Archive for February, 2011

Argumentum ad Antiquum

Ah yes, another argument for belief that rivals the argumentum ad consequentiam for vapidity.  This is the argument from antiquity.  Our religion is thousands of years old, and people have believed these great truths for those many centuries, so it must be true.  Duh!  By this argument, Hinduism trumps Christianity by a good many years and the Druids had all the right answers.  I heard this argument most recently from none other than that great paragon of intellectualism, Billy Graham.  It was part of his rant about cults that showed up on the PZ Myers Science Blog site.  I tried to read the original but it is no longer online at the link provided, maybe because somebody realized that it was just too silly and open to derision to leave up.

Billy Graham, evangelist.  The face of a man who BELIEVES, but can't recognize irony.“One characteristic of cults is that they strongly believe they alone are right in their beliefs and everyone else is wrong. Thus they reject the central truths of the Bible that Christians have held in common for almost 2,000 years and substitute their own beliefs for the clear teaching of Scripture” – Billy Graham

The fact that Christians have believed something for “almost 2,000 years” says nothing about the truth of those beliefs.  It only says that people can believe very silly things through many many generations.  How sad is that.  Of course this quote from Billy Graham has the double irony of being unable to recognize Christianity as a cult. 

Once again I’m reminded of that line from Robby Burns’s To a Louse

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!”

I don’t know.  I think perhaps seeing themselves as rational people see them would be just too embarrassing for the Christian community. 

Billy Graham, by the way, is the father of the evangelist Reverend Franklin Graham who drew a causal link between the deaths and destruction of Hurricane Katrina and Americans turning away from God and not allowing prayers in schools.  My GOD.  What kind of asshole god to these people believe in?

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Strange Bedfellows – Science and the Vatican

Space, the next fronteir for the Vatican?

If you can’t beat ‘em, claim their territory.  The Vatican goes to space.

The BBC Europe reports that the Vatican is opening an astronomy branch and venturing into the world of science to tell us all about space.  I guess they figure if they can’t beat science with logic, they can join the scientists and then slant the news.  But tell me something.  Would you trust the Vatican to look at the universe without bias?  I sure as hell wouldn’t.  I am firmly against allowing any ancient religious cult to claim ANY afinity with science, and this goes double for the people who burned Giordano Bruno at the stake for daring to suggest that the universe is infinite.  I know.  I know.  That was a long time ago.  We should forgive and forget.  Well, fuck that.  These people are the very opposite of scientists, and the mere fact that they proclaim the existence of the big dictator in the sky should be enough to make that point. 

Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, the Vatican's voice on space.

” I can believe in God and at the same time accept
 Einstein’s theory that time has not always existed” 
     – Monsignor Gianfranco Basti

This kind of statement by the good Monsignor only shows me that these people have mastered the art of ignoring cognitive dissonance.  If you are a scientist worthy of the name, you can’t “believe” in anything without at least a good theory and some evidence to support that belief.  There is no such support for a belief in God.  It’s outside of science, a matter of faith.  And faith is the opposite of science.

The reported hope for the Vatican venture into science is that religious people will stop seeing science as the enemy of religion, and that scientists will (at last) recognize that they don’t have all the answers and so the answers science doesn’t yet have should be left to… let’s guess… the Catholic theocracy.  I guess the hope is also that there’s still room for speculation with no evidence,  leading to pronouncements that have a real affect on human lives handed down as rules to govern behavior.   The only problem with this hope is that it’s wrong in both directions.  Science IS the enemy of religion.  It’s probably not a bad thing for religious people to see science that way, use their brains, listen to the arguments, and abandon their superstitions.  Science may not have all the answers, but that doesn’t mean we should leave the unanswered questions to be pronounced on by groundless speculation, or give any authority or power to religious leaders and their silly ideas about how we should live our lives.

