For the Lack of Faith

In August 1942 United States Marines landed on Guadalcanal Island to evict Japanese forces, which had invaded a few weeks previous to set up the island as an air base and military strong point. Combat operations lasted six months and eventually involved additional Army troops before Japanese forces withdrew. It was the Marines’ first major test of arms in World War 2, and the battle has become incorporated into the Marines’ proud history.

Marines on Guadalcanal (from Wikipedia)

Marines on Guadalcanal (from Wikipedia)

I have learned recently that the Marine Corps now faces an even greater danger, the nature of which is surprising in view of their past valor. That danger is lack of faith.

The U.S. military has a problem with atheists

By Dana Liebelson | The Week

Apparently, the Marine Corps thinks a “lack or loss of spiritual faith” could be dangerous

When an active-duty Marine was given a Marine Corps training document describing “potential risk indicators” commanders should look for to prevent loss of life among service members, he found one checkbox that didn’t seem to fit. Among warning signs like substance abuse and prior suicide attempts was “lack or loss of spiritual faith.”

I think I have that right. A sign of weakness in a Marine is not believing in the supernatural. That’s enough to give me pause. I hope the next box does not read “does not believe in UFOs.” God help us.

The Marine in question contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which I think is rather odd. I thought that if anything would be a military religious freedom foundation it would be the United States Marine Corps. After all, wasn’t that one of the freedoms Marines landed on Guadalcanal to protect?

The military has defended its faith-based policy:

Advocates for the policy say the military is simply doing everything it can to promote emotional well-being among troops, especially in the face of its growing suicide epidemic. (Last year, the U.S. military saw more active duty soldiers commit suicide than die in combat — 48 of them Marines.)

I served, not in the Marines, but in the Navy Reserve, and I fondly recall religious indoctrination in boot training:

This is hardly the first time the military has tried to govern the religion of its service members. Until 1972, each U.S. service academy required soldiers to attend weekly religious services — and only Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish worship services were available, according to Blake Page, special assistant to the president of MRFF. Until 2011, the Army required soldiers to take a survey that measured “spiritual fitness,” and soldiers who failed were told “improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal.”

We were marched to chapel every Sunday morning and sometimes discussed spiritual concepts with the Navy chaplain. He was a nice enough person, but there were a few of us uneasy with his overt religiosity. For some reason, one of my fellow trainees was embolden to raise serious questions about religion and was threatened with military discipline if he persisted. And that was the point at which all enthusiasm for government sponsored religion evaporated.

Leibelson’s account includes the tale of Marine Paul Loebe, an atheist, who went to a chaplain for counseling. Right away that thought sets off alarm bells. You’re an atheist, and you expect to get counseling from a chaplain? Anyhow, the chaplain wanted to end every counseling session with a prayer. Loebe recounts, “It made the whole situation very uncomfortable, especially when I had a very serious problem to deal with.” Hopefully Mr. Loebe has learned something from this encounter.

This issue became political, as expected:

Last month, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) tried and failed to amend the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act so that non-theist chaplains can be part of the military — a proposal that drew fierce opposition from some Republicans. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) told The Huffington Post, “I can’t imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family’s home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, ‘You know, that’s it — your son’s just worms, I mean, worm food.'”

Worm food? Where do these people get this stuff? Regarding having a chaplain accompany a notification team, how can the military ever get this right? When I signed up more than half a century ago I went through an induction process and finished up at a place with an Addressograph machine. They were going to make me a set of dog tags, those ID tags that military types wear constantly for identification in case something untoward happens to them. The tags are made of stainless steel so the body can be identified even after an intense fire or submersion in salt water for a period of several decades. They gave me a number, which I have memorized and carried with me ever since. They also noted my blood type, you know, just in case. They also wanted an additional piece of information. I chose PROT, for Protestant. What else?

DogTag

Now, just supposing, if the day came that I slipped and hit my noggin while swabbing the captain’s stateroom deck, then a sad procession would appear at my parent’s door in far off Granbury, Texas. Along would be a Navy chaplain, of the appropriate denomination (see the  tag). Does anybody see a problem with this besides me?

I told them PROT, and that’s what’s on the tag. But what if my parents were not PROT, but CATH. Or even JEW. Or maybe BUDD or MUSL? Imagine the embarrassment. Yes, I am so glad I never slipped and hit my noggin, for this and other reasons.

