Fibre optic cable to god

I hope the god-of-abraham has a decent internet connection. He seems to have dropped “omnipresence” from his skillset and to have been reduced to logging on to catch up with his latest comments, like us mere mortals.

A good post on the Times religion blog reported on the growth of online prayer sites. Like beliefnet.

I was already baffled enough by prayer. The internet version is incomprehensible to another order of magnitude.

There are lots of tragic situations listed, with set prayers to go with them. (I don’t know if the participants are allowed to put them in their own words or to precis them in a hurry.)

Do these get delivered straight to the-god-of-abraham? Or are people supposed to repeat them aloud or read them silently, or what? (I have a sneaking suspicion that I may have inadvertently “prayed” by reading them online).

Apparently, the site has seen a huge surge in online prayer requests since the economy tanked. Is the divine omniscience failing again? Surely the-god-of-abraham already knows about the economy?

If he was going to spare his devotees from getting poorer, surely he’d have already sorted them. Or, at least, raptured them or something. Don’t tell me he’s doing that bastardy thing again of just helping them out if they really crawl first and tell him how much they love him.

The answer is so obvious. He’s got fibre-optic cable and now he spends all day surfing the net rather than listening to individuals’ hearts. If it’s not on a blog – or at least on twitter – he hasn’t heard it.

The Times post quoted Richard Sloan:

“The prayers on these sites are all prayers for petition, as opposed to prayers of praise, or prayers of wonder…”

In other words they are all celestial begging letters.

Beliefnet reckons Jesus or god or both (I’m mildly confused by which one this is) promised to answer these prayers:

Jesus lays down amazing promises about the power of asking things from God. He promises to answer. You can check out Thursday’s post if you’d like to see a few of those commitments. Bottom line: God puts himself on the line to deliver what we pray for!

God “puts himself on the line”!!! By Ogum! God may even step up to the plate to deliver on these prayers. Count me in, there’s loads of things I’d like to ask for.

No wait, there is small print. “conditions.”

One of which is, bizarrely, that “Jesus makes prayer a corporate matter.”

I am in awe at this 21st century god. He doesn’t just have a net connection. He is also a CEO.

Ah, it seems to mean he answers prayers by volume.

Effective requests come to God as petitions with more than one signature attached.

Look, he’s a busy guy, right? He can’t be expected to pay attention to the fall of a single sparrow or anything, in a world with 6 billion human beings. He needs lots of voices clamouring for him to do something before he’ll bother to put himself on the line. (That’s why your single prayer for the regrowth of your amputated limb failed, fool.)

There were previous conditions: “asking” (Well duh, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Surely you didn’t think your god was omniscient enough to know that you wouldn’t welcome that bankruptcy?) and “faith.”

Which has a strangely instrumentalist meaning:

Faith as the Bible defines it is an action based on a conviction that something promised with be delivered, even before any evidence appears that it will be so.

Is this a new consumerist adaptation of Christianity? Guaranteed delivery, even if you don’t actually get the thing you ordered.

The god-of-abraham as a giant e-commerce application?

According to the Times,

Worries about the ethics of these sites are further fuelled by the existence of some which charge for intecessionary prayer, offering a ‘call-centre’ style service.

Bang up to the minute, again, god-of-abraham.

What’s the betting that he’s outsourced the whole god business to some Indian call-centre? There must be enough gods in the Hindu pantheon to service the current global demand for divine intervention.

And the god-of-abraham is sunning himself on the beach at some Red Sea resort with a fast internet connection.

Stupidity and lies for Jesus

Always willing to flog a dead horse, I’ve stumbled across more mind-bending nonsense on the crazy-fest that is Yahoo! Answers. As I mentioned previously, this (*) is a haven for the weird and wonderful ideas people can come up with. Sadly, in the best of Web 2.0 traditions, idiocy, bad education and lies rise to the surface while real education gets drowned under the stupidity of the commons. I honestly think that if a good answer ever turned up it would be drowned under the idiocy (and get so many thumbs down) it would quickly flee for its life.

The most recent idiocy to draw my attention is a month old question titled “Do fossils of now extinct creatures such as dinosaurs prove evolution?” (see original)

At first site this looks like a legitimate question. It is the sort of question you would expect inquisitive school children to ask. It gives the chance for a well thought out answer about the nature of fossils, what evolutionary theory is and how scientific proofs work. You can imagine it being the sort of question a teacher would set a class to see what research they carry out. Well, Toutatis forbid they type the question into a search engine. The results are shocking. To an otherwise ignorant person seeing to improve their education, this search would be disastrous. Anyway, back to the question.

