Monday, October 31, 2005

Polio is back, religion is the reason

Polio was a horrible disease. But massive immunisation campaigns had almost eradicated the crippling illness in the West. Three cases were diagnosed in 1999 but it was thought that after that that the disease had been wiped out in the United States.

But now it’s back and it’s back because of religion.

Five children have been diagnosed with polio in a small Amish community in central Minnesota. None of the children were immunised against the disease because it is against the Amish religion to do so.

Health officials have been visiting the Amish homes in the hopes of persuading them to inoculate their children. While some seem convinced many still say they will leave the matter in “God’s hands”. Five children in God’s hands now have polio because of this policy.

This is the not the first time this disease has erupted in Amish settlements. In 1979 there was a significant outbreak of polio in Amish communities in Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Pennsylvania. At that time ten children were paralysed because of the disease.

In Buchanan County, Iowa health officials have tried to persuade Amish residents to have their children vaccinated. When the persuasion program began 94% of Amish children were not vaccinated. In the 98/99 school year the number refusing to be vaccinated was 63%. But since then the numbers being immunised have dropped and most recently 77% were NOT vaccinated.

Rev. William Lindholm of the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom said that the Amish religion doesn’t specifically forbid immunisation. But the religion does shun all modern conveniences. Lindholm said: “I think [resistance] just comes out of their whole background of being sceptical of science in general.”

Friday, October 28, 2005

Abductees are nuts

Surprise, surprise, a survey of 19 individuals who claimed to be abducted by aliens indicates that, when compared to a control group, the alleged abductees have real problems.

The survey done by Professor Chris French showed that these individuals, at best, had rich fantasy lives. Some were suffering from sleep paralysis which often leads to hallucinations. French says that this rich fantasy live means “they often mix up what’s happening in their heads with what is going on in the real world.”

French is head of the Anomolistic Psychology Research Unite at Goldsmiths College. According to reports the study showed that abductees scored more highly than did the control group on the following traits:

• Paranormal beleif/experience
• Tendency to hallucinate
• Absorption (the tendency to become engrossed in experiences).
• Disssociative tendency (the tendency to enter altered states of consciousness).
• Fantasy proneness
• History of sleep paralysis

The surprise is that they had to do a study to figure this out.

The one good thing about these basket cases is that they have no impulse to impose their beliefs on others by force of law.

God has a sense of humour

Maybe there is a god and he/she/it has a sense of humour?

Deseret Books is the Mormon bookstore and it was selling copies of the Mormon film “Sons of Provo” about a boy band of Mormons going by the almost annoying name of Everclean. This is a band that comes up with such forgettable lyrics as these:

Everclean, cleaner than Listerine
Mellower than Dramamine
Not even close to obscene

That may get people excited in Utah but then Utah has the unenviable status of being the US state with the lowest average IQ. Actually I was surprised. Considering the politicians coming out of Texas I would have thought Lone Star state would win that honour. Supposedly the film has tongue firmly planted in cheek but I wonder exactly how many of the locals actually pick up on that.

It appears that a couple of families bought copies of this exciting DVD only to find that they instead got copies of the film “Adored: Diary of a Porn Star”. The film is about a gay porn star who reconnects with his family. And while it is not porn by most definitions it would no doubt send the Mormons into a flutter.

Of course all copies of the DVD were immediately pulled from the shelves. It appears that both films were duplicated by the same company for two different distributors. Somewhere along the way the wrong DVDs got into the wrong boxes.

I guess it’s a good thing that Mormons aren’t big into the theology of the Second Coming. Who knows what they would have ended up with if they were.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Christian nutters steal kids Halloween fun

The bloody Jesus Brigade complain and whine that they can’t use public funds to promote a Christian view of the world. They whine and cry that Christmas, an old non Christian holiday, can’t be celebrated with Christian symbols on state funded property or with prayers in government controlled schools. Now the best solution is to privatize the schools and the property but until that happens they don’t have the right to tax subsidies to push religion.

Now these same whingers are tackling a purely secular holiday: Halloween. It’s an excuse to dress up in costumes and go Trick or Treating. It is not associated to most with religion of any kind. No prayers to any deity are offered up. No religious views are expressed. It’s about as religious as Labour Day.

But the Underwood School in Newton, Massachusetts has banned any Halloween celebration in the school because Born Again nut cases pant hysterically that Halloween is “devil worship”.

If there is any myth these lunatics fall for more than the silly Jesus story it would be the Satan story. Satan is a Christian concept which is why the few Satanists that do exist are really nothing more than Christian heretics.