And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Odd Theorems

A deep dark secret of mine. I’ve carried it all these years. 55 years have passed, and I am sure the statute of limitations has expired. In high school I took plane geometry out of sequence. It happened this way:

High school was four years. We were supposed to take plane geometry, algebra 1 and algebra 2. I seem to recall that algebra 2 was optional. However, my freshman year I could not schedule plane geometry, so I put it off. Same for the next year and the next. Finally came my senior year, and I had to take plane geometry. But by then I had already taken algebra 1, algebra 2, trigonometry and a course in solid geometry. So I was a senior sitting in a class with a bunch of freshmen taking plane geometry.

The course consisted of progressing through a sequence of weekly assignments, and these assignments were to prove increasingly more advanced theorems in plane geometry. I got them all right. Except one assignment. At the very end I realized I could skip that homework and still get an A in the course, so I blew off that assignment, picked up my A in plane geometry and my diploma and headed off to my job chipping paint on an aircraft carrier.

Of course my past transgressions come to me at times in my dreams. What did I miss by not doing that last assignment? Have I gone through life clueless to a vital piece of my education. My college grades indicate some cluelessness was present.

Now, to all of you others who struggled through weeks of proving theorems in plane geometry The Futility Closet presents your path to redemption. Here are three odd theorems for you, what may be your last chance to restore your lost honor. From The Futility Closet here’s the first:

TrisectedTriangle

Draw any triangle and divide each leg into three equal segments. Connect each vertex to one of the trisection points on the opposite leg, as shown, and the triangle formed in the center will have 1/7 the area of the original triangle.

Do this one, then go to the Web site and work the other two. I will work them out and post the solutions later.

[In fond memory of Emma Roberson, who gave me an A even though I did not turn in all my homework]

Conservative Christians

From time to time this kind of stuff has come at me from conservative friends on Facebook:

HistoryLesson

I think I covered that back in November. I pointed out that yes, Republicans promoted the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, but those were the actions of liberal Republicans opposed by conservative Democrats. It is not the banner under which you march, but the cause for which you march that counts. History of the past few hundred years has found conservative philosophy on the wrong side of humanity. I should also have noted previously that liberals advocated for breaking free of the English Crown while conservatives wanted to remain English colonies.

Beyond that, conservative Christians promote reliance on the Bible in law and daily life. To me and to others these Christians seem to ignore some basic facts, and these discrepancies have been noted. Amanda Marcotte has written up a review of 10 things conservative Christians got horribly wrong. The list starts with:

1) Slavery. Both sides of the American slavery debate claimed to be speaking from profound Christian conviction. The Bible clearly has a positive view of slavery, something pro-slavery Christians routinely pointed out. Abolitionists took a broader, less literal view of the Bible. Unsurprising that this divide led to the South being, to this day, home of the most people who take a literalist, fundamentalist view of Christianity.

Of course, nowadays you can’t find even the most literalist fan of the Bible who is willing to agree with their predecessors in the 19th century who believed the Bible endorsed slavery. Of the many things conservative Christians have gotten wrong over the years, the pro-slavery argument is probably the one that is least likely to be revived by modern fundamentalists.

The list goes on through:

2)  Women’s suffrage
3)  Evolution
4)  Pain relief for childbirth
5)  Catholics
6)  Prohibition
7)  Segregation
8)  Contraception
9) School prayer
10) Marriage equality

Marcotte notes the prior standing of conservative Christianity with respect to women’s suffrage. Pointing out as typical of conservative Christian history Marcotte cites the following: “Female Suffrage: A Letter to the Christian Women of America – Susan Fenimore Cooper – (1813-1894).”

The natural position of woman is clearly, to a limited degree, a subordinate one. Such it has always been throughout the world, in all ages, and in many widely different conditions of society. There are three conclusive reasons why we should expect it to continue so for the future.

Liberals, both Christian and non-Christians campaigned for women’s suffrage in this country. Traditionally throughout the world, liberals have been the supporters for women’s equality.

