The fundamentalist Christian war on education

I don’t know quite how I wound up on these idiots’ mailing list, but I’m glad I did. It helps to understand what the proponents of the New Dark Ages want to reshape our culture into.

The folks behind Worldview Weekend, some kind of fundie pep rally for fear and ignorance, have sent out an email flogging a series of propaganda booklets aimed squarely at students whom they fear will actually be educated if they go to college. The idea is to innoculate their minds against anything that might threaten their precious fundamentalist teachings. In other words, keep the flock stupid so they’ll keep filling the pews and the collection plates.

Education, clearly, is a detriment to blind faith, and so education itself must be tarred with such emotional hot-button words as “socialist,” “communist,” “humanist,” and possibly several other fearmongering sobriquets I didn’t catch.

A quick glance at the blurb for one of these booklets, revealingly titled Christian Worldview for Students (that’s about as clear a title as you could come up with for something that’s basically naked propaganda), shows us that the “Christian worldview” essentially involves rejecting anything any scientist ever thought up, as well as embracing the most extremist right-wing paranoia out there. Seriously, these are people who believe the Bush adminstration isn’t xenophobic enough. Looking at the list below, you can see how these are views that would be eagerly embraced by the next generation of Eric Robert Rudolphs and Timothy McVeighs (and no, I don’t think that’s either a slippery slope or “appeal to consequences” fallacy).

Survival Kit for the University of Humanism

Glitzy brochures and slick websites that promote many of our universities don’t divulge the all-encompassing secular worldview that slashes God from every equation and consumes ill-prepared students. But collegians today will face many of the:

  • 67% of professors who approve of homosexuality;
  • 84% who condone abortion;
  • 65% who embrace socialist and communist ideals.

The results of four years’ exposure to these teachers are staggering. Recent research reveals that 91% of students from evangelical churches no longer believe in absolute moral truth. Even the Southern Baptist Convention found that 88% of young people from SBC homes slip away from the faith before they graduate from college.

The reason?

Most students say they did not learn enough Bible content growing up to enable them to make biblical life decisions, let alone defend a Christian worldview in the face of vicious opposition. This book provides worldview expert and best-selling author Brannon Howse’s briefing notes to prepare you for the worldview battle that takes place at the university of humanism-whichever one you attend. You will be ready to contend and not bend on topics like:

  1. Why evil and injustice do not negate the reality of a good God;
  2. Why the Bible can be trusted;
  3. Why Darwinian evolution is a lie;
  4. The liberal myth of “separation of church and state”;
  5. The authenticity of Jesus’ resurrection;
  6. What the fossil record really reveals;
  7. The myth of global warming;
  8. How dramatically crime would increase if guns were outlawed;

And more!

So take Brannon’s notes to heart-and mind. The Christian life you save may be your own!

Fear the hallowed halls of academe, Christian students! They want to make the Baby Jebus cry!

There’s a reason fundamentalist students have a hard time defending their “Christian worldview” from “vicious opposition,” which is fundie code for “enlightened and educated views”. Ignorant beliefs cannot stand up to hard facts. I imagine what’s so boo-scary for fundies to discover when they venture out of their shelters into the real world is that reality doesn’t care what your pet ideology is.

And any Christian student who thinks booklets like these will arm them against reality is being cruelly misled. It’s a pretty safe bet, I’d say, that anything these booklets have to say on the subject of evolution or global warming will be the same old moronic canards that have been debunked a thousand times over. Then again, maybe that’s all part of the “Worldview Weekend” racket: a student buys one of these booklets; tries to get into an argument about evolution with his biology professor or his fellow students; crawls away in humiliation after having his ass handed to him; goes back to the “Worldview Weekend” website, where they’re ready to sell him another booklet! Ca-ching! That’s the benefit of having an entire customer base consisting of paranoid, superstitious chumps who’ve been indoctrinated to fear education itself. Get them to think you’re the only ones they can trust, and they’ll keep opening their wallets for you time and again.

