Tag Archives: religion

Fraud

In France last October, a court determined that the Church of Scientology guilty of fraud. It was only through a loophole, the BBC reported, that the organization didn’t get banned outright.

The case came after complaints from two women, one of whom said she was manipulated into paying more than 20,000 euros (£18,100) in the 1990s.

A Scientology spokesman told the BBC the verdict was “all bark and no bite”.

France regards Scientology as a sect, not a religion.

Prosecutors had asked for the group’s French operations to be dissolved and more heavily fined, but a legal loophole prevented any ban.

Instead, a Paris judge ordered the Church’s Celebrity Centre and a bookshop to pay a 600,000-euro fine. (BBC News)

It seems to me a little like suing a casino for fraud. Indeed, “fraud” charges could be leveled against most religions: all believers are able to interpret religion’s promises (its product) as they wish, and thus they are able to claim fraud.

The difference in Scientology and other religious groups is the payment system. Scientology requires payment before rendering its services: teaching followers how to deal with their engrams and eventually reach the clear state with its accompanying realization that they are Thetans. Most Christian denominations work on a different model. They provide the service and hope you’ll pay at the end. It seems to indicate traditional Christian churches have a greater confidence in their product.

This analogy doesn’t go very far, though, for while religions might have differences in their payment plans, there is one commonality: they all lack a money-back guarantee. But that’s simply because all organized religions are a gamble. Theists call that gamble “faith,” but it’s still essentially a bet: if I live my life in this way, constantly seeking advice from fellow travelers and ministers, I will get something for it in the end, or even in the present.

And so from that point of view, the ruling in France is ridiculous. All religions are open to claims of fraud, because all religions have disillusioned apostates.

All of this begs the question, though, of whether or not religion is a product. A commodity. Watch Benny Hinn and others warning about the dangers of necromancy, and it seems like they’re simply dealing with the competition, especially when you then watch Derren Brown do the ultimate cold reading. (Very much worth watching is Richard Dawkins’ interview with Brown, in which Brown explains exactly how to do a cold reading.)

What would be the nature of the product being sold? Security. We know what happens when you die, and with our help, you can control that. You don’t have to be caught in a cycle of never-ending rebirths; you don’t have to spend eternity writhing in agony: we can offer you a way out.

Religion is the ultimate, inverted COD: pay now, take delivery upon death. In that sense, it’s fraud-proof.

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Authorized Biographies

Press-2If you’re the leader of a sect that believes in one-man (very much “man”), top-down leadership, how do you get your biography written?

Simple: you tell your staff to do it.

David C. Pack has held a variety of leadership roles throughout his dynamic, event-filled life: author of more than 20 books, scores of booklets and a vast array of articles—Pastor General of The Restored Church of God—voice of The World to Come program—founder of Ambassador Training Center—publisher/editor-in-chief of three magazines. The Authorized Biography of David C. Pack tells the life story of a man who was carefully prepared by God for a unique position. (RCG)

We can read the details of the life of David Pack, the Restored Church of God’s Pastor General, in painful detail: Volume One is a whopping 615 pages to cover 1948 through 1995! Volume Two is an additional 608 pages. It’s tempting to ask, “What did you leave out, Dave?”

He seems to have anticipated this:

Since an unusually wide range of experiences has enriched my life, a certain problem was created for the writers: which stories and encounters should be included in the biography. Of course, there were certain ones that had to be incorporated because of their transcending influence or impact on my life. The biography would fail in purpose if it did not contain them, coupled with an explanation of why they were important. This alone meant a lot of material needed to be included.

There was also a desire to relate stories that are of lesser importance, but that have had a role in shaping me nonetheless. It is not the biography’s purpose to make every one of these seem overly important or to present them as in every case having brought dramatic transformations in my thinking. Of course, some did. Both I and the many writers who participated struggled with how many, and which, stories to include, as well as when to cut off stories with the overall length of the biography in mind!

It was not the goal to bring in every story in my life, or every experience I have had. But, we believe that every one chosen adds to the overall picture of what shaped me, and it is my hope that the reader benefits and is left motivated, better informed and even inspired for having read them.

I can’t imagine pretending to be humble and appearing to all others to be exactly the opposite. Of course, if I thought I was, literally, the most significant person on the Earth, I might include the details about the time I sneezed and panicked at not having a tissue, or the time I thought I might ask a girl out but then wondered whether she would reject me.

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Ping Spong

The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love is Shelby Spong’s 2005 effort to deal with several problematic themes in the Bible. Divided into sections, each section contains several chapters dealing with:

  • The Bible and the Environment (Overpopulation and the Catholic imperative to procreate)
  • The Bible and Women (Misogyny in the Bible)
  • The Bible and Homosexuality
  • The Bible and Children
  • The Bible and Anti-Semitism
  • The Bible and Certainty
  • Reading Scripture as Epic History

Spong flip-flops on how to explain these problematic passages. Sometimes, he seems to say “We’ve been misinterpreting this all along”; with other passages, he seems to say, “Well, primitive times, backwards thinking.” But with certain core items, he simply disregards them as being unscientific and unable to teach us anything.

He deals with the major passages about homosexuality in the first manner. The command in Leviticus not to lie with another man as one would a woman has been misinterpreted throughout the millenia. What it means, Spong explains, is not to treat men in a subservient manner, not to treat a man like a woman. In explaining it this way, Spong is essentially saying, “This is not a homophobic text; it’s a misogynistic text!” Whew — what a relief. Apparently, the writer of Leviticus just meant “Don’t treat your lover as if he’s lower than you” or “Don’t treat him like a woman.”

The other method of dealing with troubling texts is to employ the “they didn’t know better; they were primitive people back then” argument. He does this with the misogynistic passages. He gives great detail about all the double standards in the Old and New Testament for women (women are ceremonially unclean longer when giving birth to girls; woman are not to hold positions of authority or even ask questions in church; when are to be sequestered when menstruating), and he seems simply to brush it aside by saying, “Well, we know God couldn’t be misogynistic, so these texts represent the times and culture they’re written in.”

