Is swine flu non-kosher?

Compare the faith-fulness of these Orthodox rabbis with the prosaic Church of England recognition that holy water is not actually holy enough to stop the spread of swine flu.

According to beliefnet, a planeload of rabbis and mystics held an airborne prayer meeting to ask their god to spare Israel from swine flu.

Flying Rabbis Pray to Save Israel from Swine Flu
JERUSALEM – A planeload of Israeli rabbis and Jewish mystics held an airborne prayer meeting in the belief that it could help check the spread of swine flu in Israel, an Israeli newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Yediot Ahronot daily said a plane with 50 people on board circled over Israel on Monday, with the passengers chanting prayers and sounding the ritual ram’s horn. (From beliefnet)

A plane? Why did they have to get in a plane?

I can only assume it’s to get closer to Him Upstairs, in a touchingly childlike belief that their god actually lives in the sky.

In which case, I suggest that it might be easy to get funding for a few manned space missions, if the astronauts promise to pray fervently once they’re out of earth’s atmosphere.

Despite having fallen victim to the dread disease (for which I got free Tamiflu, courtesy of the NHS, :-p to US Republicans) I never realised that swine flu had a religious dimension. But the rabbis are not alone.

Here are a few swine flu magic stories, transmitted to me by the magical powers of Google Loki .

An Imam claimed that swine flu affirms the power of the Koran. He assumed muslims couldn’t get it because they don’t eat pork or work with pigs. 🙂 ( Bit of an epic science fail , there.)

I guess he’s had to reconsider the accuracy of Allah’s smiting strategy by now, given that even pilgrims returning from Mecca have come down with the virus.

The god of conservative Christians was busy smiting to put a stop to idol-worship rather than pig-eating. Republican faith Chat said:

,,,but let’s face it: God doesn’t punish nonbelievers today to the same degree He did in the days of old. ….. And as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson aptly observed, 9/11 reflected God’s fury for our tolerance of abortionists and homos. But lately, the Lord’s slaughter has been limited to the occasional flood, tornado and plane crash which involve just handfuls of nonbelieving sinners. But no more! The Lord is back with a vengeance.
One of God’s favorite conduits for extinguishing evil is swine. Surely, we all remember the time that Jesus cast the devils possessing a nudist into a herd of swine which promptly drowned themselves. This time, the swine are staying alive and killing the devils, a/k/a Mexicans, a/k/a Catholics, a/k/a cultists, a/k/a idol-worshippers.”

(Ok, I admit it, this one must be a spoof site.)

Buddhist normally get off relatively unscathed in this column but this suggests there’s a publicity-hungry lunatic fringe in every religion.

Taiwan Buddhist master says swine flu is warning for mankind
A Taiwan Buddhist master said Thursday that swine flu is “the earth’s warning” to human beings to stop destroying the environment. Master Cheng Yen, 72, nicknamed Taiwan’s Mother Teresa for her charity work, gave the warning in her daily speech to her disciples around the world.
Choked with tears, Cheng Yen said it is not a coincidence that it was exactly this time six years ago that severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, broke out. (from Earth Times)

(I love the idea that “Taiwan’s Mother Teresa” is a nickname. You’d think it was much easier to say “Cheng Yen” )

Anyway, she thinks that everyone becoming vegetarian and looking after the environment would prevent swine flu.

Let there be no light

I am overawed by the predictive power of Leviticus, if I’m right in thinking that that’s the book that set the rules for orthodox jews.

As far as I can make out, from this BBC story, (Light sensors cause religious row) orthodox jews aren’t allowed to see by electric light on holy days.

A couple have taken legal action after claiming motion sensors installed at their holiday flat in Dorset breached their rights as Orthodox Jews.
Gordon and Dena Coleman said they cannot leave or enter their Bournemouth flat on the Sabbath because the hallway sensors automatically switch on lights.
The couple’s religious code bans lights and other electrical equipment being switched on during Jewish holidays.

I can’t understand the problem, here. If the hallway sensors detect that it’s dark – the outside world will have street lighting, surely.

