Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

Number 18 of a continuing series

I keep seeing stuff like this show up on my Facebook feed. Every now and then I figure i need to check one of them out. Here’s a recent one:

Mark Taylor: ‘Satan’s Frequency’ Is Making People Unable To See How God Is Using Trump To Save America

Last week, we highlighted “firefighter prophet” and right-wing conspiracy theorist Mark Taylor’s belief that the Illuminati and the Freemasons are using a special frequency to change people’s DNA in order to make them oppose President Trump.

On Friday, Taylor appeared on “The Sharpening Report” where he expanded on this theory, explaining that people who have had their bloodlines corrupted by sins committed by their ancestors are now being targeted by Satan via a frequency that is making them unable to see how God is using Trump to save America.

“People are picking up on the frequency of Satan right now,” he stated. “The goal of the Freemasons, the goal of the Illuminati, the goal of the globalists is to change your DNA. They want to change your DNA, they want you to hear what they want you to hear, see what they want you to see and speak what they want you to speak, act like they want you to act. They’re wanting to totally control you and the only way they can do that is through the bombardment of these frequencies.”

My first reaction was, “No way! Nobody is that stupid.” Of course I’ve been wrong before. From YouTube:

movies the news media you know they’re
04:17
throughout 440 Hertz versus 444 Hertz
04:20
which was God’s created over God’s
04:22
created frequency basically and that’s
04:24
what’s causing the agitation that’s
04:26
what’s causing health issues is causing
04:28
paranoia is causing fear
04:52
unemployment and the the economy worsens
04:56
he could have undermined the messaging
04:58
so much that he can actually control
05:01
exactly what people think you know the
05:07
instruments in our churches right now
05:08
are tunes that been detuned to 440 Hertz
05:11
and this all originated back in World
05:13
War one
Yeah, I think you need to watch the video.Of course, there is the possibility that Mr. Taylor doesn’t believe any of this—that he’s spewing it out to keep his audience going. That would be really cool. But then I remember, “Oh, yeah. There’re a bunch of people out in believer land sucking it up and swallowing it whole.” And that’s what keeps me awake at nights.

Dying to Believe

Number 123 in a series

Belief is strong, and people sometimes follow it all the way to the grave. For example:

On Sunday morning, 11 members of a family were found dead under mysterious circumstances at their residence in Burari area of North Delhi. Hours after the bodies were discovered, police found two notebooks in the house with details on how to “end life in order to attain moksha (salvation)”. “It contains a step-by-step account of how to surrender life; how the human body is temporary, but the soul continues to live on; how to cope with fear and pain by covering the mouth and eyes with tape or cloth, and tying hands… The last entry on June 25 refers to one of the dead, Lalit, and how everyone must jump off the stools they would stand on at his signal,” said a police source to The Indian Express. The discovery of the two notebooks has led to the suspicion that the deaths are associated with some form of occult practice.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the most horrific mass suicide of modern history. Keep reading. There will be more.

Son of Snake Oil

Number 2 of a Series

It’s back.

Actually, I think it never left. In fact, this outdates that good old American snake oil by centuries. It’s Qigong, and it’s here to save your life.

I have a number of email accounts, and one of them is devoted to matters skeptical. Here I receive all manner of challenges for the North Texas Skeptics paranormal prize and also a bunch of stuff relating to alternative medicine—AltMed. Qigong (chee gong) is not new to the Skeptics. At the CSICOP conference we hosted in 1992 they had a presenter come all the way from China to fill us in. It works like this. From Wikipedia:

The theories of ancient Chinese qigong include the Yin-Yang and Five Phases Theory, EssenceQiSpirit Theory, Zang-Xiang Theory, and Meridians and Qi-Blood Theory, which have been synthesized as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM focuses on tracing and correcting underlying disharmony, in terms of deficiency and excess, using the complementary and opposing forces of yin and yang (陰陽), to create a balanced flow of qi. Qi is believed to be cultivated and stored in three main dantian energy centers and to travel through the body along twelve main meridians (Jīng Luò 經絡), with numerous smaller branches and tributaries. The main meridians correspond to twelve main organs (Zàng fǔ 臟腑)). Qi is balanced in terms of yin and yang in the context of the traditional system of Five Phases (Wu xing 五行).[13][14] A person is believed to become ill or die when qi becomes diminished or unbalanced. Health is believed to be returned by rebuilding qi, eliminating qi blockages, and correcting qi imbalances. These TCM concepts do not translate readily to modern science and medicine.

The above image is from the site linked in the email I received Saturday. So is this one:

You are going to click on the images of satisfied patients to obtain additional information. Here is what they offer:

Feeling stressed? Having trouble unplugging from your full — sometimes too full! — life?

You might be looking for a simple practice that can help you find more balance… physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Or maybe your energy is low, you feel rundown, and you’re vulnerable to illness — or you have a chronic condition — and your go-to remedies and practices aren’t enough to turn things around.

It’s time to take your health into your own hands.

A daily Qigong practice, available to everyone, can immediately lower stress, increase energy, prevent illness, and support you in rejuvenating your body, mind, and spirit.

With Qigong, you can learn to bring healing energy — known as “Qi” — to particular parts of your body to transform anxiety, stress, and disease into self-confidence, inner peace, and optimal health.

As your body responds by doing what it’s designed to do (heal and re-balance itself), blockages in your flow of Qi disappear and your full life force energy moves smoothly, radiating out into all aspects of your daily life.

During The Qigong Global Summit, some of the world’s foremost Qigong teachers — including Master Mantak Chia, Daisy Lee, Lee Holden, Dr. Effie Chow, Dr. Roger Jahnke, Master Mingtong Gu, Pedram Shojai, Sifu Ama Lia Wai Ching Lee, Robert Peng, and others — will show you simple yet powerful practices to cultivate abundant Qi flow for your health, healing, and daily life.

