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Five Public Opinions: the Blogger Years

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Vale this blog

Fri, 07 Dec 2007 13:49:00 +0000

And hello Wordpress. Five Public Opinions has moved here. Please update your links & c. & c..

I've had it!!

Fri, 07 Dec 2007 07:35:00 +0000

Fuck you, Blogger. I'm moving to Wordpess!

And here is the rest of it.

Now this is magical thinking I can respect!

Fri, 07 Dec 2007 07:07:00 +0000

Indigenous Australians pay their respects to the former member for Bennelong. (Via Oz Atheist)

Howard vs. Aboriginal Australians
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Some random, not very well-thought-out thoughts . . .

Thu, 06 Dec 2007 01:05:00 +0000

On blasphemy laws
A reasonable test of a nation's commitment to liberal democracy is the existence or otherwise of a blasphemy law on its statutes.

A reasonable test of an individual or organisation's commitment to liberal democracy is their willingness to bring a blasphemy suit against another individual or organisation.

On Foucault
I think the validity of Foucault’s work depends to a great degree upon how you approach it. Foucauldian theory as science? Category mistake. Foucauldian theory as a way–but certainly not the only way–of storytelling/interpreting history and culture? Far more valuable.

On Plato
What assumptions do I have about Plato? Not being very knowledgeable about him, just this one: his concept of Forms constitutes maybe the greatest blind alley in the history of Western philosophy, and has been an absolute boon to magical/dogmatic thinking for millennia.

(UPDATE) On the mall shooting
I blame secularism. Not for any good reason, mind you--I just wanted to get in ahead of the conservapundits. (Or have I already been beaten to the punch?)

The Simpsons and Philosophy
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Sesame Street and Philosophy
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Monty Python and Philosophy
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Ben Folds and Philosophy
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The Wonderful World of Magical Thinking XXXV

Wed, 05 Dec 2007 12:12:00 +0000

The week in fundie . . .The Unintentional Irony award goes to the opponents of the International Baccalaureate curriculum at a high school in Upper St Clair, Pennsylvania, who appear to be of the view that it comes straight from Chairman Mao:"The IB program is anti-American. It does not teach the basic patriotic values of the United States," said Judy Brown, 64, a retired merchandising and sales representative who has a daughter that attended Upper St. Clair schools. "It's almost like brainwashing."A hostile board member was heard to utter:"Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie;" and, "Jesus Christ as the redeemer of man is the center and purpose of human history. That is why all authentically religious tradition must be allowed to manifest their own identity publicly, free from any pressure to hide or disguise it."Got that? Not forcing Jeebus and flag-waving patriotism down the throats of students constitutes "brainwashing." (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)A Catholic bishop in Chicago is seeking legal changes that would shield Church institutions from having to pay out "excessive damages" in sex abuse lawsuits, on the grounds that they "jeopardize the mission of the church" and hence "place an excessive burden on the free exercise of religion for American Catholics." Oh, please. If the Catholic church wishes to minimise the damages resulting from sex abuse lawsuits, the answer is absurdly simple: it needs to stop engaging in or sheltering the perpetrators of sexual abuse. (Chicago Tribune, via the Atheist Experience)Sherri Shepherd, who is proving herself to be someone you want in your corner should you ever find yourself playing team Trivial Pursuit, opines: "I don't think anything predated Christians." The Greeks? The Romans? "Jesus came before them." Shepherd is quite the polymath: not only is she full-bottle on world history, she's also formidable on the earth sciences. (The Huffington Post, via Pharyngula)Florida's Palm Beach Community College refuses to provide health benefits to same-sex partners of its employees. It is more than willing, however, "to offer workers insurance for their pets." (, via Saudi appeals court judge has threatened to sentence a rape victim to death if she appeals against her current sentence of 200 lashes and six months in prison for "illegal mingling" with an unrelated male. (via Bartholomew's Notes on Religion)Just to make it worth your while . . .Pat Condell on Catholic moralityThe videos of this year's Beyond Belief conference are now available online.[...]

