of what ever old man they choose.

  161. Comment by Anonymous-9, 13 Feb, 2013

    So poor Pope Benedict has resigned. Why has this taken so long in view of the outrageous and colossal number of child molestations by his clergy now exposed. One would expect a mass exodus from this church, But no, the grip on their minds is so relentless, they still keep fronting up to fill the tithes.

  162. Comment by H, 15 Feb, 2013

    Excellent perspective on the catholic church by Gwynne Dyer: A new Pope, yes a new church, not likely

  163. Comment by Bob, 18 Feb, 2013

    Why is the Catholic Church headed by a geriatric? See him as a figurehead. Why does England have a geriatric queen? She is also a figurehead someone to focus attention on. It's those cardinals massing together who hold the power. Don't tell me they don't whisper in his ear. However while the Queen is respected the Pope is virtually regarded as God himself. It used to be and probably still is that Catholics approaching the Pope have to kiss a special ring on his finger. The attitude of ordinary Catholics is one of adulation. If he went around in a suit and tie it would not be the same. Clothes have always been a sign of authority or separateness.

    The Catholic Church is losing adherents mainly in Europe because people in the West are better educated now and can see that it's teachings vary between nonsense and impracticality. I was reading a book written by a lady about the plight of women in very poor countries mainly in Africa. She mentioned the Catholic prohibition on the use of condoms. She pointed out that condoms not only protect against AIDS but allow women to limit the number of children they have. Unwanted pregnancies end up as botched abortions often with serious internal injury to the women. Repairing them is a large part of the work of charity hospitals. One thing I didn't know was that the Church tried to stop condoms being sold in El Salvador but couldn't. However they influenced the government to have "condoms do not prevent aids" printed on the packets. It lies outright by saying the minute pores in the condoms are larger than the HIV virus. This is not supported by scientists. They do protect against HIV and other STD's. Secular doctors in aid work will advise patients about abortions in cases where women are in poor health and poor circumstances. They battle not only the Catholic Church but other Christian groups too. Apparently George Bush cut off aid money already earmarked to aid hospitals even though abortion was only a small portion of the work done. To be fair to Bush he did allot money generously to other groups where abortion was not an issue.

    I said before and still think the Catholic Church will be only a shadow of itself by the end of this century.

  164. Comment by Anonymous-10, 21 Feb, 2013

    Hi All. Received this from an acquaintance down country: 'Rape and slavery in the Bible'. Yet another expose of all the horrible Bible verses, this time written by an ex Baptist Minister who has recognised the 'Forest from the Trees' long ago and is hard at work trying to show daylight to the masses who still refuse to see other than darkness in the middle of the day. I am continually repeating "Every woman on this planet should be a staunch atheist after what they have endured (sorry-enduring) particularly over the last two and a half thousand years." It really pains me to see women preachers and others adorning themselves with that wretched cross, the very symbol of the atrocities they have endured and part of the very institution the poor things seem to publicly recognise and endorse, even complain if us 'anti religionists' start criticizing and pointing out the truth too bluntly. Words fail me!!! Enlightenment is soooooooo slow.

  165. Comment by Bob, 01 May, 2013

    In his humorous speech in parliament Maurice Williamson said a Catholic priest told him homosexuality is unnatural. I would love to talk to that priest because I think homosexuality is natural. That is a view which would no doubt upset a lot of Christian people because it is tantamount to saying God created homosexuals and lesbians.

    It is true medical scientists have not found a homosexual gene. I think it is more complex than simply the result of one or two simple genes. I think the genes determine our hormones and it is the hormones which determine our sexual orientation. A while back I read an article from a psychologist who studied sexuality. He found that sexual orientation and attitude are continually variable. At the opposite ends of a scale there is heterosexuality and homosexuality. In the middle there is bisexuality. But there are also people with very strong sexual feelings and some with no sexual feelings and no desire to have sex at all. Among people considered normal there are those with strong desires and those with only weak desires, the once a dayers and the once a monthers. There are those who want sex with children. Of course that can't be allowed as children have to be protected. However I do wonder what drives paedophiles mostly men. I think possibly emotional immaturity has a lot to do with it.

    I think our hormones can explain most of it. There might well be more to it. There are men who are physically male but mentally women. There are women mentally men. The whole field is quite complex though the majority are straight forwardly heterosexual.

    I am sure many homosexuals and lesbians are quite decent people. I have no objection to them adopting children as long as they are screened like heterosexual couples. Stories I have heard suggest the children grow up well adjusted. In one case a daughter was heterosexual. The mother accepted that and welcomed her boyfriends into the home. Could they be any worse than some of the misfit heterosexual parents we hear about who should never be allowed to have children?

    If gays want to marry why not? Let them do what they like as long as they are not hurting anyone else. The claims especially by the religious that homosexual marriage will devalue traditional marriage have a barrow to push. To grant homosexuals the freedom to live how they like would undermine their beliefs. The religions would start to crumble.

    According to outraged correspondents to the newspapers when homosexuality was decriminalised the streets were going to be full of perverts and nobody's children would be safe. The civil union bill was going to be the downfall of society. Now gays marrying is going to destroy personal relationships and conventional marriage. My guess is in a couple of years it will be forgotten about again.

  166. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 May, 2013

    I agree Bob. If God exists then he did indeed create homosexuals, and other things that Christians don't like, such as rape, cancer, earthquakes and evil itself. It clearly states this in the Bible. But since god doesn't exist, then homosexuality is just another part of the natural world. It's well documented, although not in Christian books, that many animals exhibit homosexuality, such as chimps and even sheep, it's not unique to humans. Like you I think that our sexual desires are entirely natural, brought about by genes and chemicals, like love itself. We have no conscious control over how we view others. This Christian nonsense that it's just a matter of choice, of free will, is ridiculous in the extreme. I challenge anyone to look at a person they find extremely attractive (or repulsive), and then convince themselves completely and wholeheartedly that they are actually just the opposite. Why do some men prefer blondes, and others brunettes? Why do some people love seafood and others hate it? We don't choose how we feel about others we meet or the food we eat or the music we hear, our mind tells us how we feel, with no discussion.

    The lesbians and male homosexuals that I know are, apart from their sexual orientation, no different to heterosexuals in the way they live their lives. Their sexual orientation does not make them morally deficient in some way. The religious argument that every child needs a mother and father to flourish is demonstrably false. Look at John Key, who besides being our Prime Minister is also a millionaire and happily married. And yet he was raised by a solo mother. With no man around how is it possible that John Key became a success? If both a mother and father are essential, then after the World Wars why weren't all the children removed from families that found themselves with only one parent? Why do we still allow solo parent families if both parents are required? And if one woman or one man can successfully raise children, why would adding another woman or man suddenly destroy their parenting skills? And why do we have orphanages, where children have neither parent? Surely this is even worse than those with a single parent, so should we euthanize orphans for their own good?

    Of course it really has nothing to do with whether two women or two men can raise children, and everything to do with the childish, bullshit belief that some invisible, intolerant god is offended by homosexuality, even though he carefully designed and created it and allows it to continue. They spout their nonsense because they fear their god, often condemning their own family members who have confessed their homosexuality. And as we all know, many outspoken Christians claiming to be offended by homosexuality are in fact secretly fighting their own homosexual desires. As for marriage, the most famous couple in the Bible, Adam and Eve, weren't even married. God wasn't duly worried, so why should we be? Many of God's favourite people had several wives and concubines, and again God wasn't duly worried. Prostitution was rife in the Bible, and again God turned a blind eye.

    Christians need to grow up and face reality. The sky will not fall because of the new laws. In one sense we haven't made homosexuality legal, we've simply made Christian intolerance illegal.

  167. Comment by Bob, 11 May, 2013

    I was surprised to read the following news item from Rome —

    Fake pope fined for looking like John Paul

    Though it is Italy and not New Zealand, I didn't know the pope was an officially revered Italian. Even our Queen impersonators are not prosecuted and she is the highest status person in our society. It smacks to me of undue undeserved respect for religion in that country. That impersonator should have led a symbolic little boy by the hand.

  168. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 May, 2013

    I love your comment Bob, that the pope look-alike should have had a little boy in tow. When you think about it, it should be an essential dress-up accessory — frock, silly hat, big cross and little boy. A Catholic priest without a little boy would be like Batman without his mask, a cowboy without his six-shooter or Zorro without his sword.

    It's always surprising the silly things that various countries (including NZ) deem offensive and thus make illegal.

  169. Comment by Bob, 04 Jun, 2013

    I was amused this weekend over the Pope's statement that atheists who were good people could go to heaven. He was promptly overruled by conservatives who said non-believers are automatically condemned to hell. It surprises me that God will give people a brain and the ability to think then clobber them if they come to wrong conclusions. It reminds me of Russia during the communist era. Everybody supported communism until it collapsed because it was unhealthy to think otherwise. Now there appears to be few who want it back. The Catholic Church is similar in that it wants people to stick rigidly to its principles and not think for themselves.

    Catholic Church confirms atheists still go to hell, after Pope Francis suggests they might go to heaven

  170. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Jun, 2013

    Hi Bob. That's typical of the new pope, trying to be the nice guy, but the conservatives are right, atheists go to hell. We're not talking about secular governments or your local bowling club here, where MPs and committee members get to make whatever rules they like. Christians don't get to vote on God's laws, they don't get to decide on what laws they will live by.

    For God believers the rules of who will go where on death is quite clear and can't be changed, EVER! You can be the nicest person that ever lived, but if you don't become an obsequious servant of God then you'll be tortured for eternity. On the other hand, if you're a serial killer and rapist who has 'entered the church', you'll go to heaven and into the arms of God. God will not and CAN NOT change his mind about this. Human laws can be changed to match modern sensibilities but God's laws can not. If religious people don't grasp this then they don't understand who and what God is.

    As you say, the claim that God gave humans a reasoning brain, and we then use that brain to decide that God doesn't exist, is a rather stupid thing for an all-knowing God to do. So of course the Church doesn't want people to think, since it can only lead to atheism. Martin Luther, leader of the Reformation in the 16th century, described reason as 'the devil's bride' and 'God's worst enemy'. He wrote that:

    'There is on earth among all dangers no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason, especially if she enters into spiritual matters which concern the soul and God. For it is more possible to teach an ass to read than to blind such a reason and lead it right; for reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed.'

    'Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees it must put out of sight, and wish to know nothing but the word of God'.

    'Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.'

    'Reason should be destroyed in all Christians.'

    'Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason.'

    Clearly, and understandably, the last thing that the church wants is for people to think for themselves. And judging by the still enormous number of Christians worldwide, they are getting their wish. Silly Christians are chloroforming their reason and embracing blind faith and obedience instead. For them, the ignorance of the Dark Ages never really ended.

    Reason

  171. Comment by Bob, 22 Jul, 2013

    THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

    I am beginning to think the Catholic Church is an overbearing bully. It uses its power to force its views on people not just to persuade them. Just at present the Philipines, a very Catholic country, wants to initiate laws to allow the distribution of contraceptives. Of course the Church opposes it. It is bad enough they oppose it. Now they want to campaign against the supporting politicians in the next elections as well as organising their followers to oppose contraception moves.

    The Irish are beginning to shrug off the overpowering influence of the Catholic Church. The death of the Indian lady who was refused an abortion was a wake up call to the Irish government. Now it wants to allow limited abortion in the case of rape and adverse medical condition. At least that is a start. The Catholic Church is organising as much opposition as it can. I think the Irish have become cynical since revelations of child abuse and the abuse of unmarried mothers. Apparently a couple of thousand Irish women go to Britain every year for abortions which they have to pay for. In 1985 there was a furore over a 14 year old pregnant girl who was raped and made pregnant by a girlfriend's father. She was not allowed an abortion so threatened to go to Britain. A law was passed stopping her from travelling. To me that is a travesty of our right to freedom. The Catholic Church of course was behind it.

    We are not subject to that pressure because we won't allow it. The Pope singled out New Zealand for adverse comment over the Civil Union bill. Helen Clark told him to mind his own business in a diplomatic way. With homosexual decriminalisation, civil union, homosexual marriage, contraception, sterilisation etc. little has been heard from that church. We don't allow them to bully us.

  172. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Jul, 2013

    Seriously Bob, you're only now 'beginning to think the Catholic Church is an overbearing bully'? ;-) The manner in which they have terrorised their followers over the centuries, threatening them with not just eternal damnation and torture in the next life, but also excommunication, physical torture and death in this life if they didn't obey the Church is despicable. You mention our right to freedom, with which I totally agree, but the way the Church sees it we don't have such a right. According to them we are all servants, slaves and minions of their God, and as such we don't have the freedom and independence to do as we wish. We must slavishly obey the commandments of our vindictive Lord and Master, and if we don't, Catholics leave us in no doubt regarding the barbaric punishment we can expect from their falsely labelled 'loving' God.

    You're right that our government doesn't listen to the pope, but you don't have to go to the Philippines or Ireland to see them trying to influence a country's laws. In recent months the bloody Catholic Church have been protesting outside my local hospital over abortions, as well as writing letters to the newspaper, hoping to intimidate staff, patients and the community and have it stopped. And you'll remember their attempts to get that 'South Park' episode banned as well as Te Papa's 'Virgin in a Condom' exhibit? We must stay alert and continue to stand up to these deluded God-bothering bullies, or else even in NZ our hard won freedoms will be slowly eroded.

  173. Comment by Mike, 30 Jul, 2013

    I wonder if this is of interest — the "Freeman on the land" lunacy seems to have made it to l'il ol' NZ.

    This Stuff article doesn't say much except it's a court case & protesters caused a bit of a ruckus...

    Protest shuts down courtroom

    so I googled the defendant, Kiri Campbell, and found this — KIRI CAMPBELL Of Hawera New Zealand Unlawfully Arrested And Detained After Exposing Massive Banking Fraud.

    It shows the full panalopy of "Freeman" nonsense — and if this woman has 80 ppl turning up to complain about her arrest then it would seem the infection has gained some traction.

    I find it really quite difficult to rationally explain the "freeman" hoax, so I'll let a couple of 'pedia's do it for me —

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeman_on_the_land
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Freeman-on-the-land

    Try not to let the stupid get hold of you!! :)

  174. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 31 Jul, 2013

    Can't say I had heard of this specific 'Freeman on the land' nonsense Mike, although we've come across examples here and overseas with people claiming that the law doesn't apply to them. Remember that guy insisting that he didn't need a dog licence because he was Maori, another that he didn't need a fishing licence, all because it was traditional, and traditionally Maori didn't need licences. Then there was that Maori guy issuing his own passports, again insisting that NZ law was separate from Maoris. Even Peter in 'Family Guy' tried to divorce himself from the law of the land in one episode, creating a sovereign country within the USA. It didn't end well.

    The Rational Wiki article provides an informative and amusing read on this 'Freeman on the land' nonsense. It noted that articles that promoting this rebellious stance 'were promptly slapped down by actual lawyers who detailed how this was dangerous idiocy that would send you directly to jail... Freeman ideas are now an object of amusement for the British legal profession'. Also 'Canadian Associate Chief Justice John D. Rooke wrote a 185-page judgment... saying: "The persons who advance these schemes... are parasites that must be stopped"'.

    I note that the Stuff article says that 'Campbell's plight... has been associated with the Maori sovereignty movement' and that 'She was an administrator of The One People Aotearoa-New Zealand Facebook page'. Do these people not think? How can you fight for Maori sovereignty, fight to split NZ governance into Maori and Others and then have the arrogance or ignorance to call your movement: 'The One People Aotearoa-New Zealand'? 'One People' means unity, not split sovereignty.

    Reading that more 'detailed' article on Campbell (KIRI CAMPBELL Of Hawera New Zealand Unlawfully Arrested...), I notice that it was published on the 'openUReyes — Alternative News Blog'. First we had alternative medicine, now we have alternative news. For the people that can't accept the world the way it is, they invent alternative versions to keep themselves happy. Looking at their site I notice that they have supportive sections on the 9/11 Truth Movement, Chemtrails, Secret Societies and UFOs. Clearly a site for those struggling with reality. The Internet is an amazing source of information, unfortunately it's also a great source of disinformation, and there are many people who can't tell the difference.

    Campbell's deluded supporters tell us that 'KIRI NEEDS YOUR HELP!' and states that 'we need to load the courthouse with supporters', and if we can't be there, at least 'Pray at 9am Tuesday (New Zealand time) for Kiri'. With God on her side, why does she need our help? But seriously, these people do need help, but unfortunately I'm not a psychiatrist.

  175. Comment by Gary, 28 Aug, 2013

    Hello, I just wondered if you read the opinion piece in the ODT about acupuncture: 'Acupuncture effective, safe, cost-effective'

    Do you have any comment on this? I didn't see the original article he's commenting on, but I wish I did.
    Love your site.

  176. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Aug, 2013

    Hi Gary, No, I hadn't seen that opinion piece. I don't have a favourable view of acupuncture overall. It may have some benefits in limited cases, probably due to the placebo effect, but like most alternative medicine the claims made for its effectiveness don't match reality. Also, once they start talking about meridians and life forces, for which there is no evidence, as being the underlying explanations for acupuncture, this further weakens their case. There is also the medical stance of doing no harm, so surely they should use acupressure rather than acupuncture, since they both claim to work and for the same reason, targeting the appropriate pressure points. Unfortunately it has been shown that when acupuncture appears to work, it doesn't matter where you stick your needles and whether you pierce the skin or not, which suggests placebo.

    The following are some interesting articles on acupuncture:

    Puncturing the Acupuncture Myth

    What Is Acupuncture?

    Acupuncture: A Science-Based Assessment

    Acupuncture — The Skeptic's Dictionary

  177. Comment by Gary, 29 Aug, 2013

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, John. I also don't have a favourable view of acupuncture. Funny, the ODT seems to be pushing a lot of woo lately. There's another questionable opinion piece today: 'No consent given for fluoridation'.

  178. Comment by Mike, 31 Aug, 2013

    Hi John. Sigh and I thought it was just us silly Australians who had bullshit like this. As a member of the Stop the Australian (anti) Vaccination Network this cropped up in my Facebook feed.

    Holistic Doula and the measles model

    I have never heard of a Doula before but it seems like these people will happily take your money to train you in becoming one. Might be worth a look into just from the bullshit they sprout about how a herd gains immunity.

  179. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Sep, 2013

    Thanks for the link Mike. It's depressing the number of people who want us all to revert back to nature. They clearly have no knowledge of the scourge that disease has been throughout history, and still is in places. This nonsense that living a natural life, naked, bare foot, eating only organic food, communing with the spirits and using only herbs and homeopathic remedies would see mass suffering and death and a return to a Middle Ages standard of living before we knew it. The problem is I think that these morons look around at their closeted existence, safe, healthy, hygienic, free from the epidemics that terrorised our ancestors, and naively believe that humans can return to a caring natural world, unaware that nature is not the least concerned about our welfare and that its horrors, all perfectly natural, have not been eliminated. Like a serial killer in prison, they have merely been contained, and we release them at our peril.

  180. Comment by Anonymous-11, 06 Sep, 2013

    Just wanted to let whoever/whatever owns this site know that you are a fucking cunt ^_^

    I'm sure you know why!

  181. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Sep, 2013

    If you're sure we already know, then why do you feel you need to tell us? But the fact is that we don't know, and your erudite comments fail to shine any light on the matter, although you've obviously put a great deal of thought into them.

    Seriously though, your language doesn't offend us. In fact it only bolsters our confidence, in that an opponent is so inept at refuting some claim we've made that they must resort to profanity. Critics that must resort to puerile, feeble-minded abuse merely reveal how weak and groundless their argument must be. We can't respond, even to agree with you, since we don't know if you're a deluded god botherer, a believer in some superstitious alternative therapy, someone who believes they've been fondled by ghosts or aliens, or some paranoid conspiracy theorist.

    All we can tell is that, even with the anonymity of the Internet, you are apparently too infuriated and/or too afraid to even say what it is that has annoyed you, let alone try and correct our thinking by pointing out where we have erred. You apparently think that we can read your thoughts, and terrified by what we see, we will cease making the claims that have so incensed you. You clearly haven't thought this through have you?

    That you choose insult over reasoned debate merely puts you into that deplorable group that must resort to mindless abuse because reason and knowledge escapes you. What is it that you fear, that you won't even say what's got your panties in a twist? Patently it's a topic you feel strongly about, but at the same time evidently know pathetically little about, and thus lack the confidence to even mention its name. Is civil debate on this unknown topic truly beyond you?

    Prove us wrong. Untwist your panties, ask someone else to help, anyone, and explain what we got wrong, and why. I suspect you're going to struggle greatly with the 'why' part of your response, but for once put yourself above an excrement throwing chimpanzee and at least try to make an attempt at using reason. Show that your belief can be defended with something other than expletives.

    Since you've already shown yourself willing to take the time to read something on our website and then present what in your mind passes for a forceful and cogent argument, your future silence will be taken as a sign of passive defeat.

  182. Comment by Bob, 11 Sep, 2013

    The MSN computer news webpage has a very interesting article on religious statistics in England. There has been a substantial drop in adherence to religions since the 1980s. Only the Catholic Church has held its own at a low figure. We can assume Britain would mirror most European countries. Religious adherence must be generally declining and quite steeply in the Western world. I will be interested to see the statistics from our recent census on religion.

    http://news.msn.co.nz/worldnews/8721339/britons-become-less-religious-survey

  183. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Sep, 2013

    Thanks for the link Bob. My impression from what I've read of late is that there is a clear decline in religious adherence in the Western world. For example Steve Jones writes in his latest book 'The Serpent's Promise: The Bible Retold as Science' that:

    'In almost all developed nations Christianity has lost the demographic war. Even in the United States the proportion of adherents is in decline, for the number who state their affiliation to religion as 'none' has doubled in the past two decades to almost one in five. Congregations in the once devout lands of Austria, Ireland and Switzerland have collapsed. More than halve of all Czechs consider themselves to be atheists or agnostics while in Britain the Welsh take the pagan crown. The 2011 census records a fall of more than 10 percent in the proportion of Christians in just a decade... In Europe at least, religion is in its twilight years'.
    But he also notes that global Christianity is still in robust health. Why? Well, 'As developed nations move away from the Church, half the people of Africa have joined'. And of course we still have the problem of Islam, which is making no signs of seeking enlightenment.

    I too am looking forward to seeing what our latest census records re religion. I predict it will be another embarrassment for the Christians as their popularity takes another hit. With the easy access to knowledge these days and the clear success of science in explaining the world, the real question is how anyone with even half a brain can still say they believe in angels on clouds.

  184. Comment by Bob, 13 Sep, 2013

    I am sure as an atheist like me you will be pleased both the Pope and God will forgive us if we are "good". "Good" is defined as living by our consciences. I wonder if those child abusing priests were living by their consciences and the members of the hierarchy who covered for them. Also there is the scandal of the Vatican Bank which has laundered illegal money and another scandal regarding property in Italy owned or controlled by the Vatican — not too much conscience there. You might remember the head of the Vatican Bank was found hanging under a London bridge back in the '80s.

    The Italian Union of Atheists and Agnostics asked "Why should a non believer seek legitimisation from the Pope?" Personally I couldn't care less what the Pope thinks. The Pope is really treading on dangerous ground when he says individuals can be guided by their consciences. Does this mean a woman can have an abortion if she squares that with her conscience? I think the conservatives will be having a word with the Pope.

    He also pointed out that celibacy was not a dogma but a tradition open to discussion. The Church accountants will be nervously working out the cost of that on their calculators. A pope can't be sacked so I suppose a lot will be going on behind closed doors trying to keep him under control.

  185. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Sep, 2013

    You're quite right Bob, nothing is now forbidden for Catholics, not abortion, contraception, divorce, casual sex, masturbation or even murder, since psychopaths can happily kill by obeying their conscience. Evidently it's not about what's right or wrong or what God decrees, if you're obeying your conscience then God will forgive you.

    Pope Francis reaches out to atheists and agnostics

    To me the new pope's desire to be accepted by all and sundry makes a complete nonsense of the Catholic Church. As I've said in the past, I have more respect for Christian fundamentalists than your average Christian. They're totally deluded of course, but at least they sincerely believe what their God's Bible says and live by it. This new pope is simply trying to win new converts, just as many other Christian churches have done in recent decades, by editing, deleting, reinterpreting and effectively inventing a new friendlier version of Christianity. The moment a Christian (or Jew or Muslim) decides that they will pass judgement on what their God really said, what he really meant, what he did and didn't do, what his plans are and what we can do and still get his blessing is the moment their belief becomes not just a fantasy, but a self-invented fantasy. For a devout Bible reading Christian to think that outspoken blaspheming atheists will be welcomed by God as equals questions their sanity.

    If the pope is right, if both Christian and atheist will be welcomed into Heaven, what motivation is there to be an annoying Christian who is so limited in what they can do in life, when you can be a free-living atheist, ignoring the demands of gods and enjoying and experiencing life as you think it should be lived? Why bother with church on Sunday and letting some creepy priest put a dry wafer in your mouth when you can sleep in, have protected sex with your partner to whom you're not married and then have French toast for brunch? With the pope saying atheists are just as acceptable to God as Catholics, does this mean that he's secretly envious of our carefree lifestyle? As their faith is slowly eroded away, in the future it will be difficult to tell a Catholic and an atheist apart. In many cases it's already impossible to identify the Catholics from the atheists. Every concession the pope and his ilk make is just one more nail in the coffin that is religion.

  186. Comment by Jamie, 27 Sep, 2013

    Hi John. Shock-horror! It seems that the NZ Clairvoyant Society got it wrong...

    https://www.facebook.com/RNZYS

    "Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS)
    September 24

    Oracle Team USA win Race 16 after leading from start to finish. Where to now for ETNZ? We did have a call from the NZ Clairvoyant Society on Sunday who informed us that Wednesday would be the day we lift the cup (seemed funny at the time!). Come on Emirates Team New Zealand the whole nation is still behind you!!!

  187. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Sep, 2013

    Thanks Jamie. How unfortunate for the NZ Clairvoyant Society that the first time most of us become aware of their existence is with a prediction that is such an embarrassing failure. It's clear proof (as if more proof were needed) that these deluded morons are simply making educated guesses. And I use the word 'educated' in a very loose sense. And if NZ has it's very own Clairvoyant Society, why have they waited until near the end of some unimportant yacht race to reveal what they know of the world's future? Why aren't they using their skills and spooky knowledge to warn of approaching natural disasters and criminal acts? Why waste their time predicting what most Kiwis thought that they could reliably predict as well? What use is a Clairvoyant Society if they can't even predict their own incompetence?

  188. Comment by Bob, 28 Sep, 2013

    They should have done what most clairvoyants do, wait until something happens then claim they predicted it.

  189. Comment by Bob, 11 Feb, 2014

    State school moves religious classes

    When I first heard some state schools were being given religion instruction I was quite surprised. I thought religion was kept out of state schools. I would be interested to know exactly what is taught. I did know some people were trying to get religion into schools under the guise of morals. 5 and 6 year olds are too young to be taught religion. At that age it is no more than indoctrination. In an ideal home the best way to teach children morals is by example. Religious instruction is a matter for parents though I prefer children not to be exposed until around 15 when they can judge for themselves.

    I don't like the idea of teaching religion at all in schools. Since it will inevitably be Christian based it is not fair on those of other religions. I live in an area where a lot of Indians have settled. Perhaps the Indian kids should be separated out and taught Hinduism. Then again there are a number of Asian Buddhists. Those Indians and Asians are good people who assimilate well into our society. I prefer religion to be kept at arms length.

    A long time ago now one of my sons at 10 years of age asked me if there was a god. At the time I didn't want to indoctrinate my children with atheism any more than religion. I told him truthfully I didn't know and suggested he wait until he was older and decide for himself. Fortunately something else took his attention and got me off the hook.

    When I see the belligerent attitude of mainly fundamentalists in America I don't want religion sliding into schools here.

  190. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Feb, 2014

    Hi Bob. It is surprising that religious instruction (or Bible in Schools) is given in many secular state schools. At times I don't think we really are in the 21st century. I agree with your comments, at that age it is just indoctrination. Of course the churches don't want to wait until they're older, because as you say, by then they can judge for themselves, and they will most likely judge that it's all bullshit.

  191. Comment by Bob, 16 Feb, 2014

    India to celebrate 'victory over polio'

    All those silly people especially mothers who don't want their children immunised should read this. They claim vaccines have caused autism and other health problems in their children. The fact there is no evidence immunisation causes autism cuts no ice with them. Those of us old enough to remember the ravages of polio would say India has done its people a great service. If any number of Indian parents had listened to Western idiots and refused immunisation thousands more people would have suffered. That is at least two historic ravages I know of which have been eradicated — polio and smallpox. We don't hear much about leprosy now, a disease which was an historic scourge mentioned in the bible. Though it appears leprosy might have been a cover for a number of different diseases, mainly skin diseases.

    Unfortunately because people are different from each other occasionally one might have a bad reaction to a vaccine but the overwhelming number of people who benefit means it should still be used. We don't ban peanuts because some children are allergic to them.

  192. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 Feb, 2014

    Good link Bob, and India has indeed performed admirably here. As you say, young mothers have no knowledge of the likes of polio, or TB, and the suffering they cause. They don't realise the impact modern medicine has had. They seem to think that their good health that they take for granted is due to simply living at one with nature and shunning the likes of vaccines and antibiotics, which are all artificial and thus dangerous, and seemingly produced in labs by evil scientists. They don't realise the potential harm their ignorance is exposing their children to, and the children of others. They really need to be exposed to some history and science, instead of Facebook and reality TV. We're reminded in that article that 'polio vaccination workers in Pakistan are still being killed by the Taliban'. Anti-vaccination groups in NZ are our Taliban, ignorant fools stuck in the Middle Ages, but thankfully without the AK47s and willingness to kill their opponents.

    Of course there is risk with vaccines, just as there is a risk in getting out of bed and crossing the road, but the benefits of vaccines are proven to greatly exceed the harm they might very rarely cause. Your peanut analogy is spot on, and I guarantee these mothers shunning vaccines because of some minor risk still spin around in their cars with their kids where the risk of injury and death is far, far greater.

  193. Comment by Mikaere, 16 Feb, 2014

    Hi John. There is no doubting the efficacy of immunisation and many people appear to harbour silly beliefs about medical science. However, there do need to be checks and balances and sometimes somewhat irrational behaviour achieves these. Examples could be the changes made to the whooping cough vaccine in the 90s after many reported adverse reactions. We all remember the result of wholesale Thalidomide prescribing.
    I guess it's a good thing that people can make informed decisions about medical intervention. Being suspicious of drugs is not quite the same as believing in fairies. I guess the important thing is to be honest when making the decision to immunise or not.

  194. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Feb, 2014

    Hi Mikaere. I agree completely that pharmaceutical companies must be held to account and made to justify the efficacy and safety of their products. They must listen to and respond to complaints from the public. And readers wondering about 'the changes made to the whooping cough vaccine' might find this article informative.

    You correctly note 'that people can make informed decisions about medical intervention', but I suspect that when many people take stances on medical matters they are not truly informed. Many people that object to vaccination per se are believers in homeopathy (and other alternative therapies), they know little about viruses, bacteria and the body's immune system, and they have little understanding of the risks involved. Generally I fully respect a person's right to refuse medical treatment, but with many vaccines, for a mass vaccination program to be effective a high proportion of a population needs to be vaccinated to provide what is called herd protection. Drop below this threshold and the vaccine is ineffective. People refusing to vaccinate themselves and their children may believe they are making a personal choice that is no one else's business, but this refusal can be putting their entire community at risk of disease. Some people may have a sincere and honest mistrust of modern medicine, but usually I find that this belief is ill-founded. Thus we need to find a way to fully inform the general public about the benefits and risks of vaccination.

    And I think this matter of risk is what scares and misleads most people. People become terrified when a scientist or doctor refuses to state that a vaccine is absolutely 100% safe, that it is impossible for it to do harm. It doesn't matter if they qualify this by saying that there is only a one in million chance of harm (or whatever), people focus on themselves being that one that might be harmed, and decide not to vaccinated. And yet these same people never demand an assurance from a pilot or airline company that they are absolutely 100% sure their plane won't crash, and in fact they know that some planes will crash, and yet they still get on board. People know there could be hungry sharks out there, but still race into the water. People know that some surgery is dangerous and may kill them, but still opt to have it, deciding that it is well worth the risk if their health problem can be resolved. Like everything we do in life, there is always some risk, we just need to convince the anti-vaccination crowd that with well-tested vaccines the risk is well worth taking. And yes, we also need to keep the pressure on pharmaceutical companies to make sure their products are well-tested.

  195. Comment by Mike, 18 Feb, 2014

    And apparently New Zealand could have been pretty much free from measles by now... except for... well....... you know who..... Measles myths blamed for outbreaks

  196. Comment by Bob, 26 Feb, 2014

    I saw an item of interest on the MSN news page from America this morning.

    Bible in US driver's pocket stops bullets

    The bus driver who was shot at said only that he had a book in his pocket which stopped the bullet. A policeman is quoted as saying it must have been divine intervention. I remember a long time ago now I was working with a another young guy who was a bible fundamentalist who took every opportunity to preach especially to me knowing I was an atheist. One day he smugly told me the story of an Australian soldier during World War 2 who had a bullet stopped by a crucifix he was wearing suggesting somehow that God had engineered the event. He was a bit crestfallen when I explained a bit about such events. In the Australian army the men wore shirts with two breast pockets. It was common for them to carry tins of tobacco in one of those pockets. A number of soldiers had dented tins as souvenirs. Also they had thick brass buttons with some squashed buttons as souvenirs. Most of these bullets were easily stopped because they had already travelled a fair distance and their energy was spent. If they were fired point blank range a tobacco tin or a crucifix would not have stopped them. With thousands of men fighting and millions of bullets flying around coincidences were inevitable.

    The problem with bible fundamentalists is that they believe what they want to believe. Facts are either ignored or twisted to suit. The news media doesn't help by supporting them.

  197. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Feb, 2014

    Hey Bob. You're right, these fundamentalists are pathetic, twisting what happened to give credit to their sky fairy. The poor guy was shot twice in the chest, once in the leg and slashed in the arm with a knife as he struggled with three teenagers attempting to murder him. Yes, the bible may have stopped two bullets, but not the third bullet or the knife wound. My view of an intervention by an all-powerful, all-knowing god would see those teenagers being stopped before their murderous attack even begun. It would have been an extremely frightening, traumatic and painful experience for the bus driver, why would a caring god force him to go through it? If a parent only rescued their child after they had been injured and terrified, when they could have prevented the incident entirely, would we call them caring and loving parents? The fact is that if god exists and wants to help, he is clearly a weak and impotent god. For the bus driver, evidently the best god could do was make sure he put his bible in pocket before setting off for work that day. He couldn't stop the third bullet or the slashing knife, let alone prevent the murder attempt entirely. For some reason, he couldn't even whisper to the bus driver that it wasn't a safe place to stop for repairs. Clearly a pretty worthless god.

    And look at what our good Bible-toting Christian did when the thugs fled: 'Wagoner picked up the dropped gun and shot after the fleeing teens but told the dispatcher he didn't think he hit them'. Doesn't the bible say to turn the other cheek and love thine enemies, not shoot them in the back as they flee? I'm not saying I wouldn't have done the same thing, but I'm not pretending to be a Bible-toting Christian.

    I like your bullet and crucifix story. It's amazing how often Christians are fooled by these simple stories which are either blatantly false or easily explained. Surely the bible contains enough fairy stories for them, but no, they have to invent new ones. I guess they're genuinely afraid that their god has deserted them, we don't see any of the big miracles anymore, and so they console themselves by pretending that they might have caught a glimpse of god at work saving a solider or a bus driver. Pathetic really.

  198. Comment by Phill, 01 Mar, 2014

    Hi guys, in regards to the miraculous stories of the religious types I'll say it now I've said it before, religion is a win win situation. You get the story of the guy saved by his crucifix or bible in his pocket. You never hear about the case of the poor sucker where the bullet neatly missed his well beloved crucifix and ploughed straight through his heart. Or the high powered bullet fired at close range that ripped right though the bible in his breast pocket. When a building collapses we here the story of the one person saved from the rubble who prayed to god. What about all the others who also prayed to god but died there. No doubt part of his mysterious plan. I lay odds that a couple of thousand years ago the local markets were filled with similar stories of the God Apollo saving some poor schmuck from a building collapse or how another was saved when his attacker's sword glanced of his Amulet of Horus.

    Of course there may be an argument that could be developed that says a religious belief may be of an advantage in these kinds of situation. I don't know of any studies that have been done on this question, on whether having a religious belief does provide for greater resilience in the event of catastrophe. I could imagine it being possible, for instance in the collapsed building situation is it possible that the Christ nutter will hold out a bit longer over the atheist, after all in such a situation we atheists will be weighing up the probabilities of survival while the Christ nutter knows his god will save him, might such a conviction give him a few extra hours? Years ago I read of some experiments with rats where they were placed in a device of flowing water that forced them to swim, the general outcome was that after an hour or so the wee beast gave up and drowned. However, according to the report if a rat was pulled out before it expired and later returned to the device it would carry on swimming till exhaustion overcame it. I cannot vouch for the report, which I read it in a Lyall Watson book so I guess it should be taken with a grain of salt. But it has been an idea that has intrigued me over the years, and possibly one of the explanations why religious belief has been so prevalent in all human societies, in that it was both a method of understanding the world around our ancestors and a source of hope during times of catastrophe. Of course thanks to science we now understand many of the phenomena that baffled them, and improved engineering and medical developments have reduced the catastrophes that once afflicted their lives.

    Of course if given the choice of an extra few hours in a catastrophic event by believing totally in the sky faery or dying a bit sooner and sticking with the scientific method I'll take science every time.

  199. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Mar, 2014

    Hi Phill. I suspect you're right, the religious might have an advantage in some situations, such as disasters. Christianity has always been about hope, to meekly put up with their miserable, pathetic life, to live as their god dictates, in the vain hope that their next life will better... much, much better. They've just got to hold out a little longer, their god will be along soon. But that said, of course atheists can have plenty of hope as well, hope that real people using real equipment will rescue or assist them. And atheists have plenty to live for, arguably far more than the religious, since we don't see this life as a dress rehearsal for the next one. We need to fight for this life, whereas a religious person could well be tempted to check into heaven early.

  200. Comment by Ron, 09 Mar, 2014

    Hello again John. Been looking into Pope Francis' call to end global hunger/poverty via various means including prayer. A wonderful, noble gesture that will increase his already huge popularity wave.

    The cynic in me asks what is the true motive here. Alas, I and so many others fail to see how this can come to pass anytime soon, if not ever. For example, poverty in the USA has not fallen, rather, levels have risen. Many reasons for poverty have been cited, ie corruption, the greed of others, environmental factors, disenfranchisement of women, etc. Overpopulation increasing must also equate to more and more humans equals a decline in quality of life for many others.

    Of course to see the Pope's goal realized would be super. However, it seems an enormous amount of prayer and faith will be necessary ingredients. Perhaps the Pope is working on that biblical quote "If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed you will say to this mountain 'move from here to there'and it will move and nothing will be impossible for you". As I've never witnessed, nor heard of, a mountain being coerced to move sideways, this sounds as silly as "stars falling to earth". As I've said here before, like so many others, I have had no success with prayer despite trying over long periods. Some do claim great results, yes. Pope Francis will surely be on a better wavelength than my humble self. I wish him well.

    What bugs me is I saw this picture of the Pope discussing this with what appeared to be a cardinal and an Asian dignitary. On the table, in the foreground was 2 largish ornate gold items. Would it not have been better taste to have removed these prior to filming?

    Some of their remaining billions worth of material wealth would go a long way in helping world hunger/poverty for starters.

    As someone so succinctly put it "sell the Vatican, feed the world".

  201. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Mar, 2014

    Hey Ron. I suspect you have exposed the pope's true motive, and that is to increase his popularity, and the Catholic Church as a whole slinks along for the ride. As we both know, prayer is worthless, it is futile to beg favours from someone that doesn't exist. Although scientific experiments have shown prayer fails, it shouldn't take this level of investigation to demonstrate that for thousands of years people having been praying for their god(s) to end hunger and poverty, among other things, and yet they're still with us. It really is time that these people woke up.

    As you say, through its obscene wealth the Catholic Church already has the means to make a real difference if it really wanted to, but clearly it doesn't. Instead they elect to hoard their ill-gotten riches and conspire to amass even more, all the while assuring us that their boss is working on the problem and will soon set things right. Of course they said that thousands of years ago too. It's bad enough that these deluded, sex-fearing fools believe that help will soon descend from the clouds, but depressing that many of the public and media still support their delusion. We only know of the pope's call and the Vatican's riches because the media keep portraying them as important and influential. We never get to hear what the leader of the Ku Klux Klan or the head witch of the Wiccan religion thinks. The pope and the Vatican should likewise be ignored, and only reported on when yet another priest is exposed as a child abuser. Abuses against humanity is the only thing that the Catholic Church has managed over the centuries, and that is what they should be remembered for. We shouldn't respect them for wallowing in their riches while their followers, from whom their wealth came, suffer early deaths through poverty and hunger.

    Stupid people often say, what harm is there in letting people believe their silly fantasies? Well every Catholic that starves to death while the pope and his entourage are dining and living to excess is clearly where the harm is. Every Catholic that contracts HIV because the celibate pope forbids condom use is where the harm is. Every Catholic that persecutes homosexuals, women and atheists through following the demands of a disgusting sky fairy is where the harm is. Every Catholic that fails to understand the universe as it really is, that's where the harm is.

  202. Comment by Bob, 11 Mar, 2014

    Poverty is being eliminated. It is not going to be cured by next week. Compared with 50 years ago there is less poverty now. Remember then India was the starving country. We were urged to give to poor boxes for India. Look at South Korea, China, South America even Singapore a backward country in the 1940s. They have all gradually improved. Bangladesh a vey poor country is gradually improving. African countries are improving. I read a while ago where some European financiers were beginning to invest in African industries something laughable years ago. It was pointed out that while poverty still existed in Africa large numbers of people were improving their standards of living. A certain amount of poverty is caused by incompetent and criminal governments such as North Korea and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe for instance has a great climate and good soil fertility. If it was well run it would give all its people a reasonable standard of living but Mugabe has wrecked it. It was well run until the European farmers were pushed out and their farms stolen.

    You can't just raise people out of poverty by pouring money into them. They need to be helped to help themselves. Even in a first world country like New Zealand we are finding that pouring money out to people doesn't do a lot for them. Yet when our government tells them to get off their backsides and look for a job to help themselves the government is "heartless".

    The trouble with the Christian churches is they have to feel superior. Always being concerned about the poor seems to be their raison d'etre. If poverty is ever eliminated the Church will be out of a job.

  203. Comment by Ron, 26 Mar, 2014

    Hello John. Now we have an outcome over the incredibly tragic and chilling saga of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flt MH370. You would not be surprised that as the search for answers slid into the 3rd week the psychics were coming out of the woodwork with their worthless, vague, unhelpful madness. Has a psychic ever in history helped find a missing plane?

    Uri Geller was apparently asked to help by a "senior figure" in Malaysia. He uses remote viewing, sending mind through time and space. He was useless. Asking all his twitter and facebook followers for help. After much criticism he pulled out.

    CNN's sister network HNL called in well known Lisa Williams as media outlets delved into the mystical, paranormal and supernatural. Ms Williams said it crashed not near water. She saw lots of trees, a larger organization behind it who are leading all off track with the debris, etc. Wrong.

    Nigerian televangelist T.B.Joshua claims he predicted this disaster back on July 28, 2013 quoting an Asian nation, a large aircraft with over 200 people develops a fault after takeoff. The answer is back at the tarmac. Vague. Means nothing.

    Another says MH370 would be found in snowy mountains in a particular national park in Vietnam with all on board alive. Wrong

    Very well known US psychic and author Kristy Robinett said it was hijacked by more than 3 with a master mind not on board. That's all. Then she covers herself saying "nothing is absolute, not all psychics have the same strength to their abilities. Thus one may "see" something others may miss". Worthless.

