Friday, May 30, 2008

Quote of the day -- May 30, 2008

"A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate
because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand."

Bertrand Russell

Paul Stamets: 6 ways mushrooms can save the world

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tom Flynn - Ingersoll: The Most Famous Person You’ve Never Heard Of

From: Point of Inquiry

April 11, 2008

Tom Flynn is editor of Free Inquiry Magazine and director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum. He also directs traditional video operations at the Center for Inquiry. He is editor of The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief and author of three books: the science-fiction novels Galactic Rapture and Nothing Sacred and the polemic The Trouble With Christmas.

In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Tom Flynn talks about the life of Robert Green Ingersoll, the 19th Century orator and freethinker. He explains Ingersoll's views on religion, and his secular progressive outlook that he advanced as an alternative. He details Ingersoll's role in GOP politics of the day, and explores his popularity on the national stage. He also discusses about the Council for Secular Humanism's museum dedicated to the life of Robert Ingersoll.

Also in this episode, Ron Lindsay, the director of the Council for Secular Humanism's First Amendment Task Force, responds to various issues related to comments made recently by Rep. Monique Davis (Democrat, Chicago) against the atheist activist Rob Sherman, and reiterates his recent call for her to resign.

Download MP3

Debate: Michael Shermer vs Jonathan Wells on Evolution

RFK Jr. - On Seperation of Church/State and the Media

Fathers and sons

George Bush Sr's corrupt idiot son is elevated to the White House where he has succeeded in doing more damage to America than any external enemy in its history...

Meanwhile, the deeply informed, insightful, patriotic son of Robert F. Kennedy is all but banned from the airwaves...

This tells you everything you need to know about why America is where it is today and what track it's on...

Jesus Arm-Wrestled Dinosaurs

By: Allison Kilkenny

From: The Huffington Post

A recent ABC poll reports that 16% of U.S. science teachers are Creationists, and worse, one in eight of them admit to teaching Creationism as a kind of valid science in their classrooms .

There is such a thing as too much tolerance. Those of us born after 1980 were raised on a sugary diet of time-outs, love-ins, and diversity seminars. We are encouraged to discuss our feeling and always, always value the beliefs of our fellow citizens. As a result, America is a padded multicultural nation where every creed, ideology, and puny belief basks beneath the gentle rays of Credibility. After all, it's better to accept everything than risk excluding someone, somewhere.

Liberty's eagerness to clutch even the most retched, mutated gimp of a philosophy to her bosom sometimes results in absurd declarations getting absorbed into the national dialog. We begin to treat utter bullshit like truth.

This policy of tongue-kissing intellectual opponents who hold beliefs different than the status-quo is usually acceptable, oftentimes remarkable, and definitely essential in a democracy. Though, lurking in the shadows is the inevitable backlash of this institutionalized tolerance.

Institutionalized tolerance makes it taboo to condemn the practice of teachers teaching Creationism in the classroom. This intellectually bankrupt curriculum needs to be condemned because believing in a creator doesn't make it true. It's not true because no one can prove it's true. Belief is the opposite of science, which is knowledge attained through study or practice. Students can study the behavior of bacteria, plants, and animals, but God -- along with all deities -- belongs in the philosophy and religious studies classrooms.

Any other handling of religion vs. science is dangerous. The two must remain separate so we can continue to enjoy learned doctors and engineers, and not suffer from the constant paranoia that the lady operating on our brain, or the dude fixing our plane's engine, is a Jesus Kid who never went to college.

Some argue that Creationism is a legitimate spiritual alternative to the intellectual argument of Science. Except, the two aren't a ying-yang presentation of reality. Creationism is a theory. Science is real. The majority of sane individuals in this country have a duty to condemn crazy, fringe beliefs instead of incorporating them into educational curriculum lest we rear an entire generation of dumbasses, who have no idea which nations fought which wars, but they're pretty sure Jesus arm-wrestled dinosaurs and punishes gay people for being too fabulous.

The media is guided by this same kind of corrupt tolerance where the absurd global warming debate has entered its awkward period. The smart people in the room are exasperatedly eying each other with their palms up, wondering what else can we do to convince these assholes?

But instead of presenting the science accurately and dutifully broadcasting our looming planetary doom, the media warps reality and for every legitimate scientist permitted on-air wailing time, there waits a showcase of peanut gallery idiots and cons, claiming all the science is wrong. Of course, many of these so-called neutral experts who dismiss global warming as a hoax work for the oil industry, but no matter. Remember: everyone gets to have their shot at the one Truth even if they're lying.

Dangerous doses of blind tolerance allow Creationism in the classroom and con men on the airwaves, just as an overdose of tolerance allows the GOP presidential candidate, John McCain, to parade around with a lunatic like John Hagee, whose latest crazy blathering included the sentiment that Hitler was only fulfilling the will of God.

Of course, all of this is only important if Americans value sane, rational discussion. In order to preserve a community of civil debate and steady intellectual evolution, certain theories and beliefs must fall by the wayside.

Education weeds out intruders like myths and rumors. The separation of politics from religion ensures that no religious hacks can get their grubby, swollen nubs on children and brainwash them into believing the sexist, racist, evil things uttered by the likes of John Hagee.

Otherwise, all ideas are treated as equals. Bad ideas like Creationism are taught as truth in the classroom. Bad ideas like global warming being a hoax are broadcast by the media. A bad idea like a religious zealot parading around with a GOP presidential candidate goes underreported by the mainstream media.

And in America, not all ideas should be treated as equal.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Now let the real battle begin

From: New Statesman

By: Julian Baggini

We need new ways to decide ethical issues

"I have deep respect for those who do not agree with some of the provisions in the bill because of religious conviction," wrote Gordon Brown the day before Monday's Commons vote on hybrid embryos. "But I believe that we owe it to ourselves and future generations to introduce these measures and, in particular, to give our unequivocal backing, within the right framework of rules and standards, to stem-cell research."

In those two sentences Brown managed to capture all that is wrong in how we approach public debates about bioethics.

Brown's words are typical of the way religious views are "respected", only so that they can then be ignored. The debate then proceeds on fatalistic, utilitarian premises: there is no other option; we have to do this for the greater good. Both these moves are not so much steps forward as sideways, avoiding the tough issues and disagreements.

Take the engagement with religion first. There is a curious implicit pact here, whereby atheists, agnostics and believers alike all accept that faith stands somehow to one side of rationality. The devout gain respect and immunity from rational prosecution, at the price of being excluded from intellectual debate. Non-believers get to keep the civic sphere entirely secular, at the price of having to back off from believers. At one level, this is right. Much religious belief is a matter of faith, as impervious to rational scrutiny as the Vatican is to women. However, when it comes to specific matters of morality, the idea that religious convictions need respect, not interrogation and defence, is absurd. The world's major religious texts have nothing to say about stem cells, not least because those words do not appear in any of them. It may be a matter of faith that Christ rose from the dead, but Christians have to defend anything they say about the first stages of life.