Subversive Muse's "Short Critique of Science" series

Tue, 04 Dec 2007 12:23:00 +0000

Just quickly--Rae at Subversive Muse has written a series of posts "from a critical left-wing perspective" on atheism, science and religion. I've expressed my objections to Rae's arguments--I think they basically misrepresent science (it is taken as axiomatic in this series of posts that science is "an ideology," whereas I think this needs to be argued for/demonstrated) and critique a strawman definition of atheism--and I know Bruce (who is more well-versed on this topic than I am) is preparing a response at his blog. Brian at Primordial Blog has written a thoughtful response as well.

Just to make it worth your while (and Rae, I'm not lumping you in with these guys!), here are some Youtube dispatches from the war on science:

"The Evangelical War on Science"
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"The Republican War on Science"
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Highlights from the comments at Catch the Fire (before they're disappeared)

Tue, 04 Dec 2007 04:28:00 +0000

Catch The Fire has been getting a lot of traffic, it appears, since it became apparent to all and sundry that God/Pastor Nalliah backed the wrong horse in the recent Federal Election. The administrators appear to have relaxed their unstated ban on critical comments, for now, and you can find some of those at the end of this post. But most of the following extracts of comments are from true believers, responding to Nalliah's "explanation" for the miserable failure of his pre-election prophecy. I've separated them into categories . . .Why, God? Why?Many people from a number of Churches were gathering over a period of time and praying taht “God’s will would be done at this election”.Does God not place any value on our prayers? (Richard--who I suspect might be one of ours)Stock-standard lunacyApparently a psychic predicted a Rudd win. That alone tells me what Rudd is about and that I don’t want to be on side with these occult voices. (Aurora)We were spoken to through Judges 20 in that there must be determination that the battle must continue, regardless of the defeats, for in this passage the Lord says go up, but they were slaughtered – and yet they came together as one nation – almost – at the time. Later you find they were not all together – there were still those who were not with them in chapter 21. But God gave them victory regardless – the third time. We also had a dream of 3 snakes which looked fierce but were easily destroyed. So, we continue to pray the prayers we were supplied with before the election, but must now pray them in the context of what the Lord will do. He is the God of miracles. (Ken & Adrianne)I agree with what you have said, and I must admit when I heard the news of Labor’s victory, I was led to read from Lamentations. I believe God was grieving as I was. (Trisha)Lawyering for JesusSome people may not be aware that prophecy is conditional: upon both prayer and obedience.(Pastor Marilyn McKenny)I noted that when you declared what the Lord had told you, you included the word “IF”. While some would see this as a disclaimer for you to dodge criticism should the prophetic word not come to pass – the “IF” is meant to be an encouragement & motivation to the Church. 2 Chron 7:14 is an example of this type of condition. “IF my people….. etc”. Obviously, the condition was not met.(Pastor Bob Cotton, another Lawyer for Jesus)We have had situations the same , where God made his will known but it went the other way because no one was listening or prophecies were misinterpreted through poor theology, or prayer was weak . (Des & Christine Gibson)…. you did not get it wrong….. we the body of Christ did - oh for ears that will listen. (Allen Moore)Thankyou O servant of the Most High God.I don’t believe you got it wrong. I’ve never heard God say “oops”. (Robyn)A while ago, before I knew of your election prophecy I had a vision of John Howard standing defeated he was a broken man in my vision weeping and worn out. It then troubled me because of what your prophecy had declared, I thought how could 2 opposite things come from the same source of eternal truth?After you had pointed out that the lack of unity in the Body was the cause for Labor’s win (and many other problems we are facing) it brought a sense of peace(knowing that this vision was correct and from our Lord) and sadness too for I had wanted the Liberal party to win also. (Andrew, on how the power of Christ can resolve glaring contradictions)Denial ain't just a river in EgyptThe people have demanded a king and God has given us one (I Sam 8) . You, the prophet, has faithfully warned the nation, but God is preparing David, even while Saul is in power. (Jill)As to your question did I vote them in no I personally didn’t, I advised people who would listen and my children to vote family first so as not to go down the road of lust and lies in h[...]