Conservative Christians are also off base regarding some basic science, such as the science behind biological evolution. When conservative Christians sought to introduce the religiously-motivated concept of Intelligent Design into the public school science curriculum in Dover, Pennsylvania, plaintiffs brought suit in federal court, and the judge eventually ruled against the defendants:

[Judge] Jones decried the “breathtaking inanity” of the Dover policy and accused several board members of lying to conceal their true motive, which he said was to promote religion.

A six-week trial over the issue yielded “overwhelming evidence” establishing that intelligent design “is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory,” said Jones, a Republican and a churchgoer appointed to the federal bench three years ago.

An issue I recall from growing up in racially segregated Texas was Marcotte’s issue number 7:

Religious leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. led the desegregation movement, but it’s also important to note that the pro-segregation movement was also conceived as a Christian one. Arguments against “race mixing” were largely framed in religious terms. The judge who initially ruled against the interracial couple in Loving v. Virginia argued that the “Almighty God” put people on separate continents and “did not intend for the races to mix.” Christian right leader Jerry Falwell got his start fighting to uphold segregation, giving sermons about how integration was offensive to God. As Max Blumenthalnoted in the Nation, the modern religious right as we know it started off as a movement to defend segregation.

I do not anticipate conservative Christians are anytime soon going to end their campaign to assert religious superiority. In their arguments they seek to gain the high ground. The truth is that they gave up the high ground a long time ago and are not likely ever to regain it.

 

 

Fronting The Brand

Chick-fil-ASandwich

I am sure I just now coined this phrase.

When you have a business, when you have a product, you want a public face, a brand. Brand identification gives your product, your service, your business an association in the public mind. You want customers and potential customers to think of a need and to associate your brand with it. Well established, your brand becomes a valuable piece of property.

“Fronting the brand” comes about when you use your brand to front a personal advocacy. You are putting your brand out front, not to represent your product, but to represent your advocacy. It’s double-edged.

On the front side your brand gives your advocacy additional sway, a momentum your advocacy would not have on its own. The other edge is that fronting the brand can cut backwards. Here are some examples:

Chick-fil-A is a privately held corporation founded by S. Truett Cathy in 1946. The current CEO is Dan Cathy. The Cathy family hold sincere Souther Baptist beliefs, and the restaurants are traditionally closed on Sundays and also on Christmas and Thanksgiving. Beyond closing on Sunday, which founder Truett Cathy attributes as much to practicality as to religious inclinations. There has been more, however.

In January 2011, the media reported that the American fast food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A was co-sponsoring a marriage conference along with the Pennsylvania Family Institute (PFI), an organization that had filed an amicus brief against striking down Proposition 8 in California (see Perry v. Brown). PFI had also lobbied against a state effort to ban discrimination in Pennsylvania on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Responding on its official company Facebook page, Chick-fil-A said that support of the PFI retreat had come from a local franchisee, stating “We have determined that one of our independent restaurant operators in Pennsylvania was asked to provide sandwiches to two Art of Marriage video seminars.”

The WinShape Foundation, a charitable endeavor of Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy and his family, stated it would not allow same-sex couples to participate in its marriage retreats. Chick-fil-A gave over $8 million to the WinShape Foundation in 2010. Equality Matters, an LGBT watchdog group, published reports of donations by WinShape to various anti-gay organizations, including $2 million in 2009, $1.9 million in 2010 and a total of $5 million since 2003, including grants to the Family Research Council and Georgia Family Council. WinShape has also contributed to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Exodus International, an organization noted for supporting ex-gay conversion therapy.

The Marriage and Family Foundation received $994,199 in 2009 and $1,188,380 in 2010. The Family Research Council, an organization listed as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Winter 2010, received $1000.

Tax filings for 2012 showed that Chick-fil-A created a new foundation, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, to grant to outside groups. It funded only one previous group, Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Other filings for WinShape Foundation showed no funding for groups opposed to LGBT rights.

There has been considerable stir over these events. Conservatives and conservative groups have cheered the company’s stance, but at the same time advocates for tolerance and sexual equality have lashed out at Chick-fil-A. My reading of Facebook friends over the past two hears has shown conservatives advocating throwing their business to the company, while liberals have been talking boycott. This is something that would be problematic for a publicly-held corporation.

