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.

Don’t laugh at me

Don't laugh at me.

Brooke McGowan

I don’t get a chance to make this stuff up. It comes out almost faster than I can handle it. Take, for example the outpourings of Brooke McGowan:

A tea party activist suggested the United States may be conquered by foreign armies because abortion and Islam were permitted.

Brooke McGowan, who was introduced as a representative of the Tea Party News Network, told the Reclaim America rally on Nov. 19 that the U.S. faced judgment for its religious tolerance.

“In this nation we have turned away from the God of the Bible and we’ve told him he’s simply not welcome here,” McGowan said. “We have welcomed pluralism, atheism, secular humanism, Wicca and even Islam.”

She said the nation’s downfall began 50 years ago, when public school-sponsored prayer was limited and continued 10 years later when abortion was legalized.

Of course we should all not be too critical of McGowan. There may be some truth in what she says. For example it is quite possible that legalization of abortion will lead to our being conquered “by foreign armies.” I will leave it up to readers to decide whether the remainder of her argument has any merit.

Right Wing Watch had the original story:

In this nation we have turned away from the God of the Bible, and we’ve told Him He’s simply not welcome here. We have welcomed pluralism, atheism, secular humanism, Wicca, and even Islam, but we’ve told the Holy God to stay away. Legally, we removed God from the public schools over 50 years ago, and then 40 years ago through a court of nine justices, though not unanimous, we determined that His very image, precious life in the womb, could now be legally torn apart, killed, and discarded. Legalized murder began our rapid moral downfall….Now, how can we expect as a nation to stay blessed or even prosper when we willingly stay under this curse?

RWW sums up its analysis of McGowan’s talk with this:

“At Walter Reed hospital down the road where our broken and mangled servicemen and women lie, you can’t even speak the name of Jesus or take in a Bible,” she said. “This is a disgrace!”

Actually, it’s a lie.

The link at the end of the quote goes to a Snopes page that clarifies the matter. McGowan’s talk came nearly a year after Walter Reed Hospital had corrected a poorly-worded memo regarding religious proselytizing. McGowan was either unaware (no great surprise) she was making a false statement, or else she did not care (no surprise). And I am not laughing.

DontLaugh

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploiting Hope

HighPotency

An item in USA Today asks the question: Why?

USA TODAY investigation finds experts questioning why Houston doctor is allowed to continue to offer his alternative cancer treatment with antineoplastons.

LINDEN, N.J. — On the last day of his life, Josia Cotto’s parents gave him a choice.

The 6-year-old boy had been fighting an inoperable brain tumor for 10 months. When his mother, Niasia Cotto, found him in his bed, unresponsive and unable to open his eyes, “we knew there was nothing else that we could do,” she said.

An ambulance took Josia to a hospice room at a local hospital. His parents covered him in a soft, blue-and-white blanket, hugged him and held his small hand for the last time.

“We told him the choice was his, whether to keep fighting or be in peace with God,” said his mother. “He chose.”

Josia’s parents would have paid any price to save him.

A Texas doctor, two months, earlier, had given them one: $25,000 upfront, by cash or check.

$25,000? I need to say I have in the past paid less for more. What, then did the Cottos purchase for $25,000?

Antineoplaston is a name coined by Stanislaw Burzynski for a group of peptides, peptide derivatives, and mixtures that he uses as an alternative cancer treatment. The word is derived from neoplasm.

Antineoplaston therapy has been offered in the US since 1984 but is not approved for general use due to lack of clinical evidence. The compounds are not licensed as drugs but are instead sold and administered as part of clinical trials at the Burzynski Clinic and the Burzynski Research Institute. Although Burzynski and his associates claim success in the use of antineoplaston combinations for the treatment of various diseases, there is no evidence of clinical efficacy of these methods. Oncologists have described Burzynski’s studies as flawed, with one doctor stating that they are “scientific nonsense”. In particular, independent scientists have been unable to reproduce the positive results reported in Burzynski’s studies.