The purpose for stealing this fun from kids is that fundamentalist kooks are offended. Good grief! These people turn being offended into an art form. They are perpetually offended. Placating these people is like banning the Star of David to satisfy Nazis. It’s only the beginning. They are intolerant, ignorant authoritarians who demand the right to ban everything not in keeping with their stilted, fundamentalistic view of the world.

The schools in Puyallup, Washington have also banned Halloween. Kids will not be allowed to hand out candy or wear costumes. One school official, Tony Apostle (I’m not making up the name) said that the ban is due to religious sensitivity. His excuse was that Halloween is supposedly a Wiccan holiday and that Halloween images are offensive to Wiccans—all six of them.

But the only Wiccan church in the area disputes that and said this is a thinly veiled excuse to banish a holiday that offends fundamentalist Christians. Pete Davis of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church said: “The religious right has for years been trying to put an end to any Halloween celebrations.”

The brain dead Robert Knight of the Family Research Council has said that Halloween “represents the full expression of an occultic viewpoint.” He also made it clear that one motivation for this anti-fun view of the Christian Right is to get even for them not being able to use state funding to push their viewpoint. “[I]f they’re going to be even-handed in not establishing religion in the schools, they’re probably going to have to do away with Halloween.”

In the thriving metropolis of Kingsport, Tennessee, a nut case from the New Harvest Ministries’ Preaching Christ Church (the dumber the church the longer the name) is leading a campaign to ban Halloween. The evangelist Mike Poff ha also made it clear that it is revenge for losing a tax subsidy that drives their campaign to steal Halloween from children. “From a Christian standpoint in the school systems, we’ve had prayer taken away, the Ten Commandments and things of that nature... since we have infringed on atheists’ rights. Next year we are going to have 3 million signatures that say if any sign of Halloween is plastered in the school rooms, in the halls, than they are infringing on our rights.” I doubt he’ll get his 3 million signatures. It won’t be easy finding that many fundamentalists who know how to write!

Poff was not happy that local newspapers carried letters from outraged citizens calling him an extremist. He responded. “What we are attacking is a very evil day known as Halloween, the one day of the year set aside for Satan. ....I’m an extremist for Christ... It’s time the body of Christ put their walk behind their talk and take a stand and say they no longer want their children exposed to witches, ghosts, goblins and Harry Potter or any thing else dealing with Halloween. It’s time we Christians made some noise of our own.”

Of course Poff is as ignorant of the facts as most born againers. Even if Halloween were being celebrated as a “Wiccan” holiday there is no connection to the mythological Christian entity called Satan or the Devil. Second, Harry Potter has nothing to do with Halloween as evidenced by the fact that Halloween was celebrated in the United States for decades prior to a British writer inventing the character.

Hammond, Indiana is home of the First Baptist Church cult of the decease Jack Hyles. At it’s height the cult attracted tens of thousands of church goers every Sunday. The Hammond school district has banned Halloween costumes. They cited two reasons. One is the real reason and the other is the excuse used to justify their decision. The excuse is that they did it for safety reasons. In the unlikely case of a fire in the school they said they were worried about trying to evacuate students wearing costumes. And they said they were worried about students in costumers walking home. Right! Of course the real reason was that they received three complaints about the celebration.

Hyles, by the way, died a few years ago but not before it was revealed that for years he was carrying on an affair with his secretary. His son, and heir apparent, was thrown out as a minister of a church when it was revealed he was bedding several women from his congregation. David Hyles left his wife and married a woman who advertised (with him) in a swinger’s publication. The biggest scandal regarding Hyles came with the death of his step son. Police said they didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute but believed that the child was killed by Hyles. A second child was later killed as well after it supposedly fell out of the car driven by the new Mrs. Hyles. The “accident” took place in the driveway and the child allegedly fell out of the back seat and then rolled under the car which then ran over the infant.

In Los Altos, California the school board backed away from banning Halloween in 1995. At that time some fundamentalist Christians again tried to impose their stilted view of the world on everyone else. They again wrongly argued that Halloween was a Satanic holiday. Over 600 people packed out the school board chambers to complain about the ban along with a small number of religious fanatics who argued that even after-school parties should be banned.

Meanwhile while region after region is facing a campaign to ban Halloween the same Religious Right kooks are complaining that Christmas is being banned. One of the more popular “Christmas” books for the lunatic Right is “The War on Christmas”

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Real consequences to unreal beliefs

Belief in the supernatural have real consequences. And contrary to the ideas of the “spiritual” among us such beliefs are often very damaging. Faking reality does not have good consequences.

Here is one example. In Sischuan province a group of students were leaving their classrooms into a dark hallway. A stairway lead down. As the children were just leaving their classrooms someone yelled “ghost” and other students started screaming that “ghosts are coming.”

