Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Modern science brings us knowledge that can save lives, but stupidity remains a prime killer. Little Lukas S. is the most recent to grace this column:

A seven-month-old baby died weighing just 9lbs after his parents fed him an alternative gluten-free, lactose-free diet, a court has heard.

The mother and father, who ran a natural food store in the town of Beveren in Belgium, insisted on putting their son Lucas on an alternative diet that included quinoa milk, according to local media. Doctors warn that such a diet is generally unsuitable for such young children.

His diet led to him being less than half the expected weight for a boy his age, weighing 9.47lbs — just over the average weight for a newborn baby — before he died on 6 June 2014.

This news item from The Independent also reports Lucas’ parents drove him across his home country of Belgium to  a homeopathic doctor rather than seek reliable medical treatment.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

It’s now over a year since I started posting these, one each week. If a person were not cautious, a person would conclude that Jesus has an inordinate love for the young and helpless. He takes so many of them under his wing. A previous post marked the sacrifice of young Monica Johnson. Now I mark the passing of her sister:

“What seems to be happening is that the children are doing fine and then they take a turn for the worse very quickly,” said Robert Levenson, director of the Philadelphia Health Department’s division of disease control.

Indeed, after 9-year-old Monica Johnson died last Sunday, a health department doctor visited the other 11 children in the family and, while not permitted to conduct an actual physical exam, found no cause for alarm. But early this morning Monica’s 13-year-old sister, Tina-Louise, died.

Monica, Tina-Louise, plus 9-year-old Karen Still, all died in a measles outbreak associated with, and to the fault of, two fundamentalist Christian churches in Philadelphia in 1991. The New York Times reported then:

Measles and Faith Combine In 5 Deaths in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 15— Five children have died in a measles outbreak here in the last 10 days, all of them from families that belong to two fundamentalist churches that preach a reliance on prayer, not medical care, to cure disease.

The churches, the Faith Tabernacle Congregation and the First Century Gospel Church, each run their own schools, which together have about 350 students who have never been inoculated against measles or other diseases.

[Emphasis added]

I have chosen to dribble these deaths out one at a time, week upon week, every Tuesday morning, in order to drive home a point. This problem is not come and gone. It persists. On a daily basis people are using religion as a license to kill—their children. So long as I can obtain the name or death report of a child, or an adult, who has fallen victim to this cultural monstrosity, I will post the details on a Tuesday.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Ever since this came out in 2004 I’ve been wanting to see it, but I didn’t want to pay any money to see it. This week, April 2017, it turned up on Amazon Prime Video in conjunction apparently with the Easter holiday season. However, the film is not about bunny rabbits and Easter eggs, or even Easter. It’s an exotic bit of sadomasochism for adults, reflecting writer, director Mel Gibson‘s extremist views. It’s The Passion of the Christ, featuring Jim Caviezel as Jesus and Maia Morgenstern as Jesus’ mother Mary. The distributor was Newmarket Films. Details are from Wikipedia.

I’m not going to detail the plot. It’s whole cloth from the New Testament accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, otherwise unknown. None of these writers were present, nor likely even alive, at the time of the events. See Bible Gateway for the text.

Those brought up in a Christian  world already know the story. Jesus was a radical Jewish rabbi during the time of the Roman occupation of the region east of the Mediterranean, particularly Jerusalem. He came crossway’s with the Jewish authority, who, according to most accounts, kowtowed to the Romans as a means of maintaining their own position. Jesus preached unorthodox philosophies and was thought by many to be the promised messiah, the god-man come to save the Jews from oppression. This did not sit well with authority, neither the Jews nor the Romans, and when Jesus crossed the line by throwing a fit and wrecking a temple, the Jews, led by King Herod, saw their chance to get rid of him.

The Jewish authority paid one of Jesus’ disciples, named Judas, to finger Jesus, so he could be arrested by the Romans. This scene shows Judas, knave that he is, down on  his knees before the authorities, grubbing to pick up the 30 pieces of silver he has spilled. Too bad for Judas. Ever since, his name has become synonymous with duplicity and betrayal. Although lots of people get named Jesus these days (my neighbor down the street), almost nobody gets named Judas. Or Hitler.