There is no convincing evidence from any randomized controlled trial that antineoplastons are useful for the treatment of cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved antineoplastons for the treatment of any disease. The American Cancer Society has found no evidence that antineoplastons have any beneficial effects in cancer, and it has recommended that people not spend money on antineoplaston treatments. A 2004 medical review described this treatment as a “disproven therapy”

And that pretty much settles that. Right? Not so fast. This is America, the land of the free. Including people who offer only hope:

Hudson girl cleared to begin experimental cancer treatment

March 25. 2014 6:26PM

By APRIL GUILMET
Union Leader Correspondent

HUDSON — A Hudson cancer patient has been granted permission to begin treatment with a drug that has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

But before 12-year-old McKenzie Lowe can begin antineoplaston treatment (ANP), an alternative medicine piloted by controversial Texas doctor Stanislaw Burzynski, her family must find a local doctor who is willing to help.

McKenzie, the daughter of Ron and Dianne Lowe, was diagnosed with a DIPG, a rare, inoperable brain tumor in November 2012. After conventional treatments failed, the Lowe family began lobbying the FDA to grant McKenzie a compassion exemption.

FDA officials will occasionally allow use of an experimental drug in cases where a patient’s diagnosis is terminal and traditional treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, aren’t working.

This week, family friend Kim Frenette said finding a doctor willing to treat McKenzie with ANP is easier said than done.

“In order to help us, that doctor would have to be willing to work with the FDA,” Frenette said. “And the FDA would have to be willing to work with that doctor.”

To complicate matters further, a potential doctor would need to fill out a 200-page FDA application as part of the compassion exemption process.

Burzynski has agreed to work with the family and any local doctor they choose, and has also agreed to provide the ANP infusions at no charge.

The FDA has agreed to limited trials involving antineoplastons, but not involving Burzynski:

FDA agrees to let patients get controversial drug

All of this in disregard of the known facts. Speaking of facts, there are from time to time consequences of speaking the facts.

In November 2011, a music writer and editor for the British newspaper The Observer sought help raising £200,000 to have his 4-year-old niece, who was diagnosed with glioma, treated at the Burzynski Clinic. Several bloggers reported other cases of patients who had spent similar amounts of money on the treatment, and had died, and challenged the validity of Burzynski’s treatments. Marc Stephens, identifying himself as a representative of the Burzynski Clinic, sent emails accusing them of libel and demanding that coverage of Burzynski be removed from their sites. One of the bloggers who received threatening e-mails from Stephens was Rhys Morgan, a 17-year old sixth-form student from Cardiff, Wales, at the time, previously noted for exposing the Miracle Mineral Supplement. Another was Andy Lewis, a skeptic and publisher of the Quackometer blog. Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing summarized Stephens’ threats and referred to the Streisand Effect.

Following the publicity fallout resulting from the legal threats made by Stephens against the bloggers, the Burzynski Clinic issued a press release on November 29, 2011 confirming that the Clinic had hired Stephens “to provide web optimization services and to attempt to stop the dissemination of false and inaccurate information concerning Dr. Burzynski and the Clinic”, apologizing for comments made by Stephens to bloggers and for the posting of personal information (e.g. a satellite image of Morgan’s home), and announcing that Stephens “no longer has a professional relationship with the Burzynski Clinic.”

The story, including the threats against the bloggers, was covered by the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal). The chief clinician at Cancer Research UK expressed his concern at the treatment offered, and Andy Lewis of Quackometer and science writer Simon Singh, who had previously been sued by the British Chiropractic Association, said that English libel law harms public discussion of science and medicine, and thus public health.

Y’all be careful out there.

Christian Love

Before readers start pestering me for being unnecessarily sarcastic, allow me to submit my excuse. It’s not my fault. The Devil made me do it. I am referring, of course to the title of this post.

People are going to tell me, “Look, we already know you are not a Christian, but can you just show a little of the holiday spirit on the approach of the Easter season? How about give the Christians a break.” Good suggestions, and worthy of consideration.

JesusDaddy

Nah. Let’s get on with the story:

CNN: Secret Service Interviewed Pastor Who Prays For Obama’s Death

CNN has picked up our story from yesterday on Steven Anderson, the Arizona pastor who prayed for Barack Obama’s death the day before one of his parishioners, who attended the sermon, brought an AR-15 rifle to an Obama event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Res ipsa loquitur

I try to keep this stuff humorous. I get a lot of help. Like from Oklahoma State Senator Sally Kern:

OklahomaSallyKern

Now, that is hot news. Humorous maybe, but hot for sure.