Yet Spong occasionally dismisses whole episodes in the Bible because they simply can’t be true. For instance, the core of traditional Christianity is wrong:

Let me state this boldly and succinctly: Jesus did not die for your sins or my sins. That proclamation is theological nonsense. It only breeds more violence as we seek to justify the negativity that religious people dump on others because we can no longer carry its load. […]

We are not fallen, sinful people who deserve to be punished. We are frightened, insecure people who have achieved the enormous breakthrough into self-consciousness that marks no other creature that has yet emerged from the evolutionary cycle. (173, 4)

One reads this and thinks, “Well, what’s the point then.” The logical guess is that Spong will explain, “It’s not Jesus; it’s what he taught.” Yet many of the says of Jesus — particularly the “I am” statements in John — didn’t happen:

Of course, Jesus never literally said any of these things. For someone to wander around the Jewish state in the first century, announcing himself to be the bread of life, the resurrection or the light of the world would have brought out people in white coats with butterfly nets to take him away. (234)

There are so many problems with that that it’s difficult to know where to start. At the most basic level, this shows a profound ignorance of the nature of first century notions of mental health. We only have to look at other passages in the Bible to realize there were none. It was all attributable to demons and mystery. And there certainly wasn’t anything resembling a “funny farm,” even if we strip away the nineteenth century cliches of Spong’s metaphor. Unless Spong has some archeological evidence he’s keeping hidden, it just doesn’t have any credibility whatsoever.

If it almost seems like Spong rejects the existence of a personal God, it’s because he does.

Whoa! Spong doesn’t believe in a personal God, the kind of God that the monotheistic religions have been preaching for millenia? That’s fine — I don’t particularly believe in that God either, but what’s the point of rooting around in scripture to explain this or that when Spong doesn’t even believe in the God most theists hold to be, in one way or another, the author of that scripture?

That’s why reading this causes a certain sense of cognitive whiplash — and I’d assume it’s an experience common to most of his books. “We don’t have to throw out the Bible because of the homophobia that drips from its pages because those passages have been misunderstood for so long; but we do need to throw out the God who supposedly wrote the Bible because no one ever comes back from the dead.” Isn’t faith in that very thing the heart of Christianity?

Spong isn’t trying to revise Christianity as much as he’s attempting to create an entirely new religious system, one that puts all holy books on the same level as the Iliad or the Odyssey. I’m fine what that; that’s the level I put most holy books: instructive, but in no way more authoritative than any other book. But then to insist on calling oneself a Christian seems ridiculous.

And what’s the point of it all? No Christian who believes in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the actual existence of Adam and Eve, and the need to be saved from Original Sin is going to say, “Hey, Shelby — good point. I’m convinced.” The only people who will be convinced are fence-riders like Spong himself, people who want the cultural comforts of belonging to a religion without any of the bothersome necessities of believing in God, Jesus, etc.

Additionally, no atheist is going to be convinced. To non-theists, Shelby seems to be taking a Trans-Am, gutting it, moving the engine to the back, and turning it into a boat and yet insisting on calling it a Trans-Am. It’s not a Trans-Am, and Spong’s creation is not Christianity.

Spong hints at what he’s after:

Creation must now be seen as an unfinished process. God cannot accurately be portrayed as resting from divine labors which are unending. There was no original perfection from which human life could fall into sin. Life has always been evolving. The Psalmist was wrong: we were not created “a little lower than the angels” (Ps. 8:5, KJV). Rather, we have evolved into a status that we judge to be only a little higher than the ape’s.

This is a very different perspective. There is a vast contrast between the definition of being fallen creatures and that of being incomplete creatures. […] We do not need some divine rescue accomplished by an invasive deity to lift us from a fall that never happened and to restore us to a status we never possessed. The idea that Jesus had to pay the price of our sinfulness is an idea that is bankrupt. When that idea collapses, so do all of those violent, controlling and guilt-producing tactics that are so deeply part of traditional Christianity.

It is like an unstoppable waterfall. Baptism, understood as the sacramental act designed to wash from the newborn baby the stain of that original fall into sin, becomes inoperative. The Eucharist, developed as a liturgical attempt to reenact the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross that paid the price of our sinfulness, becomes empty of meaning. […]

The first step is found, I believe, in acknowledging our evolutionary origins and dispensing with any suggestion that sin, inadequacy and guilt are the definitions into which we are born. […] We might be a dead end in the evolutionary process, a creature like the dinosaur, destined for extinction. We might instead be the bridge to a brilliant future that none of us can yet imagine. (177-9)

Basically, Spong is talking more Arthur C. Clarke/2001: A Space Odyssey than anything else. Yet recall that the sequel, 2010, ends with a very Garden of Eden-esque situation:

“ALL THESE WORLDS
ARE YOURS EXCEPT
EUROPA
ATTEMPT NO
LANDING THERE
USE THEM TOGETHER
USE THEM IN PEACE”

Or maybe Spong has something else in mind. Maybe Spong doesn’t really know what he has in mind. Except that he’s a Christian, but only insofar as he reads the Bible and thinks Jesus was damn fine man (in as much as we can tell from his sayings, after we scrape away everything he obviously never said).

Spong calls himself a Christian, but it leaves me wondering what kind? It’s seems that, having been an Episcopal priest and bishop for so long, he simply can’t let go.

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Collins and the Mind

Sam Harris, author of the excellent The End of Faith, has an op-ed in the New York Times about Obama’s selection of Dr. Francis Collins to head the National Institutes of Health.

Collins is famous for his work leading the Human Genome project as well as his stance that there exists “a consistent and profoundly satisfying harmony” between science and Christianity. While he is not a proponent of Intelligent Design, Dr. Collins believes both Genesis and Darwin. Harris explained it thus:

What follows are a series of slides, presented in order, from a lecture on science and belief that Dr. Collins gave at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2008:

Slide 1: “Almighty God, who is not limited in space or time, created a universe 13.7 billion years ago with its parameters precisely tuned to allow the development of complexity over long periods of time.”

Slide 2: “God’s plan included the mechanism of evolution to create the marvelous diversity of living things on our planet. Most especially, that creative plan included human beings.”

