Sunday, July 24, 2005

Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmick!

One of the strangest and most persistent confusion of ideas is the belief that life-like statuary has some spirit or spiritual power trapped inside it. The ancient Egyptians believed that the spirit of a dead guy could inhabit a statue made in his likeness, and talking to the statue was the same as talking to the dead guy. I suppose it is the same in one respect, the statue is just as likely to answer as the corpse is. Hey, add a pinch of ergot, or an unscrupulous high priest and a cleverly concealed speaking tube and anything is possible.

Various religions throughout the world make use of artistically rendered chunks of plaster, metal, wood and stone as a focus for worship, but none seem more bizarre to me than the subcult of the Adoration of the Blue-eyed, Blonde Hummelesque Child Jesus. This was apparently started by the Carmelites in Germany, and has inexplicably spread to areas where a Saxon Jesus should have raised some eyebrows, to say the least. The picture above is of a statue in Columbia, to which one Father Rizzo attributes the divine discovery of Marketing. The “official” story can be read here.

My take on it goes like this: Father Rizzo is charged with shaking down the locals for the funds to build a new church. The locals see a scruffy-looking guy in a cassock panhandling and pretty much ignore him. The next day, he gets the bright idea to take a pretty statue along with him and sets up on the side of the road. It works. The statue is a draw, and in addition, it lends legitimacy to his efforts by showing that Mother Church trusts the Father with an expensive piece of art. Since the Father has been trained to believe that he is incapable of independent thought, the inspiration must have come from God. Besides, the legend of a talking statue increases the marvelous and mystical mumbo-jumbo power of the Church (lookie what we got!).

The web page where I got the image closes with these lines:

“The devotion to Child Jesus spread to all Latin America with an avalanche of wanders, miracles, conversions... people who left alcohol and drugs, poor families finding scholarships for their children, jobless finding jobs, physical healings, family reconciliations...”

And just like a Carlton Sheets scam, for every success story, there are.... (how many failures?) that we will never hear about and will never be attributed to the failure of the god/formula to perform.

“You may want to try doing the simple 3 day Novena, because the favors are not obtained by any statue of picture, but by devotion and honor and adoration to the real Jesus Christ in His childhood... try Him!... let us now the results. God bless you.”

Now send this in an e-mail to everyone you know in the next five minutes, or Father Rizzo’s brother Ratzo will fill your head with bad show tunes.

More fun here:

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Confusion of Ideas 101, Lesson 5: The self-sustaining fallacy.

About friggin time I got back on track, I know. I have been both having fun, and exploring . Life is good.

Part of my explorations fall into the category of “know your enemy”. I have been reading “The Making of a Christian Leader” by Ted W. Engstrom, (Executive Vice President, World Vision International), Zondervan Publishing House. Hmm. “World Vision”. Sounds positively megalomaniacal, doesn’t it? Do you suppose if all the other religions and lifestyles in the world sat back and actually let the Christians take over, they would stop trying to play the persecution card? ...But I digress.

In my reading of the aforementioned text, I ran across a little paragraph on the Laissez-faire style of management that illustrates the confusion of ideas resulting from a self-sustaining fallacy. The author has a poor understanding, and a negative opinion of, laissez-faire management. He has allowed those prejudices to completely color his description, and has drawn conclusions from his own, very debatable opinion.

Laissez-faire literally means, “to let do”. It has been adopted to mean a hands-off style, whether in terms of government regulation, or management. In order for this style of management to be effective, one must truly be operating in a group of peers, able to make their own decisions. You might find laissez-faire management in an advertising team, but I doubt you will ever see it at Wal-Mart. The term, “self-starter” comes to mind when discussing an effective team with a laissez-faire manager. Ok, let’s see what Engstrom has to say on the subject (My comments in parenthesis).

“This kind of a leader gives minimum direction and provides maximum freedom for group decisions.”

(So far, so good....)

“He recedes into the background, allowing others to express themselves”

(Ding ding ding! Fallacy! There is no “background” in an assemblage of peers! Not being dictatorial does not equate to being a shrinking violet.)

“He establishes rapport, and remains silent until his specific direction or opinion is called for.”