Suppose you are the CEO of a big (or not so big) corporation, and you have a personal agenda, and you see some benefit to throwing the weight of your brand into the fray. Not so fast. At the next stock holders meeting there are going to be a bunch of share holders raising their voices. “Who gave you permission to use our equity to sponsor your pet project?” Besides that, if the bottom line suffers there will shortly be a new CEO to replace the one who forgot that the business of business is business.

But, in the case of the Cathy family, there are no stockholders to face each year. And with the Chick-fil-A business model, there may not be as much push back from franchise owners. The Chick-fil-A business model is fairly unique in the chain restaurant model. The company builds and owns the restaurants. An operator pays in the order of $5000 for a franchise—the right to operate the restaurant.

If you’re a McDonald’s franchise owner you possibly paid $2 million for the franchise, and you own the business. On the other hand, if you hold a McDonald’s franchise your restaurant is grossing on average more than $2 million a year. But if the McDonald’s CEO starts pulling some shenanigans that chew away at that $2 million a year you’re going to be thinking law suit. So a company like McDonald’s has more than just its stockholders to worry about.

As grim as Dan Cathy’s actions in the past few years have appeared to his opponents, it is not all that dark:

In September 2012, The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) announced that Chick-fil-A has “ceased donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights.” According to the TCRA, Chick-fil-A officials stated in an internal document that they “will treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation.” In a letter from Chick-fil-A’s Senior Director of Real Estate, the company states, “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”

According to Chicago Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno, Chick-fil-A has a statement of respect for all sexual orientations in an internal document called Chick-fil-A: Who We Are and has promised that its not-for-profit arm, WinShape, would not contribute money to groups that oppose gay marriage.

According to Focus on the Family web site, CitizenLink.com, “Chick-fil-A and its charitable-giving arm, the WinShape Foundation, did not agree to stop making donations to groups that support the biblical definition of marriage in exchange for being allowed to open a franchise in Chicago.” Mike Huckabee stated that he “talked earlier today personally with Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick Fil-A about the new reports that Chick Fil-A had capitulated to demands of the supporters of same sex marriage. This is not true. The company continues to focus on the fair treatment of all of its customers and employees, but to end confusion gave me this statement.” The statement provided by Chick-fil-A was posted on Huckabee’s website.

In March 2014, new tax filings from 2012 showed Chick-fil-A stopped funding all but one organization which had been previously criticized. The company also created a new foundation, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, to fund outside groups. WinShape Foundation’s 2012 tax filings showed funding only for its own programs, a Berry College scholarship fund and Lars WinShape, a home for needy children in Brazil.

[Some links removed]

Once again the other edge of fronting the brand has started to cut:

Of all the right-wing reactions to Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s quiet step back from the marriage equality debate, Scott Lively’s might just take the cake.

In a post on Matt Barber’s BarbWire today, Lively writes that although Cathy has not yet taken the “Mark of the Beast,” his decision to back out of the gay marriage debate “suggests he might be willing to take it if faced with that choice.”

“I am convinced that God is using the homosexual issue as a test of believers all over the world,” Lively continues. “What would it profit Mr. Cathy to gain the whole world (or a few more restaurants on college campuses), if his compromise of Biblical truth today makes him less able to resist the real Mark of the Beast tomorrow?”

“In my mind’s eye I used to see the Mark of the Beast as a black dot on the back of the hand,” he concludes. “Now it looks more like a Chik Fil A [sic] sandwich. I’ll never buy another one, and I hope you won’t either.”

Full disclosure: I am of older than the brand and have yet to eat at Chick-fil-A. This is not out of opposition to the company’s stance on religious and political issues. It’s just that whenever I have had a hankering for a chicken sandwich, such as right after getting out of church, the neighborhood Chick-fil-A always seems to be closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Far From The Tree?

Potter House Church in Dallas

Potter House Church in Dallas

This one is so old it definitely has whiskers. However, I couldn’t pass it up, because the irony is palpable:

SON OF HOMOPHOBIC MEGACHURCH PASTOR ARRESTED IN GAY SEX STING

Dallas megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes has said that he would never hire a sexually active gay person, has spoken out against same-sex marriage, and has called homosexuality a “brokenness.” Now his son has been arrested in a sex sting after approaching law enforcement officers in a park and exposed himself to them while masturbating, according to the Dallas Voice.

