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Stardate 10.014

Ascent out of Darkness ~ Armchair Philosophy from the 'Silly Beliefs' Team

Skeptic

Prayers and elected officials
Would you vote for a city councillor or member of parliament if they openly admitted that they needed guidance from their mother in all the matters that they considered in their job? Hopefully you would answer no, insisting that elected public officials should have the qualifications, intelligence, experience and confidence to make decisions on their own and in discussion with their colleagues. After all, we voted for these people because of their claimed abilities, not the abilities of their mothers. If it is truly the mothers of these councillors and MPs that are actually guiding, influencing and effectively dictating every move and decision that they make, then why don't we just ask their mothers what they have decided and cut out the middleman? And save considerable money on salaries, as mothers seem willing to offer guidance for free.

But of course these elected officials are not asking for guidance from their mothers, they are actually asking it from their father, 'Our Father who art in Heaven, Harold be thy name'.

It is truly surprising in this scientific and rational age and in a secular country that the NZ Parliament and seemingly a majority of our city councils still begin their deliberations with a prayer to their god Harold and his bastard son Jesus Christ. Each day that the NZ Parliament sits the Speaker of the House reads the following prayer:

'Almighty God, humbly acknowledging our need for Thy guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech Thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of Thy holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace, and tranquillity of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.'
A few weeks ago our local city council agreed that a prayer to the Christian God would continue to be offered at the commencement of council meetings. And as recently as 2007 MPs voted to retain their Christian prayer. So it is not as if these prayers are anachronisms that are never thought about, their appropriateness has been discussed and considered as still essential for the efficient operation of councils and parliament.

Some people that support these silly prayers claim that they don't take the prayers seriously, that they are merely traditions, and that it is important for the feel of these offices that we should retain these traditions. Bullshit. It was traditional that all women should be at home, barefoot and pregnant, and according to the god they offer their prayer to, traditionally women should remain silent in public. So should all women stand down from public office to maintain tradition? Traditionally their god said all men should be circumcised? Do they check for this tradition at the beginning of each meeting? These people are fooling no one. They want to continue with these prayers because they are superstitious believers in a sky fairy that evidently raped a young girl and then ignored her for thirty years, before returning briefly to kill their bastard son. They are Christians, and it is their prayer and their prayer alone that they want read to their fantasy being. Heads bowed and eyes closed they are begging for help and guidance from the cold and uncaring vacuum of space.

Would these Christians be fighting for the retention of prayers if it were a Muslim or Hindu prayer that was offered? Would they be comfortable sitting through a prayer to Satan? Of course not. They're hypocrites, fighting for Christianity at the expense of our secular democracy.

Our secular government, councils and other public offices should be free of all religious and superstitious nonsense. If Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Satanic worshipers wish to beg their specific fairy to help them do their job, then they can do so privately before the meetings, or silently during the meetings. If god can read their thoughts and desires, why do they have to say prayers out loud and embarrass others? But at the end of the day, we don't want to be represented by MPs or city councillors that secretly let an imaginary voice in their head make their decisions for them. We don't want elected representatives to make environmental decisions based on their belief that the end is nigh, so why bother, or social decisions based on their god's view of sexuality, or scientific and medical decisions based on a primitive book of false knowledge called the Bible. If they seriously believe that the prayer to their god is crucial, then they should clearly reveal this when they run for office, stating that their god will be guiding their decisions if elected. But if they're personally making the decisions, based on the expertise they claimed to have to get elected, then they don't need to beg their god for guidance.

While prayers might have been the norm at the inquisitions and the Salem witchcraft trials, the ignorance that generated them should no longer be part of parliament or council business.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 May, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Brett, 22 May, 2010

    Good point, may I take the issue a little further to include the Treaty of Waitangi.
    Most government departments including hospitals defer to Maori, powhiri and the like, this usually finishes with Ameni or Armen, WTF is that about?
    It's basically christian prayer.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 May, 2010

    We quite agree Brett. Religious nonsense is religious nonsense no matter whether it is Jehovah or Rangi that one makes pleas to. It is disappointing to see our positive if slow progress at ridding ourselves of public supernatural rituals being offset by an increase in superstitious Maori rituals. Decades ago we had Christian ministers and priests blessing new buildings, welcoming visitors and serving on numerous committees. Now they are mostly gone, but unfortunately this vacuum has been filled with religious zeal by their Maori equivalents. Maori now bless new prisons and police stations with silly chants, perform war dances with throat slitting motions at funerals and sporting events, exorcise demons through drowning, placate taniwha and greet important foreign dignitaries such as Mickey Mouse with nothing but a spear, a loin cloth and threatening gestures. We are replacing one primitive superstition with another. Prayers are useless no matter who recites them, Christian, Muslim or Maori, and we shouldn't be integrating Maori superstition into government departments and public ceremonies just because Maori used to believe in this rubbish. Tradition is all well and good, and history is fascinating, but anyone that wants to believe and live as their ancestors did, whether they are European or Maori or Chinese, should realise that the rest of us have embraced the 21st century and what it has to offer. They are quite welcome to live their ancient lifestyle in some remote valley, just don't try and force the rest of us to sit through your silly rituals to your silly gods.

  3. Comment by Keri, 23 May, 2010

    Some Maori rituals are, emphatically, not religious: powhiri are welcome ceremonies, and they're ancient. They have developed over a human necessity to greet guests, acknowledge mana, and remember those who have died since previous meetings. Dont be too sure 'gods' are being invoked (unless there is a christian skew): the missionaries called the recognition of potencies, benign or otherwise (like wind) 'gods' - but that wasnt the old understanding.

    I wont comment on 'blessings' - again, this was a missionary label, and they attached it to things that were life-changes acknowledged by words whether spoken or sung, and what those life-changes meant for the on-going health of people.

    I am an atheist and a Maori (with ancestry from 3 other human groups.) I dont join in *anything* at hui, my tribe's or other peoples', that is christian (or whatever religion) practise: I walk out. Why not do the same? "Amene" is immediately recognised as the jewish/christian "amen" - it is not Maori per se. I think you are confusing cultural practises with religion, and by using words like 'silly' and 'rubbish' showing an awesome (sic) lack of knowledge & understanding.

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 May, 2010

    We agree Keri that some Maori rituals are probably more cultural rather than religious, such as the hongi, and we were wrong to imply that all these rituals were rubbish. We were of course thinking of rituals that do reference ancient religion, myth and superstition. And unfortunately to the majority of us who don't speak Maori, many of the rituals we witness on the TV news do appear to be religious, spiritual and superstitious in nature. Footage of Maori opening new buildings and sports grounds by sprinkling water around like Christian priests, talk of the souls of the dead departing the tip of the North Island for their ancient homeland, of curses that need to be exorcised, of taniwha upsetting road works, of tapu being placed on accident scenes, of carvings depicting mythical events, of pounamu 'imbued with the spiritual force of the tribe' being gifted to China by Ngai Tahu, all these suggest religion. And having a specialist team of Maori who fly around the world and dress up as stone-age natives to perform ancient rituals at the opening of NZ embassies, consulates or trade-fairs smacks of superstition to us. Maybe they're testing internet connections or checking security, but that's not what it looks like. And if a powhiri ends in 'Ameme', which as you say is the same as the 'Amen' at the end of Jewish & Christian prayers (meaning what I have said is the truth), then it is reasonable that the majority of people who don't speak Maori will believe that the powhiri at least contains elements of prayer.

    But let's agree that some Maori rituals are purely cultural and not religious, such as the powhiri and the tradition of women having to sit behind men and not being permitted to speak at public meetings. Should these rituals be encouraged or at least tolerated just because they aren't religious? Muslims defend female genital mutilation by insisting it is cultural rather than religious, which is true. Our post was specifically about Christian prayers intruding into the secular arena, but our broad fight is against any ancient ritual forcing itself onto those that don't believe or wish to partake, be it Christian, Hindu, Maori or black magic. This is not religion verses culture, we are against nonsense and false beliefs, whether they are based on religion, spirituality, superstition, the paranormal, pseudoscience, ancient 'knowledge' or just plain ignorance.

    Any group pushing their rituals onto others, whether these rituals are religious or cultural, and whether they are Christian or Maori, is something we're not a fan of. We have no problem with Catholics saying Mass in Latin in their churches and Muslims praying in Arabic in their mosques, or Maori performing powhiris on their maraes in Maori. Our problem arises when any of these groups start insisting that their prayer or ritual be performed in government departments and at public events. And it seems that rather than removing embarrassing and time wasting prayers in council meetings and parliament we are instead adding Maori ancient rituals, both religious and cultural, to secular public departments and events.

    Of course Maori no doubt find great meaning and comfort in these rituals, and no doubt consider our take on them disrespectful, but then so too do Christians consider their rituals sacred, the very ones that you dismiss by walking out of. And you suggest that if we're uncomfortable with Maori rituals that we walk out also, so are you saying that Maori would not be offended by our departure? We somehow doubt this. And in some government departments protest or non-attendance is simply not permitted. You don't want to be forced to sit through ancient religious rituals, and we don't want to be forced to sit through ancient cultural rituals either, no matter how important they might be to their proponents. It shouldn't be a matter of walking out in protest at public events, we shouldn't be placed in a position where we are forced to participate in the rituals of others. If we visit a church or a mosque or a marae then we knowingly choose to enter a specific place with specific rules and rituals, but public spaces should be ritual free.

    We can see little difference between having to sit through a parliamentary prayer and a powhiri at our local polytechnic. Both are considered important and essential by those that instigated them, and they seemingly have no problem insisting that others endure them. Yet they are only important to those that understand and believe in them. To the rest of us they are inappropriate, a waste of time, often embarrassing, and for some even offensive. To most people a Maori powhiri is symbolic, and as mysterious as a Christian prayer spoken in Latin or a Muslim prayer in Arabic. We can see no difference between a Christian, Muslim or Maori that wishes to begin meetings with a ritual in a language that only they understand, insisting that everyone present wait while they perform a ritual that only they find important.

    Of course in an equal opportunity world every group or individual would get a chance to perform their particular ritual, which would mean that meetings would be 90% ritual and 10% work, and everyone would go away frustrated at how little real work was achieved. The only fair and efficient solution is that no one gets to perform their ancient ritual. Any and all rituals that the various individuals feel are essential would have to be performed prior to the meeting in their own time, and no one would be forced to sit through another group's mysterious ritual in an unfamiliar language. This is not about banning these rituals or belief in them, it is simply about keeping them in their place, letting them be performed by those that believe in them and for whom they have meaning.

    We believe that ancient rituals that belong to Christians or Maori (or Muslims or the Chinese etc) have no place in secular organisations and events, that they should be performed solely within the groups that believe in them, and that others shouldn't be compelled to sit through rituals that they might not understand or accept. Just as we ditched the ridiculous wigs worn by judges and lawyers and overturned the tradition that prevented women, and Maori, from voting, so we should be purging ancient rituals that don't contribute to the efficient running of the organisation and that aren't representative of everyone present. No one religion or culture or race should dominate at the exclusion of others.

  5. Comment by Keri, 26 May, 2010

    A thoughtful & considered response, Silly Beliefs Team - thank you.
    Hongi is not at all religious - other peoples use a nose-to-nose greeting rather than kissing (which some peoples find obscene.) That's just human difference at play.

    What my tribe does in an official sense, I obviously cannot control (the 'force' of the tribe is actually better translated as the 'mana' of the tribe - our standing, our power - monetarily & otherwise-)

    I'm very unsure about this "specialist team of Maori who fly round the world and dress up as stone-age natives to perform ancient rituals" - do you have some evidence? I'd really like to see some good evidence. You see, kaumatua - the ones who can & do chant etc. - almost NEVER dress in a paticular fashion or way: they may have young men performing the wero (this also takes place during a powhiri) or young women who - in a Maori sense - lift tapu (this can be part of opening a new building - or new assembly point -'lifting tapu - especially where carvings are involved, signifies that the carvers are now 'noa' - nothing of the effort they put into the carving can now be anything but part of the carving.)

    All of these NON-RELIGIOUS rituals are harmless (you simply cannot equate something as vicious as female genital mutilation (or male genital mutilation I suggest) with Maori protocols.

    Um, have you ever attended a perfectly usual Pakeha meeting ? If formal, there tends to be a large ritual element, including the format, and the rules of meeting. (And transcription. And distribution of minutes.)

    "No one religion or culture or race

    - I'd add sex as well

    should dominate at the exclusion of others."

    Depends on where - why - and when, doesnt it mate?

  6. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 May, 2010

    Hi Keri, thanks for your reply and insight into Maori protocols. As a Maori these rituals are naturally important to you. You have grown up with them, you understand their meaning and significance, and you know how to respond and participate in these ceremonies. In exactly the same way a Catholic or Muslim understands their rituals and knows how to respond. But whether you are Catholic or Muslim, Maori or Pakeha, people need to realise that what is important and second nature to them might be completely foreign and unknown to those outside their group. We should not expect others to understand our beliefs and rituals or assume that they wish to participate in them. If through ignorance or naivety outsiders offend us then we should not take offence or retaliate, but politely point out that we view things differently. We all have the right to maintain and follow those beliefs and rituals that we deem important, but we have no right to insist that others must join us. In our view it is impossible to include the rituals of one group into public events and ceremonies without unfairly excluding many others, therefore no special interest group should be represented. Rather than try and accommodate other groups and their beliefs in existing events like meetings, we should purge these events of unnecessary rituals that favour a certain group, eg Christians, and make them entirely secular, retaining only those practices that contribute to the efficiently of the event. Everyone is still entitled to follow his or her personal beliefs and rituals. Christians can still say a silent prayer, Maori can hongi, Muslims can use only their right hand to eat with, Jews can avoid the pork, Hindus can shun the beef and atheists can just dig right in to the buffet, unhindered by prayer, food choices or which hand to use.

