Sometimes it’s nice to disengage…

Again, the blog has lain fallow for around a week. Sorry about this. I keep forgetting that when I don’t post, no one else does either. But then we all have lives down here, and sometimes that just takes us away from the world of computering and blogging and online ranting. And I must say, it’s nice to take a break sometime.

Because dealing with the nonstop depredations of those with whom we’re unfortunate enough to share the planet can just be wearying. Sometimes it’s just nice to go off and live your life, blessedly free of religion and crazy religionists, and unhinged political ideologues.

I mean, good grief, in the past week, since the Tiller murder, we’ve not only had another right-wing psychotic demonstrate his moral superiority to us all by going on a public shooting rampage (today’s appalling incident at the Holocaust Museum), but we’ve also seen a spectacular act of douchebaggery from — as if they could get any worse — Operation Rescue, who have actually had the audacity to make an offer to buy the now-closed clinic of Dr. Tiller. I cannot imagine what they would want it for, except as a chance to showboat. And the Tiller family lawyers, recognizing an exercise in showboating when they see one, have turned them down flat. I mean, how could anyone interpret the purchase offer as anything but tacit approval of Tiller’s murder? Even if that is the last thing O.R. intended by making the offer, well, you know, appearances count.

I’d like to think that maybe O.R. have sprouted a sudden conscience, the way your nose sometimes sprouts a pimple while you sleep, and thought that they might turn Tiller’s clinic into something like an adoption agency. But then I’m reminded of the fact that radical anti-abortionists don’t give a shit about human life unless it’s fetal. Once those babies are out of the sanctified amniotic sac, they’re on their own! And don’t even think about offering them anything like health care.

So, yeah, sometimes, it’s just nice to shut the crazy out and decompress for a while. Read a book. Spend time with your family and pets. Resuscitate an old hobby, like gardening or working out. It can be a relief when the lunacy that has taken over our planet gets too much for you. At least, it’s a relief that’ll last until some enraged, God-soaked lunatic bursts through the door and opens fire.

George Tiller: Death by Propaganda

In today’s Austin American-Statesman, there was an editorial that included a photo of a church marquis letting us know that George Tiller died the same way he lived. I believe the inferred connection there is intended to be “murder.”

The first article I read about this was in the June 1 edition. President Troy Newman of Operation Rescue responded to the murder by saying he was “shocked” and that “Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice…We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning.”

In fact, Tiller was, actually, “brought to justice” where justice, it seems, acquitted him of charges that he had illegally performed late term abortions without a proper medical second opinion.

In addition to seeking peacefully to bring Tillman—a man who was found to be breaking no laws—to justice, Operation Rescue also featured a “Tiller Watch” at their Web site. I guess now they can take it down. It’s work here is done, as the saying goes.

It didn’t get done right away, though, because it turns out that Tiller was actually the victim of a similar shooting in 1993, when another life-affirming, anti-choice, protestor—a woman—managed to get within range. I wonder if “Tiller Watch” was up back then as well to inspire her—or if it was put up after the first attempt failed to achieve the goal?

When I read Newman’s comments about his “shock”—I was, ironically, shocked myself. I turned to my friend and said, “If you go around screaming that someone is mass murdering babies—what do you think will happen?”

And this was before I had read down to the part of the article where Operation Rescue Founder Randall Terry had actually called Tiller “a mass murderer.”

Everyone has a breaking point. I don’t care who you are. You have one. Seriously, let’s say you sincerely believed your neighbor was mass murdering children in his home. You call the cops, frantic, and explain to them that he’s torturing and killing young children—you’re absolutely sure of it! But the dispatcher just says, “Yeah–that’s totally his right. We really don’t come out for things like baby killings.” You keep calling back. Surely they didn’t understand you the first fifty times you called? But the response is always the same. And here you are, on the phone, wasting time, while the monster next door is killing more and more innocent children! My god, man! What do you do?!

If this was actually happening, and you knew it, and nobody was stopping this killer, at what point—if out of nothing more than pure altruism (if there is such a thing?)—would you finally say, “I don’t care if I die for this or go to prison for the rest of my life—someone has to do the right thing and stop this monstrous freak!”

Groups like Operation Rescue consist of members (and apparently leadership as well) who make a point of publicly labeling these doctors, and their patients, as “baby killers”—literally mass baby killers. And maybe it’s just me—but if someone actually is going around mass murdering children—I don’t think I would be “shocked” that someone stepped up and killed that person. So, why is Operation Rescue expressing “shock,” if they know this man is a baby killer? Are they “shocked” that by labeling such a person a “baby killer,” that someone might think he should be stopped by any means necessary? I mean, would it shock you if you believed what they believe? What, exactly, do they think happens when you whip up masses of (often already emotionally driven) people with something like that?