[Edited]

The item from the Dallas Voice goes on:

Jermaine Donnell Jakes, 29, faces a charge of indecent exposure after allegedly exposing himself in front of two undercover vice detectives shortly after 10 p.m. on Jan. 3. Senior Cpl. Janice Crowther, a DPD spokeswoman, confirmed Thursday, Feb. 12 that the detectives were both male. According to an arrest affidavit, the detectives were conducting an investigation into citizen complaints of sexual activity when they observed Jakes and several other unknown males park their vehicles in the lot east of the park at 2106 W. Kiest Blvd. The detectives followed Jakes into a wooded area, where he approached them with his penis exposed through his unzipped pants, the affidavit states. Jakes masturbated for several seconds while making eye contact with one of the detectives. Jakes made no attempt to conceal his penis despite people walking and jogging on a trail nearby, the affidavit states. According to court records, Jermaine Jakes listed his place of employment as T.D. Jakes Ministries.

The Dallas Morning News also commented:

 The son of Potter’s House Bishop T.D. Jakes turned himself in to the Dallas County Jail on Thursday on an indecent exposure charge stemming from an incident at a southern Dallas park last month. Jermaine Jakes, 29, posted $1,000 bail and was released Thursday morning, according to jail records… He was detained at the scene and released, as is often the procedure in such cases. The charge is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Not up on T.D. Jakes? Here’s something from Wikipedia:

Thomas Dexter “T. D.” Jakes, Sr. (born June 9, 1957) is the bishop/chief pastor of The Potter’s House, a non-denominational American megachurch, with 30,000 members. T. D. Jakes’ church services and evangelistic sermons are broadcast on The Potter’s Touch, which airs on the Trinity Broadcasting NetworkBlack Entertainment Television, the Daystar Television NetworkThe Word Network and The Miracle Channel in Canada. Other aspects of Jakes’ ministry include an annual revival called “MegaFest” that draws more than 100,000 people, an annual women’s conference called “Woman Thou Art Loosed”, and gospel music recordings

Of these references, I am only vaguely acquainted with Daystar Television Network. Ten years ago Joe Barnhart and I agreed to participate in a debate with creationist Ralph Muncaster on the Joni Lamb Show. This was on the Dallas area TV Channel 2, whose studios were at the Daystar facility in Bedford, Texas:

The Joni Lamb show runs thirty minutes, and part of that time is given over to requests for donations. That gave Joe and me only a few minutes each with Ralph, and I spent my flash in the spotlight answering his claims about abiogenesis. Even the simplest living cell, Ralph said, is way too complex to have developed by accident in one fell swoop. Being the engineer he is, he then laid out the probability calculations.

I couldn’t check his calculations on the spot, but I was ready to agree his conclusions were probably close to the mark. It would be just about impossible for a single cell to pop into existence by accident. Of course, science doesn’t claim that anything even nearly like that happened, so such computations are just a pointless exercise with a calculator. Which pointlessness is lost on those who buy Ralph’s kind of argument.

Joe and I had groused about going to a lot of trouble to show up and only getting to debate for less than half an hour, so the producers decided to use the opportunity and make hay while the sun shines, so to speak. After the scheduled program was in the can the producers had us all three on the set, then turned on the mikes, and let the tape roll. They figured they could get as many as two more shows at the expense of the extended session.

Joni Lamb talks the language of her audience, and her audience is dead sure that evolution is the antichrist. For myself, I am sure her audience is immune to any attempts to educate them about the science behind evolution. When I got a chance to speak to Joni’s audience I reported that in the real world, the world that exists in that rarified spectrum above Channel 2, a great number of very serious Christians find mainstream science to be no challenge to their faith. “Being a Christian doesn’t mean you have to be stupid,” I emphasized.

Joe Barnhart teaches about philosophy and religion at the University of North Texas, and he argued very skillfully that Joni’s audience is driving Christian belief off on a tangent from its original course. Joe’s arguments relied on historical research and the work of numerous biblical scholars. Unfortunately, Joni’s audience doesn’t cotton to any contrary facts.

I noted at the time that the Daystar facility in Bedford was a modern and thoroughly-equipped facility, with multiple studios and industrial-grade video editing and production equipment. The parking lot within the walled complex sparkled with high-end road iron. You will notice when watching their productions a banner running along the bottom of the screen with an 800 number for phoning in contributions. This has all the appearances of a successful for-profit business operation.