Pope Benedict's reductio ad Hitlerum

Mon, 03 Dec 2007 12:40:00 +0000

I understand that there are historical reasons why when the Pope holds forth on a given topic, the world's media bends over backwards to report it. After all, his predecessors were once upon a time the most powerful leaders in the world. And yet it still bothers me that his banal brand of magical thinking is deemed newsworthy.

His latest encyclical, Spe Salvi, is being represented by many media outlets as a scathing attack on atheism, in response to the success of recent atheism-themed books by Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins. Talk about being hit with a wet newspaper . . .
The atheism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is—in its origins and aims—a type of moralism: a protest against the injustices of the world and of world history. A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering, and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God. A God with responsibility for such a world would not be a just God, much less a good God. It is for the sake of morality that this God has to be contested.
Do we not hear in these words the echo of a thousand online "concern troll" theists? "I understand: you're an atheist because you're angry at God. It can't possibly be because of the lack of evidence that a God exists. So it must be the anger thing."
Since there is no God to create justice, it seems man himself is now called to establish justice. If in the face of this world's suffering, protest against God is understandable, the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false. It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather, it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim. A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope.
No, Benedict: a world which has to create its own justice--and is aware of that fact--is a world that has finally weaned itself off the teat of religious dogma, cast aside the security blanket, and grown up. The cruelty and violations of which you speak--namely those caused by totalitarian regimes in the twentieth century--are simply the fruits of one set of dogmas being replaced with another. I'll say that again so that it might sink in. The cruelty and violations of which you speak are the fruits of dogma, not atheism. Your mistake is in your severe tunnel-vision, which is such that you cannot begin to countenance the thought that we might cast aside dogmatic thought altogether.

Vale Dogma Free America

Sun, 02 Dec 2007 20:35:00 +0000

Sad news on the atheism/freethought podcasting front: Dogma Free America is no more. It celebrated its fiftieth and final episode on November 22nd, with producer and host Rich Orman claiming that the podcast was taking up too much of his time. DFA's shows weren't theme-based or guest-based like Freethought Radio and The Non-Prophets, and mainly consisted on commentary on the latest news concerning magical thinking and theocracy. DFA also canvassed more international (read: non-US) news than other podcasts, and often ran stories on religious violence in sub-Saharan Africa (usually perpetrated against individuals suspected of "witchcraft"), as well as atrocities perpetrated by theocracies in the Islamic world. Hence, Christian listeners might (I imagine) have found it more even-handed than other non-theist podcasts.

For mine, however, the pick of the podcasts is still The Atheist Experience, which is actually a live cable access TV program screening in Austin, Texas. The Atheist Experience, as the site indicates, is "geared at a non-atheist audience," with a view to clearing up misconceptions about atheism as well as countering religious apologetics (current host Matt Dillahunty is an ex-fundie and his Biblical knowledge is very effective in this regard), addressing church-state separation issues and commenting on the latest in fundamentalist idiocy. Very entertaining--especially when the presenters engage with religious callers.

In which Pastor Nalliah 'splains hisself.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 11:13:00 +0000

