I’m not your damn scapegoat

I know, I know, I shouldn’t even pay attention to what’s going on at WorldNutDaily, but a listener forwarded this to us and it pisses me off.

A New York man is linking the suicide of his 22-year-old son, a military veteran who had bright prospects in college, to the anti-Christian book “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins after a college professor challenged the son to read it.

“Three people told us he had taken a biology class and was doing well in it, but other students and the professor were really challenging my son, his faith. They didn’t like him as a Republican, as a Christian, and as a conservative who believed in intelligent design,” the grief-stricken father, Keith Kilgore, told WND about his son, Jesse.

A few things about this story. First of all, no persuasive case has been made that his son killed himself because he read “The God Delusion.” His dad says he did, sure, but as I once pointed out in a post titled “Anatomy of a propaganda attack,” the fact of these stories tend to be extremely malleable and gradually change as more information is discovered. As far as I can tell, there hasn’t even been a suicide note yet, and there are all kinds of things that could have contributed to the suicide, starting with the volatile dad.

Which is my other point — second of all, there are a lot of ways one can “frame” this story, even if the stated motivation is true. NATURALLY the minister dad and the evangelical leaning WND want to make it sound like the horrible atheist book killed the good Christian son by killing his faith. On the other hand, I’ve been an atheist all my life and haven’t killed myself. My son hasn’t killed himself. Why not, instead, say that being raised in a fundamentalist household makes you especially prone to suicide when you are exposed to competing points of view?

I’m not trying to dogpile on the dad, who is obviously going through a great deal of pain and loss right now. I do, however, take exception to the dad using his legitimate pain as an excuse to lash out against a minority target that he probably presumes will not fight back. That crosses the line.

I don’t know all the facts about the case at this point, so I can’t say whether reading “The God Delusion” did or did not push Jesse Kilgore over the edge and drive him to suicide. I think the responsible thing would be to wait a bit and see if any more information comes out (so I’ll probably put it on Google Alert). Regardless, the dad is acting like an opportunistic and bigoted ass.

Keith Kilgore weighed in on the Digg page about the story. Posting as chk555, Kilgore takes the opportunity to recite his extremely confused take on the book (“Also, Richard Dawkins admitted on DVD that he believes in intelligent design to Ben Stein in the movie Expelled. Instead of crediting the Creator, he credits ‘space aliens.'” Uh?) The guy is clearly using his son’s death to further a crusade that he had already been after all along. I’m sorry for his loss, but… seriously.

A reason to celebrate Thanksgiving!

Word is making the rounds that the reactionary right’s own personal Ilsa and card-carrying Joe McCarthy fangirl— yes yes, I’m talking about Ann Coulter — has somehow broken her jaw, requiring that it be wired shut.

Really!

I wonder how much her doctors would ask for to leave it that way…

Shall we enjoy a little schadenfreude pie along with our pumpkin tomorrow?

Siren song

I had a whole lot of fun hosting the show yesterday, and I’m glad I get to do it more, but there’s one new thing that’s really dangerous for me.

It’s the chat room.

Now that we are streaming live and have an associated chat, first of all we’re going out live to an international audience and getting instant feedback as well. This may be very bad indeed.

The Non-Prophets chat room has always been something I wished I could pay more attention to, but even during peak times I’ve never noticed more than, say, 50 people in there during a show. Yesterday I’m told that there were more than 200 people at one point, the control room tells me. Since I had my laptop with me on the set, I tried to just occasionally glance in the chat room and measure the mood in there. You may notice from the video that the chat became more and more interesting to me later, and it was hard to tear my eyes away from it.

At one point I mentioned what was being said in chat, and the room went nuts. Text started scrolling by at a dizzying pace. I think I got humorously propositioned at least three times during the show, and that was only during the few minutes when I was watching. Then I saw a chatter remark that Jen was looking at me for feedback and I had my head buried in my computer. So I stopped, reluctantly.

You see, I freely acknowledge that I have an enormous ego. I love attention. So it’s a lot of fun to get instant reactions as it happens, and this may be to the enormous detriment of the show. So as much as I wish I could, I think I’d better not pay much attention to the chat in future episodes.

