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Comments:

  1. Comment by Bruce, 10 Sep, 2007

    Good Site.

    Have a look at this: www.prophet.co.nz in particular the avatar course.

    these guys are out there!

    this kind of bullshit is unfortunately spreading like a cancer in this country, lets not make it too easy for them.

    keep up the good work

  2. Comment by Dana, 16 Oct, 2007

    Sorry didnt really enjoy your site!

  3. Comment by Sam, 14 Nov, 2007

    You need to update your website, or wait maybe you don't because you can't find new things to cittersize!
    SILLY beliefs is right

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Nov, 2007

    Thanks for the suggestion Sam, but we don't need to update "facts". The beliefs we denounce on our website are still false and still silly as far as we can determine. You certainly don't give us any information to make us question our stance, you don't even mention what silly belief you have attached yourself to.
    If you can point out errors please let us know what they are. It's easy to tell someone they're wrong, the difficult part is to explain why. We eagerly await your revelations.
    And might we suggest you get someone to show you how to switch on your email spell checker. Atrocious spelling only leaves us with other things to criticise. We assume that's what you meant with "cittersize"? And it seems rather ironic that you write a vague letter of criticism complaining about people that criticise.

  5. Comment by Sam, 14 Nov, 2007

    Watever!
    It's called txt(text) language

  6. Comment by Sam, 14 Nov, 2007

    n dnt b so bloody picky!

  7. Comment by Glenn, 03 Jul, 2008

    Hi John, just come across your website. Brilliant, all power to you. I endorse your comments 100%. My area of expertise is Astronomy and I have spent much of my time educating people about the science of Astronomy or more particularly Cosmology. Religion is a social disease born of ignorance, fear and superstition. I am currently developing a series of presentations to educate people about Cosmology in order to counter much of the ignorance and mis-information out there.

  8. Comment by Bob, 28 Dec, 2008

    Hi John, I should have my own web page where I can post my ideas. Unfortunately I don't know how to go about it and don't want to pay someone to do it. In the meantime I have to be content with posting to other people's blogs.

    A few days ago there was an article in the media on spare fertilised human eggs left over from fertility treatments. The eggs belong to the donors so they have the right to decide on their disposal. The problem is some have been frozen for several years and the owners have gone. The laboratories where they are stored have three choices, destroy them, use them for egg donations or use them for experiments. The Catholic Church has jumped in and demanded they be destroyed. It regards life as starting at conception. God inserts souls into fertilised eggs and they have the status of fully formed humans. In fact the Catholic Church regards all life as belonging to God so no interference can be allowed in the natural process of conception and birth at all. In fact if childless couples can't conceive then they must go childless. Artificial insemination or removal of eggs for in vitro fertilisation is out. Medical experiments on fertilised eggs are totally out of the question.

    A few weeks ago I read a very interesting book called The Story of God, written by Robert Winston a doctor scientist, author and television presenter who has specialised in human fertility. He hosted a series recently on the development of children from birth shown here on local TV. The Story of God was in fact a BBC television series on the history of religion. Winston asked for and got permission to turn the series into a book. If you see it in your local library I can recommend reading it. One chapter is on his experience with attempts to carry out studies of early embryos.

    The earlier work on in vitro fertilisation did not cause too much controversy until Dolly the sheep was born. That combined with genetic modification and suggestions for experiments on embryos really set the cat among the pigeons. These scientists were acting as God! Laws were set in place particularly by the fundamentalist Bush administration defining the limits of research. The Winston laboratory wanted to experiment on early embryos where the fertilised eggs were allowed to split 8 times. This was still a tiny speck visible only under a fairly strong microscope. The trouble was the law didn't allow them to do it. Members of the British parliament either religious themselves or mindful of upsetting the religious establishment had to be pushed hard to enact laws to allow the experiments. Winston pointed out eggs often split several times before they even implant on the uterus. The embryo at this stage has no recognisable human cells, no brain or nerve cells. That didn't deter the opponents. Groups like the Right to Life printed out pictures of fully formed fetuses in their leaflets opposing the experiments. The Catholic Church placed petitions of opposition at the doors of their churches asking members to sign them on their way out. Yet Winston says little effort was made to explain the issues to them. He had Catholic couples come to him for help with their infertility and were puzzled to find they were doing something wrong. It wasn't only Catholics opposing. He had Rabbis and Protestant ministers. He invited them to come to the laboratory to see for themselves. Few would. A handful who did went away admitting there didn't seem to be anything evil about the work.

    Because of his media work Winston's face with a thick moustache is well known. He was attacked in the street, abused and sometimes threatened. He received death threats by mail. He didn't even tell his wife because he didn't want to upset her. Yet as he said his experiments could lead to more births of healthy babies, more infertile couples getting the chance to have a baby and a chance to avoid hereditary conditions. To me it seems like we haven't gone too far from the days of the Spanish Inquisition or the witch trials.

  9. Comment by Ryan, 29 Oct, 2008

    Hey thanks heaps for a great site!!!!!!
    It scares me that no 1 is standing up 2 this bullshit called religon in NZ!!!!!!!!!!!
    no 1 cares anough to say hang on... what your talking about is not only bullshit but is also dangrous!!!!!!
    please keep up the good work
    spread the gospallllllllllll
    thanks again

  10. Comment by Bob, 09 May, 2009

    Hullo John. Today (Saturday) I have seen two items of interest. One is an article in the Herald and the other comes from an atheists blog site.

    The Herald article concerns Sikh policemen in Britain. Sikhs have recently been accepted into the police and allowed to wear their turbans in place of helmets. I think this is good as members of a particular culture can handle problems in that cultural neighbourhood and help with language problems. The trouble is those Sikh policemen now want to join the armed police similar to our armed offenders squad. However they don't want to take off their turbans and wear the bullet proof helmets normally used. They want the police to design a bullet proof turban just for them. Imagine if all police members of different races and cultures want the police administration to change the rules and design clothing especially for them. What about all other government institutions such as the hospital system? Should there be a number of different uniforms available covering all cultures? Where would it end?

    Too many foreigners coming into our free and open European societies seem to think our societies should change to accommodate them. I would remind them they have left their societies and come to ours. If they want to be integrated here they must follow our rules. In New Zealand we have had problems with totally covered Islamic women refusing to uncover their faces when giving evidence in court or in front of a traffic officer so he can check their faces against the photos on the licences. The difference between them and us is not just culture but is mainly religious culture. Once again religious belief hamstrings societies and progress.

    The other topic is to do with euthanasia. It comes from an American atheists website. I didn't know assisted suicide was legal in Oregon. It doesn't appear to have given rise to any evil in that state. In principle I am in favour of voluntary euthanasia provided there are strong safeguards against abuse. The Catholic Church is totally against it on the grounds that only God can take life. No matter how much pain is suffered mentally or physically a person must wait for natural death. Many terminally ill patients need so much morphine to dull pain that they are virually drugged until nearly comatose. Hospital staff will tell you of cases where doctors have given that little bit extra morphine to a patient to hasten the end. When commenting on cases of human suffering the Catholic Church always emphasises it's compassion then proceeds to insist on courses of action which lead to more suffering and very little compassion. Nurses see heart wrenching cases where the patients want to die but they are not allowed to openly intervene. Oregon has a population of just under 3 million so 341 assisted suicides in 10 years is not many. Opponents always use scare tactics such as claiming people who are only depressed will be helped to die. The small Oregon numbers give the lie to that. In fact they suggest fewer people are helped to die than might want to end their lives.

    Religious representatives have a right to their opinions but rarely shine much light on a subject like this generally obfuscating the issues.

  11. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 May, 2009

    As for those Sikh policemen in Britain, I'm with you. The police and in fact every government department, business etc should ideally reflect the ethnic make up of society. Ethic and religious groups insist that they should be viewed equally when it comes to entry and treatment in these organisations, but once in they then try to insist on special treatment.

