Monday, January 31, 2005
If I claim that I had seen Big Foot, there would probably be a goodly number of people who would believe me. If I were to claim that a space ship beamed me up, and that little green aliens with big slanty eyes examined me there would be a number of people who believed my story. If I stomped down some corn, wheat or grass in circular patterns and claimed that aliens had come at night to visit us, how many people would believe me? Gullibility is one of the hallmarks of believers and is world-wide, so probably I could start my own cult by claiming some sort of connection with supernatural activity. Of course, some people might call me weird, crazy, loony and might even try to commit me to a mental institution.
So suppose I changed my story to seeing Jesus, in white robes, who preached a tender sermon to me, telling me that I had been chosen to spread his word and show love to everyone. How many people would believe me? Would I be eligible to start my own church, to raise money in his name, to hold healing sessions, and start my own television program? After all, did not someone recently say he saw a 750-foot- tall Jesus who told him to raise a certain sum of money or he would be "called home?" And did not some True Believer actually come up with the money? Who could disprove this story?
If I claimed to see St. Peter, an angel, a demon, the Virgin Mary, Buddha, Krishna, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, who could disprove the claim?
Asserting a claim is sufficient for some people who see angels, fairies, demons, and other intangible usually invisible entities, and they have started many a religion by simple assertion and sticking to their claims. After all, if a President can lie about weapons of mass destruction and stick to his lie thru daily repetition and have millions of fans believe him, why cannot any shyster, con-artist, or faker compete successfully in this world of True Believers in superstitious supernatural nonsense?
We have thousands of evangelists begging for money, for Jesus, to help God, and gullible masses send them their hard-earned dollars which are spent on expensive clothes, cars, planes, homes and high-living. We know that neither Jesus, nor God, will ever see a thin dime of any money raised in their name. We know that absolutely, positively. But we still have the dear old little ladies who save every penny for food and medicine being enticed to send seed to the televangelists, to the prancing dancing bible-thumping parsons who promise heaven or a good return on the money.
We know there are faith-healers who heal people with incurable diseases and ailments, such as cancer by simply clapping them on the forehead and invoking some invisible intangible inerrant omnipotent omnipresent being, then flopping their arms overhead and shouting "Hallelujah. Be Praised. You are CURED."
You would think that some Administrative Bureau dealing with health would investigate the claims, wouldn't you? You would think that if there are truly miraculous cures we would have no need for doctors, or medications, or hospitals. Just let a preacher clap people on the forehead and away goes Parkinson's, cancer, phlebitis, gout, arthritis, kidney failure, and all other ailments known to date. Isn't it strange that no official investigation of claims was ever made? Yet, if people want to import cheap medicine from Canada, they are met with the argument that the medicines might not be safe, so the medications are prohibited from entry for people on very limited incomes. Any claims of great economic benefit are dismissed because of the extremely influential drug lobby with True Believer higher administration officials.
Suppose I went up into the mountains around California for 40 days and nights and came back with some stone tablets containing a host of proverbs and words saying that Mugabooga commands everyone to wear hats made of aluminum foil and clothing made of burlap. Suppose I said that I was inspired by Mugabooga himself, and that he carved the words with his very fingernails. And that he sat with me and showed me some secrets of creation. How many people would believe me? What ever possessed them in bygone days to believe anyone who claimed this outlandish occurrence?
If a movie star can claim to have gone through multiple reincarnations, from Queen of Egypt to Anne Boleyn, who can disprove her?
A few years ago an elderly black man said that he was God himself. He called himself Father Divine. Very few white people believed him because they think God is white. But he acquired quite an audience of black people, with a few whites, and he is still remembered today by them as God Almighty. Something like a black George Burns! Emperor Haile Selassie has become a minor deity for Ethiopian Rastafarians. Julius Caesar crowned himself and proclaimed himself a god. Why not? George Bush dressed up in military uniform and strutted like a hero with an accomplished mission. Lots of people still believe him.
How can you tell a lunatic from an avid True Believer? Answer: you can not.
They both believe in unbelievable processes and situations. They both claim to prove the improbable. They both reject any disbelief in their claims and vociferously defend their assertions, even to the point of violence.
I wonder if the gullible innocents of Heaven's Gate ever made their rendezvous with the mother-ship? And where in space are they now located? Have they passed Jupiter and Titan, gone out of our solar system, met St. Peter? How many other people believed their story and are even now preparing for their own ascension into Heaven? Let us hope they all know how to play harps.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
By Peter Fredson
When I was young I did not hold many beliefs, other than that candy was good, and that I would be spanked if I were bad. I went to school and was told about George Washington and a cherry tree, and I believed the story. Why wouldn't I? Were not teachers supposed to teach only the truth? I was sent to a Sunday School, and there, among other things, I was told that a Holy Ghost had intercourse with a woman and the result was a Holy Baby. I had to believe that, because the neighborhood minister of the church were I was sent, without consultation, told me it was true. He told me that without cracking a smile, so I guessed it was true. He wouldn't lie to me, would he?