We’re all supposed to play along, I guess, that they never expected anything like this to happen as a result of merely calling someone something so benign and harmless as “a mass murderer (of babies)”? Who would have thought people would be all “up in arms,” literally, and excited over something like that? Apparently not Newman. But I think most other people could have seen it coming light years away. And I can’t really bring myself to play along that Operation Rescue is “shocked.”

I have a saying when someone asks me to believe obvious bullshit. I say, “Either you’re stupid—or you think I am.” And like most people, I don’t appreciate it when someone, or in this case some organization, communicates to me like I’m an idiot. It doesn’t upset me, but I find it hard to play along. No, Operation Rescue, you’re not shocked. Please stop pretending, and have your victory celebration unapologetically.

I guess that would result in some really crappy P.R. But, still, how refreshing to see some noble honesty for once?

“Mass baby killing.” There’s the trigger. Pun not intended, but wholly (holy?) appropriate in this case.

Most people agree with rule of law. If they didn’t we’d have far more chaos than we do. But I don’t think there is anyone who does not understand that at some point, we would all be willing to defy the law in order to do something we consider morally necessary.

Yes, it’s cliche’, but I’m going to use an example from Nazi Germany until a better example comes along—which will, hopefully, be never. But, if I lived in Nazi Germany—I hope I would not turn someone in if I knew they were a hiding Jew. I hope I would, like I hope many of you would, end up breaking the law, and maybe even dying, myself, or potentially killing someone, to protect others from people I view as utterly wrong and dangerous. So, it’s no “shock” to me, and probably not to you, either, that if you whip up huge numbers of fundamentalist-thinking people with things like “godless baby killers!” you’re going to get not a few individuals (I’m surprised they don’t get more) who go ape-shit and fly completely off the rails in the worst way.

I don’t think Operation Rescue crosses a line against free speech—such as someone who might say, “Somebody needs to put a bullet in these doctors. Can I interest you in further details?” would be doing; but, when they try to divorce themselves from a natural—and, let’s be honest here, pretty predictable—consequence of their influence—that’s where I want to cry “hypocrite.” Not “foul.” Not “lock you up for what you said.” But “Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid—that did not shock you.” In fact, if it shocked any one of you, you don’t get out enough.

This isn’t a video game about killing doctors. This isn’t a music CD about killing doctors. This is a group of real human beings calling other real human beings “baby killers” and then saying they can’t believe that simply being consistently and publicly labeled as a “baby killer” would make someone want to kill you. I mean, he was just a baby killer—nothing to get all worked up about and start shooting people.

Really? Can’t imagine how an agenda of working nonstop to convince (many already deluded) people this guy was a baby killer, could result in someone getting hurt?

Are you stupid, or do you think I am?

What’s sad, though, is that if they were really shocked—then this man died for some mysterious agenda. “Shocked” means you don’t really think what he was doing was something a person might kill another person over. And that means you don’t believe he was a mass baby killer—because who wouldn’t expect a mass baby killer might be, himself, killed by someone one day? So, what is going on over at Operation Rescue, where they aren’t at all responding like they believed he was a mass baby murderer? What if they had some other, ulterior motive—and this guy died as collateral damage for some superficial propaganda blitz? That would really be hosed up, wouldn’t it?

But—other than their inexplicable, “shocked” reaction—why would anyone think Operation Rescue wasn’t since
re about their claims that abortion doctors are committing mass infanticide, unhindered within our own borders?

Well, here’s my theory: If they truly believed what they say they are convinced of, then abortion in the U.S. is probably the largest, mass infant murder movements in history. I’m going to assert that they’d all be shooting doctors. And, I would hope that if I really, truly, sincerely believed there was a mass child killer on the loose and nobody was stopping him or her—that just maybe I would courageously do the same thing—if I really believed it. Of course, if I just wanted to emotionally manipulate a huge bunch of people, and I didn’t really believe or care about what I was saying, then I’d be doing exactly what Operation Rescue does—taking my time in courts, standing on corners with signs, taking people’s money, telling them who to vote for, and watching them hang on my every recommendation as I play on their fear and hate.

The fact that groups like Operation Rescue stop short of reaching the, not only logical, but obvious conclusion of what needs to be done if their claims are believed—and human children are being slaughtered in droves—demonstrates to me, or to anyone, a lack of genuine belief in their own propaganda. I think, like most religious views, they “believe” it in some weird way on some odd, superficial level where it hits emotional response (and, I mean, come on, how easy is that?), but doesn’t ever sink down into thought centers, where it would normally ruminate and ferment into a more cohesive and fully formed “idea”—with actual implications and repercussions and consequences. But they obviously don’t believe it on that sort of level—on the sort of level where any real, proportional “action” would necessarily follow—as I would expect action to follow if any real, thinking human being believed unhindered mass murder was happening unabated?!

Where is the courage of conviction here?

Where is any conviction here?

What the hell do these people honestly believe?

And why did this guy really die?