    When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Muslims especially annoy me with their silly dress codes. They say that their women should be able to remain covered, like in court or getting a photographic ID. Yet when I worked in Iran, even as a male, I wasn't allowed to dress according to my dress code, and Western women had to wear a headscarf and long coat at all times in public. When I've tried to enter mosques overseas I've had to obey their dress code. Even a Catholic priest in the Notre Dame in Paris made me conform to their dress code. When in a Muslim country why do we have to obey their laws but when they come here they don't have to obey ours? Religion aside, why when I go to the USA am I not allowed to drive on the left because that is what I'm comfortable with? If Muslim women don't want to uncover their face then they must simply forgo doing anything that requires getting a photographic ID for example. It's their choice. Things like driver's licences require certain conditions be met, photographic ID is one of them. Likewise being in public, and especially flying in aircraft, requires that we don't carry knifes, so if Sikhs can't leave their daggers at home, then they need to stay at home as well. Do you remember the news item about Sikhs wanting to be able to carry their ceremonial — but very real — daggers onto planes in NZ? They have five things, including their turbans, that they must wear. If Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Christians or whatever refuse to fulfil certain conditions required to gain entrance to particular employment or get a driver's or firearm's licence etc, then they must be refused, rather than making exceptions. It's like MP Nandor Tanchos being allowed to ride a bike without a helmet because of his religion, and they say that we're all treated equally under the law. Yeah right! Our secular laws that treat everyone equally are not perfect but they are the best we can probably hope to achieve. Otherwise, as you say, where would it end? Would Hindu police recruits insist that their religious caste puts them above the Police Commissioner? Would Muslim police recruits refuse to work with heretics and insist on separate cars, patrols and courts? And why stop at religion? Would police recruits who were also nudists want the right to patrol naked? Would petrol head cops only drive Fords and not Holdens? Would fashion mad policewomen refuse to wear hats because it mussed up their hair or the stab proof vests because they didn't complement their figure? It would be a nightmare, and we haven't even thought about other careers.

    You said, 'I would remind them they have left their societies and come to ours'. How quickly they forget that they left these societies probably because their freedoms were being abused, but rather than embrace this new culture that has offered them an escape, they try and recreate a mini version of the very society they left. Some politicians (especially in Britain) encourage this cultural diversity, that different communities with different languages, beliefs and even laws should be encouraged, rather than pushing for true integration into society. This is only a recipe for disaster. If you want to move to Britain, France, the US or NZ, then you must be prepared to learn the language, accept the culture and its laws, otherwise stay where you are. But the British are often no better, they move to France or Spain to live and refuse to learn the language. If they are allowed to prosper, religious communities in Britain or NZ will only recreate the very restrictions that these people fled in the first place. We must remain secular, where everyone sees themselves as Kiwis, not as Muslims or Sikhs or Baptists. We must not encourage separate communities, different laws and different employment rights based on religion.

    As for euthanasia, I also didn't know assisted suicide was legal in Oregon. I'm definitely a supporter of voluntary euthanasia. It amazes me that the law allows us to euthanize our pets and will even prosecute us if we allow them to suffer unnecessarily. Yet when it comes to our family or ourselves the law insists we must let them die naturally, regardless of the amount of suffering. Why do we have more compassion for animals than for humans?

    You said that 'Nurses see heart wrenching cases where the patients want to die but they are not allowed to openly intervene'. In fact they do openly intervene, not to help them die, but to keep them alive unnaturally. If the body is trying to die, following God's will, then putting them on a respirator and artificially feeding them is just as much an example of 'playing God' as is euthanasia. Ending a life prior to its natural death is just as much a human intervention as prolonging a life past what should have been its natural death. Rather than submitting to God's will, Christians are fighting it with every marvel of modern medicine they can muster.

    Christians are utter hypocrites, pretending to be following God's will and spouting their superior God-given morals to the rest of us, while they are using man-made medicine to battle God's powers. But they become cruel when they selfishly refuse to let an incurable person in terrible pain die a natural death or provide the means to painlessly accelerate their inevitable death. Their own selfish and superstitious desires override the compassion they should have for the patient, usually a close family member or friend. Their cruel and selfish desire to keep them alive overrides the intense pain, suffering, indignity, humiliation, and maybe even pleading, in the bed in front of them. These people disgust me. Definitely fight for life when there is hope, but to continue this when all hope has been dashed and replaced with unspeakable suffering is abhorrent.

  12. Comment by Bob, 21 May, 2009

    I read the following article on the Stuff newspaper summary this morning Harrowing Irish church abuse revealed. It's not a new story now. I remember seeing a documentary when an English television team looked into the subject. They went to one of the homes for supposedly wayward girls who were called Magdalens. Young unmarried mothers had their babies stolen and adopted by Catholic families. No one would talk to the journalists. They waited until nuns opened the solid gate and came out onto the street. They tried to talk to the nuns but were ignored.

    That and the pedophile priests shows me in spite of it's supposed Christian principles the Catholic Church is no different from any other human organisation which grows large and powerful without having to answer to anybody.

  13. Comment by Bob, 22 May, 2009

    I have just found another treasure: muslim-chef-refused-to-cook-sausages-and-bacon-for-police-officers-breakfasts. Anybody wanting a job cooking plain fare for people like the police, soldiers, firemen etc. are going to be expected to cook bacon in America. This idiot actually thinks the police should pay him for not respecting his religion. If he feels so strongly he should stick to cooking for his own people. Do you remember some years ago a Muslim wanting to sue a takeaway bar for putting bacon on his pizza claiming he had sinned for eating it before he noticed the bacon here in New Zealand? As I asked in the post about Sikhs, where will it end?

  14. Comment by Bob, 12 Jun, 2009

    In Thursday's Herald, 11th June, there is a piece about another weeping icon in a Greek Orthodox church in Ramia, Israel. I am not sure if it is a painting or a statue of St. George. It's very indistinct and has streaks of oil running down. Not surprisingly Christians have been flocking there. Out of interest I looked up weeping statues on Google. There are a number of websites however I settled on http://www.crystalinks.com/weepingstatues.html. I was surprised to see how many were shown. What are they and how does it happen? Well I work on the sceptics principle that the simplest explanation is the most likely - they are faked except for an occasional natural explanation such as water absorbancy by the material used to make the statue. That was the explanation for one. The eyes had been made from a material different from the rest of the statue and more absorbent. Going back quite a long time one was shown on a current affairs programme on television. In a Catholic country of poor and poorly educated people, probably South America, a roadside statue of the Virgin was weeping clear tears out of one eye and blood red tears out of the other. A sceptical well experienced American lady reporter went to have a look. She got the name of the maker and went to see him. She asked why clear liquid was running out of one eye. He answered it sounded like the glue was running. Why was the other one red? It sounded like the glue was running bringing a bit of red colouring with it. In another case from America a young girl suffering brain damage lay permanently in a deep coma at home. In her room was a statue of the Virgin with oil running down it, mysteriously of course. The father explained it as the Virgin looking over his daughter. Word got around and large numbers of people were calling. The family allowed them in to walk around bed and out. If I recall correctly there was a collection box for offerings. Money wasn't directly asked for. The interested people were only allowed in during the day but not at night so the family could have peace and privacy. Next morning there was fresh oil. There was the usual claim of miraculous cures of people who called in and said a prayer. I suspect the parents were chuckling over the gullibility of people.

  15. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Jun, 2009

    Those weeping icons also surprise me. Apart from being bogus as you say, I can't understand how believers can downgrade god's powers to such a degree that all he can do these days is make the odd stature cry occasionally and produce a vague image of Jesus or Mary on a piece of toast. Why aren't they demanding their god gets off his arse and does something about the real problems in the world, rather than mucking around with third rate magic tricks?