These Qigong teachers, masters, and doctors in the first-ever Qigong Global Summit will share insights into the practices of Qigong, Tai Chi, Martial Arts, and Traditional Chinese Medicine — as well as how Qi is the foundation of all of these ancient arts, and more.

Through beautiful, high-quality video, they’ll illuminate both the philosophical and practical components of working with Qi — and offer simple practices you can use right away.

Our highly esteemed teachers will offer their wisdom on how to discover your inner healing potential, and perspectives on how to flow with the challenges of daily life.

That next to last paragraph is a winner. Qigong is all about managing your qi:

Believers of qi (chee) describe it as a vital energy whose flow must be balanced for health. Qi is a pseudoscientific, unverified concept, which has never been directly observed, and is unrelated to the concept of energy used in science (vital energy is itself an abandoned scientific notion).

I am not an authority on acupuncture, but those knowledgeable tell me it is based on managing your qi:

You may have heard the words “qi” or chi” with regard to acupuncture and alternative medicine. But do you even know how to pronounce it, let alone understand the concept? If you’ve ever wondered: “What is (qi) chi energy?” then read on. Understanding this important concept will help you better comprehend how Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture work.

The basics of understanding Chi | AMC Acupuncture School Miami

Qi or chi — pronounced “chee” — is the energy flow created along the pathways that connect the acupuncture points on the body. The pathways between the points are called meridians, which also connect to internal organs in the body. Using acupuncture needles, pressure or heat to manipulate a point or two separate points on the body can improve a person’s qi — which is also thought of as one’s life force — and relieve the symptoms of a variety of medical conditions, including chronic pain, digestive issues, respiratory problems and more. This understanding of the human body comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is thousands of years old. It’s a different way of thinking about how the body works than conventional Western medicine.

I was thankful to receive this particular piece of mail. It reminded me that foolishness is not not a modern invention. It is a human tradition that stretches back to the time when ignorance was an excuse.

Coming next: feng shui. I guarantee, you’re going to love it.

Dying to Believe

Number 122 in a series

We all know that Jesus saves. However, when things don’t work out, there can be deadly consequences:

At least 924 members of a doomsday religious sect in Uganda have died. The number of bodies increases daily and is expected to exceed 1,000 after the last compound belonging to the destructive cult is examined:

  • About 530 in an intentionally-set fire that gutted their church in Kanungu, Uganda on Friday, 2000-MAR-17. Police have counted 330 skulls in the church; however, some bodies had been converted to ash. Almost all were burned beyond recognition. The dead included at least 78 children. The precise number of the dead will never be known.
  • In the days following the tragedy, police discovered five pit latrines covered in fresh cement. One was opened. Public health officer Richard Opira said: “we found five bodies on the surface and when we shone a torch there were more underneath…They haven’t been wounded so we think they were strangled or maybe poisoned.” By MAR-21, six bodies had been removed: three had had their stomachs slit open; one had a crushed skull. Dr. Sam Birungi explained: “Some were beaten, some were burned, some were chemically poisoned then their bodies were dumped down in the pit.”
  • 153 bodies were discovered in another compound belonging to the religious group in nearby Buhunga.
  • 155 bodies were unearthed in a mass grave in a sugarcane field in Fr. Dominic Kataribabo’s estate at Rugazi. Some of the latter had been stabbed; others had pieces of cloth wrapped tightly around their throats. They appeared to have been dead for at least a month.
  • Another 81 bodies, including 44 children were discovered on the farm of lay leader Joseph Nymurinda.
  • A fifth compounds belonging to the religious group has not been investigated. As of 2000-APR-3, the police are waiting until they had collected proper equipment. They are asking for international aid in the form of expert forensic pathologists.

It was a good time to be a sinner.

The Quintessence of Dumbshitia

Number 6 in a continuing thread

Lest people, in relation to “Dumbshitia,” conjure up visions of people purchasing insurance coverage from door-to-door salesmen, I hasten to ensure there is a deeper definition reserved. “Dumbshitia” is a special place set aside for those who think, speak, even act, in the face of all that is contrary. Such people would include creationists.

Apologists might insist that creationists have an out. Their insistence that everything was created by a higher intelligence—and that much of basic science contradicting creationism is false, even malicious—is an example of unloading blame from one false premise onto another, and I denounce this argument. Creationists are compellingly dumb, and there is ample evidence. For example…

Two years ago I posted an item titled “44 Reasons Why Evolution Is Just A Fairy Tale For Adults.” The wording is not mine. It’s the title of an item posted by a creationist, the link to which showed up on my Facebook feed. I responded by authoring a lengthy piece to address each of the deadly 44, beginning with:

This is amazing. I picked this link off my Facebook feed Friday and took a quick read. I am pasting it here:

The theory of evolution is false.  It is simply not true.  Actually, it is just a fairy tale for adults based on ancient pagan religious philosophy that hundreds of millions of people around the world choose to believe with blind faith.  When asked to produce evidence for the theory of evolution, most adults in the western world come up totally blank.  When pressed, most people will mumble something about how “most scientists believe it” and how that is good enough for them.  This kind of anti-intellectualism even runs rampant on our college campuses.  If you doubt this, just go to a college campus some time and start asking students why they believe in evolution.  Very few of them will actually be able to give you any real reasons why they believe it.  Most of them just have blind faith in the priest class in our society (“the scientists”).  But is what our priest class telling us actually true?  When Charles Darwin popularized the theory of evolution, he didn’t actually have any evidence that it was true.  And since then the missing evidence has still not materialized.  Most Americans would be absolutely shocked to learn that most of what is taught as “truth” about evolution is actually the product of the overactive imaginations of members of the scientific community.  They so badly want to believe that it is true that they will go to extraordinary lengths to defend their fairy tale.  They keep insisting that the theory of evolution has been “proven” and that it is beyond debate.  Meanwhile, most average people are intimidated into accepting the “truth” about evolution because they don’t want to appear to be “stupid” to everyone else.