For example, in his Easter Sunday sermon, Cardinal Keith O'Brien quoted from a letter he and several other church leaders had signed: "This bill goes against what most people, Christian or not, reckon is common sense. The idea of mixing human and animal genes is not just evil. It's crazy!" It is not good enough, on reading this, simply to nod sympathetically and say, "I respect your view." For one thing, the respect is not reciprocated: scientists and supporters of the bill are being accused of doing great evil. What we should do is demand that the central claims be substantiated, which, in this case, they are not. As a matter of fact, opinion polls repeatedly show that most members of the public do approve of embryo research, interspecies or otherwise. More importantly, if anyone other than a church leader accused something of being evil and crazy, we would want to see some reasons why we should agree. Instead, we smile, and move on.

Once religion is set aside, the debate then tends to proceed in a crassly simplistic way. Most of the time, the argument is no more than the claim that the benefits of the research will be enormous, and therefore we must do it. But this is far too quick. Using the terminally ill for experiments might teach us things future generations will benefit from, but that doesn't mean we should do it.

Yet it suits people to stop the debate here, because the real issue is much more complex: What is the moral status of embryos? Bishops simply assert they are as precious as full-grown human beings, scientists avoid answering the question altogether, and between the two camps, the fundamental issue is passed over in silence.

This fudge suits the religious lobby more, for it leaves unchallenged the view that cells from which human beings grow are precious. A similar silence has occluded the morality of abortion for decades. But if we thought 14-day-old embryos and aborted foetuses were as fully human as we are, then no appeal to the balance of costs and benefits could justify their routine killing. People talk as though foetal life has an important moral status, but act as though it does not.

Artificial divide

The contradiction can be resolved in one of only two ways: either we agree the bishops were right all along, or we face the facts squarely and stop the pretence that anything growing in the womb is important, and as human, as a tiny baby. The latter need not lead us down a slippery slope where human life in general is granted less respect. Nor would it entail treating stem cells with no respect: it is good for us to practise reverence for life even if, on reflection, we do not always think it is worth preserving.

But how can we debate these deeply divisive issues, when people's fundamental convictions are so different? What is needed is a way to bring religious perspectives into public discourse without diluting the essentially secular nature of the public square. This might sound impossible, as it is too often assumed that a secular politics requires people to leave their religious beliefs behind them. But that is a mistake. Democratic politics in a pluralist age requires, not that people set aside their fundamental commitments, but that they discuss their differences in a common language. The absence of God will inform someone's opinions on morality, but one cannot expect arguments in public debate to carry any weight if they start with an assertion of atheism. Catholicism may inform someone's beliefs on birth control, for instance, but we cannot be expected to agree with them on the basis of what the Pope says.

What both sides must do is to make their case in terms the other can assess and understand. Arguments for stem-cell research need to appeal to facts about the actual, not imagined, nature of early embryos, as well as serious thought about the potential social consequences of entirely new ways of doing science. Arguments can also draw on religious insights, just as long as they do not assume any particular theological framework. One can talk about the need for humility, deep respect for human life and the dangers of hubris without invoking St John's Gospel.

The justifiable desire to keep religious dogma out of public life has led to an unjustifiable tendency to treat religious views as a whole as separable from civic life. It is in the interests of everyone, believer or not, to end this artificial divide and start a real intellectual tussle in which secular and sacred views battle it out, rationally and in the open.

Julian Baggini is editor of The Philosophers' Magazine

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Creating their own "facts" - The truth was too much for them so they made up their own.

Sam Harris - Jesus meek and mild?

If you think that Jesus taught only the Golden Rule and love of one's neighbor, you should reread the New Testament. Pay particular attention to the morality that will be on display when Jesus returns to earth trailing clouds of glory:

God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you... when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gopel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might...


If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.

-- JOHN 15:6

If we take Jesus in half his moods, we can easily justify the actions of St. Francis of Assisi or Martin Luther King, Jr. Taking the other half, we can justify the Inquisition. Anyone who believes that the Bible offers the best guidance we have on questions of morality has some very strange ideas about either guidance or morality.

IN ASSESSING the moral wisdom of the Bible, it is useful to consider moral questions that have been solved to everyone's satisfaction. Consider the question of slavery. The entire civilized world now agrees that slavery is an abomination. What moral instruction do we get from the God of Abraham on this subject? Consult the Bible, and you will discover that the creator of the universe clearly expects us to keep slaves:

As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are round about you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you, to inherit as a possession forever; you may make slaves of them, but over your brethren the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another, with harshness.

-- LEVITICUS 25:44 - 46

The Bible also makes it clear that every man is free to sell his daughter into sexual slavery -- though certain niceties apply:

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has delat faithlessly with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.

-- EXODUS 21:7 - 11

The only real restraint God counsels on the subject of slavery is that we not beat our slaves so severely that we injure their eyes or their teeth ( Exodus 21 ). It should go without saying that is not the kind of moral insight that put an end to slavery in the United States.

There is no place in the New Testament where Jesus objects to the practice of slavery. St. Paul even admonishes slaves to serve their masters well -- and to serve their Christian master especially well:

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ...


Let all who are under the oke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brethren; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these duties. If any one teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound wods of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which prduce envy, dissention, slander, base suspicions...

-- 1 TIMOTHY 6:1 - 4

It should be clear from these passages that, while the abolitionists of the nineteenth century were morally right, they were on the losing side of a theological argument. As the Reverend Richard Fuller put it in 1845, "What God sanctioned in the Old Testament, and permitted in the New, cannot be a sin." The good Reverend was on firm ground here. Nothing in Christian theology remedies the appalling deficiencies of the Bible on what is perhaps the greatest -- and the easiest -- moral question our society has ever had to face.

In response, Christians like yourself often point out that the abolitionists also drew considerable inspiration from the Bible. Of course they did. People have been cherry-picking the Bible for millennia to justify their every impulse, moral or otherwise. This does not mean, however, that accepting the Bible to be the word of God is the best way to discover that abducting and enslaving millions of innocent men, woman, and children is morally wrong. It clearly isn't, given what the Bible actually says on the subject. The fact that some abolitionists used parts of scripture to repudiate other parts does not indicate that the Bible is a good guide to morality. Nor does it suggest that human beings should need to consult a book in order to resolve moral questions of this sort. The moment a person recognizes that slaves are human beings like himself, enjoying the same capacity for suffering and happiness, he will understand that it is patently evil to own them and treat them like farm equipment. It is remarkably easy for a person to arrive at this epiphany -- and yet, it had to be spread at the point of a bayonet throught the Confederate South, among the most pious Christians this country has every known.