So the litigious couple can’t go in the street anyway, as far as I can see. Because then they would be in non-kosher electric light anyway….

Unless street-lighting doesn’t count because those lights are already on when the couple leave their home. In which case, I suggest that they trick the sensors and just switch the lights on permanently in advance of any jewish holiday… Lateral thinking, hey?.

Did Leviticus ban all electric light? Or just proscribe electric light switches and motion sensors but say some lights were acceptably kosher?

As I said at the beginning – this rulebook seems so amazingly farsighted. There must have been real prophets at work, if they foresaw electric lighting a few thousand years ago. Is there anything in there about when we get the jetpacks?

Anti-Israel does not equal anti-Jew

Atheist defends Dawkins. Shock, horror. (OK, not.) Still the Times has an unpleasant piece by Daniel Finkelstein in which he distorts something Dawkins said in the Guardian in order to misrepresent Dawkins as anti-semetic.

So Dawkins, a liberal hero, believes, er, that Jews control world power. And, judging from the Guardian, it is now a part of mainstream debate to say so. Perhaps you think I am over-reacting, but I am a little bit frightened.

Well no. What Dawkins actually said is that atheists need some organisation analogous to the Jewish lobby, which had proved its success by the fact that it had managed to

more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see.

It seemed obvious to several commentators that
(a) US foreign policy seemed more than a little pro-Israel;
(b) this is not even explicable in terms of the US’s own national interests (oranges versus oil, as one commentator remarked);
(c) it reflects the influence of pro-Israeli American lobbyists and people in power.

This is a huge leap away from saying that Jews monopolise world power, as the blog headline and comments said. However, this misrepresentation of Dawkins was taken by some Times commentators as a given. And stuck together with a self-evidently ludicrous claim that Dawkins wanted to take children away from their parents if the parents taught them religion. To make a general attribution of Dawkins really being a Nazi.

I know. I know. This sort of thing doesn’t even bear recognising as a rational discourse. But still, I think it is worth repeating ad nauseam that opposing Israel does not make one a Nazi.

The Jews suffered terribly in Germany. Why didn’t they get given Germany? They didn’t suffer anything at the hands of the Palestinians. Why did they get Palestine? Well, partly because they carried out a prolonged terrorist campaign against the British government to get it.

Terrorist campaign, note. The British government gave in.

If the USA had not been committed over decades to supporting everything that Israel did, ignoring the complaints of the Palestinians as their land was taken and they were turned into refugees in their own country, there would be no insane jihadists now.

The only quarrel I would have with Dawkins in this is that atheists don’t have an agreed agenda beyond removing religious influence from the public sphere. What else would be the point of atheist lobbyists? Remember the herding cats thing? The capacity to think independently is the strength of rational people, not their weakness.

Commenting on Comments

I was not planning to do a post on the nonsense being spouted by the comments on the John Humphrys article over on the Times Online (see previous post), but the idiocy and madness some of them presented couldn’t be ignored. Please forgive me, Zeus.

In no particular order we get this wonder from “Timothy” in Ross-on-Wye:

Christianity can be tested by whether the Resurrection occurred or not (1 Cor15). Secular and hostile sources such as Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, the Talmud and the Toledoth Jeshu testify of the crucifixion of Jesus and the empty tomb. That blood and water flowed from Jesus’ side indicates heart failure and we can be certain He was dead. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead where is His body? The disciples started proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem where the Priests could have produced the body if they knew where it was, ending Christianity. Why would the disciples steal Jesus’ body?

Blimey, where do I start. First off, shall we look at motivation? The disciples had a vested interest in Jesus’ body not being found, so there is motive for them to ensure the priests didn’t know where the body was.

More interestingly shall we look at the witnesses (Secular and Hostile sources)? For example, Tacitus was born in about AD56 (56CE for purists) and is unlikely to have travelled to the middle east until around AD76 (or 76CE if you prefer). Even allowing for some major errors on the date of Jesus’ birth, it is unlikely that Tacitus was around to see the event and if anything, he is repeating a secondary or tertiary source. Lucian is even more removed as it was around AD125 (125 CE) he was born. Josephus has potential, being born around AD37 (37 CE), but that is stretching things.