In this day and age, it is imperative that we all learn to think for ourselves.  Don’t let me tell you what to think, and don’t let anyone else tell you what to think either.  Do your own research and come to your own conclusions.  The following are 44 reasons why evolution is just a fairy tale for adults…

All right. That’s the lead-off. Following are the famous 44. I’m not going to put the pasted text in quotes, but I will insert my response to each in bold to set it off from the original.

And there it sat, since July two years ago. And some have submitted comments. WordPress, which hosts this site, reports that ten have commented. And some have been positive. Others less so, with a vengeance. What prompts me to bring this up today is a comment, from last week. Read it in its entirety:

You are deluional. There are no transitional fossils and one cannot prove animals are related genetically by how their bones look. The dating methods do not work due to how geometrical progressions work. If you have a big half time you cannot test it empirically if you can test it then is too small to help date something milions of years old. There are no vestigial organs and having something destroyed is not the same as creating something. The term dinosaur was created to replace the term dragon and hide humans coexisted. We have living index fossils that are still used. No mechanism has been discovered to generate more information in the DNA code. Evolution is a fairytale born from the desire to believe man can become immortal without God . They want to believe they can become as God. But they are deceived. The biggest lie is the one that a person desperately wants to believe.

Put aside the failures of language, they are all too familiar and expected in responses from creationists. Note the absence of substance in Cyp’s argument, and note the vitriol in his(?) language. Finally note his central reliance on God to drive home his point. The baseless pulled in to shore up the baseless.

Don’t think I am piling on Cyp. His is the most recent of several:

idiot..i have one thing ti say…al the hearsay and lack of evidence you attack the writers of the article you were going after, you did as well. i can quote several times you didn’t explain..give examples…evidence…but guess what..just spoken or “written” words in your case. you did nothing and achieved nothing for most of this long article. also..you use circle reasoning thru-out, of which im sure you will use again to rebuttal this. asking some one to use evolution based world view foundation to disprove evolution or else anything said is wrong by inherent basis is like me requiring you to use creation based world view ” as the science is the same, just different world views direction how evidence is interpreted or rationalized”, to completely disprove creation. neither theory can be proven or disproved via the scientific method of observable and repeatable”,and neither are fact. where we get pissed of is your blind faith and enforcement of your theory as fact…when only reason you do so is cause the only other option besides everything made it self is some one else made everything.

It funny that very evidence your looking for from your statement is right there every-time you look in the mirror, breathe, eat or poop, your quoted “The entire theory of evolution is based on blind faith.” Yes! All of it! Luckily, creationism requires no act of blind faith… All it asks of you is to accept the existence of an omnipotent creator” if you or anything on this earth were not perfect first time nothing not bacteria would exist ……… Not once did the did you respond to anything with factual information or try to disprove it all you had was condescending childish retorts and sarcasm, your a fool and made yourself look foolish while trying to dismiss the article, that presented fact while showing error as opposed to your troll attack ….. smh in the end you’ll find out but then it will be too late

I support the notion that the shortcomings of your antagonists cannot be used to support your own position. That said, there is great comfort in knowing these may be the best your opponent has to put forward. They are the quintessence of Dumbshitia.

Dying to Believe

Number 121 in a series

Welcome Jesus into your home.—say goodbye to your children. A loving example:

Christian Parents Charged With Murder After Starving Daughter For ‘Religious Reasons’

What a wonder it is when faith is stronger than basic humanity. Would that more of the faithful were so caring.

Moral Bankruptcy

Number 2 of a Series

Here are a few words from that paragon of Christian morality, Franklin Graham:

Everyone in the media is talking about the just-released tape & what the President said or didn’t say, what he meant or didn’t mean. It is a good moment to point out that everyone should realize that every word that is spoken or thought is recorded by God. 1/3

Here’s a sober warning from God’s Word, “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, & what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:3). 2/3

The Bible says it is appointed unto man once to die & then the judgment. We won’t be judged by media spin masters or forensic audio analysts, but you will be judged by truth & righteousness—by God Himself. Have you ever thought about what His verdict will be on your words? 3/3

We can all enjoy the language invoking “media spin masters or forensic audio analysts.” That’s powerful use of the English language. What is more powerful are the bare facts.

These are screen shots from ABC news streaming on Hulu. There are more.

At what point do I need to stop posting these because the Reverend Graham has become too embarrassed. Apparently at no point. What is apparent for all to see is the moral bankruptcy of self-appointed moral leadership. It is a leadership that is running on empty.

Dying to Believe

Number 120 in a series

Just a friendly reminder: don’t believe all that stuff you read in the Bible. That is, unless you are looking for an early exit:

Watch: Rattlesnake attacks Christian conservative pastor who thought Jesus would ‘save him’

In Middlesboro, Kentucky, a pastor was seen collapsing to the ground after he was bitten by a rattlesnake in front of his congregation.

Back in 2014, the pastor’s father had also died within seven minutes after being bitten by a rattlesnake at the same church.

The church is inspired by Mark 16:18 that reads, “They will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them.”

Listen to Jesus if you want, but there is no getting around hard chemical and biological reality.