When I heard that the Catholic church was planning on training exorcists in America, so that they would be able to tell “real” demonic possession from simple schizophrenia (not that schizophrenia is simple) I thought that was a perfect example of where the church is currently at in relation to the modern world.  These people still believe in demons and angels.   But now a branch of the same group wants to claim scientific legitimacy, and get an oar in with scientific discussions.  Please.  That is oil and water.  That is reason and superstition.  That is intelligent and stupid. Some things just don’t go together very well.

If you want to join with science, how about turning in your membership card in the organization that is the polar opposite of scientific thinking.

P.S. I just read An atheist’s response to Rabbi Adam Jacobs by William Hamby   It’s off topic for this post, but it still pertains.  Worth a read.

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The Four Agreements – book review.

Cover of "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz.  A touchy feely classic worth reading.I’ve never read anything that made more sense than “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.  Although Don Miguel himself holds beliefs firmly based in Toltec mythology and shamanism, the ideas in that book are so down to earth and common sense that a pure materialist atheist such as myself can buy in with nary a moment of embarrassment.  If you haven’t read this book, I’d recommend it.  It could change your life.

The four agreements are:

1. Be impeccable in your word.

2. Don’t take anything personally

3. Don’t make assumptions.

4. Always do your best.

How can it get simpler than this.  Yet Ruiz has written a touchy feely classic elaborating on just these four sentences, and the book is worth reading.  My own paraphrasing of these rules goes like this: 

1.  Be impeccable in your word.  Words have power.  Hitler never personally murdered anybody, that I know of, but millions died because of his words.  Same for Stalin and Mao.  Recognize the power of your words and be careful with them.  Think about your reason for speaking before you speak, and make sure your words are coming from a place of love.  Make sure your words are intended to elevate the person to whom you are speaking, not to put you on a higher plane or hurt them.  As a person who “doesn’t suffer fools gladly”, I find this rule very difficult.  As are they all.

2.  Don’t take anything personally:  No matter what anybody else says or does, it isn’t about you.  Even if they say it’s about you, it’s not.  It’s about them.  You can alter your behavior, or not, as you see fit.  But don’t think that anybody else EVER says something to you that is about you.  It never is.  Even if they shoot you in the head, it’s not about you.  It’s about them.  This is also really hard to accept and believe, but it is very true.  Thinking that you do something because of somebody else is a delusion, a variation of that complaint you get from a child.  “See what you made me do.”  Nobody makes you do anything.  You don’t make anybody else do anything.  When they do something, it’s never about you, it’s about them. When you do something it’s always about you, never about them.  See what you made me do is only for children.  This all has a lot of implications – if somebody says they love you, that’s about how they feel, not about how lovable you are.  Same for if they say they hate you.  Why does this make a difference?  Because when we think we are causing other people to feel things, we allow others to control us instead of following our own path.

3.  Don’t make assumptions:  We can’t live without assumptions, of course.  We must assume that our friends are really our friends, our children are really our children (though that might not matter so much), and that we know what others think and feel.  But don’t assume too much.  Ask.  Verify your assumptions.  The door might have slammed because your partner is angry with you, or it might have slammed because your partner is angry with somebody else, or it might have slammed because the wind caught it.  Don’t assume.  Ask.  Communicate.  Making assumptions leads to a lack of communications, to taking others for granted, and to ignoring the feelings of others because we assume we know what they think and feel.

Don Miguel Ruiz.  Not all gurus have their heads up their butts.  Some, like Ruiz, make sense.4.  Always do your best:  What a great idea.  But what is your best.  That varies.  When you are tired or sick, your best is not what it was when you were not tired or healthy.  If you don’t take care of yourself, or don’t get enough sleep, your best will be less than optimal.  But most of us know when we are half hearted in our efforts, when we don’t really put ourselves into a task.  That’s what you want to try to avoid.  Always do your best, whatever your best might be at the time.

I hope this hasn’t been a total spoiler for Don Miguel Ruiz’s book.  It’s well worth getting and reading.  But if you are not going to get it and read it, just those four sentences should give you something to think about.  Don’t thank me.  Thank Don Miguel.

