Tag Archives: society and culture

Lent 2012: Day 9

A proud man is seldom a kind man. Perhaps nothing more needs to be said — especially considering how tired I am…

The quoted excerpt is from Father Frederick Faber’s Spiritual Conferences, excerpted here.

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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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Open Comments

One of the dangers of having a controversial website that is also open to viewer comments is the threat of visitors’ words being attributed to the site owner.

As an aside, Dennis Prager rehearses the now-common (but still pretty good) observations about the difference in reaction in insulting Islam and insulting other religions. He points out the absurdity of the Federal Koran-in-the-toilet suit versus the crucifix-in-urine modern art piece. Putting a Koran in a toilet and putting a crucifix in urine are essentially the same thing, but the reaction is entirely different.

In this video, Ibrahim Hooper, of CAIR, makes just such a claim against Robert Spencer and his site Jihad Watch. “[Hooper] quoted a genocidal comment that was made on this website yesterday, and made it appear as if I had written it,” Spencer writes.

His response: “In reality, someone kindly alerted me to the existence of the comment shortly after it was posted, and I removed it and banned the poster.”

So it was on the site for a short period of time, but then disappeared. How then would Hooper have known it was there? Someone emailed him? Someone at CAIR monitors Jihad Watch continuously?

Spencer continues,

The comment itself seemed to me and to others who posted on the same thread to have been written by a provocateur — someone who wanted to discredit Jihad Watch and me by planting a comment here. Such people come through here fairly often. And now, after Hooper’s use of this comment despite its being deleted, I suspect even more strongly that it was written by a provocateur. (Jihad Watch)

Could it be that someone who is critical of the site posted such a comment to make the site look bad? It seems entirely possible.

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Cold, Colder, Getting Colder

Notes from my journal after watching a little of TBN’s “Praise-A-Thon” (View online, if you dare.) before heading off to bed.

If you throw enough vagueness out, some of it is going to stick. Those who claim to speak with the dead rely on this. It’s called a cold reading. Most people are worried about love, health, and money. Stick to those topics and say that something — the ghost of a loved one, the Holy Ghost, or anything really — is providing you with insights about a given individual’s love life or heart condition, and there’ll surely be someone listening who’s now convinced you’re talking to him.

Cold reading involves asking questions then repeating back the answers in a way that makes a subject think the reader — a psychic or faith healer — got that information from some third party — God, Uncle Marvin, whomever.

James Randi provides the following example:

Reader: Did your husband linger on in the hospital, or did he pass quickly?

Subject: Oh, he died almost immediately!

Reader: Yes, because he’s saying to me, “I didn’t suffer. I was spared any pain.” (“Source)

Later, the subject will be convinced that the reader “knew” her husband passed quickly and without pain. Randi explains that readers’ success stems from their manipulation of your perception:

So, you see, it’s your perception of what’s actually being done, rather that the reality of the procedure, and your ignorance of other subtle clues and methods, that misleads you in your observations of these “psychics. (ibid)

Of course what on-air televangelists do is significantly different, because they’re just getting “the word” from “the Lord” as they’re preaching. They don’t get immediate feedback, so they stick to the ultra vague. “A heart condition has just been corrected,” a televangelist might say, and anyone with a diagnosed heart condition sitting at home will be convinced he’s talking about her. And all she has to do is show a little faith and that healing will come to fruition. And how is that faith shown?

Once the money is offered and the healing doesn’t come to pass, why not call back and ask for your money back? Simple — it’s your fault you weren’t healed because you really didn’t believe. Or your still living for the devil. Any number of clever explanations.

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Any surprise

why such a large percentage of Americans are overweight?

Here are the facts: 11.2 million pounds of potato chips; 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips; 4.3 million pounds of pretzels; 3.8 million pounds of popcorn, and 2.5 million pounds of nuts.

That adds up to 30 million pounds of snacks that Americans will wolf down Super Bowl Sunday, according to research by the Calorie Control Council and the Snack Food Association.

That means the average armchair quarterback will consume 1,200 calories and 50 grams of fat just from snacking — not counting any meals. (Source)

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I Wanna Fly Away

I knew it was going to be an interesting evening when, browsing the hosts’ bookselves, I saw the title Astral Projection.

“I’m a pagan,” explained the hostess, and suddenly I wished I had a hidden camera.

Learn how to leave your body–walk through walls–fly around your neighborhood–meet your deceased loved ones and astral spirits–communicate with your guides and teachers–experience other dimensions–and even travel through time to witness past or future events! And Much Much More! 100 percent Guaranteed…

Later in the evening, I overheard the hostess saying, “When I mention love spells, people ask me, ‘Oh, you can cast spells?! Can you make that cute guy fall in love with me?!’ I just laugh and say, ‘It doesn’t work that way.'”

It works, just not that way. How, pray tell, would a “love spell” work, then?