    Finally, the Malaysian psychic, known as a Bomoh with his magic sticks, funny water and coconuts at KL airport. He was the only one who appears right in saying it crashed into the sea. Of course, like Ken Ring this was simply a lucky guess. He claims also as being invited by a top "leader". He asked people to pray. Useless surely.

    One guy quoted said he was praying like mad all the time. On a wall I saw the words "pray for MH370".

    I can understand if now, people choose to pray for the grieving families. That is their prerogative but to pray for the plane and all its occupants? The way I see it, cynical as it may sound, is that the fate of the aircraft and and passengers and crew was set in stone on that first day, regardless. No amount of praying like crazy could change any of that, sadly. My absolute sympathy and frequent thoughts of empathy go out to all those grieving for their lost loved ones.

  204. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Mar, 2014

    Yes Ron, psychics are attracted like moths to a flame when some personal publicity can be gained through the misfortune of others. If psychic ability were real the plane wouldn't still be missing, and we would have been warned of the event before the fact. And really, what good is praying? It's just begging god to change his plans, and what chance is there of that? If he exists, he knows what he's doing and has a good reason for making the plane disappear. If god exists believers need to accept that he had a hand in their deaths.

  205. Comment by Gavin, 27 Mar, 2014

    Hi John, I write a blog for our online research panel, showing results of recent polls we've done. I've done several polls recently that relate to things you've covered on your website, and thought you might be interested in having a look.

    I wrote a short one yesterday on chemtrails & the moon landing — I did a poll on how many people thought these conspiracies were likely:

    http://sayit.co.nz/blog/moon-landings-and-chemtrails-update

    I've also done several on evolution and religion:

    http://sayit.co.nz/blog/evolution-vs-creationism-schools

    http://sayit.co.nz/blog/how-about-religion-schools

    http://sayit.co.nz/blog/how-many-new-zealanders-believe-god

    http://sayit.co.nz/blog/creation-or-evolution

    Also, a favourite of mine — homeopathy:

    http://sayit.co.nz/blog/paging-doctor-web

    All these are based on polls conducted by UMR Research over the last few years. Sample sizes vary because they've been in different surveys, but they're all based on representative samples of adult NZers.

    Thought you might be interested.

  206. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Mar, 2014

    Thanks for those poll results Gavin. It's always fascinating to get an insight into what others believe, especially as many of these sceptical topics fly under the radar so to speak. You can work with people who have polar opposite views and often not realise it, sometimes assuming that most people think as you do. It can be quite revealing that sometimes a considerable proportion of society holds what I would see as medieval views.

  207. Comment by Doug, 02 Apr, 2014

    Dear John. You may want to look at this article — Waterloo School in Lower Hutt is offering Echinacea and multivitamins to staff who don't want a flu vaccine shot. The DomPost did get a quote from some Prof saying that there is no evidence that they are effective but did not comment further.

    I am a secondary school teacher these days (science) and we are appalled at the lack of science and poor maths skills of kids coming from our primary schools and intermediates. We think that the problem is that the people who go into primary teaching these days are almost always those averse to science and maths, and certainly not confident in these subjects. There needs to be a change in selection of suitable candidates for courses and teaching positions so that we get teachers competent in these subjects, not those who avoid them. Then perhaps we will not get such outcomes as thinking that hocus-pocus treatments not backed up by scientific evidence is in any way a substitute for evidence-based treatments and preventative measures.

  208. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Apr, 2014

    Thanks for your comments Doug. I agree, there is no good evidence that Echinacea can prevent the flu or treat its symptoms. And I think it needs to be highlighted that generally when Echinacea is mentioned, it is for reducing the symptoms of colds, not the flu, and not for preventing the flu in the first place, which is what the flu vaccine is trying to achieve. Echinacea (or multivitamins) is not an alternative to the flu vaccine. Even if it worked you would still be off work with the flu, but maybe not for as long, and still able to pass it on to others. The DomPost article reads as if those taking Echinacea believe it is as good as and probably much better at keeping the flu at bay as the flu vaccination. This article, and this one and this one all say different. And why stop at offering herbs and vitamins, why aren't Wellington schools and businesses offering prayers and holy water from priests and charms to ward of evil from witches? Why stop at one version of nonsense? And as Otago University professor Michael Baker noted in the article, 'There are still 400 people in New Zealand dying each year from influenza . . . so we're not dealing with a trivial illness'. That's more deaths than our road toll (254 died in 2013). Imagine if schools and companies offered their staff 'lucky hats' as an alternative to seatbelts for those that wanted a choice while driving.

    As for your reason why some teachers might be willing to embrace such nonsense, I suspect you could be right. I don't know any primary teachers but I've met a lot of people of late in different spheres who were averse to science and maths when one would have expected, because of their job, for them to have some knowledge and respect for science. I've said it before, I find it quite amazing to meet people who embrace society's complex technology while at the same time criticising and shunning the science that created it. People who rubbish science should have their smart phones and Internet connections taken away from them, and be refused admission to hospitals full of modern diagnostic machines and drugs.

  209. Comment by Mikaere, 04 Apr, 2014

    Hi John. The advisory services for primary teachers were decimated a few years ago. The government's focus is on numeracy and literacy with limited professional learning for the rest of the curriculum. The lack of teachers' understanding of science has been noted but politicians are concerned mainly with other matters and there is a real danger of further narrowing of the curriculum. New initiatives such as charter schools, where teachers need not be registered, does not suggest any improvement in scientific understanding in the near future.

  210. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Apr, 2014

    Thanks Mikaere. The future doesn't look too bright for science education.

  211. Comment by Anonymous-12, 20 Apr, 2014

    Would be interested in your thoughts on this piece.

    Five myths about Easter

  212. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Apr, 2014

    From my perspective, of the five 'myths' about Easter, only No. 2 is a myth, and only the first has any real importance.

    Myth 1: 'Jesus didn't literally rise from the dead'. Not surprisingly I disagree with the article's author, a Jesuit priest, since I agree with this common claim, Jesus did NOT rise from the dead, literally or metaphorically. Did he not get the memo?

    Myth 2: 'After the resurrection, Jesus first appeared to Saint Peter'. The gospels aren't consistent as to who first saw Jesus, usually Mary and others or maybe not, but none say it was Peter. Only ignorant Christians would believe it was Peter, and non-believers don't care.

    Myth 3: 'Lent is all about sacrifice'. The author reckons that 'Lent is about spiritual preparation; sacrifice is simply a means to that end'. My dictionary says that Lent is 'the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday until Easter observed by Christians as a season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter'. Sounds like sacrifice to me, that fasting and penitence are required to prepare me to spend four days away from work and eat lots of chocolate. And seriously, how many Christians still do this? It just sounds like Muslims and their silly Ramadan fasting. For most people these days Easter is all about the Easter Bunny, which while untrue of course, kids quickly outgrow, which is more than can be said for the psychological damage done by graphic stories of the suffering and death of a Jewish carpenter who thought he heard voices.

    Myth 4: 'Easter eggs have nothing to do with Easter'. This is true, it isn't a myth. Of course eggs have been hijacked for the Christian story, just as the pagan celebration at the winter solstice was hijacked for Christmas, but the pagans used eggs to symbolise rebirth and new life long before Christians. You won't find mention of eggs or even the name Easter in the Bible, which comes from a pagan goddess. What's next, they're going to claim Xmas cards and Xmas trees?

    Myth 5: 'Easter is not as important as Christmas'. Again true, not a myth. Perhaps Christians might disagree, but since we atheists experience Easter and Christmas as well as them, Xmas is more important to me. Much longer holidays, better weather, presents, more parties etc. No wonder Christians are confused about this, they look at the day that their friend and cult leader was tortured, killed and taken from them and said, Let's call it a Good Friday.

    Arguing that that Easter is more important, the priest says that 'the resurrection changes everything: It's a reminder not just that Jesus rose from the dead but that love is stronger than hatred, that hope is stronger than despair, and that life is stronger than death. More simply, it reminds us that nothing is impossible with God'. To me this is all nonsense. How does reliving the torture and slaughter of Jesus remind me that 'love is stronger than hatred'? How does reliving Jesus pleading to be saved on the cross, a hope that fails to materialise, remind me that 'hope is stronger than despair', and how does reliving the scene of Jesus dying on the cross remind me that 'life is stronger than death'? Has he not seen Mel Gibson's movie 'The Passion of the Christ'? And worse still, how does understanding that God had to torture and slaughter his innocent son in order to forgive my sins remind me 'that nothing is impossible with God'? Seemingly simply forgiving my sins, as I can forgive the sins of others, was something impossible for God to do. It aggrieves me that God felt he had to kill someone, and not humanely, but horrifically, in a futile attempt to get me to worship him. Jesus died for nothing, since I don't believe, and worse still, God knew I wouldn't believe, knew that his son's death would be for naught, but killed him anyway. By my reckoning, nothing but a monster. Thankfully we're discussing fiction so no real people were harmed.

    This is all rather depressing, but luckily I still have some chocolate Easter eggs left. Unlike Jesus, thankfully the bunny does return each year. He's not too busy like some.

  213. Comment by Anonymous-12, 22 Apr, 2014

    You surprise me!!

  214. Comment by Bob, 30 Apr, 2014

    The rush by the Catholic Church to create two new saints out of recent popes is unprecedented. When I went to Catholic schools so long ago I was told it took hundreds of years for the canonisation process to conclude. Suddenly saints can be created in just a few years. Not only that but saints had to have two miracles under their belts. Suddenly once again a pope can be turned into a saint with only one miracle. I wonder why these miracles have not made headlines around the world. Surely the medical profession would be extremely interested in spontaneous cures. But the only mention is in articles reporting what Catholics believe. The medical profession as a whole seems to be underwhelmed.

    What does it mean? Well I am cynical. I think it is a publicity stunt to take peoples' minds off the child abuse scandals. It's also a hope it might influence all those Catholics leaving the Church mainly in Europe to reconsider. Adolph Hitler knew the value of public spectacles so does the Church. To my mind the parading of the Pope and his veneration seem out of line with the humility Christians are supposed to observe. He is wheeled out to parade in front of the Vatican and sent to other countries with big fanfares.

    Now the present pope is slowly altering solid longstanding rules. He thinks it is all right for divorced people to receive communion. Previously this has always been a no-no. I think he is smart enough to realise the Church is getting out of line with modern thinking. I was surprised to see a Catholic article which said that while abortion is still forbidden it can be carried out to save the mother's life. Previously this has not been the case. Where it was a question of the mother's life or the baby's the baby came first. The principle behind this is that the mother has been baptised and can go to heaven but the baby can't. Allowing the mother to die while saving the baby gives time for the baby to be baptised. I suspect the death of that lady in Ireland refused an abortion and it's subsequent bad publicity has had a lot to do with it.

    In spite of the number of followers the Catholic Church has the Church hierarchy know they are becoming less and less relevant. They realise their survival depends on change.

  215. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Apr, 2014

    I agree wholeheartedly with all your comments Bob. I can't believe that the Vatican thinks that intelligent people, and that includes many Catholics, still swallow this miracle nonsense. I'm reading 'Ideas That Matter: A Personal Guide for the 21st Century' by A. C. Grayling at the moment and in his section on Christianity, the resurrection and miracles etc, he notes, 'That such things can still be seriously stated, let alone believed, explains David Hume's wry remark that it is not true that miracles died out with the first army of the faithful; for this is miracle enough'. To me, the Vatican saying that they have evidence of modern miracles, but refuse to produce that evidence, is as ridiculous as my neighbour saying he has an invisible dragon in his garage. How stupid do they think we are? Apparently they don't care, as long as the moronic faithful fall to their knees and believe. And yes, it is all a PR exercise to divert our attention from the priests that are still abusing children and still being hidden if they are discovered. As for the present pope altering the rules and changing how the Catholic Church reacts to modern morals, they are doomed whether this works or not. Blindly sticking to their ancient, unjust and immoral traditions will see Catholics desert the church, but ridding themselves of these traditions and adapting humanistic ethics will mean that the church is irrelevant, no different to some secular organisation, either way the Catholic Church will fade into a minor cult. Since Pope Francis has already said that good atheists will go to Heaven, why should I bother joining the Catholic Church? They are superfluous. I get to go to Heaven while not having to waste Sundays in church. It's win win.

  216. Comment by Bob, 06 May, 2014

    I am just adding a comment on my post regarding saint creations. I was reading Bob Jones' column in this morning's Herald. He is always good for a humorous off beat comment on such nonsense. Apparently I missed the point that while one woman with a brain tumor prayed to the Pope the other simply stared at his photo. Bob suggests all hospital patients be sent home with a picture of the dead Pope and the hospitals closed. As silly as it seems this is the logical outcome of the claims. Why should it be only two miracles? Why can't a million people be cured of serious diseases?

    By the same token the record of cures at the Lourdes shrine is abysmal. There have been 68 confirmed miracle cures there since 1858. That in spite of the fact that a million or so people go there every year. There are many more unexplained recoveries from serious illness in conventional hospitals. That is due to the amazing capacity of the human body to heal itself. When I see videos of paralysed and very sick people being wheeled on trolleys at Lourdes to get a sprinkle of the holy water I feel sorry for them knowing they are wasting their time.

    While I am at it I recommend a video on YouTube -

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urLxLj_UU8w

    While I know the Vatican is a very wealthy institution I was surprised at the level of opulence. It reminds me more of the Russian tsars than Jesus Christ.

  217. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 May, 2014

    Exactly Bob, if miracles worked, and there was an all-loving, all-powerful sky fairy dishing them out, we wouldn't need hospitals, and in fact we wouldn't need miracles either, since disease wouldn't afflict us in the first place. After all, why would an all-loving god create malaria, cancer and Ebola? As for Lourdes, to be completely accurate there haven't been ANY confirmed miracles, as I'm sure you will agree. For the Vatican to affirm that they have confirmed that 68 miracles did occur is as meaningless and naïve as a child insisting that his toys definitely came from Santa Claus. And again, why would an all-loving, all-powerful god insist that if you're dying then you have to come to him to be cured, or at least be considered for a cure, and his only clinic is in France. Geez, do these people not have a skeptical bone in their body?

  218. Comment by Ray, 23 Jun, 2014

    Hi John, I have a strong opinion against the teaching of religion in schools (or anywhere) — get 'em while they're young and you can bend their brains to suit.

    Tony Abbott spends millions to push God in schools

    I am an artist and would like to illustrate a childrens book of bible stories. Where Cliff Richard has picked out the 50 nice parts of the bible, mine would feature the not so nice parts eg. when god has the villages stone a man to death for the heinous crime of working on the sabbath (he was picking up sticks for a fire). Incidentally why only this man living in the middle east when there must have been thousands of others doing the same thing in China say or South America at the same time or now?

    I am no bible scholar or wordsmith but would like to correspond with someone who is that you might know of to help me with this project. I think that if my booklet was done in a realistic style it would have more plausibility than Cliffy's frivolous style.

    An aside — I recently had 2 Mormons come to my door. I'm always polite because they mean well but they have been brainwashed but I said that they are only Mormans (they were from Utah) because of what they have been brought up with, the response was — no no we are free to make up our own minds. My reply was — so if your parents were Hindus and they brought you up in the Hindu religion you would still be Mormon's?

  219. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Jun, 2014

    Hi Ray, thanks for the link to that Tony Abbott article, where it notes that 'The prime minister has allocated $226 million for more chaplains, all while slashing his country's education budget'. These bastards just don't know how to keep their fairies in their churches and out of the schools.

    I like the idea of a children's book of bible stories if it would feature the 'the not so nice parts', unfortunately I fear you would have trouble finding a publisher, and even then, your market would be extremely limited. Only devout Christians with young kids would buy a children's book of bible stories, and not a single one would buy one that exposed their kids to the very stories in the Bible that they go to great lengths to hide. I've read some adult books that reveal the suppressed stories of the Bible, written by non-Christians of course, but even those have a very small market and most people simply aren't interested in reading them. If non-Christian parents aren't interested, they're unlikely to buy a child's version for their kids.

  220. Comment by mike, 04 Sep, 2014

    Hi John, not sure if you've ever wasted your time with these nutjobs, but check this out

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDMzbmxISIA

    Apparently the school shootings and Boston Marathon Bombing and of course 9/11 are all faked. False flags they call them.

    I read it with a mix of humour and horror that people could be so paranoid and stupid, and have so little concept of what evidence actually means. The 4 women they claim are all the same person are so obviously not that it hurts my head that they believe this rubbish.

    It's harmless, but it is frightening that these people are out there and can vote, drive, breed...

  221. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Sep, 2014

    Hi Mike. Yes I've heard of this false flag notion, especially in connection with 9/11, that the US government was the real culprit behind these attacks, but not that the Sandy Hook school shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing were false flag events. But this is not surprising, there is only so much time in my day and so much nonsense out there.

    For those not familiar with the false flag notion bandied about by conspiracy theorists, here is a good definition from the wiseGEEk site:

    'A false flag operation is any procedure which is carried out by an organization and deceitfully designed to seem as though it has been orchestrated by another entity. The false flag operation gets its name from the military practice of flying another country's flag for the purpose of deceiving one's enemies. False flag operations often precede war, and are sometimes carried out for the express purpose of creating the illusion of an outside attack which warrants retaliation.'
    I read on one site a conspiracy theorist claiming that 'The 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a false flag operation, which was conducted to promote an anti-gun agenda, and no children died'. Claiming to be a 'professor emeritus', of what we weren't told, he went on to say that the shooting hoax 'is disgusting and it's part and parcel of an agenda of deception and disinformation by the Obama administration where the Sandy Hook has been used to subvert the Second Amendment'. However I found a much more intelligent comment on the Wikipedia page 'Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting conspiracy theories', which argued that 'The conspiracy theories have also been called evidence of "the need for a national debate on mental illness".' Also, Benjamin Radford's article 'Why Sandy Hook Massacre Spawned Conspiracy Theories' is definitely worth a read. The Snopes site also has pages on both the 'Boston Marathon Bombing Rumors' and the 'Sandy Hook Rumors'.

    I notice on the site you linked to Mike that the moron claimed that these false flag events are created to serve the 'specific agenda of TPTB'. Again, for those not versed in conspiracy theories, TPTB is shorthand for 'The Powers That Be', and this can refer to anyone from a government you don't like or trust to any one of numerous evil, secret and powerful groups bent on our destruction, most of which don't actually exist outside the conspiracy theorists' paranoia, such as a secret world government with their black helicopters, evil aliens, groups such as the Freemasons, Jews or Illuminati, or maybe even the Boys Scouts.

    Like me Mike, you wonder how people can 'be so paranoid and stupid... that they believe this rubbish'. You then add, 'It's harmless, but it is frightening that these people are out there and can vote, drive, breed...' Unfortunately, because they can and do vote for both local and central government, they can do real harm by voting against policies for scientific progress, such as stem cell research and space exploration, and voting for their fellow idiots, such as Conservative Party leader Colin Craig who sides with conspiracy theories such as chemtrails and the Moon landing hoax. Conspiracy theorists are just as harmful to progress as are religious fundamentalists, since they both fight for an imaginary world at the expense of reality. They are holding us back, and every person they sway to their silly beliefs, whether it's their kids, neighbours or work colleagues, is another person that would prefer we live in a modern dark ages where ignorance rules.

  222. Comment by Robert, 22 Sep, 2014

    Hello John, I've just finished reading your response to a comment about the Sandy Hook school shooting, and as far as I'm concerned it confirms once and for all that what passes for critical thinking in your mind, is in reality some of the faultiest "logic" I've ever seen.

    So, according to you and the other "geniuses" on the silly beliefs team, anyone who doesn't automatically accept the drivel that passes for TV "news" is a "paranoid moron", right?

    Well, in fact, a true skeptic would never just believe whatever they see on the idiot box we call television, so why do supposed debunkers of silly beliefs accept the official version of what allegedly happened at Sandy Hook elementary school? How much do you actually know about Sandy Hook? Are you aware that NONE of the parents were allowed to identify the bodies of their supposedly murdered children? I don't know if you have children, but I do, and there's absolutely no way I would accept that my daughter had been shot dead if the "authorities" wouldn't allow me to view her body.

    And did you know that when the official report was released, virtually all of it was redacted? Every single crime scene was redacted and virtually all information about the alleged shooter was redacted. If this was areal active shooter mass murder, what is there to hide?

    I could go on, but since you haven't responded to my last 2 emails I think it would probably be a waste of time. Anyway, if you would like to have a real conversation with a true skeptic, please let me know and I will be happy to throw down with you.

  223. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Sep, 2014

    You start Robert by saying that my comments on Sandy Hook is 'some of the faultiest "logic" I've ever seen'. You then assert that I believe that 'anyone who doesn't automatically accept the drivel that passes for TV "news" is a "paranoid moron"'. Since I don't believe this at all, could you please point to where I made this claim or implication?

    So let's look at my so-called faulty logic. Regarding Sandy Hook there is of course the official version and the conspiracy theory version. If you re-read my previous comment you will learn that the conspiracy theory version is that 'The 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a false flag operation, which was conducted to promote an anti-gun agenda, and no children died'. Since according to this theory 'no children died' then logically there would be no parents wanting to identify children that weren't dead. If real parents were missing their children then clearly children had died. It wouldn't matter if the children had been shot by deranged killer Adam Lanza or a Black Ops soldier in the secret employ of the government. Either way they would be dead and the parents wouldn't be able to tell who killed them, so there would be no need to hide the bodies. If there was something to hide over how they died, then the government could have just exploded a bomb, blaming it on Lanza, and claimed that all the bodies were burned beyond recognition. Remember that you turkeys claim that this was all a well-planned conspiracy by highly trained professionals so the 'official' report should have answered all the right questions.

    You ask, 'If this was areal active shooter mass murder, what is there to hide?' You seem to accept the conspiracy theory that no one died, it was all a hoax. So why don't the Sandy Hook teachers and parents go public with the cry that no teachers or school children are missing? What is the media talking about? There was no shooting, everyone is safe and well! Although you seem to be stuck between the official version and the conspiracy theory version, you seem to imply that children are indeed missing, parents are looking for answers, but that they weren't killed by a deranged killer. So where do you think the children are Robert? Have the government stuck them in a dang prison in Iraq? Just as 9/11 conspiracy theorists won't explain what the government has done with all the passengers taken off the planes before they crashed them into buildings, why won't you explain what the government has done with the children?

    You also say that 'virtually all information about the alleged shooter was redacted', which is rather strange since we in NZ saw a lot of information about the alleged shooter, his name was definitely Adam Lanza in case you didn't know. Perhaps you should try watching 'the drivel that passes for TV "news"'.

    As to the delay in responding to your other questions, I advised you that I would need time to do some research. You also may not be aware that answering email queries about silly beliefs is not the top priority in my life.

  224. Comment by mike, 02 Oct, 2014

    John, this link may address some of Robert's questions: Sandy Hook Exposed

    I concede i am happy to accept the broad content on news reports, but I also read source documents if I find the story interesting. My default isn't "it's a government plot to (insert issue of the day here)" and I'm glad of that. What a miserable existence if your natural instinct was suspicion of every single issue.

    These nutjobs on the conspiracy theory sites don't have the first clue about the onus of proof and have little grasp of the difference between innuendo and evidence.

    I say it all the time but the reason most conspiracy theories and theorists sound daft is because they are daft.

  225. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Oct, 2014

    Thanks for the link Mike, very informative, but like you I fear it won't create any doubt in the minds of conspiracy buffs. By coincidence I just this very moment read the following apt quotation:

    'A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.'
    — LEON FESTINGER, et al., When Prophecy Fails (1956)
  226. Comment by Anonymous in Pakistan, 09 Feb, 2015

    Hi John. I have to admit to being a bit of a coward when working in Muslim countries. When I am asked what religion I am (and for some reason everyone wants to know, especially the authorities) I don't write atheist. People seem threatened by the term atheist. In Saudi where I was working a few years back, they declared that atheists are terrorists. While the people I work with here are very friendly and rational and know me well, there are some I would not want to test. People can do funny things. So when I am asked, I give the answer "none". (which I suspect is more correct anyway, given that atheism is not a religion). Anyway yesterday I was talking to a local (who didn't speak much English but was determined to try) and was asked the usual question "are you Christian" and I said "no" so he asked "are you Muslim" and again I said "no". So he was a bit taken aback and asked what religion am I then and I said "none". He couldn't understand the answer, I had to repeat it a couple of times. Then he got it. "Ah Independent". I thought that was rather good. I might write that on forms in the future.

  227. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Feb, 2015, 2014

    Well I wouldn't describe your reluctance to advertise your atheism in Muslim countries as cowardice, more like intelligent self-preservation. It's like sneaking past a hungry polar bear, only a fool would advertise their presence. I've also worked in a couple of Muslim countries, but that was in the 90s and before 9/11, so Muslim radicals weren't quite as confident then, but I was still advised not to discuss religion (and a raft of other things). The authorities never asked about my beliefs, but as you say, locals that I worked with often asked, and those that didn't probably just assumed that since I clearly wasn't a Muslim that I was a Christian. When quizzed I don't think I ever described myself as an atheist, but merely said that I didn't believe in god. You're right that many people hate the label atheist, even some atheists, but I avoided it because I wasn't even sure they would know what an atheist was. When I have used the label in NZ, I've even had Mormons ask, 'So what god do atheists believe in?', and a supermarket checkout woman asked me last year, on seeing my 'Born Again Atheist' badge, what religion it was. Luckily the people I worked with overseas were educated and friendly, and none seemed to care that I didn't believe in a god, and while all called themselves Muslims, I sensed that they were about as committed to their belief as most Christians are in NZ. That is, they went to the mosque on Fridays and wore the appropriate clothing, but they were often just keeping up appearances. Their personal lives and views revealed people far more committed to a secular life than a religious one. Some of the men told me they drunk alcohol, gambled and used prostitutes when they travelled to Western countries for work training, and the women in one office I worked in all stripped out of their head to toe coverings to reveal skimpy tops and short skirts when I was the only male in the office. They all complained about how hot it was to wear such clothing. They didn't think I would be offended by their bodies, they wore the coats and head coverings because their men and the law made them, not because of what the Koran said. We discussed religion and I never felt uncomfortable, but I certainly saw people on the street that I wouldn't want to talk religion with, and I was very careful to avoid attracting their attention.

    Unfortunately today it's not just Muslim countries where one has to be careful with expressing views on religion. I wear my 'Born Again Atheist' badge everywhere I go in NZ and Australia, and comments are over 90% supportive, and even people that disagree have never been threatening. But I've never worn it in the USA or Europe, let alone Muslim countries. While there are definitely many in the USA and Europe that would love my badge, I know because tourists in NZ have told me, there are also many that would take great offence. Since I'm unable to tell them apart, when overseas I choose to fly under the radar when it comes to my atheism. After all, I don't travel to promote atheism, I'm not like Mormons and other Christian missionaries that travel the world to convert people to my way of thinking. If I meet people I think I can trust and the talk turns to gods, I will reveal my views, but until then I will be wary. NZ is a wonderful place to be an atheist, I can be open with my disbelief and even giggle at religious people on the street, but other countries, especially non-Western countries, often have laws and customs that I would consider unjust and draconian, but breaking these laws and customs would see me arrested in a flash, or perhaps even attacked and killed. I am not a martyr for the atheism cause. As the saying goes, When in Rome...

  228. Comment by Ron, 12 Mar, 2015

    Hi John. Appears you are vindicated with your past comments on the ineffectiveness of homeopathic remedies. Have just read a report where scientists have come out, not for the first I'm sure, saying these remedies are ineffective and do not improve health. Seems to be Australian based. Sales in 2009 hit $7.3 million there. A surprising figure but small really, in a country of 20 million. Naturally the Australian Homeopathic Association are preparing a report in response. Homeopathic is very popular in Europe apparently.

    I had one experience with homeopathic remedies about 20 yrs ago. I went through a bad patch with stress and overwork causing terrible problems. Sleep loss so bad I was getting 1-2 hrs nightly which made feel ill and forced me off work for 11 days.

    An Indian lady doctor was highly recommended. She spent considerable time questioning and coming up with the right remedy and strength. As true as I sit here, the sleep issues were gone in 2 days and I felt reborn. In 2 weeks we left for a Gold Coast holiday and I was simply my normal self. That dreadful scenario that forced me to visit her, not my usual doctor, never returned. Naturally, I became a supporter and admit I was annoyed when reading your comments. Since then I've read much more and am unsure now.

    What happened 20 yrs ago. Did the remedy trigger my body's healing powers to then heal itself? Was my body co-incidentally ready to heal itself at that time anyway? I'm open-minded enough to admit I probably will never truly know the answer.

  229. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Mar, 2015

    Hi Ron. What happened 20 yrs ago? You're right, we'll never know, but you won't be surprised when I say doubt that you received a homeopathic cure. My guess is placebo. The reality is that the body will heal itself given time from all manner of aliments. You said you'd been going through a bad patch, so perhaps the body was already on the cusp of recovery. Often people only seek treatment when symptoms get worse, perhaps just before a fever breaks, and then they falsely connect a recovery that would have happened regardless on the chicken soup that granny brought around. Having suffered for some time already, had you already been to your usual doctor, and did he give you anything or suggest any lifestyle changes that might have brought about a cure? If you hadn't consulted your doctor, then was it all that serious?

    You said that you felt that your problems were caused by 'stress and overwork', but if this was your diagnosis and not a doctor's was this the real cause? Maybe you had some undiagnosed virus that eventually cleared up? On the other hand, if it was really 'stress and overwork' causing your health woes, you said that you were 'forced... off work for 11 days'. Thus the 'stress and overwork' would have disappeared, or at least vastly reduced, and with the cause gone you would have started to recover. No work means no overwork. I suspect that by the time you went to the homeopath your body was starting to win the battle and was beginning to bounce back to normal health. This was coupled with the placebo effect caused by someone no doubt telling you that you would soon be better.

    So yes, I suspect it was all a coincidence. I simply don't believe that homeopathy can cure anything, firstly because it is just water, and secondly because there is no evidence that it ever has. And it would be so easy to prove their cures. Recently we had a NZ politician who believed in homeopathy suggest that we use it to combat the Ebola threat. And they claim to have cures to numerous other terrible diseases as well, so why do we still have these diseases? Modern medicine has eradicated smallpox and is close to eradicating polio, so why is there no list of diseases homeopathy has eradicated? If they had a homeopathic potion for Ebola as claimed (well of course they have one, but I mean one that works), then it would be so simple to prove it. But none of them can be bothered to take their cures to where they are desperately needed. And it can't be because Ebola outbreaks are dangerous places, because what does that matter? They have the cure!

    Then we have their silly explanations of how they make their potions and why they work, that even though they are unimaginably dilute, water has a memory of everything it has ever come in contact with. But if this were true then the water also has a memory of the bacterium that causes cholera, and untold other diseases, and not just the water in their potions, but all the water that you and I drink. We're drinking water that the dinosaurs once passed as urine, the entire planet should be dead by now.

    Some books that have sections exposing homeopathy that I would recommend (check your library) are:

    'Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial' by Simon Singh & Edzard Ernst
    'Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks' by Ben Goldacre
    'Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All' by Rose Shapiro
    'Complementary Therapies for Cancer: What works, what doesn't... and how to tell the difference' by Shaun Holt Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science' by Robert L. Park
    Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud' by Robert Park
    The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy, and the New Fundamentalism' by Dick Taverne

    Book Book Book Book Book Book Book

    I'll finish by quoting from the conclusion of the homeopathy chapter from 'Trick or Treatment?:

    'It has taken several thousand words to review the history of homeopathy and to survey the various attempts to test its efficacy, but the conclusion is simple: hundreds of trials have failed to deliver significant or convincing evidence to support the use of homeopathy for the treatment of any particular ailment. On the contrary, it would be fair to say that there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that homeopathic remedies simply do not work. This should not be such a surprising conclusion when we recall that they typically do not contain a single molecule of any active ingredient. This raises an interesting question: with no evidence that it works and with no reason why it ought to work, why is it that homeopathy has grown so rapidly over the last decade into a multi-billion-dollar global industry? Why do so many people think that homeopathy works, when the evidence, frankly, shows that it does not? One problem is that the public are unaware of the vast body of research that undermines homeopathy... Worse still, the public can be misled by news stories that show homeopathy in an unjustifiably sympathetic light...

    We suggest that... based on examining all the reliable evidence ...the evidence suggests that homeopathy acts as nothing more than a placebo. For this reason, we strongly advise you to avoid homeopathic remedies if you are looking for a medicine that is more than just make-believe.'

    And it needs to noted that one of the authors, Edzard Ernst, is both a professor of medicine and a trained homeopathic practitioner.
  230. Comment by Patrick, 13 Mar, 2015

    Should we prosecute God? He is supposed to be able to do everything, but never does anything to help people in danger, people suffering etc. Some might say that I am wrong and that God does actually help people a lot with miracles happening every day, but what are these miracles actually ? What do they consist of ? We know that in most cases these supposed miracles are just bullshit (Lies, gross exaggeration of what really happened, pure coincidence, etc). Speaking about pure coincidence, I remember that one of my teachers (I was still a child then) used to boast about the eruption of a volcano, it's lava destroying everything on it's way and God finally performing a miracle and stopping the lava just in front of the church. If this really happened like that, okay, fair enough, but what about that much talked about (it was in all the local media) lightning hitting a church's roof some years later??

    To return back to our main subject, let's suppose that in a few cases, science cannot explain how someone get cured, should we therefore speak of miracles? In some circles that's actually the case and, what cannot be explained automatically equates to divine intervention. But let's say (and I really mean let's say) that miracles do happen, then I would like to know why, for example, I have never heard of mutilated persons having their legs or hands restored miraculously, obese sick people loosing their life-threatening extra weight overnight, etc .

    I don't know if there is a general legal duty to rescue (or render assistance to) a person whose life or safety is endangered in all countries, but I know that it's the case in several countries. So yes, God can and should definitely be prosecuted.

  231. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Mar, 2015

    Hi Patrick. Should we prosecute God? Well I think we're getting ahead of ourselves here. First it needs to be proven that this god actually exists, otherwise we'll have kids prosecuting Santa for not bringing that promised iPad, and I think I might have good case against the Easter Bunny.

    As you say, of course all supposed miracles are bullshit. They are claimed by superstitious people ignorant of how the world works. It's sad really, especially when there's no need for them to emulate medieval peasants. Read a book moron! (Not the Bible or Koran though.) Childish stories like the lava one are really only for small gullible children, although adults believe it too. Clearly God forgot in the devastating earthquakes experienced by Christchurch (and elsewhere) that he was supposed to stop at all the churches. Oops!

    As for lightning striking churches, this was actually a very common occurrence in the past, and it's why lightning rods were invented in the first place, since tall buildings, eg church spires, were being hit, catching fire and burning down. If anything, this would suggest that god has a problem with churches.

    You wonder, 'in a few cases science cannot explain how someone get cured, should we therefore speak of miracles? No of course not, we should merely speak of unknowns. We haven't really said that science cannot explain some recovery, all we've said is that science hasn't yet explained the recovery. Centuries ago we didn't even know why people really got sick let alone why they recovered. Hint, it had nothing to do with offending some god.

    But let's remember that those that thank god for healing them must also acknowledge that god gave them the disease in the first place. For every person god chooses to save with a miracle, he turns a blind eye to a million others suffering from an illness he inflicted upon them. I remember a year or so ago a hurricane struck in the US and killed many people, but a baby was found alive in among the dead, tossed some hundred metres from her home. On TV the religious nutters screamed, 'It's a miracle, thank you Jesus'. A couple of days later the baby died from its injuries. So yes Patrick, if there were a god, he would need to be hunted down like a vicious animal and his reign of terror brought to an end. All the evil that has been committed by man over all time pales into insignificance compared to god's crimes. The Man Who Sued God

    Luckily he doesn't exist, and we can concentrate on prosecuting real people committing real crimes. And on a lighter note, have you seen the comedy movie 'The Man Who Sued God' starring Billy Connolly?

  232. Comment by David, 15 Mar, 2015

    I was in the Philippines just after the devastating cyclone, and the news was showing a group of church officials inspecting all the ruined churches. Most of the ruins were churches. You would have thought there might be a message there somewhere. But they were determined to rebuild them as a demonstration of their faith stupidity.

  233. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 Mar, 2015

    Hi David. This blind refusal to consider the bigger picture — where was god in our hour of need? — has always confounded me. Surely these disasters and their ruined churches must introduce some worrying doubts and cause more than just a few sleepless nights? Their god hasn't protected their churches this time, or the last time, why would they think he will protect them next time? As you say, stupidity!

  234. Comment by Monica, 02 Apr, 2015

    Hello John, I recently worked on a video that scientifically explains how vaccines work:

    http://carrington.edu/blog/medical/vaccines/vaccines-work/

    Would you mind sharing it on social media? I would much appreciate it.

  235. Comment by Ron, 17 Apr, 2015

    Hi John. You may have caught up with a recent story out of Texas regarding the death of a 2 yr old boy at the hands of complete religious nutcases. Namely his parents and so called pastors at a suburban "church" run from the home of a woman, now in custody. The poor kid was starved to death over 25 days because he was believed to be possessed by a demon, which was to be got rid of. I realise you have written about similar absurdities in the past but this one upsets me a great deal. What is really bizarre is this woman "pastor", who is seen by many as a "prophet" and obviously thinks she is another god, actually held a resurrection ceremony called "the rising" the day after the boy died, to revive him. Can you believe this? The mother was asked why she was allowing the boy to starve like that. Her answer? You guessed it. "Gods will". A church member saw the boy fall and hit his head several times as he was so frail and weak but did not help because of his "possession". Pastors scolded a woman who tried to feed him.

    Call me naïve, but I cannot get a handle on this sort of weird evil still taking place in 2015 in a first world country like the USA. Though I believe most involved were Mexican. I don't, for one second believe that boy was possessed by a demon. The only evil devils in this sad case appear to be the adults that were in the short sad little life of that unfortunate boy. And gods will? I don't think so. You and I would say that god appears to be a nasty piece of work at times but why would he want to take a 2 yr old? His brain is not developed, he has no life experience yet, what possible use would he be in the kingdom? Where is the purpose? And in those long 25 days of just water why did no-one say "Stop. Enough of this stupid evil nonsense"? What a sad, sad story that makes me feel so angry. I cannot write any more.

  236. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Apr, 2015

    Hi Ron. No I hadn't come across that story of yet another unnecessary death at the hands of religious believers. That humans can act this way towards others, let alone helpless children, when in the thrall of some god once again demonstrates how dangerous it is to stop thinking and hand control over to primitive superstition.

    Can I believe that these fools attempted a exorcism and held a resurrection ceremony to revive him? Yes I can, although your typical Christian will no doubt shake their head and ask, What were these people thinking? But the very basis of Christianity is the reality of resurrection, if Christians can't believe that God could revive a child, then why are they Christians? I'm continually surprised that Christians put all manner of constraints on what they think their God can do and might do. He's God for Christ's sake, he can do anything he wants, from saving lives to destroying cities with earthquakes. The Bible clearly talks of demon possession, with Jesus being quite adept at ridding people of them. If you believe in God and Jesus and the Bible, you MUST believe in the reality of demon possession. Christianity is not a 'do-it-yourself' religion where you get to pick the bits you like and can believe in, and lets you freely reject the rest as superstitious nonsense. The article I read said that, regarding the pastor, 'Members of the church believe Mrs. Meza can talk directly to God'. I know why I giggle when I read claims like this, but why do most Christian also shake their heads in disbelief? The Bible is full of people talking with God, and him talking back. Why is it now a sign, even with Christians, of someone that's delusional? Why won't Christians believe that God would actually talk with them anymore? Is he dead?

    As distressing and disgusting as I find the acts of those Christians in killing that child, they were merely being true believers and you can't fault them for their sincerity and devotion to their god. That this unthinking devotion lead to misery and a suffering death is exactly what blind faith causes, and has caused since time immemorial. We have Christians in the US murdering abortion doctors and homosexuals, and the atrocities committed by Muslims are growing by the day. The only reason that we're not surrounded by death and despair is that the great majority of religious believers, thankfully, have let their humanity override their religion. While they don't see themselves as actively disobeying their god, that is in reality exactly what they're doing. So they refuse to perform exorcisms of demons as described in the Bible, or to kill homosexuals and disobedient child as commanded in the Bible. Every god believer bar the fundamentalists has redesigned their beliefs to fit in with their secular desires and lifestyle. We praise the religious that don't kill non-believers or harm their children as being good Christians, Jews and Muslims, when in fact we should praise them for being good citizens, since by not harming those of other religions they are being terrible Christians, Jews and Muslims. Apathy among most religious people is what keeps most societies civil, if religious people truly believed as they claim they do, then the world would be a war zone.

    As for where this happened, the USA is a real contradiction. Over the entire world, as countries become more educated and secular they generally also become less religious. But not the USA, as a nation they are as religious as the likes of Iran and Afghanistan. A modern assault rifle in one hand and a primitive holy book in the other. And it's not just Mexican immigrants distorting the figures, Christian fundamentalists are in positions of power, from senators right through to President George Bush, both father and son. It was Bush Sen. who when he was president said he didn't think that atheists should be allowed to be American citizens.

    Of course good religious people will ask how other religious folk could kill this child, why did no one sense that it had gone too far? But instead of wondering what was going on in that house, Christians should be wondering what was happening in the world in general. But unfortunately they're adverse to asking the hard questions. Hell, they won't even ask the easy questions! They'll say, The Christian god, my god, would never work like this, he's not into demon possession, well... not anymore. And that's where the thinking stops. But if this is true, then why didn't your god stop them, why didn't he intervene? Perhaps for the same reason the Tooth Fairy didn't intervene! If their god is real, then he knew what was happening, and let it continue. The religious need to start thinking, if my god is real, if he loves us and wants to help, is this what the world would look like? Would innocent children starve to death, would young girls be kidnapped in Nigeria, could a suicidal pilot fly a passenger plane into a mountain, would school kids be murdered in Pakistan, would thousands be killed in natural disasters? If my god is real then shouldn't I see evidence of his beneficence, of his good work as he intervenes in our lives? These questions live in worlds the religious never visit.

    Of God, you ask, 'why would he want to take a 2 yr old?' But the reality is that, if real, then God takes babies, toddlers and young children every second of every day, although it's not usually in such torturous circumstances. This widespread belief that a death is 'God's will', if true, means that God has an insatiable need for dead humans, young and old. But as you say Ron, what possible need could an all-powerful god have for a 2 yr old, or any human for that matter? What could be the purpose? Even if God, like his priests, has a sexual proclivity for children, being all-powerful means he could just make as many as he wants, exact copies if he wants, he doesn't need to hunt and kill children on Earth to fuel his needs.

    Unless God doesn't have a use for dead children at all, beyond using them as a tool on Earth. Perhaps God is a sick bastard that gets his jollies by watching children suffer as they die and watching their parents suffer and grieve afterwards. Let's remember that if God is real, then he was lounging on the sofa the entire time that the child took to die. And not only that, being God, he was in the child's mind experiencing every second of suffering as no parent ever could. And he did nothing. Nothing.

    Of course along with the childish excuse — it's God's will — the religious also insist that God works in mysterious ways and his will is not for us to understand. This allows their God to commit the most cruel, senseless and atrocious acts imaginable and for his followers to accept that he must have a very good reason for acting like a demon rather than a loving god, a reason that we mere humans can't hope to understand. And their God has never even attempted to explain his actions, which in itself is rather strange. Shouldn't an all-powerful, all-knowing god, like a good teacher, be able to find a way to explain his actions, even in broad strokes? Why is this evidently beyond God's powers? If a human commits a mere fraction of the atrocities of the sort attributed to God, just one even, humans en masse demand they be restrained, that they face justice, and request an explanation for their action. And yet when God commits terrible acts, against which all human atrocities pale into insignificance, god believers wouldn't think of bringing him to justice or even questioning his motives, they simply go on with their subservient lives and say, I'm sure he had a good reason for acting as he did. That they'll let their god murder children and yet won't let me cheat on my taxes demonstrates that if there is any morality in their religion, it is a sick and depraved morality.