So basically this discounts the secular sources as evidence. The Toledoth Jeschu is equally flawed as it was written around the second century after Jesus was supposed to have been born – again this means it is the result of secondary or tertiary sources AT BEST. I will ignore the Talmud because I don’t know it well enough to comment on how it describes Jesus’ life.

From “D Walsh” in Skipton we get:

For the intellectually honest, atheism is also a matter of faith. It is difficult to prove a negative. There is no absolute proof of the non-existence of god(s), though the lack of proof for his/her/their existence is suggestive. Atheism is therefore a belief, rather than a lack of it.

This is a tired old argument. Lack of belief is not a belief unless you have the preconceived idea that the thing being believed about exists. For example, if I chose to believe the keyboard under my fingers right now didn’t exist, this would be an item of faith. While it is unprovable, I have met no (sane) adults who believes that Faeries do not swap children at night. Atheism is not a matter of faith. Ever.

“Virginia” in Australia writes:

The atheist are the stupid ones. They refused to believe that they will burn in hell for all eternity. There is really no point in trying to convince these people as they are the minority as God puts the belief in us when we were created. That is why there are very few geniune atheist if the truth were known. The physical body dies but the spirit lives forever. So everyone has eternal life, it is where you will spend it. Imagine a world full of atheist? There will be no accountability charity justice compassion purpose worth morals mercy regrets guilt sin compassion and hope. Who do think run orphanges, soup kitchens, red cross, Salvation army, life line, op shops, youth camps, and many other charitable organisations? The atheist? CERTAINLY NOT.!! The atheists think about no one except themselves and if the world is full of them, it would be like HELL. So dont be so proud to be one of them, we dont envy you, we feel sorry for you that your life is so worthless.

This is what I love about the loving, caring, compassionate theists… It is a good job that is only Atheists who can be frowned upon for speaking out. It is good job the world isn’t full of evil atheists, isn’t it… “Chie” in Tokyo continues the false reasoning argument about Atheism:

Agnosticism is the only logical position a thoughtful human being can adopt. Once understood properly, it ends the futile and barren debate about whether God exists or not. Atheists (if by this is meant people who believe that there is no God) are in just as a rationally untenable position as believers. This is why it has to be said that Dawkins, although interesting on religion, shows his intellectual limitations. It’s probably due to the influence of Western mind training, which tends to take a binary approach to everything.

Again, this is nonsense. No matter how much woo you try to wrap around the situation, nor how much patronising you do the situation remains the same. If Chie is trying to suggest God is in a quantum superposition along with Zeus, Hera, Thor, Hemidal, Loki, Monkey, Fox, Rabbit and every other god humanity has come up with over the aeons, then he is deluded. A similar argument is suggested by “Richard” in Bexhill, Essex, which proves the point about people from Essex being thick.

“Eugene” from Heildelberg, Germany (I strongly suspect he is an American serviceman, and he reminds me of one I worked with many years ago) writes a diatribe which finishes with the patronising:

If you are truly intelligent, you will come to this coclusion. GOD IS MORE PROBABLE THAN NOT.

Nonsense. He doesn’t even say which god he thinks is more probable than any of the others. It is nothing but an appeal to mystery in funny clothes.

“Warren Toles,” from Canada, goes a long way to prove that Theists really are stupid and opens his comment with:

It is interesting that there are so many brilliant people in this world that will believe Darwin’s THEORY of evolution and completely dismiss the the Biblical account of creation. This can only be accounted for by the fact that those taking this position have not studied either the Bible or Darwin’s life story including the fact that he dismissed his own theory of evolution prior to his death. And yet we continue to teach Darwin’s Theory of evolution in our schools and Universities as though it is pure fact without any doubt attached to it.