  16. Comment by Bob, 26 Jun, 2009

    Over the last few days there have been two items in the Herald of religious fundamentalist ignorance one funny and one tragic. In Oregan USA a couple refused medical attention for their baby sick with pneumonia. Instead they prayed over the child while watching it deteriorate then die. They were charged with denying the necessities of life. This is the danger of ignorant belief. Similar cases have happened her including allowing a 13 year old boy to die of cancer.

    The other concerned a Jewish couple living in a highrise block of flats. When they come out of the front door into a corridor a light automatically comes on. Now to line up with the bible the couple interpret a light as a fire. Jews are forbidden from lighting fires on the Sabbath so they believe that causing the light to come on the Sabbath violates their religion. But they can't stop the light coming on so they wanted to sue the building management for not respecting their religion. The article didn't say if they were successful. I must say it is the first time I have heard such a complaint from Jews. It is usually Muslims who easily get up in arms over supposed slights.

    A few years ago a conman in France advertised astrology charts made up for a fee. He made up four standard charts. When people from all around the country ordered them he sent one of the four of course pretending to make them up after getting personal details. If two people from the same town ordered them he would send two different ones just in case they knew each other and compared them. But he was likely to send the same one to people in different parts. Apparently the police didn't see the funny side and charged him with fraud.

    A lady appeared on TV warning people against telephone psychics. She took a job as a psychic working alongside several other women. She was given instructions on what to say the main thing being to keep the caller on the line as long as possible. 0900 numbers were used so the longer the call the greater the income. On one call a lady asked her if she should go ahead with medical treatment and an operation advised by her doctor. The "psychic" had a touch of conscience. She didn't want someone taking false advice from her and suffering for it. She tossed the job in and warned people on the television show against ringing psychic lines.

    Gullible people are a rich vein for fraudsters to mine.

  17. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Jun, 2009

    I guess I can understand why the Oregon couple refused medical help. Imagine you had a sick child and you put your confidence in your local doctor to bring about a cure. However your neighbour, a recent immigrant from Africa, wants you to consult a witch doctor friend of his. You refuse, firmly believing that your doctor is your best hope. The Oregon couple is similar. They have put their confidence in their God to bring about a cure, refusing to consult these doctors that others recommend. They firmly believe that God is their best hope. Just as you fervently believe you're doing the right thing by consulting doctors, they also believe they are doing the right thing by following God. I don't think we can criticise them on the grounds that they aren't trying to do the right thing. The danger is, as you say, acting on 'ignorant belief'. These people must be criticised and punished for failing to use reason to form their beliefs. Obviously, to you and me anyway, you refusing to consult witch doctors is not the same as a religious couple refusing to consult medical doctors. Evidence and reason support the efficacy of doctors, and equally debunk the claims of witch doctors. Likewise there is no evidence of God bringing about cures. These people no doubt love their children and suffer psychologically when they die. We can't challenge their concern for their children, but we need to do everything we can to destroy their 'ignorant belief' in a God that has no interest in curing their children.

    It's a weird thing that Sabbath condition of doing no work. Some observant Jews go to great lengths to get around it. They obviously prepare all their meals and such beforehand, but I saw one TV doco where there are Jewish companies that invent all these devices that start and run appliances automatically so that people don't have to. Timers switch on heaters and TVs and turn taps on and off at specific times. They even showed a hospital that was designed to run automatically during the Sabbath so that Jews wouldn't have to lift a finger and break the Sabbath. Some of the devices were like that apartment light that you described, yet these Jews believed that switching on something by breaking an infrared beam with your body was OK, but physically flicking a switch wasn't. As long as they didn't physically exert themselves they didn't class it as work. It makes their god look like an imbecile if the use of modern technology can fool him. Of course from a physics viewpoint, just walking, eating and breathing is performing work, so to really obey the Sabbath they would have to be placed in some sort of suspended animation for the day.

    As for that French conman making bogus astrology charts, it's a shame that the police wouldn't charge ALL astrologers with fraud, since they can all be show to be bogus. It's good to see that at least one person operating as a psychic had a 'touch of conscience' and quit and spoke out against them. Unfortunately many really do believe in what they do, and you can only have a 'touch of conscience' if you know that you're lying to people. I think many manage to delude themselves as well as their clients. It's back to that ignorant belief again. Of course there are also many that are just plain crooks. They know what they're doing is wrong and a lie, but it's safer than robbing banks or dealing drugs. Either way it's still criminal.

  18. Comment by Bob, 27 Jun, 2009

    Thanks for your reply John. Logically you are right about the sincerity of the parents but that attitude can't be allowed. For one thing the parents are making harmful decisions for another human being, albeit their own child. Some time ago I saw a website where an American had gone back over newspaper reports for 50 years and listed cases of child deaths because the parents who were Jehovah's witnesses refused blood transfusions for their children. Imagine if you were blind because your parents had refused treatment for an eye condition on the grounds God would cure it. How would you feel towards your parents now?

    As far as the phone psychics go many callers have mental or emotional problems. One woman who was on her own and very lonely spent a fortune on psychic phone lines just to have someone to talk to. The conmen who run the lines take advantage of distressed people who in reality need help. In my area there is a charitable organisation which asks for volunteers to visit people mainly the elderly who have no family or friends.

    I'd like to see all forms of fraud prosecuted but it is not as easy as it sounds. The fraudsters are smart enough to use loopholes or alter their techniques to circumvent the law. Some of the laws fail to achieve their aims and end up causing more problems. Look at the anti-smacking law. That law is basically unenforceable unless there is a policeman in every home. In any case it has no effect on serious abuse. Also all the laws in the world won't protect people from themselves.

    Unfortunately I doubt if many of the people who need enlightening read your website.

  19. Comment by Anonymous-1, 02 Sep, 2009

    great site guys! it's a 'godsend' haha

  20. Comment by Andrew, 14 Sep, 2009

    Hi John, I recently stubbled upon your site — fantastic by the way.

    One thing that could be a useful addition would be a reading/viewing list. I am a fan of Carl Sagan and all his works. The television serie he created back in 79/80 "Cosmos" is a must for everyone. Also his books, especially "The Demon Haunted World: Science as a candle in the dark" are a great read.

  21. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Sep, 2009

    Thanks for your support Andrew. As for your suggestion for a 'reading/viewing list', are you sure you're not psychic? I'm actually working on one at this very moment. A while back we put our 'Recommended Book of the Week' on our homepage, with the intention that this would be a sample from a list of books or documentaries we would recommend. Hopefully your email will push me to get that list online.

    You're right about Carl Sagan. 'The Demon Haunted World' is a classic and could change the thinking of a lot of people if they would only read it. I've often wished they would repeat his very successful Cosmos series. That said, there have been a lot of advances in astronomy and cosmology since it was made, such as planetary data and dark matter and dark energy, so parts might be a little dated. However the public interest it generated in astronomy and the universe was amazing, and I would certainly watch it again. What we really need is an updated version containing Sagan's enthusiasm. It may have even been made, but our TV channels refuse to purchase shows like this, going instead with cheaply made shows featuring lowly celebrities 'surviving' on islands or tramping through Libya. I don't know if you've ever watched Penn and Teller: Bullshit!? This is now on its sixth season, yet our TV channels have only shown us the first two seasons. If we rely on TV and our large bookstores to provide us with thought provoking shows and books then we'll be disappointed.

  22. Comment by Marie, 01 Dec, 2009

    Denial is always the best outcome for something you don't understand, It is time that you think about yourself and open your eyes instead to be scarred of it and who knows, you could become a peasant yourself....

  23. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Dec, 2009

    Hi Marie. Your vague comments don't actually say what it is that you believe we're denying, that we don't understand and that we're scared of. Is it something to do with the supernatural, the paranormal or pseudoscience, or all three? How can we think about what it is that you have a problem with if you don't mention it or point out any obvious errors? Note that contrary to many people that we expose, we don't claim to be psychic.