  237. Comment by mike, 17 Apr, 2015

    John, you'll be happy to know that the Federal Government here (Australia) has just announced a withdrawal of child care benefits and welfare payments for families who will not vaccinate their children. Exemptions will apply for those who for medical reasons are unable to vaccinate. There is some pressure to provide religious exemptions also, though this is unlikely to proceed as there are very few numbers in this category. Most mainstream religions aren't opposed to vaccination. The ones that are tend to be small and insular and not reliant on government benefits anyway.

    There is the usual outcry from various groups who claim this is restricting the parents' right to choose. I see it as not restricting their right to choose at all, it is simply removing a government/taxpayer endorsement of their ill-informed choices. If they want to choose not to vaccinate they can but they will have to fund their lifestyle choices themselves.

    It's a win for science and evidence based policy

  238. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Apr, 2015

    Hi Mike. Yes I saw that on the TV News, followed by our government saying that they wouldn't be doing likewise. Our PM said people needed to be able to choose, as there was a risk involved with vaccination, which I thought was poorly worded and merely provided support for those against vaccination. Now the anti-vaccination movement can say that even the PM is saying that it's risky to vaccinate and is therefore hesitant to make it in anyway compulsory. Of course there is a risk of harm from a vaccine, but it is very small when compared to not getting vaccinated. There is a risk in everything we do, from getting out of bed to not getting of bed. And as you say, the right to choose to vaccinate or not is still there, there is merely an extra condition placed on receiving child care benefits and welfare payments. It's like people claiming that there is the condition that they can't get an unemployment benefit unless they actively look for work. But again they do have the choice, they can refuse the benefit.

    And of course a real problem is that unvaccinated kids can avoid any illness (by sheer luck), so the parents feel validated, but their lack of vaccination can still allow epidemics to occur and others to suffer.

    Perhaps in NZ people could refuse vaccination but would have to sign a wavier and liability forms, and if their kids contracted the specific disease and/or caused others to contract it, then they would have to meet all the financial costs involved in treating it, which could be enormous in an epidemic. It seems unfair that parents can be vociferous in refusing a hospital vaccination and then turn up and demand free treatment if their kids get sick. If they shun what modern medicine says is the best advice, then they shouldn't then run to doctors when their kids get a sniffle and a few spots.

  239. Comment by Fermin, 20 Apr, 2015

    Why do you not disclose your full names on your website If you are so valiant to post your beliefs?

  240. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Apr, 2015

    Two main reasons really. One, as you said, it's about our beliefs, not about us per se. We want people to think about the silly beliefs we discuss, not about what we look like, where we live and how we could wear such a shirt in public.

    Think of any comment we've made on our website, be it on gods or ghosts or aliens, how would the view expressed in that comment change if you suddenly realised that it was spoken not by someone called John in a place you've probably never heard of, but someone called John Johnson in a place you've probably never heard of? None of us are famous, we haven't written any books or been on TV. We're not claiming to be an authority because of some degree we might hold. How would knowing that my full name is John Johnson change anything? Look at people marching in protests worldwide, not one puts their name boldly above their message on the placard they're carrying. It's not that they're hiding their identity necessarily, but simply that their identity has no real relevance to the message they are delivering.

    And even if we did provide our full names, with the Internet being what it is, you would have no way of knowing if our names, qualifications and experiences were actually real. But the one thing you can trust is the reasoning and logic of an argument, even from a faceless person. Whether delivered by an unqualified street cleaner or an over-qualified professor, an argument if found credible can change minds. An argument can be considered, its evidence verified, all without any need to know the pedigree of the person who presented it. I just fail to see how your knowing that my name is John Johnson somehow gives my comments more, or less, credibility.

    The second reason we don't openly give out personal details is for reasons of security. Experts are continually advising Internet users that we shouldn't reveal identifying details online, since they can be misused, and we see no good reason to ignore their advice. We've already had a few people contact us asking for our names, addresses and/or phone numbers. And based on their earlier comments we doubt that they were simply wanting to send us money or a nice gift. There is a difference between valiantly expressing our beliefs and foolishly publishing our contact details. Think of these scenarios. I could say to someone, if you're so brave to intervene in a mugging of an old lady by some gang members, why aren't you brave enough to give the gang members your name and address so they know where to find you in case they want to later thank you for getting involved? If you're brave enough to criticise and condemn Islamists for their violent and murderous acts, why aren't you brave enough to tell them where you live? Of course you might argue that you're not asking for an address, merely a full name. Of course, thanks to the Internet, it only takes a few seconds to go from a name to an address.

    The reality is that people that know us personally know of our connection with 'Silly Beliefs', it's no secret, and for the people that don't know us, whatever name was attached to our website would be meaningless to them. But if you think that changing 'John' to 'John Johnson' would somehow make an important difference, I'd love to hear your reason.

  241. Comment by Ron, 21 Apr, 2015

    Hello John. You kindly posted my comment dated March 12 re. an experience I had 20 yrs ago with a homeopathic product. It was to deal with diabolical sleep problems from a bad stress related episode. I mentioned an almost miraculous return to health in 2 days which prompted a strong faith and belief in homeopathy at that time. In recent yrs however I've wondered if it was my own amazing healing system that was simply ready. At the end of your astute reply you quoted some books as suggested reading. Subsequently, I had my library get one of those in for me called "Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial". A mind opening educational read that has completely turned me off homeopathy for the absolute multi million dollar con that it is. What really got me was the section dealing with dilutions. My "remedy" was 30c, a very common strength. Therefore, the original substance has been diluted by a factor of 1 followed by 60 zeros!!!! In other words it is unlikely to have a single molecule of the supposed active substance. It is just water. Useless. A 30ml bottle retails around $14 which surely must make it the most expensive water on the planet.To put it another way, to get 1 molecule out of a 30c remedy you would need a pill with a diameter equal to the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Incredibly, millions still spend millions on this totally ineffective, shambolic treatment. I do not handle jet-lag well at all and I often see a Homeopathic jet-lag remedy on sale at Christchurch Airport. With an upcoming trip to Asia on the cards I was intending to purchase, but not now. There are other ways to deal with the issue. In my defence, it was 20 yrs ago. I had no computer and did no research like google searches and I was desperate for any recommendation, in this case, from a doctor. Thanks John for steering me towards that book. I learnt a lot, and not just about Homeopathy.

  242. Comment by Patrick, 30 Apr, 2015

    Hi John, I was watching a documentary recently on Michelangelo. Need I say that I was impressed by his masterpieces? But I also noticed that most of his works was closely related to religion. Michelangelo's case is unfortunately far from being rare. If someone is interested in art, he or she will quickly notice the overwhelming predominance of religious pictures, sculptures, mosaics, embroidery, et cetera, amongst the masterpieces of past great artists.

    I am disappointed to notice this, really disappointed. What was the interest to draw a virgin Mary painting that had already been drawn hundreds of times before? Or to carve a Jesus on the cross for the 10,000th time?? Just imagine all the fabulous art masterpieces that these geniuses could have offered us ... Instead of that we now have to contemplate brilliant, but at the same time habitual and boring things.

    This tyranny has without any doubt crippled the imaginative creativity of these great artists and one can now only notice and regret this under achievement.

    P.S. — The documentary on Michelangelo was far from a discovery for me. I've been lucky to travel to several countries and it was nothing more than a sad reminder.

  243. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Apr, 2015

    Hi Patrick. You're quite right, and of course I had noticed the depressing amount of boring religious art works in the world. If you've been to the Vatican to look at Michelangelo's painting in the Sistine Chapel, you'll know that you're forced to slowly pass through room after room full of religious paintings and statues, and if you're like me, by the time you get to the Sistine Chapel, frankly you're quite sick to death of religious paintings, and after a cursory glance, quickly look for an exit. There is no doubt that Michelangelo had much more skill with a brush and a chisel than I have, but that said, I still wouldn't want his artwork on my ceiling or his David statue in my garden. A realistic, life-size T-Rex, now that would be a different matter.

    I can certainly appreciate the skill needed to create certain religious paintings and statues, but the works themselves don't speak to me I'm afraid. I can't think of one that I would want to own a copy of. Like you I've travelled a bit and every religion, be it Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism etc. have untold examples of their religious art that they want to show visitors. Actually I've just thought of some religious art work I do like, the statues on temples in Khajuraho in India and the cave paintings from 10 to 30 thousand years ago. I'm one of those people that say, 'I don't know much about art, but I know what I like'.

    But I hadn't considered what art creations the world might have missed out on, due to the best artists mostly being in the employ of some religion. Clearly we have lost something great that can never be regained. Some religious folk have said that it was only their connection with the divine that allowed these artists to create such masterpieces. Bullshit I say. If that were true, then only those artists belonging to the one true religion would have created great art, all the other religions would have created mediocre pieces since they had no divine inspiration, but that clearly isn't the case. All religions have examples of masterpieces. But without the influence of religion, clearly these talented and creative people would still have produced amazing art, no doubt getting their inspiration and motivation from the natural world rather than a fantasy one. Dark AgesSecularism hasn't seen great art disappear. As many have commented on, if we just consider Christianity, they effectively put progress on hold for a 1,000 years. Imagine the scientific and humanitarian progress that an extra 1,000 years could have given us, if the knowledge of the Greeks and Romans had been allowed to continue without pause. No doubt the same can be said for the amazing and unknown art that the world's religions prevented from ever being created. (Click on image.)

    Related to all this, when atheists argue that due to untold atrocities the world would have been better without religion, the religious lament over all the religious art that would be lost to the world. But as I read someone respond to this view recently, how much is a painting worth in human suffering? Would we, should we, be willing for all the religious art to disappear from the world if that would also have prevented the unnecessary suffering and deaths of untold millions of people throughout history caused by the religions that commissioned that art? Who would argue that the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is worth 10 million deaths? What about 1 million, or 100,000 or even a hundred deaths? What decent person would accept the torture and murder of even one innocent person just so that the Vatican could get some nice pieces of art to hang on their walls? Yes, if religon had never been invented then we would lose untold pieces of religious art, but people get to live. Which is more important? Plus we wouldn't have lost the concept of art, merely the religious motivation for art.

    And there is no doubt that millions upon millions of innocent people have suffered and died due to religion, and we can't change that, but personally I would sacrifice every piece of religious art work to a bonfire if it would prevent even some of the future deaths that will be caused by the religious.

  244. Comment by Ted, 30 Apr, 2015

    I find myself rejoicing that the phenomenon Patrick describes cannot hold music in its thrall. Music, at least the sort unassociated with words, is the one art that is completely abstract, on which the listener is at total liberty to impose whatever images and responses he wishes, either consciously or unconsciously. What the creator of a piece of music thought, what drove him to create, is purely anecdotal and about as significant as whether he had sausages for breakfast. Curiously, having never had the slightest interest in religion, for many years I fell foul of a peculiar converse associative trap. I read that composers such as Bach were very religious and overwhelmingly inspired by their religion, so I therefore rejected their music because I considered religion nonsense. Silly me. It wasn't until my fifties that I realised I could listen to the Well Tempered Clavier and enjoy it very much while imagining anything from galaxies to tadpoles.

    Of course the trick cannot be applied if you really don't like the music for aural reasons. Messiaen was religiously inspired too but his stuff turns me right off musically. Like you, John, I recognise what I like and trust my intuitive response regardless of considerations of fame or popularity. I have never found reason to doubt this impulse, aside from the strictly educational. The ruse can be used for some literature too, particularly poetry, if it is sufficiently abstract, such as that of T.S. Eliot. He was very devout but his poetry has an abstract beauty quite beyond religion.

    Interesting discussion.

  245. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 May, 2015

    Good point Ted, you can indeed listen to music without vocals, and if you haven't been told how you're supposed to feel, the effect of that music on you could well be radically different to what the composer intended. Religious thoughts that can be conveyed to others are probably quite difficult if not impossible to put to music. That said, I have also viewed paintings, both religious and secular, where I was ignorant of the artist's motivation or intent, and came away with impressions that I later discovered bore no resemblance to what the artists apparently intended. Is that a failure on the part of the artist, who often expects a certain prior knowledge from those who view his work, or simply that art and music can be experienced on many levels, many of which the artist would be oblivious to?

  246. Comment by Ted, 01 May, 2015

    Your question is often vigorously debated on the piano forums I frequent, John, and indeed among musicians I know personally. I take the minority position on it, believing music actually communicates nothing at all in itself, with meaning being imposed by the listening brain. But of course, if the listener has accumulated social, personal, historical and literary images and associations, then these will feature in his response. As a religious example, take Schubert's "Ave Maria", a melody of deep beauty which, like many children, I heard for the first time in Disney's "Fantasia", contrasted as it was, with Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain". Now suppose Disney had not announced that the pair depicted the "eternal struggle between the profane and the sacred". Indeed, suppose there had been no infernal or celestial imagery. Would these programmes have arisen spontaneously, in any listener, purely from the musical sound of the two works?

    I don't claim to know the whole story, but I suggest not. One reason is that when we listen to music from other cultures, unless we are told in advance, we are completely clueless about meanings and traditions of this sort. I like Beijing Opera, guzheng music, Indian ragas and all sorts of world music very much, and a very elaborate network of meanings exists for their traditional programmes. But how could I possibly discern these from just listening ? Of course I couldn't, because I haven't been told them in advance. However, I can hear much of vital interest in the sound and I take pleasure in allowing my mind to run free with whatever associations it pleases.

    There are many other examples to reinforce my point of view, even within Western music. It suffices to cite Rachmaninoff's horrified reaction to an English audience bursting into laughter during a performance of one of his serious works. He had accidentally rewritten "Three Blind Mice" as one of his themes. Fascinating as all this is, it probably digresses too much from the theme of your site. Nonetheless, it seems to me that nothing in music holds religious meaning in any obligatory or intrinsic sense, and thank goodness for that!

  247. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 May, 2015

    Well, a minority position it may be Ted, but I'm with you. I can't discern any religious meaning in music, or how any could be transmitted. Certainly music can evoke emotions, look at how a great soundtrack can improve a movie. But no way could a piece of music tell the story of Jesus or Shiva or Thor to someone ignorant of the particular religion. It can only act as a soundtrack to your current thoughts. Some music does have immediate associations with a particular religion, but that's only because that association has been forced upon us through repetition, not because the music conveys some subconscious message about some god. Whenever I hear the 'William Tell Overture' I can't help but think of the theme to 'The Lone Ranger', although I doubt that Rossini had that in mind when he composed it.

  248. Comment by Patrick, 04 May, 2015

    Dear John & Ted, thanks for your comments regarding my post. I think that a simple and effective illustration of what we are discussing would be the world's best actors and actresses like Marlon Brando, Al Pacino or Helen Mirren playing biblical characters throughout their whole career... Or famous singers singing only religious songs! How can artists improve if they are to do the same thing endlessly?

    For sure, cars, planes, et cetera, didn't exist in former times, but there was still more than enough material (including abstract art which is timeless and infinite) for these great artists to spend their precious time on. This would have had an immense effect on them and on their works. But it is highly unlikely that powerful religious blokes who decided everything would have encouraged or even allowed this.

  249. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 May, 2015

    Yes Patrick, the modern world would be a far poorer place if our famous artists, actors and singers were still constrained by religion. I guess we'll never know historically what masterpieces and insights we've lost because of the suffocating control of religion. We only have to think of the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo and Shakespeare to glimpse at what could be achieved when intelligent, creative people looked beyond religion. But of course we also have to remember the Church dragging Galileo before the Inquisition and burning Giordano Bruno at the stake to see how they viewed those that did think beyond approved religious subjects. Murderous Muslim fundamentalists today aren't doing anything that the Christians haven't already done.

    And while Christians today have largely rejected violent enforcement of their beliefs (they had little choice), they haven't stopped trying to return the world to a time when all people should be devout and where all they should be thinking about, singing about or representing in art is God. The other day I received an advert in the mail for an upcoming 'Conference for all Children's Ministry Leaders'. It told me that 'Our children are... the church of tomorrow', and that by attending I would 'Discover how to inspire this generation to take God's church forward into the future'. As it was in the past, the Church still works on the premise that if you can brainwash people when they're still naïve kids, then you're more likely to keep them deluded for life. How many of these 'good' Christians might have given the world something truly valuable if they had only looked beyond thinking about, singing about, painting and praising an invisible fairy?

  250. Comment by Anonymous-13, 26 Jul, 2015

    Yesterday, I just happened to surf my 'Free to Air' channels prior to the 6pm news and came across this leach dishing out the most abominable lies on that wretched Shine TV. How on earth can this absolute rubbish be allowed to be broadcast, largely to the ethnic groups who brainwashed in the first place. This to me is a blatant example of the 'Dark Ages' brainwashing, but what is far worse, he and his ilk were using images of Space made possible by the collective intelligence of tens of thousands of scientists who have given humanity the chance to see (so far) the realms of the universe for the first time in our entire history as a result of technical tsunami, the result of the Space Age. I am particularly angry because as a foundation member (1960) of our local Astronomical Society, I have devoted many years and a considerable amount of money promoting the subject to visitors worldwide and many thousands of children from the schools in our region and beyond and to see and hear the crap this parasite was dishing out was just too much.

    These mongrels, dishing out this sort of blatant misinformation need to absolutely barred from our country. It appears that it was a 'Calvin Smith' show.

  251. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Jul, 2015

    I can identify with your anger and frustration, that in the 21st century religious nutters can not only continue to push their silly fantasies, but can utilise the technology developed by their enemy to do so. On the bright side, fundamentalist Christians are only using TV and the Internet, not TV, the Internet and assault rifles like fundamentalist Muslims.

    My Freeview TV can't receive Shine TV but I read that 'Shine TV is a television network of Rhema Media - New Zealand's largest Christian media organisation'. However I can receive a similar channel called 'Firstlight', which I read has 'the common mission to proclaim God's love throughout New Zealand'. I've watched the odd program occasionally, and they are all depressingly bad and consistently based, as you say, on lies, absolute rubbish and blatant misinformation. But this is nothing new, this has been the nature of religion for thousands of years, the only thing that has changed over the years is the medium used to push these untruths.

    What can we do to combat this flood of ignorance? Being a fan of free speech, I'm not for trying to ban views that conflict with mine. As long as they aren't advocating real harm to others then we must let people rave about their silly belief in sky fairies. Of course the likes of Islamists brainwashing followers to commit murder is real harm and must be squashed, but childish Christians talking of a man walking on water and others walking with dinosaurs doesn't deserve a legal ban. These poor deluded people need to be helped, not ostracised. Of course these Christians lying to naive, gullible, vulnerable people is a form of harm, in that people are being misled, but in a free world we all have the right to push our opinions. All we can do is what you've already been doing over the years, promote the truth.

    Every week various local churches near me advertise in free newspapers the talks they're offering to the public, often from visiting speakers; one calls their offering 'Supernatural Sundays'. We also have a local astronomy club, but do they offer talks like the churches do? No. They don't promote themselves, if anything they discourage interest. The public has had debates over recent years concerning euthanasia, homosexuality and abortion, and yet the only ones organising talks and discussions have been the churches. They even visit me at home! As much as I disagree with their worldview, you have to admire their willingness to spend time and money to promote their view. At my local library I can pick up free Christian magazines and view numerous other New Age groups advertising their nonsense, but no information about skeptic or atheist groups or any science group, such as ones interested in the stars or fossils. As mentioned, we have not one but at least two TV channels in NZ, as well as radio stations, dedicated solely to promoting Christianity. The Freeview TV that I receive has some 19 channels, but not only are none of them dedicated to the likes of science and history, none of the main channels allocate even a small viewing slot to science and history documentaries. And no, I don't accept that documentaries that are called 'When Animals Attack', 'Plastic Surgery Gone Wrong' or 'Destroyed in Seconds' are real documentaries. Intelligent documentaries are a rare beast on TV, and programmers are apparently convinced that if they must show a documentary every year or so, it must be one that David Attenborough made. Yet a quick search on the Internet (eg 'Top Documentary Films') shows that there have been a wealth of fascinating documentaries made, but even though nudity is also now rare on TV, it's still seen far more often than a good documentary. Of course if we want a cooking show, a cop drama or some sport, we are spoilt for choice.

    The reality is, I feel, that many people that could promote a scientific worldview simply can't be bothered, unlike the churches that are willing to put in the effort. And people, even religious people, do have an interest in science. As you say, Christian TV, and their magazines, love to use the images of science, especially space images, to amaze their followers. They know that people accept much of what science tells us, that huge galaxies and small cells exist, and they find it fascinating. Christianity knows that they must incorporate science into their spiel, people expect it, but of course they don't tell the whole story. They might relate reasonably accurate descriptions of galaxies and cells, but then they ruin it by insisting that God made those galaxies and cells. But Christians I expect think that they're getting the best of both worlds, learning about both science and God. And in this sense they are lucky. But as naturalist, if I want to discuss or learn about science and/or gods, there are absolutely zero groups competing for my support. We have 'Supernatural Sundays' but no 'Natural Sundays'. Our bookstores are full of Bibles and books by psychic mediums and astrologers, but my local Whitcoulls store recently got rid of their popular science section. We do have a Christian book store committed 100% to Christianity, and yet our largest bookstore can't even devote a single shelf to science. Our apathy could be our undoing. In the future we may have the most amazing electronic devices, but most of the public might have no real idea how they work... magic? On the TV news the other night the newsreaders told us that scientists naming a mountain range on Pluto after Edmund Hillary meant that his fame now stretched across the galaxy. The reality is that we've only just reached the edge of the solar system, not the galaxy. That's the level of knowledge one gets when you rely on Hollywood to teach us science.

    A few brave souls are promoting real science, not Christian 'science', to the public, but the Christians must be rapt that mainly only their TV channels and door knocking evangelists are prepared to discuss the big questions, and no, who won 'Dancing with the Stars' or have they selected the right All Blacks are not the big questions.

  252. Comment by Mikaere, 27 Jul, 2015

    Hi John.

    'Our apathy could be our undoing.'
    I think you are spot-on with this sentence, John. The more technology and science make things easier for us, the fewer the problems we need to solve. With this perhaps comes a decline in critical thinking.

    Our media is merely a reflection of society, where mediocrity is the norm. I haven't had television for over six years. When I stay in a motel occasionally, I flick through the fifty or so channels available. Inane chat shows, 'reality' T.V; pseudo documentaries and tabloid newscasts abound. I find myself changing channels rapidly, astounded at what passes for entertainment. It seems only cooking competitions, moronic celebrities and sport are worthwhile.

    Such vacuous fare soon produces a sort of torpor and I often fall asleep. I suspect many people experience similar lethargy. What fertile ground for people who wish to instil their messages! As you say, it seems to be mainly the religious who have the energy to do this, except the advertising people who desecrate movies every 9 minutes. Of course, the evangelists are funded by the gullible masses and are tax-exempt. What passes for semi-decent documentary is often disrupted by frequent advertising and endless repetition, in case viewers have forgotten what had happened before the ad breaks. I'd guess about 25 minutes in the hour would be original content.

    So, the fundamentalist nutters and psychopaths, creationists, cynical TV extortionists et al have the perfect medium to address the multitudes and some of their messages will stick. If they mix in a bit of science to give an air of legitimacy, some Hollywood puffery as dessert and feature a charismatic presenter, then their messages will be powerful. What would people rather watch, Russell Crowe throwing unbelievers off the ark, watched adoringly by a gorgeous wife or two, or a sober discussion on quantum theories?

    Oh well, I think I'll go and watch Ghostbusters on YouTube.

  253. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Jul, 2015

    You're right Mikaere, 'Our media is merely a reflection of society, where mediocrity is the norm'. Society has long said we shouldn't discuss the likes of politics, sex and religion in polite company, and this has morphed to include other contentious topics of our time, like euthanasia and immigration. Even if some annoying, socially-challenged person like me raises one of these topics, it's frustrating how quickly people steer the conversation back into safer waters, like discussing the weather or the rugby. The media pretend that they want to keep us informed, not just on what celebrities are doing, but even on the serious topics, however it's all very superficial and little more than sound bites. A mere token effort. They refuse to ask probing questions, plus they cripple their efforts by falsely believing that every debate is balanced and both sides deserve equal time, eg did the door slam due to the wind or ghosts? The media are getting rid of investigative reporters and cancelling serious current affairs TV shows, and are instead focusing solely on profits. Thus the need to dumb down their product to cater for their largest market, the poorly informed and apathetic masses that yearn for stories about sports personalities and the latest fashion accessories, plus their horoscopes.

    People marvel at what science and technology has given us, but even so, for far too many it's all a mystery as to why our world works as it does. Worse still, they generally don't care that they don't know. Even people curious enough to ask a question can't be bothered with anything but a quick answer. Over many years I've offered to lend friends a good book on a topic they've wondered about, and not once has anyone ever accepted my offer. As you said Mikaere, the more things are made easier for us, the fewer problems we need to solve. Thus we lose the ability to even solve problems. Youth have no problems operating their smart phones and games consoles, but if these devices develop a fault then they are lost. The answer: if it's software, then reload the program; if it's hardware, buy a new one. Either way, don't try to understand and actually fix the real problem. I think this belief that all young people are whizz kids with technology is a fallacy. They are merely proficient operators, in the same way that we can all quickly change channels on our TV and use a cordless drill, but can't fix them. We are good at using tools, but we are losing the knowledge of how our tools work. Many tools are now sealed to even prevent us from being curious about what's inside. We are fast moving towards a society where there will be a small minority that understand science and technology and can design, build and repair our devices, and a great unwashed majority that merely use these mysterious devices.

    This spreading ignorance, and not just about science but history as well, leaves people open to the likes of religious fundamentalists who want to fill our heads with their silly stories as to the how and why of the universe. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy escaping with a good science fiction movie or a silly comedy on TV, but I can't see why our TV content providers can't squeeze in a measly 2 or 3 hours of intelligent documentaries in amongst the 3,000 plus hours that they currently broadcast to my TV each week.

  254. Comment by Mikaere, 28 Jul, 2015

    Hi again John. Just a thank you for standing up to the bullies with silly beliefs. The attached video shows a young man who swims against the tide - this time against the silly beliefs and practices of so-called liberal progressives. He has posted a number of videos exposing increasing violence and intolerance in Sweden and the political response to it - indeed a silly and dangerous belief-set. Similar messages from Pat Condell show the same thing is happening in the UK.

    Meanwhile in Sweden - Episode 1

  255. Comment by Ron, 10 Aug, 2015

    Hi John. Recently read an article in a newspaper about abusive priests escaping justice due to sexual abuse on boys and girls. In NZ victims continue to come forward yearly in increasing numbers, decades after the events. The Catholic church has been unwilling to dig into its dark past, preferring that police be informed. Standard practice in the past was a payment for silence. A victim from the 70s immediately complained to police and the church but he has no faith in either as it took 25 yrs for the priest to be jailed. The question asked is why was the church always left to investigate itself. Progress appears slow coming but an independent commission is on the horizon now. This topic has been covered well on your site and in the media re. priests but not much related to nuns. The subject of abuse from and to nuns makes sickening reading. Of course, there is info on the net and some shocking books, a good one being Lucifers Lodge: satanic ritual abuse in the Catholic Church 2009 by William H. Kennedy. Hundreds are suing in the UK over endless abuse of children in the care of nuns decades back. These elderly were some of those kids. Ruthless beatings and extreme cruelty were common everyday events, usually for trivial stuff. These nuns seemed to hate children or lacked care training. The outside world thought they represented compassion and kindness. Some were called sisters of mercy. The atrocities were unlimited, such as a girl having her legs burnt with a red hot poker to exorcise the devil. A girl nearly losing both legs from infection due to nun pulling out ingrown toenails with pliers. It is endless. Injuries were hidden from visitors by throwing kids into black holes with no ventilation, light or bedding. When a brutal nun died the children were ordered to pray for her in heaven!!!

    Then there is the sexual abuse of nuns, from priests but also nuns to nuns. 40% of nuns in the USA admit they have been abused. Infanticide/abortions has been the answer for those pregnant. A nun reported having her front teeth knocked out when refusing a lecherous priest. A mother superior ordered 10+ young nuns to strip naked so 2 or 3 drunk priests could look them over and select one to take with him. Seems in a convent a priest can do what he wants and hide behind the cloak of religion. After such a thing that same priest can say Mass in church then later hear confessions. Those confessors believe he has powers of absolution for their sins. Some see him as God. To quote a section from Lucifers Lodge, Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) presided over the 2nd pornography of the papacy. He presided over the greatest, most widespread immoral scandal of sexual perversion in church history. Never in the annals of recorded history has such a scandal been displayed for the world to see.

    So much nauseating stuff that gets worse the further back one goes. With an enormous amount of data gleaned by the Vatican regarding sexual activity of the RC clergy the Pope must have known yet nothing was done. Never mind the victims welfare. Never mind the broken chastity vows. The high price of celibacy, eh? We left the Catholic church yrs ago, long before I learned about all this. It may sound silly but I could never belong to such a church knowing so much about it. We do not belong to any church. However the catholic church remains very popular. I pass one every early Saturday evening and its full to the front doors always. I ponder on how many of those folk know what we know, more or less. Would such dreadful revelations make any difference or do they, as the church has done, sweep it under the carpet. I tried to mention some of this to a devout catholic and was met with total, voice raising denial.

  256. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Aug, 2015

    Hi Ron. The history of what good Catholics got up to is indeed quite nauseating stuff. Sexual, physical and psychological abuse abounds, and what has been exposed will only be a fraction of what actually occurred. Worse still is that it's still occurring, the Catholic Church hasn't gone the way of the dodo, the dinosaurs or the Nazis.

    The reason why the church was always left to investigate itself is that Catholics believe they are above the law and answer only to their god. To the Vatican, giving a man-made justice system control over their actions is as unthinkable as it would be for me to let a Muslim dictate what movies I watched. The Vatican has its own people to investigate claims of wrongdoing, its own lawyers and courts. and they don't recognise our secular justice system. The Vatican sees itself as a sovereign country, accountable to no one. What other religion has representatives at the United Nations? And unfortunately many in the secular justice system were Catholics and were perfectly willing to let the Catholic Church police themselves, and they most certainly didn't want to embarrass the Church, their Church, by investigating or arresting a Catholic priest or nun for abuse. The Church would take care of their own. All would be well.

    Of course all wasn't well, the Church wasn't investigating and punishing the abusive priests and nuns, they were protecting them and hiding their actions from everyone. And the Catholic flock were generally oblivious to the evil that flowed through their church, the thought that priests and nuns were anything other than caring people doing God's work was beyond contemplation. But of course now we know different, the filth inside the Church has been exposed, but the majority of Catholics are still in denial apparently, seemingly telling themselves that there were only one or two deviant priests, somewhere overseas, and they're either now dead or in prison. The Vatican has excised the cancer and is healthy again, all is now well. So are Catholics simply naïve and ignorant to believe such lies, or are they consciously suppressing the clear signs of rot, too scared to reject their vindictive god and walk away? Personally I know two sorts of people that were raised as Catholics, those that are disgusted by the behaviour of their Church and have left the fold, and those that are in blind denial and are still kneeling submissively before their priest. For some there is no evil great enough to tear them away from their delusion. Those people sicken me.

  257. Comment by John, 19 Aug, 2015

    Dear Other John @ silly beliefs!

    Not sure where or if this book fits into any of your categories — I've just checked your atheism books and it's not there, though I wasn't checking to see if it was. I just dug it up from the back of my memory:

    The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross: A study of the nature and origins of Christianity within the fertility cults of the ancient Near East

    John M. Allegro (Author), J.R. Irvin (Preface), Jan Irvin (Preface), Carl A. P. Ruck (Foreword), Judith Anne Brown (Foreword) ISBN-13: 978-0982556276

    Yours in Atheism!

    PS I found you by searching "could the shroud of turin be a real shroud of a torture victim", I now know why it can't be. Thanks.

  258. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Aug, 2015

    Hi John. Our list of books on atheism, religion, science etc only include those that we've read and found informative. There are no doubt untold interesting books that aren't on our lists, but if we haven't read it we can't honestly recommend it. One of our group has a copy of 'The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross', but none of us have got around to reading it yet. So many books, so little time.

  259. Comment by Brett C, 20 Aug, 2015

    Hi John, thank you for your site. I have visited weekly for the last couple of years & have found your articles well written with some great inner thoughts on atheism & pseudoscience. I have had a passion for studying/learning about peoples silly beliefs for about a decade now as a hobby. As I write this email I turn to my bookcase & admire my collection from Phillip J. Klass through to good old Hitchens, must be around 80 hard & soft covers by now. I had a good experience with religion ( Roman Catholic ) growing up in Australia but from as early as I can remember praying blindly to an invisible sky ( where everyone seemed to look ) fantasy was not for me or my future. Anyway the reason for this email John is to do with a character mentioned by anonymous-13 — Calvin Smith. I had a quick look at the site that is associated with him & I must admit was quite impressed with some of the scientific terminology used & quoted in some of the articles. He or his staff definitely treat the reader to some good points regarding how creationism can be just as logical as evolution if not more so.

    "It is not just dinosaur soft tissue, either, but the presence of detectable proteins such as collagen, hemoglobin, osteocalcin, actin, and tubulin that they must account for. These are complex molecules that continually tend to break down to simpler ones.

    Not only that, but in many cases, there are fine details of the bone matrix, with microscopically intact-looking bone cells (osteocytes) showing incredible detail. And Schweitzer has even recovered fragments of the even more fragile and complex molecule, DNA. This has been extracted from the bone cells with markers indicating its source such that it is extremely likely to be dinosaur DNA."

    I then had a thought that if I were a adolescent again how I would react to these seemingly logical points Calvin brings to the table with a real sense of belief in what he is preaching. Could I have been a creationalist? I read on some more & then all of a sudden out of nowhere
    "Creationists suggest that most dinosaurs died and were buried in the great Flood described in Genesis 6-8 (for which there is a huge amount of evidence). Two of each kind were preserved on the Ark, of course, thus surviving the Flood. With their numbers greatly reduced, all animals would have been subject to many pressures, such as varying climates (including the Ice Age) following the Flood. They may have had a unique physiology that made them less able to adapt as rapidly to the many different environments after the Flood. For example, evolutionists have suggested that dinosaurs may not have been warm-blooded or cold-blooded, but something completely different from either. They may have had a unique type of metabolism, unlike any living animals today.

    This may have contributed to them becoming extinct, along with the very same reasons animals become extinct today (being hunted, disease, climatic changes, habitat changes etc.)."

    I still do not grasp how somebody could assume they understand how science & the world works but also believe that two of every dinosaur were loaded onto a bloody boat! I really hope that in the near future some of these obviously bright & talented people will wake up to the irrationality they spread & then apply the same effort to going forward with science instead of dark & middle age spirituality ( we have billions of Muslims for that ).
  260. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Aug, 2015

    Hi Brett. Thanks for your comments. Regarding Calvin Smith and his ilk, I agree that it can be easy to be 'quite impressed with some of the scientific terminology used & quoted in some of the articles', however what is actually happening is that we are being fooled into accepting pseudoscience, which of course is the devious use of scientific terminology and evidence to push a bogus argument. As physicist Milton Rothman said, pseudoscience is 'a false science that pretends to be real'. You mentioned the 'seemingly logical points Calvin brings to the table', but as you'll know, these creationists only mention points that appear to support their argument and cunningly ignore contrary evidence and logic. They quote scientific comments out of context, misrepresent scientific views and gloss over the untold problems with their own arguments. Also the science they do quote, such as the bit about dinosaur proteins, is usually complex and beyond what your typical reader, and certainly your typical creationist, understands. My experience with these creationist arguments is that if you take the time to look at what scientists really say, then it's always just the opposite to what the creationists claim. There are certainly still many mysteries in the world that science has yet to explain, but none suggest, even remotely, that some god is playing around behind the scenes. Creationists are always pretending that science is just stumbling around in the dark and is too arrogant to admit that all the evidence points to an intelligent creator called God, Ra, Odin or Bob.

    Two books I'd recommend are 'Evolution vs. Creationism' by Eugenie C. Scott and 'The Counter-Creationism Handbook' by Mark Isaak. These show that it's simply astounding the arguments that creationists keep pushing at the gullible even though most will know, and should know if they did a little research, are utterly bogus. But like all scammers, they rely on their dupes to simply trust them and never seek an alternative opinion. Of course it's very easy for some people to be convinced by creationist arguments, just as it's easy for some to be convinced by the arguments that Muslims, Scientologists, homeopaths or alien abductees offer. Christians have no problem seeing the clear flaws in Islam, just as alien abductees can often see the flaws in Christianity, but strangely no believer can see the flaws in their own favoured belief, even though they're obvious to everyone else. Clearly it's more than simple ignorance, there is a strong desire to believe a specific belief and to ignore conflicting evidence. As you say Brett, Smith presents some evidence which he believes is harmful to the scientific view, but then he completely stuffs it all up by arguing that two of every dinosaur were on Noah's Ark. Most fundamentalists won't understand Smith's scientific arguments, they'll simply accept that there are problems with what the scientists are talking about, but surely in the 21st century they have enough knowledge and intelligence to dismiss Noah's Ark as primitive nonsense? But no. Fundamentalists don't want to understand the science involved, they simply want to be reassured with complicated scientific-sounding talk that there are good — albeit incomprehensible — reasons to hold onto their fantasy that an invisible creator made life, the universe and everything. Fundamentalists believed in their creator long before science arose, and they still don't need it to hold their belief, all their devious use of science does now is to falsely give them some bogus arguments to allow them a more restful sleep, it reduces the tossing and turning.

    It's interesting Brett that you wonder, if targeted by these new arguments in your youth, might you have been swayed? I had a similar discussion the other day, where I wondered if I had lived in the Middle Ages, would I have been an atheist? I'd like to think I would have, but the odds are probably against it. However I'm an atheist now because I'm a skeptic, and I'm skeptical because I'm curious about how things work and I apply critical thinking to my thoughts. My past self would lack my modern knowledge of the world, but I'd like to think that I'd still be able to see through much of the superstitious nonsense that even today so many people still struggle with. I'd have no idea how the world arose, but surely I could have seen that saying a god created it didn't solve anything. Even children today are bright enough to ask, 'So if God made the world, then who made God?'

    As for your hope that some of these more intelligent creationists will see the light, I suspect it's a forlorn hope. Nearly all will die devout believers, their commitment is almost hard-wired. Even if all their flaky scientific evidence disappeared, they'd just view it as a test of their faith, they wouldn't see the possibility that they might be wrong. For most people, once you become a creationist, you'll remain a creationist, since it's your intellect that took you there in the first place. You won't have the desire, or ability, to get out. It's almost like losing your virginity, you can't go back.

  261. Comment by Brett C, 21 Aug, 2015

    Hi John. Thank you for your reply. I totally agree with the comments you made regarding how the creation camp quote scientific comments out of context to suit whatever mumbo jumbo they try to con people into believing. I wonder if any of these Creationists sites have been held liable for slander or misrepresentation of a scientific paper...? From my experience most scientists are too busy with proper research to even care what the scammers are up to.

    I have (as yourself) often wondered how a person with critical thinking skills would have fared in the middle ages. Not being part of the religion machine would have been fraught with danger one hundred percent of the time I would imagine. It makes me appreciate the time we live in now all that much more. I personally think that the next ten years will be an interesting time for the creationists. American atheists seem to be on the rise & hopefully they can stop it getting into more of their schools.

    The books you have recommended sound like they will be great additions for my collection. I have chapters dealing with Creation theory in some of my books but not dedicated to the subject.

  262. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Aug, 2015

    Hi Brett. That's an interesting thought, but I haven't heard of any creationist being legally challenged over their bogus claims. As you say, most scientists don't care, but it's a wonder that some greedy lawyer hasn't tried to hop on that gravy train. There could be a fortune to be made suing all the nutters in the world, although perhaps they could all fall back on the insanity plea.

    And yes, the next decade or so will be an interesting time for the creationists. Atheism is on the rise, especially with the youth, and creationists will struggle to be taken seriously. As the older generation of believers fade from the scene, and more and more churches close, true believers may (hopefully) become as rare as blacksmiths and water diviners.

  263. Comment by Ron, 07 Sep, 2015

    Hi John. Have you caught up with the recent doomsday carryings on regarding the next blood moon on Sept 28. This predicted natural event is apparently the last of a series of 4 blood moons over a relatively short time period which dates have co-incided with Jewish feast days. This scenario is so rare it has only happened 3 times in the last 500 yrs and 10 times since Christ. It has caught the attention of the religious world and seems to come from the teachings and books of rabbi Johnathan Kahn. He talks of 7 yr biblical cycles since the creation of Israel in 1948 when every 7 yrs a major world event occurs, that factual events align precisely with these cycles given to the Israelites. He teaches that the greatest stockmarket crashes in history have taken place on these dates. Even non-believing financial analysts have observed this and asked why. Kahn points out that past events need to be seen as warnings of future events. Of course, his books are taken very seriously and regarded as not flakey but to be taken most solemnly.

    A Timaru group of believers and followers of Kahn have made the news. Their spokerperson, Pat Hughes, a Jewish lady, it seems, says the blood moon on the 28th occurs at the start of the feast of tabernacles as per their calendar. I could say "so what" but don't wish to be rude. She says many things may occur this month with a possible major financial collapse They are prepared for an apocalyptic event and she has stockpiled some food. I trust she has plenty of fruitcake!! They go on by reminding us of Genesis where God talks of signs in the heavens that are an indication of judgement on earth. We are reminded that the coming 14 yr anniversary of the Sept 11 twin towers, pentagon terrorist acts is significant also as it is exactly double the number 7. Again I am tempted to say, so what? Ah well, again we wait out more doomsday predictions. Even if things happen this month, does it mean sinister, the end is nigh. Maybe, but every day, week, month many things happen in the world, often very significant events. Predicted, explainable astronomical events are regular as we know, but they are consistently intertwined with biblical warnings at every opportunity to become apocalyptical instead of just being enjoyed. They missed one a few months ago I reckon. I observed the beautiful spectacle of Venus and Jupiter in the western sky extremely close, side by side, like a double. No doomsday strings attached and free of charge.

  264. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Sep, 2015

    Hi Ron. No, I hadn't heard of the approaching doom, but then I don't go looking for these religious nutters that see the apocalypse behind every natural event that they don't understand. I can understand ignorant, superstitious and fearful priests and peasants that lived a thousand years ago cowering under their beds every time they saw something slightly different in the sky, but that some 21st century citizens still ignore modern knowledge and instead use Bronze Age myths to predict doom and disaster is disappointing to say the least.

    As you correctly point out Ron, 'every day, week, month many things happen in the world, often very significant events. Predicted, explainable astronomical events are regular', so it's child's play to take multiples of any number and you will find, somewhere in the world or in history, that some serious event happened on your chosen day. The important thing to then do is ignore all the equally serious events that didn't happen on your chosen day. You say they mentioned the terrorist attacks on Sep 11, 2001, and they remind us that the 14th anniversary is approaching, 14 being a multiple of 7. So why didn't a disaster befall the USA on the 7th anniversary, and why do they likewise ignore all the Americans that were killed in the intervening 14 years, far outnumbering those killed on 9/11? Also they conveniently ignore the major loss of life caused by earthquakes, tsunamis, war etc around the world that strangely doesn't just happen on their spooky days. Primitive people used to see comets or planetary conjunctions as evil omens and they panicked and did irrational things, but after thousands of years of people predicting calamity and even the end of the world, and never once seeing their prediction come true, you'd think more enlightened people today would take this lesson to heart. Even Jesus predicted that the world would end within a few decades of his death, and I'm sure I don't need to tell you that he was wrong. If Jesus himself couldn't make accurate predictions, why do these fuckwits think that they know more about what's going to happen than Jesus did?

    As for them claiming that the Bible says 'God talks of signs in the heavens that are an indication of judgement on earth', Jesus clearly says that no one will know the time of his coming. Briefly, starting at Mark 13:4, Jesus is asked by his disciples, 'Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?' Jesus replies that,

    'When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains ... blah blah blah ... And the gospel must first be preached to all nations... blah blah blah ... Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death ... blah blah blah ... But in those days, following that distress, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken ... blah blah blah ... I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away ... blah blah blah ... No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father'.
    There are several points we should note regarding this prediction made by Jesus regarding the end of the world. First he tells us that wars, earthquakes and famines will always happen, do NOT be alarmed, this is NOT a sign that the end is nigh. He then says that the gospel must first be preached to all nations, to everyone, before he can kill everyone. Clearly there are many people in the world who haven't yet heard the gospel (natives in the Amazon for example), and this is not about to change any day soon. He then says that we'll see children putting their parents to death, again this is not happening anywhere on the planet. Some Muslim parents are putting their daughters to death (honour killings), but this is backward, not what Jesus predicted. The stars will fall from the sky. The stars are rather... well... huge things, so I think we would have noticed if even just one had got close to the Earth, let alone fell to Earth. These are all things that must happen before the world will end, and not even one has happened. Jesus then categorically states that no one, not even him, knows exactly when this will happen, so anyone that predicts the end of the world on a specific day or even a specific year is talking bullshit. So says Jesus.