Anyhow, the movie covers the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life, starting with the night of his arrest and culminating with his death by crucifixion the following day. Justice was swift in those days. We see Jesus and his disciples reposing in an olive grove, and it is dark. No street lights in those days. Jesus confers with a spectral figure in female form and gets a hint of his fate. The movie dialog is a mixture of Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew, languages I do not speak, so I can only follow the conversation through the subtitles. I’m guessing the specter informs Jesus he will  die and save all mankind from eternal damnation. But that’s just my interpretation.

Although the plot is  straight line with no parallel themes, there are flash backs in Jesus’ life to give perspective. Here he is in  better days, showing his mother a table he has built. He was a carpenter, according to biblical accounts.

Starting with Jesus’ arrest (Judas identifies him by kissing him on the cheek), the film is all about injustice and an escalating program of debasement, brutalization, and  torture of Jesus, ultimately resulting in his death. Famous characters from the biblical account are depicted in stereotypical rendition. Here is Roman Governor Pontius Pilate (Hristo Shopov), haughty and impervious. He attained a certain level of fame through the biblical account of his washing his hands after dealing  with the matter of Jesus. The movie shows the famous washing hands scene.

We see the Jewish hierarchy, standing so solidly with their Roman masters. The very picture of complicity. You have to dislike them.

The arresting soldiers begin by punching and kicking Jesus, putting him in shackles, then dangling him off a bridge by the shackles. The brutality is just beginning. The movie is all about this drum beat of brutal assaults. You have to wonder what kind of pleasure anybody has watching this.

Yes, Jesus must be crucified. The crucifixion to take place on a hill outside the city, and you have to wonder how come the crosses are not already set up there. History tells us the Romans used crucifixion routinely, and we don’t want to believe they constructed new crosses each time. Anyhow, it was a gruesome form of death, and it served to remind non-Roman subjects just who was in charge and what waited for anybody defying Roman rule.

However,  the movie has to follow biblical tradition, and a cross is constructed especially for him, in the city, and he has to carry it through the city gates and up the hill. Even though Jesus gets help (the Romans press an on-looker into service), it is an epic struggle, which is what this movie wants to show. Great injustice, cruel treatment to the extreme, the shameful killing of a hero of the people.

Here’s the part that a gaggle of true Christians are going to get off on. They lay the cross out on the ground and drive nails through Jesus’ hands to affix them to the cross arms. Then they drive a nail through his feet to affix them to the upright. That has got to be painful. It’s what crucifixion was all about.

Finally they stand the cross upright so Jesus can die by suffocation. The deal is, when you are hung by your hands, nailed in this case, you can’t breath, and suffocation comes eventually. Attaching the feet to the upright slows the process. According to history, the executioners would sometimes break a prisoner’s legs to hasten death. Believe it if you will, this was the humane thing to  do.

After Jesus dies great turbulence strikes the region. An earthquake destroys the temple, and a massive storm approaches. A soldier jabs Jesus in the chest with a spear to ensure he is dead, and then they all flee.

Friends and Jesus’ mother take down the cross and remove the body from it. There is a scene in the movie that exactly captures Michaelangelo‘s Pietà. A nice, if obvious, touch by Gibson. The body is placed in an ossuary in a crypt, a cave dug out of the side of a cliff. The crypt is sealed by rolling a large rock over the opening. The movie ends with the rock rolling back (presumably the following  Sunday) and Jesus walking forth.

No doubt, Gibson pulled out all stops depicting the brutality inflicted on Jesus. There is plenty of motion picture blood spurting in response to the nails being driven in. Tales of the Soviet gulags pale by comparison. The film is a reflection of Gibson’s ultra-religious views:

ibson was raised a Sedevacantist traditionalist Catholic. When asked about the Catholic doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, Gibson replied, “There is no salvation for those outside the Church … I believe it. Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s… Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.” When he was asked whether John 14:6 is an intolerant position, he said that “through the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice… even people who don’t know Jesus are able to be saved, but through him.”[162] Acquaintance Father William Fulco has said that Gibson denies neither the Pope nor Vatican II. Gibson told Diane Sawyer that he believes non-Catholics and non-Christians can go to Heaven.

Gibson’s religiosity would be difficult to detect from his earlier films. Previously reviewed are Mad Max and Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome. Then there was the Lethal Weapon series, Payback, and Conspiracy Theory. I have watched, but not reviewed, We Were Soldiers, which features Gibson as the deeply Catholic Lieutenant Hall Moore.