You asked for it

Here’s a distant shot of Clare Wuellner of CFI-Austin in The Dress, giving testimony at Wednesday’s SBOE hearings. This comes from Steve Schafersman’s own blog. If you’d prefer a more journalistic, detailed, play-by-play account of the day’s events — you know, who spoke and what they said — and not just my indignant ranting, Steve’s got it. Tons of photos, too. He stayed all day, like a true battle-hardened veteran.

I’ll see if Clare can’t send along an even better picture of herself.

Crippled dogs and one-trick ponies

I’ve just returned from the Texas SBOE hearings on Science TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) standards, and I’m so full of disgust and dismay that I’m at a loss for words to express it with enough rancor. You can, however, expect me to go on at length anyway. The whole thing was such a goddamn farce from the outset that I’d had more than enough after only one hour, at which point I could only roll my eyes and walk out the door. If you haven’t encountered the gall and dishonesty of creationists on their own turf before, and even if you have many times, it’s always the kind of experience that leaves you feeling worse about humanity in general.

As I write this, people are still speaking, and will be for a few hours yet. I saw no point in sticking around, but for all I know there could be, at any time, a real first-rate speaker who could get across the points that needed to be gotten across, and who would call out the creos on the disingenuous rhetoric they repeatedly spewed. As it is, I left the whole charade with two key observations: 1) That the big pitch the creationists are using isn’t merely the weasel phrase “strengths and weaknesses,” but their defense of that phrase as an expression of support for “academic freedom” that the scientific community apparently opposes; and 2) that the pro-science side, at least as I saw it today, is singly unaware of how to respond to that rhetoric properly and forcefully.

This cannot be understated: Just as the anti-gay contingent of the Christian right sells its opposition to gay marriage as a “defense” of “traditional” marriage that can in no way be compared to opposition to interracial marriage or anything of that sort, so too are the creationists now abandoning the overt, lawsuit-bait language of “intelligent design” for “academic freedom” language that makes them seem like the ones encouraging students to use their minds to think about and evaluate ideas that are presented to them in class on their merits. Conversely, the pro-science side wants to shut this kind of inquiry down, and just require students to be obedient little sponges soaking up whatever the textbooks say.

Why this is a misrepresentation and gross misunderstanding of the opposition to such terms as “strengths and weaknesses” was, to his credit, appropriately explained by Texas Citizens for Science spokesman Steve Schafersman. But he didn’t make the point forcefully enough, and even he seemed taken aback when challenged by one of the creationist board members after giving his alloted three-minute address. I’ll discuss that last, because it was after Schafersman spoke that I ducked out. After all, if a veteran front-line soldier in the science education wars like Schafersman falters when some creationist puts him in the hot seat, it’s clearly time for the pro-science side to step back and understand just how dishonest the rhetoric is, and how it has to be addressed in a no-nonsense manner, calling bullshit bullshit, and stating the pro-science position with sufficient force and clarity that no sleazy creationist ideologue can sit there lying about it and sounding smug and reasonable while doing so. I don’t see that the pro-science speakers today fully appreciated the ideological scrimmage line they were going up against, nor the fact that the game plan was going to be offense all the way.

A quick rundown of some of the speakers I did see.

As I had a number of errands to run early in the day, I was worried that I may have missed a lot of the good stuff. I didn’t end up getting downtown to the Travis State Office Building until about 3:30. But as the TFN announced that the hearing itself wouldn’t start until likely after lunch, and as I recall the last set of hearings I attended in the same building five years ago went on until well into the night, I figured I hadn’t missed too much.

Turned out my timing was excellent. The hearings on the science standards started right around 3:55. That must have been some sheer pain for those folks who’d been there since 9:00 AM.

As the title of the post indicates, what ensued was the kind of dog-and-pony show where the dog has only three legs and all the pony knows how to do is turn in a circle. The first speaker was a dignified and well spoken older gentleman named Dr. Joe Bernal, who was himself an SBOE member in the 1990’s, and who spoke eloquently on the need to keep science scientific and avoid the pitfalls of allowing room for non-scientific ideas. He stated that it was the duty of parents, not schools, to determine a student’s religious instruction. He also reiterated the support among the scientific community for evolutionary theory.

Now, after a speaker has done his three minutes, board members can ask questions of that speaker if they wish. I saw it coming even before it started. The instant the bell chimed on Dr. Bernal’s address, creationist board member Terri Leo leapt out of the phone booth with her Supergirl costume on and hit the ground faster than a speeding bullet.