    Of course to modern ears this all sounds like superstitious nonsense preached by ignorant peasants. For example they didn't know how huge stars were and that it would be impossible for even one to fall to the ground. But by far the most damming prediction that Jesus made was this: 'I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened'. By this he means that some people of the generation that his disciples belonged to would still be alive when he returned, riding his hover-board down from the clouds. So Jesus expected the end to come anywhere between a few months and a few decades at the most. And this prediction is evidently made 37 times in the New Testament. Jesus was utterly convinced that the end was nigh. And yet, 2,000 years later ...

    Christians bleat on about how accurate Biblical predictions are, when this is an absolute crock. Even their hero Jesus couldn't make predictions that came true, so if Jesus, and by extension God, didn't have a clue about what was going to happen in the future, I think we can also write off all the minor characters in the Bible as well. I'm not aware of a single prediction made in the Bible, that any fool couldn't make, that has come true, while I'm aware of untold Biblical predictions that that have failed big time.

    As for this Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, he is in real terms a Christian, not a Jew. He's what's known as a Messianic Jew. He's also a Christian pastor. As this Wikipedia page explains, 'Messianic Judaism is a religious movement combining the Christian belief that Jesus is the Messiah with certain Jewish beliefs'. This Wikipedia page on Cahn says that he 'was raised in a reform Jewish home and attended the synagogue frequently. He became an atheist when he was eight years old but a few years later he began to question atheism. By the time he was 20 years old he had become a Christian, accepting Jesus as the Messiah'. Evidently Jewish organisations and the Supreme Court of Israel agree with me, and 'consider Messianic Judaism to be a form of Christianity'. And while Cahn may have technically been an atheist when he was eight, I sincerely doubt that he was an informed atheist, especially since his weak views allowed him to then become a Christian. If he had truly understood why atheism made sense, then he couldn't have simply rejected this realisation. It's like once you really understand why Santa Claus doesn't exist, you can't choose to start believing in him again.

    That silly Christians believe the nonsense that Cahn and others like him spout on a regular basis, and still can't see that it also fails on a regular basis, suggests to me that they've taken this trust in some invisible sky fairy too far. When they enter their church they should try switching off their cell phones rather than their brains.

  265. Comment by Ron, 08 Sep, 2015

    Hello John. Appears I got the spelling of Cahn's name a little wrong. Apologies.

    Your reply demonstrates a knowledge of the bible way beyond many Christians. If these significant events so many are waiting for in connection to the blood moons do not occur this month or the 28th excuses will flow similar to "God is not ready" or "it is not time yet" or "in his time". Seems, based on Revelations, that these folk will be waiting in vain.These signs of the heavens are not supposed to occur until after the great tribulation which has not arrived so far, though many say it is just around the corner. The signs in the sun and moon are supernatural, therefore outside the natural order of things ie this tetrad of the 4 blood moons. These are only seen by man in certain countries. Rev. 6:15-17 states all men on earth will see the dramatic heavenly signs from god.

    Yes, these endless prophecies sure take a long time to come to pass. The bible is one third prophecies. Despite so much written about very many prophecies having already done so or are doing so now I'm darned if I can find anything concrete to prove this. Most statements are vague. Have you proven any fulfilled prophecies John? Probably not. For many, many yrs I've read, and still do, that the return of Jesus is imminent. Even though we are not to know exactly but the imminent continues to be the same imminent.

    Back in the 60's thru several decades after, people relied on the free publication, The Plain Truth and its founder Herbert W. Armstrong. They were chocka with prophecy. Now there is its modern successor, The Trumpet, with a broader range of articles but still strong on world events relating to prophecy. My Dad used to get the plain truth. It used to really depress me and make me feel fearful. Lots of horrible pics/drawings of holocaust type stuff with piles of corpses and destroyed cities. Hardly conducive to making a momentous decision to follow a loving god. These mags like the trumpet are free but many faceless, kind, well meaning benefactors must cover the huge costs of publishing etc, and mailing worldwide tons of mags monthly. The Philadelphia Church of God who is behind it truly believe they are the only true, chosen church, but so do the JW's and so do the ... etc. Those benefactors believe, I guess, there is a place in heaven for them, that the readers, thanks to them, have no excuses not to be educated, to have repented and totally prepared for the 2nd coming and all the horror that precedes it. The Trumpet idolises HWA and published a book dedicated to him titled "He was right" as regards his prophetic words decades back such as the fall of morals and same sex marriages being accepted and how Germany will dominate Europe in the rise of a powerful new holy roman empire that will shake the world. The trumpet says this is happening right now and fulfils many prophecies. They cite the American race riots recently as another come to pass, (Isaiah 1:7). Stating that when JC returns he will end all racism and injustice forever and rule the world with a rod of iron and love. They warn of the rise of Japan to militarism, lots on Iran, its nuclear aspirations, esp. a recent deal involving the USA and how it will trigger WW3. All prophecy in motion. But they have been saying similar for 50 yrs and still I struggle to be convinced. Around 2000yrs and still waiting.

  266. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Sep, 2015

    Hi Ron. Yes indeed, pathetic excuses will flow when things predicted fail to come to pass, but they don't seem at all embarrassed (or even aware in many cases) that their ilk have been making these childish excuses year in and year out for around 2,000 years. How many times must every prediction fail before they realise that they were just making silly guesses? How many times must a trusted saviour fail to appear and effect a rescue before they realise that he either doesn't exist or at least doesn't care? How many claims in the Bible must be proved false before they realise that it can't be the inerrant word of God after all?

    And no Ron, I know of not one Biblical prophecy that has been fulfilled. Not one! I know that many Christians will say that this or that prophecy came true, but if you research their claims not a single one holds water. Of course there are many vague, worthless prophecies in the Bible, such as there will be war, famine and that kingdoms will fall, but this is as silly as me predicting that somewhere in the world in the future it will rain and several unspecified people will die in some disaster.

    You say they've made Biblical prophecies regarding Germany, Iran and Japan, but of course these countries are never mentioned in the Bible, it's merely ignorant people looking around at the world they find themselves in and pointing at whatever country they have a problem with. In the past it would have been Rome, Persia, Prussia or the USSR. Only the religious see a fall in morals (their God given morals such as killing homosexuals) whereas I believe that informed, educated people today are generally more ethical than we were in past centuries, eg we no longer keep slaves, we don't burn witches, we condemn racism, we don't go on crusades or pogroms. There is no Biblical prophecy that foresees same sex marriages, and as for prophesising 'a powerful new holy roman empire that will shake the world', the exact opposite is true, with the Vatican vilified by many and struggling to pull itself out of the gutter. You also say that 'They cite the American race riots recently as another come to pass, (Isaiah 1:7)'. This is a perfect example of how these morons take a vague passage and invent some meaning that was clearly never signalled. Here is that passage:

    'Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. (ISA 1:7)'
    How can they seriously get American race riots from that? America is not desolate, it's cities didn't burn, nor were it's fields stripped by foreigners. The recent race problems were very minor compared to the size and population of the US, and neither of the groups involved were foreigners. The passage makes no mention of what country they're referring to, but if you refer back to Isaiah 1:1 you learn that the prediction is a 'vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw...'. So the country concerned was clearly Judah and not America. It is quite disingenuous and dishonest for these wankers to pretend that Isaiah 1:7 was referring to American race riots. And if the vision wasn't connected to Judah, and I had to relate it to a current event, I would say that the country they're talking about was Syria, a country that is currently being destroyed by war, their cities burning and foreign fighters in their fields. Of course if this were the 1970s, I would have said the country was Vietnam, and a few years ago I would have said Iraq or Afghanistan. That particular prophecy could find a troubled country no matter which decade you picked in the last 2,000 years. But if you read it in context, it can ONLY apply to Judah.

    As for the book of Revelations, clearly this was written by some unknown fool that was far closer to being insane than sane. Why they decided to include it in the Bible is beyond me, it almost makes all the other silly nonsense believable by comparison. You mentioned the blood moon and Rev 6:15-17 that 'states all men on earth will see the dramatic heavenly signs from god'. First, the Bible writers thought the world was flat and much smaller than it really is, so, as you say, they believed anything in the sky that they could see would be seen by everyone, and also if you got high enough you could see the entire world. That's why Jesus thought he had viewed the earth's entire surface, saw 'all the kingdoms':

    'Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.' (MT 4:8)
    But back to Revelations, starting in Rev 6:12 we read the prophecy that,
    '...There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.'
    Of course if the sun went black then the moon wouldn't go blood red, since the moon can only be seen if it reflects the sun's light, but if the sun has gone black then the moon would go black too, they would both be invisible. But of course the Bible writers thought the moon generated its own light. Duh! Then note that the morons say that 'the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind'. Again, we know that this is impossible, but these desert nomads didn't know that either. Then we read that 'The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.' Without the sky, ie the atmosphere, everyone would immediately suffocate and freeze, although where they would be dying is a mystery since the land disappears as well: 'every mountain and island was removed from its place'. But then it gets more confusing, if that's possible. Rev 6:15 says,
    'Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"'
    How can everyone hide in 'caves and among the rocks of the mountains' if they have all been removed? Note also how they causally talk of 'every slave and every free man', fully expecting slavery to be quite normal worldwide when the end comes! This is yet another point where the prophecy fails. Then, continuing the ignorant desert nomad theme, they claim that, clutching my slave, I will call 'to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!"' If I experience a great earthquake I will see it as completely natural, likewise I would see a disappearing sun and moon as a solar eclipse, and, ignoring the inconvenient fact that falling stars would have vaporised my body, I can't see any reason why I would suddenly start talking to the rocks, imploring them to kill me. And why would even a superstitious Christian think that some rocks could hide them from God? Isn't he everywhere and knows everything? God's superpowers seem to come and go depending on the story his silly followers are spinning.

    Using their holy books the Christians and the Jews before them have been trying to guess the future for thousands of years, how much longer before they realise it's just not working. Talk about slow learners!

    But even if one decides to become a Christian, perhaps they've suffered a head injury or taken too many drugs, their problems have only begun, since which of the many thousands of different Christian sects does one choose to follow? These thousands of sects only exist because they all think they have interpreted the Bible correctly and the rest are utterly wrong, and are thus false religions. Every sect has different and contradictory beliefs as to what one must believe. For example, what does one need to do to get to heaven, eg is it through faith or good works? Are homosexuals to be embraced or persecuted? Did the world arise billions of years ago or merely a few thousand years ago? Should church leaders handle snakes or sexually abuse little boys or shouldn't they? Must all the Jews be corralled into Israel and then slaughtered before Jesus will return? Is speaking in tongues a sign of a true connection with God or a delusion? Is the end nigh, is God about to kill us all or isn't he?

    Christianity would be a little more plausible (but certainly not much more), as would Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism etc, if all Christians (or Jews etc) had a single united belief, if they could all agree on what their religion was about and what evidence supported it. But they don't, Christians spend more time arguing with other Christians than they do with Jews, Muslims or even atheists. If Christians can't even convince other Christians as to what the Bible says, presenting a united front to the world, what hope have they got of convincing an atheist?

  267. Comment by Anonymous-14, 19 Sep, 2015

    This is really an eye opener. All the people depicted here look like all other humans except for the inexplicable and complete intolerance and difference inflicted into their brains by..............Their Bloody Religion!!! How utterly disgusting they arrive in another country, expecting help and compassion and then behave like this? One can't help feeling this human avalanche has been contrived as a passive? means of the continuing push for the Islamic invasion and conquest of the whole world. Notice the fit, able bodied men, throwing the gifted water bottles and food away when one would expect them to be back in their own country, fighting to get back what they left ! I can guarantee that there will be nothing but big trouble (as if there is not enough already) in all the countries that have taken on this menace. For the first time in my life, I have to agree with John Key on this.

    [How fanatical are these guys? And, more to the point, do we want this kind of religious fanaticism in our countries?
    This is yet another video that was not on mainstream media - why? Why was it not on TV ?
    They discard food and water and there is again a predominance of young men.
    The food and water were provided by the Red Cross and was not acceptable because — the cross is a "Christian" symbol.
    Perhaps also the water was not certified Halal!! Why aren't they migrating to their own kin Muslim countries?]

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRhI0Xqv5Rc

  268. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Sep, 2015

    Clearly there are no easy answers to the refugee problem, and since the world's media are more interested in ratings than investigative reporting, we'd be foolish to expect any in-depth analysis on the nightly TV News.

    The problem with the YouTube video of a group of refugees rejecting water and food is that we don't know how widespread that response is. I've seen plenty of other videos where refugees gratefully accepted everything offered. If it was an aberration, then perhaps the media were acting responsibly (hey... it could happen) by not screening it. It would be wrong to alienate public opinion and support by screening an incident that wasn't representative of most refugees.

    Of course there will always be some refugees that are ungrateful and totally unrealistic in their expectations, but we have to offer help on the assumption that they are genuinely needy and that they can see that aid trumps religion. The difficult goal will be to integrate them into the secular society that they were desperate to reach, rather than pushing diversity and multiculturalism and encouraging them to build a mini-Syria-in-exile in their new country.

  269. Comment by Ray, 31 Oct, 2015

    Hi John, thought this might interest you — I have 12 A4 full pages of atrocities in the bible with their references. These don't include contradictions and absurdities.

    Isn't it about time we started calling the bible bashers devil worshipers?

  270. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 31 Oct, 2015

    I think anyone that reads the Bible with an open mind is shocked at the sheer number of atrocities committed, ordered or permitted by God. And of course the atrocities didn't cease when they stopped writing down those equally silly and offensive Bible stories. For example, if God is real then everyday he registers untold innocent children for an eternity in Hell, a place he built deliberately for no other purpose than to torture people for no good reason beyond his own sick gratification.

    As you've suggested Ray, many have asked, are these foul, loathsome actions not more aligned with those of a demon than a god, since throughout history people have described evil supernatural beings as demons or devils, and benign supernatural beings as gods. And since so-called 'bible bashers' blindly and mindlessly worship the protagonist of the Bible, a being whose evil exploits far outweigh his rare acts of kindness and beneficence, then yes they should be called 'devil worshipers'. Who else but a devil would condemn me to eternal torture for sins I've never committed or for an 'original sin' that he secretly planted on me like some corrupt cop? Who else but a devil would punish me for not believing in him, even though he uses his supernatural powers to hide his very existence from me? Who else but a devil would say that if I don't hate my family then I can never be one of his followers, and if I don't become one of his followers and submit to his will completely, then — surprise, surprise — I'm off to his torture camp. The mental gymnastics that Christians (and Jews and Muslims) must go though every waking hour to convince themselves that they're worshipping something closer to the Easter Bunny than the real monster behind the mask must be phenomenal. Of course on one level they all know a demon is pulling their strings, but fear keeps them in line, it's better to work for the demon than against him.

    Here are two of my favourite quotes about the demon in question:

    'The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction. Jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive blood thirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, megalomaniacal, capriciously malevolent bully.'
              Richard Dawkins — The God Delusion

    'The Christian God is a being of terrific character — cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.'
              Thomas Jefferson

  271. Comment by Patrick, 12 Nov, 2015

    Hi John. Some time ago we discussed about the crippling effect of religion on art. I would now like to share my thoughts regarding the Hays Code.

    HAYS CODE
    The Hays Code was the set of industry moral guidelines that was applied to most United States motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968.

    WHO CREATED THE HAYS CODE?
    A Catholic layman, Martin Quigley (editor of the prominent trade paper Motion Picture Herald) and a Jesuit priest Father Daniel A. Lord

    DON'TS OF THE HAYS CODE
    "...things which are included in the following list shall not appear in pictures produced by the members of this Association,(Major Studios) irrespective of the manner in which they are treated: "

    • Pointed profanity — by either title or lip — this includes the words ds "God," "Lord," "Jesus," "Christ" (unless they be used reverently in connection with proper religious ceremonies), "hell," "damn," "Gawd," and every other profane and vulgar expression however it may be spelled;
    • Any licentious or suggestive nudity — in fact or in silhouette; and any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture;
    • The illegal traffic in drugs;
    • Any inference of sex perversion;
    • White slavery;
    • Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races);
    • Sex hygiene and venereal diseases;
    • Scenes of actual childbirth — in fact or inn silhouette;
    • Children's sex organs;
    • Ridicule of the clergy;
    • Willful offense to any nation, race or creed;

    BE CAREFULS OF THE HAYS CODE
    "special care be exercised in the manner in which the following subjects are treated, to the end that vulgarity and suggestiveness may be eliminated and that good taste may be emphasized:"

    • The use of the flag;
    • International relations (avoiding picturizing in an unfavorable light another country's religion, history, institutions, prominent people, and citizenry);
    • Arson;
    • The use of firearms;
    • Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc. (having in mind the effect which a too-detailed description of these may have upon the moron);
    • Brutality and possible gruesomeness;
    • Technique of committing murder by whatever method;
    • Methods of smuggling;
    • Third-degree methods; [torture]
    • Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishment for crime;
    • Sympathy for criminals;
    • Attitude toward public characters and institutions;
    • Sedition;
    • Apparent cruelty to children and animals;
    • Branding of people or animals;
    • The sale of women, or of a woman selling her virtue;
    • Rape or attempted rape;
    • First-night scenes; [consummation of a marriage]
    • Man and woman in bed together;
    • Deliberate seduction of girls;
    • The institution of marriage;
    • Surgical operations;
    • The use of drugs;
    • Titles or scenes having to do with law enforcement or law-enforcing officers;
    • Excessive or lustful kissing, particularly when one character or the other is a "heavy".
    Someone on the internet wrote concerning the Hays code : "A chasm had opened up between life as it was lived and life as it could be portrayed under the code. The issue was not morality vs. immorality, but reality and credibility vs. a make-believe world that rested on a hypocritical denial of the way things are."

    I can only agree with the above sentence (The code basically hated truth) and would also like to add a few personal thoughts.

    1. Religions are not democracies and you can be 100% certain that Catholic layman Martin Quigley and Jesuit priest Father Daniel A. Lord created this code with the Church's full approval.
    2. I guess that some religious folks nowadays will still agree with most of the Hays Code "Don'ts", but Miscegenation (Number 6 on the list) will be a source of embarrassment. They'll say that in the past Miscegenation rebuttal (sex relationships between the white and black "races") was the norm. It was perhaps partly true, but there were also many people and organizations that opposed this policy. Church approved racism.
    3. "Willful offense to any nation, race or creed". Fine... but wait a minute, how were Native Americans portrayed in Westerns during the Hays code era?

    The Hays Code no longer exists (for reasons that have nothing to do with religious transformation), but the damage has been done and it's catastrophic impact on movies made during this era will affect any viewer who see them. To be fair, some of these movies are, taken as a whole, interesting and well made, but this has nothing to do with the Hays code moral values.

  272. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Nov, 2015

    Hi Patrick. Yes it was rather strange, apparently they thought that if they could create a fictional world on the screen then it would somehow filter down and influence the real world. But this is typical of Christians I think, forever fantasising about some imaginary world where their all-loving god looks out for us and somehow ignoring the real world where evil clearly abounds and no god comes to our rescue.

    When I watched some really old movies and TV shows as a kid I often thought that surely they couldn't really have been so straitlaced and uptight back then, and now I know they weren't, Hollywood was simply showing a fantasy version, based mostly it appears on what Christians wished the world was like. Of course there was to be no ridiculing of religion, which might help explain why Christianity has had a relatively free ride until recent times, and no 'nudity, suggestive dances, lustful kissing or scenes of passion'. The principle was that no movie should ever 'lower the moral standards of those who see it' and should always depict 'Correct standards of life'. But again it was Christians that were actually dictating their ignorant and prudish views and relabelling them as 'Correct standards of life'.

    Did you know that the kiss between Star Trek's Captain Kirk and Uhura was the first interracial kiss on TV, and only allowed because an alien was forcing them to kiss, they weren't doing it willing? And the first married couple to be shown together in a double bed on TV were Herman and Lily Munster in 'The Munsters'. Everyone else had to have single beds, and stay in them. No doubt the Munsters were only allowed because they were 'monsters' and not normal people. Thankfully the TV censors have backed off a little, although I believe nudity is being censored more these days, although strangely it's mainly female nudity. Back in the 80's full frontal female nudity was quite common, while male nudity wasn't, and yet now full frontal female nudity is near non-existent while full frontal male nudity is far more common. I'm not sure what that says about people making movies and TV shows these days. While nudity is still generally avoided, even though it's legal and perfectly natural, taking an opposite tack, things like explicit scenes of torture, murder, rape, drug use, firearms etc, are now very common. Maybe I'm just a little weird, but personally I'd rather watch someone having sex where they're experiencing pleasure than watching someone being tortured, raped or murdered in slow motion. Again I'm not sure what it says about people making movies and TV shows these days who insist that I need to see the heroine shot or stabbed or buried alive, anything as long as she keeps her bra and panties on.

    I noticed too that 'white slavery' was in the prohibited list, rather than simply 'slavery', with the clear implication that black slavery was OK. But this was America before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Thankfully the studios eventually scrapped the censorship system that was the Hays Code and adopted a classification system, mainly because movie makers found ways to get around it. However it makes one wonder what movies might have been made during this period if producers had been allowed to make movies that reflected the real world rather than the world as Christians imagined it.

  273. Comment by Ben, 08 Dec, 2015

    As a change from chemtrails one may find the following of interest from Bulgaria's answer to Mystic Meg (probably also related to Ken Ring.

    Here's what blind prophet Baba Vanga predicted for 2016 and beyond: It's not good

    We appear to be doomed!

  274. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Dec, 2015

    Thanks for the link Ben, although it's depressing, though not unexpected, that the media is still writing such pathetic articles as that. They also promoted the article under the title 'Psychic's scarily accurate prophecies'. Apparently the Bulgaria-born clairvoyant was known as 'Nostradamus from the Balkans', and that might be the only truly accurate claim in the entire article, since her predictions were as obscure and as vague as those silly prophecies of Nostradamus.

    The article claims that she had 'the ability to heal people and predict the future' and that 'She became the go-to psychic for the rich and powerful and admirers, among them heads of state, scientists and historians, would come from all over the world for a few minutes in her company'. But before reading the article, how many people on the planet had ever heard of her? Why have we never heard of the hordes that she healed? Why have we never seen reports of world leaders visiting her, as we have for those visiting the Pope or Dalai Lama for example? Clearly her fame doesn't extend much further than her village.

    As for claiming to have predicted the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, her prophecy was simply that 'A huge wave will cover a big coast covered with people and towns, and everything will disappear beneath the water'. But of course this covers any tsunami on any coast in any decade, and she made no mention of location or date. How do we know she didn't mean the more recent tsunami to hit Japan? It as silly as her prediction that 'volcanoes will awaken'. Wait long enough and vague predictions like this will always come true somewhere.

    Claiming to have predicted the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, she simply prophesied that, 'Horror, horror! The American brethren will fall after being attacked by the steel birds... The wolves will be howling in a bush and innocent blood will gush'. Again, no dates, no location, just meaningless nonsense. There is no way that anyone could have got the 9/11 attacks from that, and no one did, it was only after the fact the these comments were dredged up and reinterpreted. The article tries to explain and defend the prophecy by adding the following bracketed comments:

    'Horror, horror! The American brethren (believed to be a reference to the two 'brother' towers) will fall after being attacked by the steel birds (thought to be the two hijacked passenger planes). The wolves will be howling in a bush (believed to be a reference to then US president George Bush) and innocent blood will gush.'
    How could anyone be that stupid to believe that this is what Vanga meant, that 'wolves will be howling in a bush' means President Bush? Really? Later in the article we're told that she has predicted that the 'sun's thermonuclear processes slow down' in 2201, so she apparently understands thermonuclear processes, and yet she thinks planes are 'steel birds'. Vanga also made the following prediction, which the article's writer again deviously reinterprets:
    '2100: Man-made sun illuminates the dark side of the planet (This is already in the pipeline - since 2008, scientists have been working on creating an artificial sun using nuclear fusion technology).'
    It's true that scientists are working on nuclear fusion, but as an energy source, not in an attempt to make 'an artificial sun'. Why would we want to 'illuminate the dark side of the planet'? It's called night time and is crucial to sustaining life on Earth, we'd be stupid to eliminate it.

    It's claimed that Vanga in her 50-year career has made hundreds of predictions which have 'a purported 85 per cent success rate'. And yet if the ridiculously vague handful given in the article are the best examples that have come to pass, the remaining hundreds of predictions must be laughable in their meaninglessness.

    And note that she claims a '85 per cent success rate', just like astrologer Ken Ring. Surely that can't be a coincidence? There must be some supernatural law that grants all soothsayers an 85 per cent success rate, but won't let them exceed it. Spooky!

    I'd be deeply embarrassed if I were a professional journalist and I wrote such bullshit for a living, and that my media outlet published it. If she has kids, I wonder what she tells them she does for a living so as not to shame them at school etc.? She probably says she's a prostitute or a crack cocaine dealer.

  275. Comment by Rene, 18 Dec, 2015

    'Pope Francis has signed off on the miracle needed to make Mother Teresa a saint'
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/mother-teresa-rcc-sainthood-1.3371081
    Of course Mother Theresa has the problem that she wanted people to suffer needlessly to bring them closer to God (true biography, lovely woman!) but note they don't talk much about the actual Miracle for sainthood.

    You know, the PROVEN VERIFIED MIRACLE that the Pope had to approve (and James Randi would be interested in seeing proof of, I'm sure!)

    BUT buried deep in the story here it is:

    The miracle needed for her canonization concerns the inexplicable cure in 2008 of a man in Brazil with multiple brain abscesses who, within a day of being in a coma, was cured, according to a report in Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference. The Vatican ascertained that his wife's prayers for Mother Teresa's intercession were responsible, the report said.
    Yup ... that's it. That's the verified "no other possible means of explanation" miracle that made her into a saint ... a cure after prayer from a report from a bunch of bishops. Really impartial people there, for sure. The man was in a coma, went to the hospital where I'm SURE that doctors did a LOT for the man, but nope ... it was 100% the prayer. From his WIFE at that, not even the woman herself! Wouldn't that make the WIFE a saint? LOL

    What a clown show around sainthood.

  276. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Dec, 2015

    You're quite right, the checks and balances that lead to sainthood are a complete nonsense, and that certain adults take them seriously simply shows, to put it nicely, how bloody stupid they are. It was perhaps understandable that many ignorant, superstitious fools in the Dark Ages thought that some god both caused and then perhaps cured disease, but that educated people in positions of authority today still believe such bullshit should be enough to have them committed to what used to be called an Insane Asylum. Seriously, any adult that still believes in Santa in this day and age should ... sorry, did I say Santa? I meant God. Well ... they're basically the same aren't they, invisible, powerful fantasy beings that reward and punish based on how you behave? Adults should have abandoned such childish notions long ago.

    The Missionary Position I'm glad that the article finished by acknowledging that 'While Mother Teresa is known and beloved by many around the world, she was not beloved by all', and briefly notes some of her immoral actions. We would recommend that people read Christopher Hitchens' book, 'The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice'. In reality Mother Teresa was an inhumane bitch and the last person that you'd want to have looking after you if you were sick. And when she became sick, the hypocrite shunned her own hospitals and flew secretly to the US for the best of modern treatment, which of course she could easily afford because of the fortune she had amassed, a fortune not spent on her own patients.

    Plus I've never understood this Catholic preference of praying to the likes of Mother Teresa and long dead saints rather than praying to God or even Jesus. This is breaking two of the Ten Commandments that decree that there is only one god and that it is a major sin to pray to others, to pray to false idols rather than God. But then I suppose we shouldn't expect Catholics to be that familiar with their religion, as long as they have this naïve, blind faith that it's all true then that's apparently enough.

  277. Comment by Rene, 04 Jan, 2016

    2 evangelists defending their private jets.

    Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, defending their private jets

    This is hilarious... and note they're doing this on their OWN SHOW, so they have no shame at all. This isn't a private conversation, they want their flock to know this.

    Related topic, here's Kent Hovind saying that God deliberately put contradictions into the bible to weed out the non-believers (i.e. those who see contradictions) and those who TRULY have faith will see beyond them and know that it's still true. Occam's Razor is also something he's never heard of, but I'll give him credit... when desperate, this was a cute way to TRY and explain it and save face. It's laughably stupid, but a cute attempt.

    Kent Hovind: God put contradictions in the Bible to 'weed out' the atheists

    Also, if God knows everyone and everything, why would he bother? He'd already know who doesn't believe. And those who don't believe probably aren't reading a Bible anyway. Again, Occam's razor.

  278. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Jan, 2016

    It's amazing Rene the bullshit these people spout. I truly don't understand how the followers of morons like these evangelists can be so ignorant. I guess it shows their desperation to believe that someone is running their lives for them and that there is a divine purpose for their suffering. I'm assuming that they're not completely stupid, most have probably realised that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy were all lies and they can even see the obvious flaws in the stories that are told to children, and yet they steadfastly refuse to apply the same powers of reason and logic to the stories of god that they were told as children, and are repeated as adults. They're apparently capable of recognising the truth, and many no doubt have, but they go to great lengths to suppress it so that they can remain as slavering, obedient zombies to an imaginary God. If we had adults proclaiming real belief in Santa, at the very least society would laugh at them and pity them, and perhaps even deny them positions of responsibility due to their delusion, so why don't we do they same with those that have a god delusion? Perhaps, like in the past, because those with a god delusion were in the majority and consequently got to make the laws. Of course the Dark Ages are long past, but the religious among us still proudly compare their piety and ignorance to that primitive and superstitious era.

  279. Comment by Rene, 07 Jan, 2016

    Here's how true Christians should see the world, as this is taken from the bible, the "inerrant word of god".

    A COMMON COSMOLOGY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD

    Global Warming

    To believe the planet is anything else is to go AGAINST THE WORD OF GOD!!!

    The article sites references and other information if curious.

  280. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Jan, 2016

    Hi Rene. At times I almost feel sympathy for devout Christians and the bald-faced nonsense they're asked to believe on reading their 'How it All Fits Together' manual. Of course for most of Christian history most Christians couldn't read so they would have been largely oblivious to all the silly details, but how any educated Christian can today read the Bible and not come away a non-believer is beyond me. Of course for the Church that's not really a problem since most Christians today don't read the Bible, and are thus utterly ignorant of how their God supposedly put the universe together. They're that used to seeing images of Earth from space that they'd likely call you a liar if you told them that their Bible says the Earth rests on pillars.

    That said, there are a few Christians that are familiar with both what the Bible says and what science says as regards how the world works. That these Christians can and do argue that the Bible is right and science wrong frankly boggles the mind. How can they be so easily misled? Most that I've met remain delusional by simply refusing to think too deeply about what they're asked to believe, they simply have blind faith that their god is real. Their desperate desire to have an imaginary protector gets them past the stumbling blocks. But strangely some apologists understand both the details of the Bible and science and yet still remain hanging onto God's skirts. Not surprisingly I haven't come across a single argument that makes even belief in an unknown deist god plausible, let alone arguments that support belief in the God of the Bible. I'm being totally serious when I say that I view belief in the Christian God as being as silly and unwarranted as belief in the likes of Santa Claus, Jack Frost and the Tooth Fairy. That ignorant, unsophisticated people can believe in God is understandable, but that intelligent, educated people can do so is surely grounds to have them committed. Clearly they're not as sane as they outwardly appear, and as history and even recent events have shown, when people start taking their god very seriously they are capable of committing atrocities against those of us that don't hear God's voice.

  281. Comment by Rene, 13 Jan, 2016

    10 Weirdest Gods Worshipped Around The World

    'There is a place where Prince Philip is deemed God.

    According to Deuteronomy 32:16, worshipping "strange gods" back in the day was enough to provoke the one true Lord to anger, unleashing a bunch of those plagues He's so fond of. If He's still paying attention close nowadays, the Big Man must be absolutely fuming: religions have proliferated to such a point that there's few things people won't worship.'

  282. Comment by Rene, 04 Feb, 2016

    'Dead for 48 minutes, Catholic Priest claims God is female'

    'A Catholic priest from Massachussetts was officially dead for more than 48 minutes before medics were able to miraculously re-start his heart has revealed a shocking revelation that will change everything you once believed.

    The 71-year-old cleric Father John Micheal O'neal claims he went to heaven and met God, which he describes as a warm and comforting motherly figure.

    Father John Micheal O'neal was rushed to the hospital on January 29 after a major heart attack, but was declared clinically dead soon after his arrival.

    With the aid of a high-tech machine called LUCAS 2, that kept the blood flowing to his brain, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital managed to unblock vital arteries and return his heart to a normal rhythm.

    The doctors were afraid he would have suffered some brain damage from the incident, but he woke up less than 48 minutes later and seems to have perfectly recovered.

    The elderly man claims that he has clear and vivid memories of what happened to him while he was dead. He describes a strange out-of-body experience, experiencing an intense feeling of unconditional love and acceptance, as well as being surrounded by an overwhelming light.

    He claims that at that point in his experience, he went to heaven and encountered God, which he describes as a feminine, mother-like "Being of Light".

    "Her presence was both overwhelming and comforting" states the Catholic priest. "She had a soft and soothing voice and her presence was as reassuring as a mother's embrace. The fact that God is a Holy Mother instead of a Holy Father doesn't disturb me, she is everything I hoped she would be and even more!

    The declarations of the cleric caused quite a stir in the catholic clergy of the archdiocese over the last few days, causing the Archbishop to summon a press conference to try and calm the rumors.

    Despite the disapproval of his superiors, Father O'neal says that he will continue dedicating his life to God and spread the word of the "Holy Mother".

    "I wish to continue preaching" says the elderly cleric. "I would like to share my new knowledge of the Mother, the Son and the Holy Ghost with all catholics and even all Christians. God is great and almighty despite being a woman..."

    The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has not confirmed however, if they will allow Father O'neal to resume his preaching in his former parish in South Boston.'

  283. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Feb, 2016

    For a start, I hate journalists that make false claims, stating that 'medics were able to miraculously re-start his heart', when further into the article they reveal indirectly that no miracle was actually involved at all, reporting that 'With the aid of a high-tech machine... doctors... managed to unblock vital arteries and return his heart to a normal rhythm'. So it was the doctors, science and technology that saved the priest, his silly god had no hand in his recovery.

    As for his 'near death experience', his description of what he felt, eg unconditional love and bright light. is just the same as many others have reported, whether they were Christian, Muslim or agnostic. It was a delusion fuelled by a brain that was failing, and it was the priest's Catholic fantasies that convinced him that it must have been his God, even though his God had had a sex change. That crucial, worrying 'fact' should have been enough to convince the priest that his mind was playing tricks on him, but no, the realisation that God is a woman and that the Bible and his Church had been lying to him all his life doesn't seem to have fazed him at all. Worse still, he wants to continue preaching and add yet another stupid religious myth to that held by naïve fools, as if the world didn't already have enough!

  284. Comment by Keith, 05 Feb, 2016

    Hey John! What do you think of the latest on the church digging up Padre Pio's body, sticking a mask on him and putting him on display for the world (catholics) to gawk at, as if they didn't have enough objects to stare at and adore?

    Can you explain to me why catholics have to pay homage to men & women and relics when they are supposed to be paying their worship to Christ alone? I never got this and I used to be catholic but this kind of thing did me in and it drove me nuts and I had to get out of it. Where does this stuff originate and keep going on to this day?

    Thanks!

  285. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Feb, 2016

    Hi Keith. From a humanistic point of view I think it's quite obscene to dig up bodies, pretty them up and put them on display, simply to bring in the crowds like a religious Disneyland. As an atheist and naturalist I think it quite bonkers that poor deluded fools believe that shedding a few tears over a rotting corpse will somehow see their wishes come true.

    Italian Saint Padre Pio's Body Put on Display

    As to why Catholics fall for this Church scam, I guess it comes down to religious beliefs that existed prior to the Christian god being invented and simple human desperation. Originally the Hebrews were like all the other societies around them, they believed in multiple gods, spirits and/or dead ancestors, as others had done for thousands of years. There were individual gods for war, for health, for agriculture, for hunting, for procreation etc,, and it was quite natural and reasonable to appeal to whatever god might help with your current problem. You would make a sacrifice or offering at whatever shrine was appropriate, and ignore the rest. The Catholic Church and all their many saints seem to be a hangover to these pagan beliefs, where saints seem to be the go-to person rather than God. For example Saint Agnes is the patron saint of young girls, Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of music, Saint Luke is the patron saint of painters and physicians and Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.

    Of course Catholics know all too well that they're not really supposed to be praying to these saints or associated relics. And contrary to common belief, Christians are not supposed to be praying to Jesus either! Let's recall that the Bible quite clearly states that there is only one God, and that his followers must not worship anyone, or anything, else, including idols or relics. God reminds us that he is a jealous and vindictive god, and if you ignore him and appeal to others then you're going to be punished. Remember the slaughter that God brought about when the Hebrews made a golden calf and asked it for help? And Jesus later tells us that he had not come to change that commandment, or any commandment for that matter. His mission was to convince people to look to God as their saviour, not him. There is no ambiguity in the Bible. God is the boss, the big cheese, the head honcho. God made the universe, life and everything. God caused Noah's flood, rained fire and brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorrah and planned to have Jesus tortured and killed by the Romans. Anything and everything that happens is because of God. If you wish something would happen, God is the only one to ask, not Jesus or Saint Nicholas or the Hindu god Shiva. However powerful Jesus or Shiva might be, if the Bible is true then they're nowhere near as powerful as God, and at the end of the day, not even a sparrow falls without God's say so. So even if Jesus or Shiva could drive that demon from your head, they can't do so without first obtaining God's permission.

    So why do Catholics muck around wasting time and effort, not to mention risk angering a vindictive God by sidestepping him, and pray instead to dead humans that their Church have belatedly decided to call saints? This is where human desperation comes in. All these devout Christians will have implored and beseeched God untold times as they were growing up to help with some illness or to stop a war, but their prayers, strangely enough, always went unanswered. So what to do, who can they turn to? They do what humans do when interacting with other humans. If we can't convince someone to help us, or perhaps can't even gain an audience with them, then we look for others to act as intermediaries and to speak on our behalf. We explain our case and implore them to do what they can to convince a king or boss or judge that we need and deserve their assistance. When we're desperate we'll naturally start grasping at straws and harangue anyone that we think might have some influence on a person or body that we need help from. This all makes sense when we're dealing with fellow humans, who are, after all, real. But Catholics go an irrational step too far. They start beseeching dead people, when they should realise that no matter how helpful someone might have been when they were alive, they all become pretty useless on their death.

    In my view, Catholics pray to dead saints and fondle dusty relics because they've accepted that for all intents and purposes God has left this world to its own devices, maybe he's gone on vacation. Whatever they case, he can't be reached, so in desperation they're willing to beg the spirit of any dead person that they think might just possibly run into God in some spa and might be able to pass a message on. They've lost God's phone number and are now fumbling around looking for someone that might know him. Of course what they should grasp is that God ignores their prayers for the same reason that Superman ignores our desperate pleas for help.

  286. Comment by Gerald, 06 Feb, 2016

    Had to have a big smile at that one [#282: Catholic Priest claims God is female]. These days there are hundreds, probably thousands of near death experiences reported on the internet. I've read the medical explanations of what has happened in their brain to give these people these experiences. They all report the same general kinds of experiences Father O'Neal did. But 100% of the ones I've read who reported seeing God said he was definitely male :)

  287. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Feb, 2016

    These 'near death experiences' apparently have a profound psychological effect on those that have them, they are often utterly convinced that what happened was real, more real than anything they've ever experienced. So while the priest may not be questioning that he definitely met God, surely, as you say, he should be questioning why everyone else that has met god under similar circumstances didn't also encounter a mystical being with boobs and wearing dress. This is one reason I have so little respect for religious arguments, since clearly almost no thought has gone into them. Religious folk just choose to believe whatever nonsense pops into their head, and care not a jot how it conflicts with reason and reality.

  288. Comment by Ren, 20 Apr, 2016

    6 Compelling Reasons to Consider Switching to Satan

    While meant tongue in cheek, the article does point out some good points, all of which will annoy a true believer to no end!

  289. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Apr, 2016

    Even in jest God rather than Satan comes out looking like the real demon. As they say, the victors write the history books, eg the Bible, and God and his fearful, sycophant followers paint Satan as the bad guy in the story, when a critical reading clearly shows that Satan would be the better supernatural being to worship. Both the Bible and Christians unashamedly tell us that Christians, to be good Christians, must fear God. And with good reason.

  290. Comment by Patrick, 21 Apr, 2016

    Why every world map you're looking at is WRONG

    'The distortion is the result of the Mercator map, created in 1596, which distorts sizes in favour of the wealthy lands to the north.'

    Hi John. I don't know if you knew that most world maps are in fact wrong, I didn't know that until recently whilst surfing on the internet. We learn so many things on the internet .... and despite this, some people are against it ! Speaking of strange people, I was surprised to read the comment posted some time ago on your website where someone wrote that you believed in the shroud of Turin's authenticity !
  291. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Apr, 2016

    Yes Patrick, I did know that maps are distorted, since as the article explained, 'it is impossible to portray the reality of the spherical world on a flat map - a problem that has haunted cartographers for centuries'. So there is a practical reason why this distortion exists, and thus I wasn't impressed with the comment that, 'The familiar 'Mercator' projection gives the right shapes of land masses, but at the cost of distorting their sizes in favour of the wealthy lands to the north', since this implies that the distortion is all due to an evil conspiracy by wealthy countries.

    And to show that this distortion hasn't just been discovered, here is the entry from my copy of 'The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright © 1992'

    'Mercator map projection, a cylindrical map projection of the features of the earth's surface that can be constructed only mathematically. The parallels of latitude, which on the globe are equal distances apart, are drawn with increasing separation as their distance from the equator increases in order to preserve shapes. However, areas are exaggerated with increasing distance from the equator. For instance, Greenland is shown with enormously exaggerated size, although its shape is preserved. The poles themselves cannot be shown on a Mercator projection. This type of projection gives an incorrect impression of the relative sizes of the world's countries.'
    And yes, someone did ask, 'How can you believe such garbage?', implying that I viewed the shroud of Turin as authentic. A negative aspect of free speech is that it lets anyone express a view or hurl an insult without having to waste time acquainting themselves with what it is that they're commenting on. Think of sanctimonious Christians that condemn movies and books without ever having viewed or read them. While it's rare that people wrongly criticise me for believing in things like the shroud, it's quite clear that those that insult me for debunking the likes of gods, chemtrails, psychics, ghosts and UFOs, haven't bothered to read and understand anything I've written on the subject, or in fact, anything anyone has written on the topic if it appears to be contrary to their uninformed stance. The Internet gives them the ability to fling an anonymous insult and quickly flee the scene, gloating to themselves, 'Well, that'll shake up his thinking and shut him up!'. Umm ... no, it won't. I view a hit-and-run insult as something they've used as a frustrated and desperate last resort, since reason and evidence long deserted them.
  292. Comment by Doug, 22 Apr, 2016

    It amazes me that anyone is surprised by the fact that the Mercator projection is inaccurate as to area. Where were they in Social Studies/Geography at school? Or are those teachers not telling their pupils such fundamental information? (I am a teacher, so I would be disappointed if they were not). But to ascribe this to some political agenda, rather than to a convenience, is just silly. Another example of ignorance being excused as being a deliberate act to deceive. I am disturbed at how readily people are prepared to believe whatever they are told rather than checking it out for themselves.