Where do elected officials come up with this stuff? Better yet, where do voters come up with these elected officials?

Sally Kern Thinks People Who Disagree With Her That Homosexuality Is A ‘Bigger Threat Than Terrorism’ Are The Real Haters

In a radio show posted online on Monday, Oklahoma GOP state representative Sally Kern told In The Market host Janet Parshall that she stands by her repeated claims that homosexuality is “more dangerous” than terrorist attacks because gay rights will destroy America, a claim she outlines in her book The Stoning of Sally Kern.

Kern told Parshall that she was outraged that people wanted to make her seem like an “idiot” for simply stating that “the homosexual agenda is a bigger threat than terrorism.”

“I was using what I use as a teacher, you know when you’re teaching high school students you try to find something they can relate to, to share a concept with, so they can grasp that concept better,” Kern continued. “So everybody understands terrorism destroys people’s lives, it destroys property. All I meant was, all I was saying was the homosexual agenda is destroying people’s lives. More people have died from AIDS than have died from a terrorist attack here in America. It’s destroying the moral fiber of our nation, that’s all I meant.”

She lamented that gay rights advocates “try to ridicule you and make you feel like an idiot so that you’ll be intimidated and not speak out anymore.”

Trying to ridicule Sally Kern? Trying to make her feel like an idiot? What a waste of effort.

Res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself. Here are selected quotes from BuzzFeed.com. I have copied and pasted the quotes and have not made any attempts to correct punctuation and spelling:

Not everybodys lifestyle is equal, just like not all religions are equal, gays are an even bigger threat than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat.

City councils from Pittsburgh to West Palm Beach, FL are under the control of gays.

Homosexuals are pushing a gay agenda and trying to indoctrinate children as young as 2-years-old through tolerance education and gay-straight alliances. This stuffits deadly, and its spreading, and it will destroy our young people. It will destroy this nation.

The homosexual agenda is destroying this nation; its just a fact.

Here in America we’ve had what maybe three known real big terrorist attacks on our nation. But every day our young people especially, all of us, but our young people especially are in a sense bombarded with the message that homosexuality is normal and natural.

The homosexual agenda is real, the movement is aggressive, and it is a very real threat to the sacred institution of marriage and the traditional family unit. Homosexuals have every right to choose that lifestyle. I do not have to agree with it and speaking against it is not hate speech.

For the first time in America’s history, we have a president who has no understanding of the Biblical worldview and who has even less understanding of the truths of the Bible. This is evident when he says that support for homosexual marriage can be found in the Sermon on the Mount or that certain passages in Romans are just obscure passages. Whereas George Washington expelled from his military those who practiced sodomy, President Obama honors sodomites by proclaiming an entire month as Gay Pride Month, but he wont acknowledge one day for our National Day of Prayer.

It (homosexuality) spreads. And this stuff is deadly and is spreading and it will destroy our young people. It will destroy this nation.

There is a group of homosexual millionaires who for years have been working secretly to change the society of America, the political society of, America, so there will be freedom and equality for everyone.

This theme of equality and freedom is the approach that the homosexuals are using today – totally perverting the true intention of what our Constitution meant

Evolution undermines Christian principles. Period. That’s all there is to it. You either believe there is a creator or you believe there isn’t. Some people say well I believe there is a creator and he used evolution. There’s a lot of problems there folks. When does sin come in, when does the spirit come in? You know, it’s evolution. You read God’s word and you will see the word creation all through it, old and new testament. And it undermines people’s faith. They have trouble reading or believing the Bible.

Homosexuals insist they are born gay, yet a study by Dr. Neil Whitehead and Briar Whitehead on various cultures states: “If homosexuality were influenced by genes, it would appear in every culture, but in 29 of 79 cultures surveyed in 1952, homosexuality was rare or absent.

As a matter of fact, studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades.

I don’t have a problem with people coming over here. Why wouldn’t people want to come to America, the greatest nation in the world where you have the most opportunities and freedoms? Why wouldn’t they want to come over here? But if they’re going to come over here, let them become Americans. If they want to hold on to their own cultures, then why? And I hope I don’t get in trouble here… Why not live in their own countries?