    And quite frankly I'm surprised that you would think that I would want to become an ignorant peasant. I don't know where you live and work, but in our area you don't see many adverts that say: 'Wanted: Ignorant peasant. Must believe in gods, psychics, alien abductions, crystal healing and all manner of spooky things. Poor working conditions and low pay guaranteed'.

    If what you call 'opening your eyes' would turn me into a peasant, either intellectually or financially, then I think I will continue using reason and evidence rather than simply trusting my eyes.

  24. Comment by David, 02 Jan, 2010

    Read Richard Dawkins The God Delusion. I cannot recommend highly enough! It also explores why religious belief is so ubiquitous.

  25. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Jan, 2010

    Hi David, we've all read The God Delusion and agree, it's an excellent book. I've read several of Richard Dawkins books and he would be one of my favourite authors. Not only do I agree with him on most things, he has a great writing style. It's one thing to know what you're talking about but quite another to be able to explain it to a layperson. There are several other excellent books I've read on religion and atheism but it is brilliant to see The God Delusion in ordinary bookshops and being read by ordinary people.

  26. Comment by Matt, 09 Feb, 2010

    Here's a silly belief. My friends used to talk in tongues. They claimed it was the language of angels and the like, I just thought they might need medication. When I say used to talk in tongues what i mean is, they still do, it's the friends part that changed.

  27. Comment by Bob-2, 18 Feb, 2010

    John, you are of course entitled to your own views re Jeanette Wilson (or any other medium for that matter), however please refrain from deriding Jeanette (and others) to those among the population who see things differently from the way you apparently do.

  28. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Feb, 2010

    Bob, you are of course entitled to your own views re Jeanette Wilson (or any other medium for that matter), however please refrain from praising Jeanette (and others) to those among the population who see things differently from the way you apparently do.

    Seriously Bob, I find it strange that you say we are entitled to our opinion, but then ask us not to express it. If we can't express our opinion then you have censored us, we effectively have no opinion if we aren't allowed to express it. Your grand gesture of granting us an opinion is worthless if we must then hide it.

    Furthermore, mediums such as Wilson, as well as their supporters, display no hesitation in criticising and deriding skeptics at every opportunity. I'll repeat what I've said before. Jeanette Wilson and other mediums have it in their power to prove it to skeptics that we shouldn't look upon them with contempt and scorn, and yet they all refuse to do so, leaving it up to supporters such as yourself to fight their battles for them. Rather than producing evidence, why is their very survival seemingly based on encouraging others to silence the voice of skeptics?

  29. Comment by Matt, 07 Mar, 2010

    Thanks for your work on this website. I am an american doctor working in New Zealand, and I'm glad to see there's a skeptic movement afoot here. I'm constantly surprised by the willingness of some to take advantage of people when they're sick and desperate for miracle cures, and your team is obviously working hard to debunk many of these quacks. I'm sometimes tempted to bite my tongue and let people believe what they wish, but your site reminded me that a public outcry and confrontation may actually decrease the amount of lies and deception in the world. Keep up the good work.

  30. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Mar, 2010

    Hi Matt. Thanks for your positive comments. Like you we're also tempted to say nothing on occasion rather than create a fuss, but I suspect that many people have their silly beliefs bolstered when no one challenges them. Often people just want the truth, and if they recount a controversial belief that they've picked up, and if no one challenges this belief, then its veracity is increased in their mind. And this is especially so if they view the person that appears to be agreeing with them as intelligent and well educated, such as doctors and other professionals. Many people in my view continue to hold beliefs in miracle cures etc simply because no one wants to embarrass them by pointing out flaws in their arguments. Adults see it as their responsiblity to correct a child's naive view of the world, yet many are unwilling to do the same for their fellow adults. As long as we smile and nod and politely change the subject, then we must accept some responsiblity for the continuation of silly beliefs in society. The real challenge is to be able to discuss these topics rationally and calmly, without causing offense.

  31. Comment by Bob, 25 Mar, 2010

    Hello John, I don't know if you subscribe to Rationalist International. If not I can recommend it. I am pasting the contents of their latest email:

    "When a famous tantric guru boasted on television that he could kill another man using only his mystical powers, most viewers either gasped in awe or merely nodded unquestioningly. Sanal Edamaruku's response was different. "Go on then — kill me," he said.

    Mr Edamaruku had been invited to the same talk show as head of the Indian Rationalists' Association — the country's self-appointed sceptic-in-chief. At first the holy man, Pandit Surender Sharma, was reluctant, but eventually he agreed to perform a series of rituals designed to kill Mr Edamaruku live on television. Millions tuned in as the channel cancelled scheduled programming to continue broadcasting the showdown, which can still be viewed on YouTube.

    First, the master chanted mantras, then he sprinkled water on his intended victim. He brandished a knife, ruffled the sceptic's hair and pressed his temples. But after several hours of similar antics, Mr Edamaruku was still very much alive — smiling for the cameras and taunting the furious holy man.

    "He was over, finished, completely destroyed!" Mr Edamaruku chuckles triumphantly as he concludes the tale in the Rationalist Centre, his second-floor office in the town of Noida, just outside Delhi.

    Rationalising India has never been easy. Given the country's vast population, its pervasive poverty and its dizzying array of ethnic groups, languages and religions, many deem it impossible.

    Nevertheless, Mr Edamaruku has dedicated his life to exposing the charlatans — from levitating village fakirs to televangelist yoga masters — who he says are obstructing an Indian Enlightenment. He has had a busy month, with one guru arrested over prostitution, another caught in a sex-tape scandal, a third kidnapping a female follower and a fourth allegedly causing a stampede that killed 63 people.

    This week India's most popular yoga master, Baba Ramdev, announced plans to launch a political party, promising to cleanse India of corruption and introduce the death penalty for slaughtering cows. Then, on Wednesday, police arrested a couple in Maharashtra state on suspicion of killing five boys on the advice of a tantric master who said their sacrifice would help the childless couple to conceive.

    "The immediate goal I have is to stop these fraudulent babas and gurus," says Mr Edamaruku, 55, a part-time journalist and publisher from the southern state of Kerala. "I want people to make their own decisions. They should not be guided by ignorance, but by knowledge.

    "I'd like to see a post-religious society — that would be an ideal dream, but I don't know how long it would take."

    His organisation traces its origins to the 1930s when the "Thinker's Library" series of books, published by Britain's Rationalist Press Association, were first imported to India. They included works by Aldous Huxley, Charles Darwin and H.G. Wells; among the early subscribers was Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister.

    The Indian Rationalist Association was founded officially in Madras in 1949 with the encouragement of the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, who sent a long letter of congratulations. For the next three decades it had no more than 300 members and focused on publishing pamphlets and debating within the country's intellectual elite.

    But since Mr Edamaruku took over in 1985, it has grown into a grass-roots organisation of more than 100,000 members — mainly young professionals, teachers and students — covering most of India. Members now spend much of their time investigating and reverse-engineering "miracles" performed by self-styled holy men who often claim millions of followers and amass huge wealth from donations.

    One common trick they expose is levitation, usually done using an accomplice who lies on the ground under a blanket and then raises his upper body while holding out two hockey sticks under the blanket to make it look like his feet are also rising. "It's quite easy really," said Mr Edamaruku, who teaches members to perform the tricks in villages and then explains how they are done, or demonstrates them at press conferences.

    Other simple tricks include walking on hot coals (the skin does not burn if you walk fast enough) and lying on a bed of nails (your weight is spread evenly across the bed). The "weeping statue" trick is usually done by melting a thin layer of wax covering a small deposit of water.

    Some tricks require closer scrutiny. One guru in the state of Andhra Pradesh used to boil a pot of tea using a small fire on his head. The secret was to place a non-conductive pad made of compacted wheat flour between his head and the fire. "I was so excited when I exposed him. I should have been more reasonable but sometimes you get so angry," he said. "I cried: 'Look, even I can do this and I'm not a baba — I'm a rationalist!'."

