Saturday, May 31, 2008

Give It a Rest!

Taking my own advice, I'm giving the religious, per se, a rest. There seems to be a lot of apologies and PC silliness taking place in recent weeks.

We have become increasingly thin-skinned and easily offended. I think this was a trend even before the whole "image of Muhammed" thing hit the fan on the heels of those Dutch political cartoons. Our culture seems to be increasingly obsessed with other people's gaffes. Either that, or we are constantly on the lookout for excuses to take offense. It is beginning to remind me of all the fake, exaggerated reactions I used to see in the "pro wrestling" matches of my youth.

Rather than just gripe about it, I'm proposing a cure. It's radical, but drastic times call for drastic measures.

Before you read further, know that I am dead serious. I want you to find a quiet corner, or if you're less inhibited, open a window and shout. I really mean it. Do this, don't just read it.

Repeat after me:


Now, doesn't that feel better? Now we can all move on without worrying about the particulars of exactly how each of us sucks!

For you South Park fans, the uncensored "fish helmet" scene above is widly acknowledged to be a fake by the way.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Get Outta My Garage!"

If you’re old enough to understand that reference, you can’t be much younger than I am at best. I’m having one of THOSE birthdays this week end. To celebrate, I’m going to help some friends muck out their Family Camp in preparation for the 2008 season.

I dug up that picture as a response to the black banner that is currently hanging on my office door. Incidentally, I looked up Freddie Prinze in Wikipedia. I had forgotten that he had killed himself at such a young age. (Memory: one of the first things to go. *sigh*) I had thought he was at least 30, but he was only 23. Such was the energy level of his life that he seemed older. Here are two quotes from the Wiki article I’d like to share.

“Prinze was born Frederick Karl Pruetzel at St. Clair's Hospital in New York City, the son of Maria and Karl Pruetzel. His mother was Puerto Rican, and his father, a Hungarian of Lutheran and Jewish background, immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1934.[1][2][3][4]

Prinze was raised in a Hispanic section in Washington Heights, New York City. He began his education at a private Lutheran school, in a religious compromise by his parents (though his mother took him to Catholic mass on Sundays). “

During the early morning hours of January 28, 1977, after receiving a restraining order from his ex-wife the previous evening, Prinze, who occasionally told friends that "life isn't worth living", made a series of farewell phone calls to family, friends and management from his hotel room at the Beverly Comstock Hotel. His business manager, Marvin "Dusty" Snyder, was alarmed after receiving one of the calls and rushed over to Prinze's room. When Snyder arrived, Prinze continued his rueful phone calls, telling his mother "Mom, I love you very much, but I can't go on. I need to find peace." Snyder called Prinze's psychologist from the next room about what was happening, but the psychologist insisted that Prinze was in no actual danger. Snyder returned to Prinze, who supposedly called his ex-wife and said "I love you, Kathy. I love the baby, but I need to find peace. I can't go on." After the call, Prinze pulled out a gun from the sofa. Snyder tried to intervene, but Prinze shot himself in the head, and was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center to be placed on life support following emergency surgery. Prinze's family removed him from life support, and he died at 1:00 pm on January 29 at the age of 22.

The death, initially ruled a suicide, was years later re-ruled an "accidental shooting due to the influence of Quaaludes". His mother, Maria, led the effort to have the cause of death reworded. Prinze had a history of playing with guns, faking suicide attempts to frighten his friends for his amusement. He had left a note stating that the decision to take his life was his alone, but because he pulled the trigger in the presence of a witness -- something suicides rarely do -- it gave enough weight to the argument that he really was not planning to take his own life that night.”

Ok… er… I mean… shuuuure! Why not?

His Mother Maria made a monumental effort to have the wording on the cause of death changed. This is because Catholics have a huge hangup about suicide. God won’t let you into Heaven if you kill yourself … unless you didn’t really mean to. My question is this: who was she trying to convince? Church dogma would suggest that Jehovamagod, being omniscient, knows the real score, so …. Was she trying to convince the priests? Does their opinion really change reality like that? Are they bound by a secular court document? Help me out here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why I Seldom Argue With Religious Types Any More

So I got into this, um, discussion with a Christian evangelistic type over at Atheist Revolution. I’ve said it before; arguing with clever religious types reminds me of a “conversation” between 5-year olds.