What kills this movie is not only the fixation on sadism, but the plot, or lack thereof. There is no plot. If this had been a movie about a nameless woman, scooped off the street and tortured to death by some religious fanatics, the largely Christian fans would not only not watch it, but they would demand that nobody else should be allowed to watch it. The fundamentalist Christian audience gives a pass on the brutality depicted, because this is a bit of fiction ingrained in their faith, of scarce veracity at that.

No eyewitnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus wrote any of this stuff down. Accounts from biblical scholars hold that followers of Jesus scattered following the Roman crackdown, and the story was subsequently recreated from legends. The existence of an actual Jesus character is also questioned. Biblical depictions of Jesus’ birth do not square with know fact, heaping considerable doubt to the rest of the Jesus story.

Details of the movie do not jibe. Scenes of Jesus hanging on the cross by way of nails through his hands are recreated by having an actor supported from below. A real person supported as Jesus is shown would come close to dying before the camera’s lens. Perhaps more so.

Not wanting to be indelicate, but the movie shows friends of Jesus having removed his body from  the cross. They apparently pulled the nails. Not so. These were substantial nails, and a real carpenter would recognize the near impossibility of pulling them, having been driven through a four-inch timber and then bent over from the back side. The body would have been removed by cutting the hands. Realism is not a matter of concern here.

I had trouble with the language. The Romans speak Latin, and sometimes Hebrew when talking to the Jews. I don’t speak Latin, but it sounds as though the Romans are speaking Italian. They even speak with an Italian  accent. The Jews seem to switch between Aramaic and Hebrew, two of the three Semitic languages of the region, the other being Arabic. Gibson loaded the burden of  having actors speak these ancient languages on top of the more mundane production tasks. Not much is gained.

If you are a soaked in blood Christian, then this movie is for you. If you have any sense of propriety, you will  want to skip this snuff film.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Poisonous spiders and poisonous snakes get our immediate attention, but nothing kills like Jesus, coupled with stupidity. It’s Tuesday again and another occasion to pay tribute to a martyr to Jesus:

The Faith Tabernacle Congregation, founded here in 1897, bases its beliefs on a strict interpretation of the Bible. Among its tenets is the avoidance of all medical and surgical practices; members believe that healing will come from God.

The other victim, Karen Still, 9, was pronounced dead on arrival Thursday at Albert Einstein Medical Center. Her parents told the police she had been vomiting for four days.

Charles Reinert, presiding elder of the church, has declined to comment to reporters but has been cooperating with inquiries of health officials.

State law requires immunization before a child enters school, but exceptions are made for religious or medical reasons.

That term, “religious exemption,” requires some explanation. It’s code for “license to kill.”

Masters of Deceit

Some more of the same

L. Ron Hubbard using the E-Meter on a tomato in 1968 to test whether it experiences pain
Scott Lauder, Evening Standard / Hulton Archive / Getty Images: 3.2
Wright, Lawrence (2013-01-17). Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

What goes around comes around, apparently. We have seen the Church of Scientology previously:

I have some previous acquaintance with the Church of Scientology, so the term “Going Clear” wasn’t strange. “Going clear” is a term used in Scientology to mean going through their auditing process and clearing yourself of whatever Scientology means for you to clear yourself of. Something like twenty years ago a friend in Dallas told of his encounter with a Scientology recruiter. I contacted him to confirm my recollections. He did not recall the telling, but back then he said the recruiter told him he could go clear for only $16,000. My friend now reminds me people are paying much more.

Lawrence Wright’s book touts the history of the church, from a plot hatched by a prolific science fiction writer to a repressive cult to a 21st century financial enterprise. Cult aspects are highlighted by the church’s practice of “rehabilitation,” a scheme worked to keep members in line. Wright recounts the experience of member Hana Eltringham:

When she returned to the Apollo, she was shocked by the hellish changes that had taken place. In January 1974, Hubbard issued Flag Order 3434RB, creating the Rehabilitation Project Force. The stated goal was to rehabilitate Sea Org members whose statistics were down or who might be harboring subversive thoughts against Hubbard or his technology. Because the RPF provided a second chance for those who might otherwise be fired, Hubbard saw it as an enlightened management technique, the sole purpose of which was “redemption.” When Eltringham came aboard, she found dozens of crew members housed in the old cattle hold belowdecks, illuminated by a single lightbulb, sleeping on stained mattresses on the floor. They were dressed in black overalls, called boiler suits, and forbidden to speak to anyone outside their group. They ate using their hands from a bucket of table scraps, shoveling the food into their mouths as if they were starving.