God: Attorney At LawPastor Nalliah's first post-election contribution to the Catch a Fire blog is titled:Election 2007 - Did I get it wrong?Yes, you did, Danny. Yes, you did.Ordinarily you would expect someone who has been as comprehensively embarrassed by the facts as Nalliah to pack up his revival tent and slither away quietly into the night with what remains of the smoking ruins of his credibility. But Nalliah still has gallons of snake-oil to sell, and legions of gullible halfwits who are simply gagging for the stuff. And so he returns to "help you in better understanding the results of the Election 2007."He opens with persecution mania and an appeal to pity. In spite of "the fiery storm of accusation, criticism and persecution," [INSERT BIBLE VERSE HERE], God has given Danny broad enough shoulders "to cop quite a bit of flak." Nonetheless, "the weekend of the election was one of the worst weekends in my life." Why? Because God's anointed vessel John Howard had just suffered a massive defeat in the polls, and to top things off, Nalliah's father-in-law in Sri Lanka had taken seriously ill. "Bible believing Christians struggle not against flesh and blood, but wrestle against principalities and powers of spiritual darkness," and Satan--the fucker--had just delivered the Nalliahs a double-whammy.Immediately I said, “Lord, what’s happening?? How can I even rise up and preach Your Word?” But praise Almighty God, as we prayed together for my father-in-law, the Spirit of the Lord strengthened me to rise up and preach the Word of God. That night he miraculously recovered and is now doing very well. Glory to God!After ministering to the people of God on Saturday night, I struggled to fall asleep in my motel room in Albany, Western Australia, as I was all alone, in tears and feeling very sad for most of the night. I kept asking the Lord, “DID I GET IT WRONG???”Enter God to account for making Nalliah look like the Fuckwit Australian of the Year.I said, “Lord, why is it when the Body of Christ comes together to pray for rain, You answer our prayers so quickly?” The words from the Lord came to me, “For My people are united when they pray for rain.” At this moment I felt so prompted to read the prophetic word from the Lord regarding the election that I released on 11th August 2007.As I begin reading the prophetic word from the Lord, I was greatly stirred in my spirit to read the following words that I had stated, “I will boldly declare that PM John Howard will be re-elected in the Nov election – ‘IF THE BODY OF CHRIST UNITES IN PRAYER AND ACTION.’Again I heard the voice of the Lord, “For My people were not united in prayer and action for this election. If they were, they would have experienced spiritual revival under My freedom reigning in this nation, but now My people have chosen another way. They have not voted for My will, but for self gain and personal change.”The fine print, people! Always, always read the fine print! That's why Nalliah's prophecy didn't come to pass. Because not enough voters got with God's program and voted for Howard. Apparently, that's how this "democracy" thing works! Well, knock me down with a Chick Tract.The level of disunity in the Body of Christ was very clear to me closing in on election day. I received emails and messages from many professing Christians who were voting for Labor and the Greens. I just could not understand how they could do that, as their vote could be a vote to change existing laws to give greater rights to same sex-couples, legalise Abortion on demand (up to birth), introduce Federal Vilification Laws (eliminating freedom of speech), stop Prayer in Parliament, force Christian schools to employ homosexual teachers under Anti-Discrimination Laws, and the list goes on and on.It's not Nalliah's fault he got it so [...]

Either God or the Pastor has some 'splaining to do

Wed, 28 Nov 2007 12:54:00 +0000

Grods has blogged on this already, so I thought I'd take a look at the Catch the Fire website to see what Danny Nalliah's sheeple followers make of the outcome of his prediction--made on the highest of authorities, no less--of a Howard victory.

And . . . wait . . . oh, for fuck's sake! They've gone and erased the comments to this post, of which there were about seven the last time I looked. Fortunately Karen Hetherington's prophecies are still up, and as she assures her readers, "every dream God has given me regarding political matters in Australia and other nations has come to pass." Karen (via God) had Howard pegged as "God's chosen vessel to lead Australia as PM" as early as 1990, she tells us, though one gets the impression reading her that God was more firmly in the Costello camp: "And when on 30.7.07 I was driving past Mt. Beerwah in Queensland (aboriginal legend a mother mountain with womb) the Spirit of God suddenly moved me to cry out in the loud aboriginal like tongue followed by the shouting our several times of ‘The Honorable Peter Costello, Prime Minister elect of Australia’." (The amount of crazy Hetherington manages to cram into her post is truly astounding. Full marks!)

So how do the sheeple respond to the failure of these prophecies? Some go into denial:
TA Mark: We have failed Him. The Godless have been elected. We did not pray with enough self-sacrifice and fervour. . . . I feel now that this is His will, His challange to us. Over the coming years we must be strong and continue to spread the word of His Love.

Others (some of you will be familiar with this commenter's website) go into denial:
Dear Pastor Danny, although the election was not won, we will continue to trust God that He knows more than we know. Though we are all extremely disappointed, we have to fix our eyes on Jesus. The Bible tells us that we are going to face hard times and that the Antichrist is permitted to ‘overcome the saints’ for a time. Now is the time to hold on and pray that we are able to stand firm.

And others? Well, I guess they just disappear down the memory hole. Seriously, these people are so deluded that, even when they know they've been lied to, they happily pull the wool over their own eyes even further.