It will be interesting to dissect some of Kern’s statements.

Let’s start with the quote that begins, “For the first time in America’s history, we have a president who has no understanding of the Biblical world view…” I will pick at one part of this quote.

… President Obama honors sodomites by proclaiming an entire month as Gay Pride Month, but he wont acknowledge one day for our National Day of Prayer.

I am at a loss to explain this comment. Especially in light of the following:

Presidential Proclamation — National Day of Prayer, 2013

NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER, 2013

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Americans have long turned to prayer both in times of joy and times of sorrow. On their voyage to the New World, the earliest settlers prayed that they would “rejoice together, mourn together, labor, and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work.” From that day forward, Americans have prayed as a means of uniting, guiding, and healing. In times of hardship and tragedy, and in periods of peace and prosperity, prayer has provided reassurance, sustenance, and affirmation of common purpose.

People who know me will tell you that I personally have no use for prayer, said activity being a colossal waste of time. I further consider it a waste of taxpayer dollars for the President of the United States to draw up and post this worthless proclamation. That said, I find to be an additional travesty that an elected official of the state of Oklahoma should be so ignorant of the facts or so disrespectful of the truth to make the aforementioned statement. And that’s my say on that.

There’s another quote that starts with, “Evolution undermines Christian principles. Period.” To which I have to say, “And then what?” Any vast body of truth will undermine “Christian principles” that are founded on myth and belief in the supernatural. Senator Kern thinks that myth and superstition trump fact? The people of Oklahoma elected Sally Kern to a responsible position in the state government? Am I supposed to add anything to what she has just said?

Senator Kern cites “a study by Dr. Neil Whitehead and Briar Whitehead” to demonstrate her vast knowledge about the biological origins of homosexuality. She could have, should have, used a more reliable source. If she were truly interested in the truth she would have drilled deeper into the topic. If she had don so she might have come across items like the following. Warren Thornton has followed up on one of the works of Neil and Briar Whitehead, and he has found them to be a less than righteous source:

NARTH authors mislead readers about brain plasticity

This post is a follow up to the one about Neil and Briar Whitehead’s article titled, “Brain Plasticity Backs Up Orientation Change” published on the Anglican Mainstream.

In their article, the Whiteheads liken sexual reorientation to learning to play a musical instrument and proclaim that science leads us to this assumption:

Our assumption now should be, change is possible in many behaviors – sexual orientation not excluded – and extraordinary effort will produce extraordinary change.

After some examination Thornton concludes with:

NARTH authors have not done so well lately with articles and public statements. They have misled various Christian and religious news sources and websites with inaccurate statements about the work of mainstream researchers and the American Psychological Association. Christian readers should be cautious in evaluating claims from NARTH, check out the original sources and consider alternative sources of information regarding sexual orientation (e.g., the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at Regent University).

Interestingly enough, I have found a source that gives great credibility to the Whiteheads’ findings. It’s Conservapedia:

Religious upbringing and culture affects rates of homosexuality. The book My Genes Made Me Do it – a scientific look at sexual orientation, coauthored by biochemist Dr. Neil Whitehead and his wife, writer Briar Whitehead, presents the argument that there are no genetic origins for homosexuality in humans and that individuals are capable of denying homosexual tendencies in order to obtain heterosexual orientation.

Who would believe it? A conservative Internet organ that supports evidence for homosexuality as an acquired trait. Of course, I’m only pretending to be surprised. Conservapedia has long been known to me:

It might be wiki, but it’s not Wikipedia. It may not even be a pedia. It’s Conservapedia.

Suppose you have a science book, and you can never work the problems at the end of the chapter. Suppose, again, that you are a book publisher. The temptation is great. You have power.

You can write your own book, and you can edit the solutions in the back of the book to match your own. You can be a contender!

Now you get the idea behind Conservapedia.

I don’t know when it first came about that conservative politics and a conservative outlook on life diverged from physical reality, but Conservapedia seems designed to meet this need. Some with a conservative bent find it more convenient to bend reality rather than to deflect their world view.

Finally I am beginning to understand what this is all about. Tell me if I’m wrong about this: Sally Kern is a conservative. Am I right? Wait, I’m going even further: Sally Kern is a Republican. Did it get it right? Both cases? It took me how long? Must be a slow day for me.