Her first agenda: discredit the recent survey, cited by Dr. Bernal, that showed 98% of biologists and science educators in Texas support evolution. “Who funded that study? Wasn’t that study funded by the Texas Freedom Network?” Dr. Bernal admitted it was, but stated calmly that whoever funded the study was beside the point. He actually got in a good comeback to Leo, noting that even the science teachers selected by the SBOE to review the science standards voted in the majority. But Leo wasn’t finished. “I always thought that taking polls wasn’t how you do science.” Well, of course not, and the poll wasn’t an exercise in doing science. The science is already done. The point of the poll was simply to get a show of hands among professionals in the relevant fields as to what theory is appropriate to teach in classrooms. But this is the kind of dishonest rhetoric that creationists will throw out there to get the pro-science side on the defensive.

The thing about Terri Leo is, she’s so dumb and sleazy that she cannot resist overplaying her hand. And she did it right away by using shameless creationist language while simultaneously denying any creationist agenda on her or the SBOE’s part. Note that Dr. Bernal only brought up religion in passing in his speech, pointing out that it’s a private family matter and not fit for science class. Leo leapt on this like a hungry tiger, railing that the phrase “strengths and weaknesses” was not religious language, and that the only people making a big deal about religion supposedly being shoehorned into science curricula are “militant Darwinists.”

I am not shitting you. She actually used that term, out loud, in front of a packed room, in her questioning of the very first speaker of the day.

I couldn’t stop myself. I laughed out loud, loud enough for her to hear. (“Hey…sorry, but…”) That was when I knew that the whole day was going to be a complete joke.

Dr. Bernal responded quite impressively by bringing up — and I’m so glad he was the first speaker, which is when it needed to be brought up — that the SBOE had themselves enlisted known anti-evolutionists affiliated with the Discovery Institute, who have not exactly been secretive about their own religious and creationist agendas, to be among those assigned to review science standards. Specifically he asked (to the delight of the crowd), “Why is someone from an institute in Seattle being asked to review Texas science education standards?”

And here we saw, for the first time, the depth of the SBOE’s egregious dishonesty they were going to display today. The presence of the DI’s Stephen Meyer, and creationist textbook writers Charles Garner and Ralph Seelke was brought up many time by many speakers, and no one on the board would defend or even address it. They simply were not going to justify their actions in this regard to the public, or at least, they didn’t in the hour I was there. If anyone reading this stayed through to the end, and he
ard anything from Dan McLeroy or Terri Leo about why these men, with their overt ID affiliations, were asked to review the Science TEKS standards for Texas, do let us all know in the comments.

Unlike 2003, when Terri Leo (working hand in hand with the Discotute) front-loaded that day’s speakers with creationists, I only heard one creationist speak today, some idiot who sleazily brought up the DI’s long-ridiculed “list of 700 dissenting scientists” as if it represented some kind of major controversy within science over Darwinian evolution. (As Ken Miller pointed out hilariously in his talk back in the spring at UT, this number represents barely a single-digit percentage of the total number of professionals in the relevant fields, and the list includes a number of names of non-biologists and similarly unqualified people who happen to have Ph.D.’s.) This guy then shamelessly rushed headlong into Godwin’s Law while the audience groaned, averring (after supposedly having watched Expelled too many times) that by refusing to allow ideas to be questioned in class, we were doomed to be heading down the same path those poor misguided Germans went down.

This inspired such derision from the crowd that Terri Leo — shocked, shocked at just how “rude” people were being in response to the entirely reasonable comparison that had just been drawn between themselves and Nazis — exhorted everyone to be more “respectful” of this poor man, who had taken valuable time out of his day to come down here to call everyone Nazis, and would the board please be more diligent about controlling such inconsiderate and shocking outbursts.

I can’t really put into words the atmosphere of disbelief that circulated around the room at this point. People were being calm, but among the audience and people waiting for their turn to speak (and I saw a very reassuring majority wearing “Stand Up for Science” stickers on their lapels), there was a definite vibe of “Just how much bullshit are we expected to endure?” Well, people, that’s what we all have to remember about creationists and religious ideologues: they are a Perpetual Motion Machine and Bullshit Factory all rolled into one, unleashing an unstoppable deluge of bovine feces that would even make Noah throw up his hands and say, “Fuck it, no ark is gonna save us from this one.”