Slide 3: “After evolution had prepared a sufficiently advanced ‘house’ (the human brain), God gifted humanity with the knowledge of good and evil (the moral law), with free will, and with an immortal soul.”

Slide 4: “We humans used our free will to break the moral law, leading to our estrangement from God. For Christians, Jesus is the solution to that estrangement.”

Slide 5: “If the moral law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It’s all an illusion. We’ve been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?” (Source)

Harris is concerned about this blending of religion and science. He writes that when Collins is

challenged with alternative accounts of these phenomena — or with evidence that suggests that God might be unloving, illogical, inconsistent or, indeed, absent — Dr. Collins will say that God stands outside of Nature, and thus science cannot address the question of his existence at all.

Similarly, Dr. Collins insists that our moral intuitions attest to God’s existence, to his perfectly moral character and to his desire to have fellowship with every member of our species. But when our moral intuitions recoil at the casual destruction of innocents by, say, a tidal wave or earthquake, Dr. Collins assures us that our time-bound notions of good and evil can’t be trusted and that God’s will is a mystery.

In short, Harris is worried about the fact that, when it comes to the moral dimension of the universe, Collins ceases being a scientist and becomes a theologian. Certainly the statement “God’s will is a mystery” is not something that can be tested scientifically, Harris rightly points out.

But Harris is up to more, though. He rightly points out that this view of creation — evolution to one point, divine spark-of-morality injection at another — recreates an age-old problem: the mind-body problem.

1-phineas-gage-skullJust how is the mind/soul connected to the body? Where does one end and the other begin? Things we’ve traditionally thought of as part of the mind/soul (such as personality) are oddly susceptible to influence through physical media. The most famous example is Phineas Gage, a railway who, through a series of unfortunate events, had a railroad stake placed in his skull. He survived, but was never the same. He changed. Instead of the kind, fun-loving Gage, he became a foul-mouthed, short-tempered jerk. His personality changed through violent manipulation of his brain. It kind of indicates that personality is not an aspect of the soul.

Contemporary examples abound. As a teacher, I see it every day: Ritalin. Over-medicate a child on Ritalin and you’ll get a somber, introverted, sleepy individual; get it just right, and you’ll get a “normal” person; under-medicate and you’ll get someone almost bouncing off the walls. When I was in school, this would have all been chalked up to “personality.”

This is exactly what Harris has in mind when he writes,

Most scientists who study the human mind are convinced that minds are the products of brains, and brains are the products of evolution. Dr. Collins takes a different approach: he insists that at some moment in the development of our species God inserted crucial components — including an immortal soul, free will, the moral law, spiritual hunger, genuine altruism, etc.

As someone who believes that our understanding of human nature can be derived from neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science and behavioral economics, among others, I am troubled by Dr. Collins’s line of thinking. I also believe it would seriously undercut fields like neuroscience and our growing understanding of the human mind. If we must look to religion to explain our moral sense, what should we make of the deficits of moral reasoning associated with conditions like frontal lobe syndrome and psychopathy? Are these disorders best addressed by theology?

Dr. Collins sees morality as an element of the soul; Harris points out that this is untestable and amounts to a re-introduction of the mind/body problem into contemporary science. It’s an insightful point, and Harris builds to this point very effectively.

It’s a tricky issue. Religious beliefs are often bedrock beliefs: they inform and shape other beliefs. Would we want a Christian Scientist in the role, someone who believes that all ailments are spiritual, figments of an unenlightened imagination?

But will Collins’ religious beliefs affect his scientific reasoning? I’m not convinced, like Harris, that it will. It didn’t when he was director of the Human Genome Project. Then again, Sam Harris is a long-tailed atheist in a Christian rocking chair country: he’s more than a little skittish, and often justifiably so.

Source: Gary Stern, at Blogging Religiously.

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Antichrist Beast Obama

The site’s welcoming text reads,

Any fair study of the scriptures coupled with the study of the signs of the times will convince almost anybody with a modicum of intelligence that the end of the world is drawing nigh. […] Barack Obama is the Antichrist, and is leading doomed america [sic] to her final destruction and the destruction of the world! We’re not talking some vague, nebulus [sic] postulation, we’re talking plain, straight BIble [sic] talk backed up by an overwhelming amount of real evidence – on the ground! Watch this fascinating, three-part documentary and check out the rest of the site for Bible perspective on the rise of Antichrist in the last hours of these last, dark days.

Anyone who is not familiar with Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church would do well to watch this BBC documentary.

One might wonder what someone is hoping to accomplish by insulting its readers by suggesting that those who disagree (or who are not yet convinced) don’t even have a “modicum of intelligence.” Yet once it’s clear that this is one of Westboro Baptist Church’s many web sites, all is clear.

What’s interesting about this is the time line Phelps is setting up for himself here. By calling Obama the Antichrist, Phelps is painting himself into a corner; it is a definitive claim about prophecy.

When Obama leaves office and not a single thing has happened, what will happen? Will Phelps admit he was wrong and at last quiet his irrationally bigoted voice?

Doubtful — false prophets always have a way of reinventing themselves.

Site: http://www.beastobama.com/

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1600 and All That

It’s rare that we read something that makes us say “ah!” I’m not quite talking about epiphanies, but something very similar. Take the following passage from Sam Harris’ The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason:

It is a truism to say that people of faith have created almost everything of value in our world, because nearly every person who has ever swung a hammer or trimmed a sail has been a devout member of one or another religious culture. There has been simply no one else to do the job. We can also say that every human achievement prior to the twentieth century was accomplished by men and women who were perfectly ignorant of the molecular basis of life. Does this suggest that a nineteenth-century view of biology would have been worth maintaining? There is no telling what our world would be like had someone great kingdom of Reason emerged at the time of the Crusades and pacified the credulous multitudes of Europe and the Middle East. We might have had modern democracy and the Internet by the year 1600.

A kick to the head when I first read that.

Simply put, there is no difference between the Earth today and the Earth when Shakespeare was was writing Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing, or As You Like It (all possibly written around 1600, give or take a few). Granted, we’ve depleted many resources since then, but the no new elements have been created (except a few radioactive ones in the lab).