Fundies rally behind McLeroy, give a big thumbs up to teen pregnancy

Time to get on the horn to your state senators, people. I’ll just link to the relevant TFN piece. You know where to take this from there.

In similar Christian War on Education news, the Texas house today voted down a bill that would require medically accurate sex education in the state. Bring on the teen pregnancies! Nice one, godbots.

More paranoiac raving from that kook Brannon Howse

If fundamentalist nutcases didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them. On second thought, no we wouldn’t. We could actually get on with the worthwhile business of advancing the human race, increasing our store of scientific knowledge about our world, our universe, and ourselves, improving health care, extending life expectancy and raising the quality of life for everyone, supporting and evolving the arts, practicing such quaint notions as human rights and equality, ending war, and spreading our reach out into the cosmos.

Instead, we’re stuck on this poor little blue ball with a horde of gibbering twits.

Speaking of Brannon Howse…. The big cheese over at the Christian Worldview Network makes a habit of uncorking his paranoia on his weekly internet radio show Worldview Matters, letting it flow over and bathe his listeners in its curdled, pus-like warmth.

Keep in mind that Howse’s “worldview” is little saner than that of the creepy, muttering homeless guy whom you tried to ignore on the street earlier today, carrying on an extended debate with the aliens in his head interrupted only by pleas to passers-by for change or cigarette butts.

To Howse, pretty much everything that exists in America today is an evil liberal plot led by Marxist Barack Obama and his stormtroopers to Destroy All Christians. Howse is, if nothing else, a master of the sensationalist headline. William Randolph Hearst would have loved this motherfucker, if only for awesome histrionic dribblings like this: “Liberals who hate Christians love pedophiles and refuse to pass an amendment on to H.R. 1913 that excludes pedophiles from special protection. Does this not tell you all you need to know about their real goal for America and Christians?” I mean, that’s just gold.

Now, here’s the thing. I kind of value my brain. I consider it a friend, and as I like to have pleasant and healthy relationships with my friends, I try to avoid subjecting them to needless abuse. Friends are touchy that way. Thus I cannot really bring myself to listen to one of Howse’s maniacal podcasts, unless my brain also happens to be in a mischievous mood — like that one time with the hermit crab, the tube sock, the Krazy Glue, and a napping Kazim — and says to me, “Aw, come on, let’s do it, it’ll be hilarious!”

But I do get an endless charge out of those headlines, especially ones where I know a thing or two about what he’s blithering about and can see the crazy so clearly it’s simply breathtaking. In his latest episode, he raves about, of all things, the upcoming census. The headline is a joy to behold.

Topic One: The government GPS Tagged Brannon’s house and has or will tag your home in the next 90 days. Why? Why is the federal government spending $700 million to have 140,000 workers tag every front door with GSP in just 90 days? The census is not until 2010 and this person that is tagging your front door does not even talk to you since they just walk up to your door and load the GPS coordinates and walk away. In Germany, Jews were given a yellow Star of David to wear, I wonder if in today’s America, Christians will have a yellow cross on the governments GPS map?

Folks, you can’t invent that kind of crazy! I mean, census workers GPS tagging homes is just the same as the Nazis putting the yellow stars on Jews!? Great galloping…uh…something that starts with “g”.

If Howse wasn’t so deliciously non compos mentis, he could easily have tracked down a few facts before launching into a rant like this. For one thing, the people out doing the GPS tagging of addresses are called enumerators. And while I can’t speak for the person assigned to Howse’s neighborhood, the one who came through mine spoke to me, thank you very much, and was very friendly. But then, you know, I’m a friendly guy, and when I meet new people, friendly conversations tend to ensue. I can, on the other hand, probably understand why Howse failed to have a similar friendly engagement with his own enumerator, as it’s easy to imagine him bursting out of his front door in his robe and bedroom slippers, waving his Bible like a katana and shrieking, “Vile minion of Say-tun, I bind thee in the name of the Holy Spirit, now get offa my lawn!”

The census is taken every decade, and far from being all about rounding up the Christians for the ovens (one detail that fails to penetrate the fog clouding Howse’s miniscule brain is that enumerators simply tag addresses, they don’t ask what the religion is of the people living there), it’s a task mandated by the Constitution itself. As for why they’re getting such an early start, well, only someone as stupid as Howse would ask such a thing. It’s just like asking, “Hey, I thought that new skyscraper they were going to build downtown isn’t supposed to open till next year. So why are they laying the foundation now?” Uh, because big jobs take lots of preparation, idiot. The US has just over 304 million people in it. And as the task of the census is, as they state quite clearly, “to distribute Congressional seats to states, to make decisions about what community services to provide, and to distribute $300 billion in federal funds to local, state and tribal governments each year,” obviously providing services on that scale to so many people isn’t the sort of thing you throw together in a week or two. Then again, I may be blind to whatever Vast Conspiracy the government has on its planner this week, and have been too easily fooled by the official site’s omission of “…and to pinpoint the location of Christians so we can exterminate them more efficiently” from their list of census benefits.