    When I mentioned a "specialist team of Maori who fly round the world and dress up as stone-age natives to perform ancient rituals", again I am relying on what the news media have told us. We have been shown on several occasions Maori performing their traditional challenge and other rituals at the opening of overseas embassies etc. We were told that these ceremonies were paid for by the taxpayer, and by 'specialist' we mean that this trained and experienced group was performing a service that evidently could not be provided by the embassy staff or government officials. By saying that they 'dress up as stone-age natives' simply means that they remove their 21st century clothes and accessories and replace them with a flax skirt and spear or club. They dress as they did when they lived a stone-age existence, not as they now do.

    Our example of female genital mutilation was simply to show that cultural rituals could be just as silly, or in this case harmful, as religious rituals. Just because a ritual is non-religious doesn't mean it is inherently harmless. For example, we view the Maori ritual of challenging outsiders, no doubt cultural rather than religious, with an armed 'warrior' as a dangerous attitude to instil into young Maori. Take the example of a year or so ago when a challenging 'warrior' at a public ceremony head-butted a tourist because he felt the tourist wasn't giving the ritual the respect it deserved. And of course you're right, male genital mutilation is just as abhorrent as female genital mutilation, although nowhere near as damaging. Both forms whether viewed as religious or cultural need to be abandoned.

    And we also agree that many non-Maori events such as meetings have ritual elements. The article that mentioned our local council wanting to kept the prayer also wanted to retain the Mayor's robe, chains and silly hat. Years ago people had to stand in the movies while 'God Save the Queen' played. No doubt people would say it's a good thing that we're not in charge as we would get rid of a lot of outdated, time wasting rituals from all manner of public offices, departments and events. It would be a time of great cleansing.

  7. Comment by Keri, 28 May, 2010

    Cheers John — I'd never promote rituals over knowledge — except when it comes into that area where living people are sustained by certain rituals... I do not *believe* in the rituals: I do acknowledge the support they give to believers.
    Other than that, science rules OK!

  8. Comment by pkiwi, 28 May, 2010

    I recently was shocked to find that at a secondary State school there were prayers. And I thought we were secular, but apparently not. State secondary schools can be religious although they are supposed to have some sort of policy. This school doesnít. I donít know what they do if the next Principal is any other religion or not religious. Or if he starts to teach that eating shellfish is an abomination. The Human Rights Commission actually has some good guidance for schools (including touching on the cross-over points between cultural and religious in terms of things Maori). So rather than a few mumblings at adults in political forum where a lot of bullshit talk follows the prayers anyway, more concerning to me is the promotion of magic as reality to kids.

    Also on the cultural/religious cross-over I still canít get why Maori and PIís are at the forefront of religious observance when it was an explicit policy and part of colonisation.

    ďWhen the white man came we had the land and they had the bible in their hands and they told us to close our eyes to pray. When we opened our eyes, we had the bible, and they had the landĒ.

  9. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 May, 2010

    Yes, we've also been shocked to discover that our schools are not always as free of religion as we are usually led to believe. The trouble is, in our view, as long as schools are pushing 'their version' of religion, then principals, boards of trustees, parents, government officials etc are happy to let this vague situation continue. If, as you say, someone of a different religion were to gain some influence and express their beliefs, then suddenly all the parents would be demanding that their school was totally secular and religion free.

    We'd like to see classes in schools that teach critical thinking, that look at pseudoscience, the paranormal and conspiracy theories etc, and comparative religion classes, but not just classes that politely say this is what Christians believe, and this is what Muslims and Hindus believe, but classes that critically examine their beliefs for validity. Unfortunately, as long as people with religious beliefs of some description remain in authority, then this is unlikely to happen, as they know that any critical examination that exposed and debunked other religions would certainly do the same with theirs.

  10. Comment by Brett, 03 Jun, 2010

    Thank you folks for your views, its certainly helpful to clarify.
    As a public servant there is always the dilemma of respecting taonga of cultural practices as in Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi vs giving way into superstitious rituals as in the Bill of Rights. For example If I'm a public servant attending a powhiri for a new staff member, I can't be ducking in and out excusing myself from prayer but accepting the hongi.
    At what point do do we say enough is enough, where is the line between taonga or cultural practices and superstitious stone-age or christian rituals?

    (on a side note I see the spell checker on my gmail account only spells christian with a capital C, hmmmm??)

  11. Comment by Anonymous, 03 Jun, 2010

    I had another thought today reading this article in the NZ Herald regarding a whale carcass washed up on the beach, the upshot being scientific study being put aside to assuage traditional spiritual belief. This action has been agreed to by DOC. A clear case of science being trumped by superstition don't you think?

    Whale-rider link stops orca autopsy

    "An orca that washed up dead on Whakatane's Piripai Spit has been buried whole in a nearby Maori cemetery despite researchers wanting to perform an autopsy on the two-tonne whale.

    The 18- to 20-year-old male orca was discovered by people from the Whakatane suburb of Coastlands on Monday. Department of Conservation official Mike Jones said the mammal was 5.9m long. "We believe it was one of a pod of four seen by Coastlands and Ohope residents during the weekend," he said. "However, unless someone has some close-up photos, we cannot be sure of that." Orca researcher Ingrid Visser came to Whakatane hoping to be able to perform an autopsy on the orca. Local iwi initially agreed to the autopsy.

    "On Monday we consulted Ngati Awa as we are tasked to do and they agreed an autopsy could take place," Mr Jones said. He understood an autopsy meant an examination of the orca's stomach contents, a CT scan of its head and testing of blood samples, among other things. On Monday night the four marae and hapu of the area met and discussed the orca. "I believe two of the marae were happy for an autopsy to happen but the rest were not," Mr Jones said.

    Ngati Awa cultural adviser Pouroto Ngaropo said sea creatures were spiritual guardians of the people of the land. "This whale is a message that has been sent to us," Mr Ngaropo said. "The last orca whale to come ashore we [Ngati Awa] know of was when Te Tahi-o-terangi rode a whale from Whakaari [Whale Island] to the mouth of the Whakatane River." Te Tahi-o-te-rangi was a famous whale rider who, according to local legend, rode a whale-shaped taniwha called Tutarakauika to the mainland. "Because of the whale's connection to the people of the land, it must be buried with its ancestors in the sacred urupa Opihi," Mr Ngaropo said.

    Locals remained with the whale throughout Monday and Tuesday until Mr Ngaropo performed a karakia (blessing) before it was buried at Opihi. Ms Visser was given permission to take a sample of blood and a small piece of the fin for research purposes."

  12. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Jun, 2010

    Exactly! What group of morons wrote into legislation the rule that a certain group can choose to let superstition trump science? And if they decide to play that card, science and the advancement of knowledge loses out to primitive spiritual beliefs, and not just for that group but for everyone. There is no sound, rational, adult reason why an autopsy couldn't be performed on that orca. It's dead, and no further harm can become it. Marine scientists have great respect for these mammals and only wish to further their understanding of them. They are not going to act inappropriately, sell off body parts for profit or turn them into jewellery or a nice wall hanging. Only a primitive superstitious belief in animals possessing spirits could cause some Maori to place this animal off-limits to science. And there is also no good reason why Maori should have this control over what happens to certain animals that have the misfortune of dying on our shores. Whales no more belong to Maori than do the fish in our fish and chips. Whales are not the recognised personal pets of Maori. Even though the Ngati Awa cultural adviser said that 'sea creatures were spiritual guardians of the people of the land', Maori actually have a great affinity for fishing, that is, killing and eating sea creatures. That evidently includes whales if we recall the myth of Maui.

    If Maori are so concerned for the wellbeing of whales, don't they realise that scientific research and autopsies could possibly determine ways of reducing whale deaths? The Maori cultural adviser said that, 'This whale is a message that has been sent to us'. But what was that message that the whale spirits were trying to get across? Help us? Who knows, since the whale was promptly buried without any questions being asked or answers obtained. Maori deleted the message and elected to remain in stone-age ignorance.

    Also Maori are usually perfectly happy to scavenge a whale carcass for things that they can use, such as bone and teeth for carving their artwork and jewellery, and actually insist on this right, a right they deny to everyone else (which seems nothing more than corning the market). These whales don't evidently have to be buried intact. The ancient Egyptians and many other cultures buried the dead with things to assist them in the afterlife, and yet Maori send these whales off to their afterlife minus their teeth and bones. And many Maori evidently have a thing against organ donation, insisting that their own body must be complete prior to the journey to the spiritual world. Why doesn't this apply to whales? Are a few whales in whale heaven forced to suffer for all eternity because of the way Maori robbed and desecrated their body parts after they died for the sake of their bone necklaces?

    And this is not just a NZ problem, there are far too many examples worldwide of science being denied the opportunity to examine bones, bodies and sites, ancient or modern, and investigate new scientific and medical procedures simply because some group is still living with a primitive mindset, more often than not worried about annoying some soul or spirit or offending some god.

    We offend certain Christians when we perform blood transfusions or even consult doctors, we offend Muslims when we eat pork and wear bikinis, Hindus when we eat beef, Creationists when we teach evolution, Japanese when we don't take our shoes off, Arabs when we inquire if their family is well and psychics when we laugh at their delusion. So what should we do? Change our behaviour so that we don't offend, even unintentionally? No, of course not. We don't close down our hospitals, stop eating beef and pork, burn our bikinis, outlaw the teaching of evolution or stop giggling at psychics just because some people are offended. Even if we tried to placate one religion or culture we would automatically offend and anger another that held polar beliefs and customs. People have to realise that in the modern world no culture or religion lives in isolation, and if people wish to be free, then they can't force or even expect others to follow their beliefs and cultural norms. This would remove freedom for everyone but the powerful, for those in control of society. Maori forcing Pakeha to leave dead whales alone, because whales are spiritually important to them, is no different to the English forcing Maori to speak English, because English was important to them. We have laws that say people are free to believe what they wish, but we continually get groups that want everybody to believe what they believe (or at least conform), from radical Muslims wanting us killed for blasphemy and radical Christians wanting the teaching of evolution banned, to radical Maori wanting (and getting) scientists to turn a blind eye to whale research.

    People need to stop forcing their beliefs onto others. By all means follow your own beliefs as long as they harm no others, and tell others of your beliefs if you wish, whether it is religion or science, taniwha or genetic engineering, but stop saying that you must believe as I believe and act as I act. And stop insisting that the authorities must help you keep those inquisitive scientists away while you bury that whale. Maori are rightly upset at past injustices, when they were often forced to follow European culture and belief, now it seems that their revenge is to get everyone to follow their culture and belief. Have we learnt nothing?

  13. Comment by Mike, 24 Jan, 2011

    i'm a councillor on the city council here and have been pushing the charter of making decisions based on facts and evidence. i took particular note of your article on prayer in parliament, as we have a Lord Mayor who insists on retaining a prayer as part of opening each meeting. He has been on the council for 30 years and Lord Mayor for 11 years, and the prayer is read at the opening of each meeting (weekly). I calculate he's read this prayer over 500 times, but when we debated the issue i asked him to recite it without consulting the card he reads it from. He came up empty. How much meaning does this little ritual actually have when he is oblivious to the actual words he's reading.

    i really enjoy your website. Cheers for keeping me entertained (and a little bit outraged at the level of gullibility in the world)

  14. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Jan, 2011

    Touche with your challenge to the Lord Mayor Mike. You would think the prayer would be like one of those annoying tunes that you can't get out of your head. Apparently he was reading it on autopilot while thinking of what groceries he was supposed to buy on the way home. It's obviously a time wasting primitive ritual that most everyone ignores and can be eliminated.

  15. Comment by Mike, 25 Oct, 2012

    G'day John, relevant to the prayer in parliament string, here's a newspaper article from the local rag [Newcastle Herald] yesterday. That's right, yesterday. Not 1935, but 2012.

    Port councillors seek divine guidance

    Some of the readers' comments on it are interesting.

  16. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Oct, 2012

    It's depressing isn't Mike, when we read that 'Jesus will be called to help Port Stephens councillors at their meetings for the next few years.' Rather than 2012, or even 1935, this superstitious nonsense wouldn't be out of place in 1012 CE. Some people don't deserve the positions of authority that they hold, since they obviously have little confidence in their own abilities, forever begging for help. And too stupid to realise that even though they continually call Jesus for help, he never actually turns up for their meetings, or even emails an apology.

  17. Comment by Rich, 16 Dec, 2012

    Why should you care if people choose to love and revere The Creator GOD? Don't they have the right to believe in GOD? I'll grant you that a lot of bad things have been done by people who claimed to be Christians. However, I think you'll find that these peoples' faith only went as far as what they heard; they would find no support for their actions in GOD's Book, The Bible, if read prayerfully and in context.
    You would think yourself 'ill-used', to quote Ebenezer Scrooge, if people refused to grant you the right NOT to believe in something and publicly ridiculed you for being so 'silly' to ignore the evidence for a Creator GOD. I'm sure you can find better things to blog about. I happened on this site by accident but I won't make that mistake again. Just so you know, Jesus Christ died for you so that you could experience eternal life with Him, even though you obviously don't believe in Him. The gift is free. Try reading the Bible for yourself instead of listening to hearsay about it. A good place to start would be the New Testament. Jesus Christ and His Dad are good friends of mine and I happen to know that They have big shoulders along with big Hearts, so, ridicule away!

    Good luck with your arguments when you stand before The Supreme Creator of the universe to give an answer for your 'silly beliefs'.

  18. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Dec, 2012

    Hi Rich. To use your argument, why should you care if people choose to laugh at the notion of a creator god? Don't we have the right to disbelieve in gods?

    But of course you have the right to believe whatever you wish, as do we, but no one has the right to force their beliefs onto others. As we said in our post, 'Our secular government, councils and other public offices should be free of all religious and superstitious nonsense. If Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Satanic worshipers wish to beg their specific fairy to help them do their job, then they can do so privately... If god can read their thoughts and desires, why do they have to say prayers out loud and embarrass others?'