Pat Condell - God is not enough

Check out this video: God is not enough

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Susan Savage-Rumbaugh: Apes that write, start fires and play Pac-Man

McCain Endorser Hagee: God Sent Hitler, Jews Have Dead Souls

Bible in Public Schools Bill Approved Overwhelmingly by Tennessee Legislature

By: John Remy

I may actually agree with the state representatives of Tennessee in the following, though probably not for the same reasons:

A proposal that would allow the state Department of Education to develop a curriculum for the academic study of the Bible in public schools has passed the House.

The legislation sponsored by Rep. Mark Maddox was approved 93-3 Tuesday. The companion bill unanimously passed the Senate last week.

The bill would require school districts that elect to teach the course to do so with an approved textbook in a manner consistent with the state and federal constitutions.

The legislation prohibits the use of any religious test or association when assigning teachers for Bible courses.

There is quite a range of how “academic study,” “approved textbook” and teacher selection might be interpreted and implemented. I, personally, would positively delight in teaching the range of academic approaches to the Bible today, especially if I could use a primo text like Bart Ehrman’s The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. The techniques and theories used by even the most devout biblical scholars would challenge many assumptions held by your average Bible Belt Christian. For example, I think that most scholars could agree that the assignment of authorship of the gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is extra-biblical, and that New Testament wasn’t assembled until over 200 years after the death of Christ.

“Academic study” would imply that students would be introduced to competing claims, including ideas accepted by many mainstream Christians that the so-called five books of Moses actually had multiple authors, that Paul didn’t write some of the letters ascribed to him, and that there is overwhelming evidence that whoever wrote Luke and Matthew plagiarized off of the gospel with Mark’s name on it. Such impartial, non-sectarian academic study would truly encourage critical thinking and create an environment for more nuanced approaches to religious claims.

I’m not so naive as to think this is how things would play out. After all, 16% of US science teachers are creationists, and

Despite a court-ordered ban on the teaching of creationism in US schools, about one in eight high-school biology teachers still teach it as valid science, a survey reveals.

US courts have repeatedly decreed that creationism and intelligent design are religion, not science, and have no place in school science classrooms. But no matter what courts and school boards decree, it is up to teachers to put the curriculum into practice.

So much for trusting teachers to teach the approved curriculum. Instead of proper academic study, the high school students Tennessee will get Sunday School six days a week. There go my dreams of an enlightened, not quite so fundamentalist Christianity rising up from the heart of Clinton country.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Hidden Story of Jesus

Creationists in the American classroom - PZ Meyers

Taken from Pharyngula

Here's the most depressing thing I've seen all week (and I'm grading genetics exams): it's the result of a national survey of high school biology teachers.


At least 16% of our high school teachers are young earth creationists. Furthermore, 12% our our teachers are using biology classes in public schools to teach creationism in a positive light. The majority are still pro-science, but even in the good cases, relatively little time is spent on teaching evolution.

The news isn't all bad. One constructive discovery is that it is neither legal battles nor demanding state standards that determine how much effort is put into teaching evolution — it's how much education the teachers have in the subject. The obvious lesson is that we ought to be encouraging more coursework for teachers; help educate the teachers, give them more material they can use in the classroom, and the students benefit.

Here's the conclusion of the paper, which lays it all out very clearly.

Our survey of biology teachers is the first nationally representative, scientific sample survey to examine evolution and creationism in the classroom. Three different survey questions all suggest that between 12% and 16% of the nation's biology teachers are creationist in orientation. Roughly one sixth of all teachers professed a "young earth" personal belief, and about one in eight reported that they teach creationism or intelligent design in a positive light. The number of hours devoted to these alternative theories is typically low--but this nevertheless must surely convey to students that these theories should be accorded respect as scientific perspectives.

The majority of teachers, however, see evolution as central and essential to high school biology courses. Yet the amount of time devoted to evolutionary biology varies substantially from teacher to teacher, and a majority either avoid human evolution altogether or devote only one or two class periods to the topic. We showed that some of these differences were due to personal beliefs about human origins. However, an equally important factor is the science education the teacher received while in college. Additional variance is likely to be rooted in pressures--subtle or otherwise--emerging from parents and community leaders in each school's community, in combination with teachers' confidence in their ability to deal with such pressures given their knowledge of evolution, as well as their personal beliefs.

These findings strongly suggest that victory in the courts is not enough for the scientific community to ensure that evolution is included in high school science courses. Nor is success in persuading states to adopt rigorous content standards consistent with recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences and other scientific organizations. Scientists concerned about the quality of evolution instruction might have a bigger impact in the classroom by focusing on the certification standards for high school biology teachers. Our study suggests that requiring all teachers to complete a course in evolutionary biology would have a substantial impact on the emphasis on evolution and its centrality in high school biology courses. In the long run, the impact of such a change could have a more far reaching effect than the victories in courts and in state governments.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Richard Carrier - Why I am not a Christian

Reason No. 1 - god is Silent

If God wants something from me, he would tell me. He wouldn't leave someone else to do this, as if an infinite being were short on time. And he would certainly not leave fallible, sinful humans to deliver an endless plethora of confused and contradictory messages. God would deliver the message himself, directly, to each and every one of us, and with such clarity as the most brilliant being in the universe could accomplish. We would all hear him out and shout "Eureka!" So obvious and well-demonstrated would his message be. It would be spoken to each of us in exactly those terms we would understand. And we would all agree on what that message was. Even if we rejected it, we would all at least admit to each other, "Yes, that's what this God fellow told me."

Excuses don't fly. The Christian proposes that a supremely powerful being exists who wants us to set things right, and therefore doesn't want us to get things even more wrong. This is an intelligible hypothesis, which predicts there should be no more confusion about which religion or doctrine is true than there is about the fundamentals of medicine, engineering, physics, chemistry, or even meteorology. It should be indisputably clear what God wants us to do, and what he doesn't want us to do. Any disputes that might still arise about that would be as easily and decisively resolved as any dispute between two doctors, chemists, or engineers as to the right course to follow in curing a patient, identifying a chemical, or designing a bridge. Yet this is not what we observe. Instead, we observe exactly the opposite: unresolvable disagreement and confusion. That is clearly a failed prediction. A failed prediction means a false theory. Therefore, Christianity is false.

Typically, Christians try to make excuses for God that protect our free will. Either the human will is more powerful than the will of God, and therefore can actually block his words from being heard despite all his best and mighty efforts, or God cares more about our free choice not to hear him than about saving our souls, and so God himself "chooses" to be silent. Of course, there is no independent evidence of either this remarkable human power to thwart God, or this peculiar desire in God, and so this is a completely "ad hoc" theory: something just "made up" out of thin air in order to rescue the actual theory that continually fails to fit the evidence. But for reasons I'll explore later, such "added elements" are never worthy of belief unless independently confirmed: you have to know they are true. You can't just "claim" they are true. Truth is not invented. It can only be discovered. Otherwise, Christianity is just a hypothesis that has yet to find sufficient confirmation in actual evidence.