The Comical Conservative

I just finished reading Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago, and I’m about to start on another book. In the mean time I’m getting lazy, and these are easy shots. So you’re going to see a bunch of these for a few days. Humorous posts from The Comical Conservative are easy pickings. Here’s the next one from a post on The Comical Conservative:

SoldiersPaidLessThanMinimumWage

This one is easy to figure out. It has to do with Democrats’ recent push to raise the government-mandated minimum wage. And Republicans’ opposition to any such travesty. Here is how the argument is supposed to go. Soldiers, sailors and airmen in our armed forces often have a rough and dangerous existence. They perform critical functions for their country. Why should they be paid less than the minimum wage? More so, why should some high school kid pull down $15 an hour working fast food. That makes sense, right?

Time for some skeptical analysis.

I have been there and done that. I spent some time on active duty in the Navy Reserve. The reserves are just like the full time military, but it’s of necessity temporary. Reservists are supposed to get military training and experience and then go about their civilian lives until such time as an emergency arises. Then it’s kiss the job goodbye, put on the uniform and pick up a weapon. Or, in my case, a paint scraper.

I served on two aircraft carriers, the Randolph and the Kitty Hawk. During my active duty tour I received the same pay and nearly the same benefits as the full time sailors. I spent this time as an Airman rating. I had three green stripes on my sleeve, and my rank was equivalent to an army private first class. This was back when Eisenhower was president, and the federal minimum wage was quite lower than it is now. My rank earned me $72 per month. Since I was assigned to sea duty I got an extra $50 per month, making a total of $142 per month. In addition I received a clothing allowance of $6 per month. With this I was supposed to keep my uniforms up to snuff by purchases at the uniform supply office on the ship.

Let’s see how that works out. $148 per month (paid the same for July as February). Standard work days were 8 to 5 with maybe 30 minutes off for lunch. The work week was a standard five full week days plus half a day on Saturday. Sometimes the schedule was different. Loading ammunition on the ship we worked 8 hours on followed by 8 hours off, round the clock. But let’s assume a 40-hour work week. That works out to 171 hours a month for $142. That’s about 86 cents per hour.

The minimum wage in 1960 war $1.00 per hour and was raised to $1.15 in 1961. I was definitely making less than minimum wage in 1960-1961. And that was with the extra $50 per month for sea duty.

Let me put this into additional context. The only thing lower then me on the ship was an apprentice rating, equivalent to a buck private in the army. Non commissioned officers, called petty officers in the Navy, got more. Officers much more. But there was no way a person could make house payments or put kids through college on my wage. And I didn’t. But then I did not need to.

I was 19-20 years old. Not married. Rent on the ship was free. Meals were free. Stuff at the ship’s store went for discount prices. If I were a smoker, then I could wait until the ship was out at sea and purchase cigarettes without federal tax at $0.15 per pack. I didn’t smoke, but I did buy a 35 mm camera and a movie camera. Here are some videos. And I got government medical care. A dentist on the ship took care of my teeth. I got free shots, and when an eye examination turned up a problem with my right eye, the Navy sent me to a shore hospital for corrective surgery. all paid for by your taxes. And, every year I got 30 days paid vacation. Travel on military transport was free during this time, because I had orders for travel to and from my home town in Texas. I was on active duty until July 1961 and had socked away $1200 in my bank account. I used the money to go to college starting in 1961. This was at a major university subsidized by the great state of Texas.

Let’s look at military pay today:

The following figures are based on the proposed pay rates for 2014. Pay grade E-3 (my active duty grade) gets a base salary of $1805 per month. Using the formula employed to compute my 1960 hourly rate (sea duty) that comes to about $10.53 per hour. The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since 2009.

That would make it appear that the soldier pictured above is making $3.28 per more than the federal minimum wage. But that’s assuming the soldier depicted is not a private first class. Suppose he is a raw recruit. The base pay for a recruit (E-1) is $1532 per month. That’s about $8.94 per hour—still $1.69 an hour more than the current minimum wage.

So, what’s with this message posted on The Comical Conservative Facebook feed? It’s not even factual, and it’s close to not being comical.

