Meet the world’s most influential witchdoctor

18 03 2009

From The Guardian:

The Pope today reignited the controversy over the Catholic church’s stance on condom use as he made his first trip to Africa.

The pontiff said condoms were not the answer to the continent’s fight against HIV and Aids and could make the problem worse.

Benedict XVI made his comments as he flew to Cameroon for the first leg of a six-day trip that will also see him travelling to Angola.

The timing of his remarks outraged health agencies trying to halt the spread of HIV and Aids in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 22 million people are infected.

The Roman Catholic church encourages sexual abstinence and fidelity to prevent the disease from spreading, but it is a policy that has divided some clergy working with Aids patients.

The pontiff, speaking to journalists on his flight, said the condition was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”.

Rebecca Hodes, of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, said that if the Pope was serious about preventing new HIV infections he would focus on promoting wider access to condoms and spreading information about how best to use them.

Hodes, the director of policy, communication and research for the campaign group, added: “Instead, his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”

Millions of lives are at stake owing to the sad fact that this man’s ill-informed and anti-scientific utterances are taken seriously. (That, compounded with the—hopefully diminishing—human desire to flush one’s brain down the toilet, ignore reality and prostrate oneself before dogma and self-appointed authority.)

Funny quote of the day

18 03 2009

From a Pharyngula comment thread on endeavours by well-wishers to free Kent Hovind (sung to the tune of “Free Nelson Mandela”):

Dr. Kent Hovind’s oppressors have to decide whether they want to live in fear or learn to live in love. If you don’t agree with this I question your commitment to Sparkle Motion.


The Bill Muehlenberg Trophy: Garret Oden’s Burgess Shale of ignorance

18 02 2009
Lately I’ve been weighing in to a debate on Matt’s Notepad between the eponymous Matt and one Garret Oden, regarding the latter’s “A couple reasons [sic] to believe that God DOES exist.” Pointing out the manifold factual errors and logical fallacies in Oden’s list of arguments for theism, a plurality of which are based on the assumption that arguments against evolution are arguments for the existence of God, would (if you’ll pardon the expression) try the patience of a saint; you may do so at your leisure. His waterboarding of reasoned argument is replicated in his exchanges with Matt and myself, such that it is difficult to determine whether or not Oden is a Poe. A glance at his website makes it all the more tempting to draw that conclusion:


(Source: Fred the Spot)

[UPDATE: BTW, Fred the Spot “evolves” into a crucifix, complete with Biblical texts so grovelling and self-abasing that they would make a BDSM sub blush. This guy should be writing Chick Tracts.]

Garret’s name links to the aforementioned website, so it is reasonable to conclude that it is his. Here are a few tasty morsels, both from his own Forever Christian blog and from pages linked to Fred the Spot. Read the rest of this entry »

Blatant Darwin Award

14 11 2007

Man discovered dead in girlfriend’s cat door
Wednesday Nov 14 10:00 AEDT

By ninemsn staff

A US man has been discovered dead in his girlfriend’s cat door, leaving authorities confused about his exact manner of death.

The man, Charles Tucker Junior, was using the animal entry to gain access to his girlfriend’s home on Sunday morning when he became stuck, News4Jax reported.

Officials said his girlfriend made the bizarre discovery only hours after she ordered him out of her house.

Speaking of Darwin, the PBS Nova special about the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case, “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial,” will be available for viewing online from November 16.

Worth listening to is a collection of audio clips from a range of scientists and philosophers explaining what does and does not count as science.

We need one of these things for the Australian federal election

17 10 2007

The Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education, a collaboration between five leading US universities, has created an interactive tool for gauging the role played by religion in the 2008 Presidential Election campaign.

The following is an interactive matrix examining the intersection of faith and politics on the stump as presidential hopefuls line up for their chance to win the White House in 2008. Issues range from abortion and public education to religious history and gay rights. Every candidate so far declared for office has been thoroughly researched for any mention of faith and its impact on their decision to reach a particular stance. Use the following matrix to explore how faith has been invoked as a part of their respective campaigns.

(You’ll have to go to the site to open the tool.)

It would be extremely handy, don’t you agree, if a similar tool was made available for Australian election campaigns.

Actually, those of you who are familiar with the website Political Compass will be interested to learn that a chart has been made for the 2007 Federal Election:

The extent to which the political centre of gravity is sinking deeper and deeper into the right-wing authoritarian quadrant is truly disturbing. Looking at the party’s website (which basically resembles one long angry Letter to the Editor from Joe Incontinence Pad), I can understand how difficult it must have been for the Political Compass guys to place One Nation. They are undoubtedly authoritarian–well, let’s just come right out and say it: they’re protofascist–but in terms of economic policy they can be both left-wing and right-wing. (For instance, they’re stridently anti-corporate: they even link to the Outfoxed website!) By the way, secularist potential One Nation voters be warned: your party advocates the teaching of Scripture and “Christian values” (whatever they are supposed to be) in public schools. And oil is–and this must be said in ALL CAPS, just like it is on the One Nation website–A RENEWABLE AND ABIOTIC FUEL.”

In other news, I’ve submitted Five Public Opinions to Blogotariat, a political blog aggregator. Bruce, Mikey, Jeremy, the Editor . . . all the cool kids are doing it.

The Wonderful World of Magical Thinking XXVIII

13 10 2007

The week in fundie . . .