Of course, I wandered around the ‘net for a while the next day. I found this:

Hi. My name is Bob. I’m slowly becoming more and more interested in astral travel but have a few questions. Would you please help me with these?? I included all of you after reading the testimony you gave on machoneaudio.com. Serious responces [sic] only please.

  1. Are you ever in any danger when you are having an OBE? (i.e. demons, evil spirits, danger of not being able to come back, …)
  2. Can you use these OBE for the purposes of becoming a person more loving??
  3. Do you meet angels/gardian [sic] spirits??? If so, what do they say to you??
  4. Have you ever attempted to draw near to the heavenly realms, and what happened if you did??

Again, please bare with me. I always was under the impression that this kinda thing was either dangerous or unhealthy.

I simply have some questions that I want to ask people who have done this theirselves, instead of simply reading a book.

I would appreciate your time and advice, whatever you think I should hear!

I knew that he didn’t want a smart-ass response, and I realized as I typed away, giggling, that I was being very childish…but I couldn’t resist:

Some tips about astral project/travel:

  1. It’s the 21st century, so don’t get caught up in silly gimmicks. Stick to the basics when it comes to obe.
  2. Because it’s only something that exists in your mind, you need to bear in mind that everything you see is not what it seems but only an illusion produced by your gullibility.
  3. It’s the 21st century, so remember that most people have replaced superstition for scientific knowledge. Keep that in mind during your travels.
  4. If you encounter a fellow traveler or a demon, it’s probably just an acid flashback.
  5. It’s perfectly safe to leave your body — nothing will hurt it — as long as you leave a shotgun by your body’s side so it can protect itself.
  6. The body has a mind of it’s own, so always lock the door before leaving your body.
  7. If you’re tempted to take this all as a joke, you’re probably too intelligent to be messing with astral projection.
  8. It’s the 21st century. Remember that.
  9. If you’ve had as much fun reading this as I have writing it, you’re probably too intelligent to be messing with astral projection.
  10. It’s the 21st century. Remember that all religious hoaxes have been cleared by the bright dawn of scientific literacy. If you’re tempted to believe this, you’re probably not firmly in the 21st century.

Hope this helps.

In the exchange that followed, I got called “sagaciously stupid,” “sophmoric [sic],” “childish,” and he referred to my thoughts as “the luminous pearls of wisdom you so enlightened me with.”

Guilty on most counts, I guess.

Astral projection makes objective claims that should, in theory, be testable: your spirit can leave your body. As a non-believer, I have a great problem with the whole notion of a ghost in the machine, but that aside, it’s still problematic. If astral projection is possible, where’s the proof? If it’s this great feat that anyone, with a bit of training and practice, can master, why not prove it?

How could we do this? Easily. Early in the NASA program, before any probes had made it to a foreign planet, an astral projectionist (I don’t know the correct term.) could have “gone” to Venus, for example, an given a detailed account of what we’d find there. Then, when we send a probe ourselves, we check it. If astral projection is true, bingo: we have the evidence.

Funny thing is, something like this was indeed done, only not with Venus but with Jupiter. Of the claims made, something like 15-20% were true, but obvious from current knowledge (i.e., it’s gaseous, there are storms on the surface). A small proportion were unverifiable because either the claim was ambiguous or the data received was ambiguous. The vast majority of the astral projectionist’s claims were dead wrong. Proof that it doesn’t work? Not really. But it certainly makes it extremely suspect. (You can read more about this in James Randi’s Flim-Flam.)

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Health Care in Poland

is a joke.

To begin with, there’s no private insurance to speak of because its’ too expensive. Insurance in general is expensive here. Almost no one here has his car insured against theft. Considering the fact that an inexpensive new car would cost me twenty months’ of my salary, that’s ridiculous.

There is free public health care for everyone, but that’s only in theory. In practice, a lack of physicians and a lack of motivation (i.e., low salary) on the part of practicing physicians mean long waits for appointments (a matter of months sometimes) and ineffective services.

When you visit a doctor in a public clinic in Poland, you probably won’t be asked many questions. The doctor will get his pittance no matter how well he serves you, so he’d just as soon send you on your way so he can get through the multitude of patients he has for the day. A cursory glance, a question or two, and then whip out the prescription pad.

Not only that, but supplies are non-existent. You have to go buy your own anti-toxin, for example, if you step on a nail. If you’re coming in for an extended stay in the hospital (i.e., to give birth), you have bring your own toilet paper. And so on.

So public health care is dismal. If you want to get better, you go to a private clinic — and pay.

Personal case in point: I had throat problems a couple of years ago. Several visits to laryngologist working at the public hospital produced few results. One visit to a private laryngologist all but solved the problem. The difference: she didn’t just jot down a prescription after a cursory glance at my throat. She performed a detailed examination, with lots of questions, then provided not just a prescription, but a regimen for throat care.

The problem is pay — or lack thereof. Doctors are flooding out of Poland, mainly to Scandinavia.