I get the plan, however. The idea here is not to inform but to score political points. The Comical Conservative wants to speak against increasing the minimum wage (because it’s for liberals and other slackers), and the way to do that is to put out something inflammatory to stir up the faithful base. Facts take a back seat. I can understand all of this. What is should not get lost here is the ignorance of the mass who are following this, never checking the facts, never seeming to be interested in the facts. Sheeple.

I have commented on sheeple previously. A conservative Facebook friend posted something ridiculous like this, and I made a big deal of it. Shortly I was one less Facebook friend. That happens with sheeple.

The Comical Conservative

I’ve been directed to this Facebook feed by numerous postings from conservative friends. Actually, even some of my liberal friends post links to The Comical Conservative when it suits their purpose, which seems to be a lot. This is not my first posting about The Comical Conservative, but starting with this I’m initiating a series for your enjoyment.

I will start with this meme, which I pulled right off their feed:

IllegalAliensHaveChildren

All right!

This is a supposedly American Conservative group posting this on their Facebook feed. Oops. That’s what it says at the bottom: “Extremely Pissed Off Right Wingers.” OK, I’m glad they set that straight right up front, else I would have had to draw my own conclusions.

Small problem: there is something called The 14th Amendment:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The 14th Amendment says some more, but this is the part that’s significant. I have grown accustomed to “Right Wingers” having problems with the United States Constitution, so this posting does not surprise me. It also does not surprise me that other posts by “Right Wingers” hold up the United States Constitution as a shield against some action they oppose, apparently never having read it.

This Facebook feed is called “The Comical Conservative” for a reason. This has been only one example. I will post more. Believe me, “comical” is the operative word.

Left Behind

I hate it when I lose count. Such in this case. Only ten? I’m shocked. Shocked!

However, if ten it is, then ten is what we will go with. Today.

10 Reasons for Man to Leave Religion Behind

By Mike Floorwalker | 23 March 2013

It’s been reported recently that atheism is on the rise worldwide, while religiosity is declining. The relationship between the religious and non-religious has always been a tricky one; while many from each group eventually find themselves forced to admit that there is much to learn from the other, atheists still generally have a tough time accepting the role that religion plays in society—and are of the opinion that humanity would be better off leaving it behind, for a number of reasons. Here are ten of them.

Mike then goes on to list his pitiful count of ten:

10. Messiah Story

Reason: The Messiah Story Has Been Around For Thousands Of Years

9. Mythology

Reason: “Mythology” Used To Be Religion

8. Modern Values

Reason: The Bible Doesn’t Line Up With Modern Values

7. Historical Text

Reason: The Bible Doesn’t Work As A Historical Text

6. Conflict

Reason: Religion Is Behind Many Conflicts, Large And Small

5. Favored

Reason: The Religious Are Not Favored

4. Moral Soundness

Reason: The Religious Are Not More Morally Sound Than Others

3. Science

Reason: Science Is Starting To Answer All Of The Big Questions

2. Spirituality

Reason: There Can Be Spirituality Absent Religion

And reason number 1 we should leave religion behind is:

1. Responsibility

Reason: Religion Helps Us Avoid Responsibility

So, that’s the list in brief. Of course I could add to this list, as could anybody who can spell. Here’s my favorite: Religion is a colossal waste of time. Even a substitute for religion is a waste of your time. Many years ago some friends of mind started up a church for non-believers. That is, a church people can go to if they are not among those stricken with belief in the supernatural. It’s a grand concept, but I had no inclination to join. One of the benefits of not being religious is being able to sleep in on Sunday mornings.

From Mike’s post, here is how religion views it’s like to be left behind:

LeftBehindFlood

Pretty scary, what? Some of the religious think this is what happened to the dinosaurs. They did not just go extinct because their time had passed, and they were superseded by more successful life forms. They just missed the boat.

A few years back Prasad Golla and I did a cartoon in our attempt to explain what must have really happened. It would appear the dinosaurs were just unclear on the concept of the Ark of Noah.

nextboat

I will take a closer look at two of Mike’s points:

10. Messiah Story

Yes, Mike is correct in that the Messiah story, the basis for the concept of Jesus as Messiah, was not original with the Jews, but had been around for some time. Here’s Mikes illustration:

MessiahStory

Yes, the concept had whiskers by the time the Jews picked it up:

It should be noted that the idea of a divine savior of the human race is practically as old as the human race itself, and has resurfaced continually, echoing throughout our culture for thousands of years. That it continues to be a theme of popular works today is no surprise, but there exists a bitter debate over whether many or most of the major elements of the story of Jesus Christ were co-opted from other sources—some that originated hundreds or even thousands of years before Jesus.