Be that as it may. Though "maybe, therefore probably" is not a logical way to arrive at any belief, let's assume the Christian can somehow "prove" (with objective evidence everyone can agree is relevant and true) that we have this power or God has this desire. Even on that presumption, there are unsolvable problems with this "additional" hypothesis. Right from the start, it fails to explain why believers disagree. The fact that believers can't agree on the content of God's message or desires also refutes the theory that he wants us to be clear on these things. This failed prediction cannot be explained away by any appeal to free will--for these people have chosen to hear God, and not only to hear him, but to accept Jesus Christ as the shepherd of their very soul. So no one can claim these people chose not to hear God. Therefore, either God is telling them different things, or there is no God. Even if there is a God, but he is deliberately sowing confusion, this contradicts what Christianity predicts to be God's desire, which entails Christianity is the wrong religion. Either way, Christianity is false.

So this theory doesn't work. It fails to predict what we actually observe. But even considering atheists like me, this "ad hoc" excuse still fails to save Christianity from the evidence. When I doubted the Big Bang theory, I voiced the reasons for my doubts but continued to pursue the evidence, frequently speaking with several physicists who were "believers." Eventually, they presented all the logic and evidence in terms I understood, and I realized I was wrong: the Big Bang theory is well-supported by the evidence and is at present the best explanation of all the facts by far. Did these physicists violate my free will? Certainly not. I chose to pursue the truth and hear them out. So, too, I and countless others have chosen to give God a fair hearing--if only he would speak. I would listen to him even now, at this very moment. Yet he remains silent. Therefore, it cannot be claimed that I am "choosing" not to hear him. And therefore, the fact that he still does not speak refutes the hypothesis. Nothing about free will can save the theory here.

Even when we might actually credit free will with resisting God's voice--like the occasional irrational atheist, or the stubbornly mistaken theist--the Christian theory is still not compatible with the premise that God would not or could not overcome this resistance. Essential to the Christian hypothesis, as C.S. Lewis says, is the proposition that God is "quite definitely good" and "loves love and hates hatred." Unless these statements are literally meaningless, they entail that God would behave like anyone else who is "quite definitely good" and "loves love and hates hatred." And such people don't give up on someone until their resistance becomes intolerable--until then, they will readily violate someone's free will to save them, because they know darned well it is the right thing to do. God would do the same. He would not let the choice of a fallible, imperfect being thwart his own good will.

I know this for a fact. Back in my days as a flight-deck firefighter, when our ship's helicopter was on rescue missions, we had to stand around in our gear in case of a crash. There was usually very little to do, so we told stories. One I heard was about a rescue swimmer. She had to pull a family out of the water from a capsized boat, but by the time the chopper got there, it appeared everyone had drowned except the mother, who was for that reason shedding her life vest and trying to drown herself. The swimmer dove in to rescue her, but she kicked and screamed and yelled to let her die. She even gave the swimmer a whopping black eye. But the swimmer said to hell with that, I'm bringing you in! And she did, enduring her curses and blows all the way.

Later, it turned out that one of the victim's children, her daughter, had survived. She had drifted pretty far from the wreck, but the rescue team pulled her out, and the woman who had beaten the crap out of her rescuer apologized and thanked her for saving her against her will. Everyone in my group agreed the rescue swimmer had done the right thing, and we all would have done the same--because that is what a loving, caring being does. It follows that if God is a loving being, he will do no less for us. In the real world, kind people don't act like some stubborn, pouting God who abandons the drowning simply because they don't want to be helped. They act like this rescue swimmer. They act like us.

So we can be certain God would make sure he told everyone, directly, what his message was. Everyone would then know what God had told them. They can still reject it all they want, and God can leave them alone. But there would never be, in any possible Christian universe, any confusion or doubt as to what God's message was. And if we had questions, God himself would answer them--just like the Big Bang physicists who were so patient with me. Indeed, the very fact that God gave the same message and answers to everyone would be nearly insurmountable proof that Christianity was true. Provided we had no reason to suspect God of lying to all of us, Christianity would be as certain as the law of gravity or the color of the sky. That is what the Christian hypothesis entails we should observe--for it is what a good and loving God would do, who wanted us all to set right what has gone wrong. And since this is not what we observe, but in fact the exact opposite, the evidence quite soundly refutes Christianity.

Despite this conclusion, Christians still try to hold on to their faith with this nonsense about free will--but they haven't thought it through. Meteorologists can disagree about the weather forecast, but they all agree how weather is made and the conditions that are required for each kind of weather to arise. And they agree about this because the scientific evidence is so vast and secure that it resolves these questions, often decisively. It can't be claimed that God has violated the free will of meteorologists by providing them with all this evidence. And yet how much more important is salvation than the physics of weather! If God wants what Christianity says he wants, he would not violate our free will to educate us on the trivial and then refuse to do the same for the most important subject of all. Likewise, if a doctor wants a patient to get well, he is not vague about how he must do this, but as clear as can be. He explains what is needed in terms the patient can understand. He even answers the patient's questions, and whenever asked will present all the evidence for and against the effectiveness of the treatment. He won't hold anything back and declare, "I'm not going to tell you, because that would violate your free will!" Nor would any patient accept such an excuse--to the contrary, he would respond, "But I choose to hear you," leaving the doctor no such excuse.

There can't be any excuse for God, either. There are always disagreements, and there are always people who don't follow what they are told or what they know to be true. But that doesn't matter. Chemists all agree on the fundamental facts of chemistry. Doctors all agree on the fundamental facts of medicine. Engineers all agree on the fundamental facts of engineering. So why can't all humans agree on the fundamental facts of salvation? There is no more reason that they should be confused or in the dark about this than that chemists, doctors, and engineers should be confused or in the dark.

The logically inevitable fact is, if the Christian God existed, we would all hear from God himself the same message of salvation, and we would all hear, straight from God, all the same answers to all the same questions. The Chinese would have heard it. The Native Americans would have heard it. Everyone today, everywhere on Earth, would be hearing it, and their records would show everyone else in history had heard it, too. Sure, maybe some of us would still balk or reject that message. But we would still have the information. Because the only way to make an informed choice is to have the required information. So a God who wanted us to make an informed choice would give us all the information we needed, and not entrust fallible, sinful, contradictory agents to convey a confused mess of ambiguous, poorly supported claims. Therefore, the fact that God hasn't spoken to us directly, and hasn't given us all the same, clear message, and the same, clear answers, is enough to prove Christianity false.

Just look at what Christians are saying. They routinely claim that God is your father and best friend. Yet if that were true, we would observe all the same behaviors from God that we observe from our fathers and friends. But we don't observe this. Therefore, there is no God who is our father or our friend. The logic of this is truly unassailable, and no "free will" excuse can escape it. For my father and friends aren't violating my free will when they speak to me, help me, give me advice, and answer my questions. Therefore, God would not violate my free will if he did so. He must be able to do at least as much as they do, even if for some reason he couldn't do more. But God doesn't do anything at all. He doesn't talk to, teach, help, or comfort us, unlike my real father and my real friends. God doesn't tell us when we hold a mistaken belief that shall hurt us. But my father does, and my friends do. Therefore, no God exists who is even remotely like my father or my friends, or anyone at all who loves me. Therefore, Christianity is false.