Enjoy some Colbert:
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The Wonderful World of Magical Thinking XXXIV

Tue, 27 Nov 2007 13:06:00 +0000

The week in fundie . . .The Opus Dei wing of the Liberal Party is being blamed by moderates for the fall of the Howard Government. (While they're at it, they might also throw some blame at Howard himself for backing Silas in Mitchell.) (Sydney Morning Herald)The Australian Christian bookstore chain Koorong (along with other Christian book retailers) has indicated that it will be unlikely to stock a new Bible study guide challenging the notion that the Bible excludes same-sex relationships. (The Age)A British primary school teacher in the Sudan faces a maximum of 40 lashes, six months in jail and a fine for the dastardly crime of "allegedly insulting Islam's prophet by allowing children to call a teddy bear Mohammed." You have got to be fucking kidding me. (AFP; see also Pharyngula)I'll let this grab from a Cutting Edge radio transcript speak for itself: The demons of Satan's army will soon physically manifest themselves as Aliens, arriving in armadas of space ships which we have heretofore called UFO's. The plan calls for them to suddenly appear at many places on Earth simultaneously. Some will appear at the White House to confer with the President; some will appear at the United Nations; other aliens will appear at key governmental buildings all over the globe. Aliens will appear in some people's homes or on their front yards. The world's peoples will literally be shocked out of their minds. This is the Plan. This may occur before the worldwide Rapture of the Church; we must be prepared to deal wisely with this planned phenomenon. (Via Fundies Say the Darndest Things)"Nice soul you have here. Awful shame if something were to happen to it." More standover tactics by Catholic clergy (obviously from the Pell wing) in the US. (The story comes via Fundies Say the Darndest Things. The mobster reference should be credited to Denis Loubet of the Non-Prophets)I just had a look at the Australian Christian Lobby's list of what it considers are the strengths and weaknesses of the Australian Greens' policies. Among the "weaknesses" the Lobby identifies are the Greens' support for a Bill of Rights, and their support for the extension of anti-discrimination legislation to (partially-taxpayer-funded) private schools as well as public schools--a reminder, if any were required, of how the ACL and the Religious Right in Australia generally are no friends of liberal democracy.UPDATE: Off-topic, but Phillip Adams really sums up why Labor's victory is so sweet.Humor via Atheist Media:[...]

Just when you thought the Liberal Party couldn't be any more unelectable . . .

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 12:14:00 +0000

The Opus Dei wing of the party has won a seat in Federal Parliament.

The electorate of Mitchell lies smack-bang in the middle of Jesusland (a.k.a. the Hills district of north-western Sydney) and is thus safe Liberal territory*. In 2006, Alex Hawke--who believes moderate Liberals should instead join the Greens--branch-stacked and bully-boyed his way into the Liberal candidacy. In what might someday come to be known as the "Hawke-Clarke hijack," Hawke and David "The Teacher" Clarke have extended the influence of the uber-Christian Right over the Liberal Party in NSW and the Young Liberals nationally.

And I say more power to them. The more lunar and extremist the Liberals appear, the further they will fade into the electoral wilderness where they belong.

(P.S. Super Simmo has returned to the blogosphere!)

(*Admittedly, there was a 9.6% swing to the ALP in Mitchell.)

More YouTube gold from Swannysback:
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Don't let the door hit you on your way out

Sun, 25 Nov 2007 11:46:00 +0000

And so expires the term of one of the most hostile governments to liberal democracy in recent memory. I celebrated with some damn fine Japanese malt beer: the convenience store didn't carry chardonnay. How did you celebrate?

(P.S. Good effort, Jen!)

Howard's concession speech. Highly remiss of him, don't you think, not to acknowledge the staunch support of the Murdoch press throughout his reign (despite their recommending a vote for Rudd this time around).

Rudd's victory speech. Shorter Rudd:
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I heartily concur!

