Saturday, July 26, 2014

Christian Persecution: The Movie!

The Poor Oppressed Christians have been making movies lately, filming a worldview that I hope will one day be looked back upon and mocked as extensively as it deserves. Just like the last of these films I covered, God is Not Dead, their latest effort, Persecuted, is based on a laughably impossible premise that the audience is supposed to find threatening. In this case, it's the government attempting to legislate religion, something Poor Oppressed Christians are totally for until they realize that religious freedom also applies to non-Christians. Then they go off the rails about how wrong and unfair it is that they aren't treated as special and given more privileges than everyone else.

The plot revolves around an evil senator who is obsessed with a piece of legislation, “The Faith and Fairness Act.” It’s never clear exactly what the Act does, but it seems to force all religions to operate under a single umbrella organization, and to allow members of any faith the ability to preach in others’ houses of worship. It thus combines the Religious Right’s fear that liberals are itching to silence Christian broadcasters by reviving the long-defunct Fairness Doctrine, and their resentment that people view them as intolerant for believing their faith is the only avenue to truth and God.

Standing tall against this plot is evangelist John Luther (John Calvin/John Wesley and Martin Luther?). Luther is sort of a Billy Graham figure who has overcome a past of drug abuse to become a national figure. His ministry, we are told, reaches more people than the evening news. Early in the movie, the evil Senator Harrison tries to bully Luther into backing his legislation at a religious rally; when Luther refuses to compromise his faith for the senator’s political gain, Harrison puts in motion an elaborate plot to destroy him. The also-evil president of the United States is in on the scheme: he looks a little bit like Ted Kennedy and sounds more than a little bit like Bill Clinton.

What's so silly about all this is that a law akin to the "Faith and Fairness Act" would be a blatant violation of the First Amendment in the United States, and therefore massively and obviously unconstitutional. For all the Poor Oppressed Christians complain about their lack of special treatment and their resulting victim status, the First Amendment actually protects religious groups from government interference of this sort. So such a law could never be passed, and even if it were the Supreme Court would slap it down immediately. Furthermore, it's hard to imagine a politician who would go to great lengths to "destroy" an evangelist for simply refusing to speak in support of a proposed law. But apparently the Poor Oppressed Christians see both as real possibilities.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Witches and Wizards Versus Boko Haram

Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria have been in the news recently after kidnapping over 200 schoolgirls earlier this spring. According to statements from the group, the girls are being held until the government releases captured militants. Members of the group are believed to be hiding out somewhere in northern Nigeria where they are apparently under attack by "mystical snakes and bees." According to this article, the source of those attacks may have now been identified. Last week the witches and wizards of Nigeria held an emergency meeting, and their spokesman, Dr. Okhue Iboi, issued a statement statement condemning the militant group.

According to him: “Our bi-annual meeting was actually supposed to come up in first week of October, but our fellow brothers and sisters from these three North eastern states made passionate appeal to our general assembly imploring us to discuss Boko Haram matter. Witches and wizards in Adamawa. Borno and Yobe states want us to intervene, to help cage Shekau and his blood-thirsty lieutenants”

Speaking on the outcome of their deliberations, the 55-year-old wizard said the days of Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram leader were numbered. According to him, Shekau will be captured before the end of December, and paraded on the streets of Abuja and Maiduguri for the whole world to see.

“We witches and wizards in Nigeria have sealed the fate of Shekau. His days are numbered. He will be captured before the end of December, and contrary to the image and impression he has been creating that he is a warrior, after his capture, he will start singing like a canary bird.”

While there was no mention of the snakes and bees, it's not hard to see the connection. Witches and wizards are on the job, and their minions are getting it done. While the Boko Haram member interviewed in the previous article believed that the creatures were the ghosts of those the terrorist organization had killed, the fact is that without some actual magical work ghosts don't generally come back for revenge. They also don't usually take the form of snakes and bees.