The conclusion is inescapable. If Christianity were true, then the Gospel would have been preached to each and every one of us directly, and correctly, by God--just as it supposedly was to the disciples who walked and talked and dined with God Himself, or to the Apostle Paul, who claimed to have had actual conversations with God, and to have heard the Gospel directly from God Himself. Was their free will violated? Of course not. Nor would ours be. Thus, if Christianity were really true, there would be no dispute as to what the Gospel is. There would only be our free and informed choice to accept or reject it. At the same time, all our sincere questions would be answered by God, kindly and clearly, and when we compared notes, we would find that the Voice of God gave consistent answers and messages to everyone all over the world, all the time. So if Christianity were true, there would be no point in "choosing" whether God exists anymore than there is a choice whether gravity exists or whether all those other people exist whom we love or hate or help or hurt. We would not face any choice to believe on insufficient and ambiguous evidence, but would know the facts, and face only the choice whether to love and accept the God that does exist. That this is not the reality, yet it would be the reality if Christianity were true, is proof positive that Christianity is false.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Honorary Heretic May 08- Sam Harris

Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction.

Mr. Harris' writing has been published in over ten languages. He and his work have been discussed in Newsweek, TIME, The New York Times, Scientific American, Rolling Stone, and many other journals.

Mr. Harris has made frequent appearances on television and radio to talk about the conflict between religion and science and about the danger that religious dogmatism now poses to modern societies. His writing has appeared in Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Nature, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere.

Mr. Harris is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University and has studied both Eastern and Western religious traditions, along with a variety of contemplative disciplines. He is completing a doctorate in neuroscience, studying the neural basis of belief with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). He is also the Founder and Chairman of The Reason Project.

Sam and I at AAI 07

Sam Harris at Idea CIty '05

Beyond Belief '06 - Sam Harris

Sam Harris: "Letter to a Christian Nation" Interview

Sam Harris - Misconceptions About Atheism

The Battle of Kruger - Do you think animals are without feelings? Think again!

Einstein Letter on his disbelief goes for $400,000 at auction

Published: May 17, 2008
From the grave, Albert Einstein poured gasoline on the culture wars between science and religion this week.

A letter the physicist wrote in 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, in which he described the Bible as “pretty childish” and scoffed at the notion that the Jews could be a “chosen people,” sold for $404,000 at an auction in London. That was 25 times the presale estimate.

The Associated Press quoted Rupert Powell, the managing director of Bloomsbury Auctions, as describing the unidentified buyer as having “a passion for theoretical physics and all that that entails.” Among the unsuccessful bidders, according to The Guardian newspaper, was Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, an outspoken atheist.

The price makes the Gutkind letter one of the best sellers among Einstein manuscripts. That $404,000 is only a little less than the $442,500 paid for the entire collection of 53 love letters between Einstein and his first wife, Mileva Maric, at an auction at Christie’s in New York in 1996. At that same auction a paper by Einstein and his best friend, Michele Besso, attempting a calculation that would later be a pivotal piece of his crowning achievement, the General Theory of Relativity, went for $398,500.

Diana L. Kormos-Buchwald, a historian at the California Institute of Technology and head of the Einstein Papers project, said she was not surprised that the Gutkind letter, which was known to Einstein scholars, fetched such a high price.

“It is an important expression of Einstein’s thoughts and views on religion, on Judaism, on his views about God and religious texts,” she wrote in an e-mail message. She said the letter, which was not written for publication, was “concise and unvarnished” and more straightforward than the metaphors he usually turned to in public.

Gerald Holton, a historian of science at Harvard and a longtime Einstein expert, also was not surprised. He said Einstein’s marketability had been improved by the last few years of hoopla about the 100th anniversary of relativity, which included his selection as Time magazine’s Man of the Century in 2000, and several new biographies. Dr. Holton described the letter as “a feat of eloquent Credo in short form.”

Einstein, as he says in his autobiographical notes, lost his religion at the age of 12, concluding that it was all a lie, and he never looked back. But he never lost his religious feeling about the apparent order of the universe or his intuitive connection with its mystery, which he savored. “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is its comprehensibility,” he once said.

“If something is in me that can be called religious,” he wrote in another letter, in 1954, “then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as science can reveal it.”

Einstein consistently characterized the idea of a personal God who answers prayers as naive, and life after death as wishful thinking. But his continual references to God — as a metaphor for physical law; in his famous rebuke to quantum mechanics, “God doesn’t play dice”; and in lines like the endlessly repeated, “ Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” — has led some wishful thinkers to try to put him in the camp of some kind of believer or even, not long ago, to paint him as an advocate of intelligent design.

Trying to distinguish between a personal God and a more cosmic force, Einstein described himself as an “agnostic” and “not an atheist,” which he associated with the same intolerance as religious fanatics. “They are creatures who — in their grudge against the traditional ‘opium for the people’ — cannot bear the music of the spheres.”

The problem of God, he said, “is too vast for our limited minds.”

Einstein’s latest words offer scant comfort to the traditionally faithful.

In the letter, according to the A.P. account, he wrote that “the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”

As for his fellow Jews, he said that Judaism, like all other religions, was “an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.”

He claimed a deep affinity with the Jewish people, he said, but “as far as my experience goes they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”

Debate: Bart Ehrman vs. N.T. Wright - Why does god allow suffering?

This is a great debate - Of course Bart lays the smack down on Mr. Wright. You can view it in its entirety here:

Here is a excerpt from the debate:

Thanks so much for your most recent post, which clarifies your view considerably. It is a forceful, and I would even say elegant, statement.

Before responding, let me address two minor points that you make in passing, one about my argument and the other about me.

(1) On that ole emotion issue, you indicate that “if one is making an argument, then multiplying examples of the problem doesn’t actually add to the force of that argument.“ That’s a logician’s point and (I’m afraid) suggests different investments from the ones that I have in this “debate.” My view is that the numbers matter because people matter. They all matter and they are all that matter. If the Nazis had killed only one Jew, we would not be having this conversation (we probably should be, but we wouldn’t be). They killed six million. Each is an example, and multiple examples matter, logicians (please, one might add) be damned.

(2) You suspect that I left the faith because I had an intellectualizing understanding of it. I’m afraid that’s wrong. I was dead set against understanding Christian faith as some kind of assent to propositional statements – I preached (sometimes literally) against this view frequently, for years. My faith was a relationship with Christ, and through him with God. Several people have tried to psychoanalyze my journey; most of the time they get it wrong. I can see why they try though. If I left for good reasons, they too may be left facing the void!

Those points aside, I have two major responses to your second posting.