“My daddy’s a fireman!”

“I have a new dolly!”

The comment thread got quite long, and I only have one more thing that he brought up that I would like to address. First, a little background to set the context and illustrate my point above.

Joshua’s opening gambit:

Your entry statement says 'breaking free from irrational belief'. With respect, what do you mean by this?What, exactly, do you mean by rationalism? Plato would have argued that rationalism is about perceiving reality through the mind - that reality can only be really known through the mind - not through experience or the senses. Berkeley argued that we don't even know for sure that what we perceive with our senses actually exists at all - putting into the doubt the whole material world including science. And even if you accept that the senses can be trusted - what about the 'irrational' nature of science - take, for example, string theory that modern scientists are taking very seriously: that there are more than 3 dimensions! If rationalism is about perceiving things in time and space in a logical, coherent way - well, then, modern science is suggesting that we may have to think again.

Therefore what do you mean 'irrational [belief]'.

This to show that nothing is irrational, or everything is, or we puny mortals can’t really tell the difference.

My response:

This is a brain-muddling argument, made to create self-doubt. It applies equally to the religious bullcrap that you have been spoon fed, and will be spoon fed from cradle to grave. Here is the key to unlock this box: it makes no difference. If you think it does, light a match and hold it to your hand and try not to be burned. Do it often enough, and your friends will have you committed. Reality has a way of imposing itself, no matter if it's as it seems, or we all live in a bowl of shaving cream.

There are [more than 3 dimensions]. There are at least four. Time is the fourth, and Einstein and others have the math to prove it. Nothing can exist for no time at all.


If that's not enough, thinking of solid objects in three dimensions (length, width, height) is a very linear (two-dimensional) way of looking at things. Moreover, all dimensions below "#4" are imaginary, not being able to exist on their own.

We always have to think again, when new information is uncovered. Unless, that is, some clowns steeped in dogma make us drink Hemlock.

"Therefore what do you mean 'irrational [belief]'."

Death is life, down (burial) is up ("Heaven") "First causes" had to come "ex machina" from a Deus whose very complexity defies the "first cause" and complexity arguments. How's that just for starters?

The response:

Are you suggesting that rationalism - that Plato, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza and others were guilty of something negative in some important way?At the end of the day all philosophy, whether it is rationalism or empiricism is open to doubt.

Are you suggesting that all western philosophy is negative in some important way?

Am I trying to impugn Famous Western Philosophers when I suggest that religious people put forth the, “we can’t know what’s really real” argument in order to create self-doubt?

See what I mean?

Later on, Joshua holds out St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi as examples of what’s good and right about Christianity. This is in response to my belief that religious institutions are money machines. These guys are supposedly the models of self-sacrifice, martyrdom, and poverty. I tell Joshua (in so many words) that I think Paul was a little more opportunistic and self-serving than the popular press would have one believe, just not terribly successful at launching the money machine in his own lifetime. In hindsight, the response should have been predictable.

What about St. Francis?

Ok, What about St. Francis?

St. Francis belongs to a group of people known as ascetics. Lots of religions have them.

They are really good PR. In addition, they are really good fund-raisers because they look poor. They dress and act that way not because they have to, but because they want to. This is the dress code of the Order that they have joined. Typically, they take a vow of poverty, but they are panhandling all the time. The money goes to the Temple, or the HMIC (Head Monk In Charge). The monks themselves might live an austere life, and perhaps have some kinky prayer or penitence rituals, but historically, they have eaten well when others in the neighborhood were not so fortunate. Historically too, this is one of the finest examples of a working commune. That always amuses me a little when religious types start ripping on hippies or Marxists.

There were compelling reasons for the working poor to consider the monastic/cloistered life that had nothing to do with spirituality. The prospect of three square meals, a roof and a cot for life, along with some kind of education still has its appeal today. Now, some people enlist in the army for much the same reasons. People who join monasteries or convents are, for the most part, people who believe that it is nobler to be pissed upon than to piss on others. Or, they believe in the nobility of being a drudge for their chosen cause. They either have a bit of a masochistic streak, possibly as a result of church-induced guilt and paranoia, or they have a strong desire to let someone else tell them what to do so they don’t have to think about it. The sameness of everyday ritual would also be appealing for high-functioning autistics and borderline autistics.

Back to the “great PR” assertion.