A Christian chimes in on Expelled

It’s always nice to be reminded that not all who call themselves Christian are dishonest anti-science ideologues who use their beliefs to justify their haughty disdain for reality. Henry Neufeld is a self described liberal Methodist who has a few things to say about Expelled, and he nails every reason why the movie gets it all wrong with admirable succinctness. From its confusion over what “free speech” really means, to his unequivocal condemnation of the movie’s most brazen lie — that “Darwinism” led inexorably to Nazism and the Holocaust, when in fact the teaching of Darwin’s theory was banned in both the Third Reich and Stalinist Russia, and Hitler famously credited his own anti-Semitism to a certain invisible guy in the sky — there’s not a single one of Stein and Co.’s reprehensible falsehoods Neufeld doesn’t take down. His most interesting point is one which is liable to raise the hackles of most of Neufeld’s brothers in Christ.

Repeatedly, Ben Stein equates the theory of evolution with atheism, and claims that all ID wants is to open the door to considering that God might have done something. Evolution may be incompatible with certain forms of Biblical interpretation, but it is in no way incompatible with basic theism.

Neufeld’s batted 1000 here. True, Dawkins’ passage from The Blind Watchmaker to the effect that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” is the one often flogged by creos who want to condemn evolution as a tool of the Devil to turn everyone away from Jebus. And the “evolution=atheism” link has been effective in pushing the emotional hot buttons of scientifically illiterate religionists. But, while it’s true that evolution does explain how nature works entirely on its own to effect biodiversity without any “need of that hypothesis,” it’s also true the theory itself is not fundamentally incompatiable with some notions of theism.

The deistic god is one who is said simply to have created the world and then left it alone. So evolution has to be operative under deism. But if the Christian God is supposed to be omnipotent, there’s no reason why he couldn’t have done his business via evolution either. Indeed many liberal Christians have attacked creationism on this very point, that a bunch of stick-up-the-ass fundies are trying to dictate to God how he must have created life, and that it could not have been by evolution. How arrogant! Heh heh.

I, of course, think the concept of God is entirely superfluous, but again, Neufeld’s right in that a basic understanding of the principles of Darwin’s theory does not necessitate atheism. On the other hand, as I read from some commenter elsewhere this morning, the makers of Expelled must be completely clueless doorknobs if they think the Nazi Holocaust is a great argument for the loving God of the Bible!

Time to hit the gym, Wagner!

Okay, Elze has finally posted her collection of photos from Dawkins’ appearance last week, and these include some nice shots from the pre-speech reception. I’ve been reluctant to post the link, though, because they also include a couple of depressing shots of me at the AE Blog Meetup, in which I look to weigh about 653 pounds. Given that I was something of a major gym rat ten years ago, these are…ahem…well, let’s just say I pre-emptively accept every morsel of ridicule with which I’m about to be heaped, and let it go at that. Meanwhile, I think it’s time to dig out the MetRX and the creatine and wheel on down to Gold’s — where I suspect I’ll be pelted with water bottles and dirty jockstraps the minute I walk in the door. O the ignominy.

UK’s Guardian flunks Expelled

Haven’t been blogging for many days, mainly because of being busy, but also because there’s been little to report that hasn’t been covered very extensively elsewhere in the atheist blogosphere, and Austin’s been pretty quiet. Also, what else is there to say about the train wreck that is Expelled? Every day these people reveal themselves to be a little more reprehensible than they already were. My mind reels at the thought of what it would be like to be the kind of person whose life has been so completely swallowed up by the endless stream of lies required to shore up a creaking, desperate ideology. I think of what it must be like to be Ben Stein and Mark Mathis, and, if I believed in souls, I figure I know what it would be like to sell yours to Mammon. Sure, these guys have probably got the Benjamins. But to do so at the cost of all fundamental human decency is just depressing.

The UK paper The Guardian has now weighed in on Expelled (at least the bit of it that’s been previewed online) in a snarktastic little dig at that pompous fool Ben Stein. It’s a fun morning read.