First, in your summary statement of “the biblical” view of suffering (which is what I took your statement to be – but maybe I was wrong about that?), you overlook virtually everything the Bible actually says about the subject. That gives me pause.

I know you (intimately) know what the Bible says on the subject. But let me summarize a few points to get to a question at the end. (The summary is for the sake of the debate – not for you!)

The most prominent answer in Scripture is given by the prophets: the reason people suffer is because they have sinned and God is punishing them for it. Is this a view that you, as a biblical theologian (or anyone else?) wants to support? Just take the book of Amos, who is characteristic, in this respect, of the entire prophetic corpus. Because Israel is God’s chosen people (3:2), “therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” And punish them he does. He brings starvation (4:6), drought (4:7-8), crop failure (4:9); he literally “killed your young men” (4:10) as he did the people of Sodom and Gomorah (4:11). It’s not that these are isolated events, for Amos or for the rest of the Bible. This, for much of the Bible, is how God deals with his people! “Does disaster (calamity/evil) befall the city if the Lord has not done it?” (3:6)

I wish Amos were an isolated case, but it’s not. This is the message throughout the prophets: God hurts, torments, and kills people to get them to repent. Strikingly, this view is not limited to the prophets. In Genesis the entire world was so wicked that God drowned the whole lot of them. Every one of them. Every man, woman, and child on the planet. Drowned by God himself. Including all the four year old boys and the infant girls. (Sorry to multiply examples…) And what exactly did these children have to do with wickedness?

God also has his chosen people maim and murder others for his purposes. Why did the people of Jericho suffer? Because they happened to live in Jericho. Wrong place, wrong time. When God gave his people the Promised Land, he instructed them explicitly to take the city by murdering every man, woman, and child (and animal!) in the city. Is this a God who can be believed in, one who orders murder? Or is this an exceptional case, since after, all, those people were probably wicked and needed to be eliminated?

This view of suffering as punishment, of course, is just one biblical answer (even though it’s a dominant one). But no one should think that it is limited to the Old Testament, as is clear from the Book of Revelation. The Lake of Fire is stoked up and waiting. That will be suffering in extremis, for all eternity, for everyone who does not side with the Lamb. Those Muslims, Jews, Buddhists – even those happy agnostics – are going to get it in the end, big time.

I think I can understand why you choose not to talk about such passages – even though they directly deal with precisely the question of what the Bible has to say about suffering. Or with other passages, such as the prose narrative at the beginning and end of Job, where God allows Job’s life to be shattered in order to prove a point to the Satan – allowing Satan even to murder Job’s children to see if he can get him to curse God. At the end, God makes it up to Job by restoring all his wealth – and giving him an additional ten children. I doubt if there’s a more offensive verse in the Bible – God giving Job ten more children to replace the ones he lost. As if we can replace six million Jews from the Holocaust by having six million more born in the next generation. Sometimes you wonder what the biblical authors were thinking.

Then there is the poetry of Job, where the answer to suffering appears to be that there is no answer, that God is almighty and is not accountable to us peons, and if we dare to ask why, though innocent, we suffer, we are liable, like Job, to be squashed into the dirt by God’s all powerful presence, forced to “repent in dust and ashes” even for asking the question.

And there is the answer of Ecclesiastes (the one I personally resonate with), that life is short, there is often no justice, things often go wrong, and there is no afterlife in which all will be made right. I think Ecclesiastes has nailed it, but it does seem to stand at odds with your view.

But there is also the answer of the apocalypticists, the one that (in its Christian version, not the Jewish) ultimately you hold to. More on that in a moment. For now, I just want to push a simple question. If you see yourself as a biblical theologian, and take the Bible – the whole Bible, not just the parts you like – seriously, how can you leave out of the equation most of what the Bible actually says about the subject? Is it because you think parts of the Bible are no longer applicable? Is it because you are working – as we used to say twenty years ago – with a “canon within the canon”? Or do you honestly think that you are allowing these other voices to be heard in your synthesizing statement of “the biblical” view on suffering?

The second problem I have with your view is that by presenting a kind of overarching view of what the Gospel (and Pauline) message is, you create a synthesizing view that undercuts what each individual author actually has to say. Mark’s views, for example, are radically – not just slightly – different from John’s. It is not simply that there are a few stories here and there that cut against the grain; Mark’s views of Jesus, and of God and the kingdom and what it means – to use your terms, which are not the Gospels’ – for “God to be running the world” are decidedly not John’s views, and vice versa.

I’m not a theologian (you can thank God), but if I were, I would think that it is not good theology to deprive the voices of the individual biblical authors of their individual views by synthesizing them into a whole that is unlike any one of them.

Moreover, I would say that for a Gospel like Mark’s, it is true that God’s Kingdom is coming (which, btw, is not at all the same as saying that one can see how God is running the world!), and that in some sense it has become manifest in the ministry of Jesus. But the entire premise of the coming Kingdom (both in the actual teaching of the historical Jesus and in Mark) (though not in John) is that this is an imminent event. “Some of you standing here will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God having come in power.” Rob the kingdom of its imminence, and it suddenly means something very, very different. Here I think our different views of apocalypticism are rubber meeting the road.

The kingdom never did come. You seem to think that it will. So has every generation of Christians from day one – many of them, like Matthew, Mark, and Luke (and Paul!), expecting it within their own lifetimes. Every one of them has been wrong. I don’t think this should be taken lightly. The view that the kingdom is already beginning to be manifest in the life and ministry of Jesus hinges on its actual appearance in the (imminent) days to come. If that actual appearance is jettisoned, everything is changed.

But leave aside the question of whether it is sensible to think the kingdom really, actually, is ever going to come. How does one see it manifest in Jesus? In fact, it is not simply in his “obedience” (and suffering), as you intimate. I think you are reading the Gospels through the lens of Paul, rather than reading the narratives of the Gospels themselves. For the Synoptics, for example, the Kingdom is manifest in Jesus’ life and work: in the kingdom there will be no disease, no demons, and no death. Jesus manifests this kingdom in the meantime: he heals the sick, he casts out demons, and he raises the dead. This was not a message about some vague power of God breaking in at some period thousands of years hence. It was God breaking in now (in anticipation of its imminent appearance in power).

And is he? This I think is where we differ in a major way. In my view there is nothing to suggest that the Kingdom has arrived, even provisionally, in the coming of Jesus, in the way the Gospels themselves think (that in his coming the sick are healed, the demons cast out, and the dead raised). There are no fewer sick, demon-possessed, or dying now than before the appearance of Jesus (and his obedience and death). There are no fewer people born with horrible birth defects. There are no fewer lepers, blind, and lame. The multitudes are not being fed. The storms are not being stilled (think Katrina, for example).