    Exposing such tricks can be risky. A guru called Balti (Bucket) Baba once smashed a burning hot clay pot in Mr Edamaruku's face after he revealed that the holy man was using a heat resistant pad to pick it up.

    The chief rationalist was almost arrested by the government of Kerala for revealing that it was behind an annual apparition of flames in the night sky — in fact, several state officials lighting bonfires on a nearby hill — which attracted millions of pilgrims. Despite his efforts, he admits that people still go to the festival and continue to revere self-styled holy men.

    One reason is that Indian politicians nurture and shelter gurus to give them spiritual credibility, use their followers as vote banks, or to mask sexual or criminal activity. That explains why India's Parliament has never tightened the 1954 Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, under which the maximum punishment is two months in prison and a 2,000 rupee (£29) fine.

    Another reason is that educated, middle-class Indians are feeling increasingly alienated from mainstream religion but still in need of spiritual sustenance. "When traditional religion collapses people still need spirituality," he says. "So they usually go one of two directions: towards extremism and fundamentalism or to these kinds of people."

    Since richer, urban Indians have little time for long pilgrimages orpujas (prayer ceremonies), they are often attracted by holy men who offer instant gratification — for a fee. The development of the Indian media over the past decade has also allowed some holy men to reach ever larger audiences via television and the internet. "Small ones have gone out of business while the big ones have become like corporations," says Mr Edamaruku.

    But the media revolution has also helped Mr Edamaruku, who made 225 appearances on television last year, and gets up to 70 inquiries about membership daily. Thanks to his confrontation in 2008 with the tantric master, the rationalist is now a national celebrity, too.

    When the guru's initial efforts failed, he accused Mr Edamaruku of praying to gods to protect him. "No, I'm an atheist," came the response. The holy man then said he needed to conduct a ritual that could only be done at night, outdoors, and after he had slept with a woman, drunk alcohol and rubbed himself in ash.

    The men agreed to go to an outdoor studio that night — all to no avail. At midnight, the anchor declared the contest over. Reason had prevailed."

    Jeremy Page, Delhi
    From The Times

    It is interesting to note that the antidote to superstition in India as elsewhere is education. Superstition can ruin health, destroy wealth and even result in death. It is not helped by the fact that in countries like India corrupt politicians support cheats and frauds in return for bribes. The bribes are not always money but the promise of getting their followers' votes. It's a long hard road to convince people of reason but it is good to see you are doing your bit.

    I was reading a short history of the life of Houdini the famous stage magician of the early 20th century. He partly devoted his life to exposing psychics and the like using magic and mental tricks then claiming supernatural abilities. Nothing seems to change in the world. If Houdini came back he would still have work to do. Barnum's dictum seems to be eternally true - there is a sucker born every minute.

  32. Comment by Clive, 29 Mar, 2010

    To the dum dums at silly idiots.com. im a dick head. im blind and but yet i can see.

    To whoever is going to read this, the greatest bible prophecy ever to come to pass occurred in 1948 when the most persecuted the most mightiest the most powerful the most greatest the most deadliest the most secret the most hated nation of Israel was formed. To all the atheists haters of the truth the evolutionists you are all blinded by the truth by wicked spiritual forces and mighty fallen angels that have cosmic powers who dwell in heavenly places far beyond any human can understand that is why the creator of the universe impregnated a womans womb and come in the flesh to defeat Lucifer once and forever as the scripture is written THE WORD BECOME FLESH AND LIVED AMONG US DIED AND ROSE TO HIS GLORY KNOW THAT I DID NOT COME TO BRING PEACE TO THE WORLD BUT TO TURN MEN AGAINEST ONE ANOTHER BECAUSE OF MY NAMES SAKE. WHEN YOU DESIDE TO FOLLOW ME KNOW THIS ALSO THAT YOU WILL HATED BY THE WORLD BECAUSE OF MY NAMES SAKE. We all living in the time of Jacobs trouble the last generation the last world empire, you may ask who are they, they are the European union, the last world empire, who ok they are the revised roman empire there will only be ten in the end the real antichrist of the bible will be the leader of this wicked, wicked group he the AC will bring about a peace treaty in the middle east for a period of 1 week, hip-tad meaning a 7 year period it wont be human power that will bring this to pass it will be Lucifer himself fully inside this man. I believe it to be Hendry Kissinger, now the four horseman, the truth about this is, it is the reign of the antichrist on the earth, white horse peace in the middle east, 3 and a half of glory times made to deceive people, 3 and a half totally wicked judgements more than any human could ever imagine. What to do when this comes about. The real meaning for this number 666 is all to do with money. In the near future it will crash like a 100 cubic mile asteroid crashing into the earth. Then there will be no rich anymore no poor anymore everybody will be equal. If you ever get the chance read a book called privatising the world, and another book that is banned here by Robert Muldoon is called cosmic conspiracy, I have probably the only copy left in new Zealand, last point one that the EVIL WICKED MAN HATING FEMINESTS WILL HATE, TO YOU IT IS NOT BLOODY MOTHER EARTH, IT IS THE LIVING EARTH, IT IS NOT BLOODY MOTHER NATURE, IT IS LIVING NATURE, OK THAT IS IT. LAST COMMENT, AFTER THE TROUBLE OF THOSE DAYS THE SUN WAS DARKENED THE MOON TURNED TO BLOOD THE STARS VANISHED THEN I SAW THE SKY RESEED LIKE A SCROLL BEING ROLLED UP IT WAS THE RIDER ON THE WHITE HORSE THE SON OF MAN THE OMNIPOTENT CREATOR THE LION OF JUDA THE ONE WHO WILL RULE WITH A IRON FIST WEARING POLISHED GOLDEN BREAST PLATES AND EYES BLAZING BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN AND HE TREADS THE WINE PRESS OF FURY OF ALMIGHTY GOD AND HIS JUDGEMENT IS JUST AND TRUE, EVERY EYE IN AND OUTSIDE CREATION WILL SEE HIM EVEN THOSE WHO PIERCED HIM, I SAY LOOK UP BECAUSE THERE IS A TIME COMING UPON THE EARTH THAT WILL MIND BOGGLE PEOPLE MORE THAN THEY COULD EVER, EVER IMAGINE, ALL WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN IS NOT BULLSHIT.

  33. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Mar, 2010

    Clive, what can we say? You are the perfect example of why unthinking, blind faith in sky fairies has caused so much death, misery and suffering throughout history and still continues to do so today. Your rant is some of the most mindless, paranoid drivel, not to mention poorly punctuated, that it has been our misfortune to read in some time.

    Bible prophecy? Surely you realise that that sort of nonsense went out of favour along with reading tea leaves and avoiding black cats? And you seriously believe that Henry Kissinger is the Antichrist? You must be joking! Who do you believe is really Santa Claus? How many people are going to follow a man that is nearly ninety years old into a war against a mythical being? And this mythical being's claim to fame? That he got a young woman pregnant without her knowledge and then allowed the torture and murder of their own son. Maybe your Antichrist is right, monsters like this should be challenged.

    And what's this rubbish about Robert Muldoon banning a book called 'Cosmic Conspiracy', and you having the only NZ copy? You do realise Muldoon is dead and his government has been out of power for over a quarter of a century? It never amazes me to learn just how weak your god must be if even the likes of Robert Muldoon can thwart his plans by supposedly just banning a silly book. And even after he's long gone, your ineffectual god still can't have the ban overturned, can't defeat government red tape. He hasn't got a hope against Lucifer then. In reality, there is no ban on that silly book, but obviously your all-knowing god doesn't know that.

    You finish with, 'ALL WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN IS NOT BULLSHIT'. You're quite right, it's not all bullshit, and the one statement you made that isn't bullshit is in your opening line where you admit: 'im a dick head'.

    I go now to pray and make a sacrifice of a naked virgin to the gods of atheism that you don't occupy any positions of authority or influence in society.