It is great isn’t it. First off it is painfully obvious that Warren has no idea what a “theory” of science actually means. I assume he wants alternate theories of gravitation, thermodynamics (etc) to be taught as well. Add in the nonsense about Darwin’s dismissal of evolution on his death bed and you can see why Atheists laugh at the way Theists believe things without questioning… Shame on you Warren, the internet is a great tool – you should use it to learn new things.

“John W” from Oldham lives in a bleak world and writes:

As soon as you say there is no god, you say that there is no such thing as life or as a person. You reduce everything down to its component parts. You say all our thoughts are self interested delusions, lacking any intrinsic value. You forever steal the smile from the babies face, remove the beauty from the sunset and kill all that is noble in the world.

Wow. My being an atheist seems to stop my children smiling… Oddly this is not the case. I find it worrying that some people really do think they only reason they can be happy in this life is because some invisible person has promised them something in an imaginary afterlife. If this wasn’t a world religion, these people would be in a lunatic asylum. I think the idea that people are only “noble” because of god is what really steals the nobility of their actions. It makes them a vessel for others and implies that without Big Brother watching them, they would really be stealing and raping. I find that a sad, sad world.

“CC” from Cardiff falsifies himself with this:

Having read Dawkins God Delusion out of interest, I am still not convinced about religion or atheism. There are strong arguments for atheism in the book, but there are also some weak arguments. Having a scientific background and a career in engineering, I like to see real evidence. Maths and statistics can be used to ‘prove’ anything academically. So what are the weak arguments for atheism:
1. There must be a planet of other beings out there STATISTICALLY. Ok, but then if those planets do exist then the laws of evolution would apply and we might expect that one of them might be more advanced than we are…so where are they?
2. Although we as humans have made fantastic progress is medicine, we are still only tinkering. Until we can CREATE life from the basic elements I remain unconvinced that we can ever do it.
3. The human state of consciousness, how a body gets life in it cannot be reproduced by humans ‘artificially’.
I feel that if I say I am an atheist then I it would be naive

Wow, he claims to have a scientific background but demonstrates no understanding of science or mathematics. Maybe it is true what they say about engineers… Statistically, in an infinite universe, there are an infinite number of planets out there with life. Basic principles state we (on Earth) are not in a unique position regarding time or place, so you must assume that there are, indeed, some alien civilisations who are more advanced than ours. However, and this is important, these basic principles also assume that the laws of physics hold equally at all points in the universe (keep this in mind). Now, we know that statistically, the chances of another planet near to Earth having an massively advanced alien civilisation is low so we can dismiss them, this means that the statistically probably aliens are going to be quite some distance from Earth, the nearest potentially habitable planet is 60 light years away. Why must all Alien civilisations be capable of Faster than Light travel along with a burning desire to visit Earth? The rest of his “reasoning” is even more dribble.

I will finish (for now) with this head ache inducing comment from “William J” in Oban, Scotland: (Dont you just love the case choice…)

The fact we can debate, discuss, and not only argue about belief,but even in extreme situations go to war over beliefs, in anyway detract from belief:
In fact, rather it proves that belief is Truth.
Richard Dawkins is in fact a Belief Meister He Believes in Non-belief. John Humpry is Still Seeking He Believes in Seeking.
I Believe in God.
The only problem occurs if any of us try to force our beliefs upon the other two. I recently read somewhere that Charles Darwin is indirectly responsible for The Horror of The Nazi Gas Chamber and The Second World War. I found this Idea Abhorrent yet then no sooner had this thought registered,when I remembered The French Revolution was a product of Militant Aitheism. Yet There Again , our “Glorious Revolution” The English Civil War was Based upon The Opposite Belief incidentally it Was The Scottish Covenanters who having handed King Charles The First over to The Parliamentary Army were so Horrified at The English Action, The Crowned Charles

Toutatis knows what he is trying to say here, but I will point to this as further evidence as to the IQ of theists and atheists. Read the comments, they are priceless. Atheists point out logical flaws and are accused of “hateful attacks.” Theists demonstrate ignorance (and more than a little hate towards atheists) and everyone gushes about how wonderful they are.