From the parts I’ve seen – the first 10 minutes online – it seems to deploy all the loaded-dice arguments, the overdog’s deep-seated sense of victimhood and conventional rightwing hysteria. Stein lambasts academe for dismissing the work of “ID scientists”, even when they are bankrolled by the rancid likes of the Discovery Institute, a think-tank inseminated yearly with funds from California savings and loan heir Howard Ahmanson Jr, who in 1985 told the Orange County Register: “My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.” Man, I can’t wait for that, Ben, the priests running everything and we live like it’s Ireland in the 1940s. Par-tay!

Heh. But otherwise, yeah, not much new under the sun. The movie is still a dishonest piece of shit, and the people promoting it are still dishonest pieces of shit. That’s creationism for you. [Cue Thompson Twins] Lies, lies, lies, yeah….

Natural selection to weed out Expelled at box office

The release date for Expelled is said to be April 18. Josh Timonen over at RichardDawkins.net seems to think it’s rolling out wide on 1,000 screens, which I find frankly unbelievable. Independent features, let alone indie documentaries, don’t get that kind of theatrical rollout unless they’re made by guys called Michael Moore. Almost no indie has that kind of a wide release. The simple cost of creating and shipping out 1,000 prints to theaters, and then buying the saturation advertising needed to make such a release strategy pay off, is simply way out of the reach of independent productions. Unless you’ve been picked up by one of the boutique “indie” arms of one of the majors, like Fox Searchlight. Which Expelled hasn’t.

So I suspect that an earlier figure I’ve heard of 100 screens is a lot more likely.

But what’s problematic for the movie at this point is that there is literally no buzz for it at all outside of the science/creationism/Christian/atheist blogosphere. Which, I’ll grant you, is big, but it’s not exactly where Jack and Jill Sixpack go for their entertainment news. So if Expelled really does stick to its April 18 release, it might as well be called Ignored. After all, look at what else is going out wide that weekend.

That’s a pretty serious slate of pre-summer Hollywood heavy hitters. Also, there is no April 18 listing for Expelled on the upcoming release pages at such major movie sites as IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, or Box Office Mojo. Those sites do, however, list one prominent independent documentary release for that date. It’s the new movie by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), which has had serious industry buzz for months.

Seriously, going up against a release slate like that, is it any wonder Expelled‘s producers have been trying to bribe Christian schools to take their students to see it? Without the “church bus bubble,” it’s looking like any theater showing Expelled will be as empty as ID’s scientific credibility.


Addendum: Jim Lippard has been dropping the occasional comment over at Pharyngula and reports that Expelled‘s own site claims they’re rolling out on 490 screens. We’ll see if that pans out. In the meantime, enjoy this entertaining report from New Scientist about a different screening, and the way that sleazebag Mark Mathis handled the Q&A. The producer of a movie complaining that ID supporters are systematically silenced threatening to throw out a challenging questioner? Gosh, fundies never do ironic, stupid things like that, do they?

Thanks, Eugenie!

Following up my post about the Facebook group “Protest Ben Stein’s Expelled”, I got this blush-inducing celebrity endorsement from no less than Eugenie Scott!

Martin Wagner, you have your head on very, very straight.

If we raise a fuss for Expelled, we increase the publicity and the gate. We play directly into their frame.

Why would we want to do that?

Okay, take a minute to chuckle at the visual of me putting on my “aw shucks” face. Anyway, Eugenie goes on to point out that while Expelled is sure to be a huge hit in “church basements,” — har! — the general public isn’t exactly awaiting it with bated breath the way they are, say, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Launching some massive protest campaign against the movie will simply play into their hands by validating their false message that “Big Science” wants to shut down open debate. She goes on to recommend the NCSE’s newly launched site Expelled Exposed. It’s new and fairly spartan at the moment, but it’s been launched both as a one-stop shop for all of the news surrounding the movie’s release and publicity (such as the PZ fiasco), and will go on to be a resource for refuting the false claims in the movie itself. Go on over and bookmark it.