More tellingly, nothing has changed about the physiology of humans. Our brains haven’t become more efficient; our general intelligence hasn’t really increased; our bodies haven’t become necessarily more adept at anything. Granted, we do live longer and are stronger, but that’s due to improved living conditions, which has been brought about by improved technology — the whole point of this.

But as far as resources and intelligence go, it is, at first blush, difficult to understand why we haven’t had “modern” technology for centuries.

What could have held the human race back? Only the human race itself.

How? Simple: unrelenting, unbending dogma.

Take away all the restrictions of dogma, all the assurances that slaughtering animals will somehow help us after death, all the certainty that initially unexplainable experiences (pestilences, plagues, diseases, seizures, and the like) can only be explained supernaturally, take away the fear that someone’s different thoughts pose an existential threat to us as individuals, and what do you have left? Free inquiry: the liberty to pursue questions to their end no matter how uncomfortable. It is this, above all, that leads to technological development.

Yet there is always a push against it — a reaction from the powers that be, because those powers understand that their authority is based on a presumption of never-changing Truth. Because eternal Truth and new, contrary evidence are in conflict, one or the other must be crushed. Usually it’s the new, contrary evidence.

Progress undermines Truth, and history is replete with examples:

The printing press was invented in fifteenth century, but Bibles in the vernacular were banned many decades afterward. Why?

Someone looked at nature and came up with an explanation for its diversity that differed from that which had been delivered in a book written in pre-scientific times; many people wanted (and still desire) to muzzle the theorist.

A gentleman provided reproducible, mathematical evidence that an earlier gentleman’s suggestion might in fact be correct: the motions of the planets might better be explained by placing the sun at the center of our planet’s rotation instead of the opposite. The gentleman was condemned as a heretic.

And “heresy” is a useful term here, for its Greek root means “choice.” Choice historically has been stifled in the name of salvation and homogeny between what individuals see and what those with metaphysical authority say must be say. In short, dogma, in its many forms, stifles choice, and in turn, stifles curiosity, and in turn, stifles progress. Without people constantly looking over their intellectual shoulders for centuries, we might have achieved a much greater technological development much earlier.

Really, the only thing that stopped us was ourselves. And that is perhaps the most tragic legacy I can imagine delivering to our progeny.

A sobering question is whether or not we’ve rid ourselves of this dogma. The simple answer is, “No.” And why?

Because dogma cannot change. Dogma cannot even admit the possiblity of change. Development — of any kind — depends on the ability and (more importantly, for humanity has the ability) the willigness to change our ideas when new evidence emerges. Dogma prevents this. Dogma says, “What is true is true, for all times.” Dogma instists on its own veracity and because Truth never changes, dogma never changes.

Could we have had the Internet in 1600? Certainly, but we didn’t give ourselves the necessary freedom.

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Opposing Views

Here’s a comment I posted at aid-gaza.net:

Comment from aid-gaza.net

Comment from aid-gaza.net

(Click on the image for a larger, more legible view.)

The comment, though, didn’t receive the blogger’s stamp of approval, as you can see if you click on through.

It’s hard to take someone seriously who is censors opposing viewpoints after inviting comment. I left another comment, saying just that.

Second comment from aid-gaza.net

Second comment from aid-gaza.net

Wonder if that will make it through?

Update

It did. Spam filtering problems. I suggest Spam Karma.

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L.A. Protest

At approximately 4:30 into the video, watch for the gentleman shouting Hitler’s praises, and calling for Jews to be sent to ovens.

The irony: if Hitler had killed all the Jews, he’d have turned to someone else next, and after that, yet another race — eventually, Arabs.

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The Children

Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic writes, addressing Israeli soldiers,

[W]hen you operate, operate with the children in mind. It’s a burden Hamas has placed on you — it’s no joy to fight an enemy who hides behind his children. But that’s what you’re facing. (Source)

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Religious License

Here in South Carolina, the Department of Transportation began issuing religious-themed license plates. They have stained glass, a cross, and the words “I believe.”

scibelieveplate

One guess as to what happened:

A federal judge says South Carolina must stop marketing and making license plates that feature the image of a cross and the words “I Believe.”

A federal judge issued a temporary injunction during a court hearing Thursday after opponents said the plates violate the separation of church and state.

U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie said the case needs to be heard in court. In the meantime, the judge said the Department of Motor Vehicles cannot take any more orders for the plates.

Department spokeswoman Beth Parks said the agency stopped taking orders more than a month ago, after it collected the 400 needed to cover the cost of making the plates. She said they are in production, and none has shipped. (AP)

I’m sure there are many in the state who are appalled by this. Just another example of those damn goddless bastards trying to destroy religion in America. That’s what the Andre Bauer, the Lt. Governor, says:

For those who say this violates the Constitution by giving preference to Christianity, I think this lawsuit clearly discriminates against persons of faith,” Bauer said in a statement. “I expect the state attorney general to vigorously defend this, and it is time that people stand up for their beliefs. Enough is enough.” (Harold Online, cached at Google)

plate2Yet how could anyone argue that it doesn’t give preference Christianity? There are no other freaking choices! I’d have gone for a FSM plate myself, but I don’t think my wife would have appreciated it.

Nate, at Shots from the Battery, really hits on the important issue, though:

I really wish we could sue the fundegelical state lawmakers who are forcing us taxpayers to bear the burden of the litigation they knew they were inviting. It’s a waste of $$ that the state taxpayers cannot afford. (SFTB)

Every morning going to work, it seems like I hear about the state making more and more budget cuts because of the falling tax revenue. South Carolina is predicted to have a stunning 14% unemployment rate by the spring, and these nitwits are out trying to make a mindless religious point.

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Woman Fired For Eating ‘Unclean’ Meat

Has anyone heard about this? It happened back in 2004.

A Central Florida woman was fired from her job after eating “unclean” meat and violating a reported company policy that pork and pork products are not permissible on company premises, according to Local 6 News.

Lina Morales was hired as an administrative assistant at Rising Star — a Central Florida telecommunications company with strong Muslim ties, Local 6 News reported.