    You're right that a lot of bad things have been done by people who claimed to be Christians, and it doesn't stop. Take the good Christian who this week took his guns and slaughtered 20 young children and 7 adults in Newtown, Connecticut. And your god did nothing to stop him. Nothing. And don't give us this crap that Christians who don't behave the way YOU think they should aren't really Christians at all. Your Bible, if followed as your God intended, commands Christians to commit untold atrocities, to kill homosexuals, witches, disobedient children and even atheists like ourselves. It's only because modern Christians wilfully disobey their God that we don't still see people being burned at the stake. Christians today must reject much of what's in their Bible to lead what is now considered a moral life and to avoid getting arrested.

    You say that we would think ourselves 'ill-used... if people refused to grant you the right NOT to believe in something and publicly ridiculed you for being so 'silly' to ignore the evidence for a Creator GOD'. Did you know that according to the 'Freedom of Thought 2012' report that 'there are laws that deny atheists' right to exist, curtail their freedom of belief and expression, revoke their right to citizenship, restrict their right to marry'. Evidently 'In at least seven U.S. states, constitutional provisions are in place that bar atheists from public office and one state, Arkansas, has a law that bars an atheist from testifying as a witness at a trial'. You try to pretend that atheists have barred your right to believe, when this is patently false, and it is atheists that are persecuted and their views banned in many countries.

    You go on to say that 'Jesus Christ died for you so that you could experience eternal life with Him'. I am not homosexual. I don't what to spend eternity in the arms of a man, looking lovingly into his eyes and singing his praises. What you want is your business, but don't assume that everyone has your desires.

    As for your suggestion that I 'Try reading the Bible for yourself instead of listening to hearsay about it', I have read much of the Bible, and this is one of the main reasons I recognise it as primitive, ignorant, superstitious and barbaric nonsense. You say that 'A good place to start would be the New Testament'. Why start at the New Testament, are you embarrassed with what's in the Old Testament? Of course you are, everyone is.

    You falsely claim that 'Jesus Christ and His Dad are good friends of mine'. Rubbish! Have you ever met these good friends of yours? No. Have they ever called or even sent you an email? No. You call people that have ignored you your entire life good friends? Obviously you don't understand friendship. This claim of yours is as deluded as me claiming that characters from Lord of the Rings and Thor, the God of Thunder, are all good friends of mine. Only in your fantasies are you, God and Jesus going out for coffees.

    And you Christians keep insisting that there is only one god to worship, and yet you appear to worship his son more, even suggesting that I ignore God's testament and just read the one about Jesus. You imply that what Jesus the son says overrides what God the father said. Just who is in charge in your religion?

    You also mention us eventually standing 'before The Supreme Creator of the universe to give an answer for your 'silly beliefs''. Firstly, how can he be the 'supreme' creator, this would mean that were other creators doing minor work in the universe. Jesus perhaps, or Zeus or Ra? And why is this creator of yours prepared to wait if my believing in him is so important? Why can't he put down his coffee and send me a sign, or even a text message? Why can't he be bothered, as scientists can, to go out of his way to explain what makes the universe tick?

    My answer to your god as to why I hold the beliefs I do, would be that he had designed the universe to make it appear that he didn't exist, augmented by the gifts of logic and science. Why for example, did he carefully plant dinosaur fossils separate from human fossils? If an all-powerful god has set out to fool me, how could I be anything but an atheist?

    And we hate the way you Christians always exhibit such glee at the thought of us atheists being dragged screaming before your god, to undergo an interrogation that would make those carried out by the Gestapo seem like a pleasant walk in the park. And then it's off for an eternity of torture on his command. How can you guys slavishly worship a being that would deliberately hide his works from us, and then barbarically punish us for not being more intelligent than him? If your god made everything, then he made us atheists, he made us blind to his existent. He made us to be tortured for your enjoyment and his. And you call him a loving god? Frankly you disgust us with your willingness to see your god torture the innocent... over and over and over again.

    You finish by wishing us good luck with our arguments. Unlike you, our arguments don't depend on luck, we have reason and evidence to support them. They may be wrong if your god is manipulating reality, but otherwise they make good sense. What's your excuse for ignoring the evidence? Blind faith and wishful thinking?

God & the All Power Seminar
Colourful ads and a couple of articles in our local freebie weekly newspaper have recently encouraged readers to: All Power
Master Your Life in One Weekend.

Find physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and financial success in a principle based motivation seminar.

$50 for the full weekend (usually US$245)

These seminars are called All Power Seminars, and are organised and run by American Leo Schreven, whom we are told is an international speaker, extreme sportsman and successful entrepreneur.

The fact that he can travel from the US, where he can cheaply drive to his next seminar and yet still needs to charge NZ$343, and then fly all the way to NZ and still reduce his fee to a measly $50 is a typical sales ploy used by scammers. But stupid people can seldom pass up an apparent bargain, no matter what it is.

We are always a little suspicious when people include the word 'spiritual' in their blub and wonder what exactly they mean. Often they mean religious, usually Christian, and are nothing more than sneaky evangelists in sheep's clothing. Going to their advertised website we only found two minor references to religion, but they clearly hint that the slimy tentacles of Christianity will tap you on the shoulder if you choose to waste your $50 on Schreven's seminar. The comments were:

Spiritually — 93% of the most wealthy and successful people in the world also believe in God. Find out why this is so important to success.

You'll learn how successful people make empowering decisions, create wealth, protect their health, and why most of them are Christians.

The website also claims that 'You will learn how to... develop a dynamic spiritual life with unlimited power'. But of course this means nothing until you are told on the seminar that this 'unlimited power' no doubt means your new relationship with God and his son Jesus, whom he had killed over a dispute with a desert tribe in the Middle East, ages ago.

Can we be sure that Leo Schreven and his All Power Seminars are just a front for Christian evangelism? Yes, because Schreven runs his All Power Seminars from his main business called All Power Ministry. From his All Power Ministry website we are told the following:

Leo Schreven... is a passionate bible-based motivational speaker... His passion is reaching the secular professional community for Christ with the positive principles of the Bible.

The All Power story began many years ago when I began to teach Life Mastery skills and motivational speaking. Thousands of people encouraged me to use these skills to create a seminar that could reach secular, professional people with a positive Bible-based approach.

What exactly is All Power?
All Power is 20 seminars that teach Life Mastery skills based on the Bible. Each dynamic seminar lasts approximately 35-40 minutes and gives people the skills necessary to master a strategic area of their emotional, physical, mental, financial or spiritual life. The seminar is usually done over a long weekend.

What exactly is the ultimate goal of All Power?
Our goal is to provide an evangelistic tool that churches and businesses can use to reach secular non-churched people in a positive way. All Power is designed to impact secular society with a positive introduction to the Bible, its principles, and the difference that God can make in their lives... Many of the people that attend want to... start attending church.

We also learn that:
Leo was born into a Catholic home and... His journey eventually led him to become a member of the Adventist church where he became an ordained minister. He soon became one of the most successful evangelists and popular TV personalities in the church... However in 1998 Leo began to feel a calling that was much broader than serving in one particular denomination. He felt called to serve the entire body of Christ, recognizing God has his people in all denominations. Thus in 1998 Leo... began the All Power Ministry.

The All Power seminar does not teach any doctrine or have any denominational bias. Leo simply teaches the biblical principles of life mastery skills... The seminar uses biblical principles and verses that attract people from all walks of life. Leo's passion is to show people the relevance of the Bible, and how belief in God and the principles of the bible can make a dramatic difference in their life and success.

We also discovered that there are two All Power Seminar websites, one for secular NZers and one that religious Americans probably get pointed to. The NZ one has no obvious religion, whereas the American site begins with, 'Are you ready to start living the abundant life God has planned for you?'

So there is no doubt that Leo Schreven is one of those annoying people that knock on your doors on the weekend and stand shouting nonsense on street corners, an evangelising Christian. Schreven and his All Power Ministry actually run two different seminars, the short All Power Motivational Seminar, which is Level 1, and the much longer Advanced Spiritual Life Seminar which is Level 2. The first is disguised as secular and is designed to suck in new recruits to the cult of Christianity, and the second is an open, unabashed Christian love-in designed for churches. There is no suspicion that Schreven is running a double life, teaching life mastery skills based on the Bible and frequently on his knees begging to God while running his All Power Ministry, and also teaching life mastery skills based on secular philosophy and denying or at least ignoring God while running his All Power Seminar. Schreven is a God-fearing Christian that has embarked on a scheme to recruit the poorly educated and disadvantaged to God's celestial choir, utilising a subterfuge that Satan himself would no doubt begrudgingly approve of. And like most scams, Schreven most likely is not adverse to fame and riches.

The comments and claims that Schreven makes on his All Power Seminar website and brochures and on his All Power Ministry website are essentially the same, except that Schreven has cunningly and deceptively edited out overt references to God and the Bible in the All Power Seminar info.

On his Ministry website Schreven 'is a passionate bible-based motivational speaker', yet on the Seminar one he is simply 'an international speaker'. That he will 'teach Life Mastery skills based on the Bible' is changed to 'one of the most exciting teachers of life mastery'. The statement, 'His teachings in the All Power Seminar are based on solid Biblical wisdom and principles', is edited to read, 'His teachings in the All Power Seminar are based on solid principles'. The claim that, 'Leo's passion is to show people the relevance of the Bible, and how belief in God and the principles of the bible can make a dramatic difference in their life and success', morphs into, 'The All Power Seminar is a dynamic program for personal growth, success and achievement'. The admission that 'All Power is designed to impact secular society with a positive introduction to the Bible, its principles, and the difference that God can make in their lives', is disguised as, 'All Power Seminars will take you on an exciting life-changing adventure'.

Schreven promotes his All Power Seminars in a secular manner, with no mention of the Bible and only a passing reference to spirituality and God. The fact that he hides his real intentions and the source of his 'teaching' is one indication of a scam. The fact that he will then try and push a delusion onto his seminar attendees is another. A frank admission of his evangelism would alert and repel many potential clients, so Schreven lies. Only when they've paid their money and fronted for the seminar do people learn that they have been conned, and that the seminar is really a sermon.

Of course people could argue that the seminar also covers aspects of your life other than spirituality. On Schreven's All Power Seminars website, we are told how the seminar will benefit us:

Financially — 95% of people will retire dead broke. We will teach you how to create and maintain wealth.
Physically — Seven diseases kill 3 out of 4 people. We will show you how to avoid becoming a negative health statistic.
Spiritually — 93% of the most wealthy and successful people in the world also believe in God. Find out why this is so important to success.
Mentally — Stress, taxes, bills, emails, cell phone and TV are taking a toll on our mental health. Learn how to live a more balanced life.
Emotionally — 1 out of 8 adults is on an anti-depressant drug. Start enjoying consistent positive emotions and relationships.
Frankly we can find issues with all the above claims, and we suspect, as Schreven claims above, that every one of these aspects in your life will be tied back to 'solid Biblical wisdom and principles'. Religion will be detected in the discussion of every topic like an out-of-control cancer.

No doubt some people that attend these seminars won't be annoyed to discover that they're pushing Christianity, because they already believe in that particular fantasy. But I'm sure atheists, agnostics and followers of other religions that might attend will be extremely annoyed that Schreven keeps trying to ram his God down their throat at every turn. In a perfect world, people like Schreven would be upfront and honest as to their real motives and reveal exactly what their beliefs are and how they might affect what they're trying to sell us. I guess it's a positive sign of the times that Christians feel they have to lie to us to get us to willingly attend one of their promotions. Gone are the days when they could openly advertise their faith in their dead carpenter and expect us to freely walk through their doors. Now they need to pretend they're as secular, scientific and as rational as the next guy, and only when they've got us trapped at a corner table can they reveal how they really feel. They're like a paedophile trying to get a job at the local kindergarten and hiding the real reason they want to be around children.

Our advice? If you want to spend a weekend discussing magical, impossible events and fantastic beings that don't really exist with like-minded folk, we would suggest you attend a science-fiction / comic book / fantasy convention rather than forking out good money for one of Schreven's All Power Seminars.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 May, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Anonymous, 08 Feb, 2011

    I read your blog on the All Power seminars in NZ with Leo Schreven. Very insightful. He may hide behind secular motivation and success jargon publicly, and claim to be non-denominational, but he is an unashamed promoter of the fundamentalist branch of Seventh day Adventism. On one web promo he claims to have helped over 4000 teens to become millionaires in 3 years or less without any verifying details. He's also raising $3 million dollars to put a corny ad on next years USA Superbowl that he declares his research has shown will result in a conservative estimate of 3.1 million baptisms into the Seventh day Adventist church. Check out the interview and comments with him on one of the less conservative SDA magazine websites in USA. He may be parroting some good ideas in his seminars, borrowed from secular business and personal development, but he's a bit of a scheming fruitcake!

    Seventh day Adventists are often big on not declaring who is behind their public programs - some aspects of which have value - eg. in some health seminars. However they don't do them altruistically. They are designed to move people from one program to another with more overt religious content in each. They use terms like "friendship evangelism" which means using friendship as bait to hook people in. Their religious programs don't look at various points of view and utilise good thinking habits. They simply selectively choose whatever will back up their predetermined oonclusions and "logically" make them sound unquestionably true and sound. They will be warm and friendly, accepting and outwardly non-judging to "outsiders" (they often talk about everyone else as "non-Adventists" - imagine Anglicans calling everyone else when they refer to them as "non-Anglicans" or Rotary members always referring to everyone else as "non-Rotarians"). But watch what happens once someone joins. The behavioural and doctrinal judgments and behavioural and thought control kicks in really fast and woe unto anyone who doesn't fit within what is acceptable.

    I know all this well having been born and bred, then having worked for some time, in the SDA church and religion. As I awakened to what was really going on integrity demanded that I free myself from what was damaging and unhealthy. Ironically, SDAs talk often about Truth and "having the Truth" (as in no one else has it like they do), and "sharing the Truth" - yet they aren't intellectually honest and do things deceitfully in order to get people to listen to what they believe is The Truth.

    A new SDA church started in Christchurch a couple of years ago as a result of Leo Schreven's All Power seminar and there have been other seminars in New Zealand and Australia since then. He was the pin-up boy flavour of the year (or two) for a while as a result - and perhaps still is. He's a guru to some.