Apparently these students believed ghosts are real. The children screamed and ran. As they approached the stairway one of the students stumbled and others tripped over him. A stampede happened because these students thought that ghosts were real. The result was that 45 students were injured and 8 were killed.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A picture is worth a 1,000 words.

Luther, Reformation and the Modern World

Some have thought that the Reformation helped transform the West into the modern society that it is today. But nothing could be further from the truth. Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation was no friend of capitalism. He said that: “The pursuit of material gain beyond personal needs must thus appear as a symptom of lack of grace, and since it can apparently only be attained at the expense of others, directly reprehensible.” J.A. Hobson notes that: “Luther’s intention and personal influence were not directed to release the economic or business conduct of men from the rule of spiritual life exercised by the Christian community. His earlier attitude during his reforming activities was a disparagement of material gain, an indifference towards the economic life.” Hobson says that: “The early Lutheran Church, thus inspired, cannot be regarded as friendly to capitalism.” In fact: “Luther’s own repudiation of usury, or indeed interest of any kind, involves a definitely reactionary attitude towards the rising commercial and financial capitalism of his time.” On one occasion the great Reformationist said: “To exchange anything with any one and gain by the exchange is not to do charity, but to steal.” Conservative Christian author Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn says that Luther, “was a typical medievalist.” And instead of, “advocating anything like classic liberalism, Luther taught the omnipotence of the state and opposed all forms of rationalism, Christian or otherwise”. The Jesuit Francisco Suarez was the leading publicist of the Counter-Revolution and one of his arguments, according to J.G. Merquior, was that Luther had “dismissed natural law.”

Suarez found Luther’s “dark view of human sinfulness” incompatible with the idea that a just society could be found on earth. Suarez also found a natural rights argument useful for Catholics living in areas dominated by Protestantism and argued for a “full return to the natural law perspective.” Suarez, however, being a good Catholic did not see these rights so much as individualistic but holistic and limited by the social-moral framework of society. According to Merquior it was the famed jurist Hugo Grotius who first took these natural rights views “to build an individualist account of society.”

Luther was quite explicit in his views on civil government. He said: “You see it is as I said, that Christians are rare people on earth. Therefore, stern, hard civil rule is necessary in the world, lest the world become wild, peace vanish and commerce and common interests be destroyed... No one need think that the world can be ruled without blood. The civil sword shall and must be red and bloody.” Barbara Ward says: “Luther’s social teaching thus set a part of the German nation on the road to passive citizenship and state absolutism.” She believes that this “tradition of passive acceptance of state authority undoubtedly assisted Hitler in the securing of totalitarian control over the German people”. Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn said that the Reformers were not liberals in the decadent sense or in the true sense. He says that classical liberalism, “in the Reformation faiths makes itself felt only in the Eighteenth century as a result of the impact of the Enlightenment and of rationalism, both late descendants of the Renaissance and therefore alien in themselves to the spirit of the Reformation”.
I suspect that much confusion arises regarding the ideas of early Protestantism because their movement was called the “Reformation”. People tend to think of a reformation as progressive or moving forward. In fact Luther and Calvin wanted no such thing. They were reforming the Christian church in a backwards direction. In particular they were revolting against the role of reason brought to the Church by Aquinas. The Protestant reformers were trying to snuff out the light of reason completely. They were not the forerunners of the Age of the Enlightenment but it’s most deadly foes. Frederick Beisner, Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University, explains how the Reformationists were in vehement opposition to the Age of Enlightenment:

“As soon as we look at the early theology of the Reformation, it becomes clear that it posed a grave challenge to the rationalism of the Enlightenment. Luther and Calvin firmly upheld doctrines that conflict with the principle of the sovereignty of reason. These doctrines include the following:

1. That all human powers have been utterly corrupted by the Fall, so that it is not possible for man to attain salvation through his own efforts, or to know God through his natural reason.

2. That the sphere of reason is possible experience alone, so that it cannot discover, explain, demonstrate, or refute any belief concerning the supernatural and spiritual realm beyond it.

3. That the true meaning of the Bible cannot be understood by reason but by the spirit alone.

4. That God completely transcends the nature of man, and is different from him not only in degree but also in kind, so that to apply rational discourse to him is only to indulge in anthropomorphisms.

If we consider all these points then it becomes clear that the early theology of the Reformation cannot be regarded as the forerunner, still less the foundation, of modern rationalism. Rather, it is its antithesis, indeed its nemesis, an attempt to revive the spirit and outlook of medieval Augustinianism. Luther’s and Calvin’s aim was to restore this Augustinian tradtion—it’s teachings concern faith, grace, sin and predestination—by purging it of all its pagan an scholastic accretions. They wanted to reinstate Augustine’s strict and severe dualism between the earthly and heavenly cities, which had been obscured by Aquinas’s synthesis of Christianity and paganism.”