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It

In Trinity Broadcast Network’s take on the end of the world, we see at the climax of the film the great battle known as Armageddon. Satan is there in full gargoyle attire, directing the Forces of Evil to destroy all that stands in their way. The bright light of Jesus comes and in a montage we see, among other things, Jews praying at the Wailing Wall.

The Real Video version of the video is available here. If you like B-movies, this one is for you. It’s worth it at least to watch the final minutes, so cue it to 1:29 and make sure you don’t have to urinate…

Huh? A great battle within a few miles and they’re praying instead of running for cover?!

This “oversight” is symptomatic of the general Fundamentalist view of the Book of Revelation and the end of the world. The whole scenario is laughable: the Satan unites the duped world into an alliance with him. Those who resist meet on the plains of Megiddo and fight the greatest battle the world has ever seen, cut short by Jesus’ second coming and the banishing of Satan to a bottomless pit.

It’s Lord of the Rings. But to some people, it’s a sure thing. In fact, you can see the rumblings of it already, with the United Nations or the European Union, depending on which breed of Fundamentalist you’re talking to. Soon, a powerful leader will rise and start working miracles and uniting the world with his…

Wait. Let’s think about it for a moment. It’s the twenty-first century. What’s going to happen if someone starts working “miracles?” Anyone hear of James Randi? What’s going to happen if some world leader starts calling on people to worship him?

As for the apocalyptic battle that rages in the Middle East, the notion that all the armies are going to gather on the plains — when was the last time you saw modern warfare conducted like that?

But that basic logic clashes with what the Bible “clearly” says, and so the True Believers stumble on saying that the end is just around the corner. Yet even Jesus seemed to get his timing wrong. Speaking of the end of the world in Matthew’s gospel, he says,

bq. Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. (23.34-36)

Later, he utters the same thing: “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (24.34). So for almost two thousand years folks have been saying, “This generation won’t die without seeing the end of the world!”

But that’s neither here nor there. No man knows the hour and all that, but we do know the signs: rebuilding the temple; resurrected Roman Empire; 666; miracle-working world leader who calls himself a god. Or do we? There’s so much hopeless confusion and contradiction in the various end of the world scenarios that it’s difficult to keep a straight face hearing such nonsense.

No one seems to wonder, “Well, if all the pieces of the puzzle can be put together in such different ways, maybe the puzzle itself is broken. Or our understanding of it.”

I’d say it’s a little of both.

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Freedom-frying-over-high-heat and stupid European surrender monkeys

Old news: the Congress (and many Americans) are opting for “Freedom Fries” instead of “French fries.” (Read BBC article.) Americans are still calling “French toast” “Freedom Toast” and other nonsense.

I’m sure the French have been getting a good chuckle out of this, because it reveals striking ignorance about the English language itself. In a xenophobic attempt to purge “French” from the language and protest France’s lack of support for the American war effort, our leaders headed straight for the fast food.

Are these idiots even aware of the enormous number of English words are French in origin, thanks to Willie the Conquerer, 1066 and all that? (A short article about it.) Besides, what does anyone hope to accomplish in calling a chunk of deep-fried potato a “Freedom fry” rather than a “French fry?”

I’m sure Chirac, when he heard about this, called an emergency damage control planning session with all his advisors.

If Americans are still obsessed with “French” cooking terms (after all, “French fries” is short for “French fried potatoes”), then they need to come up with new terms for:

  • blanch (Freedom remove skin?)
  • sauté (Freedom fry over high heat?)
  • fondue (Freedom melt?)
  • purée (Freedom crush?)
  • flambée (Freedom burn?)

The whole list of Arabic words in English is available here

And while these idiots are at it, why not purge all the Arabic words from English? After all the terrorists that started all this are mostly Arabic, so let’s chuck:

  • admiral (Freedom big Navy leader man?)
  • checkmate (Freedom inability to move your king?)
  • coffee (Freedom Java — oh wait, do they support us?)
  • spinach (Freedom Popeye veggie?)
  • zenith (Freedom point in the sky which appears directly above the observer (definition from Wikipedia)?)

This dumbfounding nonsense reveals a basic ignorance of how language works and develops. There are very few words in English language that were “planned” in any way. Language generally just “happens,” like shit. (A list of how words “happen” can be found at wordorigins.org)

It reminds me of a “young man who was spooked by the fact that rearranging the letters in “Santa” produces “Satan” — clear proof of the evil of Christmas. Still, we’re not alone. The French are just as worried about borrowed words creeping into French, as evidenced by the Académie Française. And Céline at Naked Translations has an amusing post about this.

Of course what sparked all this is the feeling in America of not being appreciated.

The ingratitude of the governments of Belgium, France and Germany boggles the mind. If it were not for the heroism of American soldiers during the Second World War, Hitler’s Third Reich would be in its eighth decade.

Poor us — we won World War Two for those spineless surrender monkeys and they should still be bowing to our wishes sixty years later. How dare they think for themselves now! Why, we’ve earned unquestioned support!

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