UPDATE: OK, I can't resist posting more Keating in top-flight . . .
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And this from a time when the term "One Nation" meant something entirely different in Australian politics . . .
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Lying for Howard

Wed, 21 Nov 2007 12:21:00 +0000

In the previous post I alerted you to the existence (well, once upon a time) of the giant sea scorpion. In this post I present you with the giant Australian rightwing cockroach, which--alas--is not extinct, but alive and well in the Liberal Party. (Actually, that's a slur on giant cockroaches. Sorry, guys.)
(image) From the ABC:
The Liberal Party has expelled two members and notified the Electoral Commission of an incident involving election campaign workers distributing material it says is false and offensive.

The party says around five people were handing out the flyers last night in the seat of Lindsay in Sydney's west, when they were caught in the act by Labor Party members.

The ABC understands one of the people involved in the distribution of the offending material is Garry Clark, the husband of the retiring member, Jackie Kelly.

The flyer purports to be from the Islamic Federation of Australia, a group which does not exist, advocating a vote for Labor.

The Liberal Party's state director Graham Jaeschke says the material was unauthorised and made without the knowledge of the Party's head office.

"This is unacceptable behaviour. We've acted very quickly to fix this issue," he said.

"We've referred it on to the Australian Electoral Commission and we'll let the Australian Electoral Commission do their job."

Mr Jaeschke says the party does not condone the behaviour.

"It was undertaken without any authorisation or knowledge of the Liberal Party," he said.

Party behind in the polls a week out from the election? Here's what you do:

  1. Invent an organisation with "Islamic" in the title, knowing how likely this adjective is to set off big flashing red warning lights in too many xenophobic outer-suburban Sydney brains.

  2. Print a flyer, purporting to be a publication of said phony "Islamic" organisation, advocating a vote for your opponent

  3. Reap the electoral rewards.

Oh, I know what you're going to say. You're going to tell me to give the Liberal Party credit for expelling the racist arseclowns behind this stunt. Well, I'm not going to. Because if the Liberal Party can attract into its fold individuals who consider this kind of behaviour conscionable, then that speaks volumes about what the modern Liberal Party has become.

See also: The Age

I don't have a lot of time to write a blog post today . . .

Wed, 21 Nov 2007 03:56:00 +0000

. . . so here's a picture of an extinct giant sea scorpion.
(image) From Science Daily:

The discovery of a giant fossilised claw from an ancient sea scorpion indicates that when alive it would have been about two and a half meters long, much taller than the average man.

This find, from rocks 390 million years old, suggests that spiders, insects, crabs and similar creatures were much larger in the past than previously thought.

Dr Simon Braddy from the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol, co-author of an article about the find, said, 'This is an amazing discovery. We have known for some time that the fossil record yields monster millipedes, super-sized scorpions, colossal cockroaches, and jumbo dragonflies, but we never realised, until now, just how big some of these ancient creepy-crawlies were.'

The claw was discovered by one of Dr Braddy's co-authors*, Markus Poschmann, in a quarry near Prüm in Germany.
Apparently gigantism in ancient insects and other creatures that tend to the bite-sized nowadays has something to do with a richer oxygen supply in those times.

Here's Meganura monyi, the largest insect that ever lived:

I see now What's So Great About Christianity

Tue, 20 Nov 2007 00:07:00 +0000

Rightwing pundits keep trying to tell me What's So Great About Christianity. Well, I think I understand where they're coming from, now.

In the remote Penza region of Russia, a group of Orthodox Christians has barricaded itself inside an underground bunker to await the Apocalypse, which it believes will come to pass in May next year. Better still, the group contains in its number four children, including an eighteen-month-old baby, who are obliged to await the Apocalypse in temperatures dropping to minus 10 degrees Celsius.

The group has nothing in the way of sound empirical evidence to support the claim that the world will end in May 2008. But that's OK, because "While reason helps us to discover things about experience, faith helps us discover things that transcend experience."

And yes, the leader of the cult--under whose orders the Penza group are sitting out the end of the world in an icy cave--may be currently undergoing evaluation in a psychiatric facility, but surely all this means is that he now sees "in color what we previously saw in black and white." And isn't this whole episode a demonstration of the fact that "Christianity makes of life a moral drama in which we play a starring role and in which the most ordinary events take on a grand significance?"