Let me just add that I think it's fascinating that in Nigeria there's a professional organization for magick-workers, and that they get together to coordinate actions in response to local political issues. I also would love to learn a spell that hurls "mystical bees" at my enemies, preferably out of thin air.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

BREAKING: The Reptilians Are Real!

IO9 has an ominous report up today on data compiled by the CongressEdits Twitter bot. This ingenious program sends out a tweet every time Wikipedia is edited from an IP address owned by the United States Congress, and was created in response to a wave of Wikipedia edits being made by Congressional staffers. According to the data, someone at one of those addresses edited the Wikipedia article on "Reptilians." What did they modify? See for yourself, with the edited portion shown here in bold:

The idea of reptilians on Earth was popularized by David Icke, a conspiracy theorist who says shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining political power to manipulate our societies. Icke has claimed on multiple occasions that many of the world leaders are, or are possessed by, reptilians ruling the world. These allegations are completely unsubstantiated and have no basis in reality.

In politics it's not the lie that gets you, it's the cover-up. And clearly that's what's going on here, which likely means there's something worth covering up! After all, "no basis in reality" is exactly what a crafty Reptilian would say when asked to comment on its own existence, right? Unfortunately the bot only identifies IP addresses rather than individuals, so it's impossible to tell who might be in on this fiendish conspiracy. Clearly we need to explore who has the most to gain from slapping down the otherwise completely reasonable assertion that the United States is ruled by evil extraterrestrial lizard people with the mysterious power to look just like the rest of us.

I'm no fan of the surveillance state in general, but stuff like this is flat-out priceless. It goes to show that when you watch the watchers, you generally catch them up to something.

UPDATE: Just when I was thinking this story couldn't get any funnier, as of today Wikipedia has blocked Congressional IP addresses for a period of ten days due to "persistent disruptive editing." It sounds like the Reptilians have had enough.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Victim of Drunken Channeling

Channeling as a form of alleged spiritual communication is one of the foundational practices of many New Age religious movements. One of the most successful of these channelers is J. Z. Knight, who claims to channel a spirit who calls himself Ramtha. Knight's group was behind the New Age film What the Bleep Do We Know?, which did quite well in theaters for an independent documentary even though most of the scientists who appeared in it stated that their comments had been taken out of context.

Years ago the joke in the occult community was that Ramtha was pretty much a "master of the obvious" who somehow managed to collect huge speaking fees. I never could understand the appeal of paying thousands of dollars to hear anyone, spirit or not, deliver insightful life lessons like "Love one another!" Clearly, though, I just don't get it, because Ramtha books outsell mine and Knight's organization is both large and wealthy.

At any rate, the latest controversy surrounding Knight/Ramtha clearly demonstrates why channeling is best done sober. Back 2011 Knight took a shot at it while drinking, and the "Ramtha" she contacted let loose a tirade of racist and homophobic declarations. Sometimes contacting spirits does go disastrously wrong, but Knight's problem now is not only that this incident occurred, but that it was posted online.

These are not the kind of cosmic revelations that have drawn students to Knight for 38 years. For the most part, RSE students are thoughtful and well-educated, not apt to embrace a bigoted guru. For decades, the message had been more about finding the god within than disparaging minorities, and the blend of science and New Age Gnosticism made J.Z. Knight millions well before the drunken homophobic, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic racist rants began to make their way into her preachings.

What happened at RSE would have stayed at RSE had it not been for the Internet. In 2012, livestreamed videos of Ramtha’s hate speech were posted to the Web, first by ex-students Virginia Coverdale and David McCarthy, then by a libertarian-leaning think tank called the Freedom Foundation that is based in Olympia. The excerpts from that wine ceremony left Thurston County residents shocked and wondering if there was a more sinister side to their kooky neighborhood cult.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ken Ham Versus Heathen Space Aliens

Ken Ham of Creation Museum fame has to be one of the stupidest human beings on the planet. While I realize that to my readers this isn't exactly a revelation, his recent comments pretty much take the cake. According to Ham, we should stop spending money exploring space and searching for alien life because the aliens are all going to hell anyway.