Well, I’m sure Howse will be comforted to know that I’m actually considering applying for a summer job with the census, following my friendly conversation with the friendly neighborhood enumerator I met. So if there isn’t already a “Target the Christians” objective among the government’s current action items, I could probably suggest it to my supervisor. He’ll kick it upstairs, and I’m sure our Islamofascist Marxist president Darth Barack will love it! Thanks for the idea, Brannon. I got a yellow cross with your name on it, buddy! And your little dog, too! Arbeit macht frei! Bwaaaaah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-haaaaaah!

How to Stack a Deck

Last night I watched three episodes of a program called “Paranormal State.” It is billed as “true stories of a team of paranormal researches from the Pennsylvania State University Paranormal Research Society.”

One episode was of the variety I find most disturbing. It involved a young autistic boy. I won’t examine that particular episode, but I’d like to offer the following:

Note to wack-a-loons: If you live your life in a state of paranoid freakout because you believe paranormal entities are trying to “get” you, don’t infect your kids with that fear. It’s not just a disservice, it’s mentally abusive to turn them into frightened little people who jump at shadows and every creak of an old home. If you’re truly that far out of touch with reality, do yourself a favor and buy new, because every pre-owned home or commercial building is going to come with some creaks and groans. A talk with a structural engineer, instead of a psychic, might do more good for you that you can imagine (even with your extreme level of fertile imagination). Freak yourself out till the ghosts come home, but don’t burden your kids with your personal, dysfunctional, mental baggage. I get that you “believe” it; that doesn’t make it sane.

In one of the episodes, I recall a woman was sleeping at her sister’s “haunted” house. She was in the haunted bedroom and felt a “presence” come out of the closet, approach the bed, and put pressure on her chest. She also heard toys moving in the closet.

Two words: Sleep Paralysis. It’s a condition, caused by a known malfunction of chemicals in the brain that are normally used to help regulate sleep and waking. It can cause, not surprisingly, feelings of a person/people in the room, auditory and visual hallucinations, and feelings of pressure on the chest, along with fear. It’s a common event, but it is not unheard of for an individual to have episodes only rarely. I have had episodes. And before I learned what it was I just called it that “thing where you can’t wake up.” The majority of the people I’ve mentioned it to respond with “Oh yeah, I think I’ve had that.” I’m guessing that this particular woman probably had her first episode (or first memorable episode) in this house, and due to the stories she’d heard, misattributed the incident to ghosts.

It was the final program, though, that really left me slack-jawed.

It was a historic Gettysburg home in a state of disrepair when it was purchased by a couple who intended to use it as a bed and breakfast. They put a lot of money into renovations, but didn’t really provide a detailed run down of what work had been done—what had been replaced, updated or renovated, and what parts of the home were still original. This information, I thought, should be significant if I’m investigating possible causes of unexplained noises in a home. Gettysburg, in case anyone isn’t familiar, was the scene of a lot of historic bloody battles and death. So, no surprise there are local tales of hauntings. And no surprise that the “psychic” who was brought in felt pain in his gut, saw blood and death, and believed someone there might have suffered a gunshot wound. Impressed?

Other than the minor creaks and cricks that any older home would produce, there were two really great clues that went negligently uninvestigated, which might have resulted in some solid answers and helped these homeowners out significantly. (Or, if they were investigated, the show failed to demonstrate it or mention it.)

First of all, this house presented the paranormal team with a tremendous opportunity to figure out what was happening—whether ghost or not. That opportunity was blown, blown, and blown again. But here’s what happened: Every morning at 3:02 a.m., on the money, the entire house “shudders.” This was caught on both video and audio. The concierge was the one who pinpointed the consistency of the event, and sure enough, 3:02 a.m.: brrruuumpty-bumpity-brump went rolling through the rooms.

Let’s be real here for a moment: It takes a bit of force to shake a house. If the supernatural manifested consistently (every night at 3:02 a.m.) with enough force to shake a house, it wouldn’t be so commonly considered as being in the realm of mental instability. That house shook in reality, not in somebody’s mind. But the type of force that shakes a house should be identifiable and measurable and, with an opportunity to observe it with nightly regularity, shouldn’t be any mystery. If your house shakes at the same time every night, that’s not a job for an exorcist, it’s a job for a structural engineer—the kind that inspects homes and can work with the city to figure out what’s happening with your house and your area that could cause such an event.

My first recollection was of being in a house when an aircraft flew overhead and created a sonic boom. It was extremely similar. Someone else I mentioned it to asked me if there were any trains that ran nearby? I have no idea, because that wasn’t investigated (or, again, if it was, it wasn’t presented).