(Close, but no cigar. A good laissez-faire manager is an equal contributor to the team, and does have the final decision-making authority. The laissez-faire manager should exercise this authority, even if it is only a final reiteration of the group consensus for the sake of establishing clear goals. Engstrom’s observation here is vectoring off track, along the line established by his earlier misrepresentation.)

“His role is similar to the nondirective approach in psychological therapy.”

(HUH? Where did that come from, what is it, and how many of Engstrom’s readers are going to accept that statement without the least clue as to what it means? Way to pontificate! That sentence needed a comma, and proof of analogy. In addition, Engstrom has associated the image of “group therapy” with this management style in the minds of his less sophisticated readers.)

“This view operates on the assumption that man himself and society contain remedial forces to allow a strong, healthy relationship between the leader and the group.”

(The reader is being set up here. Operant words, “assumption”, and “remedial forces”. “Assumption.” Everybody “knows” what happens when you assume. Shouldn’t that read, “premise”? “Remedial forces” implies that something requires remediation. This is usually the result of something going wrong. One should also note the “man himself and society” portion of that alleged “assumption”. What, no God? Oh. Yes. Laissez-faire is antithetical to a dictatorial hierarchy.)

“This permits growth through group decision”

(Yes, but remember that “assumption” statement? I bet this is not allowed to stand unchallenged. Any takers?)

“Actually, we could say that this style is practically no leadership at all and allows everything to run its own course”

(We could if we were a theory X manager, with a negative opinion of laissez-faire. Actually, this is a description of management failure, or non-management that is often mislabeled as laissez-faire to support the opinion that laissez-faire doesn’t work. Engstrom is maintaining his course, leading his readers to a prejudiced conclusion.)

“The leader simply performs a maintenance function.”

(Sounds about as effective as a janitor put in charge, doesn’t it? This is close to reality, the prejudice word here is, “simply”. The reality is, there is a lot of team building, encouragement, recognition, respect, and judicious guidance involved in true laissez-faire management. It might be mostly maintenance (and reporting) after the initial team building, but there is nothing simple about it.)

“For example, a pastor may act as a figurehead and concern himself only with his pulpit ministry while others are left to work out the details of how the church is to function.”

(Negative connotation lightning round: “figurehead”, “concern himself only”, “left to”.)

“This style lends itself to those leaders who are away a lot or who have been temporarily put in charge”

(And why is that? The absentee leadership is obvious, but the temp? Wow! Let’s look at that in light of what we have deduced about the author’s opinion. Well, if you are only a temporary leader, the church wouldn’t want you to create any situation where the permanent replacement might be perceived as less capable. That might cause rivalry, factioning, and prevent a smooth transition of power. Besides, if the permanent replacement is inept, and you make him look inept, you call the judgment of the higher authorities of the church into question, and that’s bad for the whole scam. Yup, the temporary leader should not make too big a splash, and then simply retire back into the follower role.)

Guys like Engstrom are masters of programming. Once the initial impulse toward independent thought has been eliminated, the receptive mind must receive input! Instructions are geared toward creating the desired result, and contradictory information becomes extraneous. This is the formula that is used to justify stating opinion as fact, then building a house of cards upon that foundation in a self-sustaining fallacy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


I just finished watching “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”. The movie was listed in Blockbuster as a comedy, but it was really one long advertisement for Mother Church (“Can I get an A-Men? Praise Jeeez-us!). One of the reviewers actually had a similar experience to mine:

“This Diary needs some editing. There are about three movies' worth of storylines going on in writer-producer-actor-cross-dresser Tyler Perry's flick....” more .