After an innocent start (obviously to trick the unwary), the question continues:

The fact that dinosaurs once lived and are now extinct is no proof of evolution. Such fossils merely show us that certain species once living were destroyed and became extinct. Theorists have been able to reach no general agreement on the cause or causes of extinction. The theories on this subject are numerous and sometimes very imaginative. Since most fossils are found in sedimentary rocks and show signs of catastrophic burial, they seem to point to a global flood as the principal cause of extinction. They must have lived on earth at the same time, just as the Bible implies.

Oh dear Belenus! It is true that the fact dinosaurs lived once and not any more is not proof of evolution. After a promising start it crashes down into a pile of blithering idiocy. So far so uneducated. Next we get:

If the flood-geology interpretation of geological strata is correct, all or most dinosaurs became extinct at the time of the flood. Until that time, then, man and dinosaurs lived on the earth at the same time.

Its good that he uses an “if” to start there. I agree that if the flood geology interpretation were correct dinosaurs died at the flood. However it isn’t. It isn’t even close. Man and Dino did not live on Earth at the same time. It really is that easy.

So far this is just standard creationist idiocy. It is the sad product of poor education, poor understanding and religious doctrine combining. As always though, the monumental lack of evidence to support creationism causes problems and the TRUE BELIEVER© is forced to lie for Jesus. It happens all the time. In all types of debate. The stronger the persons faith, the more they seem willing to lie for their deity. I find the irony very entertaining. Here we have:

Is there any EVIDENCE outside of the Bible to support this view? Yes, there is. It is well known that along the Paluxy River in Texas many dinosaur footprints have been found in limestone strata classified as Cretaceous. Not so well known is the fact that for about fifty years human footprints have been reported in the same strata.

Taranis give me strength. Don’t you just love it when some one asks a question that they answer themselves? Yes. (all puns intended). The only evidence to support humans and dinosaurs co-existing is in the minds of creationists. It isn’t even in the Bible. It is pure fiction. The Flintstones is not real. Lying for Jesus is still lying. The crazy questioner finishes off with his bit of conspiracy theory for Jesus nonsense:

Source: Footprints in Stone(color-sound film)
But since the concept that man lived with dinosaurs is incompatible with the theory of evolution, many Scientists dismiss this documentary for the persuasive evidence unfolded.

Man living with Dino is not incompatible with evolution. The “documentary” evidence cites is not dismissed for that reason and it really is not persuasive…

The screaming stupidity that is Yahoo! Answers comes out in the “best answer” chosen by the “asker.” As is so often the case, the person chooses a best answer that restates whatever idiocy they agree with. This is no different:

I do agree with you to some extent. It is impossible for humans to prove the actual “age” of the extinct dinosaur remains. When scientists try to “determine” the age of the dinosaur remains by soil composition and “carbon dating” etc, I just shake my head. Anybody can make an assumption about life that way. It is also impossible for humans to determine exactly how old the history of mankind is as well. Remember, in the early days of creation, people lived much longer then we do now. Of course they did. Adam lived for 930 years, and his son Seth lived for 912 years. Before the flood, many people lived well into their hundreds. There was a wonderful balance of nature then. No pollution or anything “man-made” existed to destroy that balance. God knew what he was doing right from the very beginning. His creation and existence is perfection in itself – he is the superb mastercraftsman! I bow to his absolute genius…

It is mind-numbing in its stupidity. What on Earth is age doing in quotes? What is the idiot trying to say? Putting determine in sneer quotes – what is that all about? The whole answer manages to be so far from the truth it is almost beyond belief. It isn’t even internally consistent. Even in Biblical terms there were lots of man-made things before the flood – the Ark for example…

The wonders of the internet (and specifically web 2.0) push this stupidity to the top of a search engine query. The miracle of Web2.0 gives the asker the chance to give prominence to the madness that the person asking the question wants to be seen as the answer. Yes, if you scroll down you can find better answers but not everyone is going to do that and, crucially, when they have had their reasoning tainted by the initial two bits, they will be more sceptical of the truth than of the idiocy.

Web 2.0 is not about empowerment and it certainly is not about the shared wisdom of the masses. The tragedy of the commons seems so much more appropriate.