Wright, Lawrence. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (pp. 154-155). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Episodes related in  the book appeared to stop short of involuntary confinement, at least to the extent that would stand up in court. All that seems to be in the rear view mirror now. The church may at last be meeting some harsh reality:

Scientology Rehab Facilities Shutdown After Holding Patients Against Their Will

Scientology facilities in Tennessee are closed down after police find patients are being held against their will.

The Cannon Courier reports three suspects have been charged and multiple rehabilitation facilities have been permanently closed in Cannon County after local police found patients being held against their will at psychiatric facilities owned and run by the Church of Scientology.

A statement from the Cannon County Sheriff’s office said:

The Cannon County Sheriff’s Department would like to make the general public of this county aware that the Scientology facilities are closed and not operating in Cannon County.

A number of Hollywood notables lend their shine to the cult, including:

Documentary film maker Alex Gibney has produced Going Clear, based on Wright’s book. I hope to obtain a copy and do a review.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Ruthless dictators come, and ruthless dictators go, but Jesus never sleeps. He is always present to welcome you into his arms, especially if you are young and helpless, and your parents are clueless. Today we honor Monica Johnson, just nine years old. She’s with Jesus now:

The most recent victim here, 9-year-old Monica Johnson, was pronounced dead on arrival Sunday at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. Police officers took her to the hospital after her parents called for help, saying she had difficulty breathing and had a rash.

Keep your young ones close to you, and cherish their lives. Jesus is at the door.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

They never do.

Tuesday again. Time for Jesus to take another young life. Only this was over a quarter of a century ago. Amazing how little changes:

In the early months of 1991, the nation was preoccupied with the Persian Gulf War, as the United States chased Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from his dream of annexing Kuwait.

In Philadelphia, health and school officials were locked in battle too – against a major measles outbreak, and the deep religious convictions which fueled the spread of the virus.

Nine children would die, six of them associated with two fundamentalist churches which preach a reliance on prayer, not medical care, to cure disease.

Five of those children would die in 10 days.

This post honors the sacrifice little Jamie Jones made in the cause of what some claim to be religious freedom, actually a license to  kill. He is only one of several, and his death spurred his grandmother to push the Pennsylvania legislature to clamp down on religious exemptions. Little progress has been made since. The stupid is strong here.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Apparently Jesus does save. Saves on the cost of health care. Also the cost of college tuition and the cost of public schooling for children. Because with Jesus you don’t need all this stuff. Because you are by then with Jesus:

Pennsylvania pastor charged in faith-healing death of 2-year-old granddaughter


17 MAR 2017 AT 07:14 ET

A pastor in a fundamentalist Christian sect that rejects doctors and drugs has been charged in the death of a child — his own granddaughter — from medical neglect.

The novel prosecution is raising hopes among some advocates that it might spur change in a church that has resisted it.

Faith Tabernacle Congregation has long told adherents to place their trust in God alone for healing. As a result, dozens of children, mostly in Pennsylvania, have died of preventable and treatable illnesses.

Apparently we have not heard the last of Faith Tabernacle Congregation. Ella Foster has. She is with Jesus now.

Friday Funny

One of a series

Sometimes God works in mysterious ways, all with the goal to amuse us. This week’s amusement comes from Christian activist Mary Colbert. And it is most amusing:

Christian Activist: God Will Curse The Children And Grandchildren Of Trump’s Opponents [VIDEO]

 “It’s not that Donald Trump is all that perfect of a guy. We all know he’s not. And we know that he’s not necessarily perfect in every way that we would like. That’s not how God works. He works through the ones he chooses. We don’t choose them. All we have to do is recognize them and when you recognize a chosen one and you have the discernment to know that they’ve been chosen and know that that’s the will of God, then your life will be blessed.

“And if you come against the chosen one of God, you are bringing upon you and your children and your children’s children curses like you have never seen. It puts a holy fear in me.” – Christian activist Mary Colbert, speaking on Jim Bakker’s show. Colbert was hailed as a “Christian leader” in a 2016 press release from the Trump campaign.

The straight skinny is, and get this, Donald Trump is the Chosen One. And if shy from the Chosen One, then a figment of imagination birthed in the fevered brain of a delusional nut case will reach down from on high and smite you mightily. This, as I for certainly the thousandth time, mock the Chosen One, never to experience a bolt from the blue, yea, never a flicker.

And I  find that amusing.