Finally I come to Steven Shafersman, a man I admire and whose work in battling creationism over the years and fronting Texas Citizens for Science is unimpeachable. I had already made up my mind to disembark this ship of fools, but when I heard Shafersman’s name announced I stuck around, deciding he’d be the last guy I’d hear.

Shafersman did well, but unfortunately his talk left an opening for one of the creationist board members (a portly man whose name I didn’t catch, but who’s been identified by a commenter as Ken Mercer) to pounce on. See, Shafersman’s main point was that the reason it was inappropriate to have language like “evaluate strengths and weaknesses” in scholastic standards is that it requires activity on the part of the students they haven’t got the expertise for. Mercer tried to obfuscate this by making it seem as if Shafersman and the pro-science side didn’t even want students to be allowed to raise their hands and ask questions in class. This is emphatically not the case, of course, and Schafersman explained that, going on to say that in science, theories are critically evaluated in the field by working professionals, not by students hearing the theories for the first time and lacking the proper expertise and frame of reference to do a “critical evaluation” in the first place.

But Mercer kept hammering the false point repeatedly. What about errors and hoaxes in the past? What about Piltdown Man? What about Haeckel’s inaccurate embryo drawings, that were in textbooks for years? If people weren’t allowed to question these things, wouldn’t these errors and hoaxes have gone unexposed, and wouldn’t students be learning misinformation today? Why try to stifle the sort of open inquiry that led to these very necessary corrections?

Here is where Shafersman fumbled the ball, because there was such an easy and obvious response to this that it was all I could do to hold my tongue and not blurt it out as loudly as I could shout. I just wanted Shafersman to say one simple thing, and he never said it, because I think he was so flummoxed by the aggressiveness of Mercer’s questioning that he allowed himself to fall into the trap that had been set for him, forcing him to go on the defensive. (“Why, as a matter of fact I was one of the scientists instrumental in getting Haeckel’s drawings out of textbooks!” To which Mercer simply replied, “Right! So why then…”)

Here’s what I think Shafersman should have said in reply to Mercer:

“Sir, your examples support my point. The Piltdown Man hoax and Haeckel’s drawings were both shown to be false by working scientists, not students. It wasn’t as if some 14 year old in 9th grade biology class pointed to those drawings and said, ‘I don’t know, teacher, those just don’t look right to me.’ Because that student could not have done that. He would not have had the knowledge and expertise. And that is why requiring the analysis of ‘strengths and weaknesses’ is inappropriate language, as it requires students to do something they’re not equipped to do. Imagine a history class where you’re teaching about Alexander the Great. Then you say to your students, ‘Okay, kids, write a critical analysis of Alexander’s battle plans against the Thracians.’ How can they do this? They aren’t generals, they’re teenagers. They aren’t qualified. First, you have to teach them the facts. Then, later on, if they pursue this field as a vocation they may gain the expertise to critique ‘strengths and weaknesses.’ But for now, they just need facts. And that’s why we’re opposed to this language in the TEKS. Our opposition is not a synonym for stifling all academic inquiry or even simple questions, and to claim that it is is an extremely dishonest red herring.”

That’s how he should have shut Mercer down. And to his credit, he did make some of these points. But Shafersman was never as forceful as Mercer was. The best Shafersman could do, it seemed, was feebly try to regain control of the questioning with very weak-sounding responses (to the effect of “We don’t really need to go into the details of Haeckel right now…”, which embarrassingly sounds like an attempt at dodging the issue).

I simply could not handle any more. I bolted.

It was clear that the creationist contingent knew that the pro-science side was going to show up in force at these hearings, and they came loaded for bear with every bit of disingenuous rhetoric in their how-to-play-dirty playbook. You’ll recall in Kazim’s recent critique of the “rumble in Sydney,” in which Alan Conradi debated a minister, that Kazim made a very important point: ultimately, public debates are a matter of the performance, not the content. While these hearings were not a debate in the formal, forensic sense, they were an informal public “debate” not unlike that which goes on in The Atheist Experience and similar live venues, where topics are argued, often skillfully and often not, in an off-the-cuff manner with minimal prep.