My religious friends keep telling me of the ruin this country faces without Christianity. OK, they really don’t tell me this, but I read it from other Christian sources. And I continue to wonder—what ruin? And I may soon begin to ask, when are the benefits going to start to kick in? I can only chuckle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange Bible

godbible

It’s a strange book. Some people read it religiously, every day even. Do any of them notice what  Jim Walker has? The Bible is a strange and conflicted work. He’s put up some of these peculiarities on NoBeliefs.com. Bible quotes are blue:

The Back Parts of God

“And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend…” (Exodus 33:11)

“And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: and I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:20-23)

Comment

In verse 11 we read that God spoke to Moses, face-to-face. Yet in seeming contradiction, we have later God telling Moses that he cannot see His face. Instead, God decides to show Moses his back parts! “Back parts” of course serves as a euphemism for “ass”. In other words, God here says to Moses “thou shalt see my ass.”

I’ll leave it to the readers to ponder the possible sexual orientation of God as he shows Moses his bare bottom.

See what I mean? Some of this stuff doesn’t make sense. Of course I’m kidding. Most of it doesn’t make sense, but today is Sunday, and I’m in a generous mood.

There’s more:

The Brethren Of Jesus

“After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.” (John 2:12)

Comment

This verse describes Jesus and his brethren. Jesus Christ’s blood-related siblings directly contradicts the Catholic concept of the life-long virginity of the mother Mary. Some Christians have attempted to defend this contradiction by pointing out that brethren has two meanings: it could mean brothers, from the same parents, or it could mean colleagues or friends. Note, however, that the use of the word “disciples” suggests that brothers and disciples constitute two separate groups. Therefore, brethren must mean brothers in this context.

Note also that Mark 6:3 mentions brothers and sisters that can only mean blood siblings.

Also, nowhere in the Gospel of John or Mark does it mention Jesus’ birth or Mary as a virgin. Considering that a virgin birth of the Son of God would seem of utmost importance, it appears rather odd that these Gospels do not mention it.

Not I, but others have spake wicked words about Christianity. OK, I cannot tell a lie. I have spake these words, as well. Some such words are that 2000 years ago a bunch of people started a world-wide religious movement just to save one girl’s reputation.

More seriously, what I’m getting at is this—a woman (girl) can no longer be considered a virgin having once given birth. The hymen will be truly and forever broken. Can we all settle on that?

Walker has posted 31 such entries to this remarkable page. My advice to you, religious and others alike, get out your Bible. And read it. You don’t even to purchase a Bible if you don’t already have one. Multiple presentations are on-line for all to read, and free e-books are available, including a Kindle edition, which I have. No laughing, please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Breatharians

This was first published in the December 2002 edition of The North Texas Skeptic. I’m reposting it here for your amusement.

burren

Finished with Thanksgiving dinner? Good. Now take a deep breath.

That’s all.

If you are a Breatharian you know you could have skipped the dinner and gotten by on the deep breath. You know eating and drinking is a cultural addiction passed down from generation to generation. Your parents got you hooked on food and drink early on by force feeding you until you have no choice but to continue this absurd ritual just to keep the rotting foodstuffs moving on through your body.

American Wiley Brooks seems to be leading the Breatharian cult in this country, but the idea of forsaking food and drink for life and health is not a new one. A search of the Internet turned up several notable instances of the practice:1

  • Judah Mehler, Grand Rabbi, 1660-1751, ate and drank sparingly one day a week (Ripley’s Believe It or Not).
  • In the 19th century Marie Frutner, a Bavarian girl, lived on water without food for 40 years (Hilton Hotema of Health Research).
  • Teresa Avila, a Bavarian peasant, born 1898, took no food or water and did not sleep since 1926 (described by “Aberee 1960”).
  • Caribala Dassi lived for 40 years without taking any food or water (India’s Message, 1932).
  • Yand Mel, age 20, did not eat for nine years (Dr. T.Y. Gan, according to Jones H. B. et al, Am. J. Cancer, 40:243-50, 1940).
  • Therese Neumann, a German nun, who passed away in 1952, did not eat for 40 years, no food, no water.
  • Danalak Shumi of Marcara, India, age 18, for over one year took no food or water (the Bombay Press August 1953).
  • Balayogini Sarasvati of Amma, India, lived on water only for a period of more than three years (Rosicrucian Digest, June 1959)
  • A woman named Giri Bala of Bahar, West Bengal took no food nor fluid since she was 12 (described by Paramhansa Yogananda, in his book “Autobiography of a Yogi”)