  293. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Apr, 2016

    Hi Doug. Actually I don't remember learning that fact at school, mind you, I went to school in the last century, when the world was still flat and an apple was something you ate. I read it later in a book, an ancient device that's fast going the way of blacksmiths, quill pens and video cassettes. These days I fear that what passes for education beyond the bare minimum in schools, ie knowing how to do a Maori haka, and how to film it and upload it to YouTube, is garnered from Hollywood movies and Facebook and Twitter sound-bites. If concerning a matter of science or history, an actor makes a certain claim in a movie or some celebrity tweets some moronic nonsense, then a worrying number of the populace immediately and uncritically accept it as fact. Your rather quaint notion that people should 'check it out for themselves' rather than simply believing everything they hear, is to many people a euphemism for a frightening activity that suggests hard work and time away from gossipping on their various screens. And why, they would demand, shouldn't we trust the likes of Tom Hanks or Kim Kardashian? You don't get that famous without knowing stuff.

    Recently I watched a movie on TV called, 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter'. Once again I'm amazed at just how little I know about history (and science) and how much the boring textbooks leave out. I mean, vampires, who would have thought? Thank you Hollywood for making history interesting. How ignorant I'd be without your help. But seriously, you and I know we're not supposed to believe what we see and hear in movies, even the ones that say, 'Based on a true story', but I'm forever dismayed that many people think that the movies, hobbits and smurfs aside, make great efforts to get the science and history right. I've discussed important topics with people who have revealed that they learnt their 'facts' from various movies (or worse still, their priest). Like you Doug I wish people would, especially when challenged, check things out for themselves, but even when I've offered to lend people a book or DVD documentary that gives a different view, meaning factual, no one ever takes up my offer. People have their own little fantasies about how things work, and most don't want to risk shaking up that worldview, and if it involves a little bit of reading and thinking, well, that's definitely not going to happen.

  294. Comment by Patrick, 25 Apr, 2016

    Comment by Doug, 22 Apr, 2016
    It amazes me that anyone is surprised by the fact that the Mercator projection is inaccurate as to area. Where were they in Social Studies/Geography at school?
    Hi Doug. You should not be amazed as in fact most people don't know this or simply don't care. I was born in 1970, went to a respectable school and college, and as far as I remember, no teacher ever talked about that. Either they didn't know or did not think that it was necessary to talk about this (most teachers teach what the syllabus ask them to teach and practically nothing more). Anyway, I did send this link to some other friends (including two retired college teachers from France and USA) and they also didn't know this. I understand from John's reply that he knew this, but not from his school teachers.
  295. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Apr, 2016

    Hi Patrick. I can understand Doug's amazement. Teachers are understandably peeved that their knowledge isn't always filtering through to students.

    But the reality is, I feel, that a huge amount of what we learn at school, which of course is only a drop in the ocean compared to the available knowledge in the greater world, is simply not needed to lead an average life. So why hang on to it? How many people use imaginary numbers, know how far away the Moon is and why we only see one side, understand the chemical makeup of their shampoo, care who the Neandertals were, or have found that knowing when Galileo lived helped them get a mortgage? Just as people can use their smartphone or get a suntan without any detailed knowledge of microprocessors or nuclear fusion, they can likewise fly to Disneyland without having heard of the Mercator projection. The majority are simply not interested in finding out how things happen, as long as they do.

    Clearly you Patrick, along with Doug and I, are curious about the world beyond a superficial level that simply gets us by. But I fear that the majority of students view school something akin to a prison sentence. Students are often lumbered with a syllabus and teachers that both focus on memorising facts and passing exams, to equip with them only with the basics to gain the jobs that society currently offers. Far too few teachers actually inspire students to learn and understand more, not just at school, but throughout life. Once the enforced learning period is over, books are closed forever, jobs are obtained, and much of what they did learn is quickly forgotten.

    For me, much of what I now know was learnt outside school, mainly from reading, travel and being inquisitive. I would think myself quite ignorant if my knowledge level had remained as it was when I left school, especially since much of science, geography, and even history, has changed in the interim. Of course there are some very bright people about, but so many people one meets seem not to have even retained the basic knowledge they left school with. While I've endeavoured to learn new things, others have simply managed to forget, creating a vacuum that is often filled with primitive, superstitious nonsense that requires nothing more than the intellect of an amoeba to understand and believe in. What school syllabus teaches their students to take the likes of astrology, homeopathy, alien abductions, conspiracy theories, psychics and the lost city of Atlantis seriously? None. So why do so many effortlessly ditch what little science and history they learnt at school and replace it with a medieval peasant mindset? Is the old saying true, that they only went to school to eat their lunch, learning nothing and counting down to the day they could leave?

    The world is awash with knowledge and yet far too many want nothing to do with it. However the most annoying are those that argue fervently for some notion, but a little discussion soon reveals great ignorance on their part. I certainly plead ignorance on many topics, but you won't see me arguing about them, the way the religious argue for gods, psychics argue for talkative souls, astrologers argue for unseen forces and abductees argue for aliens. But ask a few questions and it's always the same. What, what, what? You didn't know that the Moon doesn't shine with its own light, that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John didn't write the Gospels, that there is no sound in outer space, that electromagnetic radiation and nuclear radiation are quite different things, that Robin Hood, King Arthur and the Trojan horse didn't exist, that we didn't evolve from monkeys, and that Mother Teresa was a right bitch and not deserving of sainthood? And none of this did I learn at school, since I guess none of it was needed to get me a job or make me a good citizen, so the syllabus didn't cover it. But the science, history and philosophy I've learnt since leaving school has made my life far more interesting and meaningful than it would have been had I closed the books on leaving.

    I frankly have little confidence that our present school syllabuses are preparing students for the real world any more than they did a hundred years ago. For example, in NZ, why teach primitive Maori traditions in science classes? We know vastly more about life and the universe than we ever have, and yet most people still believe in the likes of gods, ghosts and psychic healing. Others believe that AIDS, vaccines and chemtrails were actually engineered to kill us, and that aliens are abducting us from our beds. So-called 'educated' people believe an astrologer can predict the weather and earthquakes, and many more believe that a long dead carpenter will soon return to throw most of us into a burning lake of sulfur. That everyone can spend years passing through our education system and emerge still holding, or happy to embrace, such primitive and superstitious beliefs demonstrates that our schools are failing miserably to teach the majority of students how to think about the world and reach rational conclusions. That in the 21st century so many silly beliefs are still held by so-called 'educated' people makes me question the manner of their education, and makes me suspect that it is long overdue for a major revamp. We can expect unschooled peasants to be gullible and ignorant, but surely we have a problem when many of our school leavers are equally so.

  296. Comment by Ron, 24 May, 2016

    Hiya John. In the last year or so I've been getting emails from regular sources repeatedly going on about how amazing cures, hidden in the bible all these centuries, can change medicine as we know it. So far I've been offered cures for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. The most recent, from "easy health options", in the USA, is talking about T2 diabetes. This is the wording of the email before one links into follow up details.

    "Can any atheist explain this. There has been a monumental breakthrough in medical science and it's taking the world by storm. On Jan.7, 2016 a large research group in Baltimore went public with the most powerful treatment for diabetes ever discovered. There are no injections, pills or supplements to take. Instead, the treatment is buried on page 1117 of the king james version of the bible. Already, one of the worlds top institutions has verified its effectiveness. Atheists may be appalled but there is nothing they can do to disprove this".
    John, do you have a KJV bible? I don't but have 2 other versions. It is supposed to be in Daniel, chapter 3. I have read that frigging chapter 4 times but cannot see a tiny clue for a diabetes cure in any sentence. It simply goes on about burning people in furnaces (real nice, eh?) and of course emphasizing the need to believe in gods every word, or else. Can you find anything that I cannot?

    Naturally the ancient prophets do not mention diabetes specifically. I guess the word did not exist then. So, hidden in the 3rd chapter of Daniel this actual cure is a quantum leap in the fight against diabetes. They go on by telling us that Christians, not scientists, have discovered what could cure D. Success stories abound with a cure rate of 100% if done correctly. You will lose weight as it normalizes blood sugar, you can eat anything, it adds decades(?) to life. Also can cure Alzheimers, hypertension, depression, cancer, etc. We are told it is not quack science. Medical clinics worldwide are using this principle to defeat this 21st century plague. Note, it is a principle. How do these Christian searchers find all this info. Why must these cures be so "hidden". Why did god make them so damn difficult to uncover. And how do these researchers figure out the protocol as in "if done correctly" when a single clue is so elusive. Slow, but clever they must be. John, you would have noted the mention of atheists twice. Not surprising from the states I read recently that Americans are very bigoted and prejudiced towards atheists, being the most despised minority in the USA. There exists fear, hatred, distrust, suspicion and discrimination. I'm sure this is not new to you. Basically Americans believe to be an American you have to be a believer. Predictably, some are out to make money here, probably based on the supposed authenticity of the bible. Way at the end one is offered 2 free books, one titled Daniels miracle cure, if you subscribe to a newsletter at USD $97 per year. I think it's rather unethical for anyone to expect money for "biblical cures" so the book is "free", cunning. However, to add confusion, a little search reveals chapter 1, verses 8-16 is touted as Daniels cure. It is taken as being a plant based diet only. There is nothing new about this and books on the great merits of this way of eating have been around for many yrs. So, what are these buggars up to. Making money appears clear cut. Confusion, deceit and contradictions are also in the mix. Why the emphasis on diabetes, why is it not being screamed from the rooftops, this cure. After all diabetes is rampant and expected to worsen fast to epidemic proportions. It does nasty things to very many, it kills. Another scammy con?

  297. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 May, 2016

    Hi Ron. Short answer, those miracle cure emails are a scam. No doubt about it. I found this site which appears to be typical of the diabetes cure scam, using many of your email quotes. If their cure from God really worked then the real health professionals, ie the doctors and hospitals, would know about it and be using it. But instead, strangers with no medical qualifications are simply emailing people at random — it's called spam — to ask if they need treatment for diabetes, and if they do, then they have the cure — all for a special, low, low price, if you act now. Operators are standing by. But wait, there's more, order now and you'll get a free gift. Do you see doctors randomly emailing people to advertise antibiotics or hip replacements? No, of course not, you go to them when you have problem, they don't need to drum up business by creating spam.

    And why is God apparently more interested in these guys earning enough money to buy another Porsche than simply curing his followers of diabetes? As you say Ron, why would an all-loving God have 'hidden' or 'buried' his cure in the Bible, and why would he allow others to sell his cure if he is offering it free in the Bible? Your email says 'treatment is buried on page 1117 of the king james version of the bible', and I read others that claim that the cure is 'inspired by page 1117 of the King James Bible' and that 'this biblically inspired treatment [is] hidden in the 3rd chapter of Daniel'. OK, so I know why God isn't telling me himself, since he's not real and imagining voices would get me committed. But why aren't scammers telling me what the Bible says? Why do they go on and on but still never reveal exactly what the 'free' advice in the Bible is? Because if they told me I could look it up myself and I wouldn't have to buy the answer off them, and then realise I'd been conned. That's why they vaguely talk about 'page 1117 of the King James Bible', which is meaningless. Even committed Christians wouldn't know what that referred to. Imagine if I mentioned a great line of dialogue from the movie 'Star Wars', and said that it can be heard 67 minutes and 17 seconds from the opening credits, and that's the Director's Cut version of 'Star Wars', not the original theatre release. You'd tell me not to be so stupid and insist that I simply quote the dialogue.

    I have a King James Bible and page 1117 is Esther, chapter 7, not Daniel, chapter 3. But depending on formatting, page numbers could vary wildly. According to an online version, page 1117 is in Jerremiah, chapter 29, not Daniel. So clearly that page number is meant to stop us finding the cure for ourselves. Even if we believe the cure is 'hidden in the 3rd chapter of Daniel' rather than on page 1117, as you've discovered Ron there is nothing in that chapter relating to health. Unless the message is that getting people to burn you alive will cure your diabetes. So why are these scammers deliberately hiding God's word from us? Surely they can't be that ignorant of where they got their cure from?

    Why do they mention Daniel at all? You're right Ron, others promote what they call 'Daniel's Diabetic Miracle' and 'Daniel's Diet', and some, but not all, refer to Daniel 1:8-16, which concerns the diet of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. It simply recommends a vegan diet, and as you say, nothing new and revolutionary in that. So it appears that once you've handed over your money, you'll most likely be told that you should go vegan. But is there any evidence that proves that vegans don't suffer from diabetes, or to quote one 'Daniel's Diabetic Miracle' website, 'Cancer, Heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, High Cholesterol, Depression, High Blood Pressure, Parkinson's disease, Excess inflammation, Side effects of chemotherapy'? And why would you need to treat the 'Side effects of chemotherapy' if 'Daniel's Diabetic Miracle' prevented cancer and thus you should never need chemotherapy?

    And vague statements like this always scream scam: 'On Jan.7, 2016 a large research group in Baltimore went public with the most powerful treatment for diabetes ever discovered', and 'one of the worlds top institutions has verified its effectiveness'. That's like the world's media reporting in 1969 that 'some group' has landed a man on the Moon, and not mentioning NASA, or that 'some scientist' has discovered life on Mars, but they didn't bother asking for a name. The scammers knew the exact day a research group went public, but not who they were. They don't want to provide names because then people could check their claims and find that they're utterly bogus. Either the organisations don't exist, or they never made such claims, or what claims they did make are being misrepresented for nefarious means.

    Other claims for this scam caught my eye too. They claim that 'in one animal study it was been shown to increase life span by 83%', but if this were applied to humans, which of course is the suggestion, then vegans should have a life span of around 229 years! For humans, our life span, which is different to life expectancy, is believed to be around 125. Even if they meant life expectancy, if we say normal is around 80 years old, we should see people on 'Daniel's Diabetic Miracle' living to over 140 years old. Why aren't these really, really old people speaking out about the benefits of their Biblical lifestyle, and why aren't we noticing them?

    They also claimed that 'Christians - not scientists - have discovered what could cure diabetes?' First, notice the question mark and the phrase 'could cure', so it appears that they're not so sure it works after all. Second, if it's truly from Daniel in the Bible, then it was the Jews who discovered the cure, not Christians. How many times do Christians have to be told that not a single person in the Old Testament was a Christian, and even Jesus and all his disciples were Jews?

    The scammers also reveal their medical ignorance when they claim that 'More than 29 million Americans are suffering from the terrible side effects of Diabetes ... They're pricking themselves with ... insulin injections every single day', but then they claim that their 'radical new approach ... enables you to cure type 2 diabetes'. But Type 1 diabetes is treated by insulin injections, not Type 2. Surely an expert would know this? And on the website there are many worthless testimonials but not a single link to a research paper or medical study that supports any of the claims made for the miracle cure.

    I'd also suggest that you read this short article — 'ALERT: How Online Diabetes "Cures" Scam Consumers' — where it talks of 'fake review sites', where links send you to other bogus sites set up to support the scam.

    I agree with the conclusions you reach Ron: 'Making money appears clear cut. Confusion, deceit and contradictions are also in the mix'. They pick on diabetes because it's on the rise and doctors don't have a cure, so the door is open for scammers to offer a bogus one to an increasing market. They don't scream about their cure from the rooftops because too much attention from the wrong people, eg skeptics and lawyers, would see their scam being widely publicised as a scam, and maybe even see them arrested in some jurisdictions for fraud.

    And yes, atheists are despised by many in the USA, but that's not surprising since the US is just as religious as the likes of Iran. But Christians just show their ignorance when they ask, 'Can any atheist explain this?' An atheist is simply someone who doesn't believe in gods, not an expert in medical research. Also, the supposed rationale behind Daniel's miracle cure doesn't involve any supernatural aspects, so there are no spooky elements for an atheist to dismiss either. This Biblical story simply had Daniel arguing that his Hebrew diet was healthier than what the Babylonian royals were eating, and that he could prove it in a ten day control experiment. Even if this story were true, it wouldn't be unusual if some ancient person discovered that some food was more beneficial than others, after all, that's why we eat bananas and not grass. If Daniel had said something utterly revealing, something he shouldn't have known, like, humans have 23 chromosome pairs, made up of some 3 billion base pairs, then Christians could rightly ask, 'Can any atheist explain this?'. But he didn't, so there's no medical mystery to explain. And let's remember that the real reason that Daniel refused the food that the Babylonian royals were eating was that, as a Hebrew exile in Babylon, he didn't want to be contaminated by the foreign culture that surrounded him. He wanted to eat only 'clean' food, not the Babylon equivalent of McDonalds.

    I want to repeat that Daniel had no idea nor made any suggestion that his vegan diet might prevent or cure diabetes or the many other claims that are now being made for it. Daniel and his three friends were all young and in perfect health, so they had no afflictions whatsoever on which to test his new diet. You judge the efficacy of a new diabetes treatment by giving it to someone with diabetes, not to four healthy young men. I mean, how likely is it that some primitive, superstitious tribesman that thought the world was flat and that mental illness was caused by demons somehow worked out how to cure diabetes, a disease he didn't have, in just ten days? And then kept the cure hidden, not just from us in the distant future, but even from his own people in his own time? Let's recall that the Jews never converted to veganism, not even a breakaway group. Even Jesus himself was completely unaware of the benefits of a vegetable and water diet. But Christians love to claim that our modern scientific knowledge is buried in the Bible. I'm surprised that some Christian hasn't claimed that the following Bible quote — 'And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light' — is all about how laser surgery can improve eyesight.

    It's complete bullshit to suggest that the Bible's authors were hiding or burying a reference on how to prevent diabetes, let alone Type 2 diabetes. While the disease was known to the ancient Greeks, and the word comes from them, I doubt the Hebrews were aware of it as a specific disease. After all, they thought that bodily afflictions came from their god, as a divine form of punishment, not through poor food choices. For these Christian scammers to claim that the Bible reveals knowledge of a cure for diabetes is utterly false. It's complete nonsense for them to state that 'Atheists may be appalled but there is nothing they can do to disprove this'. There is no diabetes cure to be found in the Bible, and since nothing has been proven, there is nothing to disprove. As I've said, they won't even reveal the Bible passage for fear that we will expose their scam. Their assertion that we're appalled and apparently at a loss to explain their miracle cure is nothing but a devious lie to reassure their gullible clients — If those evil atheists can't disprove it then the evidence must be strong, sign me up! The reality is that all scams, from 'Daniel's Diabetic Miracle' to homeopathy, psychic mediums, weather astrology and Christianity itself, only continue to exist on the fringe because their promoters refuse to engage with atheists and skeptics. When they boldly ask, 'Can any atheist explain this?', why do they never actually bother to find an informed atheist to ask? It's all a front, clients are just meant to assume that many atheists, or skeptics or scientists, were asked and all were confounded. But of course none ever were asked, and if any were to proffer an answer, it's always ignored. These gutless scammers fear us as a vampire fears daylight, and they prey on the ignorant, capitalising on desperation and irrational fears. While the Internet provides a medium for easier proliferation of these scams, it also provides the answers that expose these scams, if people would just look before handing over their money to rogues.

  298. Comment by Ron, 30 May, 2016

    Hello John. Great, insightful comment from you re. the biblical diabetes cure. The funny emails continue. One tried to tell me 5 foods the bible says I must never eat. Another talked about Samson of the bible and his hair. That buried in the bible is the secret to ending thinning hair and a new head of thick lustrous locks. No advice on where to find it, but, of course, the secret lies in a product you can purchase at high cost, details at the end of the email. No, surely not!! Then the latest. Wholetones. This is healing music that is healing Christians of just about everything. The secret lies in the ancient frequencies and vibrations (sound technology?) ie you must tune an instrument like a guitar to the correct, unusual KHZ. And all is hunky dorey. God apparently gave David these frequencies. Just check 1Samuel 16-23 (NIV) The writer leads by telling us the whole message is intended only for believers of modern day miracles, that god is alive and well and busy performing many miracles today.

    An email today from INH research is the crux of this comment. "Harvard study reveals going to church boosts health" starts it off.

    "Dramatically" as new research shows. In a 20 yr study Harvard scientists found women who attended religious services twice weekly were a third less likely to die (??) compared to non-attendees. Data is based on 75000 US women aged 46-71. Data was adjusted to account for attendees being less likely to smoke, drink or have bad vices, and racial, dietary, exercise habits and mental health issues. These women lived an average of 5 months longer than those never attending services. A professor of epidemiology at Harvard led the study. He said church attendance may be a powerful and under-appreciated health resource. Even occasional church goers have 13% less mortality risk than non goers. This study did not look at men but stated the impact on mens health does not seem as strong. Prof. believes the health benefits come from social support and sense of community as part of a worship group. Faith brought beneficial effects. Duke university study shows the religiously active have lower blood pressure, less mental illness and less likely to be hospitalized plus prayer groups have lower heart attack risk.

    There you have it John. Bang goes my goal of reaching the century. You know, I find a lot of this meaningless. Is there really any need to be religious to practice the world religions health principles when these should apply to all anyway. At the risk of sounding churlish, I thought just maybe those at Harvard could spend money on some more useful studies, but then some may find these conclusions very useful. Also, had to laugh at the additional, dramatic 5 mths lifespan on offer. Do you think that will bring many newcomers knocking at the church doors. I'm certain I could do much better by having an extra free range egg each week or an extra banana or a few dates daily.

  299. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 31 May, 2016

    Hey Ron. It seems the Internet is awash with email scams, and since, in my view, Christians have demonstrated that they'll believe the silliest of things, then of course there will be many scams aimed specifically at Christians. They're an easy target. Who but a deluded god believer (Christian, Jew or Muslim) could assert 'that god is alive and well and busy performing many miracles today'? There is no evidence whatsoever of even a single miracle being performed by God, or any god, throughout all of history, let alone evidence of many miracles happening today. I challenge any religious person to provide evidence of a genuine miracle, that is, an event that appears to breaks the laws of nature, along with the proof that their god caused it. Someone surviving a plane crash or a terrorist bomb while hundreds of others die is not a miracle. Someone surviving a tornado that destroys their house is not a miracle. When someone recovers from a bad head cold, it's not a miracle.

    This is God we're talking about, the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving being that created the entire Universe and life itself in all its complexity. He created everything from the intricate little parasite that kills a million innocent people every year with malaria to the enormous star that is bathing us in cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation. He made Adam from mere dust and Eve from one of Adam's ribs, he created talking serpents and parted the Red Sea, he made the Sun stop in the sky, turned water into wine, made a burning bush speak and raised people from the dead. Those extraordinary and inexplicable things are what is meant by miracles, everything else is natural and just happens. And yet with this claimed history of awe-inspiring miracles behind him, what strange things do Christians now attribute to their god? Burn marks on a piece of toast or a nasty stain on a towel that both look like Jesus, even though no one knows what Jesus actually looked like. Just recently I saw a news item where a teenager disappeared swimming at the beach, and was believed drowned, and when the body of the dead teen was found washed up on the shore a few days later, the family proclaimed it a miracle. They believed that God went out of his way to recover the body and toss it on a beach, allowing the family to give him a decent burial. They actually thanked God for delivering a corpse, apparently in their view bodies never wash to shore naturally, and they completely ignored the obvious question — If God was prepared to get off his arse and help the family, why didn't he save a life instead? Surely the teenager being found alive a few days later would have been a far more impressive miracle, and a far more desired one, than secretly using ocean currents to deliver a dead body to a grieving family? The events that Christians now describe as miracles are the most pathetic imaginable. Have God's powers, or his desire to help, so diminished that his miracles are now no more than occasionally pointing to where the bodies are or making crappy artwork on one in a trillion pieces of toast? I seriously don't know how devout Christians can see something mundane happen, such as a postie delivering their mail, and sincerely cry, 'It's a miracle, praise the Lord!' It's almost as pathetic as those Muslims that cry, 'God is great!', as bombs fall and their family and friends are killed. What will it take to make these deluded fools realise that their god isn't actually helping them, isn't even there?

    I've read about the claim that regular churchgoers live a little longer, and there is apparently some truth to this, although an extra five months of life when you're old, in a wheelchair and unable to really enjoy life could be seen as a punishment, not a bonus. And let's remember that while they may gain five months at the bitter end, once-weekly churchgoers will have wasted at least twice that amount of time during their life, on theirs knees, head bowed, listening to boring nonsense during their weekly church service. By not going to church I get to enjoy my Sundays on the beach or in bed, when I'm young and/or healthy enough to appreciate them, whereas once-weekly churchgoers swapped their many lazy Sundays for half that time when they're in their 80s. I think I'm getting the better deal by far.

    Also the Christians that mention this study fail to emphasise that this possible health benefit has nothing to do with whether God exists or not, and nothing to do with Jesus healing his followers. It's likely due to a feeling of community, friendship, companionship and support. As this article notes,

    '"The association between religious participation and mortality probably has more to do with religious practice and specifically, communal practice, like attending religious services, than with religious belief," said study author Tyler VanderWeele.

    The researchers determined that private or solitary worship didn't confer the same longevity. What you worshiped mattered less than that you worshiped regularly and in a group. The solitary Hindu on his prayer mat got less bang for his spiritual buck than the Wiccan in her circle or Quaker at his Meeting.'

    The study suggested that it didn't matter what gods you believed in, as long as 'you worshiped regularly and in a group', and said that 'the Wiccan in her circle' (that's witches in their coven), will see some benefit whereas the 'private or solitary worship' of a Hindu, or a very devout Christian, wouldn't 'confer the same longevity'. So Christians are being disingenuous when they claim that 'Faith brought beneficial effects', since the study shows it wasn't faith at all, but fellowship. It's even possible that a churchgoing closet-atheist would benefit more health wise than a recluse religious fundamentalist. You also noted Ron that the study suggested that 'the impact on men's health does not seem as strong', which again implies that it has nothing to do with gods but more in the way women socialise. Also, this article writes that 'the authors noted limits in generalising the results because the study mainly consisted of white Christians. The participants were also nurses with similar socio-economic status and who were health conscious'. So, all women, all nurses, all white, all Christians, all the same socio-economic status. I think those aspects might bias the study somewhat. And since the study seems to show that getting together regularly as a group is probably what helps, I wonder if the same effect might be found in any non-religious group that meets regularly, like a knitting group or even Skeptics in the Pub? There are plenty of studies that show that people that live alone, especially elderly people, are likely to be less healthy, and that having a pet or even stroking a cat can improve someone's wellbeing. It's no great surprise to me that people united in some common activity, even a delusional belief in some god, might feel better because of their relationship, and that their health might benefit from this sense of fellowship.

    I had to giggle at the claim that a 'Duke university study shows the religiously active have ... less mental illness'. You can't convince me that people that firmly believe, without evidence, that invisible angels are watching them, that Jesus is busy preparing a luxury suite for them for when they die, that Allah wants them to fly jetliners into skyscrapers, and that a baby's smile is one of God's miracles, aren't suffering from a serious mental illness. As Robert M. Pirsig wrote, 'When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion'. And in that Duke study, when it says, 'less mental illness', less mental illness than who? Who were the religiously active compared to? Probably just the religiously inactive. Since in the USA most people are religious, are we expected to believe that a non-religious minority group was the comparison, say scientists, and that they were found to exhibit more mental illness than religious evangelists? I suspect that if that study is valid, all it shows is that Christians that regularly attend church exhibit slightly less mental problems than Christians who don't. But since both groups are believing Christians, again it's not about their God but about their fellowship with others.

    You're correct Ron that if there was genuine health advice in the Bible, then it would apply to everyone, and we would have been following it for thousands of years. But Jews, and Christians and Muslims who added to the Jewish 'Bible', are generally no healthier than atheists or Hindus and Buddhists, and in many countries Christians, eg much of Africa, are far unhealthier than atheists in secular countries. Christians speak of these hidden health secrets in the Old Testament, the Jewish 'Bible', but at the same time they refuse to follow the Jewish dietary commandments. Why should they believe the advice that God revealed in one passage but dismiss his advice in another? If they clearly believe that God was wrong when he said we mustn't mix meat and dairy products, and hundreds of other examples, then why do they believe anything he said? If you know someone has lied to you 500 times, why would you believe the next claim he makes, when on the surface it sounds just as bogus as the rest? All this bullshit about diabetes cures, Samson's hair, and healing music is simply devious Christian fraudsters seeking another way to suck money from gullible and deluded believers. Take the 'Wholetones' you mentioned, that healing comes about because of 'ancient frequencies and vibrations', as described in 1 Samuel 15-23. But there is absolutely nothing in that text that states or even implies that music can heal the body, or that the person in question was even ill, let alone suggests what the appropriate healing frequencies and vibrations might be. Let's look at the crucial passages:

    'Saul's attendants said to him, "See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you, and you will feel better." ... Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.'
    The story actually tells of Saul being tormented by God. Saul is not ill, there is nothing to heal, he is simply being deliberately tortured by an evil spirit sent by God. What the text tells us is that David's harp playing, perhaps it was horrendously bad, would tend to drive the evil spirit away, and Saul would feel better. But the evil spirit kept returning, so the music was no cure, it healed nothing, it was simply a temporary respite.

    The Bible makes not even a veiled suggestion that harp music is good for aliments such as leprosy or even a sore throat. It's good for demonic possession, that's it, nothing else. Of course Christians today will claim, well some of them will, that they no longer believe in demonic possession, in evil spirits sent by God to torment them, which is very smart of them. But if they don't believe the core element of the Saul and David story, then what reason do they have for believing the harp element? If there was no possession by a demon, if that was a deliberate lie or a naïve mistake, then there was no need for a magic harp. The music couldn't have cured what wasn't there. If they argue that Saul actually suffered from depression or a tumour on the brain, which was misdiagnosed as an evil spirit, then I can likewise argue that they were also wrong about what might have temporarily relieved Saul's suffering. Maybe it wasn't the music but Saul's homoerotic longing for David whenever he came and played his harp. My point is that Christians, if they are to be credible, must either believe the story in its entirely, evil spirits and all, or dismiss it all as superstitious nonsense. They can't say it contains healing secrets from God while at the same time giggling about the silly Jews and their belief in evil spirits.

    The Saul story also exposes another flaw with the larger God story. Let's recall that God is all-powerful, that nothing can defeat him or his plans. And yet we see David with his little harp driving away the evil spirit that God sent to punish Saul, so God's plan to torment Saul was continually thwarted. And God, even though he's all-knowing, didn't know his plan would fail, and didn't even learn from the episode, since he kept sending the spirit back, unaware and unable to comprehend that David would simply take up his harp again. How could God be defeated and outwitted by a simple sheep herder? I'm forever amazed that the religious can read these stories, often studying them in depth, and not detect all the silly contradictions, and then not go on to realise that they're just silly fantasies written by primitive, ignorant men.

    Dipping into their Bible apparently comforts Christians and bolsters their faith, and yet every time I'm referred to some Biblical passage I come away with yet another reason to dismiss belief in God. At times it's difficult to believe that we're both talking about the same old book.

  300. Comment by Rene, 29 Jul, 2016

    Billion-year-old air reveals surprise about oxygen on ancient Earth
    Ancient air trapped in salt crystals was analyzed, and show oxygen at about 10%, or about 5 times the amount expected for that time period. Fascinating discovery! Observed directly too, so this is not guesswork.

    Also shows though that "God created the planet for us ... and then made the air too low in oxygen to let us live more than a few minutes" apparently. Good designer, eh? (lol)

    Get your religious apologetics ready to explain THAT one. Adam and Eve would have spent their creation gasping for air watching things gets blurry and dark REAL fast.

  301. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Jul, 2016

    It is indeed a fascinating discovery Rene. I'm forever amazed at the evidence that scientists can wrestle from such ordinary material, such as old salt crystals.

    Of course apologists dismiss radioactive dating as bogus, so they'll naturally apply the same silly argument to the analysis of the oxygen content ... it's wrong. But even if you just accept that for the sake of argument God did create the world in six days specifically for our benefit, even looking at what we see around us now raises huge problems. Around 75% of the planet is covered in cold water that we can't breath or drink. Much of the land is unsuitable for human life; too hot, too cold, too dry, too high, too toxic, too many dangerous predators etc. Humans, certainly humans without modern technology, can only flourish on a very small fraction of the Earth's surface, and not above it or below it. And size-wise the Earth is only a minute speck when compared to the solar system, which is an even smaller speck compared to the galaxy, which is completely lost in the vastness of the universe. And of course humans don't have to leave the Earth's surface by much and venture into space before they discover that it's even more deadly than the oceans. Nothing that we know of outside the Earth is pleasant to humans, everything wants to kill us. If God created the universe for our benefit, so that we could go forth and multiply, then he failed miserably. Earth isn't our springboard to explore the greater world that God made for us, it's our prison.

  302. Comment by Rene, 08 Sep, 2016

    Holy potato He cut a potato and a cross was in the middle. Clearly it's the Lord's work.

    'Holy potato' found at Quebec seniors' residence
  303. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Sep, 2016

    Holy potato Batman! I guess it's true after all, there is a God! But seriously, every time I hear some religious Neanderthal proclaim that some silly mark (easily explained by nature) is actually a sign from their invisible god, it again makes me realise that the evolutionary divide between many humans and our cousins the apes is not that great, and for some there may be no real gap at all.

    Hiding the mark of a cross inside a single potato. Oh for Christ's sake, is that it? Is that the limit of god's powers these days? One little cross inside one little potato? It's just amazing how pathetically useless Christians believe their god is in this modern age. Is he in an old folks home for decrepit old gods and dementia has made him forget how to do big miracles, and old age has zapped his powers even if he could remember?

    And let's remember that this mark shaped like a cross could, and indeed surely did, occur naturally, so there is no way that the religious fools can show that in this special case their god went out of his way to create something that could easily have occurred naturally. Surely if their pathologically shy god wanted to reveal his presence it would make far more sense to make a sign that couldn't occur naturally and couldn't be dismissed as a weird coincidence. For example, make the stars form a huge cross, or, like in the Bible, make burning bushes (in the shape of crosses) appear simultaneously all over the world, or have all the animals start talking (as some did in the Bible), proclaiming god's existence.

    Frankly if I was religious, it would be no different from being a pedophile, it's something I'd definitely want to keep quiet and hidden from those around me. I might believe that a mark in a potato is a sign from god, but I certainly wouldn't be stupid enough to tell people about my silly belief.

  304. Comment by Ron, 09 Sep, 2016

    Hi there John. Long time, no write.

    Have a bit of a potpourri of religious related comments to spout out here and, as always, look forward to your well written and thought out responses.

    Firstly, the cross in the potato comments on Silly Beliefs. Did you know the Jehovahs do not believe that common symbol of Christianity, the cross. They believe it was an upright stake. Although the bible does not describe the instrument of Jesus' death it uses the greek word stau ros which apparently means an upright stake, it never means 2 pcs of wood crossed in any way.

    And going back to the humble potato and silly fools seeing symbols inside, here is another little story out of so many that abound out there. This one is true, no joke. A professor of geology told one of his students that his father was an evangelical Christian. During a discussion prof. asked dad "how do you explain fossils and the like when the earth is supposed to be only a few thousand yrs old?". The reply was "God put all that stuff here to test our faith". Is anyone surprised why non-believers don't take many Christians seriously?

    A news item this week told us mother Theresa received sainthood status from the Pope. Of course there was strong vocal opposition from those who know plenty and are not afraid to speak out. Someone should have guided the Pope to read your Silly Beliefs article on mother Theresa!!! Sure she helped a lot of people but so do many unsung heroes everywhere. Francis could have seen another side to the story.

    Would like to throw in 3 little annoying things, out of many, that fellow Christians used to throw at people when I was on that side of the fence.

    "It's not Christian to question anything in the bible". Now it appears so much more obvious that as a christian one is not supposed to use their brain, the brain God gave them.

    "If you don't believe in God one cannot know the difference between right and wrong". Well, I can only say now, look into all the scandals, past and ongoing, involving priests etc.

    Another that annoyed me that I could never reconcile with is that I must love God far more than my wife or anyone else. Matthew 10:37 goes on that anyone who loves his father/mother/son/daughter more than God is not worthy of him. We were told that the more we love god the better we are at loving others. That marriage is a 3 way partnership, that god is the 3rd party. That one can have a more loving, intimate relationship with god than with any earthly relationship. Many Christian couples boast that they love Christ more than their spouses and that makes their marriage more successful. I cannot refute these claims. If they believe it makes a difference then great, but I could never gel with that. I love my wife dearly (but I hate my neighbour) and we are approaching 35 yrs and I have never regretted a minute of those yrs.

    An additional common belief is that children brought up in a godly home will themselves be godly. I attended a catholic primary school then a state secondary school in a smaller town. All I can say now, decades later, is that statement is utterly untrue.

    Some time back I read articles you wrote John, relating to atheism and you mention Richard Dawkins at times. I have not yet read "The God Delusion" but dug into various articles about him and many quotes from him incl the beaut you mentioned recently how he described God. I took a lot of notes and just wish to toss some in here as a slightly confusing mix. I found an article that quoted Dawkins in 2010 where the great atheist seems almost to do a back flip. Did you know he reluctantly admitted Christianity could be protecting us from the evils of this world? He said he had mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity as it might be a bulwark against something worse!! A christian commentator said "even the worlds most famous atheist recognizes that God is protecting us from evil". Dawkins goes on, and I cannot disagree with him here. "There are no Christians as far as I know, blowing up buildings, Christian suicide bombers, nor am I aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death".

    I quote from another Christian here. "Has it never occurred to atheists that the administrations of atheists Stalin, Marx and Lenin were responsible for the slaughter of more than 100 million people who would not yield to godless communism? This does not mean all atheists are murderers. Such exterminations cannot be condemned on the basis of the philosophy of atheism".

    Yet another says "design is probably the most powerful reason for the belief, held by the vast majority of people who ever lived, in some kind of supernatural deity. So that vast majority have been wholly irrational?, while the miniscule cult of atheists are the only ones capable of reasoning. Incredible." Dawkins writings are shredded in many instances John, with inconsistencies exposed, too many to write here. Dawkins, in an interview, re. humans said "you are here to propagate your selfish genes. There is no higher purpose in life". Picture the sad scene of parents holding their just deceased girl or boy and Richard consoles the weeping parents by saying, just remember that little (name) was nothing, she had no purpose in life but to propagate her selfish genes. Confusing?

    Can there be a purpose without someone who purposed?

    As someone said "The only consolation Dawkins and his idealogical kin can offer is a cold hole in the ground, a black hole of despair. Atheism robs us of so much but provides us with nothing".

    To finish here is a quote from Bertrand Russell:

    "The loneliness of the human soul is unendurable, nothing can penetrate it except the highest intensity of the sort of love religious teachers have preached, whatever does not spring from this motive is harmful, or at least is useless".
    "Through the long years
    I sought peace.
    I found ecstasy, I found anguish.
    I found sadness
    I found loneliness.
    I found solitary pain that gnaws the heart.
    But peace I did not find."
    John, I'm not up to something, there is nothing to read between the lines. I'm floundering away on the same side of the fence but thought it may be interesting tossing in this amalgam. We do not really know if God exists or not, and despite a lot of silly things that make no logical sense, and loads of contradictions does it do any harm for people to believe in their own way if it helps give them a feeling of hope and purpose in their life journey?
  305. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Sep, 2016

    Hi Ron. Sorry for the delay in replying, and thanks for your patience.

    OK, so Jesus and the cross. We've read arguments over what Jesus was crucified on — a cross, a tree, a stake, a bouncy castle — but we didn't know, or had forgotten, that Jehovah's Witnesses didn't accept the cross symbol, but with around 144,000 (and counting) different Christian denominations it's hard to keep track of what they all believe. Hell, I can't even name all of Santa's reindeer. What amazes us is that Christians are often so shocked when they discover that some other Christian church doesn't believe the same basic things that they do. But you don't get thousands of different churches without thousands of different interpretations of the Bible, and the embarrassing fact that Christians can't even agree among themselves about which details of their religion are true should be immensely worrying to them, but largely they are ignorant of the fact. They blindly believe that by being Christians they all essentially believe the same thing, or at least all the important things, and that there are only different churches because of personality clashes or whatnot. But if some Christian can't convince another Christian that their particular view of history is correct, and remember that they both already believe in divine magic, then what hope have they got of convincing an atheist who's scientifically literate?

    So was it a cross? The Bible, surprise, surprise, isn't clear and is even contradictory. It never explicitly states that it was a t-shaped cross, while it does clearly state that it was actually a tree:

    'The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead — whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.' (AC 5.30.)

    'We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.' (AC 10.39-40)

    'When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead,' (AC 13.29-30)

    'He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.' (1PE 2.24.)

    Then there are contradictory passages that mention a cross, for example:
    'Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God! ... "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.' (MT 27:40-42)

    'Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.' (JN 19:19)

    'As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.' (LK 23:26)

    So like everything in the Bible, no matter what you want to believe there is likely a passage that will support the view you want to argue for, and all you have to do is ignore all the ones that argue differently. How do we think Jesus was killed? Well since we don't believe he likely even existed, we don't think he was killed at all, so the question is moot. Outside of the contradictory Bible there is no contemporary evidence that he lived and was crucified, and plenty of circumstantial evidence that he was no more real than were the gods Zeus and Osiris. Yes, lots of people thought he was real, but then lots of people also thought Zeus and Osiris were real too.

    But as has been mentioned by others, we have a real problem with the Christian cross fetish, and especially the Catholic Crucifix crucifix with it's gruesome portrayal of the bloody, tortured dead body of Jesus. Why is it that Christians harp on about their loving god and yet this is the one image that they burn into our minds to represent their god. The symbol represents an execution device that was designed to prolong the suffering of the victim and terrify and warn those that saw it. It is a disgusting symbol that speaks of untold horrors, and yet Christians put it on their churches, over their children's beds and around their necks. If Jesus had been killed by a firing squad, would Christians all wear a little rifle around their neck? Do families of people beheaded by Islamic State terrorists wear little machetes around their neck to remind them of those that were killed? Sorry, but the thoughtless use of the cross symbol by Christians disgusts us.

    I would never want to be
    a member of a group
    whose symbol was a dead
    guy nailed to two pieces of wood

    As for some Christians arguing that the fossil evidence (and a million other worrying bits of evidence) has been deviously created by God to test their faith, that is a clear indication of what childhood indoctrination (or brainwashing) can achieve. Others argue that it is Satan that is tempting them to abandon their faith. And unlike many stories that Christians tell involving a dialogue between a true believer and an atheist, many of these 'God is testing my faith' stories are indeed true. With these morons you would be arguing with the proverbial brick wall. Nothing you could say or show them would sway them, since if it didn't confirm their blind faith, then it was just another cunning test from God. Not only does it show how close-minded they are, it also shows that they'll continue to blindly obey and worship a god that, if they only thought about, is behaving in a quite despicable, disgraceful and dastardly manner, and hardly like the loving, just and forgiving god they claim he is. We're sure that if their family and friends continually tried to test and temp them by putting naked prostitutes or illicit drugs or stolen property in front of them, that they would very quickly condemn them as acting unethically toward them and greatly harming their relationship. In the police world this is called entrapment, and I think it's illegal. But seemingly it's OK for God to act like a right bastard.

    Like it or not, the modern world revolves around science and technology and secular values, so this means that if it's all a test of our faith, then God has created a monumental lie, a false virtual world, and yet this fake world delivers in wonderful ways, with everything from antibiotics and smartphones to police to keep the peace. To add to this lie, God then goes to equally monumental lengths to hide from us and ignore us. And think about it, if an all-knowing, all-powerful god is going to create a scam to fool us, what hope have we got of not being fooled? How could a mere human see through a scam created by God, how could we beat God at a game of his design? So if God creates a fake world based on science that is to appear believable, then it's inconceivable that we wouldn't believe in it. If God plants fossils to fool us, then we're going to be fooled. To argue that God has tried to make some believable fake fossils and yet you can see problems with them is to imply that your god is a pretty pathetic god.

    I've mentioned it before, but this reminds me of a Christian woman I encountered a while back, who on learning that I was an atheist, confidently said,

    'There's nothing in the world, nothing that anyone could say or do, nothing whatsoever, that could ever convince me — ever! — that God isn't real.'
    This is the very definition of close-mindedness, and clearly it is the way that many Christians think. It is scary to think that no matter the evidence, some people will deny the obvious.