The general assertion by the skeptical is that all of these elements—the virgin birth, significance of the solstices, the miracles, disciples, baptism, crucifixion, resurrection—along with many even more specific elements like Heaven and Hell, the soul, holy communion and others, were all seen before in multiple ancient pagan religions. Many Christians contend that these similarities are a distortion, or the result of ancient records being taken out of context or simply being inaccurate; atheists similarly will point out that practically all ancient records are of questionable accuracy to some degree, including those non-Christian references to the historicity of Jesus.

Modern scholars can only agree on two things about Jesus: that he was baptized, and that he was crucified on the order of Pontius Pilate. All of the other details are disputed by some group of scholars or another, and an examination of the ancient pagan religions predating Jesus—those surrounding Horus, Mithra, Dionysus, Krishna and many others—yields an astounding number of similarities that cannot be explained away as coincidence. These stories seem to be a part of ancient Mediterranean culture, which leads us to the fact that . . .

And there is this one:

9. Mythology

Used to be mythology? Give us a break, Mike. It still is.

Most likely you, as did I, notice that Mike has glossed over—rather has chosen to ignore—the myriad other religions we can safely leave behind. Need I bring up a quite recent one? Yes, you guessed it. It’s the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Yes, children, there is no Flying Spaghetti Monster, and there is no magical land of Oz, and there is no Wizard, and there is no Easter Bunny, and there is no Santa Clause. Maybe next year you can go to Detroit. Reality is just so deadly dull.

church-flying-spaghetti-monster

From Google images

Jesus Saves

Jesussins

This is new:

Florence school board member pushes for prayer in school

Posted: Mar 15, 2014 2:42 PM CDTUpdated: Mar 15, 2014 3:44 PM CDT

By Ken Baker – bio | email

FLORENCE, SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) – A school board member is making waves trying to put prayer back in local school. During every meeting she prays out loud, and some people wonder if it’s legal.

“Because it’s you who stretched your arms, hung your head and died,” prayed Pat Gibson Hye-Moore at a recent school board meeting.

There is concern that what Gibson Hye-Moore is doing is illegal.

“They’re trying to take God out of our lives completely, and He’s our protector He’s our savior,” said Gibson Hye-Moore.

“They’re trying to take God out of our lives completely…” Really? Somebody is trying to take God completely out of our lives? “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” I, for one would not look forward to being given that task. No great fan of religion that I am, I still believe that so long as there are people there will be stupid people. And there will be religion. A far less strenuous effort would it be to take the salt out of the oceans.

But… Gibson Hye-Moore has more to say:

“I respect other religions, but America is built on Christianity, we are the majority,” said Gibson Hye-Moore.

Hint: she does not respect other religions. Besides that, she ignores the purpose of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The purpose of the clause is exactly to protect the minority from the majority. In a democracy the majority can always have its way through the vote. The Establishment Clause protects the minority from the power of the vote.

Of course, what I have been ignoring all this time is what is popularly called “the 800-pound gorilla in the room.” It’s that thing that is so big and so ugly that it should be impossible to ignore, try as many would like. That big and ugly thing is the bare fact. In this case it’s the bare fact that “God” is a figment of people’s imagination, a product of ignorance and fear. And that leads us to wonder about a country whose elected officials talk to invisible beings. And whose people believe there is no insanity involved.

Lotz Wife

JesusReligion

This is a story that just will not go away. 239 people left Kuala Lumpur a bit past midnight two weeks ago and just vanished. As days passed, and the mystery deepened, it seemed that all humanity was pouring itself into the search for the plane and the remains of the lost souls. Alone, the United States Navy has expended over $2 million, and the intellectual might of the 21st century has been called up to probe the enigma.

In the mean time a few lesser lights have jumped in, as might be expected:

Billy Graham’s daughter wonders if missing airliner offers a ‘small snapshot’ of the Rapture

By Travis Gettys
Thursday, March 20, 2014 14:18 EDT

The daughter of famed evangelist Billy Graham says a missing airliner offers a glimpse of a post-Rapture world.