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Argumentum ad Consequentiam

If there is one argument for the existence of God that always strikes me as particularly stupid it is the argumentum ad consequentiam, the argument that we must believe because not believing will have bad consequences.  Not believing will make people behave badly.  Or not believing would be too frightening.  Too scary, mommy.  I hear this argument frequently.  In it’s most common form it sounds like this:  But if I didn’t believe in God I’d have nothing.  

Okay.  So you’d have nothing.  What’s your point?

Aside from the fact that this isn’t true – atheists find many things to believe in and feel joyful about, usually things that are reasonable to believe or things for which there is at least a little evidence – even if it WERE true, what’s their point?  Don’t they care even a little bit about truth?  Or have they decided that reality just gets confusing when they think about it, so why bother.  Believing something because not believing it is scary seems so very strange to me.

The argumentum ad consequentiam pops up in many forms and variationsI heard it in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” , the hate fest pseudo-documentary promoting Intelligent Design directed by Nathan Frankowski and hosted by Ben Stein.  In that disgusting bit of intellectual pandering to the lowest common denominator, the argument was presented as:  We must not believe Darwin’s theories because to do so will lead to atheism and atheists contributed to  fascism, the Nazi Holocaust, communism and the Gulag, eugenics and everything else that’s been evil since Darwin was born and before. 
Ignoring the hate propaganda, and the obvious lie, it’s hard to find a stupider argument for not believing something.  The intellectual integrity of the movie matched it’s moral integrity perfectly.  It truly saddens me to see how much money that piece of sputum generated at the box office, grossing $2,900,000 in its first weekend.  Proof yet again that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the public.

I also hear the argument from consequences from religious relatives who tell me they can’t abandon Catholicism because… well, where would I go?  Where would you go?  Well, maybe go to some other belief that isn’t killing people in Africa by discouraging condom use, persecuting gays, or protecting child raping priests.  Or don’t go anywhere.  Just be.  Why on earth do you feel you have to go someplace?  And anyway, that’s not the point.  You don’t believe things just because it’s uncomfortable not to believe them.  That’s called delusion.  If you do it on purpose, that’s called willful delusion.  Or maybe denial.

The latest Jesus and Mo takes a look at this argument, inspired by an article by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie.  As always, the strip nails it.

So what’s the counter to this argument.  You can’t believe things just because you want to believe them, or not believe things just because you don’t want to believe them.  That would seem the logical thing to say, but I’ve never seen it affect a believer or change a belief.  Ideas, anybody?

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If you Believe It, Say It. If Not, Start Discussions

Everybody on the net is selling t shirts.  I never thought I’d join them.  But the recent, lengthy and depressing discussion on the Jesus and Mo site on the subject of circumcision has made me change my mind.  So I’m offering the first D.H. t to the world.  Here it is.

"It's okay to cut off the end of a baby boy's penis."  If you believe it, let the world know.  If you don't believe it, start a discussion.

If you think circumcision of infant boys is just find and dandy, buy this t and proudly proclaim your beliefs.  If you think only an asshole would take that position, but you know one, then buy this t and send it to them.  If you just want to start a fight with somebody, this t should do it.  Wear it to the next family reunion, especially if you are circumcised and not happy about it.  Guaranteed to start discussions.

Okay, I haven’t actually set things up to make these yet.  But I’m slapping a $20 price tag on them and taking orders.  If you want one tomorrow, just take the idea into your local t shirt maker.  Otherwise, sign up and when I get enough orders to make and ship a batch, you’ll be on the list.  Available in any size.  Suggestions for alternatives designs are also welcome.

Order by sending an email to darwin@darwinharmless.com with the words “circumcision t” in the subject line and your size (S,M,L, XL,XXL, XXXL) in the body of the message along with your shipping address.  $20 U.S. plus shipping and handling, but I’ll do my best to make the S&H as close to free as possible, maybe even free for some parts of the world, or free for orders of more than ten shirts.  We’ll have to see how it goes.