The hearings today were that kind of thing, just an extremely farcicial parody of it. In one corner, a sincere collection of educators and science activists simply trying to ensure that the state’s educational standards aren’t diluted by trojan-horse language that, while non-inflammatory on its face, still leaves room for religious teaching to be slipped into classrooms by unscrupulous teachers (like, oh, John Freshwater); in the other, a board dominated by ideologues who aren’t the least bit interested in understanding the views presented to them (all the while hypocritically claiming to promote freedom of inquiry), and who made every effort to obfuscate, mi
srepresent, and lie about those views.

In other words, a joke. A complete and utter joke.

And they wonder why people say Texas is a laughingstock.

Two more observations before I sign off (and remember, this whole epic-length post was simply my report on viewing one hour of this rubbish today):

  1. I would have liked to have stuck around to hear the woman speak who showed up dressed (quite attractively) as if she’d stepped off the set of Little House on the Prairie. I imagine she was going to make some point about 19th century education being unsuited for a 21st century world, but there’s no way I could have endured more of Terri Leo and Ken Mercer’s verbal diarrhea while waiting. If any of you did hear her, tell us what she said, please.
  2. The pro-science side does seem to have one solid ally on the SBOE, in the person of Mary Helen Berlanga. Ms. Berlanga was very polite and thanked all of the pro-science speakers, including Steve Shafersman, for their hard work and efforts. But that just made me want to hear more from her. Why not be as aggressive with the questioning in the way Bradley and Leo were? Why not be the one to answer the repeated queries about why known ID-supporters and anti-evolutionists were allowed to review the Science TEKS this year?

Addendum: Made corrections once Ken Mercer was identified in the comments.

The usual whiny hypocrisy

Welcome to Amerika. Where this, I am told, is offensive…

…but this isn’t.

Let’s see. The top billboard is simply a message from a group of unbelievers reaching out to other unbelievers who may feel they’re alone, isolated in a hostile religious culture. The bottom billboard, on the other hand, is making very curt and rather bullying demands on me. It asserts the existence of this being, God, then it quotes him as claiming to have some entitlement over me, because he supposedly gave his son, and so, like, aren’t I just some ungrateful so-and-so if I don’t acknowledge this fantastic deal (which I never asked for in the first place) and decide it’s in my best interests to “have” this God guy as part of my life.

And yet…well, apparently it’s the top billboard that’s aggressive and militant. It really has the panties of Denver area pastor Willard Johnson in a twist. He says, “We denounce what they are doing. But we do it with love, with gentleness, with decency and with compassion.” Well, that’s mighty white of you, Will, the whole love and compassion thing and all. I bet only a Christian would think that denunciations are a form of love and compassion. But be that as it may, why denounce this? What’s offensive about it? “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” Is that such a threatening sentiment to your fragile widdle beliefs that you have to denounce it right away? What a sad thing for you.

And here’s what else is odd to me. (Well, not odd. Perfectly normal, really, for a “Christian” nation.) Christians put up billboards all the time. Everywhere. Seriously. Some of them are wonderfully silly, some are harmless, some are plain insulting. And yet, it never makes the news when they put up billboards. Only when atheists do it. Why? Why should it be newsworthy, other than as an excuse to give some bozo pastor a little bit of ink to spout his loving, compassionate intolerance.

So, Christians, when you ask why we don’t respect you enough, think of this. That there is nothing atheists can say, no message so innocent and innocuous in expression of our disbelief in your invisible magic friend in the sky, that you won’t take it as some sort of horrible attack. Just like the time earlier this year, when the FFRF put up their “Imagine No Religion” billboards (which basically just ask you to, you know, imagine no religion), and Christians everywhere went berserk over this “militant” atheist assault on mom and apple pie. Why, one bold and courageous Christian group vowed to fight the FFRF’s “hateful” billboards with their own, asking “Why Do Atheists Hate America?” Because, you know, that’s not a hateful statement at all.

So you know what? Go ahead, be offended, Christians. That’s one of the things you have to deal with when living in a free, pluralistic society. There will be people who think differently than you do, who believe in different things, and who will express those differing views. I know most of you want the place all to yourselves, but you have to share it, just like you have to share it with people of different races and sexual preferences and tastes in music. And if the simplest and mildest expression of a view different from your own makes you go into red alert mode, and wail about the evil militant whomevers who obviously hate the whole country because they aren’t just like you, then perhaps you need to step back a bit, take a big fat chill pill, and think quite seriously about who’s really got the problem here.