    You'll find other links to him in this article and comments:

    http://www.spectrummagazine.org/article/interviews/2011/02/06/leo-schreven-taking-sabbath-super-bowl/#comment-79504

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Feb, 2011

    Thanks for the 'inside' information on Leo and the Adventists. We agree, he is a scheming fruitcake, drawing people in under false pretenses.

The NZ Cult List
While looking for some information on a particular group recently, Google pointed me to the website of The NZ Cult List. They listed the group but simply said: "Not Yet Rated". The NZ Cult List applies a rating system to most of its list entries, from "Danger", "False Religion" and "Caution" to "Neutral" and "OK". However, while there I couldn't help but notice the very first entry in their cult list:
Abortion. "Danger". "Very Hot Topic". "Very Hot Topic". There is probably no greater danger to New Zealanders than abortion...
Say what? 'No greater danger to New Zealanders'? You're joking surely? None of us here can say that we've ever felt threatened by abortion, just the opposite. Scrolling down on the same page I also noticed this entry:
Atheism. "False Religion". Yes, atheism can be considered a religion, since the belief that there is no God is a religious view that actually takes greater faith than the belief that God does exist...
Here we have The NZ Cult List warning New Zealanders that atheism is a religion, that it's false, and that Kiwis should have nothing to do with atheism, and by implication, atheists. The website states that although 'A false religion is not necessarily a cult... Note that false religions should still be avoided.' We've already explained elsewhere why the silly claims that atheism is a religion and that atheism requires faith are bogus, so this cult list entry is false and misleading. It is a false claim that is no different from the false claims made by the very cults this list is trying to warn us against.

Even thought this talk of faith is bogus, let's assume for the moment that faith was important. Religious people talk about others who have little faith and those who have great faith, and yet here the entry admits that atheists have greater faith than do Christians, and yet they condemn atheists for this great faith. If faith truly counts for anything, and Christians and the Bible insist it is everything, then by their own logic atheists must be the ones we should listen to.

For those unaware of The NZ Cult List website, it was started in 1999 by Ian Mander as 'a list of cults operating in New Zealand' and its stated intention is to 'help people sort out the good from the bad'. We have seen Ian Mander on TV and have on occasion consulted his list to view his take on various obscure groups that people and the media mention, but hadn't previously noticed the religious bias. Although to be fair, they do now say on their homepage that, 'The list will be of most use to Christians in New Zealand, as the list entries have been written from a Christian perspective... '. They state that 'Ultimately a cult is not a healthy environment to be in... cults damage people... Even worse, cults screw up people's relationships with Jesus Christ.'

This religious bias highlights a problem that we have seen time and time again with cults and religion in general. As we noted in our own article on cults, 'Carl Sagan has said that to the general public the usual meaning of the word 'cult' is a religion that the speaker dislikes. And we would agree. It's often used as an insult, a derogatory title aimed at those religious beliefs you oppose.' We contend that all religions, big or small, can be called cults, and since those that are behind The NZ Cult List are pushing belief in Jesus Christ, a false religion, then they should list themselves as a cult on their own list. Every page of their website should feature a large flashing "Caution" sign, since some entries in our view are quite true, while others are debatable and others quite false. It would seem that the omission of their own religion as a cult is quite deliberate. The world's major religions of Judaism, Islam and Hinduism all have an entry, Christianity does not. And of course they are all labelled "False Religion". The NZ Cult List is not trying to rid the country of silly and/or harmful cults, they merely want to attract you to theirs, since of those few that leave a mainstream religion or a small-time cult after realising that they have been lied to or abused or in some way taken advantage of, only a minority throw off the shackles of religion. Very few seem to shun religion on escaping a mainstream church or a cult. They merely seek out another to replace it. The NZ Cult List wants you to pick their specific Jesus cult. The NZ Cult List is a not an objective list of groups to be avoided at all costs. It is a list of all the cults, religions, beliefs and ideologies that a very specific version of Christianity disagrees with.

We aren't told what Christian denomination inspires and drives the cult website, but a casual glance through the list indicates that it is definitely not Catholic, Destiny Church, Exclusive Brethren, Christadelphians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Spiritualists or Christian Science for example, all of which except Catholics get a "Danger" rating. Catholics aren't rated seemingly because 'we normally consider it inappropriate to rate... particular practices of world religions'. We would note that all those religions, eg Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, are part of Christianity, a world religion, and they are seemingly happy to rate them. The fact that the Catholic Church gets an entry, but not a rating, but Protestant, Presbyterian, Methodist, Pentecostal, Adventist, Baptist, Apostolic, Lutheran churches etc don't even get mentioned demonstrates a bias. Their absence implies that they are perfectly acceptable groups to belong to.

I'm surprised that 'Science' hasn't got an entry with a "Caution" flag next to it, although in a sense it has. I looked up Evolution and only found the following entry: 'Evolution vs Creation. For information about this topic see the site "Creation on the Web".' Website readers are referred to a Creationist website that is anti-evolution and that promotes a young Earth, Noah's Ark and all that fundamentalist sort of nonsense. 'Creation vs Evolution' has an identical entry. Their entry for Christian astronomer Hugh Ross gets a "Caution" since he 'believes in an old universe' and has an 'apparent greater faith in the secular astronomical establishment than in the Bible. Hugh Ross does not see any discrepancies between the order of events in Genesis 1 and the order defined by evolution.' The Cult website doesn't directly rubbish evolution or promote creationism, but based on their reference to two creationist websites and comments on Ross then obviously those that composed The NZ Cult List are creationists.

Some other entries on their list are sort of correct, but also bogus, again because the writers are Christians. For example, are psychics and mediums real? According to the list they are. The entry for psychic states: 'Psychic. "Danger". A person with an occult ability to tell the future.' Psychics are described as people with real abilities, not as scammers, because the Bible says that people with these abilities do exist. What the Bible demands is that you must have nothing to do with them. Actually it says you should kill them. Because the list's writers believe in the occult, we even have an entry for Harry Potter, which they give a "Caution", stating that the books and movies 'promote a pro-occult worldview and encourage children to play with the occult'. They don't say, or even realise, that these things don't exist or don't work. They merely say that dabbling in the occult is dangerous.

Even the entry on Catholics is notable in that the information relates solely to Jesus and the Bible, and nothing about real world dangers: "Roman Catholic Church... The church does some good in the community... especially relating to the very important issue of abortion, but theologically it has several very major problems... ". So the reasons that people should avoid the Catholic Church relate solely to matters of theology, nothing else is mentioned or even hinted at. No mention that your young children run the high risk of being sodomized or raped by horny priests, that your hard earned dollars will be siphoned off to support an extravagant hierarchy, or that this secretive hierarchy has been convicted of conspiring against the laws of the land to hide their immoral activities. No mention that their leader the Pope is a perfect example of a cult leader.

We at Silly Beliefs applaud the considerable effort that has been put into The NZ Cult List and probably agree with the majority of its entries, in that these groups and beliefs are harmful and should be avoided, but we often agree for different reasons. For example, the list advises us to avoid crystal healing and Reiki practitioners, chiropractors, psychics, astrologer weather predictor Ken Ring and Christian astronomer Hugh Ross. And they are correct, these people talk crap and are a waste of money, but the list condemns them because of how they relate to Jesus Christ, not because they are bogus. And of course we totally disagree on their take on atheism, evolution and abortion.

Thus it seems that The NZ Cult List is run by a cult who wants to attract you to their cult by warning you off numerous others. We're not sure what their exact cult is called, except that it's broad name is Christianity and it appears to be creationist and fundamentalist. They push you towards Christianity, and you then use their list to see if the Christian denomination you're interested in is on their list. If it is and is given a negative rating, then you need to keep looking for the correct Christian group. Rather than just being up front and naming the right Christian group, it seems the list is a process of elimination.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 May, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Tony, 09 May, 2010

    Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    Great blog as usual.

Do bare boobs cause earthquakes?
Last week we read an article that followed up a prediction by the Iranian President who said that an earthquake is to strike the capital Teheran and that many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate. Then at Friday prayers Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, a senior Iranian cleric, took it upon himself to enlighten his fellow Muslims and the world as to what actually causes earthquakes. Put simply, women exposing their flesh causes earthquakes.

The Islamic cleric said:

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes."
"What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes."
We were told in another article that 'Correspondents say many young Iranians sometimes push the boundaries of how they can dress, showing hair under their headscarves or wearing tight-fitting clothes.'

This silly proclamation by an ignorant religious fundamentalist would normally have been a minor piece in a few newspapers published solely to give the likes of ourselves a quick giggle of disbelief and then it would have quickly faded to be replaced by a more important story about a duck.

Jen McCreight However, US blogger Jen McCreight who describes herself as 'a liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted atheist feminist trapped in Indiana', also saw the piece and wrote a blog entitled 'In the name of science, I offer my boobs'. She started Boobquake and requested that other women help her demonstrate to a superstitious world that revealing clothing does not cause earthquakes. She wasn't even asking for nudity, just clothes that reveal female flesh, female hair and the female form, all things that easily offend [and excite] Muslim males. Normal, ordinary clothes such as low cut tops, skimpy t-shirts, boob tubes, short shorts and mini skirts. From this small blog challenge the story has gone worldwide and gained a huge audience. Suddenly Jen and BoobQuake is being talked about on radio and TV, including the BBC and CNN, even on The Colbert Report. Now millions get to giggle over the ignorance of religion. As Montgomery Burns from 'The Simpsons' would say, 'Excellent!'

The main purpose of Boobquake in our view is to highlight once again the utterly ridiculous and plainly stupid claims that religious people make regarding how the universe works. Although in this case it is a Muslim religious leader demonstrating his ignorance and making a fool of himself and his religion, let's not forget that Christian religious leaders have made and are still making equally ignorant claims, such as blaming homosexuality for Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans.

In comments on Jen's blog, most have supported the challenge. However some have argued that women deliberating wearing revealing clothing for Boobquake only proves to Iranians and Muslims in general that western women are immoral, but this misses the point completely. The claim wasn't simply that western women dress immodestly, the claim was that women who dress immodestly cause earthquakes. The challenge is to determine whether an increase in revealing clothing causes an increase in earthquakes. Science at work.

Others have tried to argue that simply wearing revealing clothing for Boobquake proves nothing, as the Muslim cleric actually went on to say that women in revealing clothing will 'lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes'. Thus they argue that it is not bare flesh alone that causes earthquakes. If these women only flaunt their boobs and have no intention of going on to committing adultery with young men, earthquakes won't happen, and the cleric's claim could still be correct. But again this is wrong. The cleric was talking about cause and effect. A causes B. B then goes on to cause C, which then causes D. So A can be said to cause D. In the cleric's case, women wearing revealing clothing causes young men to be lead astray. Young men lead astray lose their chastity and causes them to spread adultery. The spread of adultery causes an increase in earthquakes. Thus revealing clothing begins a causal chain that results in earthquakes. However, if they now try and argue that simply wearing revealing clothing won't result in earthquakes, this means the causal chain that the cleric quotes has been broken and is bogus. If women in the US can wear revealing clothing without causing the young men around them to lose all control and spread adultery, then A does not cause B, revealing clothing does not cause men to be lead astray. If the cleric were correct, young men that observe women wearing revealing clothing would have no conscious choice in the matter, they would have to go on to commit adultery, and this spread of adultery would have to cause earthquakes. If Muslims argue that maybe in the USA wearing revealing clothing doesn't cause young men to become sexual predators, but in Muslim countries it does, then obviously a corrupt and outdated Muslim moral code is the cause, not revealing clothing.

I worked in Teheran a few years ago during a hot summer, and whenever the Iranian men left the office the young Muslim women immediately removed their oppressive, enveloping coats and headscarfs, revealing their hair, skimpy t-shirts and push-up bras. They knew I wouldn't be offended by female flesh and hair, and seemingly weren't in the least worried that their dress, or lack of it, might cause a disastrous earthquake in their fair city. Nor, disappointingly, did they attempt to lead me astray or corrupt my chastity. Of course there was always a mad flurry to cover up again when they heard their menfolk returning. It is perfectly obvious that the only people that have a problem with female flesh and hair are Muslim males. It is they who have this corrupted view that a woman with flowing hair, a short skirt and a tight t-shirt is secretly beckoning to them, and whispering under her breath, 'Come on, fuck me. You know I want it'. When I worked in Malaysia I once took a journey between work sites with some young devout Muslim males, and they spent the entire trip hanging out the car windows shouting at every young woman they saw, 'Do you want a fuck?' And yet at work they disappeared five times a day to pray, and on Fridays they were off to the mosque for some more heavy duty praying. And when ever a Muslim male came in to where I was working and saw me, most would eventually come over and quietly inquire as to whether I had any pornography on my laptop that they could view. Islam is seriously screwed up with regard to women and sex, but then so is Christianity. I guess that's what you get when you let primitive, superstitious, desert nomads make up the rules, and then blindly try and live by them in the 21st century. It's like adults trying to make sensible life decisions while still believing that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and Peter Rabbit are real.

Of course the claimed effects of Boobquake might not be immediate or even obvious to us depraved westerners. How long after flesh is exposed before the tectonic plates start to tremble, and how far from the flesh site can its damaging effects be felt? The weird thing is that if the cleric believes there is supposedly enough immodest dress and exposed flesh in Teheran, or even the whole of Iran, to cause Teheran to be destroyed by an earthquake, then surely there is more than enough immodest dress and exposed flesh on one street in Los Angeles to have destroyed California years ago. I know an earthquake devastated San Francisco in 1906, but I think you'd be hard pressed to blame that on skimpy t-shirts and mini skirts. I've seen enough skimpy bikinis, topless bathers and complete nudity on Mediterranean beaches to obliterate every country along its shores. And yet they still exist, relatively earthquake free. And yet there have been some terrible earthquakes in Iran in recent years, over 25,000 people were killed in Bam in 2003. So the question is, why does Allah, the Muslim God, get offended and outraged by displays of female flesh in the US, in Europe and on the streets and beaches of NZ, and yet takes out his anger on his own followers? Why do women flashing their boobs in LA, and perhaps even going on to have wild sex with married men, cause an earthquake to happen in Iran and not LA? Why haven't all those boob flashing, mini skirted bimbos that committed adultery with Tiger Woods caused a weird chain of earthquakes that seemed to follow Woods around the US and the world? It reminds us of the following joke image that we saw ages ago on the internet. (Click on the picture for a larger image.) It says, 'Every time you masturbate... God kills a kitten'.