This is the face that the church wants you to see:

Not this.


Not this:


Not this:

Quoting Prof. Thomas J. Reese, an American Vatican expertfrom Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University "Inside the Vatican" (Harvard University Press, 1996) “In 1994, the [Price-Waterhouse Independent] audit listed: - 1,483 billion lire in assets [About $848 million]: - - 732 billion lire [about $419 million] in liabilities (in the"Consolidated Financial Statements of the Holy See" (410 billion incash, 479 billion in stocks and bonds, 29 billion in gold, and 470billion in fixed assets - investments and real-estate) . 269 billionlire are in deposits and accounts of Vatican entities, 96 billion foremployees' severance indemnities and 262 billion at the value ofpensions to present employees;- 750 billion are in net assets [$430 million]. These figures are without the bank and the Vatican City. Reese estimates that it would add up to$500 million to $1 billion. However, deducting the Vatican City'sbudget and the $270 million reported as "fixed assets", the sum islower than $1 billion, maybe even less than quarter billion dollars.

That was 14 years ago, and does not include “priceless” works of art, or inflation in the Real Estate market. One should note that closing churches, and consolidating diocese in the US and selling off Real Estate to pay for the pedophile lawsuits was not, strictly speaking, necessary. The Church has a very proprietary attitude towards assets already in their possession. The Vatican is not going to take it on the chin, not when the parishioners can.

This tally also does not include the total net worth of the Anglican Church, the Episcopal Church, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, The Church of Latter Day Saints, the Church of Scientology, The collective worth of the Televangelistic mega-churches, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc., etc, etc.

This tally also represents only one of three financial statements that are normally used to track business activities, the Balance Sheet. There is also an Income Statement, and a Statement of Cash Flow, or whatever they are calling it this year. The Income Statement tracks annual revenues, before and after expenses, and the Statement of Cash Flows, basically shows where the income was generated, and where the expenses originated. This last document is something that a tax-exempt, “not-for-profit”, religious organization would kill to protect, I suspect. The amount of “charitable donations” that actually make it into the hands of charity cases after everyone gets paid, bribes change hands, kickbacks are counted, and all expenses are deducted might make people think twice about donating.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Re-posted for a religious friend




Sunday, May 04, 2008

Scamology - The Final Chapter

Disclaimer: The events depicted herein take place in an alternate Universe. It's my Universe and you can't have it!

L. Jack Horner is tasked with spinning an Origin yarn that will separate those with any semblance of critical thinking skills from meat for the institutional scam he is developing. He comes up with a yarn that would make an old sailor weep with admiration. L. Jack used to be a Naval Officer himself. The prospect of an undistinguished and mediocre career did not suit his particular brand of egomania. He hallucinated a Japanish submarine and sent an entire wartime Naval unit chasing a Will-o-the-Wisp down the Central Amurican coast. He will later remember this as one of the best periods of his life. This is probably where he learned that he had the gift of bullshitting convincingly.

When we left off last time, Nu-gai, an Emperor of the Galaxy unsurprisingly similar to Ming The Merciless, had just rid his Mongo-like Empire of intelligent species that he deemed undesirable and overpopulated. (Pardon me a moment. HACK, HACK, HACK, HACK, HACK! Ok, I feel better now.) Nugai first rounds them up and freezes them at his giant frozen-concentrate concentration camp. (HACK! Sorry. I’ll stop now.) He later decides to send them to earth on giant DC8-shaped space ships. He does this because, somehow, it’s worth all the effort.

When the winged dildo-craft arrive on earth, they dump their cargo in the volcanoes at Hawaii. They do this because of an inexplicable shortage of volcanoes and molten planets in Nugai’s galaxy, and because a race known as the Perillan Brotherhood had a lock on the volcanoes of Italy and Greece. It does not end there however. As soon as the frozen aliens hit the magma, they die, and their spirits escape upward. This is very important to establish the afterlife-belief so important to any successful religion. The escaping souls are vacuumed up by yet another fleet of spacecraft. They are imprisoned and ghost-brain washed into forgetting who they are and where they come from. This is to prevent them from trans-emigrating back from whence they came, and causing Nugai to have to start all over from the beginning.