  34. Comment by Paul, 28 May, 2010

    Hi. Did you see that Rural Women New Zealand have given an award to Tineke Verkade and her Waikato-based business Homeopathic Farm Support Ltd.

    "Rural Women New Zealand national president Margaret Chapman said rural businesswomen often have to overcome additional geographical and technological challenges in running their businesses. In the case of this year's Supreme Winner she says "Tineke has over the years had to show real resilience and a determination to succeed in the face of skepticism and little belief in alternative methods of healing."

    I e-mailed RWNZ bitching about it promoting pseudoscience but I doubt I will get a reply. Below is the e-mail I sent to RWNZ:

    I am very disappointed that you have decided to give an award to Tineke Verkade and her Waikato-based business Homeopathic Farm Support Ltd.
    Do you know that this business is a fraud?
    Do you know that the Homeopathic Farm Support Ltd website is full of lies and misinformation?
    Your promotion of this fraud business is silly and ignorant. Look at the Wiki page for Homeopathy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy
    Compare statements from the Homeopathic Farm Support Ltd website like "Homeopathy is a gentle, effective and scientifically based system of healing" with the reality that "Homeopathy's efficacy beyond the placebo effect is unsupported by the collective weight of scientific and clinical evidence."
    By giving this award to this business your organisation is supporting an outdated and dangerous practice.
    The reality is that homeopathy is pseudoscience and it can not do what it claims.

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

    Hi Paul. No, we hadn't seen anything about that award to a homoeopathic business. Your email to the RWNZ says it all really. It's great that more people are letting these people know that they are supporting dangerous nonsense. It might make them think more carefully about their next award recipient. Maybe in a weird sense Tineke does deserve some credit for managing to promote her business, but this is at the expense of ignoring what her business is. It's like giving a drug ring an award for their perseverance and the skills required to grow their business in the face of increased police surveillance.

  36. Comment by Bob, 06 Jun, 2010

    Hullo John, you might or might not know that Ninox Television makers of Sensing Murder is in receivership. There is an article today in the Sunday Herald. Receivers have laid a complaint with the police against a director, John McEwen. It appears payments for programmes due to the company have been siphoned off. As well company property has disappeared.

    What has that got to say for the validity of Sensing Murder? When you were criticisng the programme in your blog you were tending to cruel a good money maker. Apparently it was a commercial money spinner sold overseas. What value were the producers' protestations that the psychics were genuine and the programme was not a setup? No doubt Nigel Latta was a godsend as a gullible observer helping to legitimise the show.

    If the whole population were well educated and possessed a healthy degree of scepticism shows like this would be laughed off the air. No wonder the phrase "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the public".

  37. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Jun, 2010

    Hi Bob. Yes we did know that Ninox was in receivership (as of Feb 26, 2009), but we hadn't heard of the complaint against director John McEwen. In an Oct 2009 article the ODT noted that 'The receivers have said... Ninox... went into receivership to avoid problems with a dysfunctional board', and that 'director John McEwen reassured suppliers it had an exciting future'. It will be interesting to see where all this leads.

    It is an unfortunate fact that programs promoting utter nonsense, such as Sensing Murder, are screened in primetime and do attract large audiences. Rubbish sells. Good documentaries are almost non-existent on our screens these days. Look at TV1's attitude, at present it is intermittently screening new episodes of 'Planet Science' on Sundays at lunchtime, merely as a filler until the sports shows come on. What an utter waste!! Neither 'Planet Science' nor a similar show 'Naked Science', which it also occasionally plays as a filler at weird hours, has ever screened in primetime or on a regular basis. Kim Hill was taken off to give us what, more screenings of Coro St? Also missing from our screens are the latest series of the likes of 'Mythbusters', 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart', 'Penn & Teller's Bullshit' etc, in fact anything intellectual that requires people to think about what is happening in the world around them other than sports, movies, music and fashion.

    Look at some of the crap that primetime TV offers us at present, shows like Shortland Street, Coronation Street, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, Glee, RadiRadiRah, America's Next Top Model, Danger Beach: Muriwai, Hell's Kitchen, Deal Or No Deal, Desperate Housewives, Destroyed In Seconds, The Crowd Goes Wild, Don't Forget The Lyrics and Dr Who. These are all shows that lower the IQ of those watching them and should contain a mental health warning. I'm not saying that these shows shouldn't be screened for those dullards that are already playing at the top of their intellectual game, but why can't we have some variety and screen some of the many excellent programs on science, history, arts, current events etc. Wasn't the idea of multiple channels to give us variety and to cater for different tastes, so why are the different channels basically clones of each other? The only free to air channel that broadcasts something different is the TAB channel, although it's still low IQ programming. Even a new range of movies would be nice, as we only get a fraction of what has been produced? Do I need to email them and tell them I've actually seen 'The Sound of Music' and 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory' so they can stop repeating them? Why does every bloody channel think that it's their mission to broadcast to the idiots in society? Was the same memo mistakenly sent to them all? Quite simply because it is cheap and easy to make crap programs, and there is a large undiscerning audience that is more than willing to watch them. Recently I spied an entire family watching infomercials on a TV in the Warehouse. They watched for the entire time I was in the store. What moron goes downtown and gets captivated by infomercials on a shop TV? Unfortunately the advertisers and the money follows the viewers, and if the majority want to watch brain numbing rubbish, then so be it, seems to be their response. As long as the advertisers sell their products then TV producers will produce rubbish to fit around their ads, and the TV channels will continue to buy it and screen it in primetime. Greed drives the planning of primetime viewing and what new programs will be made. Bob, we both know that the executives, directors, board members and programming staff of TV companies are generally intelligent, educated people, as are even some politicians, and yet they still collude to give us rubbish. If these people can't (or more likely won't) stop producing and screening this nonsense, then what hope is their for their audience — who is often less educated, far more gullible and with a short attention span? These people that are dictating what we view on TV are just as despicable as the Sensing Murder psychics themselves, knowingly lying to us to make money out of deception.

    Our guess is that many people that plan and work on these shows that 'investigate' mysteries such ghosts, Bigfoot, aliens, conspiracies etc know only too well that what they are claiming is nonsense, but it is a nonsense that many of their target audience believe in and want to watch. One single episode would have explained why psychics are lying and cheating when they say they are talking to dead murder victims, which of course doesn't make your production company much money, but taking the opposite view lets you produce endless episodes and finance a better lifestyle. No doubt some psychics and their believers are sincere and are truly deluded rather than outright cheats, but the producers, directors, editors, camera crews etc that make these shows will be well aware that they are making a show that is as false as Batman and Harry Potter.

    We agree that better education and a little skepticism would greatly reduce these types of shows, so it's actually a little embarrassing that our Aussie friends ditched Sensing Murder early into its first series, whereas we have made five series and many Kiwis are crying out for more, still unable to see that they have been conned. What are Aussies teaching their citizens that we aren't?

  38. Comment by Brett, 07 Jun, 2010

    'Destroyed in Seconds' has a pretty good scientific basis, other than that I fully agree with you.

  39. Comment by Bob, 07 Jun, 2010

    The answer to all your questions is simple. Television is used to make money. Television shows are treated like commercial products. If it doesn't sell take it off. Serious programmes can't sell because the number of people who watch them is too small a proportion of viewers to attract advertisers. Coronation Street might have 30% of the viewing public while a science programme might have 3%.

    Sky television overcomes this to some extent by making money from subscriptions independently of advertisers. Also it is in their interest to broadcast every type of programme so as to attract the maximum number of subscribers. In Britain I found hundreds of programmes on Sky. Name a subject and it was covered. I joked that there was probably a channel devoted to hanging out washing. There are many news channels from all around the world allowing a wide perspective on world news. There were a large number of channels devoted to science, technology, history etc. We do have Sky here of course but with fewer channels. That is not a bad thing because it is a bit overwhelming in Britain.