[tags]Religion, John Humphrys, In God We Doubt, Belief, Christiantiy, Islam, Judaism, Society, Culture, Darwin, Dawkins, Evolution, Creationism, Bible, Tacitus, Toutatis, Zeus, Hera, Loki, Times Online, Nonsense, Delusion, God, Logic, Logical Fallacy, Fallacies, Atheist, Agnosticism, Atheism, Theism, Woo, Lucian, Josephus, Toledoth Jeschu, Talmud, Flaws, Idiocy[/tags]

History lessons are good..

Now if it had been a , I could understand it. Some seem very unwilling to learn about anything which happened before their Saviour came to Earth and to them the is a bit harsh and cruel. Oddly this is a Rabbi showing little real understanding of historical events. On MSNBC there is an article by Rabbi Marc Gellman (hat tip – Pharyngula) titled “In God’s Image” with a tagline of “The death of Captain America and the movie ‘300’ raise questions about the duty of the truly religious to protect freedom—even with their lives.

Blimey. Talk about reaching out for straws…

After an intro about the enlightenment and the problems with fascism, communism and jihadism, the Rabbi writes:

This same conflict lies behind the comic-book death of Captain America and the cinematic death of Leonides in the movie “300.” The Spartan Greeks, led by Leonides, could have chosen to live under the rule of Xerxes and the Persian Empire. They could have traded their imperiled freedom for a secure life of slavery. The choice of Leonides and the 300 Spartans to die in a doomed but heroic battle is the clear choice of those who believe that nothing—no faith, no material wealth, nothing—justifies the surrender of freedom to tyranny.

Strangely, I agree with his last sentence. Nothing, especially no faith, justifies the surrender of freedom to tyranny. I suspect the Rabbi and I have a different idea of how that is interpreted in the real world though but that is a whole different matter…

Often ignored is that, in addition to the 300 Spartans (Leonidas’ royal guards) there were 700 Thespians (from Thespiae) at the final battle. I am sure, as they were largely a “subject” city at the time, their freedom didn’t matter much though… Further on, the article continues:

Neither Leonides nor Captain America were religious, but both of them stood for that part of the religious world that believes in a God who fights for freedom.

Wow. While I can not comment on Captain America (he is a comic book character and not a real person!), I think it is reasonable to assume Leonidas was a very religious person. Maybe the fact it wasn’t Judeo-Christianity so it doesn’t count? Spartans always sought guidance from their Gods before pretty much anything (sports, war, trade etc) and part of the problem at Thermopylae was “ill omens” from the High Priests. However the nonsense, continues:

They both stood for the proposition that freedom is the foundation of all meaningful life. Religiously speaking, this is the belief that God gave freedom to all people made in His image, and that those who oppose freedom must be prepared to fight God.

Wow (again). The Spartans (remember Captain America is not real) were certainly NOT supporters of freedom – even by their contemporary standards. They were a military dictatorship in almost every sense. All citizens were geared for war and this was built on a bedrock of slave labour. Even the other Greek states (with their own slaves) thought the Spartans were oppressive. One of the reasons the Persian kept attacking Greece was the poor Greeks spent most of their time trying to stop the Spartans enslaving them.

The piece closes with:

Embracing the need to spiritually justify the fight for world freedom carries its own perils. Chief among these dangers is what we now see in the world of Islamic fascism: the use of religion to extol death and tyranny. The biblical name for this is idolatry, and the seductions of idolatry are hard for some to resist. In the end, though, the spiritual truth of freedom’s cause is eventually clear to all.

Leonides and Captain America were heroes not because they entered the field of battle with a shield of Vibranium or were in possession of abs of steel, but because they entered battle with a spiritually authentic idea: that God is free and we are made in God’s image to be free as well. We were not placed on planet earth to avoid death. We were placed here so that we could avoid surrendering our God-given freedom to tyrants.