“Life did not evolve but was specially created by God, as Genesis clearly teaches. Christians certainly shouldn’t expect alien life to be cropping up across the universe,” he continued. “Now the Bible doesn’t say whether there is or is not animal or plant life in outer space. I certainly suspect not.” But regardless of whether there was life in outer space, Ham asserted that it could not be truly “intelligent.”

“You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation,” he explained. “Jesus did not become the ‘GodKlingon’ or the ‘GodMartian’! Only descendants of Adam can be saved. God’s Son remains the ‘Godman’ as our Savior.”

Let me detail the ways in which this makes absolutely no sense, and bear with me, it'll take awhile. First off, Genesis doesn't explicitly state that God only created life on earth. From Genesis 1 (King James Version):

1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Note: "the heaven and the earth."

2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And then the beginning of verse 2 sets the context of the narrative that follows with "And the earth." Thus, from verse 2 on it's specifically the earth being talked about. No other planets are mentioned. So there's nothing in the text that precludes other planets also being created by God - at least, not if you possess basic reading comprehension skills.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Welsh Police Seek Stolen Holy Grail

It sounds like the next Dan Brown blockbuster. Police in Wales are on the trail of thieves who made off with the Holy Grail - well, one of them at least. The artifact in question is called the Nanteos Cup, the remains of a small wooden bowl that is rumored to have been used by Christ at the Last Supper and is thought to have magical healing powers. The cup was stolen from the home of a seriously ill woman to whom it had been loaned by its owners, the Steadman family.

The Nanteos Cup – an ancient wooden chalice, which is named after the mansion where it was once kept near Aberystwyth – was rumoured to have been carried over to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, years after the crucifixion of Christ. The revered Catholic figure later founded a religious settlement at Glastonbury and legend has it that the 'grail' then came into the safekeeping of monks.

The Cup came to Nanteos Mansion, near Aberystwyth, with seven monks from Strata Florida, Ceredigion, on the dissolution of the Abbey in the reign of Henry VIII. The Powell family was left in possession of the sacred vessel after the last of the seven monks died.

Over the centuries the mysterious wooden bowl was said to have magical healing powers and, in later years, it came into the ownership of the Steadman family, who kept it in a bank vault in Wales. But it is understood the cup has now been stolen by burglars after being temporarily loaned to a seriously ill woman connected to the Steadman family at a property in Ross-on-Wye.

If this were Dan Brown, he'd save the twist for the end. But here it is: the cup is almost certainly not the actual cup of Christ. Aside from the issue of the Gospels' historical accuracy, the cup was dated to the fourteenth century and matches the design of bowls used during that same period. There's also the point that the first mention of the Holy Grail is in the twelfth century, and while it is an important artifact in Arthurian literature there's no evidence that it has anything to do with early Christianity.

Still, it makes for a good story.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Weird Al" Versus The Illuminati

"Weird Al" Yankovic has just released his fourteenth album, Mandatory Fun. Among other things, the album's title alludes to the end of his conventional recording contract, which may mean that this will be his last studio album.

So perhaps that's why, in the video for his new parody song Foil shown above, he feels free to expose the truth about the Illuminati, New World Order, and Reptilians. Either that, or the more likely explanation that people who believe in the bizarre interlocking conspiracies surrounding this stuff are just so damn funny. Watch the whole thing, it's hilarious. It only starts out looking like a trite infomercial.

If there was ever a definitive sign that all the music industry Illuminati speculation is fake, it's that it's now being parodied in a Weird Al song. And before the true believers come out of the woodwork and start quoting, "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win," let's be clear that when people laugh at you it doesn't automatically mean you have a valid point. Most of the time, it means that what you're spouting is flat-out nonsense.

On the other hand, I suppose if Patton Oswalt is really a Reptilian it would explain why he has such stubby arms.