    As for the admonishment that 'It's not Christian to question anything in the bible', of course this is just a dictatorial way of stopping people detecting the many flaws in the Bible. All it shows is the genuine fear that the Church had of what would happen if people started thinking about what they read. If there are no errors or immoral commandments in the Bible, then questioning can never do any harm, because the following discussion and answers will resolve your concerns and serve to make your belief in the Bible even stronger. Being told not to question is one of the main indicators of a scam, eg don't discuss this amazing investment offer with your friends or your lawyer, just trust us and send us your money. If you were buying medical insurance, would you deal with a company that told you not to question anything you read in their policy? So why do stupid Christians not question their Bible?

    As for needing to believe in God to know the difference between right and wrong, as you say, just looking at the history of the Church and its followers shows that to be a lie. Christians owned slaves, burnt witches and heretics at the stake, murdered Jews and Muslims and even fellow Christians, and even today are sexually abusing children and persecuting homosexuals. Was it right to own slaves, burn witches and rape children? As ethical atheists we'd say of course not, so clearly belief in some imaginary god doesn't help in the slightest in knowing what's right and wrong. But Christians would have once argued that there's nothing wrong with slavery or burning witches, and let's remember that while the Bible says it's wrong to have sex with goats, and your mother-in-law, it makes no mention of sex with little boys. It's amazing that God felt that he had to go out of his way to safeguard goats from sexual assault, but not children. And while the Christians will disagree, any moral code that places goats over children clearly demonstrates that they don't know shit about right and wrong.

    When Jesus said that anyone who loved his family more than him was not worthy of him, all that reminds me of is a manipulative cult leader. And let's remember that he actually went further than talking about the level of love between him and your family. In Luke 14:26 he said that, 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple'. How could anyone that sincerely believes that they must hate their wife, parents and children, and push all their love towards God, ever then come to believe that they are now better at loving others? How screwed up can Christians get? And how can they love God/Jesus at all? This is somebody that they've never met, never had a conversation with, don't even know what they look like, someone that demands that they hate and leave their family, that they give away all their worldly possessions, that is already in an adulterous relationship with millions of others, that is wanted on numerous counts of genocide, is someone that raped a virgin, murdered and tortured his own son, and that is currently planning the torture of billions of others. How could anyone love such a monster? The only emotions we can muster are hatred and loathing. Even Mother Teresa admitted in her later writing that she feared God didn't exist because no matter how much she loved him, not once did he ever return that love. His deafening silence made her question her faith.

    And yes, many Christians boast about successful marriages, but the cold reality is that Christians get divorced and commit adultery as much as, if not more than, non-Christians. Studies show that the marriages of the more fundamentalist Christians fail at a greater rate than more liberal Christians. Other studies show that what appears like a loving marriage is just a sham, with husbands and wives reporting that their sex lives are terrible and often ended not long after they married, and that their love for each other has long departed. They stay together for the good of their church. It's just like the Christians that promote abstinence, when the fact is that Christian teenagers on those programs are having just as much sex as secular teenagers, the only difference is that the Christians lie about it and feel horribly guilty about.

    And you're right, the belief that children receiving a religious upbringing will be 'godly' is laughable. Especially Catholics, who believe they can commit almost any sin during the week and then be forgiven at confession on Sunday. What bloody hypocrites.

    On to the Richard Dawkins quotes. First the one where you say 'he reluctantly admitted Christianity could be protecting us from the evils of this world'. You are quite mistaken in believing that 'the great atheist seems almost to do a back flip', although if you read that quote on an Christian website they may well have implied that, since you write that 'A christian commentator said "even the worlds most famous atheist recognizes that God is protecting us from evil"'. Of course this is absolute bullshit, but typical of how Christians distort the truth.

    You didn't link to the articles you read, but after a little research we suspect that this is the original article from 'The Times': 'Scandal and Schism Leave Christians Praying for a 'New Reformation''. It's clear that it's considering the 'shocking catalogue of abuse' in the Christian Church, that Christians are deserting the Church, and the fact that atheism is on the rise. We're told that Christians are praying for a 'New Reformation' to save the Church. We're then told that,

    'Even among the world's most famous atheists, the crisis of faith among Christians in Europe has been met with concern.

    Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said: "There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse."'

    Clearly Dawkins is asking what will happen if Christianity disappears from Europe, what will, indeed what is, filling the religious vacuum? As Christian numbers go down, Muslim numbers are on the rise. Europe is confronted with a choice of two evils: Christianity or Islam? It's not that Dawkins likes Christianity any more than we do, but if Europe has to have a large group of religious nutters, is it safer to live among radical Christians or radical Muslims? He points out that radical Christians, annoying as they are, are no longer committing terrorist attacks against innocent civilians, whereas radical Muslims certainly are. If Christianity fades from Europe, he rightly suggests that it might likely be replaced with 'something worse'. Thus while Christianity remains, it serves as an obstacle to slow the rise of Islam, it's the lesser of two evils. In no way is Dawkins suggesting that Christianity, like some valiant warrior, is 'protecting us from the evils of this world'. He sees it as one of the evils of this world, but not as evil as Islam, and while Christianity and Islam are sparring with each other, the rest of us are safer. Likewise it's quite devious and misleading for that Christian to argue that 'even the worlds most famous atheist recognizes that God is protecting us from evil'. That's so wrong! Dawkins never even mentioned God, but that's where this person places the emphasis. How could Dawkins believe that God is protecting us when he doesn't believe that God even exists? Dawkins was clearly referring to the very real religion of Christianity, with its real churches and real believers, not the imaginary God of the Christians. It's depressing that so many Christians can't separate the belief that Christianity exists, which atheists agree with, with the quite different belief that God exists, which atheists don't agree with. Let's try an analogy.

    Imagine that I have a Wiccan living next door, that is, a modern day witch, and her house is the base for the local coven. Imagine also that developers want to build a noisy nightclub on her property, but luckily for me she's not willing to sell, she enjoys her coven and the company of her fellow witches. So I tell my friends that I now have mixed feelings about the decline of witchcraft, in so far as witchcraft might be a bulwark against something worse. As much as the silly old witch and her silly beliefs annoy me, seeing her go and replaced by a noisy nightclub would be worse. She's the best of two evils. But wouldn't it be totally wrong for someone to claim that John the skeptic now recognises that witchcraft is protecting him from evil? Of course it would be, since real witchcraft isn't protecting me, the silly old witch refusing to sell is what's protecting me.

    We found numerous Christian websites misrepresenting the above quote from Dawkins, and this one appears typical. It began by asking:

    'Is one of today's most famed atheists making a flip-flop? According to several articles now circulating, Richard Dawkins says he has mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, "in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse".'
    It immediately, and without any justification, implied that Dawkins is reconsidering his view on the existence of God. To the flip-flop question it should have answered, Hell No!, but it left it open, with the article falsely suggesting YES! It also implied that Dawkins can be found discussing his wavering atheism in 'several articles now circulating', when in fact there was only one article from six years ago, that, as we've revealed, had nothing to do with atheism. This recent Christian article concluded by saying,
    'When someone truly knows the power of Christ, they can't help but be changed, and even the world's most famous atheist recognizes that God is protecting us from evil.'
    Note how it talks of someone being changed by knowing the power of Christ and then immediately weaves this into the claim that Dawkins now 'recognizes that God is protecting us from evil'. We are clearly expected to wonder if Dawkins now knows the power of Christ.

    How devious it is that some Christian noticed an innocent old quote of Dawkins and decided to built a false story around it, one which is now doing the rounds of Christian websites. How insecure they must be to resort making up lies, and how afraid they must be of Richard Dawkins to need to weaken his stature in the eyes of true believers. They have God on their side, why the hell are they so desperate to get Dawkins' approval? And as great a public communicator as Dawkins is, surely their all-knowing, all-powerful god is much, much better? Oh no, wait, he's not.

    And it's not just Dawkins that insecure Christians are claiming, since in a comment following one of these articles proclaiming his defection, a poster called 'rickld' wrote:

    rickld

    'Wow. Let's all pray for Richard Dawkins. I am praying. Some of the most notable, argumentative and influential atheists have come to believe in God in the last few years, such as Anthony Flew in England.'

    pieman > rickld

    'Amen, God is changing hearts:)'

    The reality is that while atheist Anthony Flew did indeed give up on atheism just before his death, it's utter bullshit to claim that 'Some of the most notable, argumentative and influential atheists have come to believe in God in the last few years'. None have as far as we're aware. And to be accurate, Christians can't even claim Flew, they can't say that Flew came 'to believe in God', since he made it quite clear that he still didn't believe in a personal god such as the Christian God. What he came to believe in was an intelligent designer or a deist god, an unknown god that created the universe and then left, or died, never to return, and one that plays no part in our life or cares what we do. These days a deist god could also be an extremely advanced alien. When Flew, who wasn't a scientist, tried to explain to scientists why he now thought an intelligent designer was necessary, they in turn explained why he had been mislead by the intelligent design crowd. He then sheepishly admitted that the intelligent design crowd had neglected to reveal various flaws in their arguments, and we believe he died not really knowing what to believe. But one thing is certain, he did not ever believe in God.

    Onto your next Christian quote:

    "Has it never occurred to atheists that the administrations of atheists Stalin, Marx and Lenin were responsible for the slaughter of more than 100 million people who would not yield to godless communism? This does not mean all atheists are murderers. Such exterminations cannot be condemned on the basis of the philosophy of atheism".
    OK, the most stupid thing we always see with this common accusation is that Christians are essentially trying to make excuses for the many examples of mass murder, torture and genocide that they've committed. They're saying, OK, OK, we've murdered a lot of people in the name of God, stop reminding us, but what about Stalin, Marx and Lenin, they murdered a lot of people too, all in the name of atheism. If that were true, which it's not, all they would have proved is that BOTH Christians and atheists are uncaring, vicious killers. All Christians would have done is drag atheists down into the blood-filled gutter with them, meaning that both Christians and atheists are now worthy of our condemnation. But of course the argument is bogus, and strangely the last sentence of the above quote even explains why. What Stalin et al did had nothing to do with atheism, they weren't killing people in the name of atheism the way Christians were killing people in the name of God. Stalin, who had studied to become a priest, killed people that opposed him and his brand of communism, it was all about power, the fact that he later claimed to be an atheist really had nothing to do with it. Talking about 'the administrations of atheists' and 'godless communism' is as silly as talking about the 'the administrations of vegetarians' and 'vegetarian communism'. If Stalin was a vegetarian would Christians be arguing that his vegetarianism caused the slaughter of millions? We've heard of many people that Stalin had killed or imprisoned, and all of them were seen as a threat to his politics, to his hold on power, and none over a philosophical debate on atheism. We don't know of any country that has waged a war on their own citizens or another country to promote atheism. As the above quote admits, Stalin was promoting communism, not atheism. For decades the USA feared communism and the spread of communism, not the spread of atheism. It's also been noted that Stalin, Marx and Lenin (and Hitler) all had moustaches, so maybe it was the facial hair that drove them to slaughter people?

    You write that another claim is that,

    'design is probably the most powerful reason for the belief, held by the vast majority of people who ever lived, in some kind of supernatural deity. So that vast majority have been wholly irrational?, while the miniscule cult of atheists are the only ones capable of reasoning. Incredible.'
    OK, the vast majority of people who ever lived have believed the world was flat, that we were the centre of a very small universe, that spells and omens could protect and harm us, that demons plagued us, that slavery was fine, and that women were inferior. Any argument that rests on what 'the vast majority of people who ever lived' think is almost certainly to be wrong. They have indeed all believed in 'some kind of supernatural deity', thousands and thousands of them, all of which every sophisticated person now accepts were utterly imaginary. So the 'vast majority have been wholly irrational' then? Well of course they have, since it's now been shown that their beliefs did not accord with reason or sound judgement. And we'd agree that 'design is probably the most powerful reason for the belief', just as little kids would argue that Santa is probably the most powerful reason for their Xmas presents. But just having a belief, even if it's held by most people, doesn't make it true. For much of history (and even today), ignorant people looked at the human body and said, Well, I can't see how that could arise naturally, it must be God, but then they also said the same thing about lightning and earthquakes. Everything from rocks and sticks to animals and twinkly dots in the sky were individually designed and created by God. But most Christians don't even believe that today, they've backed way off and now limit God's design to the initial creation of the universe and life. Once that was done now everything like rocks and lightning can arise naturally, God no longer has to carefully craft each rock or personally toss each lightning bolt. As our scientific knowledge of the universe increases, slowly but surely believers are taking tasks off God and handing them over to nature to complete. God has gone from being found in the synagogue to some mountain top, then to the clouds, then out with the stars, and now it's claimed that God isn't even in our universe at all, he's outside it. Eventually believers will back their God into a corner, and when they pull back the cover, find out that there's nothing there, and never has been. It was all a fantasy created by primitive man not long out of his cave.

    The above believer talks of the 'cult of atheists'. WTF? Early Christianity was a cult, people deserting their family, being told to hate them, told to sell their possessions, and blindly following an authoritarian, charismatic leader pushing an extremist religious belief. But not believing in gods, or fairies, or leprechauns, and not joining some 'atheist church' and not obeying the commandments of some atheist pope, basically just living a carefree life, we can't see how that can be described as a cult. What is it with true believers? They're fixated on making it appear that atheists are just as religious as they are; saying that atheism is a religion, that it takes faith to believe in science, that we worship Darwin and Dawkins, that atheists have been mislead by Satan, that we've killed more people than believers, and now, atheism is a cult. None of that is true, it's all complete paranoid nonsense, but again, if it were true, it would only mean that atheists are as deluded and as dangerous as believers. And yes, atheists are a minority in society, but so too are surgeons, scientists, pilots and philanthropists. Does simply being a minority mean we're wrong to hold the views we do? Let's remember that people that fought against slavery and discrimination against women were once in the minority, but who would now not support those battles? Well, OK, yes, maybe the Catholic Church.

    Right, to the meaning of life, where you start by saying that,

    'Dawkins writings are shredded in many instances John, with inconsistencies exposed, too many to write here. Dawkins, in an interview, re. humans said "you are here to propagate your selfish genes. There is no higher purpose in life". Picture the sad scene of parents holding their just deceased girl or boy and Richard consoles the weeping parents by saying, just remember that little (name) was nothing, she had no purpose in life but to propagate her selfish genes. Confusing?'
    First, you really should stop reading and believing such hateful Christian websites and emails. We find it quite offensive that people that would likely describe themselves as loving Christians can be so insulting of another human being over a matter of mere opinion. I've read many of Richard Dawkins books, viewed several of his TV documentaries and interviews, and he comes across as an intelligent, well-spoken, polite, considerate, friendly, decent human being. Yes, he may be frank, forthright and honest when he says that God doesn't exist, but no more than when the pope or some believer says that he most definitely does exist. If the pope can express his opinion without being vilified and maligned, then so too can an atheist. I find it disgusting that someone would say, 'Picture the sad scene', and then paint Dawkins as an uncaring, insensitive monster that visits and torments parents on the death of their child. There is no reason to believe that Dawkins would ever do such a thing, and all it does for me is to paint a picture of mean, vindictive Christians struggling to understand the modern world and striking out with false and odious insults.

    In fact the only people that we're aware of that torment people at the time of death are Christians, either friends and family members or the visiting priest, who frantically plead with the dying atheist or lapsed Christian to accept Jesus into their heart otherwise, You know you're going to Hell, right?

    The Selfish Gene OK, to Dawkins' quote: 'you are here to propagate your selfish genes. There is no higher purpose in life'. You don't say where this quote comes from, but a little research suggests it's from an Omni magazine interview in 1990, which we haven't read and have no access to. Clearly it's in reference to his book 'The Selfish Gene'. The problem we have here is that Christians form an opinion on the argument that Dawkins is making by reading just two sentences in an interview, rather reading his actual book. And if they do decide that they need just a little more info on evolutionary biology and genetics, they troll the Christian websites or ask a priest what he thinks. Even you Ron mentioned that regarding Dawkins, 'I have not yet read "The God Delusion" but dug into various articles about him'. If those articles are written by aggrieved Christians rather than scientists then all it will tell you is what an angry, annoyed opponent of Dawkins thinks of him and his books. If Christians want to understand evolution and view the arguments and evidence that Dawkins presents then they must read his books. Before they can agree or disagree they must read what Dawkins actually said, not what his critics think he said. Would Dawkins really have written the 'The Selfish Gene', a 300+ page book, if his argument could have been easily expressed in two sentences? Would the book have become so successful, and would people have wasted money on it, if the title of the book said it all? But unfortunately I've struck every extreme, from numerous ignorant Christians to two university science professors who have vocally criticised Dawkins for his intolerant, arrogant and silly arguments, and yet none of them had read a single one of his books, nor were they interested in doing so when I offered to lend them my copy. Everyone of them based their dislike of Dawkins on what they'd heard others say; essentially they were working from malicious rumours and gossip. And almost without exception, every one of their problems with what they thought Dawkins had said involved his perceived disrespect towards religion, not science.

    But while we'd prefer that you read his books, we guess that you'd still like to hear what we think Dawkins meant by selfish genes and our purpose in life. Our take is that our genes contain the instructions for making our body and dictating much of our behaviour, eg sexual desires and food preferences. They function as a mindless, natural process; working away behind the scenes on tasks that they have no concept of, anymore than a toaster knows that it's making toast. It's difficult to talk of natural processes without at times making it appear as if mindless things actually know what they're doing, that they have goals to achieve, like when I said that genes are 'working away behind the scenes'. And when we anthropomorphise nature to aid our explanations, unfortunately many Christians then assume that genes can have goals and emotions, that they can decide to be selfish rather than altruistic. But of course this is mistaken. A gene is like a rock at the top of a hill. When that rock is bumped and starts to roll, the natural force of gravity will cause it roll, barring obstructions, to the bottom. The rock doesn't have to plan its trajectory and appropriate speed, or motivate itself to keep going, it's a mindless action following basic laws of physics. It's the same with a gene. When it's 'bumped' into action, it will follow basic laws of physics and some natural event will happen. Just as the rock had no choice in going down the hill rather than up, the gene has no choice in what mindless action it performs either. If the function of a specific gene is to make a certain protein, then like a mindless, uncaring robot it will continue to do that, come what may. If the gene beside it is failing to perform its function, or is being attacked by a virus, our gene will pay it no heed, it will not ask if it can be of help or assist in fighting off the virus. It will behave, in human terms, as a right selfish bastard, apparently interested only in its own goals. And of course we're lucky that this is the way genes function. Imagine if genes could think, could decide on their own goals, and did wonder what their purpose in life was? Imagine a gene suddenly saying, I'm sick of making bits of liver all day every day, I want to make movies! Our body would very quickly become malformed and almost as quickly die. So the fact remains that our genes, and the genes of every living thing, do, on human terms, appear extremely selfish, since they are only interested in making more of themselves and couldn't give a damn about some gene that might be struggling or living in poverty in a nearby human, or indeed even in another organ in the same body. Not only do genes not have a 'higher purpose in life', they don't, because they're just a collection of molecules, even have any concept of what the phrase 'higher purpose in life' even means. Genes aren't selfish because they choose to be, they merely appear selfish to us because they don't think of others, but then how could they?

    OK, so now the Christian argument goes that if our genes are mindless robots concerned only with themselves, and since we humans are just a large collection of cells constructed and controlled by these 'selfish' genes, then doesn't that mean that humans as a whole have no choice but to also be selfish, concerned only with our individual selves? For most life-forms on the planet this is probably true, their genes drive their instincts and their instincts make them little more than organic robots. But as Dawkins was careful to point out in his book, humans, and a few animals, have a huge advantage over most other life. We are sentient, and even better, we apparently have free will. We can understand that our genes are uncaring little bastards that don't give a damn about the starving in Africa, or that our neighbour needs help in paying her rent, but even knowing this we can easily override our genes and decide to be altruistic rather than selfish. The Christian myth is that Dawkins is arguing that humans are all walking around like zombies under the selfish control of our genes, when of course this is clearly nonsense. We're certainly glad that our genes are, at their level, completely oblivious to what humans are really up to, and are just mindlessly repairing, producing and reproducing, but we're also glad that the human mind has evolved to take over from our genes in deciding whether we should help people, even at our own expense. So we're not at all confused by 'The Selfish Gene', and nor would honest Christians be if they only read it instead of burning it.

    You asked: 'Can there be a purpose without someone who purposed?' The quick answer is yes, of course. I've just finished a book by Sean Carroll, 'The Particle at the End of the Universe'The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the recent discovery of a Higgs Boson, or what journalists love to call the God Particle. If you're curious, they never found any sign of God or his handiwork. Anyway, he wrote,

    'If reality is simply the interplay of atoms, where are we to find purpose and meaning? Epicurus [an ancient Greece philosopher] responded to this challenge by locating value in life as we actually live it here on earth, encouraging his followers to be tranquil in the face of death, to value friendship highly, and to seek pleasure in moderation.'
    We've always thought that meaning in life is whatever you want it to be, and those thoughts of Epicurus are as good as any. And what about these Christians that are so worried that they don't understand what God's purpose for them is, why they were put here,and what they should be doing? Frankly we don't think that have really thought too much about what it would really mean if our purpose was indeed decreed by God. They're saying that they don't have the brains to determine their own goals in life. They can't apparently choose between worthy goals and trifling or heinous goals, they need to be told by their God, perhaps in a dream. Should I become a doctor, should I be collecting for charity, should I marry and have children, should I become a drug dealer, should I join the army and defend my country? Gee ... I just don't know. How is a mere human to decide? If only God had put a label on me when he created me. We can imagine confused Christians alone in their bedroom crying out into the shadows: What is your bidding master? Please master, what is it that you desire of me? Why won't you command your unworthy servant? Are you displeased with me master, have I angered thee?

    Let's be in no doubt here, Christians believe they are servants of God, deliberately created to serve some specific purpose that their master will communicate to them. They are slaves, and worryingly they have no problem with that realisation, they are happy and joyful to be one of God's slaves. They are pitiful. What sort of person are you if your treasured life's goal is to obediently serve a master, and not just any master, but a vicious, barbaric, unjust dictator? But let's consider how happy Christians would really be if God was real and actually did start telling them what their purpose in life was. Let's remember that God has some big, mysterious plan for us all, and that everything happens for a divine reason, every world event is designed to take us one step closer to Armageddon in the future. So let's imagine God saying to one Christian that she will be a prostitute, another will be a violent alcoholic, another will sexually abuse his children, and another will be the token evil atheist. On sensing some surprise from his servants, God will reply, Well, someone has to be those people. Think of yourselves as characters in a divine play, not everyone can be the lead, someone has to be the villain. Even in less extreme roles we're sure Christians will feel hard done by. They'll be told their purpose in life is to be a farmer, and they'll think, but I hate farming, I wanted to be a chef! Christians might find themselves moaning, But I didn't want to be gay, I wanted to be the heterosexual one. But this is not how it works if God is expected to give your life meaning and purpose. It means you can't choose, you're not an independent and autonomous human with rights and freedom. You were created by your master as a small, insignificant but specific cog in a gigantic machine. You are merely a tool, like a toaster, that God made for a specific purpose. Get used to it.

    What Christian would accept being forced into some random career or into a marriage with a stranger or told to rob a bank, solely because the government decided to treat everyone as pawns in their plan to create a better society? Of course they wouldn't stand for it, they'd scream that humans have the right to choose their own destiny, to make their own choices, to live their own lives as they see fit. So why would they roll over and meekly accept God telling them what to do? Christians lament that they don't know for what purpose they were created, while at the same time revelling in the fact that they are free to choose their own goals in life, their own friends and where and how they shall live. If they're really that upset that they don't know their purpose in life, then they should give up all their worldly goods and retreat into a monastery or nunnery and pray incessantly until God relents and gives them a detailed job description.

    Another problem with the Christian belief that God has created each person with a specific purpose, a purpose that must be discovered and fulfilled, is that it flatly contradicts another Christian belief, which in itself is nothing unusual in religion. Christians make the flawed argument that there is evil in their loving God's perfect world because he generously gave humans free will, the ability to make our own choices and choose our own destiny, and unfortunately some humans chose to do evil. All well and good, but it's impossible for humans to have free will if each of us has been designed and created to fulfil a certain purpose and to play a certain role in God's grand plan. If God decrees that the purpose allocated to Joe Blogs is for him to be the next Hitler, then that is what must happen, Joe has no choice in the matter, and therefore no free will. So the quandary we are now struck with is that if we truly do have free will (God-given or natural), then there can be no God-given purpose to our life since it would cancel out free will. But if we don't have free will and do instead have a God-given purpose in life that we must obey, then we are nothing but mindless zombies, actors playing a role in God's play, saying the words he's written for us and acting the way his script states, fulfilling our purpose. So personally, if I were a Christian, I'd be arguing that God gave me free will, and that he didn't then screw that up by forcing a specific purpose on my life.

    You quote someone as saying, 'The only consolation Dawkins and his idealogical kin can offer is a cold hole in the ground, a black hole of despair. Atheism robs us of so much but provides us with nothing'.

    Why are Christians so obsessed with their death, with 'a cold hole in the ground, a black hole of despair'. For Christ's sake, focus on your life, on the here and now, on the people you love, on making a difference in this world, on living life to the full, on enjoying every moment. Why are Christians so greedy in that this life is never enough, not by a long shot, and why do they even think that they deserve more? What have they done with their life so far that demonstrates they deserve another billion or trillion lifetimes to fulfil all their grand plans? And if they've wasted this one, with an infinite number still to come, what motivation is there that they'll ever bother to achieve anything in the next life, after all, there will always be tomorrow? It amazes us that Christians think that they're so special that God just can't afford to let them die, they have to live forever. What arrogance! The fact is that the universe managed perfectly well for billions of years before they were born, and we're convinced it will muddle on for trillions more once they die, in fact we're not even sure it will notice that they've gone. The conceit of Christians to think that they need to live on, that they deserve to live on, is staggering. Based on their behaviour, many people didn't even deserve this life.

    Think about it, there are only two options. Either there is an afterlife, or this life is all you get. If there is an afterlife then it doesn't matter if you wasted or screwed up this one, since by comparison this one will be so brief that after a billion years you won't even remember it. But if this life might be all you get, then doesn't it make sense to live this life to the full, seize every opportunity, take risks, go skinny dipping, travel the world, love and be loved, learn how to juggle. Why waste this life pining for the next, when the next will likely never come? No one has ever come back and confirmed that life goes on after death, so doesn't it make excellent sense to live this life as if it doesn't, and be pleasantly surprised if it does. How pissed off would truly celibate priests be if there was some way of them realising on their death that they had given up sex for nothing?

    The quote says that 'Atheism robs us of so much but provides us with nothing'. Rubbish, the realisation that there is no magical afterlife provides you with the incentive to make the most of now. It stops you wasting your life. It lets you sleep in on Sundays and have guilt-free sex. We atheists should get good service medals. And what does atheism rob Christians of? Mistaken belief in a fantasy? When we adults finally reveal to children that Santa isn't real, they could likewise complain that we rob them of so much but provide them with nothing. But again we have taken away a mistaken belief in a fantasy, and by doing so we have better equipped them to live and flourish in the real world. What adult would thank us for continually lying to them about Santa? I'm grateful that I can see the universe as it is and can try and understand some of it real mysteries. I'd be horribly upset if after leading a religious life I learnt on my deathbed that the world isn't flat and built on pillars after all, and that my god Zeus doesn't exist. Horribly annoyed that my family and friends hid this from me because they didn't want to rob me of my fantasy.

    As for those two quotes from atheist Bertrand Russell, I'm not quite sure what to make of them. Are you suggesting that we need a belief in God to combat loneliness? To me belief in God seems to be the worse thing imaginable as a cure for loneliness. People that believe in God never get to hang out with him, never get to chat with him on the phone when they're down, never receive a card on their birthday. In fact they've never even met God and have no idea what he looks or sounds like. Even in their darkest moments when they've reached out to him in desperation and despair, he has never reached out a consoling arm in reply. He sounds like the worst of friends, in fact he sounds like an imaginary friend. And anyone that solves their loneliness by inventing an imaginary friend has only replaced one problem with another. Also whatever Christian website you got the second quote from, that ends with, 'But peace I did not find', it seems to be a typical example of where Christians deviously omit text that ruins their argument, since the poem is called 'To Edith' and the next verse says,

    'Now, old & near my end,
    I have known you,
    And, knowing you,
    I have found both ecstasy & peace,'
    You finish by saying that 'We do not really know if God exists or not ... [so] does it do any harm for people to believe in their own way if it helps give them a feeling of hope and purpose in their life journey?' We often hear that argument, and it's conclusion sounds reasonable, what harm does it do? But we think it's a misleading argument because we feel it's based on a false or at least unreasonable premise, that is, 'We do not really know if God exists or not'. It's true that we can't prove categorically whether God exists, but people can likewise argue that we can't prove categorically whether the Tooth Fairy exists either, so our state of knowledge concerning God and Tooth Fairy are essentially identical. So what happens if we take the above argument and replace the God premise with the Tooth Fairy premise, is the conclusion still reasonable:
    'We do not really know if the Tooth Fairy exists or not ... [so] does it do any harm for people to believe in their own way if it helps give them a feeling of hope and purpose in their life journey?'
    They are logically identical arguments, but now we suspect that most people would be reluctant to say that they are perfectly happy and willing to let their fellow adults spend their lives believing in the Tooth Fairy. Or leprechauns, Santa Claus, gremlins or the Norse god Thor. The argument is the same no matter what supernatural being it is that people think it might be a good idea to believe in. So why is it that no one makes this argument using the Tooth Fairy or leprechauns? Because in the real world almost nobody sits on the fence and demands 100% evidence for or against before they make the call, they look at the evidence that we do have and ask what conclusion a reasonable person would reach. All intelligent, sophisticated and rational adults prefer to see the world as it really is, warts and all, rather than cocoon themselves inside consoling fantasies. Use the above argument to defend a colleague's belief in the Tooth Fairy and everyone will, quite rightly we think, challenge you and your colleague, and likely question your sanity. So if this argument fails for the Tooth Fairy, we can't see why it should work for God, since just as for the Tooth Fairy, there is no evidence for God and much evidence against.

    Furthermore, if we allow religious people to blindly get 'a feeling of hope and purpose in their life journey' from belief in their god, without challenging them, then we must accept what we get from that. Let's recall that many Christians believe it's their God-given purpose in life to persecute homosexuals, to refuse condoms to AIDS ravaged Africans, to prevent women having abortions, even victims of rape and incest, to terrorise children with visions of hell, and even to tell me when and how I should use my genitals. Then we have radical Muslims who see their God-given purpose in life as slaughtering infidels wherever they may find them, imprisoning their women in black tents, often after mutilating their genitals, and murdering even their own daughters and sisters if they feel they've shamed the family name. What harm does letting someone believe sincerely in religion do? There's the harm. It would be very hypocritical to say that we should only let religious believers have a 'purpose in their life journey' if their behaviour conforms to our expectations and doesn't impact on our lives at all. Of course this would be where good Christians would pipe up and say that they didn't mean that the beliefs of Muslims shouldn't be challenged. They were talking about God, not Allah, and, well, you know, Allah is clearly in the Tooth Fairy category.

    And contrary to the view that Christians like to suggest, we atheists have never insisted that they must stop believing in their God, nor could we stop them even if we wanted to. We merely claim the freedom to describe the universe as we see it, as they do. If our view, and the evidence we marshal, worries them and threatens their recruitment of young and gullible believers, then they need to implore their god to front up and table his evidence. I think we're all free next Wednesday. Have your people call our people.

  306. Comment by Ron, 20 Sep, 2016

    John, thank you for the time and effort you put into your response to the load I dropped in your lap. Yes, it was a while coming and you know I can be an impatient bugger, but it was worth the wait. I found it enlightening. I must include links where possible to make it easier, incl. for myself. All quotes are not all from websites as you assume. Some are from mags and booklets.

    You say I should stop reading and believing hateful Christian websites and emails. I never said if I believed or disbelieved most of those quotes, did I? All I'm doing is bouncing them off you to learn to see many things differently and logically because you have travelled the atheist road a long time and have obviously done a huge amount of reading with a great amount of understanding of what you read. Your responses may be of help to some others. Are there not some hateful articles written by atheists out there. I can find them but not as many, due to there being less atheists, I guess. There is an obsession with many Christians to insult atheists. The reverse happens too. I read of an altercation between an atheist woman and a Christian where the atheist said "you deserve to burn in hell, forever". I'm surprised she believed in such a place!! John, you are always insulting believers calling them idiots, fools, fuckwits, morons, etc Those are not like the horrible insult quoted above, more petty, but still...

    I don't refute what you say on how you have found Dawkins as a person. I have been put off reading the whole book 'The God Delusion' due to so much criticism of it. However, I am considering trying to get a copy from one of our libraries. In relation to the Bertrand Russell quote you ask if I'm suggesting a belief in God is necessary to combat loneliness. Not at all. It is quoted exactly as I found it, incl. "but peace I did not find" which you referred to as a second quote. The Christian writer mocked and derided Russell somewhat as well, a rather nasty type. Some quotes here of criticisms of 'The God Delusion'. "Dawkins is a biologist, not a philosopher". "There is no new ground in his book". "This is not his best". Some longer ones. From a British journo and scientific writer "who would have thought Dawkins capable of writing this bad. Incurious, dogmatic, rambling, self-contradictory. It has none of the style and verve of his earlier works. D. cannot accept the obvious conclusion — that thoroughgoing atheism is unnatural and will never be popular". This from a non-believer: E. Brian Davies, Brit mathematician. "The worst feature of the book is its failure to get to grips with the variety of religious beliefs. His real enemy is fundamentalism but he attacks religion indiscriminately, unable to grasp that many moderate believers dislike it as much as he does. The book does not approach his usual standards and I suspect he got carried away by the sheer enjoyment of writing it". Another says the book "seems designed to reassure atheists whose faith is faltering rather than engage fairly with believers and others seeking truth". And another: "his hectoring bullying tone and utter determination to find fault with religion of any kind". And so it goes. You suggest I read it John. As I said I will consider doing so.

    Getting away from Dawkins. I see the French Revolution is also classed as another example of mass killing under atheism, that it repressed religion in an attempt to replace the trinity with a new one of liberty, equality and fraternity. 1000's were guillotined, including many priests, for refusing to swear allegiance to the new regime.

    On what I hope is a lighter topic. Here is another of those stories that gets bandied about often by believers that gives great confidence in the existence of god. Of course, you would have heard of it. That is the earth and the perfection that goes with it. Ie its perfect distance from the sun, its perfect size that enables gravity to hold our atmosphere of the correct gases to sustain plant, human and animal life and water. That the moon is the perfect size and distance to create tidal movement so ocean waters don't stagnate, etc. Christians believe generally that no other planet exists in the universe that has these attributes for life. With the mind numbing statistics relating to the universe there must be colossal numbers of planets out there, many being in ideal positions in terms of size, distance from a sun, etc. Do they have inhabitants of some sort, we do not know.

  307. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Sep, 2016

    Hi Ron. Regarding our comment about hateful Christian websites and emails, no, you never said whether you believed or disbelieved those quotes, but you did say you were confused, so clearly you don't actively disbelieve them all. We know that you're just seeking our opinion on these quotes, that's why we tried to be careful to note that the quotes came from others, not you. And we're sure there are some hateful atheists out there, every group has their bad apples, just ask the Catholic Church or Muslims. Although what we've seen described as atheist hate speech by many Christians is nothing of the sort. The problem with religion is that for an atheist to simply say in the most humble, respectful and polite way possible, that in our opinion god does not exist, is considered by many believers as hateful. It's blasphemous and their god says we should be killed for expressing such an opinion. Let's remember that it's not just homosexuals that God views as an abomination, it's atheists too. So good Bible-thumping Christians should hate us, and express that hatred. We understand that. We're seen to be denying their faith, questioning their intelligence and risking their chance of reaching Heaven by not speaking out against us.

    The thing is, when someone expresses a view different to mine on politics or recycling or the merits of ballet, I don't class their opinion as hateful; we simply disagree and go on with living our lives. But disagree with a religion and suddenly your opinion is viewed as a declaration of war, and as we know with war, we must really hate the enemy otherwise we can never kill them. So it's not surprising that devout believers feel hatred towards non-believers, you need that sort of motivation to chop off heads as the fanatical Muslims do.

    As for the atheist that said to the Christian, 'you deserve to burn in hell, forever', of course she didn't believe in such a place. Without reading the full exchange I'd only be guessing, but there are some Christians who deserve to have that said to them. By that I mean that there are many Christians who have said that one of the joys they look forward to after their death is taking day trips from Heaven to Hell, so that they can laugh and cheer as they watch people like me being tortured. And frankly, any human being that can genuinely say that is really the sort of person that should be in Hell, not kind, decent folk whose only crime was that they didn't believe in the right imaginary god. My guess is that the Christian in the above exchange said something vile that indicated that if anyone needed to be tortured for being evil, it was the Christian.

    And yes Ron, we do sometimes call believers in nonsense idiots, fools, fuckwits, morons etc, but there's a major difference between insulting someone and defaming them. For example, we can call Ken Ring an idiot for promoting astrology (and we have evidence to back up our claim), but we would never falsely accuse him of something he was not guilty of, eg being a pedophile. The reality is that when you believe something for foolish and stupid reasons then you are an idiot. It's a fact, it's the dictionary definition. Anyone that believes a snake talked to a women who was made from a man' s rib who was in turn made from dust by an invisible sky fairy is a stupid person. And what's another word for a stupid person: moron! As is half-wit, cretin, dimwit, jackass, fool and fuckwit. And these are all dictionary definitions, yes, even fuckwit, meaning 'Stupid; moronic'. We may say that there's no evidence for something and much evidence against it, and that the person promoting that belief is being extremely foolish and stupid, but that's just a longwinded way of saying that they're an idiot. The longwinded phrase may sound more polite and respectful, but anyone with a rudimentary vocabulary knows that they've just been called an idiot. And we back up our justification for using these words with evidence and reason, they're not empty insults designed to annoy. They are words that describe the reality of the situation.

    As for Bertrand Russell, and me referring to a 'second quote', that's because the text you quote from Russell was from two completely different articles, yet it was made to look like it was one, and as we pointed out, it deliberating omitted the next verse of the poem which changed the entire message. And the Christian writer may have thought Russell was a 'rather nasty type', but that doesn't mean that what Russell was saying was wrong. Many of Russell's era didn't like him, he was refused a post at a US university solely because he was an atheist, even thought he was famous as a mathematician.

    The God Delusion You supply quotes of criticisms of 'The God Delusion' and say this is why you haven't read it, but I have to wonder why you didn't supply and didn't consider quotes supporting 'The God Delusion'? A book doesn't become a bestselling book because everyone hates it. If most everyone from believer to non-believer was equally appalled with the book then it wouldn't be the most famous atheist book on the planet. Christians hate and continuously criticise 'The God Delusion' for one simple reason, it was surprisingly and amazingly popular, and millions of potential recruits are reading it.

    Even Christopher Hitchens' book, 'God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything', isn't as well-known as 'The God Delusion', and yet it is just as forthright. You probably haven't even heard of books such as 'The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason' by Sam Harris, 'God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist' by Victor J Stenger, or 'Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam' by Michel Onfray, and yet these books, and many others, are just as good and equally scathing of religion. Christians fear 'The God Delusion' because people that would never bother reading the other books I just mentioned are being tempted to read 'The God Delusion' because of its high profile. And what is the Christian response? Just as the Catholic Church tried to ban the movie 'The Da Vinci Code', worried Christians want to prevent people reading 'The God Delusion', and so they have this widespread campaign to discredit it. Claiming that it's just some vile hate speech that doesn't deserve the time of day. Don't worry they say, we've read the book so that you don't have to. Trust us. Of people that have criticised 'The God Delusion' to us personally, without exception they have all been people that mostly have never read the book, and are speaking from ignorance, and of the handful that say they have read it, they were all true believers that view any book that criticises their god as something that must be attacked. After all, their Bible says they must condemn what atheists say, so how can they not condemn Dawkins' book?

    Let's quickly consider some of those negative quotes: 'Dawkins is a biologist, not a philosopher'. Agreed, but if only philosophers can write about the existence of gods, then no Christian who isn't a qualified philosopher should be discussing the subject either, which immediately means we must throw out thousands of books on religion written by priests, popes, minsters, evangelists and theologians. And today, it could be argued that because of our scientific knowledge, scientists are far more qualified to investigate the existence of gods than even philosophers. 'There is no new ground in his book'. Agreed, there is nothing 'new' about the 'new atheism', but this book was written for people that knew little or nothing about atheism and religion, and for them there was much new ground covered. 'This is not his best'. That's debatable, and irrelevant. Even if not his best, that still doesn't mean it's not a good book well worth reading. That's like saying the latest 'Star Wars' is not the best of the series, even though it's still a bloody good movie. 'Who would have thought Dawkins capable of writing this bad'. Yes, that's right, Richard Dawkins has become a celebrity, making appearances worldwide, and all for his really, really bad writing.

    And we had to laugh at the quote that said the book 'seems designed to reassure atheists whose faith is faltering rather than engage fairly with believers and others seeking truth'. The book doesn't 'reassure atheists', we don't need reassuring, there's nothing in the book that an informed atheist doesn't already know, what it does is it creates atheists out of the confused people that read it, and that's what makes it such a threat. If all it did was bolster the confidence of a handful of existing atheists, then it in no way affects the Church, they don't lose any believers since the book was only talking to atheists. The Church hates the book because it talks to believers that are having doubts, and explains why they're right to have doubts. And the book most certainly engages fairly with believers, and again that's why it's feared by the Church, because it reveals truths that they would rather remain hidden. Priests abusing children? Nonsense, it's not happening, that's just a mean witch hunt by the secular media!

    Your comment that apparently 'the French Revolution is also classed as another example of mass killing under atheism, that it repressed religion in an attempt to replace the trinity with a new one of liberty, equality and fraternity', could equally describe another battle between atheist and religious forces that is going on right now. We mean the secular forces (always confused by Christians as atheist forces) that are battling Islamic State, an attempt to repress a religion and replace it with 'liberty, equality and fraternity'. Oh yes, we atheists are indeed evil. How dear we have the arrogance to offer liberty and equality and lessen the chance of your being beheaded on the way to the pub? How long will it be before Christian websites start adding up the numbers that atheist armies have killed in our fight against yet another harmless religion? And in reality of course the French Revolution, just like Stalin's Russia, was not a movement that was fighting under the name of atheism. It was a political struggle to battle the oppression caused by the monarchy, the nobility and the Church. They brought in a secular constitution, that is, the separation of church and state, and the odds are that almost everyone that killed someone on either side during the revolution would have been a committed Christian, not an atheist.

    Yes we've heard, and laughed at, the Christian ignorance when it comes to their silly belief in a perfectly designed Earth and universe. In 1600 the church burned philosopher Giordano Bruno at the stake, and one of the reasons was for suggesting that there might be other inhabited planets out there. They still haven't changed their view, but luckily they're not allowed to kill us any more. Of course they have to hold the view that life, especially intelligent life, only exists here, since if there are aliens out there then some are sure to be more advanced than us, but how can that be if we are God's special creation? How special can we be if he made beings that are better than us, or even the same as us? If there are other 'humans' out there then have they sinned too? If they never sinned in their garden in Eden, then that means they don't need Jesus to forgive them, meaning they don't know Jesus, meaning you can lead good, decent lives without ever letting Jesus into your heart. But that's what the atheists say, so that can't be right. So 'humans' or aliens on other planets must have sinned too, which means that Jesus must have been tortured and killed on millions and millions of planets, over and over again, to forgive their alien sins. Right this minute Jesus must be screaming in agony on some distant planet, so he can rise again and forgive the local aliens. That's why Jesus hasn't returned as he promised 2,000 years ago, he's just too busy dying over and over again on alien planets.

    But seriously, discovering intelligent alien life would be a major if not fatal blow to Christianity, since it would prove that we're not special after all, and everything the Bible said was a lie.

  308. Comment by Rene, 26 Oct, 2016

    Pope's at it again & I guess God changed his mind yet again on petty things on our planet.