God kills kittens

If God is annoyed with you or me, offended by our behaviour, why does he take out his anger on a cute little kitten? How can this unnecessary and cruel death stop us masturbating, since God never tells us that he is killing innocent kittens on a massive scale? Likewise, why should women throw out their skimpy tops if God never tells them that their dress is causing young men to sleep with married women, and that He is then forced to unleash an earthquake? But like the kittens, why does he throw his lightning bolt at innocent parties? Why do devout, innocent Muslims have to die, such as in the 2004 Asian Tsunami (which was caused by an earthquake), simply because women in other countries wear bikinis, and may even have adulterous sex? Why should Muslims in Teheran have to die in an earthquake because some twenty or more bimbos slept with Tiger Woods? What sort of God would punish you for the crimes committed by someone else in another country? Well, the god of the Jews, Christians and Muslims evidently.

Remember in the Bible the story of the plagues that God visited upon the Egyptians? He had the immense power and the knowledge to go through the land in one night and kill every first-born male, from the families of slaves to the families of the Pharaoh, and not just human families, animals as well. And yet every Hebrew family was spared, and their asses too. God had the power to make a precision strike of untold terror. And yet every single human and animal that God murdered was innocent. They had no knowledge of the argument God was having with the Pharaoh, and as often happens in the Bible, they were merely slaughtered so that God could make a point. This episode shows two things. First, that God will willingly, and without a second thought, murder untold innocent people while leaving the person that has annoyed him completely unscathed. Secondly, by cleaning targeting each first-born he demonstrates that he has the power to easily punish exactly who he wishes without harming anyone else. He has the power and knowledge to ensure that no innocent person suffers for someone else's sins. And yet even though he knows exactly who has sinned, he almost always wreaks his malevolence on the innocent. In modern times, a woman takes off her bikini top on an Auckland beach, and a livid God causes a deadly earthquake in Haiti. Take that Auckland! A young woman in Christchurch in a short skirt reveals her panties when she bends over to pick up her keys, and a furious God causes a deadly earthquake in Chile. Feel my wrath Christchurch!

That many religious people still believe that natural disasters are actually caused by their god and are a punishment for inappropriate or sinful behaviour by humans is ignorant and primitive thinking in the extreme. But to continue worshipping this god after realising that when he dispatches his lightning bolts of punishment, he more often than not visits destruction, death and misery on innocent parties while letting the guilty flourish, this is truly sick, disgusting and immoral behaviour, but certainly equal to their god's example. And to think that these religious morons try to preach their perverted morality to atheists.

May more idiots like that Muslim cleric, and spokesmen from the Vatican, continue to voice their religious nonsense loudly and clearly, so that more eyes can be opened to their silly beliefs and come over from the dark side, to the side of reason, critical thinking, evidence and modern ethics.

On a related note, last weekend Graeme Hill on his excellent and not-to-be-missed Radio Live show featured an audio piece by outspoken atheist Pat Condell entitled 'What I know about Islam'. It was brilliant, honest and hard-hitting. Pat Connell lives in London, so it is a brave move to speak so frankly in a part of the world that has its fair share of Islamists, who often prefer to let a knife, bullet or bomb take the place of open debate. Click here for info on the different people that feature regularly on Graeme's show, such as astronomy with Dr Grant Christie, science and skepticism with Vicky Hyde, atheism with Pat Condell, and for video and audio clips. Radio frequencies for your area can be found at the bottom of the page.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Apr, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Gabby, 07 May, 2010

    I love that little Kitten!

Crucifixion or chocolate?
We've just noticed a short newspaper article written at Easter with the headline "Crucifixion 'more important' than chocolate", where the Presbyterian Church laments that 'too many children associate Easter with chocolate rather than Christianity'. Presbyterian Church of NZ moderator Right Reverend Graham Redding was pleased that children saw Easter as a time of celebration, but was disappointed that they worshiped chocolate and he wondered how many children knew that Easter is important because of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

Just what planet are these people from? If you're a kid and you have a choice of worshiping a cute furry bunny that gives away chocolate, or of worshiping a dead and bloodied criminal nailed to two pieces of wood, who because he's dead, gives away nothing, who would you choose? By demonstrating a few days of good behaviour the cute bunny will reward you with chocolate right now, and you don't have to sell him your soul, pray to him nightly, or limit your sex life when you grow up. Whereas those representing the bloodied and naked man tell the children that if they subject themselves to a lot of oppressive and plainly ridiculous rules they will receive their reward after they die. That must be a very confusing dilemma for children wouldn't you say? Lots of chocolate now, or some vague reward in 80 years time after they're dead, which probably still won't be chocolate. Furthermore, kids have clear proof that the bunny will deliver on his promises, that the chocolate is real and will appear, and not just in their lifetime, but actually at Easter. They've either personally experienced the joy of the chocolate from previous years or they know older children who have regaled them with wonderful tales of the real coming of the chocolate. Christians however, those that represent the bloodied and naked man nailed to the wood, can offer the testimony of none that have received their promised reward. No one after dying has managed to come back and demonstrate that their heavenly reward was waiting for them on their death, and that it was all that the hype said it was. After thousands of years of people dying and none returning to give the thumbs up, and consequently doubt increasing about the promises made, you'd think the CEO of this enterprise, the dead guy nailed to the wood, would make an appearance to reassure his existing clients and attract new investors. But no, not Jesus, not his father or mother, none of his board of directors, of whom there are either 11 or 12, depending on whether you count Judas, not St Paul who really started it all, and not one of the millions of dead Christians who believed the ultimate 'the cheque is in the mail' excuse have bothered to pop back to good ol' Earth and reassure the children that the Christian promise is real, and much better than chocolate.

Regarding Easter the article mentioned 'crucifixion' three times and 'resurrection' only once, and for Christianity in general the ratio is usually far greater than this. By this we mean that images of the crucifixion abound, but images of the resurrection are thin on the ground. The next time you visit a church, view a Christian publication, or see the Pope and his bishops on TV squirming over the latest sex abuse claims, count how many crosses and crucifixes you see compared to how many scenes or representations of the resurrection there are. And which is more important in the big scheme of things, his death, which billions of ordinary humans have managed to pull off, or his resurrection, which none have? Crucifixion was an extremely painful method of execution used by the Romans. A barbarous, cruel method of killing criminals and used to warn others. Christians claim Jesus was crucified, but if he was, he was but one of thousands. It is not, as many naive Christians try to imply, that crucifixion was something new or special that only their guy went through. The cross was not invented for the purpose of killing Jesus. So why do Christians have this fixation with killing, with not merely the death of Jesus, but the actual killing of Jesus, in all its gory detail? Every church is externally adorned with this execution device, and many more are found inside. Many Bibles have it on their cover, and numerous Christians wear miniature execution devices around their necks or on their clothing. Christian graves are marked by this Roman execution device. Some churches and Christians go even further, and place a dead, bloodied and near naked figure of Jesus on their crosses, and call them crucifixes. They aren't content in just showing the execution device, they insist on showing it at work, killing their leader and portraying his suffering. On the TV News they often warn viewers that their next item has images that some viewers might find distressing, gruesome, horrific or offensive etc, and yet what church or cathedral has the decency to offer a similar warning at their doors? It's quite obvious that they want these disgusting crucifixes to terrify people and scare the children. And there is no doubt that they do terrify naive and ignorant people, both adults and children, especially those that are styled and painted in horrific realism. And these moronic Christian ministers and priests then wonder why children prefer to go with cute bunnies and real chocolate.

You've also got to question grown men like Rev Redding that want to encourage young children to get on their knees in the privacy of their bedrooms and invite a bloodied and naked man to come into their life. And let's remember that contrary to what the prudes show on their crucifixes, Jesus was naked when he was killed (if he was killed). This desire to get children to trust and love strange men is what has got the Catholic Church into so much trouble.

With typical Christian arrogance Rev Redding claims Easter is important, but important to whom? Important to atheists? No, not in the slightest. Of course we love holidays, chocolate and hot cross buns (more execution device reminders), but we hate the bloody Christians that stop us from shopping just because they are forced to go to church. It's like, if we have to go to church rather than the shops, then you atheists will at least have to stay away as well. If we must suffer for our silly beliefs, then you must suffer for our beliefs as well. Have Christians somehow fooled themselves into thinking that if non-believers are prevented from shopping that we will spend the day contemplating God? Abusing God more likely. Is Easter important to Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Jedi Knights? No, we don't think so. Christians, a group that is a minority in the world and getting smaller each year is trying to dictate to the majority. By all means Christians are free to rejoice in the bloody, cruel death of their leader, to celebrate their cannibalistic rituals, to retell their fairy tales to their brainwashed followers, to tearfully kiss the wrinkly hands of the pope, and to renounce life's joys in lieu of a promised future life in the land of make believe. But just as witches are free to dance naked around bonfires on the full moon, we don't have to close our shops while they do it. Christians should have no more rights than witches to inconvenience others. And frankly I'd rather watch naked witches dance than old priests putting things in the mouths of children while making the sign of an execution device.

And just like Christmas Day, Easter was celebrated long before cunning and manipulative Christians hijacked the existing pagan celebrations and tried to pretend that it was a Christian invention. Even the name Easter comes from the name of a pagan goddess of spring. Jesus no more died and rose again at Easter than he was born on Christmas Day. It makes no more sense to fuss over the death of Jesus than it does of Darth Vader. And if you're at a loss of what to do next Easter while everything is closed and Christians are on their knees begging to sky fairies, you and the kids could watch and enjoy movies like Monty Python's Life of Brian and Star Wars, but don't take them seriously like Christians do. And these movies go great with chocolate.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Apr, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Keri, 09 May, 2010

    Yesss!
    Sums up my feelings about the Easter holiday — which I think should be abolished, and replaced by a 4-day winter festival weekend around about the winter solstice.
    Matariki?
    Yep. Fits our place, fits our human needs, fits our climate (and is religion-free: believe you me, there were NO 'religious' rituals associated with the celebration of the rising of the Pleiades — there was hospitality (including the star-group) & storytelling, and a renewal of friendship-ties, an enhancement of family aroha/warmth, and that was pretty well it.)

Kiwis sensing spiritual forces
A recent article in our newspaper and available on the Stuff website informed us that more Kiwis are coming to believe in the supernatural or paranormal. We were told that 'Spirits are increasingly making their presence felt in New Zealand, spurred on by celebrity ghost whisperers. Massey University research reveals growing numbers of Kiwis are sensing spirits.'

It seems that back in 1991 only 33% of Kiwis were deluded, in that they believed they had 'felt a spiritual force', but it has now risen to 40% according to this recent survey. We assume that 'felt a spiritual force' could mean anything from believing dead people have spoken to them, seeing dead people, ie ghosts, feeling that gods, angels and demons are real entities who interfere in their lives, and the belief that they can perform various party tricks with these spiritual forces such as telepathy, telekinesis and precognition.

25% of the survey respondents believed the dead have supernatural powers. Yeah right, like the dead need supernatural powers. Isn't that just bloody typical? You live your entire life with no help from these gods, struggling to pay the mortgage, raise a family and combat ill health, then when you die and have no physical body or worries, they give you supernatural powers. So we now have ghosts of 90 year olds in zimmer frames suffering from Alzheimer's disease suddenly appearing on the ends of beds and scaring the daylights out of people who aren't even their family. If there is some really old decrepit god bestowing supernatural powers on dead geriatrics, then it would appear that he, she or it also has severe dementia brought about by old age.

Dr Heather Kavan of Massey University reckons that TV shows such as Sensing Murder and Ghost Whisperer and the 'respect for Maori practices' (ie primitive religion and superstition) has made it easier for people to 'express spiritual experiences', or to put it another way, has given these deluded nutcases the nerve to come out of the closet. She reckons that in previous times, psychic experiences 'would have been dismissed as symptoms of psychosis'.

Utter rubbish. Throughout history people that claimed they could commune with the gods and spirits of ancestors were generally believed, treated with great respect and sought out for their advice. It is only in recent times that belief in ghosts and in talking to them has been recognised as psychological disorders or at the very least ignorance of reality. We would agree that TV shows, movies, magazines etc have given this supernatural rubbish a boost and has fooled many into believing that evidence of ghosts and spooky events has surfaced, when in fact there are now more reasons to laugh at psychics, mediums and belief in spirits than there have ever been.

Neither the article's author or the Massey University researcher explicitly say or suggest that spirits and supernatural powers don't exist. The article doesn't say you can't converse with dead people, merely that 'Channelling deceased loved ones can prove costly'. As already noted, the article says that 'Spirits are increasingly making their presence felt in NZ... [and] research reveals growing numbers of Kiwis are sensing spirits'. While probably just poorly written, these statements are completely false. The statements appear to claim that spirits are real and that they are becoming more noticeable, and that more Kiwis are now able to detect them. There is no evidence that a single spirit has made its presence felt, in NZ or anywhere else, nor has any research found a single person that has actually detected a spirit. Thankfully the article does quote the NZ Skeptics' Vicki Hyde who talks of the '"morally reprehensible" behaviour of shows such as Sensing Murder'. However it is possible that the article will do more to support believers in this supernatural nonsense than combat it, since it reassures them that their belief is growing, gives them a list of books to consult and advises them on how to make the most of their money when seeking a psychic reading.