Woman Fired For Eating ‘Unclean’ Meat – Money News Story – WKMG Orlando.

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Black Armstrongists

If you listen to the first two minutes of Rod Meredith’s Feast of Tabernacles 2008 opening message, you’ll hear this:

God has been very, very good to us this past year. We deeply appreciate it. Even now, as I make this sermon, a little before the Feast, God has blessed us financially, and we’re running around 8-10% increase in our financial income. We’re very grateful for that. He’s moving us ahead. The new television network we have, the Black Entertainment Network, is producing great fruit!

I wonder how that could possibly be working out? After all, the Living Church of God, of which Rod Meredith is the leader, is an Armstrongist sect, which means one thing: theological, institutional racism.

But does that mean individual racism? Can a church be xenophobic and its members not? Can a theology be racist and its adherents not?

I grew up in the Worldwide Church of God, an organization that  was founded on a racist theology. The leadership denied the cornerstone of the group’s theology was racist. “We don’t believe non-whites are inferior to whites, but we believe interracial marriage is a sin.” Or worse: “We believe all humans are equal before God, but in the Kingdom of God will be segregated.” Yet those protestations don’t stand up to what the founder and leader, Herbert Armstrong, wrote.

The church believed that the white, English-speaking nations of the world were God’s chosen people. America, Britain, France, and the other white European countries were the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, with Britain, America, and the other English-speaking nations having special status.

God had always favored whites. Indeed, Adam was white, as were Noah, Jesus, and all the other patriarchs and prophets. Armstrong wrote,

There was rampant and universal interracial marriage–so exceedingly universal that Noah, only, was unblemished or perfect in his generations–his ancestry. He was of the original white strain.

It is amply evident that by the time of Noah there were at least the three primary or major racial strains on earth, the white, yellow and black, although interracial marriage produced many racial mixtures.

God does not reveal in the Bible the precise origin of the different races. It is evident that Adam and Eve were created white. God’s chosen nation Israel was white. Jesus was white. But it is a fair conjecture that in mother Eve were created ovaries containing the yellow and black genes, as well as white, so that some of the children of Adam and Eve gave rise to black, yellow, as well as white.

The one man God chose to preserve the human race alive after the Flood was perfect in his generations–all his ancestry back to Adam was of the one strain, and undoubtedly that happened to be white–not that white is in any sense superior.

If you are a livestock breeder, planning to enter your prize animals in a livestock show–perhaps at a state or county fair–you will be sure to enter only thoroughbred or pedigreed stock! Mixing the breed alters the characteristics.

God originally set the bounds of national borders, intending nations to be Separated to prevent interracial marriage. Notice, “When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance [speaking of land or geographical boundaries], when he separated [notice—he separated] the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people . . .” (Deut. 32:8).

But people wanted to intermarry–until there would be only one race!

That desire seems still inherent in human nature today! (Mystery of the Ages, pages 147, 148)

God is a livestock breeder, and we his chattel. We whites are the thoroughbreds; breeding with other races will only alter our original, perfect, blameless strain.

Furthermore, the world was originally segregated, and the Kingdom of God would be, too:

In Noah’s day, the chief cause of the violence and chaos of world conditions was racial hatreds, interracial marriages, and racial violence caused by man’s efforts toward integration and amalgamation of races, contrary to God’s laws. God had set the boundary lines for the nations and the races at the beginning (Deut. 32:8-9; Acts 17:26). But men had refused to remain in the lands to which God had assigned them. That was the cause of the corruption and violence that ended that world. For 100 years Noah had preached God’s ways to the people—but they didn’t heed. […]

Noah merely preached to people in his human lifetime. But Noah, in the resurrection, immortal, in power and glory, will be given the power to enforce God’s ways in regard to race.

It seems evident that the resurrected Noah will head a vast project of the relocation of the races and nations, within the boundaries God has set, for their own best good, happiness and richest blessings. This will be a tremendous operation. It will require great and vast organization, reinforced with power to move whole nations and races. This time, peoples and nations will move where God has planned for them, and no defiance will be tolerated. (Mystery of the Ages, pages 341, 342)

Never mind that that the “evidence” Armstrong gave about a white Adam and the “project of the relocation of the races” was his own assurance that “it seems evident.” Armstrong was God’s spokesman, and that was sufficient.

What’s odd, though, is how selectively this kind of racist tripe was preached. I, for one, never heard anything like that in the congregation I attended.

Perhaps that’s because there were three black congregants.

“Apostle” was the highest rank, but there was only one of those: Herbert Armstrong. The second highest rank would be “evangelist,” which might be thought of as a cross between a bishop and an archbishop in the Catholic hierarchy, except they had no say and who would be the next Apostle should the current one die before the end of the age, which is what happened.

It is indeed difficult to imagine that any African Americans would be interested in a church whose theology included the literal proposition that “blacks will be sent back to Africa where they belong,” but there were. Indeed, there was one black evangelist — the highest rank attainable in the church.

In our congregation, there were exactly three African American congregants: a late-middle aged couple and a young lady. They sat together on the second row, always in the same seats, just a few seats down from where my family sat.

For a long time I thought the young lady — an attractive woman in her mid-twenties I’ll call Natalie — was related to the Smiths (obviously not their real name). Indeed, I thought she was their daughter. Why else would they sit together?

Perhaps because they were three in a congregation of 200. They represented around 1.5%.

Eventually, Natalie moved to another congregation of the same sect. There were more African Americans in that congregation, allowing for greater socializing for her: the church wasn’t segregated, you see, but it did ban interracial and outside-the-church dating, so Natalie was a condemned single had she stayed in our area.

It’s difficult for me to imagine, looking back on those three individuals’ self-imposed segregation, what would have drawn them to the sect to begin with? What, to African Americans, is attractive about the notion that white, English-speaking individuals are God’s chosen people, the original Lost Ten Tribes?

All of this makes me wonder how much the executives at BET really know about Meredith and his theology.

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Mark of the Beast

What’s going on here?