The only comedy was some pretty camp comedy relief, and the only laugh I got was Tyler Perry as an old man, delivering a line to Tyler Perry, the crazed Grandma. The reviewers gave this movie a “C” on average, and there were many viewers that came to its defense, but I think the reviewers got it right this time. Here is an example of one of the movie’s defenders:

“This movie comes from a play produced by tyler perry. And it' here to prove a point to people don't let no man or woman run your life. And be an individual at all times have your own life even if your married. but we always look at the movie and not what it's about”

Ok, I’m a language snob, and that badly punctuated, run-on sentence offends me. Beyond that, this is not the message that I got from this movie. The message I saw was, “Come back to Mother Church, and we will solve all of your problems”. Never mind that the Church stole your self-esteem in the first place, creating the victims that the protagonists have become in this movie. Never mind that it seldom works that way in real life. There is even a Baptist “halleluiah” song that contains the words “Not Muhammad, not Buddha,...” Yup, the church can solve all your problems. We are also treated to a scene that propounds the myth that marijuana is an hallucinogen. Somebody has been watching too much “Reefer Madness”. Eddie Murphy has nothing to fear in terms of competition from Tyler Perry. One barber shop scene from "Coming to America" is worth this entire movie. "Diary" is a dog’s breakfast.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Another Air Raid Drill, or How to Secure the Barn After the Animals Escape

I am depressed. The War on Terra has resulted in civilian casualties again. Anyone who went through the Second World War, or any of the other atrocities too numerous to mention might think, “Sad, but insignificant” about the casualties in London this week. This might be true, if you look at this as an isolated incident. To me, it is just the latest addition to a vast number of unnecessary and undeserved killings. Notice I didn’t say “senseless”. They made some kind of sense to somebody, or the acts would not have been rationalized and executed. “Senseless” is just another tool in the propaganda arsenal of divisiveness. Their acts are “senseless”, our acts are “unfortunate, but necessary”. We will get all the details that our news services can glean about the deaths in London, but the civilian casualties in Iraq will be reduced to a raw number; 3,000 estimated, or maybe 3,200. Nice round number. If you happen to be number 3,205, I guess you don’t get counted at all. My point is, we have a decent chance of having our emotions run up and down the scale of outrage by reading or hearing about Mr. Whitehead, who was killed on his commute to work and leaves behind a desolated family. We will not hear about 7 year old Aamaed Mustafa Hameed, who probably wanted to play with his friends and go to school and grow up, but was blown up instead.

I am depressed because I have no realistic answers for this problem. The terrorists did not start this. The US government did not start this. Neither did the British, the Germans, the Dutch, the Crusaders, nor the Turks, nor the Mongols, nor the Romans, nor the Lubas, nor any of the tribes whose names are lost to history. This killing began in pre-history, when ordinary men and women allowed a pattern to be established. We, as the human race, allowed our leaders to fill our heads with irrational beliefs that separated us from our neighbors. Apparently, we still don’t know any better.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Fireworks for the 4th.

If anyone is unfamiliar with Kenneth Tomlinson’s claims that PBS and NPR have a liberal bias, there is a good article with good links here. The conservative media is having a field day “proving” liberal bias on the part of Public Broadcasting by quoting admitted incidents, and liberal-slanted reporting outside of the context of the balancing opinions that were also included in the news story. What’s behind this crusade, and the Republican majority government’s attempt to cut funding? Excerpt from Wikipedia, “Patriotism and recent US history.”

“It has been claimed that patriotic fervor has decreased the ability of Americans to obtain objective information about the world situation. In particular, the journal Political Science Quarterly published research showing that those who obtained their news from outlets that appear to make a concerted effort to be patriotic were more likely to have factual misconceptions about the Iraq war. These misperceptions were: that weapons of mass destruction had been found, that evidence linked Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda, and that world public opinion favored the war. Respondents that received their news from public broadcasting, conversely, were far less likely to hold these perceptions.”

Ooops! Looks like Public Broadcasting is far too likely to tell us things that might embarrass the US Government! What a shame! Kill the messenger!

On a lighter note, Justice Souter might be reaping on his family farm what he has sown in the courts Press Release. Ok, so Logan Darrow Clements is one of those folks that takes a highlighter to “Atlas Shrugged” (the basis of one of my worst nightmares), but sometimes one can set aside ideological differences in the spirit of good, clean fun. Hey, if I see a neighbor stuck in a ditch, I don’t ask what his politics, sexual orientation, or religious ideology is before I try to help, I probably don’t want to know. If you really want to play, the Right-wingnuts have a petition you can sign here at Be careful to uncheck the box for hate mail, unless you want it. For any conservatives reading this blog, I call them wingnuts because they seem enthusiastically in favor of every last plank in the conservative platform. That makes them fanatics, or donation junkies.