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Think Happy Thoughts

After the circumcision “debate” on the Jesus and Mo comic forum, I’m feeling depressed.  There’s more to life than endlessly arguing this same issue with people who just don’t seem to get it, or do get it but trivialize the effort or slag the intactivists as neurotic or penis obsessed.  It’s all been said on that discussion, but here’s a summary.  I don’t think anybody on the forum is arguing that circumcision of infant boys is acceptable.  (Update:  Oops.  Wrong about this.  Moosey has just sent in a long and totally off the point argument that circumcision IS acceptable.  Back to the old we “don’t want the government interfereing with our freedoms” pitch.  Parental rights trump infant rights?  What can I say?)  But many argue that it isn’t an issue of enough importance to make a noise about.  These arguments boil down to only a few sentiments:

Okay with Circumcision:

1. I was circumcised and I’ve got a great sex life, so it isn’t important.  If you think it’s important, you need to get a life.

2. Parents make all kinds of decisions for their children, from choosing religious indoctrination to choosing schools.  Get over it.

3. It’s nothing compared to FGM, so it isn’t worth talking about.

4. Circumcision prevents AIDS

5. Anti-circumcision advocates ignore science and have a religious a priori belief that can’t be shaken by logic.

The intactivists (we prefer the term to anti-circumcision lobby.  We also prefer the term “intact” to “uncircumcised” because the latter implies something that has been left undone, and perhaps should have been done.) have done a good job of countering all these arguments.

Opposed to Circumcision:

1. If you think you didn’t lose anything, you are in denial.  You are ignorant of the anatomy and don’t know what you lost.

2. Acceptance of circumcision is based in cognitive dissonance – parents can’t admit they hurt their kids, kids can’t admit they were hurt by their parents, doctors can’t admit they’ve done harm for silly reasons and a quick buck.  Parents make all kinds of decisions for their children, true.  But no other decision is permanent and irreversible.  A child can grow up to seek better schools, eat better food, reject the family religion.  But restoring a lost foreskin completely is impossible.

3. Male circumcision was popularised to prevent masturbation (obvious failure there, I’ve made wanking an art form.), promote chastity (obvious failure there too), and reduce sexual pleasaure (the one big win of circumcision).  It’s a medical fraud based on sexual repression and paranoia.

4. Male circumcision may not be as bad as some of the FGM, but it’s bad enough.  People who accept it are ignorant of the anatomy of the penis, and have been mislead by outright lies and misinformation from the proponents.   Circumcision removes the most sensitive parts of the penis.

5. Not only does it not prevent AIDS, it does not prevent any other STD’s,  crossed eyes, epilepsy, heart problems, or any of the other benefits historically claimed for it, nor does it reduce the spread of cervical cancer in women.  It has no medical value at all.

6. Circumcision is a gross violation of human rights, taking away an infant’s right to choice.  Every infant has a right to an intact body.

These arguments were made in much more detail, and with much more passion, on the Jesus and Mo site.  You’ll hear my voice there far too frequently.  I was starting to worry about being a comment hog.  And the whole thing has left me feeling drained and depressed.  It seems like such an open and shut case to me.  A total no brainer.  Why do we even have to discuss it.  Go to this site and watch the slide show of the history of medical justification.  It’s enough to make you shake your head over the gullibility of humanity.

I’m now in rather desperate need of some mental health exercises.  I need to think happy thoughts.  I think I will go and play with our dog.  After that I need to do some meditating, and get back into the now.  None of this stuff is real to me, in my present time and place.  It’s not worth losing joy over, because it will change in its own sweet time.  It’s all just mental sludge and sewage.  And then… then… I shall watch some of my favourite TED lectures.  The one about zapping mosquitoes with laser beams is incredible, as is the lecture on the international effort to eradicate smallpox.  Truly inspirational stuff.

