Tough love thuggery under Jesus’ loving hands

New Bethany. New Beginnings. Rebekah Home for Girls. Hephzibah House. Second Chance Ranch. Rachel Academy. Circle of Hope Girls Ranch. These are all places that claim to offer succor to parents of ‘troubled teens’, safe houses where they can send their kids for discipline and loving assistance to overcome whatever has made them rowdy or morose or obstinate or disobedient, all those symptoms of independence, and turn them into cheerful, cooperative, socialized citizens of community conventionality. They all rely heavily on the appeal of Christianity, and their names resonate with biblical themes…when hearing invocations of Jesus to draw children out to isolated camps ought instead to fill everyone with the same sense of dread that hearing the Jaws theme music ought to do.

Predictably, these fly-by-night camps run by Jesus freaks all turn out to be hellholes.

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The JREF on TV? Maybe. I’m skeptical.

Tonight, at 10pm/9pm on ABC’s Primetime Nightline, there will be a show on psychic powers. The good news: they engaged the JREF, with James Randi and DJ Grothe, to contribute. The bad news: the teaser trailer doesn’t look skeptical at all, doesn’t mention the JREF, and seems to gush credulously over frauds. Obviously, this could go either of two ways: they’re going to string along the JREF, using them to put up the illusion of critical thinking, and end up putting on another pro-superstition show; or they’re leading along their audience, and are going to surprise them with a dash of hard, cold evidence and critical thinking.

I’m placing my bets. I guess we’ll have to tune in to see how it turns out.

A flat-earth challenge!

Here’s a compilation of arguments for a flat earth from 1885. I laughed, but this one demands a response.

Staunch flat-earther Wilbur Glenn Voliva (1870-1942) asked: “Where is the man who believes he can jump into the air, remaining off the earth one second, and come down to earth 193.7 miles from where he jumped up?” Hard to argue with that.

Wait, but I can argue with that! There’s something wrong with his calculations: I estimate that if I were stationary relative to the rotating earth for one second, I’d only travel about a quarter mile to the west. Disappointing.

Also, if the earth were spinning at 193 miles per second, a day would only be 2 minutes long.

There might also be something else wrong with his scenario, but who cares if he can’t even get the basic math right?

My eyeballs vomited to protect my brain from ingesting this stuff

I’ve been sent an amusing email exchange between a Swiss researcher and a gang of quacks promoting a New Age nonsense conference. I was particularly struck by the email advertising the conference: “struck” is exactly the right word, because reading it was like getting punched in the eyeball. Because I love you readers so much, and think that you should all share in my pain, I have included a copy of this letter below the fold. I hope you like primary colors and random color changes!

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Tiresome and ill-mannered Muslims

It’s like every time I go to Europe, it’s the same two or three Muslims waiting to greet me. There they were in Dublin, Hamza Tzortzis and his crew, and now I come to Oslo, and there they are, the same Muslims parked outside the Humanist Congress (Google translation).

Islam Net believes Congress is based on “the erroneous assumption that humanism is the way forward for humanity.” Islam Net and its affiliates are not surprisingly more faith in Islam as the way forward.

– Islam is a world view that is not only sensible, but the basis for our values ​​and morals, said the press release.

That’s all nonsense, of course: Islam is a primitive religion with a violent history, and like all those Abrahamic faiths, is all about praising a non-existent patriarchal deity. Islam is the past, atheism and humanism are the future. And if Islam is the basis for our morality, why is the Islamic world such a hellhole of barbarity and opression? (I’d also flip that around and ask, if Christianity is such a moral and righteous faith, why are American Christians so fervent about making the rubble bounce in their bombings of Islamic countries?)

I have no problem with the Muslims putting up their information booth outside the congress. However, what really annoyed me about them was that they were quite dedicated in intruding on the discussion on twitter, using the congress hashtag #humanist2011 freely while not actually attending the congress. We were getting constant exhortations to come out and visit their booth, and they were positively manic in raving about some survivor of the Utoya killings who was a convert to Islam, which was widely considered to be extremely tasteless and inappropriate.

They also got rather frantic when the twitter conversation was about Taslima Nasreen’s talk — you want to annoy an Islamist? Just let a Muslim woman speak. I looked into a few of the angry Islamist tweets: new accounts with almost no history, created just to spam the conference. Bad show, very bad show. They made no new friends with their behavior.