Is there a train track nearby? An Airforce base? Any city pipes or lines under the street? Do the neighbors feel this tremor as well? Did anyone think to ask them? If they do, we know we’re not looking for a house ghost but something area wide that is impacting the neighborhood at large. If not, do they have the same sort of historic foundations and structural issues a restored historic building would have, or are they rebuilt as entirely new?

This house is a “historic” home—which means that there are restrictions on the types of upgrades and renovations the owners can apply to the home, unlike other structures in the neighborhood that may not be labeled “historic.” This house shudder is a consistent event that lends itself perfectly to easy and accurate identification. But if this team called the city or checked area municipal facilities, talked to a single neighbor or called an engineer to do an evaluation (which isn’t very expensive), they never showed it. And so it’s fair to say that it appears they’re completely negligent when it comes to investigating the most simple and obvious sources of things that can, and do, impact houses in the way these owners described.

If a ghost is the cause of this house shaking, and it shakes every night at 3:02 a.m. on the dot, that would be the single most credible and easy-to-confirm ghost event ever identified. It’s open to investigation by anyone, because it’s an undeniable, predictable, measurable manifestation. The first step, though, would be to actually do the leg work and hire the necessary credentialed professionals, outside the psychic community, to demonstrate the event defies natural explanation. I can’t express enough how disappointing it was that they bailed on even trying to find a mundane cause of this event before calling in the paranormal “experts.”

But the next event was just as much of a blown opportunity. The house “moans.” I’m not talking about a moan that can only be heard by audio taping in an empty room and then torturing the feedback on some machine that does nothing but distort the results until you get something akin to a moan. I find it interesting that in these voice recordings made in shows like this, the moment the “researchers” find any sound whatsoever, they go immediately to work on manipulating the ever-loving-heck out of the indiscernible noise until they get the result they want. Then they stop distorting the sound. It would appear that the sound they actually recorded isn’t what it was supposed to be. And all the variants that weren’t something that sounded like a voice saying whatever they wanted to hear, aren’t “right” either. The only “right” result, it seems, is when they get it mastered exactly to a point where, if the listener turns their head to just the right angle and strains sufficiently, it says
“get out” or “I am here” or some other such ghost movie dialogue. That’s how such sounds are “meant” to be perceived, and paranormal researchers know this because that’s precisely the sort of result they’re seeking.

So, they actually get three pretty solid “moans” on their audio/video tape. Impressive. Not just impressive, though, also somehow familiar. Familiar, as in I’ve-hear-this-sound-before familiar. My house makes this same sound. It happens whenever I forget to shut off the outside water, and then use water in the master bathroom. It’s a “sign” alright. It’s a sign I need to go back outside and shut off the outside water valve. What’s even funnier is that my house isn’t the only structure that makes this noise. At work, our office building makes the exact same “moan” on the sixth floor when the outside irrigation is running. Again, no exorcist required, just a certified plumber. Old pipes + restrictions on updates = a moaning house.

What else can I say? The other “evidence” is pretty obviously garbage:

“I feel a presence.”
“I saw a shadow.”
“I felt the room get cold.”
“I smelled perfume.”
“I heard a voice.”

I rely on my perceptions as much as the next person. But I would be the first one to admit that I’ve seen and heard things before that simply weren’t there. Ever seen a mirage on a hot road? Human perception is pretty good, but definitely imperfect. And the perceptions of a very frightened person are arguable even less reliable than those of a person that is not in a state of “you’re-in-grave-danger” brain chemical overload. Magicians and illusionists thrive on the fact that our brains can be easily misdirected. They do it on purpose for entertainment, but it can also happen quite naturally in mundane situations where nobody is actively trying to fool us.

Additionally, we don’t always understand what sorts of things might be in our environment that we’re completely unaware of. For example, electromagnetic energy can be found sometimes at high levels in homes with faulty or substandard electrical wiring—the sort of wiring you might find in an older home, especially one that has existed long enough to have a “history.” This energy has been demonstrated in controlled circumstances to cause anxiety and hallucinations—even (the perception of) OBEs. It affects your brain and your perception.

In my own home, after we’d moved in and lived there a few months, I decided to adjust the air vents in the ceiling to alter airflow in the house. When I got up close to the vent in our living room, I saw “something” blocking the vent. My husband removed the vent, and removed a bag. It was filled with potpourri. It turned out there was one of these bags of potpourri in every vent in our house. We had no idea.

We also have wild birds that crack bird seed on our roof, one especially likes to do this on our outside chimney. In the house, it sounds like something knocking/banging in our fireplace.

I have decorative “light catchers” in the trees in my backyard. They reflect lights and shimmers not just around the yard, but also in the house at different times of day. I put them in the yard, but my point is that reflections can create odd light and shadow, from across a street or from a neighbor’s yard.

There are no end to unusual things that can make smells, sights, sounds, and even feelings that we can’t immediately explain. But assuming a cause and then “investigating” only in ways that are most likely to give us the answers we prefer, rather than explain what is really happening, is something we have to work hard to avoid if we value a handle on reality over subjective prejudice.