Heart Of Dumbness

Third in a Series

I previously posted a truncated review of Ray Comfort’s book You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think. That skeleton review only covered Ray Comfort’s views on science, which turned out to be amusing. His views on religion are no less so, and this concerns additional aspects of his views.

In his book, Comfort launches into a chapter devoted to creationism, as opposed to modern science. Chapter One has the title “Creation Must Have a Creator.” Following that are six more chapters dealing with Comforts views on morality, faith, and the Bible. Chapter Two deals with human conscience and its implication for the divinity of Jesus. The title is “Our Conscience Testifies to a Creator And Our Need For a Savior.” It’s worth a look. An example of Comfort’s thinking is exhibited throughout the book, and the following paragraph illustrates:

The same Creator Who gave us all of this to enjoy clearly wanted true abundance for us—not mere survival. He loves us. An impersonal force like evolution, if real, would have left us sitting on that bare rock, because it wouldn’t care about us beyond mere survival. But God does, and He proved it when He gave us this incredible planet to inhabit. The evidence of His existence and of His love is all around us. And, as mentioned in the last chapter, even atheists will have no excuse for denying Him on the Day of Judgment.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 633-637). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Take the following: “The same Creator Who gave us all of this to enjoy clearly wanted true abundance for us—not mere survival.”

First, Comfort opens with the premise of the existence of a creator, he capitalizes the word, and he imbue’s the creator with a love for humanity and a desire that people enjoy the world and all that the creator provides. That would partially explain the story of the Flood of Noah, wherein all but a few people were killed, and it would also help us understand the horrible existence experienced by a large part of the human population. Barring that, let’s give Comfort the benefit that he made prior attempts to justify his premise. What’s more?

Take the next: “He loves us. An impersonal force like evolution, if real, would have left us sitting on that bare rock, because it wouldn’t care about us beyond mere survival.”

In truth, an “impersonal force like evolution” requires a habitable world before anything like human beings can develop. All indications are that the human species developed on the very large continent of Africa, which even today offers an abundance of environmental possibilities. Times appeared to have been difficult for the early human population, considered to have reached a low point of about 10,000 individuals about three million years ago. A blog post in Why Evolution is True gives an account. Following that, some currently resplendent populations dropped to as few as 1200 individuals 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Comfort clinches his argument with “The evidence of His existence and of His love is all around us. And, as mentioned in the last chapter, even atheists will have no excuse for denying Him on the Day of Judgment.”

There is a lot to be swallowed with this. The evidence for a creator and his love for us (humans) is all around. That’s an argument? If joy of life is evidence “all around us” for love of the creator, then pestilence and misery are evidence for the creator’s disdain for our species. Or evidence for absence of a creator.

Not quite. Comfort plays the obverse side of the coin:

The suffering in the world is due to our living on a planet polluted by sin—not to God’s hatred or neglect.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 641-642). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

He says more, but this line is pertinent, and he restates this in different forms in multiple places. Elsewhere, Comfort defines sin, not as doing what is harmful to people, but as going against the creator’s wishes. Reading the entire book is going to give you to understand that living a good life is not the path to redemption. Only the acceptance, completely and without reservation, of Jesus the savior will garner salvation. It’s an idea that will not go over well with the Jews or the Muslims, but Comfort does not press that point, especially regarding the Jews.

But back to another point of Comfort: “[E]ven atheists will have no excuse for denying Him on the Day of Judgment.” Comfort completely misses the point that atheists know there is no “Day Judgment,” and there will be no need to apologize for denying a creator. Comfort’s reasoning is horribly circular, except for those who already believe.

Subsequently in the chapter Comfort gets dangerously close to scientifically verifiable matters:

The conscience is a dilemma for the believer in evolution. He doesn’t know why it exists. Neither do the experts. Why would evolution create something that tells us that it’s wrong to lie, to steal, to kill, and to commit adultery? Was primitive man committing these sins before he evolved a conscience? If he wasn’t, why did the conscience evolve? If he was, why did the conscience evolve?

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 656-659). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

A simple explanation for the development of a “conscience” in human populations is that its existence is beneficial to promotion of the populations containing conscience. People do not willy nilly commit offenses against society, because they are descended from people who have survived in a society that nurtures human life and mutual benefit. My explanation has never been demonstrated to be correct, but it is an explanation derived from reason and not from wishful thinking.

Subsequent chapters of the book exhibit quite the bizarre, and I will touch on those in later posts. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.