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What’s With Modesty?

If she's wearing that from choice, what can you say?  Modesty sucks? Which one of these outfits do YOU see as gross and indecent?Chatting with a friend the other day he mentioned that he respects Muslim women who have made a choice to wear the traditional garments because he appreciates their modesty.  If others see it as oppression of women, he says, then those people have a problem with the way Muslims dress.  That got me thinking about modesty.  What is modesty all about?  I’m afraid I’m not much of a fan.  Our acceptance of human skin is so very culturally conditioned.  Hang around with naked people for a fairly short while and you stop reacting to skin as if it’s gross.  One starts to take the body for what it is, just something we all have in various shapes and sizes.

When I was a child, I wasn’t allowed to come to the dinner table without a shirt on, even in the heat of summer.  My mother explained that other people didn’t want to see me with no shirt.  So what is the message there?  That there’s something wrong with a child’s body?  That somehow the child is ugly unless draped in cloth?  Once we internalize this attitude, we end up with modesty.  A desire to stay hidden, lest we be ugly or otherwise offend.

I remember a famous journalist and television personality, Pierre Berton, who commented that he would never show shame about being nude in front of his children.  My father was outraged.  My father could never articulate why he was outraged, but the notion that nudity was OK was just unacceptable to him.  Poor fucked up old dude.  I see it all as part and parcel of the Christian attempt to deny that we are animals, to say that we are somehow different from animals, created in the image of God.  What a concept.  So I have no problem with people dressing any way the feel like dressing.  If they’ve been brainwashed to think that modesty is important, that their body should never be seen by anybody, probably including their husband or wife, that’s fine by me.  But I do think they are a bit sick in the head.  And I sincerely feel sorry for them.

I read once that most people would rather die than be embarrassed.  Thinking about this, I realized that thousands of people DO die every year, rather than be embarrassed.  Somebody has a problem with their butt hole, but it’s just too embarrassing to talk to the doctor about it.  So they hope it will go away, until it gets to the point where they simply have to do something  Then the doctor shakes his head sadly and tells them that, had they come to him a few months earlier, there might be some hope.  Go home and put your affairs in order.  You’re about to leave the party.  What a stupid reason to die.

There are times when I just hate my culture, any time somebody pushes modesty at me like it’s a virtue.  What a fucked up, stupid, denial of our humanity that is.  Show me a person who doesn’t fart or shit or occasionally have bad breath and I’ll show you a corpse, and that will get smelly pretty soon too.  Each one of us is, in the words of Douglas Adams, an “ugly bag of mostly water”.  Get over it. 

Have I always been like this?  No of course not.  It’s taken years of reflection and introspection to get to the point where I could walk out on stage without a stitch on, or show my asshole to the world.  In high school I didn’t like sleeveless shirts, because I had an armpit hangup.  I remember my gorge rising at the sight of my female German teacher’s hairy European pits.  I still marvel over the fact that eyebrows are okay, even attractive, but nose hair is somehow gross.  But now I don’t give a flying frog.  Take the most beautiful man or woman in the world and get real close to him or her and you’ll find the same bag of body fluids and nastiness that all animals must have.  Covering it all with a business suit or a full burqa is not going to make much difference, except to our illusions.

The issue of the burqa, and various attempts to ban it in France and elsewhere,  is bound up with anti-Islamic feelings, Modesty comes in all flavours, I guess.  I like this flavour myself.Islamophobia, and xenophobia.  That’s on the bad side.  On the good side, it’s tied into concerns over the oppression of women and the efforts to ghettoize a population, prevent assimilation, and maintain patriarchal power.  Anything I’ve every heard from Muslims about their attitude toward women sound fucked up and sick to me.  If somebody is forcing a Muslim woman to wear the burqa, she should rise up in revolt and I’ll do everything I can to support her.  I will tut tut with the rest of the world when athletes are executed for wearing shorts, surely the scariest extreme to which a demand for modesty can go.  But I’m not about to start telling people what to wear.