Quite the contrary, the world goes on as it ever did. The writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not expect this (nor did Paul). They saw the kingdom arriving with Jesus’ ministry, they saw his death and resurrection as the beginning of the end, and they expected the end to come in their lifetime – when God would overthrow the forces of evil and set up a kingdom in which there would be no more pain, misery, or suffering. Our actual history stands at odds with their expectation, our world of genocides, AIDs, malaria, unclean drinking water, leprosy, birth defects, hurricanes, Columbian mudslides that kill 30,000, Pakistan earthquakes that kill 50,000, Indian Ocean tsunamis that kill 300,000, and on and on and on.

I wish Jesus had brought the Kingdom. But the human race struggles along its not so merry way, with all its pain, misery, and suffering – biblically based hopefulness notwithstanding – world without end.

What I see as extremely valuable in your view is the emphasis on the need to imitate Jesus in a life of obedience. If Christians really would be obedient to what they see as the will of God – for example in the “two greatest commandments” – the world would be a much better place. But it would still not be the Kingdom.

I know this note sounds critical in places, but I have wanted to state my view forcefully. Let me conclude on a conciliatory note, and ask if you will agree with me on four of the leading claims of my book God’s Problem:

(1) There are in fact many and varied answers in the Bible to the question of why there is suffering, not one overarching answer common to all the Bible’s authors.

(2) Some of these answers stand at odds with one another.

(3) Some of these biblical views (that God starves, drowns, and slaughters people he disapproves
of, for example) are not satisfactory answers to why there is suffering in our world.

(4) Even if we cannot, in the end, know the reasons for suffering, we can at the least have appropriate responses to it. We ourselves can feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked; we can work to solve problems of poverty; we can give money to agencies finding cures for cancer and AIDS; we can volunteer more often locally; we can give more to international relief efforts. We can, in fact, fulfill the urgent demands implicit in Matthew’s account of the judgment between the sheep and the goats, for “as you have done this to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me.”

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mega Church minister arrested in sex sting - *sigh*

By TANYA EISERER / The Dallas Morning News

A Plano mega church minister was taken into custody Thursday after authorities say he drove to Bryan, Texas, to have sex with a person he thought to be a 13-year-old.
Joe Barron, a minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church, is accused of online solicitation of a minor.

According to Bryan police, Mr. Barron had been chatting for about two weeks with the person that he thought to be a juvenile. "The online conversations were sexually explicit in nature," the release said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Barron asked if the girl could meet him in person, police said. Two days later, he made the three-hour drive to Bryan to meet the girl.

Undercover officers arrested him upon his arrival, police said. In his vehicle, police said they found web-cam and headset as well as condoms, police said.

Bryan officers also searched Mr. Barron’s Plano residence where they seized a desktop, two laptops, numerous computer disks and memory cards, police said.

Prestonwood church officials also gave police officials access to his computer at the church, authorities said.

"We are disturbed and saddened by the reports we have heard and we are praying for the Barron family. We are fully cooperating with the police in their investigation," said Mike Buster, Prestonwood's executive pastor, in a statement.

The church, which as 26,000 members and 40 ministers, would not provide further information about Mr. Barron.

Scientists Think They Know So0000 Much!

Another Fundie Bites the Dust - PWNED!!

This is what happens when you don't understand the difference between being informed and regurgitating nonsense - Typical fundie tactics.

O'Reilly Redux

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor

Thursday, May 15, 2008

45 years to deliver a letter

In 1963, William L Moore wrote a letter to Mississippi Gov.Ross Barnett opposing segregation
and planned to walk his message from Chattanooga, Tn to Jackson, Ms, on April 23, 1963 he was shot in the head twice and killed. Several attempts to deliver this letter has resulted in nearly 700 people being arrested and beaten, some prisoned and fed crushed glass in their food and hit with electric cattle prods... the letter never made it to it's destination.
On April 23, 2008 Ellen Johnson and myself walked the original letter ( given to us by Bill's widow) from Attalla, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi, 320 miles in order to bring recognition to William Moore and all the Freedom walkers of 1963.

I would like to thank the very nice people and Police in Alabama and Mississippi, your concern for our safety was greatly appreciated. We have come a long way since 1963.

Joshua Klein: The amazing intelligence of crows

1000 Years of Creationist 'Achievements'

Scientific Achievements vs Creationists Achievements

Thunderf00t responds to VenomFangX.

Be sure to check out his video series Why Do People Laugh at Creationists here

Here is the original video posted by VenomFAngX

Teaching the Bible in Public School *Sigh*

From the land of Bigots and Christians (Sorry for the redundancy)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

O'Reilly is a nut!

In Reverse lol!

Olbermann Special Comment - May 13 2008

Mormon Handbook


* mormon-handbook-of-instructions-1999.pdf (click to view full file)
* mormon-handbook-of-instructions-1999.pdf (alternative address)

Mormon Church attempts to gag Internet over handbook


Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly referred to as the "Mormon Church") confidential Church Handbook of instructions (1999). The handbook reveals the procedure of handling confidential matters related to tithing payment, excommunication, baptism and doctrine teaching (indoctrination). The book is not generally available for normal members.

Some excerpts:

Persons Who Are Considering or Have Undergone a Transsexual Operation

Persons who are considering an elective transsexual operation should not be baptized. Persons who have already undergone an elective transsexual operation may be baptized if they are otherwise found worthy in an interview with the mission president or a priesthood leader he assigns. Such persons may not receive the priesthood or a temple recommend.

Surrogate Motherhood

Surrogate motherhood is strongly discouraged.

Surgical Sterilization (Including Vasectomy)

The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. It should be considered only if (1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or (2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgment and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer.

Sperm Donation

The donation of sperm is strongly discouraged.


The use of hypnosis under competent, professional medical supervision for the treatment of diseases or mental disorders is a medical question to be determined by competent medical authorities. Members should not participate in hypnosis for purposes of demonstration or entertainment.

Name Removal and Church Discipline

If a member requests name removal and a bishop or stake president has evidence of transgression that warrants convening a disciplinary council, he should not act on the request until Church discipline has been imposed or he has concluded that no disciplinary council will be held. Name removal should not be used as a substitute for or alternative to Church discipline. If a member requests name removal and a bishop or stake president suspects transgression but lacks sufficient evidence to convene a disciplinary council, the request for name removal may be approved. Any evidence of unresolved transgressions should be noted on the Report of Administrative Action form so priesthood leaders may resolve such matters if the individual
applies for readmission into the Church.

United States
Church or religious organization
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Wikileaks release date
Wednesday April 16, 2008
Primary language
The '' link for the first file has been subsequently censored.
File size in bytes
File type information
PDF document, version 1.4
Cryptographic identity
SHA256 006054d7af5a8e4a98e445b259e2bfd7bb45956a8d42fc9ed48cbf725e27ad54
Description (as provided by the original submitter)

1) The file of the first of two volumes was released and archived on a web site. The date of publication is 1998 for official release in early 1999.