Now…ACA…how about getting a billboard up in Austin? It’s time we had one, don’t you think? Something like the AHA’s bus ad campaign.

Ted, somehow I’m dubious

Oh, Ted. Ted Ted Ted. (Haggard, I mean, for those of you just tuning in.) So you’ve come out today with your latest excuse for, after years of hypocritically posing as a greal moral religious leader, finally being revealed as a drug-abusing, adulterous, whoremongering sodomite. And it’s that old standby, “I was abused as a child.”

Sure, I suppose this could have happened. After all, so many children, especially those in extremely rigid religious environments, are horribly abused, sexually and otherwise. But here’s the problem. Or problems.

One: You are, or were, a high-profile public figure whose fame and influence was tied to maintaining and cultivating a carefully manicured image of righteousness. That wasn’t merely tarnished, it took a direct hit from a nuke. So it’s natural you would be highly motivated to repair and restore that image any way you can. How better to do this than by…

Two: …playing the victim. See, religionists have a really bad habit of doing this when they have, in fact, been shown to be in the wrong. Why, we’ve experienced it here firsthand. (coughYomincough) Playing upon emotions is what you, as a preacher, have spent your entire career doing. It’s become such a part of your personal lexicon you probably do it reflexively, without having to rehearse or even give the act much thought at all. Guilt, fear, anxiety…all the ingredients of the religion-toolkit all designed to lead the poor sinner back to that coveted moment of redemption. Come on, Ted, the whole schtick is your stock in trade! Who wouldn’t expect you to claim something like this as an excuse for your acts? The only surprise is you didn’t do it sooner.

Three: Your whole “confession” here is an insult to gays, though as a self-denying homophobe, you probably don’t care. See, Ted, it’s a fact that people abused as children do sometimes grow up to commit violent criminal acts. But you weren’t caught at that, dude! You weren’t found doing the Catholic priest thing of diddling a choirboy, or smacking the hell out of your wife and family. You were just found to be a closeted homosexual carrying on an affair. Okay, granted, you somehow stupidly chose a male prostitute for your extracurricular dalliances instead of just, you know, picking some fellow up at a bar or online. And you also bought meth from him. And those two things are illegal acts, sure. But they aren’t crimes of violence. And while violent crimes in adulthood can often be traced to an abusive childhood, plain old homosexuality cannot. (Then again, you aren’t a normal gay man either, so your situation could be different.)

Four: finally, don’t presume that any of us, apart from a few of the still-brainwashed rubes from your former church, gives a shit. Really, your situation may have been a life-demolishing trauma and disgrace for you. But for the rest of us, who have spent years watching the decline and fall of the Bakkers and Tiltons and Swaggarts and Popoffs and all the rest of you charlatan SOB’s… well, to us, it was just another instance of “Oh look, another evangelist has been found to be a dishonest sleazebag.” In other news, the sun rose in the east this morning.

So, yeah…ho hum, Ted. Maybe you were horribly abused as a poor little waif, or maybe you’re just lying to save whatever tatters of your reputation are left. But who cares? Seriously, who cares? You’re done.

The disgraceful cost of the Iraq War

In the news today is word from Afghanistan that those wacky pranksters in the Taliban thought it would be a hoot to spray some teenage girls walking to school in the face with acid. Now two of them are blind! Hooray for the religion of peace. (Because it is, of course, against their precious religionthat women should be educated.)

Why is this part of the disgraceful cost of the Iraq War? Why, because if we hadn’t pulled troops out of Afghanistan in order to invade Iraq, a country that had exactly two things — jack and shit — to do with 9/11, then we could have spent the last five years still in Afghanistan, killing every single living member of the Taliban we could find. Which is no less than they deserve. Oh, dear. Was that not sufficiently politically correct? Good, I’ll say it again. Every single living member of the Taliban should be killed. Summarily. And left to rot in the street. Or a ditch. I’m not particular.

To those who think I’m wrong to claim that right-wingers’ lives are ruled by fear…

…I present this headline.


Addendum: Factcheck.org exposes the falsehoods behind the NRA’s fear campaign regarding Obama’s views on guns. Still, you gotta admit the gun lobby’s come up with a great con to boost sales, hasn’t it? Take a page from religion’s playbook: exploiting fear and uncertainty always sells.