Anne Graham Lotz wondered last week on her blog where the 239 passengers and crew members had gone after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished, reported Right Wing Watch.

The author and evangelist said she can’t help but wonder if its disappearance is similar to events forecast in Thessalonians 4:17, when true believers will be taken from Earth by God to Heaven.

“Is this worldwide sense of shock and helplessness, of questions and confusion, of fear and grief, a glimpse of things to come?” Lotz wrote. “Is this a small snapshot of what the entire world will experience the day after the rapture of the church?”

She said the Bible was clear, and that Christ would return after the Rapture but before the end of days.

Before I go any further I need to reassure readers of a few things: The Bible is a book of mostly fables and is not to be taken as a reliable source on just about any matter. The concept of the Rapture is one of the most bizarre ideas to come out of human inability to properly assess facts and come to useful conclusions. How ludicrous this has gotten is exemplified by such as people of dubious intellect driving around in pickup trucks with a sticker on the rear bumper with the slogan “In case of Rapture this vehicle will be empty.” The Rapture is the idea that Jesus (certifiably dead for nearly 2000 years) will cause all true believers to suddenly disappear, to be transported to Heaven, yet another myth of the modern mind.

AnneGrahamLotz

The original story is from Right Wing Watch, which has more:

Back in 2011, when a series of tornadoes ripped through several southern states and killed more than 300 people, we were told that this was just “a little taste” of what God’s judgment upon humanity was going to look like.

Today, it seems that the mystery surrounding missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is just a little taste of what The Rapture is going to look like, according to Anne Graham Lotz.

Just to illustrate how from reality Anne Lotz has strayed, this flight of fancy by CNN anchor Don Lemon is tame by comparison:

CNN’s Don Lemon: ‘Is It Preposterous’ to Think a Black Hole Caused Flight 370 to Go Missing?

by Josh Feldman | 11:31 pm, March 19th, 2014

CNN’s Don Lemon has been entertaining all sorts of theories about the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, including the chance something “supernatural” happened, but on Wednesday night, he actually asked panelists about the possibility a black hole was involved.

Lemon brought this up along with other “conspiracy theories” people have been floating on Twitter, including people noting the eerie parallels to Lost and The Twilight Zone, and wondered, “is it preposterous” to consider a black hole as a possibility?

Mary Schiavo, a former Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation, said, “A small black hole would suck in our entire universe, so we know it’s not that.”

Rest easy, readers. Reality is much less frightening. Before you begin thinking of the Rapture or even a black hole, get out a map. And look at the Indian Ocean. Reality may not be exciting, but it never lets us down.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

This guy’s walking home from work, really late, in the pitch black of night. There isn’t another soul on the street. Suddenly, from out of the gloom, comes an ominous bump…bump…bump. He looks behind him and spots a furtive, shadowy thing coming down the street after him. Unnerved, he picks up his pace, finally breaking into a panicked run.
He looks behind him again, and the shadow is closer. Bump…bump…bump. The glow of a streetlight illuminates the shadow momentarily, and, to the man’s horror, it is a coffin, bumping down the sidewalk. He quickens his pace, running as fast as he can go, but the coffin only pursues more quickly. BUMP…BUMP…BUMP!
He reaches his house, fumbles frantically for his keys, and slips in the door just as the coffin reaches his front steps. He slams the door and leans against it, catching his breath. Bump…bump…bump. There is a moment’s silence, and the man wonders if he dares to breathe.
Suddenly…. Bump…bump…bump…Bump…BUMP! BUMP! BUMPBUMPBUMPCRAAAAASH!!!! He rebounds away as the door breaks off its hinges. Scrambling to his feet, he charges up the stairs, and the coffin races after. BUMP BUMP BUMP BUMP! Terrified, he backs into a corner and starts throwing everything within reach at the coffin — a handful of papers, a vase, a box of crackers, a lamp — but the coffin keeps coming!
BUMP BUMP BUMP BUMP BUMP INCHESFROMHISFACE, and nothing seems to slow it down! His hands fall upon a bottle of cough syrup, and he throws that at the coffin, too!
The coffin stops.