If I want to know why my house shakes, and I call paranormal investigators, psychics and ghost energy specialists—and I don’t bother to call a structural engineer to come out and do an evaluation, no one should be surprised if I find out that ghosts are the cause of the events. I did everything in my power to ensure the results correlated to my desired outcome. I used only those tools prescribed to find a “ghost” and did not use any of the tools that might have found a more mundane (and reasonable) explanation—which might have proven to also be the accurate explanation.

While ghosts are like souls and souls relate to religion and god in the great majority of cases, and while credulity is something we examine at this blog, that’s not why I’m sharing this. I’m sharing this because a 14-year-old girl contacted the TV list recently to say that she wasn’t sure if there was a god or not. In order to find out, she read her Bible and prayed really hard. In the Bible she found a verse that said that whatever she prayed for, she’d get. So, she prayed for a “sign” from god—nothing spectacular, just something meaningful to her personally. She read and read and prayed and prayed and never got her sign. So now she thinks there is no god.

Then, just a few nights later, at the AE after-show dinner, I met someone who told me that when he was in elementary school, he can remember lying in bed, praying and crying, trying hard to believe because he was afraid that if he didn’t he’d burn in hell forever. He never got his sign, either. And eventually he told me, as he got older, the fear faded away.

I, personally, recall being about 15 when I prayed and prayed and read my Bible and begged in earnest for some “sign” to confirm god wanted me to believe and that he was there and willing to meet me halfway and help me, since I wanted so much to believe.

Unfortunately, for me, I got my sign. I won’t bore anyone with details (they’re at the ACA site in the Testimonials section if anyone cares), but I spent the next several years as a fundamentalist Christian, devoting my life in service to “Jesus.” Eventually I finally began to research the claims I’d accepted (most specifically from Josh McDowell) without examination, and I found I believed a load of indefensible false assertions. I went on as a theist, although not a Christian, for many more years, until I ultimately came to understand what I meant by “god” was just a metaphor. But for my years as a Christian, I can honestly say my life was not my own (as any good servant of the Lord will tell you—“not my will, but Thine…”) as I fervently devoted myself wholly to a fantasy. Years down the drain that I will never see again. Next time a theist tells you that if they’re wrong they lose nothing—feel free to tell them they’re wrong. If they’re devoted to their beliefs in the way the Bible demands for salvation, they’ve lost their very lives.

Meanwhile, the common thread in these tales is that we three (me, the girl, and the man at dinner) all used the methods prescribed by the church to figure out if what they were telling us to accept as true was valid. We let them stack the deck just as surely as the men and women on Paranormal State stacked the deck by not calling an engineer, but a psychic. We prayed and read the Bible and begged the very god we were supposed to be verifying. We used only those methods that would most likely yield the desired result of belief; and, in my case, I was willing to subjectively interpret just about anything as the “sign” I was seeking. Just like the homeowners on Paranormal State, we were motivated by fear. Unbelievers don’t pray and plead to the air and devote themselves to Bible study, to find answers upon which, in their minds, nothing rides. But stressed and terrified children do.

Children are convinced they’ll suffer horribly and eternally if they choose disbelief rather than belief. Then they’re told that the only way to know if it’s true is to read the Bible and pray and trust and dispel doubts. That is why, funny as many adult theists might seem, a part of my heart will always be reserved for compassion toward them because I u
nderstand firsthand the force it takes to brainwash a child and keep them that way long into adulthood. It’s quite a trick. You actually beat the child up so badly mentally that even when you’re not around, they keep beating themselves up for you.

I know that for every wingnut fundamentalist, someone’s life has been hijacked. Having lived it myself, I can’t help but feel a desire to see these people happy and well again. I want to give them back that understanding that every child deserves—that they are worthwhile and valuable as human beings—completely as they are, “imperfections” and all, without some supernatural fantasy to provide them with the sort of validation their parents and community should have provided them, but didn’t, because they participated in a religion that dehumanizes us and degrades us and teaches us to feel guilt and guile toward our very nature—with which there is nothing demonstrably wrong. Some of life is wonderful. Some of life is horrible. It’s a lot of different things rolled up into an existence that is part circumstance and part what we make it. To every child who has been or is being told that they need forgiveness for being human, that telling a lie or doubting justifies their condemnation and eternal torture, or that their will doesn’t matter, I say, “You are fine, just as you are; and if others can’t see that, it’s not your problem or your fault. The people trying to make you believe you’re nothing may have their hearts in the right place, but their heads are on completely backwards. Don’t let them tear you down and doubt yourself until you’ll trust anything except your own ability to make a judgment for yourself.”