    Vatican: Ashes must not be scattered or kept at home

  309. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Oct, 2016

    Thanks Rene. Yes, the Church states that Catholics can now be cremated rather than buried, even though 'For most of its 2,000-year history, the Catholic Church only permitted burial'. God apparently had a quiet word with the pope back in 1963 and said he'd changed his mind, that he was now happy with cremation as long as Catholics still foolishly believed that he could put them back together when the time eventually arrived. That's the time when Jesus finally commits himself to the second coming. And note while God is happy to communicate about burial versus cremation, he's still not willing to reveal or even hint as to when Jesus might be returning, even though he promised he's be back some 2,000 years ago. What's he hiding?

    But God has again altered his cremation rules because, even though he knows the future, apparently he didn't foresee that some Catholics would have their ashes scattered or would adopt New Age ideas. The Church now states that 'Catholics who choose to be cremated for reasons contrary to the Christian faith must be denied a Christian funeral'. Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the moron who has written down God's new wishes, stated that, 'The dead body isn't the private property of relatives, but rather a son of God who is part of the people of God ... We have to get over this individualistic thinking'.

    When are Christians going to get it through their thick heads that they are the property of their master? They are nothing but servants, slaves of a sky fairy, and they have to stop thinking that can do as they please. They are property, chattels, and must do as their master bids, even if he does annoyingly keep changing his mind.

    So even though old flip-flop God now allows cremation, he says their 'remains cannot be scattered, divided up or kept at home but rather stored in a sacred, Church-approved place'. But what's it matter whether you're cremated and scattered or buried, over time the majority of the body ceases to exist, so there is nothing left for God to reassemble. And throughout history a huge number of Christians were buried where they died, eg at sea, on the battlefield, exploring foreign lands, overlooking the family homestead etc, not in a 'sacred, Church-approved place'. Also, as the article notes, there was the age-old Church sanctioned 'practice of dividing up saints' bodies for veneration', and scattering them around Europe if not the world. So again, why has God changed his mind once more, now decreeing that dividing up dead bodies is a bad idea? How can a God that knows everything make mistakes, thinking one thing a thousand years ago and a different thing today? Humans can make mistakes and certainly don't know the future, but God is infallible. So why is he needing to make corrections?

    Or is it that there is no God, and it's just pathetic popes, bishops and priests scrambling to draft changes to make their fantasy a little more acceptable in a changing godless world?

  310. Comment by Anonymous-16, 30 Oct, 2016

    Good afternoon to you john. I will first like to say thank you for all that you do for the rational thinking movement. You really help a lot of us with mental illness who have a tougher time applying critical thinking. Basically I suffer from severe ocd with low insight. Because of that I have a major problem with pseudo science beliefs I.e. things like coincidences, synchronicity, and precognition etc. I'm really fighting to be a strong skeptic minded person, but because of my weird experiences in those areas, and the convincing things that I've read from pseudoscientific and paranormal websites, I can't be the critical thinking person I want to be. I found a lot of peace when I read a lot of your responses to paranormal believers who believe in telepathy and esp etc. But recently because of some recent experiences with uncanny coincidences and coming across a paranormal website that has truly convinced me of the reality of precognition from dreams and deja vu, I've become distressed again. I really hate websites like the following, that claim things as paranormal, without giving other explanations. But I must say this girl's story and her theory that she writes out regarding deja vu and dreams sounds very convincing in proving the reality of esp. The website owner basically tells her real life story of predicting a major future event from a dream, and having it actually occur just 2 days later with a strong deja vu feeling. Based on this girl's story and theory, it seems like it could really shake our current world view, if material science takes it seriously and study it. What scares me about convincing stories like these is that if one paranormal thing like that exists, then it means all of them could potentially exist. And with my type of mental illness, that's really disturbing! Since you're a very strong critical thinking person, I will just love to have your expertise on this matter, so I can get some type of peace of mind regarding this issue. I will link this person's website below so you can read her story and theory on deja vu and esp. Please get back in touch as soon as possible, thanks.
    'Deja Vu and Dreams Really Coming True'

  311. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 31 Oct, 2016

    I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear me say that real experiences occasionally matching a dream is indeed all down to coincidence. And I'm afraid that the young woman who claims to have seen the future in a dream has, probably unintentionally, distorted what actually happened. When telling her story she's very close to the mark when she writes, 'My Dream Come True...Well, Not Exactly...' So let's look at how closely her dream matches what later happened.

    In her dream she said she was 'standing in a distinct location of the restaurant'. In real-life she said she 'went to the distinctive location in the restaurant that I went to in my dream'. She deliberately went to a location to make it match the dream. So this is not déjà vu nor a premonition.
    In her dream the coworker approached her. In real-life she approached the coworker to again make it match the dream. So this is not déjà vu nor a premonition.
    In her dream the coworker told her she was fired. In real-life the coworker had no knowledge of her being fired. So this is not déjà vu nor a premonition.
    In her dream the coworker told her she was fired because of the wife. In real-life the coworker said no such thing. So this is not déjà vu nor a premonition.
    In her dream she learnt that she was fired because the wife didn't like her. In real-life she never found out the reason why she was fired. So this is not déjà vu nor a premonition.

    The only thing that matches her dream is that she was fired. Nothing else does. And in real-life many people are often well aware that their job is on the line and that it could soon end. I've been made redundant three times, and not once was it ever a surprise. Each time everyone in the company could clearly see that the downturn in work would result in redundancies in certain departments. The bosses tried to remain positive but we could all see the future without having to resort to dreams. In this specific case, if the boss's wife truly was jealous of her, then it's very likely that she and her coworkers would know of that jealousy. Perhaps the wife had been moaning to her husband. If she was then subsequently fired, but not told why, then it's not unreasonable that she would suspect she had been fired because of the wife's jealousy. But perhaps she was fired because she was incompetent, or simply not needed anymore. Or perhaps the restaurant was struggling financially and needed to reduce staff. She may have been fired because her employer was sick of her standing around talking about her dreams with coworkers rather than working.

    The reality is that she was apparently not told why she was fired, and she only believes it was due to the wife's jealousy because of her dream. Neither her employer nor coworker supported that belief. Maybe the wife was keen to get rid of her, but again, if that were the case then any normal person would sense that animosity on a day by day basis, you don't need a dream to tell you that someone doesn't like you. She admitted that the wife worked in the restaurant, and noted that her conspiring to get her fired was 'not a far fetched theory', which to me suggests that they were not all that friendly with each other. If they were, she would have expressed surprise that the wife had suddenly turned on her for no reason. Again, she doesn't know why she was fired, but clearly her real-life relationship with the wife makes her suspect that jealousy was the reason. If she had a good relationship with the wife, then contrary to what the dream revealed, she would be loath to blame her for being fired.

    She stated that her dream 'lingered in my mind days afterwards', which implies several days, not just one or two, but then she said she was fired just a 'a couple days after this dream'. It's a minor point, but this mismatch suggests that her memory of the event is not that accurate, and if she's unsure of one detail, then she might be fudging some of the other details as well.

    But what's the real connection between dreams and déjà vu? According to my dictionary definition, déjà vu is a psychology term meaning, 'The illusion of having already experienced something actually being experienced for the first time'. There are two important things to note. One, déjà vu is an illusion, meaning that as real as it might feel, it is a false belief. And two, as real as it might feel, the event is 'actually being experienced for the first time'. Déjà vu, like dreams, is simply an illusion that the mind creates, it is not something that reveals reality. To me the most reasonable explanation of déjà vu is a misfiring in the brain. Think of when you see a familiar face in a crowd or a famous landmark that you've visited or you smell some freshly baked bread or pizza. Your brain not only sees that image or notices that aroma, it attaches a tag to it that reminds you that you've seen or smelt that thing before, and not only that, it reminds you of your feelings about that thing, whether it's a person, place or foodstuff. Likewise when you see something that you've never seen before, your mind doesn't tag that thing as being familiar, because of course it isn't. You have no memories or feelings about new things because you have no experience of them. But now imagine if something goes wrong in your mind and it misfires. Imagine you see something for the first time, but your brain erroneously tags it with the, 'I've seen this before' tag. You struggle to remember where you've seen it before, or when, or how you felt about it, but you can't. Because this sight is actually new, none of those tags exist, and so none have been attached to what your mind is seeing. But a simple misfiring did attach that false 'I've seen this before' tag, and even though you're quite sure this experience is new, something keeps nagging at you.

    And we know all too well that our brains are not 100% reliable at retrieving memories. Our memories of some event, if they exist at all, are scattered throughout our brain, not all stored in one location like on a DVD. Signals from our senses such as our eyes and ears all go to different parts of the brain. Separate memories of what we saw, heard, smelt, felt and tasted along with our feelings and emotions of that event are also all stored in different areas, and when we attempt to recall a complete memory, all these different memories must be located, retrieved and reassembled to give us an accurate memory of some past event. But the mind isn't a perfect storage and retrieval system, and sometimes we get a familiar face but the name of that face isn't retrieved. We know we know that person but can't recall their name. Or we know we've been to a certain city but can't remember when. The brain's memory database must somehow index all these distributed memory segments and retrieve them all to recreate a complete memory of the event as it actually happened. But this rarely happens, and the older a memory becomes, the more that is lost each time a memory is accessed, and the more fractured it becomes. But not only does the mind often fail to retrieve all the correct individual parts of a particular memory, sometimes it retrieves the wrong parts, partial memories from a completely different event, and in doing so it creates a memory of an event that never actually happened, or at least not in the way you're now viewing it. So to me, déjà vu is simply the mind mistakenly tagging an event as 'I've seen this before', when really it should have said, 'I've never seen this before'. As amazing as the brain is, we know that it makes mistakes and sometimes even falls well below what is considered optimal to lead a normal life. You mentioned mental illness, and this is nothing but the brain generating thoughts and emotions that don't match reality, or creating memories that are completely bogus. When a person with a mental illness can't recognise his family, or believes his arm is not part of his body, or argues that he's married to Marilyn Monroe, or swears that aliens are monitoring his thoughts, we know that these delusions are caused by some sort of electrical and chemical imbalance in the brain. We know that the brain in these people is falsely tagging certain experiences with bogus emotions and memories. And to me déjà vu is just a rare example of this, a time when the brain attaches the wrong tag — a feeling of familiarity — to an experience that has actually never been experienced before. We don't think people with mental illness are able to predict future events or have access to some special realm, and likewise I see no reason why we should think that people that rarely experience déjà vu can predict the future either. Their brain simply misfired and lied to them. The mistake is to think that a glitch in the brain is actually something paranormal, that some mysterious power is sending them messages in their dreams.

    The fact is that science has taken these claims seriously and has studied them, and has found that there is no substance to them whatsoever. Even the young woman said that her predictive dream and experience of déjà vu 'happened a couple years back', and she mentions nothing even remotely similar that happened before or since. So clearly she doesn't have any special powers and it was all just a coincidence, which when you consider the thousands of dreams we have each year, every now and then we should expect these weird experiences to happen. The reality is that if these paranormal experiences were real then there wouldn't just be one woman writing about it on some obscure website, the news of dreams predicting the future would be all over the media and scientists would be producing evidence to support the claims. And even more noticeable, people would be using their predictive dreams to save lives and change the world, none of which do we see actually happening.

  312. Comment by Ted, 04 Nov, 2016

    Hi John, I think you have analysed the situation pretty well, but I shall comment on my own experiences for the sake of interest.

    Precognitive dreams and visions have always fascinated people, including me. The two most prominent intelligent writers about them were John Dunne and J.B. Priestley. Both of these men appear to have embraced the notion that perception of time as linear is incorrect, and that mind, or consciousness, is in fact capable, at certain times, of perceiving events outside the manifold of time and space. Dunne even went as far as to assert that the existence of precognition in dreams implies the immortality of the soul. Now these two men were no dummies. Priestley was a titan of twentieth century literature and Dunne was an aeronautical engineer of great talent who designed some of the first aircraft which actually flew over short distances. Dunne's "An Experiment with Time" and Priestley's "Over the Long High Wall" are compelling reading, even today, the latter just as much for its perennially incisive social comment as its dream hypothesis.

    It is as well to clearly state what we mean by precognition in dreams. Deja-vu is something else entirely, and doesn't concern me here. Loosely speaking, precognition in dreams means a coincidence of precise data within a dream and a later experience, which matching of events has an extraordinarily low probability of occurring. But we are in trouble here almost immediately because we cannot quantify such probabilities. What we mean is subjective probability, and that is a very misleading thing at the best of times. (No need to mention the long queues for lotto tickets !) If twenty-three people are in a room there is a 50% chance two of them share a birthday, yet subjectively it seems far too high, and plenty of other such examples exist.

    Now consider the heft of data processed within the brain over a lifetime during dreams and the similarly huge heap of external data perceived by the brain over a lifetime. Add to this the infinite capacity of the mind to create its own data from imagination. Might we not expect coincidences every so often, and perhaps one or two absolutely overwhelming coincidences over one lifetime ? I cannot prove it, of course, but I tend to think so, and being the imaginative creatures we are, there is a strong component within us to deny mere coincidence and see causal relationships and patterns which do not exist. This, of course, is actually part of the scientific hypothesis and testing mechanism, and is by no means in itself reprehensible. And what about the majority of dreams, possibly unforgettable to the dreamer, which have no data overlap at all with future experience?

    When younger, I kept a dream diary for some years, because dreams sometimes tell us useful things about ourselves we are not consciously aware of, and indirectly found much precognitive data in the process. However, only one or two of these associations remain inexplicable. But in view of what I have said above, heft of data, unreliable nature of subjective probability, imagination and so on, I conclude that I ought to expect their occurrence.

  313. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Nov, 2016

    Hi Ted. I agree, combining coincidence with the huge amount of data from dreams, we should expect some to occasionally suggest precognition, but we'd be foolish to believe it. As I've mentioned elsewhere, Georges Charpak and Henri Broch in their book 'Debunked! ~ ESP, Telekinesis and other Pseudoscience' (2004) looked at something similar to precognitive dreams. They looked at the claim of people who say they've suddenly thought of someone and then they almost immediately discover, by a phone call or on the TV news perhaps, that they've recently died. They asked,Debunked! 'What is the probability that, having thought about a person, we will somehow learn in the next five minutes, purely by coincidence and without any paranormal influence, that the person has died?' They based their calculation on the USA and revealed that about 23,782 people in the US will have this "spooky" experience every year. That's around 65 people a day!! That means that for every day of the year, 65 people in the US might exclaim, 'Wow, I had this strange experience last night. I thought of my cousin and then I got a phone call telling me they had just died. How weird is that? I must have psychic powers'. But they don't have special powers. It's just a fluke. A coincidence. Just like the spooky dreams.

  314. Comment by Ron, 02 Dec, 2016

    Hello again John. For years I have asked myself why do many well educated, intelligent people today believe in God and the bible. Through some reading and some figuring out based on people I knew well when in that camp I decided to comment here on this little topic and, of course, look forward to reading your comments. What re-ignited this was recently reading about a report from psychologists at 2 well known universities which reviewed 63 studies taken from 1928 to 2012. You are gonna like this! It was conclusively proven that the more intelligent a person is the less likely they are to believe in God. "Atheism is rife among clever people". Most of the studies were in western countries, mainly the USA and Canada, therefore most participants were protestants. One study involved children only, 1500 of them, aged 10 with an av. IQ of 135. They found the children less religious than the general public. Remarkable was, in spite of their atheism 60% were brought up in very strict religious homes.

    Of course, people who believe such seemingly nonsensical things as perceived by many today, are not necessarily stupid. But getting back to my original question, I write some brief possibilities here why some educated intelligent believers believe. It may seem contradictory, but we humans are not always rational or logical beings. Our biases often dull our perceptions and judgment. This is where science can really step in, especially where superstition is involved. Seems that why people hold onto irrational beliefs can be complicated. Intelligence is compartmental ie some people can be very sharp and great thinkers in a certain area of their life or expertise, but can be disastrous in others. Another I found obvious from some I knew was that even truly intelligent believers were likely got at from a very young age so their system of belief is sacrosanct. Those individuals will likely rationalize what they already believe. Another thing difficult for many non-believers to savvy is how devout believers are taught to distrust themselves because the idea of sin and human weakness is a basic of the Christian message, drummed into youngsters probably before they could read or write!! They learn human reasoning cannot be trusted. In Isaiah 55:8,9 the bible says "for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts". For many the pressure to remain faithful is so strong that many are terrified of the cost likely of leaving their faith.

  315. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Dec, 2016

    Hi Ron. We're not surprised by your comments, since we've also heard of those studies that demonstrate that the more intelligent and/or educated one is, the less likely they are to believe in gods. And not just gods, but all manner of superstitious, primitive nonsense, from ghosts and astrology through to psychic healing. Clearly the more intelligent someone is, the more likely they are to question the explanations that others put forward for something, and the more capable they are of detecting flaws in their reasoning. Likewise the more educated someone is, the more exposed they are to science, history, critical thinking and alternative views from other cultures and groups. It's far more difficult to hold onto an invisible god in a university where you're always being challenged to defend your thinking, than it is in some little village where no one ever questions that there might not be a god.

    But as you say, there are still intelligent, educated believers in gods that confound logic and continue to believe. Mostly I think it's down to childhood brainwashing, their brains have effectively been hard-wired through relentless exposure to religious dogma from priests, ministers and parents etc before they had developed the mental skills to see through the bullshit. You're right that we're not always rational, we all have cognitive biases, even skeptics and scientists, but the advantage is that knowing about the biases means that we can try and ensure we're not being fooled by them. The scientific method is so successful because it insists on repeatable, independent, objective evidence and quickly exposes irrational beliefs. An individual scientist with a deep religious bias may still believe the evidence points to God, but the rest of the scientific community accepts that as soon as you factor in that religious bias, then the evidence for God vanishes.

    It is truly surprising that there are some scientists, and many lay people as well, that can happily compartmentalise their rational and irrational beliefs. They can work in science during the week, never worrying about how it conflicts with their God belief, and then go to church on Sunday, or simply say, 'Thank you, God', and never worry about how that conflicts with their belief in science. When your behaviour doesn't match your beliefs, it's called cognitive dissonance. Another example would be thinking that it's wrong to kill and eat animals, and yet you still enjoy a bacon sandwich. Most religious people we know are what we think of as one-hour-a-week believers. They're blind hypocrites. They'll spend an hour on their knees on Sunday as believers praying to their God, and then effectively spend the rest of the week as atheists. They'll strongly assert their belief in God, but most of what they do day-to-day is done with no thought of God. They are Christians or Muslims or whatever in name only. Their modern lifestyle sees them break most of the commandments in their holy books, and they're not worried in the slightest. Most in fact aren't even aware that they're breaking God's rules. We feel that the great majority of religious believers think that simply believing God exists is sufficient to get them into heaven. Many have also rightly accepted that much of what the Bible claims about the universe is utter nonsense, eg it was created 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, and much of what God commands is quite immoral, eg kill homosexuals and atheists. And with life today, most Christians can easily enjoy a good secular life while still harbouring a firm if irrational belief that God is real. It's like, I could easily go through life believing that Atlantis really had existed in the past, or that visiting aliens had helped build the pyramids, since those harmless beliefs would have no impact on me enjoying my life. Those irrelevant beliefs could happily gather dust in some corner of my brain and people wouldn't even know I harboured such weird beliefs. Most Christians seem to be functioning in a similar way, their silly belief in God is strongly held, but it really doesn't impact on them leading what is essentially a secular life, one in which they only rarely break out their God belief, like at a funeral.

    But as you say, why people hold onto irrational beliefs is complicated. Many are indeed too fearful of giving up belief in God, brainwashed as they were with all the horror stories of Hell etc, but that's the advantage of modern society. There is no major handicap in holding onto a silly belief in God, meaning that you can lead a secular, almost atheistic life, and function like a normal person, and if by some microscopically slim chance God is actually real, you'll still be saved because you hung onto your bare-bones belief in God. It's a form of insurance. Form a belief in God, squirrel it away in some recess in your mind, and then get on with living your life, hoping that you'll never need it, but secure in the knowledge that it's back there somewhere if you do.

    But of course, if God is real, a bare-bones belief in him coupled with a decadent lifestyle won't save a single Christian. This to us is probably the most irrational move by Christians. People not knowing much about the world and believing that their holy book is telling the truth is just ignorance, and explains much of history. But then along comes modern Christians who know what God demands of them, but understandably prefer the world provided by science and technology, and so naively think that just believing in his existence is surely enough to save them from his wrath. But anyone that professes to be a Christian should know that simply saying God exists, and then ignoring all his commandments, is not something that will endear them to God. There are some 613 commandments from God in the Bible, including the famous ten. Christianity is not just a single commandment: "Thou shalt believe in God". That's it my children, just the one rule, now go out and enjoy life, including wine, women and song.

    We can understand how intelligent and educated Christians can believe in bullshit and can truly fear their God. They were brainwashed as children, and they just can't break their programming. If they argue that creationism is true and evolution is false, that homosexuality is an abomination and God is causing natural disasters to punish the sinners, then they are at least taking their religion seriously. But those intelligent and educated Christians that also say they believe in God, while at the same time embracing a scientific worldview in their daily life and dismissing everything about God except a firm belief, and sometimes even not-so-firm a belief, that he exists, those Christians we don't understand. If they know enough to want to be a Christian, then they must know enough to know that simply believing in God is not enough, not by a long shot! Clearly they're not as intelligent as they appear to be.

  316. Comment by Ron, 06 Dec, 2016

    Hi John. Rummaging through some stored stuff recently I found an almost forgotten booklet which I re-read. It is about the Catholic church. Basically it was written to reveal the true answers to various questions explaining why Catholics believe what they do. This was because too much misinformation was being spread out there by misinformed people getting their info from wrong sources. It was decided to get the truth about the worlds largest church and its 1.27 billion baptized followers by going to the church itself and speaking with a senior priest. It has a number of sections each asking a question then giving an answer from the horses mouth, so to speak. I have chosen to quote here the answer to why the Catholics believe they have actual proof of the existence and omnipotence of God and why this a part of why they believe they are THE true church with the right answers. Reading it again I thought this is it, this is the one that will turn John into a believer or change his thinking but then I thought, no, I do not think so. In fact, I bet it will have only a modest impact and your response will put you at odds with approx. a fifth of the worlds population but will deliver another dose of excellent logic and common sense. Am I right? Anyway here is the quoted answer,

    "Catholics believe the universe is the creation and exclusive domain of an infinitely powerful spirit being called God, because evidence to that conclusion is so overwhelming there is no room left for even a vestige of doubt. First, the evidence of logic via the process of simple mathematical type reasoning man comes face to face with certain indisputable principles. Everything has a cause, nothing can bring itself into existence. Yes, there is a long chain of causes in the universe but ultimately there must be a first cause, an uncaused cause, we call this God. Even if the theory of evolution could be proved it would not explain the origin of anything, it only deals with what may have happened after matter came into existence. Personal creation (man) presupposes a superior creator. Universal order presupposes a universal orderer, cosmic energy presupposes a cosmic energizer, natural law presupposes a universal law maker. These basic principles of reason explain why so many of the worlds leading scientists are firm believers in God. Then there is the evidence of divine revelation. God has revealed himself by voice, vision, apparition, countless times, all receptive to human senses. He has demonstrated his omnipotence by stupendous supernatural miracles. Many of these are a matter of authenticated historical record. Scriptures are full of such accounts. In modern times the world has witnessed such heaven-sent miracles as Fatima, Lourdes and St Anne de Beaupre in Canada where the cured have left a forest of crutches in testimony. The Lourdes medical bureau is open for examination by any doctor. There is the liquefaction of the blood of St Januarius that takes place every September 19th in Naples. The incorruption of the bodies of Catholic saints like St Bernadette, the miraculous Eucharistic host of Lanciano, in Italy, which has been scientifically proven to be human flesh and blood type AB. These are only a few miracles on-going today which point to the existence of God.

    Lastly, the evidence of human intuition. Psychologists have long known that every human being, atheists included, intuitively seeks Gods help in times of calamity and instinctively pleads for Gods mercy when death is imminent. Hence the renowned Voltaire, so eloquent in denial of God whilst enjoying health, fame and fortune repudiated all his atheistic writings on his deathbed and frantically sought the ministrations of a Catholic priest. Lenin frantically asked for pardon on his deathbed. For as hunger for food proclaims the existence of food, mans intuitive hunger for God proclaims the reality, omnipotence and justice of God. Catholic belief in God, therefore, is purely and simply an expression of intellectual sanity." End of quote.

    Some of the same old, same old there but an interesting response from the church but it did not stop us from leaving the Catholic church yrs ago. Interestingly, the Catholic church has grown at a faster rate than the population of this planet. Their numbers have declined slowly in most western nations, esp. Europe and Oceania but sizable increases in Asia and Africa. As a matter of interest there are 5237 bishops worldwide, up from 4841 only a year ago. At least one can assume they are all ordained, unlike a certain individual up north. There are also 415,792 priests globally. That number has been static.
  317. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Dec, 2016

    You're right Ron, silly arguments like that from the Catholic Church do nothing to change my thinking, they merely make me more confidant in my views. I'm left thinking, Seriously, that's the best argument they can come up with? But then it is an old Church booklet. I found this page online — THE CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS THE ANSWER by Paul Whitcomb — and it includes your quote, and the date 1961, so if it's the original, it's at least 55 years old, and the arguments that were blindly accepted back then have been widely exposed as bogus since, thanks to the many recent books on atheism and popular science. But as old and as flawed as the booklet's argument might be, that doesn't stop today's Christians from repeating them ad nauseam. If door-knocking evangelists weren't allowed to use them then they'd have to talk about the weather.

    You say that my 'response will put you at odds with approx. a fifth of the worlds population', but the reality is that the great majority of the world's population, I believe it's now closer to 5 out of every 6 people that think the Catholic Church is wrong in its views. And globally they always have been a minority. But that said, quoting the numbers of believers is the wrong way to find the truth, only evidence matters. The Church may complain that 'too much misinformation was being spread out there by misinformed people getting their info from wrong sources', but then they have always said that. That's why they killed, tortured and terrorised people with the inquisitions, it's why they burnt philosopher Giordano Bruno at the stake in 1600 and threatened to do the same to Galileo and numerous others. It was only in 1992 that the Vatican finally admitted that Galileo was right all along, and the Earth does go around the Sun. Clearly history shows that the 'misinformed people' spreading 'misinformation' were the priests, bishops and nuns of the Catholic Church itself.

    OK, so let's look at their evidence for 'an infinitely powerful spirit being called God'. They start with this assertion: 'Everything has a cause, nothing can bring itself into existence. Yes, there is a long chain of causes in the universe but ultimately there must be a first cause, an uncaused cause, we call this God'. Even children can see through this argument, with the question that if 'Everything has a cause', then who caused God to exist? Of course this is where Christians backtrack, and say, without offering any evidence to justify it, that God doesn't need a cause. But if this is true, then their argument immediately fails, since it's based on their initial claim or premise that, 'Everything has a cause'. Therefore God must have a cause, so who made God? And then, who made the thing that made God, and so on. It's called the problem of infinite regress. If you argue that we have to stop somewhere and assume that either something didn't need a cause or has existed forever, then it's far more reasonable to stop with the universe either not needing a cause to come into existence or having existed forever. The choice is to explain the existence of the universe, which is very difficult, or conversely to explain the existence of the universe AND the existence of God, which is infinitely more difficult. Adding a god to the problem of our existence hasn't actually answered anything, it's only made the mystery far more mysterious, and if we are to believe the Bible, impossible to solve. Scientists believe they can better understand the origin of the universe and its evolution by doing further research, whereas Christians gave up long ago, and when asked what makes the sky blue and the grass green, simply reply, God does. An answer that was as useless and meaningless thousands of years ago as it is now.

    Another problem with the first cause argument, and one that believers of every stripe overlook or suppress, is that if it were true that a god must exist to create the universe, the argument makes no mention of who that god must be. While Christians argue that there must be 'an uncaused cause, we call this God', Muslims could with just as much confidence argue that there must be 'an uncaused cause, we call this Allah'. Likewise the ancient Greeks could have argued that there must be 'an uncaused cause, we call this Zeus'. As an atheist, if I came to believe that the observable universe appeared to be created, I could argue that it was created not by a god of any sort but an advanced alien in a parallel universe. Any argument that can be used by god believers and atheists alike to prove the others wrong is clearly useless.

    The Catholic quote goes on to say that, 'Personal creation (man) presupposes a superior creator. Universal order presupposes a universal orderer, cosmic energy presupposes a cosmic energizer, natural law presupposes a universal law maker'. What the Catholics fail to grasp is that only god believers presuppose, meaning to believe in advance of any evidence, that we were created by a god, and therefore that god must of course exist or else we wouldn't. Their argument simply goes in circles. There is no evidence whatsoever that humans were created, or that there's 'a universal law maker', or that the universe even needs one. And again, if there was evidence of intelligent design, it would be far, far more likely to point towards an advanced alien, and not some god belonging to who ... the Catholics, or the ancient Egyptians, or the Aztec?

    As for their claim that 'many of the worlds leading scientists are firm believers in God', that is utterly bogus. Many of the public might have believed it a half-century ago when that claim was written, but it was just as false then as it is now. As a group, the world's leading scientists are probably the most atheistic collection of people on the planet. Every time we see blatant lies like this it just reinforces our view that god believers have no good arguments, since why else do they resort to lies to convince their followers?

    They then go on to mention 'the evidence of divine revelation. God has revealed himself ... countless times ... He has demonstrated his omnipotence by stupendous supernatural miracles. Many of these are a matter of authenticated historical record. Scriptures are full of such accounts'. I mean ... wow ... that's just laughable. That they seriously want us to believe that the Biblical Scriptures are an 'authenticated historical record' is astounding. Expecting us to believe in miracles simply because they're in the silly Bible along with the talking snake is as stupid as someone asking us to believe that a man can fly by showing us a Superman comic. Insisting that God has demonstrated his power is no different to arguing that the Egyptian god Ra demonstrated his power with the pyramids, and that it's 'a matter of authenticated historical record'. A question: what's the main difference between the stories in the Superman comics, the Harry Potter books, the Star Wars movies, the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Bible? Answer: a lot of people believe the fanciful stories in the last one actually happened! We find it mystifying that intelligent people can quickly detect the flaws that expose the stories of Superman, Harry Potter and the Egyptian god Ra as mere fantasy, but can't see the same flaws in an old book written by ignorant Bronze Age goat herders.

    And as for claiming that, 'In modern times the world has witnessed such heaven-sent miracles as Fatima, Lourdes... ', it has of course witnessed no such thing. They talk of God healing cripples and them leaving behind their crutches, but as many have pointed out, why are there no wooden legs left behind? Why does God only heal people with a limp, and ignore those that have no legs at all? And why do you have to be rich enough, and healthy enough, to go to Fatima or Lourdes to be healed? Why can't God go to where you live? And isn't he already where you are, so why travel overseas at all? God believers insist that thousands of years ago their God could create an entire universe and a multitude of life from nothing, stop the Sun in the sky and flood the entire planet, and yet today he struggles to heal a handful of limps in two or three specific villages. What a pathetic come down from what he was. We have surgeons that can perform more amazing cures than God can, and in far greater numbers and locations. And of course, we still have the same problem as above. If something seems miraculous, eg recovery from cancer or being hit by an earthquake for offending god, we have no idea which god performed the miracle. Catholics, Jews, Hindus and Muslims all argue that it was clearly their god.

    Next they talk about 'the evidence of human intuition. Psychologists have long known that every human being, atheists included, intuitively seeks Gods help in times of calamity and instinctively pleads for Gods mercy when death is imminent'. Oh please, what utter bullshit. Perhaps devout Catholic psychologists believe that, but the reality is that only people that have been brainwashed into begging the Catholic God for favours and mercy would plead to God. Who seriously believes that a devout Muslim, Jew, Buddhist or Hindu would plead to the Catholic (or even Christian) God when times got tough? Without the Catholic brainwashing, people wouldn't even know that such a god existed. Are we to believe that the ancient Egyptians gave up belief in Ra and Osiris and pleaded with the Christian God when death approached? This is all just Christian arrogance that everyone, such as Muslims and even atheists, know in our hearts that the Christian God is real, and will call on him in times of need. I've experienced calamity and what appeared to be imminent death, and yet I can honestly say that pleading to some invisible space god never entered my mind. I also know people that did plead to the Christian God in times of need, and the bastard never lifted a finger to help them, not even a text saying he was out of the office.

    Then we have the claim that Voltaire recanted on his deathbed. There is no evidence for that being true, and as this Wikipedia article states, 'Because of his well-known criticism of the Church, which he had refused to retract before his death, Voltaire was denied a Christian burial in Paris'. This article also debunks the recanting claim. There is a similar claim spread by Christians that Charles Darwin recanted on his deathbed, but it is equally fraudulent. It just shows how desperate, and devious, Christians are when they feel forced to make up stories to support the other made-up stories in their holy book. And the reality is, even if Voltaire, and Darwin and Lenin, had recanted, it would have been because of a real fear that perhaps there was a slim chance that Hell was real after all, and why risk an eternity of torture if simply saying you're sorry with your last breath might help. Recanting your previous beliefs and pleading to God doesn't prove he exists, anymore than 2,000 years ago a Jew recanting his Jewish beliefs on his deathbed and pleading to the Greek god Zeus would prove that Zeus existed.

    It's just ridiculous for Catholics to argue that, 'mans intuitive hunger for God proclaims the reality, omnipotence and justice of God'. And let's remember here that they're talking of the Catholic God, not the Muslim god or some Hindu god. The reality is that for most humans that have ever lived, even if they did believe in gods, it most certainly wasn't the God that Catholics are thinking of. Even today the majority of people deny that the Christian God is real, let alone the Catholic version of that God. Catholics have this arrogance to believe that when anyone mentions a belief in god, especially other Christians, that they must be referring to the Catholic God. And even worse, they believe that if unsophisticated, gullible people have a hunger for a god, then that mere desire somehow proclaims the reality of that god. But simply desiring that something is real does not make it real. The likes of the ancient Babylonians, Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Aztec, Maya and Vikings all had an intuitive hunger for gods, so does that proclaim the reality of all those gods?

    Ancient Greek philosophers recognised the flaws in these god arguments before Christianity was even invented, so it's disappointing that thousands of years later god believers are still using them to suck in followers. And with the wealth of knowledge available to us that wasn't available to the Greeks, it just shows that far too many people are too lazy to actually think about a silly belief that they claim is more important to them than life itself.

    How did the world and life arise? Catholics would rather ask priests that screw little boys than ask scientists that landed a rover on Mars, gave them antibiotics and the Internet. And lest it be thought we're picking on Catholics, other Christians along with Jews, Muslims, Hindus etc are all happily embracing the fruits of science and technology while at the same time thanking their specific god, as if he invented smartphones and pizza. It's simply childish for Catholics or any god believer to seriously claim that their religion has provided the answers about the universe and life, when in fact they have hindered our intellectual progress every step of the way, and are still doing so. They have given us nothing but falsehoods and intolerance.

    And you're right that Catholic 'numbers have declined slowly in most western nations, esp. Europe and Oceania but sizable increases in Asia and Africa'. But as we've discussed, this can be readily explained by educated nations rejecting religion while under-educated nations know no better, with Christian evangelists deserting western nations for Asia and Africa and more gullible targets. History has shown that poor, ignorant people are easily swayed with promises of an invisible paradise that awaits them, all they have to do is die. And regularly donate money to the struggling Church in the interim. Asia and Africa also have much higher fertility rates. I've heard the Catholic Church crowing that they're growing globally, while some other Christian denominations are falling, but just because a religious group is gaining in popularity is no evidence whatsoever that they're actually representing a real god. Muslim fundamentalists with their AK47s and suicide bombers have grown enormously over the last couple of decades too, so does their growth argue that Allah is real? I certainly hope not, because I'm not a cute little boy any more and so I have more to fear from bloodthirsty Muslims than horny Catholics.

    So, Catholics may naively believe that they have actual proof of the existence and omnipotence of God, but clearly they're dreaming, and have been for some 2,000 years. Their silly arguments didn't work then, they don't work now.

  318. Comment by Ron, 05 Jan, 2017

    Hi John. Another silly email today from Health Sciences Institute headed "Has a cure for aging been found in Genesis 5:27"

    It goes on about investigations are under way as to how and why old Testament figures like Methuselah lived nearly a thousand years. Seems a special biblical diet lengthened their lives. Today you can tap into the power of this diet, blah, blah. The secret is in Gen. 5:27, you can get well into your 90's living a life of godly purpose and joy. When I checked that passage, all it said was "altogether Methuselah lived to 969 yrs, then he died". How the hell can one get any secret diets from that?? I think there is a product sell in there somewhere. What a con.

    Anyway, the email prompted me to comment here as those enormous ages are very hard to believe and make no sense. Genesis tells us Adam lived 930 yrs, had a son at 130 and further offspring over the age of 800. Seth, Enosh, Kenan all exceeded 900. Noah had 3 children after 500 etc, etc. Much later Abraham lived a paltry 175yrs. For some reason after the Flood life spans steadily declined to the present 70-120yrs. Genesis 6:3 says "then the Lord said, my spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be 120 yrs". Many theories and suggestions are out there to explain these ages. Some well known ones say 1 year in the text really means 1 month or all the numbers are inflated by a factor of 10. But these theories still don't gel ie making these characters of the Bible still with very long life spans or having children at a very young age based on biblical text. Much more complicated suggestions are out there. Trouble is investigations can only hit a wall as there is not a shred of scientific evidence to support any belief in those ages. Martin Luther in his "Commentaries on Genesis" says the ages are true, citing better diet and righteousness. Hardly plausible is it? Someone speculated that in order to not let the natural process of decay and corruption mess up the gene pool too much God may have allowed people to live longer early on. Appears similar claims of long lives are found in Babylonian, Greek and Roman literature. Our current average life expectancy is the same as when the 90th Psalm was written 3400 yrs ago. What changed around the time of the flood? Why would these ages be fabricated? Fossil records supposedly show that prior to the flood Earth had a tropical environment (again, seems implausible) later it changed to an ice age covering 30% of the planet which could have had adverse effects on life spans. Science tells us prehistoric people lived short lives so how to reconcile with Methuselah and co. and their 900 or so yrs? Taking the Bible words literally thus believing these ages lived, would that mean Adams story took place less than 2000 yrs before Abraham meaning the human race is only 6000 yrs old? Of course, it comes down to whether one believes any of these things such as the flood and near 1000 yr lives. What are your thoughts John?

  319. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Jan, 2017

    Hi Ron. You say your silly email had the heading, 'Has a cure for aging been found in Genesis 5:27?' Surely any remotely intelligent Christian should immediately think, 'Well clearly everyone who has read Genesis 5:27, from evangelical preachers to popes to the people writing this silly email, aren't living any longer than people who ignore the Bible, so no, obviously the cure to aging has not been found in Genesis 5:27'. Would stupid Christians take me seriously if I asked if the answer to human-powered flight has been found in the Superman comics? If Christians were gaining health advice from the Bible and living for a millennium, don't they think the rest of us would have noticed by now?

    As for claims that ancient men lived for nigh on a thousand years men and this reduced to a tenth of that life span at the time of the Biblical Flood of Noah, as you say Ron, 'it comes down to whether one believes any of these things'. When I see educated Christian men and women trying to figure out how ancient man lived so long and what changed just prior to the flood, to me it's as silly as a child asking my thoughts on how Santa's reindeer can fly when the ones we see in the wild can't. In the Harry Potter books it's claimed that making magic wands from different materials gives them different powers. Why is this you might wonder? What scientific investigations have been done to determine the different magical qualities of different materials? In the Superman comics it's claimed that our yellow sun gives Superman his great strength and ability to fly, but what theories and suggestions have been proposed to explain how that might work? In the TV series 'Doctor Who' it's claimed that the inside of the TARDIS is huge compared to the outside, but again, what theories and suggestions are scientists considering that might explain that? Of course sane, intelligent, rational people aren't investigating any of these claims because clearly there is no validity to them, they are all just fanciful claims made in works of pure fiction. We're not expected to believe them, so it's quite depressing that in this age of great knowledge Christians are sincerely asking the world to take a silly old religious myth, one of thousands that people dismiss as nonsense, seriously.

    You're right that among Christians there are 'Many theories and suggestions are out there to explain these ages', but of course none do so, just as all the answers we feed to children to maintain their belief in Santa fail miserably when maturity ensues and reason is applied to the problems of flying reindeer and the storage capacity of his one sack. Kids naturally grow out of a silly belief in Santa, but unfortunately Christians refuse to grow out of a belief in an old man that is watching them and will reward or punish them.

    If I asked a Christian how the Muslim prophet Mohammed rode an ordinary horse up into the clouds and on to heaven, they would of course reply that it never happened so there is nothing to explain. I'd get the same dismissive answers if I asked how Zeus tossed lightning bolts or how Thor caught his hammer without ripping his arm off. Christians can easily see how the fantastical claims made in untold other religions about gods and men are pure nonsense made by ignorant and superstitious people. All these silly stories were dreamt up in primitive times and the Hebrew stories of gods interacting with man are just as silly and ridiculous and as false as that invented by all the other ancient cultures. Frankly I can't understand how Christians (or Jews, Muslims, Hindus etc) can blindly believe the childish stories told in their own holy books while at the same time recognising that near identical stories told in the holy books of other religions are irrational, illogical, contradictory and convincingly dismissed by scientific and historical evidence.

    Regarding the long life spans claimed in the Bible, you ask, 'Why would these ages be fabricated?', with the implication being that ancient man would have no reason to lie and make things up. But we need to realise that ancient man had no idea whatsoever how the universe and life arose, and no understanding of how to use science to find out. So all he could do was make things up. The Bible is just one religious text out of thousands, and certainly not the oldest, so if we were to believe Christians and accept that the stories in the Bible are true, then the stories in those thousands of other religious holy books are all false, all lies, all just made up. Thousands of silly stories in untold holy books were all fabricated by ignorant people trying to explain the universe, so why shouldn't we view the old stories in the Bible as also being fabricated, since they are just a silly as those in other holy books and written by equally ignorant people? Why should we believe that the Flood of Noah as told by the ancient Hebrews actually happened, when we're asked to dismiss the earlier and very similar Flood of Gilgamesh, as told by the ancient Babylonians? Why should we believe that the ancient (and powerful and sophisticated) Babylonians, Sumerians, Greeks, Romans, Aztec, Norse, Egyptians, Maya, Indian, Chinese etc were lying about everything they wrote down concerning the universe and history and that the ancient Hebrews were the only ones that actually understood how the universe was created, who by their own account were actually just an unimportant downtrodden tribe dominated by the Babylonians, Egyptians, Romans etc? When Christians ask me incredulously, 'Why would the ancient Hebrews lie, why would they fabricate details in their stories?', then the answer is that they lied for the same reasons that the Babylonians, Sumerians, Greeks, Romans, Aztec, Norse, Egyptians, Maya, Indian, Chinese etc lied. Christians acknowledge that every ancient culture fabricated their origin stories, that in their ignorance they had no choice but to simply guess and make things up. But at the same time Christians irrationally argue that the ancient Hebrews, who were even more ignorant than the older civilisations around them, such as the Babylonians, Sumerians and Egyptians, were somehow able to explain the universe without fabricating details in their stories. Stories that were often just blatant copies of older stories stolen from the likes of the Babylonians and Egyptians, where the names and subtle details were changed to try and hide the fact that it was plagiarism.