West Virginia started Friday keeping driver’s license photos out of a computer database for members of a small religious group who believe digital storage is a “mark of the beast” that evokes biblical prophecy.

State Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Joseph Cicchirillo said the group of about 50 or 60 Christians, who are not affiliated with a particular church, contacted the agency two or three years ago to object to their pictures “being on a database that can be exchanged throughout the world or hacked into.” […]

Without this accommodation, group members wouldn’t get their driver’s licenses, which the commissioner said would hamper their ability to get everyday services from insurance coverage to check cashing.

I’m all for religious accommodation, but this is a bit ridiculous. This “Mark of the Beast” nonsense is not a theological point, like the Sabbath. Its appearance in the Bible is so vague that it could be interpreted many ways. “I don’t want to clock in — it’s the mark of the beast.”

Indeed, the story includes something just that bizarre:

One of the group members is Phil Hudok, who made headlines in 1999 when he was fired as a Randolph County school teacher for refusing to require his students to wear bar-coded identification badges. Hudok was later reinstated after a circuit judge said the school board had made no attempt to accommodate his religious beliefs.

How exactly was the school to accommodate these beliefs?

And just how insane do religious beliefs have to be in order for some one to say, “That’s too much.”

Can a racist who bases his racism on twisting passages of the Bible refuse to work with a black man because it offends his beliefs? Can a Muslim refuse to work with a woman because it offends his religious beliefs?

The State should accommodate religious beliefs when it doesn’t include re-inventing a whole data management system for a few individuals (as is the case with the article above) and when the belief is not some fringe belief held by a handful of paranoid idiots.

Source

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Exposing a Fantasy

The Illuminati. Who would be better to expose this fantasy than the one and only Bill Schnoebelen? Bill

was a Satanic and Voodoo High Priest, 2nd degree Church of Satan, New Age guru, occultist, channeler, 90th degree Mason, Knight Templar, and a member of the Illuminati.

A lot of titles. Sounds like someone who’s been searching.

Bill’s got a great story. He was born a Catholic, but like all good Catholics, he eventually became a Satanist. A Wiccan. A Mason. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Bill got interested in the occult because some professor in his seminary — oh, he was going to be a priest — said that, in order to become more like Christ, seminarians should study what Christ studied: the occult, because Jesus was really nothing more than a magician. Rather, someone who practiced Magick.

Odd seminary professor, that.

Eventually Bill fell into the Wicca movement and then progressed on to Satanism, and his career in the Church of Satan was going quite well until it came time for him to become a Satanic priest. Why? Bill explains for us that, before he could become a satanic priest, he had to become a Catholic priest.

That’s news.

So he found a priest willing to ordain him in return for an ordination as a witch something-or-other.

A priest can simply ordain someone else a priest? I thought that’s something a bishop would have to do. Maybe I’m just getting too hung up on the details.

At some point in his walk down the dark road, crosses over the abyss or some similar formulation. What that means, Schnoebelen explains, is that he stands above good and evil. He is a god, and all other humans are like little more than cattle.

At this point, he was told that “to move through what is called eight degree” one has to make choice: either study Lycanthropy or vampirism. He says, “I knew a couple of werewolves and I learned from them, and it’s rather a painful process.”

Not being one who likes pain, he chose vampirism.

How’d that go?

I was made to drink the blood of what I now believe to be a fallen angel, and he in turn drank my blood, and by doing that, something happened to my blood and I was actually physiologically transformed in may subtle ways. My blood type changed. It became impossible for me to eat[ …] except blood. The only solid food I consumed was the Catholic communion host.

Next time I’m at Mass with my wife, I guess I’ll have a hard time suppressing the knowledge that a good many of the parishioners could simply be vampires looking for — what? I’m not sure.

Where did Bill get the blood? By this time he had around 160 witches under them, and many of them more more than willing to let him bite into their jugular — literally. At least that’s what he says.

It got so bad, he says, that he literally had urges to jump on prostitutes, rip their throats out, and drain their bodies. What kept him from doing that? He really loved his wife, and he knew getting caught doing something like this could shatter their marriage.

But didn’t he view all other humans as beneath him — little more than animals? Why would he care about his wife anymore?

The story continues that Bill got back from the bank one of the checks he’d sent to the Church of Satan, and a bank teller had written on the check that she would be praying for Bill.

Within a day or two, I lost all my magical power. I lost all my vampiric power. I lost my job. I got sick as a dog. My wife even got sick.

Bill did what any self-respecting vampire would do. He cried out to Lucifer for a sign.

Who showed up?

Mormon missionaries!

I’d been told many years earlier by this grand druid fellow down in Arkansas, that if I ever got in really deep spiritual trouble, what I needed to do was join the Mormon church, because the Mormon church had been started by witches, for witches, for the express purpose of giving people a place for people like me [sic] to hide out and appear to be nice, conservative, white-bread, Republican Christians.

So the Catholic host is all the solid food a vampire needs and Joseph Smith was a witch.

Who knew?

I couldn’t make it any further. Half an hour had yielded so much, well, crap:Wicca, Mormonism, Catholicism, Satanism, and Masonry, all united in an unholy conspiracy to rule the world. It’s all within the first half hour of “Exposing the Illuminati from Within.”

Bill has other videos available, including a nine-hour special Interview with an Ex-Vampire (Google Video). A few minutes of this reveals stories of battles with demons that leave physical marks, a Wicca ceremony to call up a demon that results in the conjurer being whisked immediately to hell before Bill’s very eyes (at the very least, the guy disappears), of casting spells that result in people’s deaths, and numerous other fantastic (as in “fantasy”) stories.

One has to ask, though, what’s going on here. Is this guy delusional? Did he simply spend a lot of his youth searching for a spiritual home and now that he’s a born-again Christian, he embellishes his life’s story — for the greater good? Is he simply lying? He has to be, because look at what he’s saying: All your childhood fears of beasts under the bed, of werewolves and vampires, of withes casting death-spells, combined with all the urban legends you’ve ever heard, are true — and Wicca, Mormonism, Catholicism, Satanism, and Masonry (one and the same, really) are all behind it.

Who can take this stuff seriously?