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Jesus and Mo Take on Circumcision

I always thought Author, the creator of Jesus and Mo, was a very enlightened individual.  This latest strip proves it.  I’m not going to embed it here.  If you want to read it, and you really should, just click on this link.  Let him have the traffic.
Just in case you didn't know what they cut off, and this is only the obvious. Jesus and Mo, always intelligent, always clever, always a damn sight more subtle than I could ever manage.  Small wonder this strip is becoming a legend of the Internet.  Circumcision  is one of my pet peeves.  The fact that it is taken for granted in western culture, and not seen for what it is – genital mutilation of an infant who cannot protect himself – is one of the great ironies of our age.  The West is so smug and self righteous about everything from China and Tibet to Afghanistan to Egypt, and cannot see the log in our own eye.  It would be funny if it didn’t piss me off so much.  I found out that I had been circumcised when I was seven years old.  I still remember quite vividly my outrage.  Those fuckers.  They messed with my dick before I even knew I had a dick.  Aside from cutting me off, literally, forever from a huge number of nerve endings that should by rights be mine, the bastards removed a protective covering, causing the keratinization of my glans and a perpetually reduced sensitivity.  Why?  Well, the real reason goes back to good old Doctor John Harvey Kellogg, the man who brought us all corn flakes in the morning, a right nutter with a serious thing about sex.  Circumcision was popularized as an anti-masturbation measure, because masturbation was assumed, on no evidence at all, to cause everything from thin blood to blindness.  How the fuck anybody could jump to those conclusions is totally beyond me, but they did.  And all it took was a few authority figures to back up the ancient Best do it without anaesthetic, said the good doctor.  Make it painful.  Make sure the infant identiffies his penis with pain. barbaric religious practice and away they went, lopping off foreskins as a matter of course.  God made us perfect, in his image, except for that little bit.  Like the guy who forgot to snip off that little corner of fabric on the chair you had reupholstered.

Of course, if you are angry about this you are just neurotically obsessed with your penis and, come on, it was just a little piece of skin.  Yeah sure.  Let me cut off your fuckin’ eyelids and you can tell me that.  I’ve heard justifications for this stupidity that can only make you roll your eyes.  One relative said she just thought it looked neater.  Like it was her fucking hair she was cutting and not a child’s penis.

Anyway, if you want to know the sad history just check out the Wikipedia entries.  A while back I posted a thoughtful reconsideration in response to a TED lecture by Melinda Gates, who has been on the ground in Africa and totally supports the circumcision campaign there.  I have since changed my mind about changing my mind.  I know they have done studies that seem to show a reduction in AIDS infection after circumcision.  But they also gave instructions on safe sex practices when they did those operations.  I think it is dangerous to tell young men that they are safer now that they’ve been circumcised, when the Pope is telling them not to wear a condom.  But anyway, they are old enough to know what they have, what they are losing, and why.  It’s not the same for an infant.

This is how it's done.  Doesn't really take four years in med school to learn this procedure.  It's not medically jutified, but it is worth money.The excuse, well after the fact, that circumcision helps prevent disease is a hotly debated subject.  In any event, I rather resent the fact that my dick was mutilated to protect me from diseases I am in absolutely no danger of catching.  If they ever do invent a time machine, I’ve got a doctor I’m going back to talk to.  I suppose it would cause one of those time travel paradoxes if I prevented him from operating, but I sure would like to slap him around a bit.  Fuckin’ asshole.

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What Would Jesus Do? He’d Think of Something.