The eminent Swiss historian Herbert Lüthy said that “Martin Luther’s revolt against the worldliness of Renaissance Rome was a revolt of a medeival spirit against the modern world, not the obverse.” In fact he used much stronger language to describe the Reformation: “The Reformation, insofar as it was concerned with the affairs of this world, was also and very explicitly a protest against the worship of the Golden Calf. To use modern jargon, it was the outbreak of an anticapitalist movement that had long been coming to a head at all levels of society.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Franklin Graham says sinners in New Orleans need to repent

One sign of America’s descent into religious fanaticism was obvious on CNN when they interviewed Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham.

Many of the extreme fundamentalists (as if there are other kinds) are best illustrated by their rabid hatred. They don’t merely preach the “gospel” they also scapegoat, target groups that the fundamentalist nutters find inspiring to despise. Billy Graham was often disliked by these hate mongers because he refused to stoop to such gutter sermons. His son has no aversion to such bigotry. He is pandering to the most vile elements of religious fanaticism.

In his CNN interview this evangelist of fantasy and myth dragged out the most primitive form of human superstition. While saying he didn’t want to claim that God targeted New Orleans because of sin he seemed to being saying just that. He kept saying that the flood would bring a revival to New Orleans and he hoped that sinners would repent. In particularly he repeatedly targeted gay and lesbian people. This was something his father didn’t do at least not with the vigor of his silly son.

The US has gone crazy. It has descended into a cultism of the worst kind. It is a Christian jihad being pushed by the simpleton in the White House who thinks the greatest political philosopher in history was Jesus. That a man who seems so intellectually challenged could capture the White House is itself a sign that the dumbing down of America’s schools has had it’s predictable results.

With so many American’s barely literate they are falling for precisely the types of programs that stupid people accept. First, they are becoming more and more religious. The fact is that the dumber people are the more religious they tend to be. Second, they are inspired by an authoritarianism that the lower classes have always yearned for. There is nothing the dumb desire more than a “strong man” to order them about. And thirdly they believe that the “strong man” not only should order them about but support them as well. They are “compassionate conservatives.”.

For years these people were the minority and they gathered in revival tents, their “Calvary Temples”, “Assemblies of God”, “Holiness Tabernacles” and the like. They were dirt farmers, uneducated, often poor or lower class and simple. As America became educated it drifted away from such nonsense. But when the public schools failed and ignorant people graduate high school still ignorant fundamentalism enjoyed a revival. Stupidity flourished and so did religion and conservatism.

The Bush Administration is the center for this sort of thinking. It is big government gone made, inspired by the fervour of crusaders out to save the world. It wants to control everything.

Of course Rev. Graham can’t preach without wanting to get well paid for it. In this case his little sermon was on how he was demanding that the federal government provide welfare to all the churches. He wants the churches to be given 5 mobile homes each so they can determine who will get help and who won’t. So if you are one of those despised gay couples that Graham so clearly dislikes don’t expect help even if you lost everything.

Graham’s plea for redistributing wealth from taxpayers to lunatic asylums for the religiously insane is a flagrant attempt to use the disaster to bribe people into his own fundamentalist fanaticism. By giving the mobile homes to the churches, and not to the victims of Katrina, he intends to create a mechanism to use aid to the victims to control the victims. Historically all welfare programs have been measures used to control behaviour and regulate certain groups. The Left has done this for decades and now the Religious Right is trying to do it as well. One of the major flaws in Left-wing thinking has been their strategy to build massive government bureaucracies. But all they did was create the means for the Bushites to walk in and take over the existing structures the Left built up and use them for illiberal purposes. State power is always evil no matter who controls it. And even if, for some brief period, it is used for beneficial purposes it will eventually fall into the hands of the malevolent.

There was one other point made on the news that I thought illustrated the absurdity of the Bush crusade. It was President Bush hinting rather strongly that an “avian flu” crisis would be used to impose military rule over large sections of the United States. Bush has already used the Katrina disaster to get Americans used to the idea of US soldiers going door to door evicting people from their homes and confiscating legally owned firearms.

Now he is saying that if a flu epidemic hits (which is relatively simple to manufacture if one wished) then there is a military role to quarantine large sections of the United States under what would amount to a military dictatorship. I find that statement one of the most ominous made this man. Certainly Bush is the most dangerous occupant of the White House since FDR. And it seems likely to me that before this regime is finished it will surpass Roosevelt in monstrous actions and the expansion of government power. The legacy of Bush will be a rampant assault on individual freedom and constitutional government. That is precisely the sort of simplistic dictatorial ideas that appeal to religious lunatics.


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