The alien ghosts (ghost aliens?), who are now known as “Feeties”, are left to roam the earth. This all happens in Prehistoric Times, and the ghosts must wander and lament their fate without so much as a ghostly chain to rattle; chains having yet to be invented. Eventually, the Human Race started showing signs of intelligence. The Feeties, homesick for a real body, attach themselves to these early humans and become the less scrupulous half of their inner dialogue. This is really saying something, as the Human Race at this time was still trying to work out the first two unwritten commandments. They went something like: “Thou Shall Not Steal Food or Women from Someone Bigger than You”, and “Mind Your Own Business”.

Anyway, the Feeties attach themselves, and it is their presence that is credited for many of the woes of humanity. In addition to irrational behavior, the interaction of the Feeties with bodily fluids and bacteria is credited as being the cause of smelly feet and armpits, bad breath, and of course, smelly shit. Scientifonomists are taught to believe that they can rid themselves of Feeties and all associated problems. Through the use of the O-meter, a talk therapy technique called “Minding” and the occasional degaussing, Scientifonomists are told they can achieve a state where their shit no longer stinks. All this for a fee of course. The new arrival is given a course of Minding sessions based on how much he can be made to believe he can afford. The Minding session consists of an O-meter, a “Minder” and a “Mindee”. The Mindee is encouraged to spill his guts and wallow in self-pity while holding the banana-like probes of the O-meter. The Minder is paid to listen and act like he cares, and to ask uncomfortable and embarrassing questions designed to erode self-confidence and self-worth. This unburdening process often engenders the same feelings of gratitude and loyalty one sees in regular practitioners of the Priestly Confession, and in victims of the Stockholm Syndrome. (So far, in every parallel universe I have encountered a Stockholm. Most of them bear more resemblance to Amsterdam – ed.)

When the Mindee starts showing signs of impatience and frustration that can no longer be quelled, it is time to pronounce him “cured”. The Mindee (also known as the Mark), is told that the Feeties have been peeled off, and he is now free of them, or “Shucked”. He is now free to believe that his shit doesn’t stink. He is also told that he is in a state that makes him eligible for membership in one of the inner circles of the organization. After so much help straightening out the cosmic injustices of the Mark’s life, it’s only natural that he will want to further the financial success of the organization. It is also only natural that the organization will be reluctant to let the Mark off the hook.

One opportunity for the Mark is to become a Minder himself. This will of course require some very expensive training. Another opportunity is to join the Sea Monkeys. This is an invitation-only inner circle. It was started by L. Jack in part because of his nostalgic feelings toward Navy life, and in part by his desire to stay beyond the 12-mile limit. This was during a time when avoiding scrutiny and subpoenas seemed like a very good idea. The monumental boredom, loneliness, and occasional storm-induced fear, and interdependency of the crew is also a great way to cement feelings of subjugation to the group.

If life on the sea does not appeal, the Mark might also be invited to join the Scientifonomist Scrutiny Society, or the SSS. This is the group that diligently roots out sedition within the organization, champions the Myth of Persecution, and entangles detractors in frivolous nuisance lawsuits. This is basically a complex and expensive execution of one of the scam artists’ favorite weapons, stealing the high ground. The Church of Scientifonomy can well afford to spend some of its victim’s money this way. Replace, “liberal press” with, “Suppressive Person” if you care to read that link. No other changes are required.

L. Jack finally dies, but not before he and his cohorts successfully muscle in on the religion scam. In perfect execution of the closed-loop delusion, they provide a defensive explanation for all their detractors and encourage their followers to hate and fear them. Detractors are labeled “Suppressive Persons”. The are attributed all manner of evil motives in keeping with the organization’s mythology. Detractors are also diligently sued to discourage future detractors. Competitors, such as mainstream medical and psychological organizations are strenuously denigrated. Any exposed wrongdoing or illegal actions of the organization are attributed to “misguided” actions on the part of individuals within. Said individuals are purged for the crime of getting caught, and the organization lives on like some beast with a life of its own. Scam artists are always attracted to a good money machine like flies to shit, and this group will never lack in leaders or promoters.

Moral: If you can make a story sound ridiculous by injecting a little sarcasm and changing a few proper nouns, it was ridiculous to start with.

Special thanks to Robert A. Heinlein, Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and Robert Anton Wilson, whose literary contributions provide the yardstick by which it is proved that you need a microscope to appreciate the contributions of L. Ron Hubbard.