I have a relative who sends me religious crap.  I think it’s now being sent just to wind me up.  Recently this delightful Power Point presentation landed in my inbox.  MIRACLE_IN_EGYPT 

A short time ago I would have written this off as a parody invented by a non-religious person to see if they could suck in some believers and go viral.  I’ve changed my mind about this after reading on Greta Christina’s  blog about an orthodox Jew who can’t tuck in his seven year old daughter’s blanket without performing a purification ceremony, and refuses to touch a woman or spar with one even though he’s a martial arts instructor, for fear of getting woman cooties.  So if people can let that kind of bullshit run their lives, they will believe anything.  Maybe this really did come from believers, and not scoffers trying to suck them in.  Of course SOMEBODY had to make this up.  We know that much.  And the story as invented says a lot about the limits of Christian imagination, or the imaginations of those who would promote Christianity, or some nameless hoax writer.  The whole Jesus story is hardly bullet proof  plot structuring, what with the death that isn’t really a death and the sacrifice of God’s son that isn’t really a sacrifice, but it’s super real and powerful compared to this.

This is what the hoax slayer site (http://www.hoax-slayer.com/egypt-murder-miracle.shtml) says about about “Miracle in Egypt”:

####### start of Hoax Slayer assessment ########

“This widely circulated email relates the story of two little Egyptian girls who survived 15 days buried alive due to the intervention of a supernatural saviour with white clothes and bleeding hands who is later identified by rescuers as none other than Jesus Himself. If I'm in trouble, please don't send Jesus.  He's not much help.©iStockphoto.com/Joshua Blake

There is no credible evidence whatsoever to support an email story claiming that two young girls survived for fifteen days buried alive because Jesus visited them in the grave every day and fed them. (No evidence? Well, no shit, Sherlock. – DH)  As well as circulating via email, the piece has also been posted to innumerable religious forums and blogs where it has generated substantial and often heated debate.

According to the story, a Muslim man in Egypt murdered his wife and then buried her along with his still living daughters, one 8 years old, the other still an infant. However, Jesus came to the children every day, feeding the eight year old and “waking” the dead mother so that she could nurse the baby. It was not until the children were discovered alive and rescued from their premature grave 15 days after being buried that the miraculous experience came to be told. Or so this wildly fanciful tale would have us believe.

Not surprisingly, there is not a single shred of evidence to support the story. I could find no credible news reports about such a miraculous rescue, nor any information about an Egyptian man who murdered his wife and buried his children alive. Naturally, if true, such an amazing event would have certainly garnered a great deal of media attention, not only in Egypt, but around the world. And a miracle like the one described would also have been thoroughly investigated by both Muslim and Christian organizations. The total absence of any credible confirmation of the story along with the absurdity of the claims mean that the story is surely a work of pure fiction.

Even if entirely fictional, religious parables have their place and can serve to strengthen the faith of believers and effectively illustrate a particular worldview. However, rather than being a parable designed to reinforce a Christian ideal, this particular piece of nonsense seems more intent on denigrating and undermining the Muslim faith. In a world troubled by faith-based violence and misunderstanding, false stories such as this can only add to existing divisions and circulating them will serve no good purpose.”

#############end of Hoax Slayer assessment##########

You’ll notice that Hoax Slayer seems sympathetic to religious myth making in general, as if inventing nonsense stories that “serve to strengthen the faith of believers” is a good thing, and doesn’t address the central absurdity of this story.  While believers have no limits on their imagination when it comes to making up stupid stories, with racist, divisive overtones and not so subtle threats – He who denies me before men,  I will also deny him before my Father in heaven? – they have a severe limitation on their imaginations when it comes to creating credible superhero actions. I mean, what would Superman have done?  Or Batman?  Or even the very human Green Hornet?  Here we have an all powerful deity who visits these poor children, trapped underground in a grave, so he can feed the older child and bring their mother back from the dead to nurse the baby.  What?  He brought her back to life?  How many times?  To feed her baby?  That is just creepy.  But he doesn’t do anything to get them out of the hole!!!???  He doesn’t tell anybody about them!!!???  For an all powerful superhero who “is still controlling and turning the world”, he’s pathetic.  If he were real and a human, he’d be charged with something.  I don’t know.  Contributing to the abuse of minors?  Accessory after the fact?  Lawyers could nail him with something, surely.  Jesus the doofus. 