    I had some sympathy for Marion Hobbs in the last government with her broadcasting charter. She was trying to lift standards. However she was doomed to failure because TVNZ was required to make a profit while quality and profit do not go together. Unfortunately the way to make a profit out of broadcasting is to cater for the lowest common denominator. I've largely given up on television. I prefer to read and pick subjects off the internet.

    It is bad enough screening worthless rubbish. What is worse is giving people erroneous information such as convincing them the dead can be contacted, aliens have landed etc. I long for the day when TVNZ will invite the Skeptics society to make some half hour programmes. The trouble is it would probably kill the golden gooses.

  40. Comment by Bob, 27 Jun, 2010

    Hullo John, I am just musing at the moment. This morning I read an article in the Herald on Sunday regarding IVF treatment. The government is considering approving IVF treatment involving donated sperm and egg for the rare case where both partners are infertile. It is of course opposed by the Catholic Church. I looked up a Catholic website and found the following gem on a readers comments site:

    My experience with IVF
    "First off, this is not a thread about what is right and wrong. I KNOW what I did was wrong. I have since prayed about it, gone to confession, and been absolved. What I want to do with this thread is bring up a couple of things for anyone of the mind set I was in to think about. That being said:

    My wife and I have a very strong desire to have more children. After many miscarriages, our doctor (we had already been seeing a reproductive endocrinologist due to the miscarriages) said our last hope was IVF. We had already told him this was off the table due to our religious beliefs. He respected that decision, but IVF is his bread and butter. So we discussed a plan in which we would not fertilize any more eggs than he thought prudent to implant (i.e. we would not freeze any babys or worse). So after much thought, prayer, and tears, we decided to proceed. At this point I was sick about entering into sin with so much pre-meditated thought beforehand. This was not just a slip up, this was full out willful disobedience to the Church and God!

    So by now I'm trying to convince myself what we are doing is OK since we are not creating any extra children, and the first alarm goes off when we are signing the paperwork. We had to sign a form that specified what we wanted in the event that we both died in the three days between when they fertilize the eggs and implant them. As unlikely as that situation is, there it was on paper in black and white....only two choices....either destroy the child or donate to science. That was almost a deal breaker. I just couldn't get past that. Even though the odds were one in a million, how could I sign that paper. In the end, I told myself if this was a natural pregnancy, the child would be in my wife, and pass with her.

    The second alarm went off when I had to supply my part of the process. I'm a man and I would be lieing if I said I had never fallen to this sin before, but this was different. As I was carrying the beaker to the nurse, I was just thinking that this was part of a new life about to be created....in a lab. It just felt wrong. Alarm number three was when we got the call later that day that two eggs had accepted my sperm. There were two babies of ours in that lab, and we were not there with them. Three days later the babies were implanted in my wife. Seeing the nurse carrying a syringe, knowing our babies were in there; more alarms.

    Well, the procedure did not take, the babies died, and there are two new souls in heaven. I now know better than ever why this is a sin, even if we were not creating any additional children. If you are of the mind set that IVF can be acceptable to Catholics, please think about these points long and hard."

    You made a comment recently about the mind conditioning by the Catholic Church. Here is a prime example of it. A young couple are full of guilt over the natural desire to have children and using science to achieve that end. Notice how he refers to fertilised eggs as babies. That serves to increase the feelings of guilt. Notice the pathetic cringing attitude to having to supply a sample of sperm. According to the Catholic Church unhappy childless couples have to stay that way rather than use medical science for fear of committing sin. To me it is an outrage to put guilt into the minds of otherwise loving parents who have the natural desire to fulfill their biological functions. In the past it was a ban on dissecting human bodies because they were the temples of God. Then there was the disapproval of giving pain relief to mothers in labour because the bible said women would give birth in pain. I feel sorry for Catholics caught up in Catholic propaganda. It is largely the old story of persuasive leaders influencing people of lesser drive and intelligence.

    Recently I was talking to an old neighbour about the Catholic Church. Apparently years ago he was friends of a young couple who were Catholics. They asked him if he would be godfather to their baby when it was christened. He was very happy to do so. At the church the priest took him aside and asked if he was a Catholic . He said no. Then the priest said he could not be the godfather. The priest was stepping in creating a rift in a friendship. I thought that was a good example of the divisiveness of religion.

  41. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Jun, 2010

    Thanks Bob for that example of 'mind conditioning by the Catholic Church', and your excellent comments. It's not really needed, but I can't resist commenting as well.

    He says that 'I KNOW what I did was wrong. I have since prayed about it, gone to confession, and been absolved'. Isn't Catholicism wonderful, you can knowingly and wilfully sin, even commit murder it seems, and yet a mere confession and all is forgiven. If these 'sins' are so easily forgiven and forgotten, it makes you wonder if they were all that serious in the eyes of the Catholics in the first place.

    This Catholic says they considered IVF 'after many miscarriages'. You'd think that a devoutly religious couple would have realised by now that God is trying to tell them something. He doesn't want them to have children!! It's 'a sign' morons, that's how your god works.

    When their doctor suggested IVF, they said that 'We had already told him this was off the table due to our religious beliefs. He respected that decision', but he then convinced them to ignore their religious beliefs and go ahead. How is that respecting their decision?

    You mentioned his pathetic cringing attitude to having to supply a sample of sperm. He admits that he is not unfamiliar with masturbation, and acknowledges this is a grave sin, not that it stopped him in past. It is a sin in Catholic eyes because sex and sperm must only be used to create life, and of course there is no chance of that with masturbation. Yet this one special case of masturbation is the one time out of hundreds or thousands of times he has willingly sinned that his sperm could actually lead to creating a new life, through IVF. It could be argued that this case is not a sin at all, and yet he worries about it more than all the rest.

    He states that 'the babies died, and there are two new souls in heaven'. As you said, those cells were no more babies than sperm or eggs are babies, and why are there two new souls in heaven? Their God long ago decided that these two were not going to be allowed children, so why would he put two good, working souls into a collection of cells that he knew he was going to abort a few days later? Are they saying their God is stupid or inefficient or that he didn't know that this was going to happen? This moron implores his fellow Catholics to 'please think about these points long and hard'. It is blatantly obvious that very little intelligent thought is involved when devout Catholics think about these issues.

    As for that priest stopping your neighbour becoming a godfather, just another example of religious intolerance that is anything but consigned to the history books.

  42. Comment by Bob, 18 Jul, 2010

    This week there were two interesting articles in the NZ Herald. They weren't displayed prominently and might not have been copied by other papers around the country probably because they are not of huge interest to most people.

    1. The Human Rights Commission is updating its statement on human rights in New Zealand. The Commissioner Joris de Bres intended stressing New Zealand is a secular state where religion is a private matter. The Catholic Church immediately objected saying it would undermine it's ability to influence public opinion and political decision making. De Bres answered not as a news item but merely a letter to the editor saying he would review that decision. He had received submissions from the Catholic Church and the Humanist Society. The Catholic Church stressed their importance to society by the fact that in the 2006 census 52.9% of people claimed to be Christians while only 32.2% were listed as "no religion". Mind you 9.8% did not answer. My feeling is most of them could be included under "no religion". I think the next census will be held next year. I would bet the figure for Christian members would be down another 1% possibly more.

    The Catholic Church doesn't need special recognition. Any group in our democracy has a right to lobby government or approach the media. The Catholics can take out a full page advertisement in a newspaper anytime they like. Their views are often picked up by the media as news. The problem with Catholics is they are becoming irrelevant and don't like it. Brian Tamaki was asked for his opinion which was predictable that New Zealand is a Christian country, it's institutions underpinned by Christianity.

    I accept Christianity has influenced our society. A society is formed by many influences. The Magna Carta for instance had a huge influence in establishing democracies. With democracy came more respect for ordinary people. British democracy underpinned American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand societies. The Catholic Church is not democratic as was stressed by a recent pope over protests within the church.