  1. Ann Coulter wants “Jews to be perfected.” (Via Pharyngula)
  2. Air America adds ex-evangelical Christian Dan Barker’s Freethought Radio to its line-up, and FOX News screams “GODLESS PROGRAMMING!!” (Via Pharyngula)
  3. Under Christian and Muslim pressure, UK teachers are becoming reluctant to teach evolution and are being urged to teach creationism.
  4. Left Behind Games: Criticise our sad excuse for a computer game, and we’ll sue! (Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion)
  5. Kent Hovind talks to God. And God talks back. Yessireebob!
  6. US Department of Defence greenlights fundamentalist Christian proselytism in the military. (Dispatches from the Culture Wars)
  7. Catch the Fire: Baby Jesus told Pastor Nalliah that he wants John Howard to win the election (Alan Matheson)

Ann Coulter: Anti-Semite

The Wonderful World of Magical Thinking XXV

23 09 2007

1. An atheist US soldier serving in Iraq organises the first ever meeting of that country’s chapter of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, having dotted all the necessary ‘i’s and crossed all the necessary ‘t’s. Of the four soldiers who attend this meeting, one turns out to be a Fundamentalist Christian army major, posing as a “freethinker.” Said fundie proceeds to verbally harangue the other attendees–after he has ordered them to stand to attention–for “plotting against Christians” and “being disrespectful to other soldiers,” and then shuts the meeting down. This actually happened.

Well, the organiser has since filed a lawsuit, and for his troubles has been threatened with fragging by good Christian soldiers (good purely by virtue of being Christian, of course) in his own unit. Fragging non-theists: it’s what Jesus would do. (Austin Cline/No God Blog)

2. A Muslim dentist in Britain has been accused of demanding that a female patient cover her head with a scarf in traditional Muslim fashion before he would treat her. (Austin Cline)

3. Police catch youths who spraypainted images of the Flying Spaghetti Monster on various buildings in a Canadian town. (Is this a hoax?)

4. In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party is pushing for the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in schools. (Pharyngula)

From OneGoodMove, Bill Maher spells out The New Rules. You have been schooled, my friends.

UPDATE re: the atheist soldier in Iraq. I’ve been reading the discussion forum at the Military Religious Freedom Association website. A commenter writes:

I don’t know if there has been any coercion on the part of officers in the military. It may have occurred on occasion – I just don’t know. However, if only one soul were saved as a result of the activities in the military, wouldn’t it be worth it? All the wealth in the world isn’t worth the value of a single soul. My point to Mr. Weinstein was this: Is he actually doing what God wants Him to do? Maybe the persons involved in the military are doing what God has asked them to do.

Browbeating and threatening non-theists: it is what Jesus would do!

The Bill Muehlenberg Trophy: Cyrus Brooks and the Church of Scientology

10 07 2007

The latest Bill Muehlenberg gong is awarded to Cyrus Brooks, vice-president of the Australian Church of Scientology, for taking advantage of a recent double-murder, involving a Sydney woman who stabbed her father and sister to death, to proselytise to the nation his faith-based objections to psychiatry, arguing on ABC radio that “modern psychiatry used many methods that were largely ‘unproven’ and psychiatric assumptions – such as chemical imbalances in the brain – simply did not exist.” The murder suspect is a woman suffering psychosis who was denied psychiatric treatment because of her parents’ Scientologist beliefs. Brooks’ claims were immediately rebutted by Sydney University psychiatrist Chris Tennant:

It’s so sad to hear the Flat-Earthers getting on the radio. The amount of research in terms of both treatment of depression and psychosis is as strong as any other medical of treatment–be it cancer, be it heart disease, be it whatever–it’s the same methods, the same technologies are used in these sorts of studies. There are hundreds of studies that show the effectiveness of these drugs not only in curing symptoms, [. . .] but also in reducing the social impact including, dare I say it, issues of violence and things like assault and homicide when patients with psychosis are treated.

The Sydney case mirrors the 2003 murder of Ellie Perkins at the hands of her son Jeremy, who suffered from schizophrenia: a psychiatric condition the Church of Scientology asserts does not exist. Jeremy’s condition was untreated because his parents–both Scientologists–believed that psychiatrists are evil and psychiatric medicine is poison. According to a website devoted to the case, the church promptly attempted to cover up its connections to the murder.

And yet again we have a clear demonstration of the dangers of magical thinking–of what can go wrong when one checks one’s brains at the door of the “Free Personality Test” booth and embraces religious dogma at the expense of reason and evidence.

What is even more disconcerting is the fact that Scientology appears to be giving the Christian Right a run for its money regarding its theocratic ambitions. A 2005 Salon article documents the church’s attempts to get anti-psychiatry legislation passed in various US states, and its anti-medication dogma taught in US public schools (see also this San Francisco Chronicle article). According to Salon,

you don’t have to rely on critics to show that Scientology’s attack on psychiatry is part of the church’s crusade to rule society. In 1995, David Miscavige, the church’s current leader, addressed the International Association of Scientologists in Copenhagen. He told the faithful that the church had two goals as the new millennium approached, dutifully noted by International Scientology News: “Objective one – place Scientology at the absolute center of society. Objective two – eliminate psychiatry in all its forms.”

Wedge Strategy, anyone?

Meanwhile, a California man languishes in a solitary jail cell. His crime? Protesting Scientology. (More on Keith Henson here.)

South Park on what Scientologists believe:

See also: Pharyngula
, Operation Clambake, Lisa McPherson Memorial Page