* I suspose this may be a specific problem to the Religion and Spirituality part of Yahoo Answers, but the other sections seem to be riddled with nutjob answers…

Proof Of God – Christian Voice

Who would have thought Christian Voice would have cracked under the pressure of the No God bus campaigns in London? OK, most people I suppose. Still it is entertaining that they are riled by a simple poster to the extent they are demanding the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency to rule on the proof of God.

From the BBC:

An atheist campaign claiming “There’s probably no God” has been reported to the advertising regulator.
Posters with the slogan appear on 800 buses in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as on the London Underground.
But organisation Christian Voice has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority saying they break rules on substantiation and truthfulness.

Pardon me for a moment while I fall off the chair laughing.

They are saying that the claim there is probably no god is insubstantiated and / or not truthful. How on Thor’s hammer do they intend to convince the ASA of this one wonders…

But Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said: “There is plenty of evidence for God, from people’s personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world.
“But there is scant evidence on the other side, so I think the advertisers are really going to struggle to show their claim is not an exaggeration or inaccurate, as the ASA code puts it.”

More laughter rings out around WhyDontYou Towers. Evidence for God exists in “personal experience” – surely this alone is a self defeating argument because if I do not have that experience the advertisement is accurate as stated. I do not have that personal experience, therefore (should the ASA be reading this) the banner is 100% correct. Thank you Christian Voice.

I assume Christian Voice have lodged similar complaints over any advertising that mentions non-Christian religions, so any posters for Mosques, Temples (etc) will have to come down. I would never suggest people be petty enough to go through Christian advertising with a fine tooth comb – each day on the way to work I see a huge poster telling me that I will die for my sins, where is the proof of that I wonder?

In a wonderful bit of understatement (and acting a lot more adult than Christian Voice…), Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said:

“I am sure that Stephen Green really does think there is a great deal of evidence for a God (though presumably only the one that he believes in), but I pity the ASA if they are going to be expected to rule on the probability of God’s existence.”

Indeed, it will be interesting to see what their decision is…

Die in a hail of gunfire

Who would have thought it, eh? Some crazy people have jumped on the Mumbai Massacre bandwagon to espouse their crazy ideas. Amazing…

Disappointingly predictably, certain individuals are using the massacre to promote their own crazy agendas. On the “Cybercast News Service” yesterday there was an article in which it was claimed that the killings would have been prevented if India didn’t have such strict gun laws:

India’s strict gun laws are partly to blame for the success of the terrorist attack in Mumbai, according to the head of an Indian gun rights group and a U.S. expert who has examined the impact of gun laws on crime and terrorism.

Abhijeet Singh, founder of Indians for Guns, told CNSNews.com Tuesday that if the citizens of Mumbai had been allowed to carry guns, terrorists would not have killed as many people as they did–and might have been deterred from attacking in the first place.

Wow. It still surprises me a little that people can (with apparent seriousness) claim that if everyone had guns, there would be less gunfights. I can see an element of appealing logic, although it flies counter to the current anti-knife crime campaign we have in the UK, which seems to be working. The idea hangs on the fact that Terrorist X wont carry out an attack because if they do, the people they attack will be able to return fire and kill them.

Flawed logic.

First off – if this was true, soldiers wouldn’t be attacked. Islamic terrorists are reasonably prepared to die in the course of their actions, so the return fire is not a deterrent. Equally, even if everyone is carrying guns, the terrorists still have the huge advantage of being the attacker. A crowd of people goin about their daily business is in no state to drop to cover and return handgun fire when they are ambushed by assault rifles. The terrorist has the initiative, dictates where and when the attack will happen and can still kill large numbers before fire is returned with sufficient effect to defeat them.

Another line of reasoning was that if the public had all been armed, the terrorists would have killed a few, then the return fire would have got them – reducing the overall casualty figures.

Wrong, but less flawed. Most people are not combat trained. Despite all the range time gun-lovers carry out, despite all the films they watch, and magazines they read, combat shooting is something very, very different. Battle inoculation is so important that soldiers undergo it so they can experience what being under fire is like – hopefully to reduce the chance they will fuck up when the time comes to fight. Even with all this, and months of specialist training, soldiers make mistakes in the heat of battle. Some people will panic and shoot randomly, some will miss, some will be good shots but poor at target identification. The potential for carnage is beyond belief. The only thing you could hope for is that the terrorist would be just as shocked by the bullets flying in every direction they’d panic and fuck up as well. The problem is terrorists have often been to training camps, where they are taught what it is like…

The whole idea is insane and creates a wonderful scenario for any budding terrorist planners.