Before we get on to Wiley Brooks we need to talk about Ellen Greve. Greve is a former Australian business woman who now calls herself Jasmuheen. She is a New Age guru promoting avoidance of food. Her cult is said to have a following of 5000 world wide. At least one wiseacre has conjectured these may not be the same followers from one year to the next. Her followers tend to be claimants of the famous Darwin Awards.2

Australian follower Verity Linn succumbed while attempting to follow Jasmuheen’s guidelines near Cam Loch in Scotland in September 1999. Prior to that in the summer of 1998 Lani Morris of Melbourne breathed herself to death, and Timo Degen, a German kindergarten teacher, did the same in 1997.3

Jasmuheen spells out her recipe for everlasting life in her book “Living on Light.” As described on Amazon:4

The book “Living on Light” offers the possibility and maintained by the Universal Life Force also called Prana. Some saints and sages have done this before, but now the time has come, when everyone can do this for themselves. The Australian author Jasmuheen has not eaten any food for 5 years. This book describes how this came to her and a special 21-day process to convert the body to the new way of being sustained. It explains in details from a metaphysical view, how the body works and methods for self healing, regeneration and rejuvenation. Breatharians get nourished from the purest source, the Universal Life Force which contains all bodily needs. It is not necessary to have a certain religion or belief system to do the process. The process is at least a way to listen and connect with the inner voice.

Prior to her death Verity Linn had announced her intent to follow the Breatharian quest, and a copy of Jasmuheen’s book was found near her body. However, it is not apparent the notorious demise of Jasmuheen’s followers resulted in major hit on her popularity. Besides “Living on Light,” she has two other books, “In Resonance” and “Our Camelot,” listed on Amazon.

More publicly Jasmuheen has been debunked on Australia’s version of 60 Minutes. She agreed to be tested for the program, and the producers put her in a hotel room with a 24-hour guard to prevent any possibility of cheating. They stopped the debacle after four days when Jasmuheen began to exhibit symptoms of malnutrition and dehydration.5

Anyhow, there are more where Jasmuheen came from.

“Internet health-consultant” Ahmen Heaven promotes his “Jesus Diet.” “Stop Eating” is the name of his Web site promoting his tax-deductible “Christian Health Research” in Keaau, Hawaii.6

Stop Eating is the name of this web site, to convey its main point, which is quite literal, but it doesn’t mean to stop eating for good. It just means that we should be more aware of how eating is in many ways more harmful rather than beneficial to health. The food industry is one of the largest industries in the world, and the barrage of advertisements advocating the “good” things in food, is testimony to its power. However, eating food, quite plainly, is often the route to ill-health, sickness, or pain, yet there are few, like myself, who are suggesting that food may not be that good for you, and that we need to be really careful, because eating food is like playing with poison.

He also hawks his various publications: “Jesus’ Diet: For your Sins! ($10), Urine: The Fountain of Youth! ($7), Breatharianism: The Secret You’ve Been Looking For! ($3), Stop eating: Fasting and Elimination More Important! ($12).”

Then there is Stephen Arlin who only advocates eating less and places more emphasis on his “Raw Food” philosophy.7

Some people consider The Raw-Food Diet the next step past a vegetarian or vegan diet, but it really transcends all diets. It is simply the natural way to nourish your body. A raw-foodist is not something one becomes; a raw-foodist is something that all living creatures on earth already are. We are designed to eat raw foods. Food in its raw, natural state cannot be nutritionally improved upon, especially not by cooking it. Raw-foodists take all their nourishment from raw, fresh, natural foods — unadulterated by cooking.