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How to Beat Your Wife

Your wife is not your merchandise. Men, if you choose to beat your wife, there are some simple guidelines you must follow.

See — the Islamic rules on treatment of women are not that barbaric…

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BoM 9: First Book of Nephi, Chapters 5, 6

When the boys return, with Laban’s servent Zoram, they find that Sariah, their mother, has been complaining about Lehi’s decision to drop everything and run to the wilderness. But what the description is odd:

For [Sariah] had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: “Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.”

“Visionary” today means far-seeing; it’s hardly derogatory. I’m assuming that it meant something different in Smith’s day.

There is some textual help, though: a cross reference in the on-line version of the Book of Mormon. It refers to Genesis 37.19: “And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.”

Slick. Really, a good con — this gives the indication that the Book of Mormon was a translation, and that the term used in 1 Nephi 5.2 is the same Hebrew word in Genesis 37.19. But it doesn’t all add up. To begin with, we have no way to determine what term was used in the original BoM because we don’t have the original text; all we have is a purported translation.

Not only that, but Mormon apologists can’t even agree on the original language used for the plates:

Latter-day Saint scholars have long been divided on the issue of the language in which the Book of Mormon is written. Some have proposed that the Nephite record was simply written in Egyptian, while others have suggested that the Nephite scribes used Egyptian script to write Hebrew text. While either of these is possible, this present study will elicit evidence for the latter.

Non-Latter-day Saint scholars and others have long scoffed at the idea that an Israelite group from Jerusalem should have written in Egyptian and mocked the term “reformed Egyptian” as nonsense. Since Joseph Smith’s time, we have learned a great deal about Egyptian and Israelite records and realize that the Book of Mormon was correct in all respects.

The ancient Egyptians used three types of writing systems. The most well known, the hieroglyphs (Greek for “sacred symbols”), comprised nearly 400 picture characters depicting things found in real life. A cursive script called hieratic (Greek for “sacred”) was also used, principally on papyrus. Around 700 B.C., the Egyptians developed an even more cursive script that we call demotic (Greek for “popular”), which bore little resemblance to the hieroglyphs. Both hieratic and demotic were in use in Lehi’s time and can properly be termed “reformed Egyptian.” From the account in Mormon 9:32, it seems likely that the Nephites further reformed the characters.

While it is clear that the Book of Mormon was written in Egyptian characters, scholars are divided on whether the underlying language was Egyptian or Hebrew. (Source)

There’s a lot in this passage, and not just the admission that there’s no consensus. Most striking is this statement: “Both hieratic and demotic were in use in Lehi’s time and can properly be termed ‘reformed Egyptian.'” I think this is called begging the question. The issue is whether or not there’s something called “reformed Egyptian,” and the authors of the paper simply assume it blithly.

Getting back to Nephi’s first book, the story continues with mother being comforted, everyone offering sacrifices of gratitude, and Lehi finally looking at the critical tablets brought back from Laban. They contain the books of Moses as well as Lehi’s fathers’ geneology, enabling Lehi to trace his lineage back to to the patriarch Jacob.

This should not be surprising, given the fact that Lehi and everyone are Jews.

Lehi gets excited — “filled with the Spirit” — and declares that all nations, all humans, in all times, should see these documents.

Chapter five sets up some heavy expectations: after all, Lehi himself said “Let everyone know.” But chapter six is a disappointment. It reads, in its entirety:

And now I, Nephi, do not give the genealogy of my fathers in this part of my record; neither at any time shall I give it after upon these plates which I am cwriting; for it is given in the record which has been kept by my father; wherefore, I do not write it in this work. For it sufficeth me to say that we are descendants of Joseph.And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God. For the fulness of mine intent is that I may apersuade men to bcome unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world. Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men.

It’s growing increasingly difficult to take this book seriously.

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If It Looks, Smells, and Tastes Like Translated Hebrew…

There is a lot of effort — all mental, though — trying to legitimize the Book of Mormon. It should be physical effort, in the form of archeology, but that pesky angel took the plates with him.

If we could just get a look at the plates, I’m sure we could do all kinds of analysis — physical and textual — to prove their authenticity. But at least we have the translation, and we can use the translation to look for traces of Hebrew influences that would have been in the original Egyptian-script original.

At least that’s what John A. Tvedtnes argues in an article entitled “The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon.”

The essay begins,

The English translation of the Book of Mormon shows many characteristics of the Hebrew language. In many places the words that have been used and the ways in which the words have been put together are more typical of Hebrew than of English. These Hebraisms, as I will call them, are evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon—evidence that Joseph Smith did not write a book in English but translated an ancient text and that his translation reflects the Hebrew words and word order of the original.

I read this and I think, “Are you serious?”

He is.

His essay is an attempt to prove the Hebrew origin of one book by comparing the English translation with an English translation of another book known to be written in Hebrew.

Some choice passages:

Hebrew uses another compound preposition that would be translated literally as from before the presence of or from before the face of. English would normally use simply from. The influence of the Hebrew can be seen in these Book of Mormon passages:

  • “they fled from before my presence” (1 Nephi 4:28)
  • “he had gone from before my presence” (1 Nephi 11:12)
  • “they were carried away . . . from before my face” (1 Nephi 11:29) […]

Hebrew has fewer adverbs than English. Instead, it often uses prepositional phrases with the preposition meaning in or with. The English translation of the Book of Mormon contains more of these prepositional phrases in place of adverbs than we would expect if the book had been written in English originally—another Hebraism. Here are some examples:

  • “with patience” instead of patiently (Mosiah 24:15)
  • “with much harshness” instead of very harshly (1 Nephi 18:11)
  • “with joy” instead of joyfully (Jacob 4:3)

The Book of Mormon uses cognates much more often than we would expect if the book had originally been written in English. These cognates show the Hebrew influence of the original. One of the best-known examples is “I have dreamed a dream” (1 Nephi 8:2). That is exactly the way that the same idea is expressed in literal translation of the Old Testament Hebrew (see Genesis 37:5; 41:11).