Later I learned that there were other almost-identical reports from other societies, like the Greek, Roman, Chinese, Assyrian, Hindu, Aztec, etc......but I can't believe THEM...those are not MY people. Perhaps THEY really believed those stories. So what? They were ignorant and gullible and they believed anything their priests told them, or if they didn't they would shut up about their disbelief lest they lose their social status, their property or their life. They didn't consider that having sexual intercourse with a virgin, without her consent or knowledge, by any entity, (ghost, spirit, spook, or otherwise,) was rape and was a very bad thing.
Either that, or people today are just as gullible as in the days of the Greeks, when they firmly believed in gods and goddesses on Mt. Olympus, and on land and on sea, and when they made sacrifices to those supernatural entities, and believed heart and soul in them, and built great edifices and statuary to those supernatural entities. It took 100,000 Egyptians over 20 years, so one mummified corpse of some specially-privileged person could be placed in a tomb and be preserved until resurrection. But, of course, I don't believe ANY of THAT stuff. It is TOO unbelievable.
WOULD THEY LIE TO ME?
I was told that priests of OTHER societies were generally intolerant and vicious with their disbelievers, and that other gods were vicious, murderous and intolerant, although MY priests tell me they are NOW very tolerant and peaceful. I must believe them because they are MY people. They tell me that they are now MUCH better than any other priesthood of any other nation....so I must believe them. They tell me that they are in sole possession of the absolute eternal TRUTH! Would they deceive me? Would they hide any ugly side of religion from me? Religion once caused social boycott, elimination from public office, discrimination, torture, murder, and war? Could that happen in this enlightened day and age with a religion of truth, peace, love, tolerance and charity?
Priests of OTHER cultures lie and deceive and make up imaginative scenarios concerning supernatural beings and places...but I don't believe ANY of that stuff...no sir. It is obviously imaginative fiction, or illusion or delusion on the part of the OTHER people, but MY priests tell me they are absolutely right and that they only tell the absolute truth. And then they thump their 'sacred' book, written directly by a god, and thunder threats down on me if I don't believe that....so I believe. I believe ALL that stuff. You bet!
We can examine claims of OTHER societies and find that all the claims concerning supernatural intervention (miracles) are false....but we must not examine OUR claims....it would be wrong....it would be 'sinful', and besides belief doesn't have to be based on evidence...in fact the lesser the probability of evidence the greater grows the strength of belief. OUR religion will not let us waste our time in investigating any claims of OUR religion. It's not necessary. Truth is truth ...right?
Although many nations have 'sacred' texts, written by or by the 'inspiration' of some god or goddess or a follower, such as the Rig Veda, the Koran, the Popol Vuh, etc....I don't believe ANY of that nonsense...no sir. It is too full of fanciful statements...too full of unbelievable events and statements...only a stupid jerk, priest-educated from childhood to believe those texts, would believe those texts.
But, it is different with OUR sacred texts. They were written by OUR god, or by HIS inspiration to OUR priests, and whatever is written by OUR god or OUR priests must be absolutely legitimate all-time truth, so we must believe those writings. Besides, that is customary, and it keeps people out of trouble.
It is better to be conformist...to believe anything the official line believes, anything the majority believes, especially if they have blasphemy laws, social boycotts, property confiscation, torture, burning at the stake, drowning, strangulation and other niceties to protect us from straying away from OUR truths.
So therefore, although I disbelieve in any one of the 100,000 gods and goddesses of the past, and although I disbelieve in the 'sacredness' of any text of some OTHER society of the past....yet, I am absolutely positively convinced beyond all shadow of a doubt, that OUR gods and OUR eternally renewed virgins, angels, cherubims, devils, demons, tooth fairies, Santa Clauses, and Easter Bunnies actually exist....that's what I am daily told is the absolute positive truth, so I believe it all. Yes, sir! For, if I say I do believe all that I can run for and hold any public office, almost any job, and be honored and respected. But if I say I don't believe all that--- then I will be shunned, ostracized, thrown out of positions, not be allowed to hold public office, and suffer enormous discrimination and very possibly any of various physical injuries.
All politicians uphold belief without evidence (or even contrary to evidence) as a pre-eminent virtue: all of the 1,000 born-again judges appointed by Ronald Reagan and George Bush affirm it fervently, and even the President of the Supreme Court says that state-church separation is a bad metaphor. He probably believes that a state-church would be better, that conformity is better than investigation, that truth is whatever church dogma is. The only trouble is that HE believes that only HIS church should be connected to the state.....much as Islamic Fundamentalists firmly believe in a church state, or Hindus, or Irish Catholics.
Now if only everyone in the world could agree on which specific dogma, doctrine and belief is absolutely true, (which of the thousands of these)...then we could all conform and there would be world peace, and we could all kiss someone's hands or feet, (or some other designated part of anatomy) of some self-designated intermediary to some deity! Wouldn't that be dandy?