The article also raised another point that annoys us. According to the survey 50% said they were 'interested in spiritual forces'. Dr Kavan said that 'An extraordinarily high proportion of New Zealanders have no religion — almost double the proportion in other Western countries — but we've never known who these people are'. Evidently this survey 'shows many of them are privately spiritual, but don't relate to organised religions'. Our gripe is that everyone has a different idea to what 'spiritual' means to him or her. Some would say it is all about belief in God and heaven, eg Christianity or Islam. Others would say it's about spiritual forces other than those in organised religions, eg New Age beliefs and Reiki. Others are very vague in their spiritual beliefs, often denying any belief in typical gods or powers, but falling back on the old excuse, 'Well, there's got to be something out there'. We even have atheists and skeptics who claim to be spiritual, meaning simply that they have feelings of awe, wonder and/or surprise when they view a beautiful sunset or the majesty of the universe. Religious types love to quote atheistic scientists like Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein talking about spiritual feelings, implying that deep down even they are religious. Spiritual, one word but different meanings, and thus it is a waste of time asking someone if they are spiritual and then going on to make assumptions, unless they are seriously quizzed on what they mean by 'spiritual'. People that aren't religious should avoid the word all together and use more appropriate descriptions.

It's the same with the census question: No Religion. Some assume that no religion means atheism, but this is not necessarily so. As an atheist I am forced to tick 'No Religion', but many people that still believe in God but don't go to church or don't even have any connection with any organised religion also tick 'No Religion'. They see 'No Religion' as saying 'Not a Catholic' or 'Not a Muslim' or 'Not a church goer'. Why isn't there a box in the census that says 'Atheist'? If authorities are assuming the number of atheists is evidently increasing every census, why don't they have a box for atheist so they can know for sure? Why are they prepared to just guess? When people put down 'Jedi' of Star Wars fame for their religion the story went worldwide. Why can't NZ create a possible worldwide first by including the option of atheist in their census? Why do numerous religions that are much smaller than the number of atheists get a box but atheists don't? Of course like spiritual, the word atheist is also misunderstood by many people, and many who were actually atheists would refuse to tick it, instead looking for a box that said 'Agnostic' or 'Fence-sitter' or 'Don't believe in God but still afraid to admit my disbelief'. But an atheist box would be a positive start, and with education the numbers registering as atheist would increase and become more accurate. And NZ could be the first country in the world to reliably record how many of its citizens have truly entered the 21st century and rejected primitive superstition.

It was reassuring, contrary to what the article was claiming, that of the 48 Internet comments on the article when I read it, nearly all but 3 or 4 rubbished its conclusion. If their survey was accurate, 50% should have supported the idea of spirits, so where were they? Don't spiritual people read Internet news sites, preferring perhaps to get their news from a dead aunt?

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Apr, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Arrest the Pope
Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, described in one article as 'two of the world's most prominent atheist intellectuals', are looking into the legal aspects of having the Pope arrested for his part in covering up child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, when he visits the UK in September. The Pope's supporters claim that as a head of state he has diplomatic immunity, but the British lawyers state that the Vatican is not a full member of the UN, just an 'observer'. Even if full immunity did apply, we have all seen examples of diplomats committing crimes, killing innocent people in drunk driving accidents, smuggling drugs etc and then legally fleeing the country under diplomatic immunity. Immunity does not absolve them of guilt, it simply says we can't prosecute them. They are still disgusting, immoral animals that posture arrogantly while wearing the cloak of immunity, but are secretly terrified, forever afraid that someone will rip it from them. Even if the Pope does have immunity to walk among us, or at least drive cocooned in his bulletproof Popemobile, people should still not fall to their knees and kiss his wrinkly, soiled hands. Legal immunity does not erase one's sins. And contrary to what the church believes, neither does going to confession or washing someone's feet turn back time, it does not un-rape children and it does not turn these paedophiles and their supporters into saints. It speaks volumes of the primitive ignorance of the church, its priests and its followers who still believe that their loving God will forgive unspeakable crimes with a few Hail Mary's and a promise of eternal servitude and grovelling.

We don't for a moment believe that the authorities would arrest the Pope, nor do we believe Dawkins and Hitchens do, but their move has highlighted the ethical argument of 'Why not?'. We would all insist that people in local organisations such as a bank or sporting group or in government departments be arrested for alleged crimes, whether it was fraud or sexual abuse. The justice system didn't turn a blind eye to accusations of child sex abuse against Rev. Graham Capill just because he was a religious minister, freely operating under the lecherous eye of God, so why should they ignore allegations against the Pope? And let's remember that they're not picking on him as the head of the Catholic Church, saying that he should take the rap for what his priests have done. They want to know what he knew and did as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the department that until very recently was called the Office of the Inquisition.

Why does the Vatican feel the need to hide behind diplomatic immunity? Simple, it knows that as an organisation they have committed shameful crimes, over and over again, and that they have put all their efforts into concealing these crimes rather than combating them. They secretly moved abusers from diocese to diocese and from country to country, knowing that the abuse would likely continue, but that this flawed policy would at least keep the sordid secret of sexual abuse from the public, and thus protect the reputation of their church and their God. Far better to blame the innocent children for inflaming the passions of the priests than acknowledge that these men of God are disgusting deviants that give animals a bad name. Brainwash young children into believing that their abuse was due to their own faults and a failed relationship with God, and let this knowledge fester and ruin their adult lives. And take the immoral and abusive priests and let them hide behind the skirts of the Pope.

All adults now know to rebuff Catholic priests inviting their children on weekend sleepovers, to refuse individual tuition after choir practice and to tell their kids not to accept Father Joe as a friend on Facebook, and nor should Father Joe be following them on Twitter. Adults know, and should be teaching their children, that Catholic priests are like sharks. Most swimmers are never going to be attacked by a shark, or even see a shark, but if they do suspect there is one near them, they should get out of the water fast and warn others. It's the same with priests. You seldom see them these days, and most are so geriatric that kids can easily out run them, but in areas that have limited escape routes, like church toilets, kids should certainly travel in groups for safety. Kids need to be made aware of the possible dangers lurking in the water and their church. They need to be able to differentiate between dolphins and sharks, and between kindly old gentlemen and priests.

But what scares us most is that many Catholics still can't bring themselves to condemn their church. It's bad enough that the Pope and his Vatican supporters continue to insist that all these allegations are mostly just media propaganda and blind hatred of the church by atheists, since they have serious crimes to hide and a big business to run. But Catholics on the street after seeing priest after priest admitting sexual abuse in court trials and begging for forgiveness, after seeing documented evidence of the Vatican's attempts to secretly move abusing priests, silence victims and hide the abuse, these Catholics still defend their church, their Pope and its priests with the same zeal and denial that the church itself exhibits. You have to question how they would handle allegations of abuse in the company or organisation they worked for or belonged to, be it a bank, cancer charity or scout group. If their ethics allow them to ignore and deny sexual abuse in their church and to continue to support its hierarchy, might not they also be prepared to turn a blind eye to abuse in their own company or scout group if they wanted to protect its reputation and their job? If they insist that they would recognise, condemn and expose abuse in some other group, and refuse to continue supporting it, then why do they not take the same stance with the Catholic Church? Condemn it as a disgusting sham and walk away never to return. Again, it appears that childhood brainwashing by priests and nuns have instilled in them the belief that the sexual abuse of children is an abomination before God, except if performed by God or one of his employees. Their childish belief in a vengeful god pulls a blinker over their eyes and chloroforms their mind, and they continue to send their children to church on Sundays for a good Catholic upbringing. And before they know it, a drooling geriatric priest doped up on Viagra is leading one of their children into a back room. And their God watches it all, and says and does nothing.

The geriatric Vatican is dying, and will die if allowed to. It is only with the will and support of Catholics on the street that it will survive. Like all religions, the Catholic Church is centuries past its use-by date, and putting evidence that god doesn't even exist aside, ethically, Catholics must ask themselves what good reasons still exist to support their church. There are none.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Apr, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Graeme, 17 Apr, 2010

    I agree wholeheartedly.

    If anybody is interested I am interviewing Jeff Anderson, a US lawyer who is attempting to take the Vatican/Pope et al. to court, one way or another.

    Radio Live
    Sunday April 18th at 11:30am
    It will be available to listen back at http://www.radiolive.co.nz/WeekendHosts/GraemeHill/tabid/105/Default.aspx,
    I suppose as long as the internet continues.

    Thanks for such a great website troops!

  2. Comment by the Keri, 17 Apr, 2010

    Excellent Graeme! Will be a listener (on-line.)

  3. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Apr, 2010

    Hi Graeme, as always, great stuff. Interesting interview with US lawyer Jeff Anderson, and I loved the bit from the Stephen Fry debate. It's a shame we don't get more of this material, but thankfully we have got your show to give us a taste of what is available out there in the bigger world.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Comment by Graeme, 18 Apr, 2010

    Home run question.. Why didn't Ratzinger call the cops?

    For Chrissakes... guilty of conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice right there, and what does he do? He goes "woe is me!".

    Cuff 'im.

    Shamelessly I encourage you to spread the word about the Radio Live show at will.

    http://www.radiolive.co.nz/WeekendHosts/GraemeHill/tabid/105/Default.aspx

    The Jeff Anderson IV will be available to listen to and download by about Tuesday.

  5. Comment by Bob, 31 May, 2010

    I don't think that is a very good idea. All it would do is create a massive martyr among the millions of Catholics. It would be counter productive. Best to let that organisation cruel itself.

  6. Comment by Graeme, 17 May, 2011

    From the BBC, 'Pope Benedict has told bishops around the world to promptly report all suspected cases of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests to local police in new guidelines he has issued'.

    Full article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13416498

    I can't help but ask, what was the previous policy? If it differed at all from his latest edict then surely... arrest the pope at once, or am I missing something here?

  7. Comment by Bob, 17 May, 2011

    http://www.weirdload.com/johnjayreport.pdf

    The above web page contains a very comprehensive report by the Catholic Church or at least on it's behalf on the pedophile scandal. It's surprisingly detailed and seems to pull no punches. It refers only to America but can be extended to other countries. What surprised and horrified me were the figures of offending — 4392 offending priests out of a total of 109694 or high number. Imagine 4% of the New Zealand police force were guilty of child sexual abuse. There would be an uproar.

    I noticed it goes into great detail on the priests and bishops analysing the motivations for their actions most of which were very unbecoming for people who supposedly belonged to a very moral institution. The priests and bishops and their actions are dissected in small detail. You will notice not much is said about the victims. They seem to be mentioned only in passing or as statistics. Why didn't the report contain personal stories of the victims? As with all crimes the victims' stories bring the full damage to public attention. I feel this report is written purely from the point of view of the Church not from the point of view of victims. It says what have we done and what can we do to restore our reputation.

    I think of those Christians who say atheists can't be moral because our behaviour is not governed by the bible. If Catholic clergy can act like this considering their respect for the bible I'm glad I'm not influenced by it.

    PS: Just after I wrote the above, a news item on the radio said the Pope has ordered his bishops to report cases of child abuse by priests to the civil authorities i.e. police. It appears they have come down off their high horses and joined the rest of the world in being accountable to society. They no longer live in a lofty world answerable only to God.

  8. Comment by Bob, 19 May, 2011

    Graeme, the previous policy was to keep it in house. Errant priests were given counselling by Vatican supplied psychiatrists and psychologists. Either that or they went through the confessional, repented and promised not to do it again. The hierarchy felt the priests were answerable to God not civil authorities. In being remarkably frank the article I referred to gave a number of reactions by bishops to accusations of abuse. Some were so embarrassed and reticent they would not front up to victims and sent priests elsewhere to rid themselves of the problem. Some through ignorance thought giving the priest a good talking too would suffice. Some bishops with more sense of responsibility referred the matter higher up the chain but got no support themselves. In some cases church authorities tried to give paedophiles new jobs away from children but there weren't enough such jobs available. Now it has all crashed down on their heads they are doing what they should have done in the first place.

Sexualizing young girls
Ear Advert The other day I spied the pharmacy advert pictured on the right in a local rag. It says 'Ear piercing for your under 5's'. Is this what it has come to, our pharmacies are now targeting babies and toddlers? Not content with damaging their reputation by selling water as medicine, ie homoeopathic remedies, they now want to increase their profits by mutilating young children. Note that it says "under 5's", so this actually means four year olds, three year olds, right down to babies. Of course they're not really targeting toddlers and babies, as what three year old will read that ad and go, 'Hmmm... I have been considering getting my ears pierced, so maybe I should pop along. Mum... I'm going out for a while. I'm taking your credit card.' It's the parents, usually the mother, who believes that for some warped reason her three-year-old really needs to be wearing earrings. And some get their ears pierced shortly after birth, so why this desire to mutilate their daughter's body? Are their children just another thing that they own that they feel the need to dress up, like their house, their garden, their car and their own bodies, to impress those that they meet? Are their children just another fashion accessory?

Pierced ears and a selection of fancy earrings, is this what the mother of a three year old believes is the most valuable thing she can give to her daughter? Why not put the money towards buying her some books and reading to her, taking her to the zoo and describing the different animals, or getting a child's car seat for the car? If they want to inflict a jab of pain on their daughter, why not opt for a vaccination shot instead?

And pharmacies just seem to be following a disturbing trend already seen in the fashion and cosmetic spheres, where clothing, accessories and procedures previously only pushed at adults are now being extended to children. As we have seen on TV News and current event items, prepubescent girls are being drawn into the world of adults, as if to say that the sooner they start dressing and acting like adult women then the better it will be for all concerned. Girls are no longer viewed as girls, but simply as small women, and rather than wear clothing suitable for a young girl's lifestyle, they are offered women's clothing made small. As many have said, children are not small adults and should not be seen or treated as such. They should be allowed to live their young lives as children, acting and dressing as children. We don't expect them to do adult things like work, pay taxes, vote or have sex, so why do some parents dress them as if they were doing these things? They will not learn all the things they need to learn as children if they spend their childhood years pretending to be adults. Many adults even express the yearning that they could relive the carefree life of their childhood, and yet they deny this carefree life to their own children, forcing adult dress and behaviour on them before their time.