Moral Bankruptcy

The Beginning of a New Series

If you want to find God you need go no further than 1707 San Jacinto Street in Dallas, Texas. That’s where you will find that bastion of Christianity presided over by Dr. Robert Jeffress—the First Baptist Church of Dallas. And what a monument to higher power it is. Founded 30 July 1868, its membership reported two years ago is approximately 12,000. I lived in Dallas many years and always knew this church as the go-to place for the city’s movers and shakers. Sunday attendance is massive, and what a congregation it is. From the church Web site:

There can be little doubt this institution embodies all we come to think of regarding morality, faith, wealth, and power. Except for the part about morality. The back story shows that “morality” is difficult to pin down.

W. A. Criswell, in a discussion of racial integration, stated that he expressed astonishment at the cowardice of ministers “whose forebears [sic] and predecessors were martyrs and were burned at the stake”, but who themselves refuse to speak up about “this thing of integration”. True ministers, he argued, must passionately resist government mandated desegregation because it is “a denial of all that we believe in”.

Current pastor Jeffress has spoken out in the past against MuslimsJewsCatholicsMormons and homosexuals, claiming that Islam “promoted pedophilia“. In 2008, Jeffress, in his sermon “Gay Is Not OK”, stated that “What they [homosexuals] do is filthy. It is so degrading that it is beyond description. And it is their filthy behavior that explains why they are so much more prone to disease.” In September 2010, Pastor Jeffress branded Islam as an “evil, evil religion”. And in December 2010, Jeffress established a “Naughty and Nice List” where businesses are identified based on whether or not they openly celebrated Christmas, saying “I wanted to do something positive to encourage businesses to acknowledge Christmas and not bow to the strident voices of a minority who object to the holiday.” Also in 2010, he referred to Roman Catholicism as a “Satanic” result of “Babylonian mystery religion”. In October 2011 at the Values Voter Summit, Jeffress branded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) as “a cult”. He received widespread criticism for his statement, but has not retracted it despite then U.S. presidential candidate and LDS church member Mitt Romney‘s request for him to do so.

Yeah, not a train load of brotherly love going to waste here. I recall those years when W. A. Criswell was the man. He is credited with building the church to its current greatness and apparently with setting its current tone. What an honor it was to view this spectacle from a distance. Now it’s time to take a long view.

Since I retired it became my job to sign up for email from the likes of Pastor Robert Jeffress, and there has been no shortage of fascinating stuff landing in my in-box. A recurring theme is selling salvation.

So, enough of that. I know that a church, any church, cannot live off of air. There has got to be a source of income. With a reported net worth of $15 million, Pastor Jeffress far outstrips my personal fortune (shared with Barbara Jean), and we all know God does not pay his shepherds out of pocket. But God is for sale. That given, what follows?

How about concern for basic humanity? Not so much, as evidenced by the company he keeps. In this analysis we should distinguish Pastor Jeffress from his predecessor, W.A. Criswell:

Criswell did not mince words. He railed against both the National Council of Churches and the NAACP as those “two-by scathing, good-for-nothing fellows who are trying to upset all of the things that we love as good old Southern people and as good old Southern Baptists.”

He even used racist humor to make his points: “Why the NAACP has got those East Texans on the run so much that they dare not pronounce the word chigger any longer. It has to be cheegro.”

Criswell saw integration an attack on both state rights and democracy by carpetbaggers. Even more so, it was a blow to Southern Baptist religious liberty: Churches had the right and the responsibility to keep their congregations segregated.

To his credit, Pastor Jeffress adopts a more civilized tone. I do not, however, see him seeking the company of moral icons. See the following images from my in-box.

Yeah, Pastor Jeffress is a great fan of Fox News and President Donald Trump. The allegiance is reciprocated. An important note from the the above is worth digesting: “Donald Trump may be the most faith-friendly president in history…” The note also mentions Jeffress’ role in the Trump inauguration. When your definition of faith falls to this level the evidence accumulates rapidly:

Pastor Jeffress’ definition of morality is one I never encountered in my growing up. From where I view his claims of morality, Pastor Jeffress is running on empty.

Criminal Empire

The DVD has been on my shelf for several weeks, and today I got around to watching. Worth the investment—this is a compelling story. Screen shots are from the DVD. Details and quotes are from Wikipedia.

Spotlight was (is?) the name of an investigative team at The Boston Globe. The 2015 movie is about their investigation into corruption in the local diocese of the Catholic Church. Priests were sexually molesting (raping) children, boys and girls, and the Church was covering it up. The relevance of this film has gained monumental strength with additional revelations earlier this month.

The movie opens with a scene in a Boston precinct station, where a priest, Father John Geoghan, is the subject of an investigation. A young policeman converses with the desk sergeant about the matter, and he is assured that the matter is going to be handled in the usual way. It’s 1976.

A young prosecuting assistant district attorney exits the interview and tells the sergeant to keep the matter quiet. The priest is hustled out of the station and driven away.

In 2001 The Boston Globe hires a new editor. He is Marty Baron , played by Liev Schreiber. He is a Jew. The previous editor was Catholic, as are about half the population of Boston. This is significant, because the previous editor was reluctant to publicize Catholic Church misdeeds. Here Baron discusses strategy with “Walter “Robby” Robinson, the editor of the newspaper’s “Spotlight” team,” played by Michael Keaton.

The Globe was acquired by The New York Times in 1993, losing some of its independence. Also, the newly surging Internet is draining readership from print media. The newspaper has to win back readership by providing insight not available to thinly sourced Internet sites. Baron tasks the Spotlight team with investigating and reporting on Church corruption. Here Robby strategizes with the team.

Reporter Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) holds a conference over lunch with Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), a lawyer for several victims of Church abuse. Garabedian tells him there are documents under seal that can be made public. Abuse by diocese priests has been ongoing for decades and Cardinal Bernard Law (Len Cariou) has been covering it up. Priests have been shuffled from place to place as they continue to molest children. We learn from psychotherapist Richard Sipe (Richard Jenkins) that 6% of Catholic priests are guilty of child molestation. With 1000 priests, that means approximately 60 Boston priests are involved.