I wrote back to the 14-year-old. I told her to consider something beyond the fact that she got no sign. I told her to ask herself what she would do if she wanted to learn about black holes. Would she sit in her room and think very hard about black holes and ask black holes to reveal themselves to her so she could know all about them? Or would she read about the data collected on black holes and the research and findings and evidence for them? What is the best way to find out if any Claim X is true? Certainly it’s not to immerse yourself only in the writings of those making the claim you’re trying to evaluate, and then repeatedly take part in a mental ritual where you pretend you believe the claim and keep beating yourself up for not believing it while you beg, tearfully, for any reason to accept it as true.

Surely anyone can see the problem with praying to the god whose existence I’m attempting to evaluate? Such a maneuver requires a presupposition that the god is actually there to begin with. That’s stacking the deck. That’s manipulating the sound byte results until I hear “get out,” or only having a psychic, not a plumber, assess the “moaning” in my house. It’s not a way to guarantee I’ll find what I’m looking for; but it’s a incredibly good way to strongly and favorably influence the possibility of a positive outcome in finding that a god exists. When I “find god” under such circumstances, it should be no more of a surprise than the psychic finding that a spirit, and not a stressed water pipe, is causing the moan.

Well, it’s nice to know she’s not nuts or anything

By now this story, about some pathetic cult member who has pled guilty to the starvation death of her infant son provided the charges are dropped once he comes back to life (a condition I imagine the DA’s office gleefully agreed to), has made the rounds. It would be easily to laugh at this kind of arch-stupid irrationality if it weren’t for the fact it claims the lives of innocent victims. Here’s a poor little kid who died because the adult charged with his care was a deluded idiot, in the thrall of similar deluded idiots. The cult she belonged to was something called “One Mind Ministries”. Replace “One” with “No” and you’re a little closer to the mark.

It’s also tempting to comfort yourself with the reassurance that, at least, this is the sort of thing that takes place in lunatic fringe cults, and fortunately mainstream religion, risible as it is, doesn’t go around killing and hurting its kids as much. This is the point where it’s helpful to be reminded of the tens of thousands of kids sexually molested by benign, trusted, avuncular Catholic priests, and the numerous cases of parents, not belonging to some wacko church obviously on the farthest of far-out fringes, arrested and charged with killing their kids by refusing to take them to doctors for easily treatable illnesses, preferring “faith” healing and prayer instead.

Unreason kills. Period. That one form of unreason happens to gain mainstream acceptance over others makes it no less an example of unreason, and no less dangerous. It’s time to deprogram, not just extremist nutjobs like Ria Ramkissoon, but the whole frackin’ human race from this insidious thing called religious faith.

Don McLeroy’s idea of a real science book

The intrepid crew at the Texas Freedom Network inform us that the reliably moronic Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist who’s devoting his career to painting a bullseye on the educations of millions of Texas students, has found a worthy book on the subject of evolution. What might it be, you ask? The Ancestor’s Tale? Why Evolution Is True? Or Ken Miller’s perennially assigned Biology textbook?

Uh…no. How about: a book-length histrionic rant self-published by a frothing anti-evolution crank named Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr.

Johnson is a wackaloon’s wackaloon, a West Point graduate whose pet projects have included tortured reinterpretations of Greek mythology in an effort to show they’re simply variants of the Adam & Eve story. Yes, it’s bizarre to try to prove your myths have some veracity by referencing other myths; seriously, the guy’s position is that Athena is really Eve, therefore, the Bible is true! But that’s how nutcases like Johnson think. And nutcases like Johnson think the same way monkeys drive trucks.

Johnson’s “thinking” on evolution, which impressed that cretin McLeroy enough for him to refer to the book as “unique,” “insightful” and “important,” includes such gems as the following.

Creationists do not want to bring religion into the classroom… Creationists simply want the God hypothesis brought back into the science classroom, and recognized for what it is—a scientifically valid hypothesis.

What are they doing coming into all of our elementary schools, all of our junior highs, and all of our high schools with a disguised demand that our children embrace their evoatheism? What are they doing teaching our children that they are descended from worms and reptiles? What are they doing imposing their atheistic religious faith on our children when we’re not around? What are they doing sowing atheism in our schools?

The obvious problem here is that it is simply not possible to be a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word, and at the same time, embrace the tenets of atheistic evolution.

What kind of monster parents teach their children that they’re descended from rodents and reptiles?

Come on in, everybody, especially you kids, and join the great evolutionary festivities! Learning about your descent by chance from worms and reptiles will strengthen your faith in “a creator,” with a small “c,” whoever he is.

So you see the kind of “science” textbook McLeroy thinks “deserves a hearing”: a bombastic, hysterical, spittle-flecked tirade by a throughly scientifically illiterate moron, who, like Ben Stein, bases his whole overwrought screed on selling the idea of “Big Science” as some monolithic entity with stormtrooper-like enforcers (the first chapter literally opens with an absurd men-in-black scenario) out to quash dissent.