Perhaps if everyone in the world chanted HARE KRISHNA 50 times a day, the millennium will come. Perhaps if we all spun prayer-wheels 1000 times a day, we could all be 'saved'. Perhaps if we got Jews to accept Christianity, and then start a war, then the Apocalypse will come, and 99% of the world's people will be consigned to hell and the remaining 1% will go straight to heaven. Perhaps if we get Saddam Hussein to convert to Judaism, and all Irish Protestants to kiss some part of Papal anatomy, the millennium will come. Or, if everybody would embrace Buddhism we could all enter Nirvana. Wouldn't that be nice?
I firmly believe all this....really, truly. Honest to Betsy!
IS GOD'S SPIRIT ON THEM?
When I look at television evangelists squinching their beady eyes deep into their sockets, and strain all the muscles of their face as through they were constipated and were trying to defecate a watermelon, I know that the Spirit of some Lord is upon them. I know that because they tell me that's what is happening. Would they lie to me? When they tell me that they can cure people by having some sick person put a hand on the television set while the evangelist squints and strains again...I KNOW that they are effecting a cure....through some Lord of course. And when they collect a million dollars by doing this nothingness, I KNOW that God's Grace is really beyond all understanding.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
By: Thomas Cabernoch
It's a 'growing up' thing, like how babies eat real food instead of a bottle after they get old enough.
I was a bright kid. I was an altar boy, Boy Scout, played baseball, went to karate and gymnastics, and attended Catholic school (nuns and all!).
I was pre-occupied with god. I felt awful about myself, and I wanted god to make it all go away. I used to pray constantly, and then berate myself for praying for personal gain (on things like sixth-grade math tests). I shoplifted a lot and then prayed about it. There was even some self-mutilation in there. Religion was supposed to fix all of it, but seemed to have no effect.
One day I when I was 12, I was riding my bicycle, doing a little thinking about it all. I wistfully decided that all psychic and ufo stories (which I had been collecting avidly) were probably horseshit. Witchcraft and magic were obviously also complete trash.
... and then ...
With no fanfare whatsoever, I turned my attention to god. It was completely obvious that the Bible had nothing on any other religion, and that all of them were lies.
And then I was free. The moment was no different from the previous one. Just me. No god there. There had never been a god there. The delusion was simply gone.
I took control of my life. I got a job (paperboy). I got in a couple fights. I focused on school. I met some friends. I learned that true honesty comes because of self-respect, not a duty to god. I found that achievement is the product of effort. I started developing into a person instead of a scared little child.
That moment changed my life. In some respects I feel it started my life.
(Editors Note - Reinhart Faust writes columns for the Finger Lakes Community website. His most recent column can be found here.)
By: Reinhart Faust
Throughout history humanity has created many powerful tools used to increase the sum of its knowledge. The compass, the telescope, the microscope and the x-ray have all given our civilization a greater understanding of ourselves and our universe than that possessed by any generation before us. But there are three tools without which all of these things are mere toys. Logic, reason and observation are the three most powerful tools ever used to enlighten the human mind. The scientific method has been used to destroy countless myths and falsehoods over the millennia. It’s why we no longer believe the earth to be flat and why we no longer use leeches to cure fevers. But there are those in society and, worse yet, those in power who don’t understand the power and value of logic, reason and observation, this Holy Trinity of science. There is no controversy in which this problem is more apparent than the current movement to inject ‘Intelligent Design’ into the science classrooms of American public schools.
Intelligent Design (ID) is a relatively new school of thought that has gained widespread approval amongst fundamentalist religious groups. It states that the variety and complexity of life on earth indicates that it could not have formed by natural means, but must have been guided by an intelligent force. Even though the word ‘God’ is scrupulously avoided, the implications are obvious. ID advocates almost always favor a religious explanation of the origins of life and of the universe. These arguments, however, have no corroborating evidence whatsoever, and basically consist of a selective criticism of evolution. That is why not one study in support of ID can be found in a reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journal. While it is true that there are certain subtle nuances of evolution that remain unexplained, and the precise mechanisms of evolution are still open to debate, the evidence in favor of evolution is so overwhelming that to deny it without a different theory supported by an equally impressive body of evidence, is purely irrational. What it all comes down to is that far too may people lack a fundamental understanding of science. Isaac Asimov said it best when he said; “Creationists make it sound as though a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night”. But in truth, a theory in scientific circles is an idea that has been tested so rigorously, proven to such a degree, that it can be taken as fact. Gravity is a theory.
So maybe it’s time that scientists should have a say in what is taught in science classrooms. If a person wishes to honor more traditional beliefs, that is fine. But let those beliefs be taught by clergymen and parents, not science teachers. If we allow posturing politicians and ambitious clergymen to use the science classroom as a platform, if we teach our children anything other than sound, proven science, then we are doing our children and our nation a grave disservice. At this point some advocates of ID would say that to refuse to allow ID to be taught in schools would unfairly stifle scientific debate, which is a necessary step in the discovery process. But try to suggest to a clergyman that a chapter on evolution be inserted into Genesis. See what he has to say.