2) The file in question appears significant because the book is strictly confidential among the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka LDS in short form) bishops and stake presidents and it reveal the procedure of handling confidential matters related to tithing payment, excommunication, baptism and doctrine teaching (indoctrination). The book is not generally available for normal members. The book was handed down or leaked by the member who held a respectable position within the church hierarchy in a regional ward or stake (place of church).

3) The attached document is meant for the audience interested to know the inner workings of the LDS Church in terms of how the organization is run in regions by ward bishops and stake presidents in the management of financial and ecclesiastical affairs. The audience may be composed of ex-Mormons, active Mormons and comparative religion students and religion scholars/agnostics/atheists focused on the tenets of the "cult" behaviorial patterns in the governance of a particular organized religion.

4) The verification can be obtained by Wikipedia'ing "General Handbook of Instructions" for the listing and year of publication. Googling the title will pull up the similar results, albeit in lengthy typed form on web sites devoted to the expose of the LDS Church's method of control by socio-cultural religious indoctrination.

5) The 1999 handbook is another one of the starting points to supplement 1968 PDF document submission (General_Handbook_of_Instructions_1968), and once it is propagated in readership, additional handbooks listed in the aforementioned Wikipedia page may be leaked to provide additional and supplemental information shedding the light on the methodology of social management within the setting of religious culture in financial and ecclesiastical manner.

6) No urgent event. The purpose of a leaked document intended for the regional church leaders is to provide the truth on how the organized religion is managed internally that report to the higher authority with financial surpluses and ecclesiastical affairs. This will help further the understanding of a religious organization -- founded in America circa 1840 [sic - 1830] -- perceived as a sect and/or a cult.

For more information on LDS Church's defense of Church Handbook of Instructions as a guide meant for approved church officers, suggested reading is February 2001 issue of Salt Lake City Messenger newsletter "LDS CHURCH SUES MINISTRY" [1]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

McCain's "Spiritual Guide" Wants America to Destroy Islam

You may have heard of Rev. John Hagee, the McCain supporter who said God created Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its homosexual "sins." Well now meet Rev. Rod Parsley, the televangelist megachurch pastor from Ohio who hates Islam. According to David Corn of Mother Jones, Parsley has called on Christians to wage war against Islam, which he considers to be a "false religion." In the past, Parsley has also railed against the separation of church and state, homosexuals, and abortion rights, comparing Planned Parenthood to Nazis.

John McCain actively sought and received Parsley's endorsement in the presidential race. McCain has called Parsley "a spiritual guide," and he hasn't said whether he shares Parsley's vicious anti-Islam views. That's because the mainstream media refuses to ask. And so, we've taken matters into our own hands, joining Mother Jones to present the truth about McCain's pastor.

Since the media won't question McCain about his deeply bigoted pastor, it's up to you to call attention to this issue. Make McCain's pastor problem a major story by forwarding this video to your family, friends, and colleagues.

We can't let McCain get away with aligning himself with a religious leader who's called for an all-out war on Islam, someone who draws no distinctions between Muslims and violent Islamic extremists. Now is the crucial time to act.

Brian Cox: What really goes on at the Large Hadron Collider

McCain's crazy preacher

Here is an article about the Hagee/ McCain connection from:

More than a week after John McCain’s endorsement by the anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic pastor John Hagee, the media continues to give the GOP nominee a free pass.

Consider the following pronouncements by Hagee, the man who McCain proudly introduced as an ally last week.

On Jews:

It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God’s chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day.


How utterly repulsive, insulting, and heartbreaking to God for his chosen people to credit idols with bringing blessings he had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.

On gays:

All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are — were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know that there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the day of judgment. And I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.

Hagee, of course, is also a virulent anti-Catholic, who has suggested that the pope is the anti-Christ, and that Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitism was the result of being educated at a Catholic school.

One would think that when a leading presidential candidate proudly touts the support of such a figure, the issue would receive close scrutiny from the press. But last week, once McCain assured reporters that, just because Hagee was endorsing him, it didn’t mean he agreed with everything Hagee said, the mainstream media essentially let the matter drop. Chalk another up for the Straight-Talking candidate.

That’s all the more remarkable given the high-profile grilling Barack Obama has received on the subject of Louis Farrakhan. In a recent Democratic debate, Tim Russert asked Obama to reject Farrakhan’s support. And in January, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen drew attention to the fact that a magazine controlled by Obama’s pastor had given an award to the Nation of Islam founder.

But so far, neither Russert nor anyone else at NBC News has seen fit to press McCain on the subject, and Cohen hasn’t chosen to write about it. And remember, Obama did nothing to solicit Farrakhan’s support, while McCain actively sought Hagee’s and appeared on stage with him.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Children's guide to religion

Scientist team creates first GM human embryo

Scientists have created what is believed to be the first genetically modified (GM) human embryo.

A team from Cornell University in New York produced the GM embryo to study how early cells and diseases develop. It was destroyed after five days.

The British regulator, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has warned that such controversial experiments cause “large ethical and public interest issues”.

News of the development comes days before MPs are to debate legislation that would allow scientists to use similar techniques in this country.

The effects of changing an embryo would be permanent. Genes added to embryos or reproductive cells, such as sperm, will affect all cells in the body and will be passed on to future generations.

The technology could potentially be used to correct genes which cause diseases such as cystic fibrosis, haemophilia and even cancer. In theory, any gene that has been identified could be added to embryos.

Ethicists warn that genetically modifying embryos could lead to the addition of genes for desirable traits such as height, intelligence and hair color.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, which will have its second reading this week, will make it legal to create GM embryos in Britain.

The bill will allow GM embryos to be created only for research and will ban implantation in the womb. Ethicists, however, say that the legislation could be relaxed in the future.

The HFEA has said that it is preparing for scientists to apply for licences to create GM embryos. A paper, published by the authority, states: “The bill has taken away all inhibitions on genetically altering human embryos for research. The Science and Clinical Advances Group [of the HFEA] thought there were large ethical and public interest issues and that these should be referred for debate.”

The Cornell team, led by Nikica Zaninovic, used a virus to add a gene, a green fluorescent protein, to an embryo left over from in vitro fertilization.

The research was presented at a meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine last year but details have emerged only after the HFEA highlighted the work in a review of the technology.

Zaninovic pointed out that in order to be sure that the new gene had been inserted and the embryo had been genetically modified, scientists would ideally need to grow the embryo and carry out further tests.

The Cornell team did not have permission to allow the embryo to progress, however.

Scientists argue that the embryos could be used to study how diseases develop. They also say GM embryos could be more efficient in generating stem cells.

However, Dr David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, warned: “This is the first step on the road that will lead to the nightmare of designer babies and a new eugenics. The HFEA is right to say that the creation and legalization of GM embryos raises ‘large ethical and public interest issues’ but neglects to mention that these have not been debated at all.”

He added: “I have been speaking to MPs all week and no one knows that the government is legalising GM embryos. The public has had enough of scientists sneaking these things through and then presenting us with a fait accompli.”