The newspaper has in its library records of Boston priests—their tenure in the diocese, reasons for leaving.

Rather than search for victims, the reporters decide to identify guilty priests. Many have been reassigned for other than legitimate reasons.

“Unassigned.” “Sick Leave.”

Reporter Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) digs into the “morgue” files and hands Robby a story from years back. The newspaper has been party to the cover-up.

Sacha tracks down priests they have identified and interviews one at his house. As described by Sipe, this one has the maturity of a child and fails to recognize he did anything wrong. His sister interrupts the interview and orders Sacha to leave.

Disaster! As Garabedian prepares to file the motion that will unseal the critical documents, the terror attacks of 11 September disrupt air travel and all news reporting. The documents remain public for weeks before Rezendes can get access to them and bribe a clerk to make copies. There is much resistance all along to allowing the documents into the open.

The air clears, the paper waits until after the Christmas holidays to print the lead story, and the presses roll. All great newspaper-themed dramas have these scenes. Miles of newsprint churning through the presses and the folding machines.

Bundled by automatic machinery.

Loaded onto trucks and driven into the streets for delivery.

A reporter places a copy on a critical doorstep.

The reporters go into work the following day, their day off. The news story carried the phone number (and URL) for the Spotlight hotline. The phones ring continuously as victims and others contact the paper.

The closing credits tell the horrific details that came to light as a consequence of The Globe‘s revelations.

That was 17 years ago. Earlier this month it became apparent that the Boston episode had no impact on the Church’s corrupt practices.

Catholic Priests Abused 1,000 Children in Pennsylvania, Report Says

Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it, according to a searing report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday.

The report, which covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses and found more than 1,000 identifiable victims, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The report said there are likely thousands more victims whose records were lost or who were too afraid to come forward.

It catalogs horrific instances of abuse: a priest who raped a young girl in the hospital after she had her tonsils out; a victim tied up and whipped with leather straps by a priest; and another priest who was allowed to stay in ministry after impregnating a young girl and arranging for her to have an abortion.

The sexual abuse scandal has shaken the Catholic Church for more than 15 years, ever since explosive allegations emerged out of Boston in 2002. But even after paying billions of dollars in settlements and adding new prevention programs, the church has been dogged by a scandal that is now reaching its highest ranks. The Pennsylvania report comes soon after the resignation of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, who is accused of sexually abusing young priests and seminarians, as well as minors.

There is much more I could mention here, but it has become no longer necessary. The implications and the remedy must by now be manifest to all—all but a few in a small enclave in Rome.

Dying to Believe

Number 119 in a series

Is there an echo in here. It seems we have heard this before. “An untimely death is not certain when Jesus is involved, but having Jesus on your side can move things along.” For example:

Officials identify toddler stabbed to death at Lewisville apartments

LEWISVILLE — A man is accused of fatally stabbing and beating his 16-month-old son before a neighbor at his Lewisville apartment complex attempted to stop the attack by shooting him in the leg, police said Sunday.

Witnesses reported that a man was stabbing or beating a child about 12:40 p.m. in a courtyard at the Oak Forest Apartments on South State Highway 121 Business near Bellaire Boulevard.

A neighbor heard screaming, grabbed a gun and fired three shots, striking the father once in the leg and “effectively ending the assault on the child,” police Captain Jesse Hunter said.

The Tarrant County medical examiner identified the child Monday as 1-year-old Ashton Ness. A few hours later, the child’s name was removed from the medical examiner’s website.

During the attack, the father was yelling “Jesus is coming,” a witness told police.

The toddler had severe injuries, including stab wounds, and was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

[Emphasis added]

And my Jesus have mercy on my soul.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a series

A Sunday school teacher is concerned that his students might be a little confused about Jesus, so he asks his class: “Where is Jesus today?”

Steven raises his hand and says, “He’s in Heaven.”

Mary answers, “He’s in my heart.”

Little Johnny waves his hand furiously and blurts out, “He’s in our bathroom!”

The surprised teacher asks Little Johnny how he knows this.

“Well,” Little Johnny says, “Every morning my father gets up, bangs on the bathroom door and yells, “Jesus Christ, are you still in there?!”

Dying to Believe

Number 118 in a series

Who needs Jesus? Premature death is available from all manner of false belief. For example:

Prosecutor: Missing boy died at New Mexico compound in religious ritual

Y’all be careful out there. Religious zeal knows no limits.

Your Friend The Handgun

Number 123

The answer to the gun death crisis is not fewer guns but putting God back into our lives. How’s that working out?

1 dead, suspect in custody after shooting at Mormon church in Nevada

Last Updated Jul 22, 2018 11:34 PM EDT

Authorities are investigating a shooting that took place at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fallon, Nevada. At least one person was killed and one person was injured Sunday afternoon, according to CBS affiliate KTVN-TV. The station writes that the suspect, John K. O’Connor, 48, is in custody but has not been charged yet.

KTVN-TV reports there were about 50 witnesses when the incident unfolded inside the church. Police say the suspect went home after opening fire and police followed him there where a hostage negotiator was able to get him to surrender.

I’m glad we finally got that matter settled.

Dying to Believe

Number 117 in a series

Did I say it’s necessary to believe in Jesus in order for you to die before your time? If I ever said that, then I need to apologize. It is not necessary to believe in Jesus for you to die needlessly. But it helps:

In October 1994, Tony Dutoit’s infant son (Emmanuel Dutoit), aged three months, was killed at the group’s centre in Morin-Heights, Quebec. The baby had been stabbed repeatedly with a wooden stake. It is believed that Di Mambro ordered the murder, because he identified the baby as the Antichrist described in the Bible. He believed that the Antichrist was born into the order to prevent Di Mambro from succeeding in his spiritual aim.