Incidentally, if you’re a member of the Facebook group, you’ll see that one guy who’s responded, one Barrett Cune, is doing a great job making my case for me, by presenting himself as exactly the kind of histrionic assclown we don’t want responding to the movie. In a couple of ALL CAPS harangues, he wails about the need to “hit the streets” and attacks imaginary people who “just want to whine about the Earth and her problems.. you dont actually want to do anything to help.. you want your fucking parents to do it for you.” If old Barrett can’t tell the difference between coming up with ways to counter the movie effectively and productively, and thinking no one wants to do anything simply because we think parading the streets like some kind of I.R.A. rally would backfire, he clearly needs to grow the fuck up. I can understand and sympathize with his passion, but not his immaturity. The idea is that we’re smarter and more rational than the IDiots who do things like make movies comparing scientists to Hitler as a way of concealing the fact they have no science backing up their own position. Acting even stupider than they do is not how to turn the generally indifferent public off to their message.

At least Anne Rice is honest

Former Goth superstar and vampire novelist Anne Rice has gone Christian, with her latest series of novels all about Jesus. Her belief may not be any more rational than anyone else’s. (And you get a sense of the emotional desperation underlying it in this editorial she’s written.) But at least she grasps that.

Look: I believe in Him. It’s that simple and that complex. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the God Man who came to earth, born as a tiny baby and then lived over thirty years in our midst. I believe in what we celebrate this week: the scandal of the cross and the miracle of the Resurrection. My belief is total. And I know that I cannot convince anyone of it by reason, anymore than an atheist can convince me, by reason, that there is no God.

True dat, Anne. You cannot reason a believer out of a position they did not reason themselves into.

Picket Expelled? No no no no no!

I just got an invitation in my email to join a Facebook group called “Protest Ben Stein’s Expelled,” which lists PZ Myers as one of two admins. The thrust here is to organize protests in front of theaters wherever it’s playing. I joined right away, mainly so I could stop these folks — whose motivations I am, of course, 200% in sympathy with — from what could be a foolish mistake. I promptly posted a bulletin to the group, which I will reproduce in full below. There’s a right way and a wrong way to oppose a folly like Expelled, and picketing theaters is the wrong way.

I think picketing theaters is a bad idea. Why? Because it will only serve to draw attention to the movie and might make people curious where they were indifferent before. Nothing sells tickets like controversy, and by organizing theater protests, we who oppose this pack of lies may unwittingly help give it more business.

Remember what happened with Passion of the Christ? This was Mel Gibson’s small independent movie, until the Anti-Defamation League began making a big stink in the media about the possibility it might be anti-Semitic, and complaining Gibson would not screen the film for them. The media ran with that, with the result that so many people became fascinated and curious that the movie ended up taking in over $375 million in its theatrical run.

I don’t think we want to make the same mistake in dealing with Expelled.

Instead, how about contacting your local media (newspapers, TV, radio) if the movie’s coming to your town, and offer to either write a guest editorial detailing the specific lies in the movie, as well as the long campaign of dishonesty being used to promote it? Or ask to talk to their staff movie critic, and provide him with correct information to counter the film’s falsehoods that he can then include in his review.

Picketing theaters may even feed into the movie’s false message that “Big Science” and its supporters merely want to shut down dissenting views. When in fact, that’s what the producers of Expelled are doing!

This movie isn’t poised to become some big megahit, people. With the possible exception of an opening-weekend “Church Bus Bubble,” I think theatrical attendance will be minute, and the movie will end up doing the bulk of its business with DVD sales marketed directly to churches. Right now, Expelled is having a PR nightmare surrounding the screening they kicked PZ out of. Let’s keep working that angle, to help the public understand what liars and hypocrites are responsible for this shit. The best thing that could happen would be for the movie to peter out after a week in theaters due to massive public indifference. That won’t happen if we raise a big ruckus and make everyone eager to see it out of curiosity over what the fuss is about.


Addendum: Ames Grawert, who’s listed as the group’s other admin, replied to my bulletin with the following, which gives me a sense of relief.