Here are some other examples of the use of cognates in the Book of Mormon, each followed by the more normal expression for English:

  • work all manner of fine work” (Mosiah 11:10) instead of work well
  • “and he did judge righteous judgments” (Mosiah 29:43) instead of judge righteously or make righteous judgments […]

For example, Hebrew uses compound prepositions that would be translated literally as by the hand of and by the mouth of. English would normally use just by. The Book of Mormon contains many examples that appear to show the influence of this Hebrew use of compound prepositions:

  • “ye shall be taken by the hand of your enemies” (Mosiah 17:18)
  • “I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industry” (Alma 10:4) […]

All Tvedtnes succeeds in doing this is the exact opposite of what he’s arguing: he’s providing indications that Smith simply used the old KJV as a model for his writing.

But if “it looks like translated Hebrew” is a good enough argument, well…

And I have taken this computer by the hand of he who is webmaster and have written a fine writing and posted a wonderful post explaining, with much patience, the idiocy of this argument.

And write like Yoda too, I can. A Mormon Jedi must I be!

If a college student were to turn in a paper with this kind of reasoning, the professor would probably write two words at the top of the paper: “See me.”

The idea of “Saac’s sons” can be traced by to J. H. Allen’s Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright, from which Armstrong heavily plagiarized.

Yet this kind of “exegesis” is hardly new. I was first introduced to this kind of thinking growing up in Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God. It was there that I learned the true etymology of the term “Saxons.” It came from the old days when the children of the Biblical Isaac were referred to as “Isaac’s sons.” It’s easy to see how one could quickly drop the “I” and simply call them “Saac’s sons.”

There are a few problems with this line of reasoning.

  1. “Saxon” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “seax.”
  2. There is no evidence that anyone ever used “Saac” as a nickname for Isaac.
  3. This derivation depends on modern English (“Saac’s sons”), which would be several hundred years in the future from the time, Armstrong claimed, people began calling the descendants of Isaac “Saac’s sons.”

But in the world of cultic exegesis and the presumed conclusion, we can overlook these kinds of things.

Hat tip to Mormanity – A Mormon Blog for the initial link to this article.
Tvedtnes’s original article is available here.

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BoM 8: First Book of Nephi, Chapters 2-4

God comes to Lehi, Nephi’s father, in a dream and tells him to take his family to the wilderness. He doesn’t really give a reason, and Lehi complies: “he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness,” setting up camp near the Red Sea.

Here we learn a little about Nephi’s family. His mother is Sariah, and he has three elder brothers: Laman, Lemuel, and Sam.

They come across a river, which Lehi names after Laman, then says to him, “O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!” To Lemuel he says, ” O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, afirm and bsteadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!” Nephi explains that Lehi says this because of the “stiffneckedness” of Laman and Lameul. Much like the first family, there’s some tension, with two of the brothers murmuring against their father and complain about having to follow father into the wilderness and leave behind their inheritance. Lehi puts the fear of God in them and they shape up.

At this point, God comes to Nephi and tells him something, but we don’t immediately know what. Nephi goes to Sam and tells him what God told him; Sam believes — yet we still don’t know what that was. All the same, Lamuel and Laman hear it and don’t believe, at which point God speaks to Nephi again. He tells him that, because he keeps his commandments, he shall prosper, while his brothers shall be cut off. God promises that Nephi will be made a ruler and a teacher.

Chapter three begins with a new command from God, which Nephi explains to his father:

Behold I have dreamed a dream, in the which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem. For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass. Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness.

Nephi and his brothers return to Jerusalem, then cast lots to see who exactly is going to go into the house to get the records. Laman gets the short straw and goes to get the plates. Laban refuses, and the boys grow despondent.

Laban, according the the Biblical account (Genesis 24-31), was Jacob’s father-in-law. It was for Laban that Jacob worked seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage, only to be fooled at the last minute and given Leah instead. Jacob worked another seven years and took Rachel as a second wife.Of course, this can’t be the same Laban, for Jacob is a patriarch: there was not Jewish Jerusalem at that point. It seems, though, that Smith is incorporating Biblical names to further legitimize his book — to give it a more authentic feel.

Then Nephi remembers all the gold they’d left in Jerusalem and they head off to get it. They offer to buy the plates, but Laban, seeing the treasure, decides simply to kill the brothers and take the money. The brothers run off, leaving the treasure behind. They hide in a cave, where the older brothers begin beating Nephi. An angel appears and asks them why they’re beating the one who will rule over them in the future. The angel assures the brothers that God will deliver Laban into their hands. The brothers don’t believe, despite the message having a clearly supernatural source.

The brothers return to Jerusalem at the beginning of chapter four, after Nephi points out that it was an angel that promised them all this — he must have inside knowledge. As they approach Laban’s house, who should appear but Laban himself, drunk and stumbling. He passes out at the feet of Nephi, who takes Laban’s sword and feels the Spirit telling him to slay Laban. But Nephi is a young man; he’s never killed anyone; he’s nervous. God speaks to him, stiffening his resolve:

Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property. And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.

So Nephi pulls Laban up by his hair and decapitates him with Laban’s own sword. He then takes Laban’s armor for his own. He heads to Laban’s house and, predictably, everyone thinks he’s Laban. He gets the plates and much of Laban’s treasure, then convinces Zoram, Laban’s servant, to head back with the now-rich brothers.

It’s striking how similar the actions of Nephi and the others are to the characters of the Old Testament. In a word, barbaric. There are two ways to explain this: the first is that the Book of Mormon is as genuine as the Bible, and thus is a fairly accurate reflection of life in those times. The second is that Smith deliberately chose to pattern his book after the Old Testament — a wise move, considering the claims he makes about it. However, there seems to be a third option, combining the other options: Smith was himself convinced that he was transmitting the word of God, but in fact was deluding himself. This might work if Smith claimed, as Mohammad did, that a supernatural being dictated the words to him. However, Smith claims that he translated plates — in other words, it would be possible to have physical proof of the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon, if only the plates were still here. That backs Smith into a corner: either he’s telling the truth, or he’s deliberately lying. And if he’s lying, then that means a whole religion was created on one man’s lies.

How many times has that happened?

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