I’ve read “Atlas Shrugged” by the way. Aside from the gross oversimplifications (aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln...), the biggest problem I have with Ayn Rand’s magnum opus is that I believe that she misidentified the antagonists. Anybody notice any fiscal conservatism in the Republican party lately? Which ideology, liberal or conservative, would you most expect to enforce its agenda at gunpoint? Which is better, “Tax and Spend”, or “Don’t tax, bury the next generation in debt and Spend?” Good Science Fiction, bad Manifesto. BTW: John Galt

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Staring out the window, watching the gym class, and daydreaming.

I have recently been involved in a discussion thread in the commentary section of Hellbound Alleee’s blog here. I don’t rightly know what to call this. To call it a discussion or an argument would be like calling the chatter of five-year olds a conversation.

Child #1: “I have grape juice”
Child #2: “My daddy is a fireman”

Sort of an illusion of communication. Anyway, It involved a person identifying self as Maureen, and the statements she made just begged to be challenged. Maureen is the kind of person I don’t encounter very often, an evangelizing Catholic. I live in a Catholic neighborhood, and when I say “neighborhood”, I mean region. The Catholics I know, while devout, keep their religion to themselves. The church might be politically active, but my neighbors pretty much leave me alone, and I return the favor. I do however, regularly play with Jehovah’s “Witnesses” that come to my door, and with Baptists on line. Maureen’s proclamations had a distinctly different “flavor”. My imaginary lion extends the tip of his imaginary tongue and reports the flavor of sour breast milk. Quite different from the metallic taste of Satan-fear, or the greasy flavor of Evangelical Slim Jims and Budweiser I have grown accustomed to.

I ponder the difference, and conclude that there is something older, more basic, in the Catholic approach to brainwashing. I think about the statuary, the icons, the little shrines on the side of the road, the little offerings of flowers made to same, and the empty niches in the walls of the Pantheon in Rome. I think about the Pagan gods and demigods, and the little shrines that used to dot the landscape.... gone but not forgotten.... just transformed. “We are the Christians. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”

Yes, the Church has long practiced the art of assimilating the practices of other beliefs, and making them Christian. The dancing skulls of South America; a perversion of an Aztec perversion. The Nuns; a perversion of Vestal Virgins, and pimped to the elite in much the same way in the early years. The Catholic church has striven to be all things to all people. Not content with the concept of Super-Daddy (God), they have aspired to being the Church of Super-Mommy as well, hence the cult of the Alleged Virgin Mary. Something for every wounded human “spirit”. Ah, that accounts for the sour milk-of-human-kindness flavor! A cheat! A swindle! Patterned on old cheats and swindles, and always for a price. Give up your self-esteem, self-direction, critical thinking, and all hope of self-actualization. In exchange, we will give you loving imaginary parents and the womb-like security of a like-minded community. Come suckle at our Emotional Reassurance bar, - after we have created the hunger by disturbing you deeply of course. Let your mind go back to the early thinking patterns of childhood. We like you that way; fearful and superstitious.

An example of the brainwashing that is taking place, quoting Maureen:

“Islam, that religion of "peace," has led only to a world of suicide bombers and acid throwing fanatics. Judaism--i.e., the cult of those who rejected Christ--has led only to centuries of usury, conspiracy, and sexual immorality, of the kind we see in Hollywood today.Christendom, on the other hand, is the fountain of all beautiful art, sacred music, and true science in the world. And yet, Christians are the most persecuted people in the world today, unable even to practice their faith openly in America today. Blasphemy reigns supreme, and heresies are the common currency of the land.”

Note the word “only” in the sentence about Islam and again in the one about Judaism. Someone has shown Maureen “only” what they wanted her to see. What could we say was the “only” product of Catholicism in Northern Ireland and the exploding pubs of London?

“Sacred” music? Would you sacrifice to it? I love music, but no one piece is worth the life of a hamster. As for science, as I have mentioned before, the Greek and Turkish and Roman mathematicians and scholars and surgeons were indisputably NOT Christian.

This has gone on long enough. I will explore the concepts of “blasphemy” and “heresy” and "persecution" another time.