That’s the Order of the Solar Temple, and it should not be considered representative of all Jesus-based cults. But let’s work on the premise that OST is representative, and let’s all enjoy a safer existence.

The Years of Living Stupidly

Number 8 in a series

The photo shows creationists Walter Bradley and Ide Trotter at a workshop hosted by the Texas Education Agency, where they were assigned the task of reviewing high school biology texts for public schools.

I tend to devote this series to people being stupid about science, such as by using science and religion in the same sentence. That often comes about when people, caught up in religion, carry the contagion with them when they step across the line into fields of science—or into any other area requiring rational thought. Who does this a lot are the people at the Discovery Institute (DI), the premier organization in this country promoting Intelligent Design.

A rich resource on this kind of foolishness is the DI’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC), founded by creationist Stephen C. Meyer, among others. the thinking of DI fellows and the CSC are made public on an associated site called Evolution News. More recently, I found the following posted on the Discovery Institute site:

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor: Why Machines Will Never Think

From remarks at the official launch of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence

ROBERT CROWTHER, II AUGUST 1, 2018

This is interesting on multiple levels, one of which relates to Dr. Michael Egnor, whom we have met before:

Michael Egnor is a prominent neurosurgeon and a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Stony Brook University. He became inoculated against evolution (the science of biological evolution) after reading  Michael Denton‘s book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Egnor has aligned himself with the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture (CSC), one of the leading creationist organizations in this country and likely the absolute leader in support of the Intelligent Design version of creationism. An excerpt from one of his posts on the CSC’s Evolution News blog may be characteristic:

Scopes was put on trial for violating the Butler Act, which prohibited teaching human evolution to schoolchildren in Tennessee. What Scopes actually taught, if anything, is unclear, because Scopes was untruthful about what he did, and the trial was a legal ploy to spur a Supreme Court ruling. The truth was a secondary consideration at best to Scopes and to his team.

Hunter’s textbook Civic Biology was racist and taught eugenics. It was vile stuff. If a teacher taught from it today, he would not be prosecuted for violating the Butler Act. He would be prosecuted for federal civil rights violations.

Follow the link and read the post for complete details. Anyhow, Dr. Egnor now proposes to  boldly step outside his realm of expertise and into the quagmire that is Artificial Intelligence (AI). I took some time to read through his thinking on the matter, and you are invited to do likewise. What I found is that, while Dr. Egnor is likely correct in some of his conclusions, he is correct for the wrong reasons. An illustration from Dr. Egnor’s monograph:

What is the hallmark of human thought, and what distinguishes thoughts from material things? Franz Brentano (1838–1917), a German philosopher in the 19th century, answered this question decisively. All thoughts are about something, whereas no material object is inherently “about” anything. This property of aboutness is called intentionality, and intentionality is the hallmark of the mind. Every thought that I have shares the property of aboutness—I think about my vacation, or about politics, or about my family. But no material object is, in itself, “about” anything. A mountain or a rock or a pen lacks aboutness—they are just objects. Only a mind has intentionality, and intentionality is the hallmark of the mind.

Another word for intentionality is meaning. All thoughts inherently mean something. A truly meaningless thought is an oxymoron. The meaning may be trivial or confusing, but every thought entails meaning of some sort. Every thought is about something, and that something is the meaning of the thought.

That’s what I like about philosophers. First, they fall back on what other philosophers have said—with little or no attempt at confirmation, and they talk of things being true, apparently for the sole reason that they say they are true. How about, “Only a mind has intentionality, and intentionality is the hallmark of the mind?” Whether he realizes it or not, what Dr. Egnor has just done is to write a definition for the word mind. Please note the statement does not preclude a computer becoming a mind. What it says is that if a computer attains intentionality, then a computer can become a mind. Dr. Egnor never offers any reason a computer cannot become a mind. He says it, so it must be so.

Under other circumstances I would pass off Dr. Egnor’s musing as the product of religious corruption. I cannot do this, because it happens that Dr. Egnor, in his musings, is in the company of mental giants, one being renowned mathematical physicist Roger Penrose. It happens that Penrose is of the same mind as Dr. Egnor in this matter. Neither believes a computer can become a mind, and Penrose has written a book on the matter titled The Emperor’s New Mind. I have had a copy of the book since it came out in 1989, but I did not read through it. That’s because I quickly encountered conclusions I cannot sign off on. In the book, Penrose seems to invoke the argument from incredulity, much as Dr. Egnor does above. Martin Gardner wrote the forward, concluding:

Penrose’s achievements in mathematics and physics– and I have touched on only a small fraction– spring from a lifelong sense of wonder toward the mystery and beauty of being. His little finger tells him that the human mind is more than just a collection of tiny wires and switches. The Adam of his prologue and epilogue is partly a symbol of the dawn of consciousness in the slow evolution of sentient life. To me he is also Penrose– the child sitting in the third row, a distance back from the leaders of AI– who dares to suggest that the emperors of strong AI have no clothes. Many of Penrose’s opinions are infused with humour, but this one is no laughing matter.

Penrose, Roger. The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Oxford Landmark Science) (Kindle Locations 143-148). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

Here is a sampling of Penrose’s own thinking, highlighted in my Kindle edition by earlier readers:

Most particularly, I argue that the phenomenon of consciousness cannot be accommodated within the framework of present-day physical theory.