Prepubescent girls are being fitted out with training bras, when there isn't anything there to train, and won't be for some years. They wear scaled down designer outfits, raised heels, pluck their eyebrows and won't go out to the mall without cosmetics. They wear skimpy t-shirts that say 'SLUT' and knickers with the words 'PUSSY POWER'. They gossip about the sex lives of movie stars, although they probably still think you can have babies by sitting on a dirty toilet seat. Ten year old girls and younger are accompanying their mothers to the beauty salon to get their legs, underarms and bikini line waxed. Of course there is no hair present to be removed, but it conditions their psyche, locks them into a painful, expensive, time consuming and never ending routine that many adult women feel they must endure. The salons are happy because they've hooked another 'paying' customer, who courtesy of their mother will be providing them with an additional income that they weren't expecting for some years. The mothers and the salons are merely breaking the girl's spirit, her self esteem and her confidence regarding body image, teaching her that even ten year old girls need to constantly work at altering their body to make it more acceptable to others. Tattoos are another form of body mutilation that is increasingly turning up on younger girls, happily approved by their young mothers that have at least one tattoo of their own. We have already noted how stupid tattoos are, especially for women, and due to their permanent nature children should most definitely not be allowed to be tattooed.

And then we have these graphic music videos where the female singers and dancers are more often than not in skimpy underwear or revealing tops and mini skirts. They gyrate around gun toting males who refer to them as bitches and hoes, and the videos only purpose seems to be to teach females sexually suggestive moves to attract the alpha males. And almost without fail, the women in these videos are beautiful, slim and large breasted. They push the disturbing message that if you don't look like the women in these videos (and without money, surgery, camera and computer magic almost no woman does), then girl, you've got a lot of hard work ahead of you.

And don't get us started on those sick individuals that dress their five year girls up like 18 year olds and enter them in Little Miss Tots beauty contests, replete with bikinis, lipstick and sequined evening dresses. Or the greedy and equally depraved individuals that provide the organisation and venues for these sordid displays that rob children of their childhood and their innocence. One suspects that the only people that attend these events are disturbed and disillusioned mothers that have no idea how to raise children, and paedophiles.

Earrings, eyeshadow, lipstick, mini skirts, push-up bras, Brazilians and g-strings are what adult women use to attract the opposite sex, usually for the purpose of having sex. Children are not having sex, except in some Catholic churches, and until puberty kicks in, are often repulsed by the opposite sex. They have no need to dress and act like little whores.

It's adults that make adult-style clothing for children, that make bras for kids, that put sexual slogans on little girls t-shirts and knickers, that pierce the ears of children and babies, that make the soft porn music videos, that agree to wax the legs of children, that make cosmetic packs for little girls and that brainwash young girls into believing that they must dress and act like adult women. And yes, many young girls do pester their mothers for these products, but it is adults and often their own mothers that have put these desires in the child's mind. It is the mother that gives in to the child's requests, or more often than not, forces these products on their daughters. As we've said, three year olds don't request to get their own ears pieced, it is solely the mother's desire to decorate her child. As a child I pestered my parents for a gun and a car, I got neither. And we have no problem with sexy clothing, provocative lingerie and pornographic videos, but they are for adults, not children. Why are mothers trying to turn their young daughters into women before their time? Should fathers be giving their ten year old sons some condoms to carry around in their pockets and teaching them how to shave, so that like their sisters with their fake push-up bras and waxed legs, they can also forget that they are children and act like adults?

Shame on these fashion and cosmetic companies, designers, ad executives, pre-teen magazines and beauty salons for targeting children, motivated by nothing other than out right greed, and shame on the parents for being too stupid and gullible to see through this brainwashing.

Last week an episode of Family Guy made a great comment on this issue of sexualizing young girls. Mother Lois was attempting to give her reluctant daughter Meg a make-over so that she might attract a boy. Meg was in the changing room of a fashion store and Lois was looking through the racks of tops:

Stockings Lois: Oh, what about this, Meg? A pink baby-tee that says "Little Slut." That seems pretty hip.
Meg: I don't know if that's really me, Mom.
Lois: Well, they've got one that says "Porn Star" and another that says "Sperm Dumpster." And they're all written in glitter.
Meg: All right, all right. Give me "Sperm Dumpster."
Lois: That's the spirit!
And unfortunately clothing with those types of slogans are available, not just for adults, but increasingly for children, and moronic mothers are buying them. We are already seeing the result of girls growing up immersed in this commercialised world of promiscuity and sexual advertising. When a young woman proudly wears stockings emblazoned with the word 'SLUT', you have to wonder what values she will pass on to her children. Again, we have no problem with sex, just as we have no problem with swearing and assault rifles, but there is a time and place for these things. We should not be immersing children in adult themes that they do not have the knowledge or maturity to understand.

t-shirts Look at the t-shirts worn by these two young women on the right. The first says 'Thank God I'm an Atheist', the other 'I'm a SLUT'. The first woman could no doubt say to her children, family and friends: 'I'm proud to call myself an atheist. I'm going to teach my kids about atheism, in the broad scheme of teaching them to think for themselves, but I would naturally be pleased if when my kids grow up they also become atheists.' Can you imagine the other mother saying a similar thing about her kids, after of course replacing the term atheist with slut: 'I'm proud to call myself a slut... I would naturally be pleased if when my kids grow up they also become sluts.'

We should not be putting impressionable, innocent young girls in the position where they believe they need earrings to be pretty or where they read their own t-shirt or their mother's and ask: 'Mummy, what's a slut?'

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Apr, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Alison, 21 Apr, 2010

    Very well said! This is something that's bugged me for a while now & it's great to read such a forceful, passionate, well-expressed article.

Astrology Warning
Last week TV3's Campbell Live program altered us to a new scam in Auckland, the appearance of astrologers from India opening up temporary offices to fleece money from the local Indian population. Setting up a sting operation, Campbell Live sent along a young Indian woman with a hidden camera to obtain astrological readings. One told her she was going to have a miscarriage, but by paying the astrologer $900, he would say nine prayers and the miscarriage would be averted. Another said she could avert misfortune by saying three prayers costing $603, plus the $50 for the initial consultation. Typical of all these sorts of scams, the astrologers made confident claims about past events in the lives of the women receiving the readings. As usual, they were wrong.

Intelligent viewers were obviously expected to just giggle at the idea of people using astrology, since no attempt was made to explain to viewers how these astrologers worked, nor were they pushed to explain their methods. They simply called themselves astrologers, and yet no mention of star signs or Mars moving into Aries was made. And they differed noticeably from your typical Western astrologer or horoscope in the local paper, in that Indian astrologers claim to be able to change what will happen by prayers. Of course one wonders who the hell they are praying to? Is there a god of astrology? Has one of the Hindu gods been allocated the astrology portfolio, or has one of the completely unheard of backroom gods decided to make a play for the hearts and minds of gullible humans?

The actress employed by Campbell Live utterly dismissed the advice she received from the different astrologers, but unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. She believed that paying for prayers to alter ones future was bogus, not because there was no one to pray to necessarily, but because her fate or destiny was ordained, set in concrete by the gods or whatever, and that nothing, not even prayers, could change what was going to happen. If she had thought about her silly beliefs at all, she should have realised that if true these astrologers and the suckers that pay them hundreds and thousands of dollars have no choice in their actions, it is their fate to be astrologers or to waste money on astrologers. They can not be blamed for what they do, they are mere puppets in the employ of whoever is running the fate or destiny of the universe. It's the same for our destiny believing actress, whether her day to day actions are right or wrong is immaterial, they are the actions she has been chosen to perform. Of course this nonsense of 'destiny' and 'fate' is just bullshit, a primitive attempt to explain the workings of the universe. And the truth is that people who believe in fate and destiny always want to claim credit for the good things in their lives, and only use fate to explain misfortune. They claim that their success as an artist or author was through their effort and creativity, and that they do volunteer work because they want to help. They never say that their volunteer work is simply down to fate, not a genuine desire on their part to help. If fate were real, the majority of people who have ever lived were nothing but pawns in the game of life, cannon fodder, anonymous extras in the crowd scenes of movies. Nothing that they did, or that you now do, is done because it is the right thing to do, it is done simply because you are mindlessly acting out your part in some cosmic version of 'Coronation Street' or 'Neighbours'. And the gods who wrote the screenplay called 'Fate' are making you suffer, killing off your family in disasters and blowing your skirt up in public just to amuse their fellow gods over a few beers.

Another element that stood out in this 'special investigation' item that was labelled "Astrology Warning", was the willingness of many people, from the Campbell Live host to consumer groups, to call these astrologers and what they were doing an outright scam. To clearly say people were wasting their money on something that doesn't work. From the Indian community Venkat Ramen ('Indian Newslink') openly stating, 'Of course it's a con, because you are taking money under false pretences, playing on somebody's emotions. It's an absolute con', to Sue Chetwin of Consumer NZ calling for government intervention, stating that 'They should avoid these people at all costs. They are the worse kind of scamsters because they are preying on people's vulnerabilities and even probably people's cultural beliefs. What they are promising they can not deliver, and people would be losing a lot of money if they gave them any.'

Yet on the several items Campbell Live have now done on Destiny Church, not once has anyone openly called the milking of millions from their followers a scam, or said that the prayers proffered by Bishop Tamaki won't have any effect on changing future events. And there are untold examples of this duplicitous behaviour, where people praying to Jesus or Jehovah or Allah are never told, except by people like us or Richard Dawkins, that they are wasting their time and money on a primitive superstition. And yet when it is Indian astrologers praying to god knows who and siphoning money off other Indians who can often ill afford it, these media people and consumer groups are only too willing to call a spade a spade. It's just a shame that they are unwilling to honestly state what their application of reason has taught them regarding the world's largest and most harmful scam — religion. They won't openly condemn Bishop Tamaki and his Destiny Church or the Pope and his Vatican because Maori, Pacific Islanders and Pakeha with Christian leanings make up most of their viewers, but foreign astrologers, ethnic minorities and their beliefs are fair game. They can all clearly see why prayers offered by an Indian astrologer are bogus, could never work and need to be exposed, but prayers offered by a Maori or a pakeha in the local Christian church, well that's different. Yeah right!

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Apr, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Bob, 04 Apr, 2010

    Hi John, I agree with you. The idea of fate among Indians goes with hinduism and reincarnation. If one has acted badly in one life he will be destined to live a miserable life in the next. They can't change that so they accept it as fate. This belief has two unfortunate consequences in my view. If for instance a person is born with a physical defect it is because that person behaved badly in a previous life. A cripple won't be given medical attention because it is fate and that person will be looked down on as inferior. The person himself believes it and doesn't try to rise above it. Such beliefs tend to hold back a society. Fortunately with India improving economically more and more people are being educated out of these superstitions.

    Unfortunately a certain percentage of people here in New Zealand are just as gullible. Sue Nicholson of Sensing Murder fame is advertising shows in my local paper. No doubt she will fill the theatre with people who will hang on her every word and refuse to look at her critically.

    I agree with your remarks on Tamaki. He is a money grubbing fraud in my opinion.

  2. Comment by Matthew, 06 Apr, 2010

    Hi John, what a shame that the Campbell Live program missed a perfect opportunity to remind everyone that the Catholic church was doing exactly the same thing several hundred years ago when they practised ďselling indulgencesĒ. It wasnít until 1567 that Pope Pius V decided that the game was up and got rid of the idea but I have no doubt the catholic church would love to reintroduce it. I wonder how many catholicís watched the segment and tutted away to themselves about how silly these astrology believers are.

    Personally I would like to see an episode of The Apprentice where the teams have to put together a pricing schedule, marketing plan and launch strategy for this sort of business as I think it would be a hilarious exercise.

    It bothers me that my morals stop me from taking up such a practice myself and helping to ease the burden of money from fools who believe this nonsense, all the while being told by religious people that Iím amoral as Iím an atheist.

  3. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Apr, 2010

    Campbell Live did an update on the Indian astrologers last night and interviewed one Indian woman who has spent $30,000 on prayers from an astrologer in Auckland, another had to stop going as she ran out of money. It was also revealed that it is likely that these astrologers are operating illegally in NZ, without work permits, not paying tax etc.

    A spokesperson from the NZ Hindu Organisation advised people to avoid these astrologers, but again, not because astrology is bogus or because prayers don't work, but simply because people should not demand money to say prayers.

  4. Comment by Patricia, 08 Apr, 2010

    Hi John, I think the reason why people won't call out the Christian nonsense has to do with the respect demanded by the major religions. One must respect others' religious beliefs. I used to think it did no harm to smile and avoid religious nuts (that's all religious people) but having read The God Delusion I now believe that we need to make as much fun of them as possible and although it goes against my teacher training to use sarcasm, I think we need to start doing so because these people propagate all kinds of nasty beliefs that cause a great deal of harm. They brain wash their children in very damaging ways, quite deliberately. (See Jesus Camp) They use religion to oppress women. They hide their disgusting pedophile priests behind religion - protect Mother Church at all costs. They deny women abortion rights and allow them to suffer in child birth based on their religios beliefs. They cause misery for gay people because their god does not approve.

    Here is a funny story: Last August I holidayed in the Hebrides, islands off the coast of Scotland. While there, the local papers were full of argument over running the ferry from the mainland to Lewis and back on Sunday. Religious types wanted to preserve the lord's day. Family types wanted their kids/friends etc. to be able to come home for the weekend. The first Sunday ferry had some mechanical difficulties which gave rise to a most excellent debate about whether God had intervened personally! I quite enjoyed the ludicrous letters making this claim. Talk about a silly belief — god the ferry luddite!

  5. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Apr, 2010

    We agree Patricia, religions do a great deal of harm and need to be exposed. We've already spoken out against this bogus 'respect my religion' notion. We wouldn't respect adults who carried their childhood belief in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy into adulthood, so it's high time we stopped letting them carry their belief in gods and demons into adult life and pretending that it's rational. Our history, especially periods like the Dark Ages, might be seen as our childhood, but humanity has now entered adulthood and we must toss aside those silly beliefs that we clung to in our ignorant and superstitious childhood. If religious people take offence when we point out the flaws and dangers in their beliefs, then so be it, it's time they grew up.