    The reality is that if you want to tell stories about things that clearly don't happen in the present world, then you have to set them in remote places that people have never seen or in the distant past that no one has any knowledge of. Think of the opening to the original 'Star Wars' movie: 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...' The people that feature in the early Bible stories, such as Adam and Eve and Noah, are all fictitious characters, and when their stories were made up, they were said to have lived in the distant past, long, long before the Biblical writers lived. So effectively they could make up any ridiculous story they wanted and no one alive had any evidence to prove them wrong, apart from common sense and skeptical thinking, which apparently was quite rare in those days. Storytellers could say men generally lived over 800 years when the world was young, and no one could prove otherwise. They could claim that Eve chatted with a talking snake, because yes, snakes talked in those days too. When you're making up fables for a time period for which no historical records exist, and the people listening to your fairy tales all believe in all manner of superstitious nonsense, from gods and demons to witches and dragons, then you can make any fantastical claim you want, and ignorant, gullible people will generally believe you. Giants could walk the earth, animals could talk and men could live for almost a thousand years. But when the makers of Bible stories started telling accounts of events that had happened in living memory, that someone's father or grandfather had experienced, then they quickly found that they had to be a little more factual. Otherwise someone would cry, 'That's bullshit. My father was there and he told us the story many times, and he never mentioned the silly stuff you're talking about!' That's why the Bible has absolutely amazing miracles at the start when no one is around, with God making the entire universe and all life in a mere six days, making Adam and Eve and a talking snake etc, but as the Bible goes on the miracles get less and less common and less and less spectacular, going from God often walking with Adam and Eve in the garden, to God not making an appearance at all in the New Testament. He's talked of, but never seen and he never makes any proclamations. The Hebrews could make up silly stories about what might have happened in the distant past, but not what actually happened when the Romans invaded since there were a lot of witnesses about that were still alive and quick to call them liars if they strayed too far from the facts. That's why the Bible doesn't claim that the Roman authorities saw Jesus walk on water or rise from the dead, because the Romans would have written these miraculous events down, and since they didn't the Bible writers knew that they couldn't say something that the Romans would deny happened. I can easily claim that my caveman ancestor was the guy that invented the wheel, meaning I deserve royalties, and no one can prove me wrong. But if I claim that I currently own a talking donkey (also in the Bible by the way), then people can easily prove me a liar, because they'd demand I front up with the animal, since he supposedly exists now, not in the dim past. And the claim that these miraculous things only happened in the dim past is another mark against God existing, since we should still see God at work in the world, unless of course God has died and that's why we haven't witnessed miracles in the last 2,000 years? And no, some burn marks on a piece of toast that looks like Jesus (even though we don't know what he looked like) is not a miracle.

    Regarding those long life spans, the Bible says that 'After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died'. Similar comments apply to Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Jared, Methuselah, Lamech and Noah, right up to the time of the flood. Isn't it strange that Adam, the man from which it's claimed all of mankind are descended from, had hundreds of children and yet only Seth is mentioned. It's the same with all the others, Enosh, Kenan etc, only one child from hundreds are mentioned, the one child whose line descends through to Noah. Are we to believe that of these thousands of anonymous children that God created, none did anything worthy of mention, either good nor bad? What a major disappointment they must have been to God. But then the Bible story makes claims that once again don't make sense. Let's remember that God told Adam and Eve that if they ate the forbidden fruit they would die. And yet rather than die, even after being expelled and having to fend for themselves, Adam, and presumably Eve, lived for nearly a thousand years. As did the next ten generations of humans, and their thousands and thousands of offspring. Let's also remember that throughout history — real history, not Biblical history — man has been capable of living to around a hundred, but most didn't make old age because of starvation, fatal accidents, wild animal attacks, wars and disease etc, so how likely is it that these Biblical characters all managed in such primitive, dangerous times to avoid accidental death for not just a hundred years, but almost a thousand years? Clearly God had lied to Adam and Eve, just as the talking snake had said. It appears that Adam and Eve and the others that lived so long didn't actually die naturally, they were deliberately killed by God. The Bible says they all "died", except for Enoch where it says, 'Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away'. So it appears that they all kept living until God decided to end their lives, to take them away. Then, as you say Ron, when Noah was 500 years old the Bible suddenly tells us that, 'Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years'. Perhaps their numbers were getting too big and God was sick of keeping track, so he simply put an expiration date on everyone. So that was God's major new plan for the future, that humans would now only live a maximum of 120 years. That was Genesis 6:3, but then immediately, in Genesis 6:5, we're told that, 'The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth — men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air — for I am grieved that I have made them.' This is evidence that God was deranged and had no idea of what the future holds, even though he's supposed to know everything. Why would God bother putting a 120 year limit on human life if he intending killing them all the very next day? He also had no idea that his dastardly plan wouldn't work, and a few thousand years later he would have to rape a virgin, have an illegitimate son, and then have that adult son tortured and killed in a second attempt to rid the world of evil. Which, for the record, also failed, resulting in God fleeing in despair. Note also how God talked of the evil man committed, and yet he killed almost every living creature on the planet with his flood, even though it was just man that he was annoyed with, the creatures (and young childen) were innocent but still had to needlessly suffer God's wrath. And I think a loving father that would rape a virgin, abandon his son, then turn up 30 years later to have him tortured and killed is being a little hypocritical when he describes man as evil. Someone needs to look in mirror. Like the entire Bible, the flood myth is fill of contradictions and nonsense and was clearly written by primitive, ignorant men.

    You say that you've read that, 'Fossil records supposedly show that prior to the flood Earth had a tropical environment (again, seems implausible) later it changed to an ice age... ', and that the Biblical creationist claim is that 'the human race is only 6000 yrs old'. Fossil records show no evidence whatsoever of a global flood, and certainly not a global flood some 6,000 years ago. Since there is no evidence of the Biblical flood, Christians can't say what was before and after something that never happened. It's as silly as me saying that Santa Claus was born after Julius Caesar and before Attila the Hun. You can't casually place something fictitious into real events. The scientific evidence does show that there were tropical environments prior to 6,000 years ago, ie the time of the mythical flood. The evidence also shows that there have been many ice ages as well, but none in the last 6,000 years. The most recent ice age was freezing the butts off ancient man (and woman) before, according to the Bible, the world was even created. I'm sure that ancient humans would be surprised to learn that they were inventing spear-throwers and cave-paintings thousands of years before the universe was even created, conjured up by some minor tribal god belonging to an insignificant group of ignorant Hebrews in the Middle East. So who created Cro-Magnon man, and the Neanderthals, thousands of years before God made the Garden of Eden and the world's first nudists, and who created the dinosaurs that died out some 65 million years before God even created the planet?

    I can understand how ancient, primitive tribes could believe that the world was young and flat and that some powerful, invisible being must have made it all, but I can't understand how educated adults today can pick one of these ancient fables (from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu etc holy books), giggle at all the rest, and arrogantly wander around like an adult that believes in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. I suspect that some levels of mental illness are a lot more prevalent today than we'd like to believe. We don't accept adult belief in Santa as being normal, but strangely we do accept adult belief in equally imaginary gods. As a society we still have a lot of growing up to do.

  320. Comment by Ron, 07 Jan, 2017

    Hi John. Thank you for your excellent response to my comment re. biblical lifespans. You commented briefly that miracles do not occur today nor have done for 2000 years. Of course practicing Christians will totally disagree. The website, God is real today, gives 10 proofs that God exists, according to them, and the site offers videos with loads of testimonies. At the risk of having covered some of these previously on a comment of mine here I will list them briefly which will lead me to the reason for this comment.

    • Healing Miracles
    • Visions of Jesus Christ, by Muslims, that were so strong they converted to Christianity, despite real risks to them.
    • Visions of heaven. A woman was apparently given a tour of heaven. What she saw was "too wonderful for words".
    • Angel experiences
    • Dreams from God. Life saving warnings, etc
    • Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Supernatural gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues etc
    • The power of God. Touched by Gods power bringing healing, deliverance, new strength, glorious new lives worldwide.
    • Transformed lives. Radical changes to those who get to know JC and follow him
    • Answered prayers. Millions worldwide with stories of wonderfully answered prayers for those who walk intimately with JC
    • Raised from the dead.

    I'm sure you have heard them all, or most before, John. My comment here is motivated by that last one. That shocked me. I had no idea that claims are made that people are being raised from the dead today. Did you know this John? Matthew 10:8 commands "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, drive out demons, freely you have received, freely give." Claims are, backed by so many testimonies etc that worldwide, people verified as deceased, often for days, return to life after a Christian prays over them.

    Quoted is the ministry of Rolland and Heidi Baker in Mozambique who supposedly have raised over 100 and still counting. Then there is well known cardiologist Dr Crandall who brought back a clinically dead man after 40 mins, no brain or organ damage. The man was prepared for the mortuary but Crandall says he was twice told by that inner voice to go back and pray for that man. Here we have what should be a credible specialist doctor and heaps of testimonies but I do still feel so incredulous. John, I give this to you to, no doubt, come up with some practical, logical common sense responses otherwise we may hear you had no choice but to make a decision to switch your beliefs.(Laugh)

  321. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Jan, 2017

    Hi Ron. First let me be clear that while the Bible claims there were miracles in the dim past and I wondered why we haven't witnessed any miracles in the last 2,000 years ago, of course the reality is that there no evidence that miracles have ever been performed, either recently or in prehistoric times. Testimonies, no matter how sincere they might be, are worthless. People only fall back on testimonies when they fail to find any evidence of their claims, they do it as a last resort. When a child honestly says that Santa delivered his bike at Xmas or that the Tooth Fairy took her tooth and left money under the pillow, they are testimonies. When the ancient Egyptians and Aztec claimed that they could see their gods at work in the world, they were offering testimonies. When someone swears they were abducted by aliens and taken to Venus, or that wearing a fridge magnet around their neck cured their cancer, they are mere testimonies, not evidence that their beliefs are true.

    Let's quickly look at those '10 proofs that God exists':

    • Healing Miracles
    • No evidence for this. Healing miracles are only mentioned in churches and we're never shown the evidence for them on the nightly news or in the scientific literature. Recovering from the flu or a broken leg is not a miracle, and even the rare recovery from the likes of cancer has never been shown to be miraculous, since we know that natural remission is possible. We have never seen people grow new limbs or repair severed spines, healing which would suggest a miracle.
    • Visions of Jesus Christ, by Muslims, that were so strong they converted to Christianity, despite real risks to them.
    • No evidence for these visions being real. Just as imaginary as me having a vision — dream — of Cleopatra or Darth Vader. And I suspect that those few Muslim that convert to Christianity do so because they already believe in God and they come to realise that Islam clearly isn't delivering the promised good life, so they've decided to try another flavour. And only those people that have heard of Jesus have visions of him. I'm sure that isolated natives in the remote Amazon never have visions of Jesus, just as the ancient Egyptians and Greeks didn't.
    • Visions of heaven. A woman was apparently given a tour of heaven. What she saw was "too wonderful for words".
    • No evidence for this. I can dream of having a tour of the Death Star by Darth Vader, does that mean it's real too? And note how the woman conveniently refuses to describe heaven, leaving nothing for skeptics to challenge, by saying that heaven was 'too wonderful for words'.
    • Angel experiences
    • No evidence for this and as delusional as fairy or leprechaun experiences.
    • Dreams from God. Life saving warnings, etc
    • No evidence for this, and people only interpret dreams after something has happened, not before, and they blindly ignore thousands of dreams that don't come true, or where God tells them to give their belongings to me.
    • Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Supernatural gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues etc
    • The same argument dismisses this as for the silly dreams. Furthermore the Bible clearly says that 'speaking in tongues' is to suddenly have the miraculous ability to speak to foreigners in their own language, and so be able to easily spread the word of God. It does not mean, as modern Christians foolishly believe, to just utter meaningless gibberish like a chimp that's just stubbed his toe.
    • The power of God. Touched by Gods power bringing healing, deliverance, new strength, glorious new lives worldwide.
    • No evidence for this. It's just a repeat of the healing miracle claim and the imaginary visions or experience of God motivating people to change their lives.
    • Transformed lives. Radical changes to those who get to know JC and follow him
    • No evidence that Jesus caused this transformation, and it's really just a rehash of the previous claim that the power of God brought new strength and glorious new lives. It's pathetic that Christians must believe in imaginary masters before they can make changes in their lives, and by following Jesus they mean obeying and submitting to the wishes and goals of Jesus, not their own personal desires and goals.
    • Answered prayers. Millions worldwide with stories of wonderfully answered prayers for those who walk intimately with JC
    • No evidence that any prayer has ever been answered, and a mountain of evidence that billions upon billions of prayers have been ignored throughout history. And even if some Christian prays that their sports team wins a game, and they do, how do they know it wasn't the Muslim god or a Hindu god that brought about the win, since their team has Muslim and Hindu players as well as Christian? And it's just bullshit for these wankers to claim that they 'walk intimately with JC', since not one can show that they've ever even met the guy. It's like me pretending that I often walk and talk with Captain James T. Kirk on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. We accept, for a time, that young children might claim to have imaginary friends that they play with, but why do we respect adults that claim the same thing?
    • Raised from the dead.
    • No evidence for this. More on this below.

    To label even one of the above claims, let alone all of them, as 'proof' that God exists is just utterly bogus, since not one offers a sliver of proof. Using variations of the above 'proofs', a kid could 'prove' Santa exists merely by having dreams of Santa, experiencing Santa at the mall, receiving gifts claimed to be from Santa, and transforming their lives through the power of Santa, ie hoping to get on his 'good list'.

    As I've said, the major problem with the above religious claims is that there is utterly no evidence to support any of them, but it also must be realised that miraculous healing, visions and dreams of god and heaven, prayers being answered and experiencing the power of god which transforms lives, all these things are claimed today not just by Christians, but by Muslims, Jews, Hindus etc, as well as in the past by believers in the ancient gods of the Babylonians, Sumerians, Greeks, Romans, Aztec, Norse, Egyptians, Maya etc. When a Muslim claims that he had vision of Allah or a Jew claims that Yahweh answered her prayer or a Hindu argues that Shiva transformed their life, Christians don't believe them for a moment. And neither should they, because of course it's all just deluded thinking; superstitious people naively attributing something that occurred naturally to an invisible sky fairy that only they can see. When dealing with the claims of Muslims, Jews and Hindus, all Christians act as if they were rational, intelligent, educated skeptics, and using reason and evidence they dismiss their claims as irrational and/or lacking supporting evidence. But offer the same claims to Christians, after changing the god's name from Allah or Shiva to God and Jesus, and they immediately embrace them as true, suddenly and strangely oblivious to the same flaws that they easily saw when the same miracle was attributed to another ancient god. Their wilful blindness astounds me.

    And no Ron, I hadn't heard that Christians were raising the dead on a regular basis. A Christian actually raising a single person from the dead would make world headlines and change the way we all thought the world worked, making us doubt science and look to God. It would be revolutionary, effectively proving Christianity true and all other religions false. And yet it hasn't just been one person, you say a Christian ministry in Mozambique claims to have raised over 100 people from the dead, with the implication that Christians are doing this all over the world, and have been doing it for the last 2,000 years. But wouldn't you know it, the world's media, along with scientists and historians, either think that raising people from the dead isn't worth mentioning and investigating, or they're part of an enormous conspiracy to hide it from us. Jesus rising from the dead was big news, and many childish people are still talking about it 2,000 years later, but today evidence of people being raised from the dead by Jesus, a feat that would answer the question of whether Jesus is the true god, is ignored in favour of stories telling us that the Queen has a bad cold. And it's not just us atheists that haven't heard about Christians raising people from the dead, the majority of Christians haven't heard about it either. Even the likes of the pope and other religious leaders haven't been informed. Untold Christian evangelists turn up on our doorsteps with utterly pathetic arguments in defence of their God, but none say, 'Remember Joe Bloggs who died last year, you went to his funeral I believe? Well, voila ... here he is, alive and well, raised from the dead! So Mr Atheist, do you still believe there is no God?'

    We can't prove that Christians aren't having their prayers answered, that some cancer wasn't cured by God, that Jesus isn't appearing in dreams, or that voyeuristic angels aren't watching us have sex, all we can do is say that there is no evidence that any of these things are happening, and no reason to even suggest that invisible beings are interacting with us, since if there were, we would also have to tentatively admit that Allah and Shiva and Zeus and Odin and thousands of other gods (and demons and angels and jinns and gremlins etc) might also be the ones responsible for things that go bump in the night. There is no more reason to suggest that there is an invisible god on my sofa than there is a leprechaun, so it makes rational sense to assume that neither exist. But the claim that Christians are miraculously raising people from the dead is a completely different matter to all those other claims of miracles. It would be child's play to provide evidence that dead people were coming back to life. It's the one miraculous claim that Christians could quickly demonstrate to an incredulous world. It wouldn't conclusively prove that their God was responsible, it could be a mischievous Hindu god or advanced alien hiding under the cloak of Christianity, but if only devout Christians were coming back from the dead, no Muslims or atheists, then it would certainly suggest that the Christian God was likely the one responsible. So here we have the claim that people are indeed miraculously rising from the dead due to Christians imploring their God, but rather than openly reveal this slam-dunk evidence to the world, and silence us giggling atheists, the few Christians involved hide these miraculous cases and instead offer a piece of toast with a fuzzy image of Jesus on it, or regale us of a dream that they had where they hung out with Jesus, playing pool and eating burgers.

    Clearly the most logical answer as to why Christians are strangely reticent in revealing their evidence for people coming back from the dead is that it simply doesn't exist. They know that they'll be ridiculed as fools or liars if they express their silly claims to anyone but other deluded Christians. It really is astounding how stupid Christians are (and not just Christians, but all believers in primitive gods). Occasionally viewing any of the several Christian TV channels, I feel truly embarrassed watching those evangelists and their followers as they preach about God and Jesus and discuss the miracles they see all around them. It's like listening to young children discuss how Santa will still leave them toys even though their house hasn't got a chimney, and while I can forgive a child's ignorance and naivety, I have to keep reminding myself that these Christians aren't actors in an historical movie about how superstitious ancient cultures were, or a comedy movie about the magical world of the Smurfs, these are intelligent, educated adults that still believe in magic and that there are invisible beings all around them that they have to get on the good side of. They can't grasp that they have immersed themselves in a world of fantasy. I know that the scientific explanations as to how the universe and life likely arose are complicated and still incomplete, but even though we don't have all the answers, and many that we do have contradict common sense, that's no excuse to reject reason and science and opt for the simple answer: it must all be magic and run by gods.

    I guess that's the caveman part of their brain taking control, since how could belief in gods have been around for so long if it was totally wrong? Belief in gods and a flat earth has been widespread for many millennia whereas belief in microbes and a spherical earth is relatively recent, so I guess, based on longevity of belief and numbers of believers, those long held beliefs held by billions must be true, there are gods and the earth is flat, and what silly scientists call microbes are really the work of demons. Surely those cavemen living at one with nature, and especially that tribe of Hebrews living back in the sophisticated Bronze Age, knew more about how the world worked than we do today, insulated as we are behind glass and metal and vaccines, engrossed with our smartphones and taking little notice of nature? Years ago my young niece told me milk came from the supermarket, not from cows. So perhaps we should also believe Christians when they tell us the universe came from God? Or perhaps like my niece who had a childish mindset and hadn't yet been exposed to the real world, Christians also just need to grow up?

  322. Comment by Bob, 08 Jan, 2017

    I read a funny news article on the BBC web page this morning. In Brazil an old lady, a devout Catholic, had been praying every day for years to a statue of St. Anthony. That is until her granddaughter took a close look at it. It turned out to be a figurine of Elrond, an elf from The Lord of the Rings.

    I imagine it would have been just as effective.

  323. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Jan, 2017

    Well spotted Bob, and you're right, praying to a fictional elf would have been as effective, meaning useless, as praying to a long dead religious nutter. And that again also highlights how ignorant and/or dismissive Catholics are of commandments from their God written in their Bible. God's Ten Commandments clearly state that God's servants must not worship, ie pray, to anyone but God, and that God is a jealous and vengeful god. Under no circumstances is there to be any praying to graven images or objects, which is clearly what a figurine of St Anthony is, and Elrond the elf, and even paintings and carvings of Jesus himself. Why is it that an atheist knows far more about what their God demands than do Catholics themselves? Of course we dismiss God's demands because we view them as fictional, but why do Catholics, who supposedly fear their God, do the same? Do they want to go to Hell and be tortured?

  324. Comment by Patrick, 08 Jan, 2017

    Hi John. The above Methuselah post reminds me of a discussion that I had some years ago with a girl friend. I was telling her that I didn't believe in the bible, that it consisted of myths and exaggerations, and that, for example, It was impossible for human beings to live for several hundred years. She then replied that it was nowadays no longer possible but that in the past there was much more oxygen and that due to this people could live much, much longer than presently. Some time later I was discussing with a guy from the Jehovah's witnesses and I was telling him that, the Noah's ark could not have existed for a multiple of reasons like how is it that Mr. and Mrs. tiger didn't eat Mr. and Mrs. gazelle whilst on the ark. To which he replied that there was nothing surprising about that as there was no carnivores in the past. All animals were herbivores. Whether he realized it or not, he was incidentally using some form of evolution concept to make his point.

    If you have some free time and are in a good mood it's always entertaining to listen to people like Jehovah's witnesses. Never a dull moment.

  325. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Jan, 2017

    Hi Patrick. It's amazing what Christians throw up to support their faith. Let's first look at the argument that much more oxygen in the past led to 1,000 year life spans. Was there really more oxygen back in the Bronze Age? I read recently in Robert Kandel's book, 'Water From Heaven: The Story of Water from the Big Bang to the Rise of Civilization, and Beyond', that animal 'metabolism depends on the availability of oxygen, today about 21 percent of the atmosphere. It could not have worked for the first living things, because the fraction of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere was then very small, rising above 1 percent only fairly recently (2.2 billion years ago?)'. I also read on this Wikipedia page — 'Geological history of oxygen' — that 'Since the start of the Cambrian period, atmospheric oxygen concentrations have fluctuated between 15% and 35% of atmospheric volume. The maximum of 35% was reached towards the end of the Carboniferous period (about 300 million years ago)'. On this page I read that 'For humans and many animals to sustain normal functions, the percentage of oxygen in the breathing environment must be within a small range ... between 19.5 and 23.5 percent oxygen'.

    So all this shows that for most of the time that life has existed on Earth, some 3.8 billion years, there has been almost no atmospheric oxygen. In fact for the first forms of life oxygen was toxic. There was more oxygen 300 million years ago (35% compared to the present 21%), but there certainly weren't any humans around then to see if it helped them live longer. And since these fundamentalist Christians say that the creation events in the Bible took place between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, this is a time when oxygen levels were pretty much the same as they are now. It's true to say that oxygen levels were higher in the past, meaning 300 million years ago, but utterly bogus to say they were higher a mere 6,000 years ago. It's annoying when these devious bastards find and then distort scientific evidence to bolster their fairy tales. The only reason we know oxygen was higher in the distant past, or that oxygen even exists, is because of science, the Bible certainly doesn't reveal this information. These hypocritical fundamentalists use scientific facts in their attempt to prove science wrong, without grasping how ridiculous and circular that is. If science is wrong, its methodology flawed, then the scientific facts gained through this flawed endeavour must also be wrong, and should be dismissed outright. But instead they indecently embrace the odd scientific fact that suits them, eg oxygen was higher in the distant past, while quickly rejecting the scientific facts that don't suit them, eg the distant past was 300 million years ago. The fundamentalists are telling the true when they tell gullible people that oxygen was higher in the distant past, but they're being fraudulent by implying that the "distant past" was just 6,000 years ago.

    But even if there was much more oxygen 6,000 years ago, what evidence is there that this would allow people to live for a thousand years? And what does 'much more oxygen' mean, what percentage was it? This site explains why pure oxygen is dangerous: 'Is it harmful to breathe 100-percent oxygen?' And then we have archaeological evidence that shows that few people reached 100 years of age, let alone 1,000. And I'm not aware of any studies that show people living today in elevated oxygen levels live any longer than other people, they may even live less. Kandel also notes in his book that 'excess of oxygen is dangerous for the eyes of newborn infants as well as at the level of the living cell'. So the argument fails on two counts. There wasn't much more oxygen 6,000 years ago, and there's no evidence that more oxygen would increase your life span at all, let alone by 10 times.

    As for saying that 'It was impossible for human beings to live for several hundred years', I'd say it was certainly improbable, and there is no evidence that anyone has, but I wouldn't say it was impossible. It wouldn't break any laws of physics. I mean, why do humans have a life span of around 100 years rather than just 10 years? Some organisms live for mere hours and other live for many hundreds of years. Whatever repair mechanisms our body uses to stay healthy for 100 years could plausibly keep it going for a thousand years. Pretty much our entire body, from bones to skin to blood, is completely renewed every few months, so why does this replacement fail after many decades? Theoretically someone could fluke being born with perfect or near perfect genes that are ultra-efficient in bodily repair and super-effective on the immune front, fighting off all diseases. So barring a fatal accident, which along with disease is what kills most people before they reach 100, it could be possible for someone to live a lot longer than 100. There is also the theory that we die when the telomeres on our DNA reduce to a certain size, like a countdown timer, but again a genetic mutation could switch that off and we live forever. Then you have stem cells which can make any type of new cell, which is how we are made as embryos, but many of these amazing abilities are switched off after birth. But again, if, perhaps due to a mutation, a body was to retain use of its embryonic stem cells, then if the body was injured and an organ or limb damaged, it could simply grow another one, an ability a few animals already have. Even humans can regrow liver tissue, but not the heart. So all the mechanisms exist in nature to prolong life, but unfortunately they haven't all appeared in humans. Or perhaps to a degree they have, since humans already live much longer than almost all animals. Be thankful you're not a dog.

    A thought-provoking drama/sci-fi movie on the topic of human life-spans is 'The Man from Earth'The Man from Earth, staring David Lee Smith, Tony Todd and John Billingsley. The synopsis is that 'An impromptu goodbye party for Professor John Oldman becomes a mysterious interrogation after the scholar reveals to his colleagues he is an immortal who has walked the earth for 14,000 years'. It's not a block-buster movie with big name actors, there's no action in it, no special effects, no laughs, no sex or nudity, and even worse in the view of many, it's sacrilegious. It takes place in essentially one room, and as one person said, it's just talking heads, and they're talking about intellectual things, not sport or the sex lives of celebrities. But I enjoyed it and it's well worth watching if your video store has it.

    As for the question of why the tigers didn't eat the gazelles on Noah's Ark, it is often explained as the animals all being herbivores. And like everything in the Bible, there are verses that support that view and those that don't. The few Christians that think about these things (the majority couldn't care less), usually offer this verse from Genesis with Adam and Eve to show that humans and animals were originally all herbivores:

    'Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food." And it was so.' (GE 1:29-30)
    Of course it doesn't say that humans and some animals couldn't physically digest meat, merely that they were told to only eat plants, told to be vegetarians. And the implication is that they all obeyed. But things go down hill fast and next think we know a furious and vindictive God is going on a global killing spree, but decides to save Noah, his family and a few choice animal species. Apparently God wasn't too fussed on the likes of the dinosaurs, dragons or unicorns. So after horrific slaughter on a massive scale, the Bible tells us:
    'Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. "But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it."' GE 9:1-4
    So what's happened here? Besides Noah, his family and their petting zoo, God has wiped out the entire human race and all the completely innocent animals, because he was appalled at the growing evil nature of humans. He had hoped they would be friends with animals and only eat plants, which the Bible hints was the case, but when God tries to start again with Noah and purge the world of evil, what does he do? He immediately scraps the law about eating only plants and being nice to animals and tells Noah that they can now attack, slaughter and devour any animals they choose, and that the animals will now fear humans. God has taken an idyllic garden of Eden and turned it into a world of fear and slaughter, of predator and prey, of festering evil. And it was all unnecessary, since being an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God, he could have (should have) easily designed our bodies so that we all flourished as herbivores and lived peacefully with each other, humans and lambs walking with lions, without the fear and dread and suffering. But obviously this Bible story is just another primitive attempt by ignorant men to explain the world around them, wondering why some animals are predators and others prey, and why some eat flesh and others only vegetation. They were like naïve children wondering how a fat Santa can get down skinny chimneys. It's interesting to see how ancient man thought, but depressing to realise that today many fools still think they got the explanation right.

    So going by the above verses, it would seem that perhaps tigers and lions did only become carnivores after the flood of Noah. But if they didn't have fangs and claws and didn't stalk, terrify and attack other animals, then it's debatable if they can really be called tigers, lions, crocodiles or Velociraptors. I'd argue that they were completely different species that merely looked a lot like our modern carnivores, and since herbivores and carnivores have quite different digestive systems and physical attributes, eg fangs, along with different mental states, eg vicious predator or timid prey, then a friendly herbivorous Biblical "tiger" likely wouldn't be able to breed successfully with a real carnivorous tiger. One has genes for fangs and the other doesn't, making them genetically incompatible. So as you point out Patrick, apparently herbivorous "tigers" have evolved into carnivorous tigers. Of course God, being a powerful wizard, could have simply waved his wand and instantly turned various species into carnivores, but the Bible makes no mention of him doing this, so the obvious answer is that certain species evolved, very quickly, without God's help, into carnivores after the flood.

    But of course the Christians that still believe in the silly myth of Noah's flood, the creationists, aren't willing to admit that animals can evolve, and certainly not that quickly. So we find this comment on the creationrevolution.com website: 'Did they [aniamls] begin to eat meat before the worldwide Flood? Scripturally and scientifically, the answer appears to be yes'. And on the creation.com website we find this argument:

    'Actually, there is a hint in the Bible that there was pre-Flood carnivory, although I won't be dogmatic about it. That is, when Cain was enraged that God (YHWH) rejected his sacrifice, God counseled him that "sin is crouching at the door" (Genesis 4:7b). God pictures sin as 'crouching', but this means 'ready to spring forth'. The same imagery is used in Genesis 49:9, "he crouched as a lion". Indeed, in Genesis 4:7, the verb robets (???) is masculine to agree with the implied wild beast, not feminine to agree with 'sin'. So sin is like a lion waiting to pounce on Cain and consume him. Such imagery could indicate that animal predation had already started by this time. This time could be a little under 130 years after Creation...'
    I agree with that view, since phrases like, 'he crouched as a lion', only make sense if lions are feared predators, and the full Bible verse clearly portrays lions as such. Of course that verse was written after the flood, when lions were predators, but when you look at the full verse written about times before the flood, clearly it also was referring to a dangerous predator: 'Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." GE 4:6-7. Again, that metaphor only makes sense if Cain already knew to fear carnivorous predators that desired to attack and eat him. So while God gave all the animals plants to eat, it appears that some ignored him and quickly started eating other animals, and since they were able to do so, clearly they didn't evolve, they were made as carnivores with the appropriate fangs and digestive systems from day one.

    So again Christians can argue for either side and find Bible verses to support their argument. But even if they say animals only became carnivorous after the flood, they still have to explain why an all-loving God punished trillions of innocent animals by turning many into prey to be chased and eaten alive, when God's gripe was with humans, whom he then blessed and told to go out an kill animals. He ordered man to slaughter animals and eat their flesh. Had God forgotten why he caused the flood in the first place? But as you say Patrick, even if this argument stalls, there is a multitude of problems with the silly flood story, all of which expose it as superstitious nonsense. We looked at some of these problems in our article on a NZ Christian fundamentalist, Ian Wishart.

    And you're right Patrick, it can be entertaining listening to Christians explain their faith, and great fun poking it full of holes. It's often not much of a challenge, like stealing candy from a baby or shooting fish in a barrel, but we can only respond to what they give us. Evangelists I'm likely to encounter like the door-knocking Jehovah's Witnesses are apparently among the most knowledgeable about the Bible (my friends and relatives who call themselves Christian are quite ignorant), but even the JWs are woefully ill-equipped to debate with anyone who has read some books other than the Bible. Sometimes I feel a little guilty making them look so foolish, but I quickly get over it.

  326. Comment by Bob, 10 Jan, 2017

    Going back a bit to the comment by Rene, I believe the explanation for the change of Catholic policy on burial is bullshit. The real reason for the change is that with the world's increasing population some countries can no longer waste land space on permanent cemeteries. Those countries are encouraging cremation. The Catholic Church has simply bowed to the inevitable practical problems and changed their policies.

    Germany is one country with that problem. To solve it they are digging up graves after thirty years and re-using them on the basis that little is left of the body and relatives have long since ceased visiting the grave.

    One thing about the Catholic Church they will give in when they know they are beaten.

  327. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jan, 2017

    You're right Bob, the Vatican's explanation on why Catholics can now be cremated rather than buried is bullshit. And as you say, every change the Catholic Church ever reluctantly makes is to fit in with real-world problems. You're also right that the Catholic Church. unlike many fundamentalist, evangelical churches, does begrudgingly change some policies when forced into a corner, but only on some things and only after long delays. One of the reasons they now allow cremation will be because lack of space requires its use in some countries, and because many Catholics were opting for it anyway, regardless of Church policy. But a great many Catholics use contraception, have premarital sex, masturbate and opt for abortion if needed, all actions against Church policy, and yet the Church has made it quite clear that they are not going to give up those policies, even though it's clear they have lost those battles. Even with a worldwide abuse scandal involving their priests having sex with children, and the apparent reality that half their priests are having sex, usually with other adults, quite a few are even secretly married, they still won't change their policy that priests must be celibate. As ridiculous and as dangerous as that policy is, and with much of the world against it, they still won't give it up. And even when they do relent and change some 2,000 year-old Church policy, it always comes under their terms, and they never concede that they were actually wrong. They always have a pathetic excuse, like the rapist who admits that he raped a woman but puts the blame on her, saying that dressed the way she was she was asking to be raped. The Catholic Church will never admit they were wrong, even when they appear to be doing just that.

    For example, many Catholics say that they now accept evolution, but this is not strictly true. They do accept that life evolved from simple cells to more complex forms over billions of years, but evolution also says that this happened naturally, that there was no divine hand guiding it to ensure that humans evolved. But the Catholic Church insists that God actually created evolution, and set it going in such a way as to guarantee that humans turned up. So as much as they might pretend otherwise, the Catholic "theory of evolution" is most definitely not the same as the scientific theory of evolution. It's the same with the Big Bang theory, Catholics accept that the universe began some 13.7 billion years ago, but then again, without any evidence to justify it, modify the theory to insist that their god designed and created what scientists call the Big Bang. Only in a superficial sense has the Catholic Church appeared to have given up and accepted scientific evidence that contradicts their worldview. Only when they can think of a silly excuse to keep their god involved and in charge do they concede and make changes to bring them in line with real-world views. They are beaten of course, but they're not admitting it, every time they're forced to accept that reason and evidence conflicts with their primitive dogma, then the explanation for their backdown is always couched in god talk. Never do they admit that mere humans got it right and their Bible got it wrong, it's always that inferior man was misinterpreting the Bible, that the complexity of God's creation was too great for the early church fathers to fully grasp, and science, history and philosophy has now revealed hitherto unknown truths in the Bible. The Vatican want us to believe that every time they change some centuries old belief it's because of some revelation from God and that it's actually making the Catholic faith stronger and closer to what God intended. Unlike scientists and their theories, never does the Catholic Church admit that they ditched some belief because the evidence showed it was totally wrong.

    While you don't usually hear Catholics labelled as creationists, they are of course creationists, as is every Christian, Jew Muslim, Hindu etc that believes that their god created the world and all life. They're what you'd call old-Earth creationists rather than the young-Earth creationists that believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old. But whether God designed and created the world billions of years ago or just thousands, and whether he made humans in one day from dust or over billions of years from inorganic material, eg dust, the basic claim is still that their god created the world and all life, ergo they are all creationists. Many Christians would likely be insulted if you called them creationists, they believe in science and not in Adam and Eve, but if that's the case, then the very foundation of their faith crumbles. Catholics quibble over petty details like whether you can be cremated, but if they can't admit to being a creationist and explain and defend that worldview, then it's like believing in Santa Claus but refusing to debate his existence, and concentrating solely on irrelevant details, such as what his wife's name is. By tweaking minor details like Catholic burials, the Catholic Church is implying that the big questions have been answered — yes God is real and did create the world and life — and that now only the minor bugs need to be worked out concerning how we properly worship God. There have been and likely will be a few more changes concerning Church policy, but these are just around the periphery, the core beliefs of Catholicism are rock solid. People are fooled into thinking that the Catholic Church is honestly seeking the truth and will actively make changes when new evidence arises, but this is bullshit. Catholics are convinced they already have the truth, so any changes they make are only cosmetic and ultimately irrelevant. The few Catholics that do discover the real truth become atheists, since the real truth is that God doesn't exist, not that he's changed his mind about cremation.

    A Catholic accepting evolution but still having God in charge is like a child accepting that his parents, not Santa, actually put his presents under the Xmas tree, but only because Santa hypnotised them into doing it for him, because the world is just too populous these days for him to do all the deliveries personally. The child begrudgingly accepts real-world evidence of his parents' actions, but still blindly refuses to be swayed from the fantasy that Santa exists and is in control. While the child may have changed some of the minor details concerning his belief, in real terms he is just as delusional as ever, and it's the same with Catholics. They may accept evolution or that it's now OK to be cremated, but they're just as delusional as ever, because they still believe their God is real and in control. The evidence has assailed them, but they haven't given up, and for most of them they never will. Occasional concessions made by the Vatican are just a smokescreen, they are no closer to admitting that God isn't real and that the Bible is as fictional as the Harry Potter books than they were 2,000 years ago.

  328. Comment by Bob, 13 Jan, 2017

    Methuselah, whoever he was, did not live 900 years. The human body will last only approximately 100 years. There is a good reason for that. The body is made up of billions of cells. These cells are constantly reproducing themselves then dying off. However every now and again a cell will die off without reproducing. As time goes on more and more cells die off which we see as ageing. While the individual cells die randomly the average of billions of cells will see the whole body die around the 100 year mark. Of course there is more to dying than that, such as cancer and heart problems as well as infections so common in previous ages. In fact it is the death rate of young people especially children and mothers dying in childbirth which brought about this myth based on wishful thinking.

    For Methuselah to live 900 years his body must have been different from modern humans running on different principles. The genes must have been different. Yet we descended from Methuselah and others at the time taking Methuselah as a genuine historical character. But we know that genuine evolutionary change takes hundreds of thousands of years at least.

    Don't bother trying to explain this to a genuine fundamentalist, after all God can do anything as I have been told.

  329. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Jan, 2017

    Hi Bob. For the record, ridiculous life span aside, I doubt that Methuselah was even a real person. He and the other long-lived characters would simply have been stories based on the rare person that managed to fluke living out their full life span, while their children and grandchildren died around them. People would have known that long life, ie 100+ years, was possible, though not common, and would invent stories to explain why most people died much younger, which was that God had changed his mind yet again as to how long humans would live.

    There's no evidence that humans have ever lived for hundreds of years, or that our bodies functioned differently back then, but as you say, you can't explain this to fundamentalists. It's impossible to reason with anyone that believes in talking snakes and invisible space fairies.

  330. Comment by Patrick, 15 Jan, 2017

    Hi John, did you know that the Catholic church has never banned Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler's famous autobiographical book? I didn't and only learned about this today whilst surfing on the internet. The Vatican had since the 9th century created an "index Librorum Prohibitorum" (list of prohibited books).

    'The 20th and final edition appeared in 1948, and the Index was formally abolished on 14 June 1966 by Pope PAUL VI. The aim of the list was to protect the faith and morals of the faithful by preventing the reading of heretical and immoral books.' (Index Librorum Prohibitorum — Wikipedia)
    You can see a selected list of the books/authors here.

    So apparently, for the Vatican, Hitler was morally more decent than people like Galileo, Copernicus, Balzac, Hugo, Kant, Jean-Paul Sartre to just name a few.

    I guess that some people will say that the Vatican could not ban the book of such a powerful man for various reasons. That might be true, but why then didn't they ban it after 1945? Why was this book not present on the 20th and final edition which appeared in 1948?

  331. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 Jan, 2017

    Hi Patrick. No, I wasn't aware that the Catholic Church had never added Hitler's book 'Mein Kampf' (My Struggle) to its list of prohibited books. But if I were to be insensitive to Catholic feelings and frankly honest, I'd have to wonder why it would be placed on their list? Catholics have been persecuting and killing Jews for centuries, eg the inquisitions and during the crusades, and Hitler's pogrom against the Jews was just a continuation of their work, although on a much grander scale. It would have been quite hypocritical of the Catholic Church to condemn Hitler for trying to wipe out those who they believe are the immoral heretics that had their Messiah killed. And remember that in the Bible God commands his followers to kill heretics, so for Christians it's a moral duty. While some Catholics, those that were more humanist than Catholic, were appalled at what the Nazis did, we must remember that most Nazis were Christians, and apparently in the 1930s around 33% of Germans were the Catholic version. On the Wikipedia page 'Catholic Church and Nazi Germany', I read that,

    'Mary Fulbrook wrote that when politics encroached on the church, Catholics were prepared to resist, but that the record was otherwise patchy and uneven, and that, with notable exceptions, "it seems that, for many Germans, adherence to the Christian faith proved compatible with at least passive acquiescence in, if not active support for, the Nazi dictatorship".'
    So while I can understand why after examining Hitler's book they never banned it, as you say, you would think that after the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed and Hitler was long dead that the duplicitous Vatican would have banned his book simply to make it appear that they were in line with how the rest of the world saw his evil deeds. But no. They had up until mid-1966 to do this (when the list was finally discontinued), but I guess this shows their arrogance and delusions of power and superiority, that they could walk a path different to world opinion and still have their followers and governments kowtow to them. I mean, what other silly bloody church is part of the United Nations? That the Vatican has any say in the United Nations is as ridiculous as giving witches a voice as well. It's a right that needs to be stripped from them, this isn't the Middle Ages.

    What I don't understand is why the books of Charles Darwin were never placed on their silly list, especially since a book by his grandfather Erasmus Darwin was placed on the list in 1817, just some 40 years before 'On the Origin of Species' was published. That book has arguably done more harm to the Catholic Church and belief in God than all the books on the list combined, and yet they ignored it. People might argue that Darwin and the theory of evolution had too much scientific support for the Church to ban his book, but when it was published Darwin and his theory was relatively unknown, and anyway, fame and scientific support had never stopped the Church banning the books of famous scientists in the past, like Galileo. As well as the ones you mentioned Patrick, this passage reveals that,

    'The Index included a number of authors and intellectuals whose works are widely read today in most leading universities and are now considered as the foundations of science, e.g. Kepler's New Astronomy, his Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, and his World Harmony were quickly placed on the Index after their publication. Other noteworthy intellectual figures on the Index include Jean-Paul Sartre, Montaigne, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, André Gide, Emanuel Swedenborg, Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, Thomas Browne, John Milton, John Locke, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, and Hugo Grotius.'
    The article also talks of the 'burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, whose entire works were placed on the Index in 1603'. A book I'm reading at that the moment also reveals that 'Bruno was burned at the stake for heresy in Rome in 1600, his tongue pierced by an iron spike and his jaw wired shut'. The Catholic Church wasn't always content to simply ban books and prevent their followers from reading them, at times they decided to kill their authors as well, and not just kill them, but torture them in the process. That in the 21st century we still have millions of people devoting their lives to such a deluded and sadistic organisation is unfathomable. What makes present-day Catholics any different to neo-Nazis? They both know, or should know, what unspeakable evil their specific group has committed in the past, they both claim to understand the ideology, and yet they both still remain committed followers of the offensive dogma each group pushes.

    I know many Catholics and without exception they all remain subservient to their fantasy because of ignorance, fear and apathy. Most are good people and are appalled when they hear, usually from an atheist, never a priest, of how the likes of Giordano Bruno died, and yet they still seem incapable of connecting his gruesome execution with the Church they kneel in each Sunday. If they ever hear of them, they condemn the untold atrocities committed by the Church in the past, and even reject many of the Bible stories and much of the Church's teachings that caused those atrocities, but they can't seem to grasp that to reject the very foundations of the Bible, of Christianity and Catholicism, is to turn their religious belief into an empty façade. How could someone be a committed neo-Nazi if they condemned much of what Hitler and the Nazis did and stood for? It seems impossible. But then we have Catholics that present this paradox. Committed Catholics condemn the actions of their Church for its past horrors and even its ongoing sexual abuse against children, they laugh at silly stories of Adam and Eve and Noah and his dinosaurs, and yet they still call themselves Catholics and support the Church as it hides abusive priests from justice. Their attitude disgusts me, their willingness to turn a blind eye to the ongoing atrocities that their Church is still committing, all because they are too ignorant to understand how the world really works, and too lazy and fearful to find out.

  332. Comment by Patrick, 16 Jan, 2017

    Hi John, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I forgot to mention it, but I discovered that Mein Kampf was never banned by the Vatican whilst listening to Michel Onfray (Michel Onfray — Wikipedia) on his website and was genuinely very surprised by that. I decided to verify the info by myself and discovered that Onfray was telling the truth. Now, to make things clear, I am against censorship and don't understand on what grounds could the church decide for others about what was correct and what was reprehensible. But since there was a list of banned books, I find it most shocking that Mein Kampf was never included in it.

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