Penrose, Roger. The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Oxford Landmark Science) (Kindle Locations 153-154). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

My reasoning, as presented in this book, has two main strands to it. The first of these endeavours to show, by appealing to results of Gödel (and Turing) that mathematical thinking (and hence conscious thinking generally) is something that cannot be encapsulated within any purely computational model of thought. This is the part of my argument that my critics have most frequently taken issue with. The second strand of the reasoning is to demonstrate that there is an important gap in our physical picture of the world, at a level which ought to bridge the submicroscopic world of quantum physics to the macro-world of classical physics. My viewpoint demands that the missing physics falling within this gap, when found, will play an essential part in the physical understanding of the conscious mind. Moreover, there must be something outside purely computational action in this sought-for area of physics.

Penrose, Roger. The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Oxford Landmark Science) (Kindle Locations 164-170). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

Penrose appears to set aside a special place for living forms, and he does not limit this thinking to the mind. I took four courses from  Wolfgang Rindler, and after I got my degree I came back to the campus to attend a 70th birthday party for him. Roger Penrose attended, as well, and he gave a talk in which he explained that living material needs to be explained in terms of  quantum physics. I  got that this was an explanation in terms of quantum  physics beyond the fact that quantum physics determines basic chemical properties of the elements, and I asked the question, “Are you resurrecting the concept of vitalism?” He assured me he was not, and I let it go at that. For the moment. The truth is, I consider Penrose’s invocation of quantum mechanics as vitalism dressed up in a lab coat.

Apparently anybody can be a philosopher, so I’m thinking about giving it a try. In future postings I will provide rational explanations for human thought, life, death, and the origin of the universe. Keep reading.

Darwin Day

A continuation

Back in February the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas (FACT) contributed an op-ed piece to the San Antonio Express-News in celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday—Darwin Day. You can follow the link at the top of this page and read a reprint.

Subsequently there was a response from creationist Matthew Cserhati. I am reprinting his editorial here so you will have the opportunity to read it and also to allow me to link to it in something else I’m writing. Here it is:


Creationism is, in fact, science

By Matthew Cserhati, Correspondent
Published 12:00 am CDT, Sunday, July 22, 2018

Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species,” published about 100 years ago, expounded the theory of evolution. Creationists continue to insist it isn’t proven, final science.

Re: “As logic, science come under attack, push back with facts,” Another View by John Blanton, Feb. 11:

John Blanton, a member of the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas, paints what he calls religious people as opponents of reason and free thought. Specifically, he cites creationists on a wide spectrum challenging established science.

First of all, it is a well-known fact that science did not begin with Darwin, whose 209th birthday was being celebrated by FACT. Rather, science has its origin within the Christian church, with the command from God to “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). In order to subdue nature, one must understand it — hence the biblical injunction to pursue science.

Second of all, because it cannot be directly observed or verified, macro-level evolution cannot be considered to be a fact, however strong FACT would insist that it is. Explanations are offered only as to how species could have evolved. Lacking is the exact, precise demonstration that organisms did evolve. Thus evolution is only a theory.

Furthermore, it should never be a crime to question the authority of a well-nigh monolithic theory, which thousands of Ph.D.-level scientists such as I call into question based on scientific evidence. Blanton should remember that in 1925 the American Civil Liberties Union argued for equal representation of evolutionary theory during the Scopes trial, to which he referred. One voice openly questioning evolutionary theory should become millions, since half the population of the United States doesn’t accept evolution. An open public debate between creationism and evolution leads to more healthy science. Offering always only one side of the story leads to bad science and bad explanations.

Blanton cannot see the forest because of the trees. Blanton’s religion is materialistic naturalism, stemming from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea that nature is everything that was, is and ever shall be, purposefully excluding God and the divine from the grand picture a priori. How can you be open-minded if you’re willing to consider only one line of explanation? Taken to the logical extreme, skeptics must doubt everything. Thus, truly, like Descartes they know next nothing. But God knows everything.

Creationism is scientific. Atheists acknowledge the fact that why the universe came into existence is a metaphysical question. Thus whether the universe came about either through natural or supernatural means is an open question. Therefore, since the origin of the universe has not been observed by a human eye, it is certainly possible that God created it. And, in such a supernaturally created world, it is possible to pursue origins science. Creationism doesn’t claim to be privy to the supernatural process of divine creation. Rather, creation science studies the handiwork of God’s creative acts. God created, therefore, let us examine the created world.

It is a well-known fact that thousands of so-called living fossils exist all over the world, resisting change over long periods of time. Taxonomists have discovered and studied millions of species, which all cluster into disjunct kinds that are spoken of in Genesis 1:21. Missing links are still missing. The scientific literature is chock-full of examples of genetic structures being “evolutionarily conserved,” an oxymoron if there ever was one. Genome reduction in organisms is so pervasive that researchers Yuri Wolf and Eugene Koonin in 2013 devised the biphasic model of genomic evolution whereby the genomes of organisms undergo initial rapid (miraculous) complexification, followed by gradual genome reduction, which is itself contrary to evolution.

Thus instead of trying to extinguish other opinions and points of view, so-called freethinkers should allow them to flourish.

Matthew Cserhati is a bioinformatics programmer living in San Antonio. He has a doctorate in biology and a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He has been active in the creation/evolution debate for 17 years and has presented on this subject numerous times.

Dying to Believe

Number 116 in a series

Feeling as though the world has started to go loopy? You’re not alone, and it has:

Nearly 90 Percent Of Americans Have Prayed For Healing

Prayer is a common but little-discussed feature of therapeutic care.

If you’ve ever prayed for healing for yourself or someone you know, you’re not alone. In fact, the majority of Americans have prayed for healing at least once in their lives, and this prevalence suggests the spiritual practice could have some major benefits, according to a new study.