I think you’re probably right. I’ve heard this critique from a lot of people. I’ll change the description of the group a bit. I like the editorial/education angle a little better.

Very nice. This is a time when cooler heads will prevail. Still, I think this post is relevant, in case there may be any other folks out there considering some kind of overt protest activity on their own.

Last night turning into PR Waterloo for Expelled

Now the whole hilarious story of PZ Myers being thrown out of a screening for Expelled has hit at least one mainstream media outlet. The dishonesty of the people behind this propagandist rubbish is being spread far and wide for the world to see. I laugh. I giggle. I even chortle. Meanwhile, PZ’s daughter-of-darkness Skatje has reviewed the movie, and the short version of her take is: Bring a pillow. It sounds like it’s a very slapdash affair, and most tellingly, it never does what the promoters are claiming it does: make the case for “intelligent design.” They seem to think that intercutting stock footage of Nazis with interviews of scientists constitutes some kind of withering refutation of evolutionary biology. Amateurs.


Addendum: Now the New York Times has picked the story up, and allows associate producer Mark Mathis to lie at great length, only to be rebutted at the end in full. He really sounds like a blustering little nobody with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, while Dawkins and PZ and Genie Scott sound mostly bewildered at the staggering foolishness of these people.

But you know, if they weren’t fools, they wouldn’t be IDiots either.

On the whole “being offensive” thing

In my Dawkins report, I discussed the way many Christians — primarily of the conservative stripe — can’t stop whining about how horribly offensive the anti-religious rhetoric of the “new atheists” is, while intentionally ignoring, and even defending, far worse behavior from their own. A perfect example is this odious hypocrisy I read via Ed Brayton’s blog.

Oklahoma representative Sally Kern, not surprisingly a sponsor of the anti-education bill HB 2211, recently had a sickening homophobic hate screed of hers recorded and made public. Is she apologizing? Of course not. She’s a Christian, and morally superior to you, after all. So not only is she sticking to her guns, she’s got the lunatics at the WorldNutDaily (to which I refuse to link, so go over to Ed’s if you must immerse yourself in such filth) concocting a nice little conspiracy theory in her defense as well. Get a load of this. Here they are talking about how the thousands of gays and lesbians whom Kern gratuitously offended with her hate speech are the ones with the problem, and how they’re victimizing her.

Basically, they’re trying to silence her by threatening, intimidating, harassing and frightening her until she can’t take any more abuse. No dialogue, no debate – just crush her.

Only a fundie would think there’s something meriting “dialogue” and “debate” when some foul-tempered, hideous old cow (oh noes, the eebul afeist is calling her naaames!) rants about how gays and lesbians are more dangerous to America than terrorists, that they’re bringing about the downfall of civilization, and who lies about non-existent “studies” that support such idiotic ideas.

From where I’m sitting, the entirety of the “dialogue” and “debate” hate speech like Kern’s deserves can be summed up as, “You’re a sick individual, a disgrace, and a vile liar, and would you please go crawl back under your rock, you ignorant useless bitch. Thank you. Signed, The Human Race.”

That’s their game. It’s despicable, and utterly un-American.

While religious hate is just so praiseworthy and “pro-American,” of course.

In a sense, Kern does a better job of validating Dawkins’ points than Dawkins does. When Dawkins wrote in his essay “Logical Path from Religious Beliefs to Evil Deeds”

Religion changes, for people, the definition of good…. For non-religious people, the behavior of consenting adults in a private bedroom is the business of nobody else, and is not bad unless it causes suffering – for example by breaking up a happy family. But many religions arrogate to themselves the right to decide that certain kinds of sexual behavior, even if they do no harm to anyone, are wrong…. The following quotation from the Nobel prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg has become well known, but it is so devastatingly true that it is worth quoting again and again: “With or without [religion] you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.”

…he was talking about you, Mustang Sally.

Now, back under the rock with you. Here, take your Bible. You’ll need that, since you haven’t got a brain.

Oh gee. Did I offend someone?