Imagine the scene: A shopping mall filled with several hundred armed people going about their daily business. One armed terrorist, dressed like everyone else, walks into the mall and opens fire, dashes to cover, fires again and lies low. The crowd are under fire. Everyone draws their guns and shoots in the direction they think the attack is coming from… At this point, the mall is filled with people seeing other people pointing guns at them. In the ensuing carnage there is only a moderate chance the terrorist will actually get killed, if he has any sense he could easily lie low enough to avoid being hit. Better still, when the security forces arrive, they are faced with how ever many survivors there are, all shooting at each other – how do they decide who to take out?

It is pure madness. Is this really the scenario these people want, or do they think all the members of the public will do cowboy style quick-draws, drop to one knee and double tap the terrorists in the head? By Zeus, the madness makes my eyes water.

Guns do not keep you safe. They do not stop people shooting you. At best they give you the chance to shoot back, but a holstered gun is useless. Carrying a gun makes you a target for everyone else with a gun.  Carrying a gun, at best, gives you a false sense of security.

As ever, the comments for the CNS article are a fertile ground of madness. Some of the more, erm, entertaining ones:

Quote: “Distributing weapons to general public is not the wise and right idea to counter the terrorism.” Hmm, that’s funny, the citizens of Israel found the exact opposite to be true. You think maybe they might have some experience in the matter? Here in Michigan, USA, I carry a loaded pistol every day, everywhere I go. Nothing unusual, just normal everyday business. It’s nice to feel like a citizen instead of a subject.

Erm, no.

I, for one, have had a gun put to my head. I was lucky to have survived. I have vowed to never go through this again without a fight. Dispite my handing over everything to the robber, he still shot at me, but missed, thank God. I can’t carry at a bar, but look how many people are assulted leaving the bar to go to their car. Where would my pistol be? Locked in my car. Big help, isn’t it! I would like to see just one time where a person with a carry permit has gone on a shooting spree in a church, school, sports arena, or entertainment facility with a capacity of 2500 people plus, as these are the places Michigan law forbids my having my weapon with me at. Note! I can carry in a church with the permission of the church. It looks to me like none of the Government Law Makers or any of their families or friends have ever been assulted, so they don’t know what it is like. I suggest they get their heads out of the sand, look at reality and come up with laws that are reaistic.

God and Guns – dont they go together well… This person misses the whole point, but it isnt surprising really. I have been shot at, I have had mortars fired at me, I have had petrol bombs thrown at me by rioters. I was carrying a gun at the time and it didn’t help at all. This person doesn’t want protection, they want to be able to shoot the robber, after they have been robbed. Wonderful escalation that will result in the robber just shooting them first. I defy anyone in the real world to draw a gun and kill an attacker who has a loaded weapon drawn and pointed at them.

Armed,law abiding, citizens protect a nation and its people. But, an unarmed population is at the mercy of their own government, home grown thugs and terrorists as well as invaders from outside their country. Gandhi was right on!!! A realistic pacifist knows that force is the only way to meet force in the end. “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” — The Dalai Lama, (May 15, 2001, The Seattle Times) speaking at the “Educating Heart Summit” in Portland, Oregon, when asked by a girl how to react when a shooter takes aim at a classmate

Well, while it may be true that “armed, law abiding citizens” protect a nation, they are called “soldiers.” Having every citizen armed is certainly not the same thing and does not protect a nation. An armed population is just as at the mercy of its government as an unarmed one. The realistic pacifist mentioned is not a pacifist, pretty much by definition. Self defence is important but if carrying a gun is not defence. A weapon is designed to be used to attack someone. Armour and a Sheild were defence, the sword was the offensive weapon. In modern times the gun is there for offensive activity. If you want to defend yourself, buy a kevlar vest and helmet. Yes, a good (military) defence is a good offence – however that does not carry over to every day life – unless you shoot all passers-by just in case.

If you are so scared that you feel the need to have a gun tucked inside your pants, fine – as long as you dont draw it anywhere near me, I don’t mind. Just remember though, that now you have a gun you are a threat to everyone around you who doesn’t know you. How do they know that you aren’t a screaming madman about to go on a killing rampage? What if you look at them a bit funny and they think its time for the offensive-defence…

Personally, even having been to most of the worlds war-zones, I’d rather not carry a gun.

God is at it again

The evil god who tells people to gun down complete strangers in crowded shopping malls is up to his old tricks. He ordered a man to ram a vehicle at 100mph.

” God told him “she needed to be taken off the road.”