About 79 percent of people have prayed for themselves and 87 percent have prayed for others, according to data from a randomized Gallup survey of 1,714 Americans. Among those who have prayed for themselves, 32 percent reported they do so often, and among those who have prayed for others, 51 percent do it often.

More than half of the survey respondents have asked for prayer for themselves or participated in a prayer group (54 percent and 53 percent, respectively), and 26 percent have even participated in a laying on of hands, or when a person places their hands on the body of someone who needs healing while praying for them.

A little background. I had hospital procedures on two occasions this year, and I kept getting this question in the entrance interview. “Do you have a religious preference.” I’m wondering if I answered yes, and something went wrong in the O.R., would they pray for me, or would they actually make an attempt at saving my life? The things is, I would never know.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 230 of a series

This has to be just about Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s worst move. Then, I never saw any of the Conan films. This is End of Days, and it came out in 1999, at the appropriate time for such a movie. Recall that as the 20th century closed down all kinds of doom was projected, not counting four-digit date software issues. The deal was 2000 was supposed to be the 2000th anniversary of Jesus of Nazareth (born in the year -4). 2000 was supposed to be the beginning of the new millennium, and it was, except the new millennium started at the end of 2000, not the first of January 2000. Anyhow, this is about the religious notion of end of days, and there is more on this topic than you care to hear. The movie is currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

When the movie opens we see a priest (or a monk) at the Vatican pulling out cannisters of ancient scrolls. He finds the one he is looking for.

He takes the document to the Holy Father with startling news. The girl that was prophesied is about to be born. It’s 1979, twenty years prior to 1999, and the girl is going to grow up to bear the child of the Prince of Darkness. Many churchmen declare the girl must be killed to forestall this prophecy. The Pope decides (since when?) it would be immoral to sacrifice an innocent. The girl must be protected.

It’s a few days before New Year’s Eve in 1999, and a Nameless Banker (Gabriel Byrne) is having dinner at a swanky Manhattan eatery, along with a business acquaintance and a most charming woman. He gets up and goes to the men’s room. While he is inside relieving himself, a disturbance in the fabric of time and space comes down the street and enters the restaurant. It follows the banker into the men’s room and engulfs him. The banker becomes the host of the Prince of Darkness.

The man exits the restroom, strides to his table, kisses the woman passionately, and goes outside. As he strolls away the restaurant is demolished in a fiery explosion.

Meanwhile, super cop Jericho Cane (Arnold) and his partner capture a crook. Here is Arnold doing his True Lies stuff, snagging the bad dude in mid-air while dangling from a cable attached to a helicopter overhead.

The girl is born, and now she is 20 and most likely still a virgin. Her parents are dead, and she is being raised by a mysterious woman, soon to be revealed as working for the Holy See. The church is dedicated to protecting the girl, but at the same time to prevent her being impregnated by the Dark Prince. The impregnation must occur between 13:00 p.m. and midnight on 31 December 1999. The reason for this is never adequately explained.

Here young and virginal Christine York (Robin Tunney) rides a subway train, confronted by an apparition. It’s a manifestation of the dark side, and Christine has been plagued with this kind of thing for years. From outward appearances she is schizophrenic.

Back at her apartment some men break in with the intent to kill Christine. But first they must administrate the last rites. These are people from the church, and their intent is to keep Satan from humping her and getting her pregnant.

But Cane and his partner, following up on a related case, happen by, and Christine is saved. Cane becomes interested in Christine.

And the movie plot is off and running as Cane must prevent the girl from getting knocked up during the critical hour, and the rest is cinema FX, packed with scenes such as this one of a subway car crashing in a tunnel.

Come the critical hour, and Cane destroys the banker, but the manifestation invades his body, and he prepares to impregnate Christine, by force, on a church altar.

By sure will power Cane overcomes the dark force and tells Christine to run. It is seconds before the ball drops in Times Square. The church is half wrecked, and Cane impales himself upon the sword of a fallen statue. This is most gruesome.

The ball drops, and the magic hour expires for another 1000 years.

Cane has given all and has atoned for his years of denial of the power of faith. It’s a tale for the ages.

Yes, and that is all the movie has going for it. Based on a legend concocted by people unknown at a time unknown and having no basis in fact or scripture. It is a bad movie.

As I watch through this I was struck by the many ways the prophecy could have been forestalled. Cane could have screwed the girl and gotten her pregnant. She could have gone on the pill (except the church would object).

Also, this Prince of Darkness is such an omnipotent being, how come he has to go through all theis rigmarole to impregnate the girl, and how come he is unable to use his vast powers to defeat some bumbling cops? If this shows the limitations of the Prince of Darkness, why are we so concerned that he could possibly dominate the world.

And finally, this planet is one of possibly billions of habitable worlds in the universe, and it just happens to be the center of all this attention? Tell me more.

My favorite Arnold film tends to be Kindergarten Cop, where Arnold does comedy well. The Terminator is good, also, but there he’s a stand-in for  machine and not a real person. True Lies was another comedic tough guy role for Arnold. I need to review Total Recall.

Dying to Believe

Number 115 in a series

Unreasoned belief kills in many different ways. From The Washington Post:

Most girls in Somalia experience genital mutilation. The ritual just killed a 10-year-old.

In 2012, Somalia introduced a new constitution that was supposed to ban female genital mutilation. But a few years later, there had been little follow-up, and UNICEF still estimated that up to 98 percent of girls and women there had been cut.

This week, a Somali activist announced that a 10-year-old girl died in central Somalia in what she said was the direct result of an FGM procedure. Hawa Aden Mohamed, executive director of the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development, a Somali nongovernmental agency that advocates for women’s rights, said in a statement that “the circumciser is suspected to have cut an important vein in the course of the operation.” The girl died two days later.

Where is Jesus? Or Allah?