Well again we hit an little dichotomy. Generally when people say things like “it is clear to all” or “every one can see” and my favourite “it is obvious”, the point being made is nonsense. Here, I think this is still valid. While I strongly agree the we should never surrender our Freedom to Tyrants (nothing to do with who gave us our freedom – that in itself implies tyranny but this is a whole new post..), I think the rest of it is nonsense. Leonidas was not a hero, and Captain America is not a real person so cant really be heroic.

The tyranny of religion is not limited to Islamic fascism – although that is the most overt form. Read the blogosphere about how gay people should be punished for an example of how otherwise moderate people are happy to subject others to religious tyranny. But I suppose that is ok though, cos it is a “good” religion…

(p.s. It is interesting how many sites / blogs (rightwingers) seem to see Thermopylae as a parallel to the west vs Iran/Iraq type thing. Dangerous comparison to be making… Why do the religious RIGHT get so confused when it comes to the media – remember March of the Penguins? Can’t they just accept a film is a film. It is there for entertainment. Study the reality if you want to draw cultural parallels…)

[tags]300, Judaism, Rabbi, Spartans, Sparta, History, Rants, Society, Philosophy, Logic, Religion, Religious Moderates, Religious Tolerance, Belief, Culture, Film, Media, Fiction, Superheroes, the 300[/tags]

Signs of Madness

It seems that no matter how hard I try (or dont try as the case may actually be), I cant avoid the madness that permates the and specifically the . Just to get a bit of perspective, there are millions of websites, millions of blogs written by sane, “normal” people. They just aren’t as much fun…

The serendipitous wonder which has been following my bored searches on Technorati brought me to a blog by one “joannafrancis.” This really was a descent into the world of madness.

The internet has always been a hotbed for “conspiracy” lunatics of all branding, and among the big three Abrahamic religions, Jews often get a rough end of the conspriacy deal (people even try to claim General Relativity is a Jewish conspriacy), so lots of this blog is no real surprise. What is shocking, especially for a blog from what appears to be a devout Catholic(religion of compassion?) is the sheer vitriol and hatred which oozes from pretty much every word on every post.

Just to be open, the reason I think she is a Catholic is she makes the following statement: (read original)

And yet, what Catholics should realize, whether Novus Ordo, SSPX, or sedevacantist, is that these Jews from the SPLC are attacking not only our religion, but all of our ancestors as well.

As an atheist, I find it quite entertaining how much she rants about even the slightest hint of Jewishness in people (for instance, apparently Courtney Love is a Jew, based on an oblique entry in NNDB)

The post which really made me chuckle (on the assumption she reall is alone with these ideas) was made on 10 Nov 06, titled “Israeli Snipers Killing U.S. Troops?” in which she postulates the idea that Mossad or another Israeli organsiation is responsible for killing Americans in Iraq to drag the war out. It is a great post. It has every single one of the crackpot conspiracy nut hall marks in. It could be used as a teaching tool to help spot nutters.

She has some “proof” that the Israelis are involved, for example:

At the very beginning of this video clip, you see a rifle with a video camera attached to it. This weapon is made by the Rafael company, an Israeli arms manufacturer, that also makes IEDs.

So at the very least we know she has no idea at all what an IED actually is. If they were manufactured, they would not be “improvised” would they? Manufactured IEDs are called bombs and mines etc. After some nonsense about rifle mounted cameras being another sign of the Jews, she somes out with:

Mossad is a master at false flag operations, e.g., Oklahoma City, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, the July 7, 2005 London bombings, the 9-11 attacks in New York, the assassination of the Prime Minister in Beirut, the stoking of Muslim riots in France last year, the bombing of the Hassan al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, etc.

Wow. Mossad took out the World Trade Center and the London Underground. Amazing. I bet they even killed Jean Charles Menendes and just blamed it on the Metropolitan Police. I mean, he was a catholic as well wasn’t he?

The post carries on along these lines – even going as far as to say the Mossad Liaison was in charge of US troops at the time of a bombing in Fallujah. The rest of the posts on her site follow this thread. One of the other themes seems to be blaming Jews for American abortions – it all being part of a Jewish plot to kill more and more Americans.

Madness does not do her justice.