And sure, you could always make the argument that these cultists have an ethical duty to look after the welfare of the children in their care--and that this duty involves not indoctrinating them and holding them hostage in below-freezing conditions. But Christians, you see, live sub specie aeternitatis. And isn't it "better [for those kids] to suffer wrong than to do wrong?" And if the kids die of exposure out there, why should we worry? "The secular person thinks there are two stages for humans: life and death. For the Christian, there are three: life, death, and the life to come. This is why, for the Christian, death is not so terrifying."

Face it, heathens. The people in that cave in Russia are "pursuing [their] higher destiny as human beings. [They] are becoming what [they] were meant to be," because Christianity "not only makes us aspire to be better, but it also shows us how to be better." By barricading oneself in a remote cave to await an event one has no reliable evidence will come to pass, stockpiling weapons, holding children against their will in below-freezing conditions, and threatening to blow oneself and one's fellows up if anyone tries to intervene.

Tinfoil site of the week

Mon, 19 Nov 2007 14:36:00 +0000

Family Security Matters is a US conservative front group for a neo-con think-tank. The following headline pretty much sums up the level of sanity on which this outfit operates:
How the Leftist/Marxist/Islamist Alliance Will Accomplish a One Religion/One-world Government

(Part One of Five)

David J. Jonsson

One might ask why it is important to understand the relation between the Leftist/Marxist/Islamist Alliance and the Emerging Movement among Churches and Mosques. It is because it indicates the movement of a historically conservative church and other organizations into the fold. These Emerging Church and Mosque Movements are the elephants in the pew. The Radical Islamist Movement has realized that the tactical weapons of terrorism and suicide bombing may not be achieving their goal for world domination, and that seduction, economics and political action are more effective in winning the war. In this essay, I address how the Leftist/Marxist/Islamist Alliance is approaching the goal of achieving a one religion/one-world government.

The public failure of the Soviet Union in 1991 interred Lenin’s theory of social causation in his Red Square casket, although, like Dracula, the monster occasionally climbs out of its casket and wanders through American college campuses and churches, seeking whom it may devour.
There you have it, folks. A "CABAL (sic)" of radical Islamists, Marxists and liberal Christians all plotting to achieve a one religion SLASH one world government. Reds under the bed and elephants in the pew. Does this guy ghost-write the editorials in The Australian?

Jonsson claims that
the Emerging Church movement is like a gateway drug to Islam, and only US fundies like him stand between Islam and global domination. No evidence is presented in support of this, of course, unless you count Revelations as "evidence".

Elsewhere on the site, we learn how teachers are "Teaching Terror in American Schools" and that America is "facing a liberal-Islamist alliance." The site also accuses American college students of "empty patriotism."

The Wonderful World of Magical Thnking XXXIII

Sun, 18 Nov 2007 14:06:00 +0000

The week in fundie . . .

  1. God hearts Howard's policies: Howard. (Sydney Morning Herald)
  2. Nothing restores my faith in the intersection of faith and politics than another heartwarming story from Saudi Arabia. Last week an appeals court increased the punishment meted out to a gang-rape victim (perfectly understandable, of course: she was in a car with males who were not her relatives) to 200 lashes and six months in prison. (via Bartholomew's Notes on Religion)
  3. And nothing restores my faith in the willingness of certain Christians to follow the example of the central figure of their religion than the openness and tolerance displayed by the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, which last week expelled a congregation for welcoming gays and lesbians. Fundies. If they're not lying for Jesus, they're hating for him. (via
  4. Meanwhile in Britain, women are queuing up for a kind of cosmetic surgery known as "virginity repair" to appease their future spouses and in-laws. All in the name of Islamic fundamentalism. All taxpayer-funded. (Daily India)
  5. The response to PBS' Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial is worth the price of admission (so to speak). (via Pharyngula)

Secular Believers:


O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Fri, 16 Nov 2007 15:21:00 +0000

How many of you are old enough to remember this?