Back to Wiley Brooks. He heads up the Breatharian Institute of America in Santa Cruz, California. Brooks claims priority to Breatharianism over Jasmuheen, having called himself a Breatharian for more than 20 years. He now finds himself upstaged by Jasmuheen, but is quick to defend her.8

Brooks offers an ingenious explanation for the death of Jasmuheen follower Verity Linn and for Jasmuheen’s own embarrassment on 60 Minutes. If you’re relying on air for your nourishment, he points out, you’re going to have to depend on the quality of that air — a risky proposition in modern times.”The less food you have in the body, the more air is circulated through the body, which replaces the food,” he says. “Which means a Breatharian, instead of taking in 110 lbs. of air a day, is probably taking in 1,000 lbs. a day. Now in that 1,000 lbs. of air is a percentage of pollutants. So you see that for a Breatharian the air is so deadly that we have to take something not to increase energy but to decrease the sensitivity to the air. We take food as you would take a drug or a medicine — to reduce the sensitivity.”

Brooks is more like a regular guy than you would expect from a Breatharian. He explains his Breatharian philosophy in an interview on the Breatharian Institute Web site.9

Breatharianism is philosophy based on the exploits and knowledge gain by God experiencing itself in the flesh as the personality, Wiley Brooks, A Breatharian, on a planet that is on a fast track to annihilation. My job or purpose for the past 30 years has been to seek out the causes of this destructive phenomenon or system and re-direct its forces to manifest more positive and constructive effects in the world. A Breatharian is just another way of saying “God in the flesh.” A Breatharian is also another way of saying any Human Being who breathes. A Spiritual Being sustained by the breath of life. As you can see from my perspective all people are Breatharians or God in the flesh.For 30 years I have known the truth about who I am and what I am. I have also known the truth about who everybody else is as well. The truth is that “I am God, You are God,” so get to used to it. Until people experience themselves as the God they truly are, they will not able to comprehend the fact that “we really are all One.” From and of the same Source.

The information I have gathered during the past 30 years, as a Breatharian, is vital to the survival of this planet and my intent and priority is to get this information to the masses as soon as possible by whatever means available and appropriate. I have definite plans and knowledge that will be needed to help the world prepare itself for much higher levels of consciousness. These rapidly increasing levels of consciousness and spirituality reacting with the many poisonous gases polluting our environment and the deadly effects caused by electro-magnetic fields from electric power cables, Radio, TV and telephone transmitting towers are creating dangerous levels of heat that could end life on this planet as know it. The prevention of this kind of thing from happening has been the sole purpose of Breatharianism.

For a cult leader Brooks displays an uncommon touch of candor, as when he was asked when he last ate.10

Wiley: 2 hours ago.Bruno: What kind of food did you eat?

Wiley: A Double Quarter Pounder with cheese and a Diet Coke from McDonald’s. Some people would call this junk food.

Bruno: Why did you eat it?

Wiley: It is the perfect food that has the necessary poisons and pollutants to harmonized my blood stream with the frequencies of a poisonous and polluted environment…

Brooks may be on to something there.

Besides the references already cited, a number of other interesting URLs turned up in the Web search for this article. Here are a few:

“Breatharianism” on the Apologetics Index Web site at http://www.gospelcom.net/apologeticsindex/b12.html

” A Light Lunch” on the Internet Infidels Web Scan. A delightfully comprehensive treatment of Breatharianism with numerous links. http://www.infidels.org/infidels/web.scan/1999/scan11.html

“Wiley Brooks,” he gives his explanation of Breatharianism. http://www.fruitnut.net/html/FamousB/Wiley.htm

References

1 Historical Breatharians at http://seasilver.threadnet.com/Preventorium/others.htm

2 1999 Darwin Awards at http://www.darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin1999-58.html

3 Etelka Lehoczky, “Living On (Hot) Air, Recent deaths contradict Breatharians’ claims” Published November 17, 1999 in Whoa! and on the Internet at http://www.gettingit.com/article/344. See also Rick Ross’ “Sect Madness: Disciples starve themselves to death,” http://www.rickross.com/reference/breat/breat11.html

4 Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/3929512351/thenorthtexasske

5 Lehoczky 1999

6 Ahmen Heaven’s Web site at http://www.sabon.org/prana/stop1.html

7 “Questions and Answers with Stephen Arlin,” http://www.rawfood.com/interviewrp.html

8 Lehoczky 1999

9 “Letter to Color Magazine in Italy,” from The Breatharian Institute of America Web site at http://www.breatharian.com/secret.html

10 Ibid.