And the believers think spreading this poisonous nonsense will help their cause?  No, it has to be a parody.  Even believers can’t be that stupid.  But… okay, there’s evidence that they can be that stupid.  Solid evidence.

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The Left Handed Analogy

Yes, it can look awkward when the world is designed for right handed people.I’ve been thinking about that analogy, mentioned in my last post, between persecution of left handed people and the persecution of gays.  It’s an intriguing comparison. We might find it hard to believe that left handed people ever were persecuted. It’s such a foreign concept to our modern culture. I’ve been wondering about the people who did the persecuting, back in the dark ages. Surely they didn’t think of themselves as evil, or bad people. Surely they believed they were correct in their behavior, just as they were correct to burn witches. They saw left handed people as somehow threatening, and made the lives of left handed people a living hell, because they believed they were right.  Doesn’t that remind you of the judgmental Christians today? And a mere sixty years ago or so, what were those teachers thinking when they took the pencil out of a child’s left hand and put it in the “right” hand? Did they think they were simply correcting bad behavior, starting the child off right? (Starting the child off right?) I’m fascinated by the arrogance of those who think they are normal.

I am left handed and happy to be that way.  But I sure get pissed at the right handed world sometimes.I was fortunate to be born after that age ended, and no attempts were ever made to make me convert to being right handed. But being left handed still stigmatized me, and made me feel like an outsider.  Being left handed was always good for a comment when it was noticed.  Not a criticism that I remember, but always bemused.  That alone was enough to make me feel somehow different from others, different from “normal”.  At school, just the fact that the desks were not ambidextrous (ambisinister?), though of course they could easily have been designed for either hand, meant that the teacher had to make a big deal about finding a “special” desk for me at the beginning of each year. I was well into adulthood before I realized the alienation and separateness that was a result of being left handed.  And this in an age when being left handed was just a curiosity, and not a sin. Imagine what it must have been like in a less enlightened age.

Now I’m something of a militant left hander.  I fume when I find a design that is thoughtlessly, needlessly, designed for right handed use, and often difficult, even dangerous, if used left handed.  For example, I really would have preferred to buy a Makita angle grinder, but it had the power switch on one side instead of in a neutral position.  The Black and Decker angle grinder had the switch in the middle at the back, a good place for either hand.   It’s very common to find an electric drill with the lock on button located right under the index finger of a left handed user, a position where it is all to0 easy to lock he drill on by accident and cause a serious sprain to the wrist when the bit jams.  Even the simplest things can be badly designed.  Stationary stores now often stock left handed scissors, but what right handed person ever thought there was such a thing.  I own a left handed can opener, and it’s really a chuckle watching a right handed person trying to put it on a can.  Even I have trouble with that, because one learns to adapt to a right handed world.  No right handed person would ever imagine that a folding knife is designed for right handed use, but check out the indentation for the thumbnail, right where it should be for right handers but not there at all for a lefty.  And so easy to have an indentation on both sides, or carry it right through.  So stupid and thoughtless of the designer.  But at least we are not driven from our village any more, and most schools have stopped trying to convert left handed students to right handers.  I don’t think the change in attitudes was anywhere near as difficult to effect as the change in attitudes to the LGBT culture, but then being left handed has little to do with sex,  except in private moments, so it got under the radar of the judgmental Christians.

Like the persecution of lefties, someday people will look back at the whole gay versus moralist debate and find it hard to believe that the LGBT movement had such a struggle.  Probably they will forget there even was a struggle.  Just as many of the younger gays have no idea what the pioneers of gay pride went through to give them the acceptance they have today.  The battle those two girls fought to be allowed to attend their homecoming as a couple, while courageous, was well supported within their peer group.  It was a far cry from the New York bath house riots.

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