This may not be a bad defence for someone living in a god fearing state. Google-maps shows Bexar County is in Texas, near San Antonio. On the basis of my admittedly non-existent knowledge of the distribution of blind faith in the USA, that sounds a mite too sceptical a location for this to play well as a defence strategy.

Still, there would only need to be a couple of Rapture Ready people on the jury and he’d walk from court a free man. After all, if god is going to beam them up and smash up the place after they’ve gone, who among them could say that this wasn’t a genuine manifestation of his smitely powers?

The prosecution could hardly prove the driver was acting under a ludicrous belief, “beyond reasonable doubt,” without implicitly calling into question all those Old Testament stories where god told people to sacrifice their first born or stone the ungodly.

Pascals Wager – In Cartoon Terms

(another funny cartoon from FSTDT – this time the hat tip is to Tom S Fox)

Sadly, this was posted because some one commenting on the Daily Telegraph thought that an appeal to Pascals Wager was a logical argument.

Let’s see, if I choose not to be a Christian and there is no God, I die and nothing happens. If there is a God, I die and go to Hell.
If I choose to be a Christian and there is no God, I die and nothing happens. If there is a God, I die and have eternal life.
Which is the rational choice?

I mean, what century are we in? Are there really people who think this is a legitimate “rational” argument, much less a legitimate reason to have faith? Surely if the great Abrahamic Sky Pixie is so insanely jealous all must bow before him, he is going to get pretty annoyed at this line of reasoning….

Still, who ever said Christians were logical?

Weather for ducks and Drakes

According to wingnutdaily a baptist preacher – whose name (Wiley Drake) suggests that he is really a cartoon character – is praying for his god to rain on Obama.

DENVER – The call for prayer for a rainstorm on this city’s football stadium when Sen. Barack Obama delivers his nomination-acceptance speech there next week, dropped by a Focus on the Family Action personality, has been picked up by a former official of the Southern Baptist Convention. (from wingnut World net daily)

(The pastor’s worldview is almost glorious in the depths of its craziness. The logic seems to be:
Beg hard enough and the “creator of the universe” will take the side of the political party you support.

Despite believing that he’s asking for help from a being who commands the power of the universe, Drake doesn’t ask his deity to relegate Obama to the Delta Quadrant or turn him into a snail.

No, Drake asks his god to use his supposedly infinite power just to make Obama’s supporters bring umbrellas. What? Call that smiting? How unambitious is that?

I foresee a bit of danger here for the Wiley Drake. Surely, if god expresses his political views through the weather, a sunny day would show that the maker of the Universe actually supports Obama?)

Wiley, as it happens, your prayers were answered, but your inept rain-god missed and smited the UK with the biblical rain instead. Call off the hallelulahs now, please. We don’t even have a vote in your election. The UK “summer” is traditionally shit, but, for the past few years, it would be more accurate to just refer to it as the “rainy season.” (Except that every other season could already lay good claim to the title.) Northern Ireland was the most recent place on these islands to undergo widespread flooding.

The people who first called for this action were Focus on the Family. They’ve now claimed their call for torrential rain was “mildly humorous”. I love the novel use of the word “mildly” when accuracy might have demanded the use of “not at all.”

Drake, an activist who has been targeted by opponents of his Christian ministry for using his own radio program to discuss moral issues in the public arena, said he was saddened to see Focus pull the video………
“I, too, am still against killing babies and allowing sodomites to marry. Anyone wishing to join those of us who believe in imprecatory prayer (for divine justice) are invited to join,” he said. (same impeccable source)

“Imprecatory prayer?” That’s just pastor jargon for cursing.* Obviously, the word “moral” is also being used in some new counter-intuitive sense.

Luckily for any Democrats who might forget to bring raincoats or umbrellas to Obama’s Denver acceptance speech, cursing is no more effective than praying…..

The BBC has a direct line straight to the mind of the weather god. They’ve published a Denver prophecy that 3 of the next five days will be sunny and two will be rainy. However, the omens aren’t clear enough for the BBC’s chief weather-augur to predict more than 5 days ahead.

Demconwatch have an even better prophecy – better in that it refers to the actual date of the nomination-acceptance, if I’m interpreting it rightly. And that prophecy is for really good weather.

* Don’t just take my word for it. The free online dictionary defines “imprecatory” as the adjectival form of :

im·pre·cate (mpr-kt) tr.v. im·pre·cat·ed, im·pre·cat·ing, im·pre·cates
To invoke evil upon; curse.