The egregiousness of all this cannot be condemned forcefully enough, and I encourage everyone far and wide to shine as much light on McLeroy and his pet cockroach Johnson as possible. Bring the absurdity and emotionalism of the creationist anti-science crowd right out into the open, and correct their angry lies with calm, sober scientific facts (which, contrary to Johnson’s ravings, do exist to support evolutionary biology in its totality). Let ridicule and derision drive them back into the obscure darkness of their own superstitious fears, where they belong.

They do homophobia bigger in Utah!

If you haven’t seen this delirious anti-gay ad that recently ran in the Salt Lake City paper, placed by AmericaForever.com, one of those patriotism-is-the-last-refuge-of-scoundrels Christian hate groups, you haven’t lived. I don’t know what’s funnier here. Just basking in the raving paranoia and idiocy (seriously, people, if you really believe your own marriages will be devalued by letting gay couples marry, then your marriages aren’t worth shit to begin with); trying to count the misspellings and number of fonts used; or simply having a chuckle over the we-didn’t-catch-the-irony use of such words as “backdoor”.

Enjoy. And, uh, think of the children.

But there’s more. Here’s an example of thermostupid right from their website, copied as written, without editing or corrections.

They are using intimadation to gain ground and are lying to the public, ALL THEY WANT IS MARRIAGE RIGHTS to valdite their relationship of the same-sex!!! THEY ALREADY HAVE THE RIGHT to Marry, a gay man can marry a gay woman!

Comedy frickin’ gold!

So who is making money during the economic crisis?

Sleazy “psychics” with their usual exploit-the-scared-and-insecure routine.

But you know, you’re likely to be astonished — simply slack-jawed in astonishment — over the powerful predictions that come from “psychic” Roxanne Usleman. Prepare to have your skepticism swept into the sea:

The housing crisis will deepen, the country could fall into a depression and laid-off workers may need to start their own business.

Holy shit! How does she do it? Bog knows no real financial advisor would be able to come up with ideas like that! Must be why so many pathetic dimwits concerned, thoughtful people like Bruce Levy (who, of course, was “skeptical at first”) consider Usleman someone who “is able to make me see things that I wouldn’t otherwise see.”

I’d suggest that if Levy is so lame a “businessman” that he cannot see that we’re swirling in a financial whirlpool, that it will get worse before it gets better, and that a whole new career game plan might be worth thinking about, and see those things all on his own without paying some dingbat with a really ghastly face lift $20 a minute to tell him, then he deserves to be a broke-ass chump.

I suppose I shouldn’t blame Usleman for doing whatever she can do to avert financial hard times on her own. But I have these things called morals, and, well, taking advantage of the mentally disadvantaged or emotionally vulnerable just isn’t on my “cool things to do” list.

Oh, I just had to send off for one of these!

“Is America Going Under?” asks the hand-wringing wackaloons over at the Christian Worldview Network. Well, yes, guys, it has been. But remember who’s been in charge the past eight years: an extremist, Christian fundamentalist gang of right-wing thugs who view the Constitution as a list of bothersome technicalities to be skirted around, who honestly think their military misadventures in Iraq (which have all but broken our military) are part of a battle between Biblical notions of Good and Evil, and who have been supported by a mob of like-minded religious ideologues who look upon the prospect of total holocaust in the mideast as ultimately desirable, as it will prompt the Second Coming and the Last Days all the much sooner. If people who view the end of the world as if it were a party they can’t wait to get to seem scary as shit, that’s because they are.

I suspect, however, that the Christian Worldview goons see the decline of America in a slightly different light. And they’ve compiled all their paranoid lunacy into a “new, free, full-color magazine” that apparently explains “how America’s rejection of a Biblical worldview is leading to our demise and how every Christian must respond.”

This just looked like such a heaping, juicy helping of red meat that my mouth began watering right away. Hey, it was free. So I sent off for one. Look forward to seeing it, ahem, dissected here very soon.

Here is some of the entertainment promised within.

  • Reinventing A Stormy History: 25 Worldview Similarities Between America Today and Nazi Germany and How Christians Must Respond (Wow, Godwinning right out of the gate!)
  • Five Consequences Facing America For Rejecting God As Found in Romans, Chapter One
  • America’s Unknown Revolution That Robbed You of Your Liberties and What Must Happen to Get Them Back (Which liberties, you wonder? Me too. We’ll see.)
  • Obama, Liberals and Political Correctness Which is Really Cultural Marxism (Do these clowns even know what Marxism is? I suspect they’re just throwing it out because their ill-educated sheep will react with, “Hey, wasn’t Marx that commie guy?” and then go “Ooo! Bad thing!”)
  • How Politicians Pervert the Law and Liberty is the Casualty (Which politicians? Do you think they mean Republicans? No? Gee, what makes you think that?)
  • How Humanism is Leading to Judicial Tyranny (Translation: “Waaaah! We can’t get our way all the time! Waaaaah! Want my bwanky!”)