    As for your humorous tale of God stopping the ferry, all these stories do for me is to demonstrate how weak and ineffectual their god has become. A god that could create the universe, stop the sun in the sky and rain down stars is now limited to throwing a spanner at a ferry's engine. And he hasn't even got the power to leave a note that says, 'I did this, your God. Fear Me.' If all their god can now do is occasionally mess with engines, leave images in tortillas and watch priests abuse children, then they desperately need to look into getting a new god, one more suitable for the 21st century.

Do Catholics believe in God?
On reading a recent Otago Daily Times editorial entitled 'Losing their religion?' I was once again struck by a blatant fact that most everyone, and especially the Catholic Church, seems to ignore, overlook and completely suppress. More on that in a moment. The editorial was commenting on yet more embarrassing revelations of sexual and physical abuse by Catholic priests and nuns and the attempts by the Church hierarchy, including the present Pope, to not only keep it secret, but to move the abusers to other regions where the abuse could begin anew. And let's not forget that the majority of these are not mere allegations, they have been proven to have occurred, with the abusers confessing in many cases. The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland Cardinal Brady said, "Yes I knew that these were crimes, but I did not feel it was my responsibility to denounce the actions to the police."

The editorial and the man and woman on the street rightly condemns this behaviour in the strongest terms. We demand to know what the church hierarchy, right up to and including the Pope, knew of this abuse and what actions they took. And we are disgusted when we find out that church leaders, on learning of abhorrent cases of abuse, rallied around the abusers and treated their innocent young victims as if they were the guilty ones. The public wants to know just how corrupted the Catholic Church is, how widespread is the abuse and does knowledge of it extend all the way to the top? Were priests, and are priests still, sodomizing young boys and raping young girls with the full knowledge of at least some of the Church leaders? And are these leaders, regardless of how they feel about sexual abuse, prepared to still say nothing and if need be actively take steps to keep the abuse secret? For the good of the church's reputation and its future?

The public wants to know, so here are the facts about who knew what at the top. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the head of the Roman Catholic Church most definitely knew of every single shameful case of sexual, physical and mental abuse perpetrated by his priests and nuns and he said nothing. And he was aware of the abuse as it occurred, not merely after the fact when a parent complained. Not only that, he turned a blind eye to abusing priests being moved to hide their crimes and at no time did he attempt to support or console the victims.

How can I possibly make these claims you might wonder, how can I possibly know what the head of the Catholic Church might have known? I now return to my original comment, that there is a blatant fact that most everyone, and especially the Catholic Church, seems to ignore, overlook and completely suppress. It is what might be called the elephant in the room, and it is the undisputable fact that an all-knowing being called God is the head of the Church, not a geriatric pope sitting at the head of a table surrounded by equally geriatric bishops and cardinals etc. The buck doesn't stop with the pope, he's just an underling like all the rest.

If we suspect corruption or wrong doings in a secular organisation like Air NZ or NZ Telecom, not only do we want it stopped and the guilty punished, we also rightly demand to know what the CEO knew about what was happening in his or her organisation. Were they complicit? If they didn't know what was going on under their watch, were they incompetent? Can we accept their cry of ignorance? In secular organisations the buck of course does stop with the CEO, president or equivalent head. We don't just want to know what the vice-president knew, we want to know what his boss knew as well. And being human they might well be able to honestly claim ignorance of the wrong doings of their staff, and whether they should have known is a separate question, one of competence.

But the Catholic Church is not a secular organisation, and the pope is not its head honcho. When they are not defending sex abuse charges the pope and his bishops and priests are always on about God said this and God wants that. Their very raison d'etre, their reason for existing, is to tell us about their all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving boss, God. God knew this abuse was happening, and he either told the pope who did nothing, or he kept it from the pope. If the pope was told and did nothing then it was up to God to blow the whistle, and punish the pope for his inaction. If this was the case, then God's inaction makes him a monster. If God elected not to tell the pope of the abuse, and to again do nothing himself, then God is a monster. Either way, the fact that god never stopped the abuse means that he is a monster.

So why, when discussing sex abuse, do we talk to popes, priests, bishops and Catholics as if they were atheists? Why do we set their religious beliefs aside? Do Catholics somehow not believe in God when matters of sex abuse arise? Why do they direct their anger and questions at the priests, then the bishops and all the way up to the pope, but never further? Why do they seem to forget that the pope's boss knew everything that was going on? How can they hate certain members of an organisation for committing despicable crimes, and yet continue to deal with that organisation and its leader, who they must realise knew these injustices were happening, and did nothing to stop them? Why do they demand financial compensation and apologies from the pope, merely one of God's pawns, and yet demand no answers from God himself?

Of course it's obvious why atheists like myself, secular courts and newspaper editors lay the blame entirely at the feet of the pope, bishops and priests, and don't try and determine how culpable their boss is in these despicable crimes, since their boss doesn't exist. It would be like blaming Santa Claus when you didn't receive that bike you had asked for.

By why don't reporters, lawyers and judges at least highlight the hypocrisy of priests and bishops and even the pope, by asking them what their boss thinks of these crimes? Did God advise them to cover them up and move the abusers to another diocese? If God has not mentioned these abuses of his followers, why might that be? Why the silence and inaction from God on these matters? Does God not think sexual abuse of children is serious, or might he even condone it, since not one priest has been struck by lightning? Why aren't Catholics forced to confront the reality of the situation? Why believe in a god that can't or won't stop an elderly man from sodomizing a choir boy? And why drop to your knees and proclaim your undying love for this disgusting monster? Catholics need to be cajoled into taking a stand, either god doesn't exist and blame stops with the abusive priests and conniving bishops, or god does exist and sexual abuse of children is something god enjoys and desires. We shouldn't let Catholics and Christians in general believe in god in church and deny him in the courts.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Mar, 2010 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Patricia, 27 Mar, 2010

    For some good insight into the twisted rational behind protecting and moving pedophiliac priests read The Bishops Man. Its protagonist is a priest who confronts his colleagues when the game is up and relocates them after "treatment". It demonstrates the mixture of over entitlement, contempt, hypocrisy and dishonesty, all nicely cloaked in self pity and "holier than thou" self-righteousness that enables this creepy organization to continue to have some sort of standing in our society. That is what appalls me. Why does the Catholic church still exist? It makes no sense and talking to people who can somehow believe such clap trap is head shakingly mind boggling. I used to think that religious people were silly or stupid or deluded or brain washed or all of the above, but now I have concluded that they are dangerous as well and that their nasty beliefs are harmful and destructive and need to be made fun of and laughed at with contempt.

  2. Comment by Bob, 01 Apr, 2010

    You are making a mistake by judging the Catholic Church like any other organisation. The Catholic Church doesn't live in the same world we do. It lives in a spiritual world whose leader is God. When priests commit crimes they are answerable to God not civil authorities. A pedophile priest will go to hell after death if his sin is not cleared. Being prosecuted and spending 10 years in jail is nothing in comparison. The wayward priest is spirited away to reflect on his sins and to ask God's forgiveness through confession then receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. In the past church leaders have probably thought that was enough and priests would no longer offend. Cardinal Brady's comment can be understood in that light.

    The publicity and the fact the rest of the world doesn't see things the way Catholics do has probably been a shock to them. They don't understand why everybody, including victims, don't simply forgive and forget according to Christian principles. In an organisation which consists of leaders, priests, cardinals, a pope looked up to with respect by their members, a daily diet of media exposure and criticism and demands from victims for compensation are a shock.

    It's not the first time the Church has harboured criminals. In the Middle Ages several popes were out and out criminals. I agree with you that many priests don't really believe in God. If they did wouldn't they be afraid of next life punishment? The Church as an organisation provides security. Why would a middle aged priest with no skills give it up for an uncertain future in the outside world when his beliefs faded? In a similar vein, a tutor at a fundamentalist Christian academy lost his beliefs but had to carry on preaching and pretending he still subscribed to dogma because he had a family to support with teenagers going to college.

    The Church provides a pedophile with access to children, security and protection if found out. However it no longer has the power to ride roughshod over society as it used to. I think the Church will tread very carefully in future.

  3. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Apr, 2010

    Bob, I agree when you say that the Church believes it is not like any other organisation. But the point that we were trying to convey was that when their employees are arrested for sexual abuse, physical abuse, fraud etc, and hauled before the civil courts, everyone — priest, church, lawyer, judge, reporter, Joe Public — does treat the church as if they were exactly the same as any other man made organisation. If the church really believed as they claimed, that they lived in a different world, a spiritual world under God's leadership and that they were answerable only to God and not civil authorities, then they would refuse to recognise arrest warrants, the authority of the courts and their verdicts. Although they would still be detained, they would refuse to actively participate in the trials and would openly and loudly denounce their unjust verdicts. Yet priests on trial never shout, 'You have no authority over me. I am answerable only to God. I demand you release me'. Instead it is always, 'I never touched that boy. I don't know what happened to the church funds. And I never touched those boys either'. What happens to their belief that they are from a different world with a different master? If you listen to a priest deliver a sermon in church and another speak in his defence in court, they are certainly from different worlds. All the powerful, authoritative and self-assured talk of god said this and god will do this and you will burn in hell are missing from the courts, replaced with weak denials upon denials. Where has their confident belief that they answer only to God gone? Why do they not bring God and their differing responsibilities between their world and our world into their legal arguments? Indeed, why do they not even attempt to call God, or at least an angel, as a witness in their defence? Why do they leave this spiritual world that demands their obedience at the court entrance?

    In the early days, Christians did insist that they were answerable only to God and not civil authorities, eg the Romans. They went to their deaths and become martyrs, refusing to submit to the illegitimate laws of others. But today neither the priests nor the church puts forward this argument when confronted by civil authorities. If eventually exposed and caught, they meekly agree that what they or their fellow priests did was wrong, and that they will submit to civil justice.

    I'm sure there are still a few Catholics, probably more outside the priesthood than in it, that still truly believe that God is the only one they must keep happy, that they have no responsibility to obey civil laws. But I don't accept this argument, anymore than I would accept a serial killer saying that he truly believed his victims led pathetic lives and were better off dead. They may offer these excuses for their crimes, but no rational person with a sense of justice accepts them.

    Rather than thumbing their noses at civil authority, the monsters in the Vatican and those supported by the Vatican hide from and fear the gaze of the public and civil authorities. Rather than proudly claiming that they live in a different world from us, with different rules, and that they answer to a different authority, these monsters know only too well that what they have done is abhorrent to both their god and man. They never arrogantly dismiss complaints with, 'Oh yes, Father O'Shamus sodomized your son, but that is none of your concern Mr Jenkins, it is between Father O'Shamus and God. Now begone and let us return to our prayers'. Instead they lie.

    We're saying that not only do the abusive priests not believe that God is watching them, but even the Pope must now realise that there is no loving God watching their every move, a god that is supposedly ready and more than willing to punish any sinful action. Children have been terrorised for centuries with this notion. The Bible is full of examples of God in ancient times enacting immediate retribution for sins against him, starting with Adam and Eve. Yet for thousands of years atrocity after atrocity has been committed under his all-seeing gaze, not just by the multitudes of heathens but by his very own followers and his trusted employees. If there ever was a god, then either he is now dead or he has moved his entire family to a galaxy with a better climate.

    Nor do I believe criticism of their fairy stories and behaviour is a shock to the church. They have been fighting a battle to limit criticism for centuries. Likewise compensation for victims should not be a shock to the Vatican. It is one of the core elements of their religion. In confession, the victim that has been harmed by some sinful action is God, and he demands compensation, in the form of prayers or Hail Marys or fasting etc to apologise for the sin. Now human victims are asking for the same justice, insisting that those that offended against them confess their sinful actions and offer apologies and recompense. It is the Catholic way.

    I agree that priests probably do at some level believe that God is running their lives and he is the one to whom they must answer, but why don't they use this argument in court? Why does no priest scream, 'Look, it's quite simple. Until God — my all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God — stops me abusing little boys, I have to assume it's OK with him. Can I go now?'

  4. Comment by Bob, 02 Apr, 2010

    John, to answer your last question members of the Catholic hierarchy are not stupid. While the likes of Jehovahs witnesses will claim immunity from civil authority Catholic leaders would not. They take the path of being obstructive and uncooperative. A media article over the last few days said the pope might have to face charges of covering for pedophiles. However church officials would never allow it by claiming immunity because he is the head of a sovereign state. For a very long time there has been friction over confessional secrecy. A penitent can confess to crimes but the priest has to observe confessional confidentiality effectively covering up for crimes they know about. Also according to media articles the church has engaged top legal defense to answer charges. Leaders seem to have contempt for secular authorities.

    Like most human organisations the Catholic Church has become arrogant and thought itself above the law. It is not only the pedophile priests but the priests who have secret lovers even children, priests who use prostitutes and nuns who have treated unmarried mothers in Catholic homes appallingly. At the same time I respect those priests who have done their job to the best of their ability helping people and working in very unattractive areas. Wayward priests are slapping them in the face. When dealing with relatives of abused children they are quite capable of stonewalling them using their authority to override them.

    I'm sure church authorities know they are in the wrong and many probably have doubts about their beliefs, but are they going to admit it and allow the Catholic Church to collapse? Very unlikely! For the cardinals, why kill a cushy number with the high level position of respect they enjoy?

  5. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Apr, 2010

    You are of course right Bob, regardless of what the church hierarchy now believes, it certainly isn't going to reveal these revelations and/or close up shop. And imagine the years of legal wrangling involved in disposing of the world-wide assets of the Catholic Church! Our hope is that eventually the source of the Vatican's wealth and gullible recruits, the ordinary Catholic on the street, will let reason rather than superstition dictate what they do on Sunday, who they give their hard earned wages to, and who they view as a good career choice. Thus lacking moral and financial support, the Catholic Church will simply fade into history, like thousands of other religious beliefs before them. Eventually the name Pope will be no different from Zeus or Osiris, someone that the multitudes once followed, but who is now seen to be a silly figure from history, and people will marvel at how they could ever have believed in him.

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Last Updated Jun 2010