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More ABC nostalgia:

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A blogger's "maiden speech"

Fri, 16 Nov 2007 06:50:00 +0000

I have a feeling that Subversive Muse will become a favoured double-click of mine. There are many--obviously including myself--who can learn something from what he has to say here:
It's noble to start a blog with intentions of changing people's opinions. That kind of idealism is something beautiful but unfortunately, rather deluded. It is in the nature of the reader to seek out information that reaffirms their beliefs, not challenges them. Aldous Huxley said that we live in a sea of island universes, perpetually separated from the experiences of others. We can share something with another person but we cannot truly place ourselves in their shoes. Still, despite our isolation, most of us are comfortable enough within ourselves and particularly, with our own personalised view of reality.

Within this view of reality, we are inherently informed about right and wrong, good and evil and beauty and ugliness. Each event in our lives moulds us into who we are and shapes what we believe. Our attitudes and values towards the world, other people and other beings all struggle to maintain their integrity. Although our lives are in a constant state of transition, we resist it. Apathy becomes the easiest option. We lose any sense of self determination, yielding to the whims of sloth, losing that childlike ability to accept things as they are, yet working to change them.

Accepting this notion, as a writer especially, is difficult. A writer, or anyone who expresses themselves through a craft, would like to believe that they act not only out of love for that craft, but out of the ability to inspire others to behave or think in a way that is out of the norm. Art is an egocentric process only in the sense that artistic work should have an impact on the world and not remain locked in a vacuum, only to be looked upon by the person who created it. So to accept that people are conservative by nature, that they will always resist your images and words, is rather depressing. It makes the author question their sense of identity, and moreover, their sense of purpose.

Merely reaffirming a reader's views is a hollow practice, in spite of the sense of camaraderie that it may foster. It's like reading books with the same plot structure over and over again. We begin to accept that a certain structure is more valid than others and then begin to get comfortable with it, forsaking everything new. Authors want to illuminate, to click with something in the reader's mind that was previously inactive and neglected. The human mind needs constant stimulus, as nothing quite compares to that little jolt of euphoria you experience when you've learned something completely and utterly new.

My earliest clear and distinct memory meme

Thu, 15 Nov 2007 13:10:00 +0000

Bruce has sent me a toughie. I have to:
  1. Describe my earliest memory where the memory is clear, and where "clear" means I can depict at least three details.
  2. Give an estimate of my age at the time.
  3. Tag five other bloggers with this meme.

When I was very young I used to share a bedroom with my younger sister. It was an upstairs bedroom in a two-storey house, and where we join the action I was lying on the upper bunk or our bunk bed. I can remember the curtains in the room, which I liked, even if--for reasons unknown--I found them a little scary. (They depicted schooners and ships.) I remember looking beyond the curtains and across the road to where a vacant lot stood. It was just bushland surrounded by houses, and there was a large rock in the middle of the lot which, if you were looking at it from my angle and vantage point, resembled a human face.

I guess that was the first time I noticed it--my sister and I would often remark upon it for years afterwards, until the lot was eventually bought and developed. I think we even tried to locate it once.

Oh great. My earliest memory turns out to be a case of pareidolia.

(By the way--I think I was about three at the time.)

I, in turn, tag Sean, Lucy, Madd McColl, Backyard Missionary and Ninglun.

Dan Dennett on the meme:
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Blatant Darwin Award

Wed, 14 Nov 2007 00:52:00 +0000

Man discovered dead in girlfriend's cat door
Wednesday Nov 14 10:00 AEDT

By ninemsn staff

A US man has been discovered dead in his girlfriend's cat door, leaving authorities confused about his exact manner of death.

The man, Charles Tucker Junior, was using the animal entry to gain access to his girlfriend's home on Sunday morning when he became stuck, News4Jax reported.

Officials said his girlfriend made the bizarre discovery only hours after she ordered him out of her house.
Speaking of Darwin, the PBS Nova special about the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case, "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial," will be available for viewing online from November 16.

Worth listening to is a collection of audio clips from a range of scientists and philosophers explaining what does and does not count as science.

The Reality-Based Community online

Tue, 13 Nov 2007 14:59:00 +0000

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Via Pharyngula

This is probably not a good thing . . .

Tue, 13 Nov 2007 09:33:00 +0000

According to The Blog Readability Test:

Via Ozatheist.