    I don't want to see our politicians going along to the Catholics asking them what they think about a particular issue or making room for them at conferences as a special privilege.

    2. The second article came from the British Telegraph. The Vatican has made ordination of women a crime against the faith. Attempts to ordinate women are regarded as serious crimes along the level of pedophilia. Women attempting to be priests along with those attempting to ordain them are automatically excommunicated. This appears to have come about as a sop to a number of Anglican clergy wanting to convert to Roman Catholicism. Women have been Anglican priests for a long time now but there are moves afoot to allow them to become bishops. It seems women haters in that church can't stomach the idea so are going over to the Vatican.

    A Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said ordination of women is a crime against sacraments while pedophilia is a crime against morals. Treating women who want the same rights as men as religious criminals smacks of Iran or the Spanish Inquisition. Saying pedophilia is a crime against morals seems to overlook the crime against children. Perhaps that is why pedophile priests have been kept away from the law. Pedophilia is not a civil crime just a sin against God which can be treated in the confessional.

    Stopping women from becoming priests is out of line with our present day culture. The reasons given for it are flimsy, based on what people thought 2000 years ago. I think that and the refusal to allow priests to marry are nails in the Catholic coffin.

  43. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jul, 2010

    Thanks for letting us know about those two articles Bob, and we agree completely with your comments. The days of the Church controlling governments and the people are thankfully long gone. As you say, they are irrelevant, and about as popular as syphilis. They are still free to propagate their concerns, this article and the back down of The Human Rights Commission proves that. The bishops moan that the wording 'undermines the right of churches to seek to influence public opinion and political decision making'. Bullshit. Every time another child sex abuse case and its associated Vatican cover-ups is revealed 'public opinion and political decision making' is influenced. We have no problem with the Commission altering the phrasing from 'private' to 'personal', but this is really just semantics, they both mean the same thing when the intent is clarified. However we don't agree with the proposal that 'secular state' be deleted from the statement: 'New Zealand is a secular state with no state religion'. This is a fact, and deleting the phrase won't somehow make us into a Christian state. We need to call a spade a spade, rather than pander to the insecurities of the Church.

    As for making the ordination of women a crime along the level of paedophilia, and the church is an expert in that particular crime, this is a perfect example why any public or political influence the Church has should be looked upon as demented, biased, corrupt, ignorant and downright evil.

  44. Comment by Tom, 18 Jul, 2010

    John, I thought you might like to read the following story on Stuff.co.nz — Heavens aligning for fiery possum cure. 'Possum skins burnt to ashes under the right alignment of the Moon and stars could be an alternative to 1080, says a group which wants a $330,000 ratepayer-funded trial to test it.'

    Just how stupid are these people??

  45. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jul, 2010

    Very stupid Tom. I thought we'd seen the end of possum peppering. I think the Greens were the last ones to push for its use. It's depressing that reasonably intelligent people can fall for nonsense like this, but then many do. As the article says, Rudolf Steiner dreamt up this bullshit in the 1920s, and no one has yet been able to prove it works, even though many have proved it doesn't. If it did work there would be at least one country on the planet that was using it to control pests, and their data could be produced as evidence to convince our government to seriously consider it. But it seems no one uses it on a scale or in a way that verifies its efficacy. Perhaps because it doesn't bloody work, just as we don't use astrology to predict the weather. If these deluded idiots are so convinced that it works then why aren't they using their own money to fund scientific trials? Any money they spent would be returned a million fold if they produced a safe, organic method of controlling pests that could be marketed worldwide. They could be the Microsoft or Apple of the pest eradication world. What's holding them back? Don't they care enough for our environment and our native species to fork out a few dollars and do the experiments? No, it seems the gutless wonders want the taxpayer to pay so that they can indulge their delusion. Quite similar to that MP renting numerous porn movies on taxpayer funds. Both wankers want to watch fantasies and have you and I pay for it.

  46. Comment by Bob, 22 Jul, 2010

    Hullo John, the following report from The Press shows that Christians can no longer get away with discriminating against people on the basis of their beliefs. They have to obey the law like everybody else. They were warned some time ago they could not foment hatred against individuals and groups purely on the basis of their beliefs while hiding behind their pulpits. The fact that this man might be quite a decent person and good at coaching means less than his sexuality. It is not far from this back to niggers and good white folks. As David Farrar points out the girls are probably safer with him than with a heterosexual coach.

    "The Press reports:

    "A Christchurch man has claimed he was sacked from a coaching job at a Christchurch Christian school because he is gay. The 28-year-old man told The Star newspaper he was employed at Middleton Grange School to coach one of the girls' netball teams in February. However, he was later told by the principal that the school's Board of Trustees has decided his homosexuality was a problem and he could not continue in the position. The newspaper reports today that the decision was made based on Christian beliefs that homosexuality is a sin. It is understood the school has been ordered to apologise to the 28-year-old and pay him compensation. He now has a coaching job at another school."
  47. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Jul, 2010

    Yes Bob, Christians continue to drop the ball and reveal just how intolerant they truly are, how obscene their morals are, and how rooted they are in centuries old dogma. And they have the insolence to preach to the rest of us about how we should treat our fellow man.

  48. Comment by Bob, 01 Sep, 2010

    ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES: There is an article on Stuff.co.nz today reporting a speech made by a professor Shaun Holt to a university audience at Wellington. He criticised all alternative treatments for cancer saying they don't work and can be dangerous. There are a list of them in the article (and below).

    True to form the alternate therapy practitioners insisted their therapies do work even if they don't know how. The one which intrigued me was colonic irrigation. This works on the principle that cancer is caused by poisons in the body. So a probe is pushed up the back to wash out the bowel. That reminds me of standard medical practice in the 18th century of administering harsh purgatives and blood letting. Of course homeopathy still works according to homeopaths.

    "SHAUN HOLT'S VERDICT

    WHAT WORKS

    Acupuncture: Can be used to relieve a number of symptoms that are commonly experienced by cancer patients.

    Massage therapy: Can help reduce stress, anxiety, pain and other symptoms.

    Aromatherapy: Can reduce anxiety, depression, tension, pain and nausea. There are no important safety issues, so aromatherapy is recommended as a pleasant and medically useful treatment.

    Art therapy: An excellent option for people with cancer who are looking to reduce symptoms and help with the psychological trauma of a cancer diagnosis.

    WHAT DOESN'T WORK

    Colonic irrigation: Professor Holt says many people are at risk of adverse effects from this therapy, which he says is as ineffective and dangerous as it is ridiculous.

    Cupping: Celebrities photographed with cupping marks have increased the demand for a procedure with no scientific plausibility or research evidence to support its use.

    Ear candling: Associated dangers include external burns, obstruction of the ear canal with wax, and perforated eardrums resulting from hot wax dripping on them.

    Psychic surgery: The practitioner's hands appear to magically penetrate the patient's body, after which they are removed holding organic matter claimed to be the tumour. Professor Holt says psychic surgeons are basically skilled magicians and the operation is actually an optical illusion using sleight of hand, animal tissue and clotted blood."

    It is interesting that the treatments he doesn't condemn work on the psychological area making people feel better but do nothing for the underlying disease. I would like to see all alternative practitioners licensed starting by having to show proof their treatments have any benefits. They should be required to tell their clients clearly the treatments cannot cure but can alleviate symptoms. A few prosecutions with hefty fines would sort a lot out.

    I feel strongly about alternative medicine because I think making money out of desperate people is the lowest of the low, especially cancer patients.

  49. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Sep, 2010

    Thanks Bob and we couldn't agree more with your comments. As Prof Holt says, 'While some therapies could be useful in helping to reduce symptoms or could improve quality of life, others would not'. As you say this point can not be stressed highly enough, although even Holt himself appears to be guilty of fudging the issue with this comment: 'Prof Holt's "No1 recommendation" was yoga, which was particularly effective for breast cancer patients'. Of course yoga is not effective in curing breast cancer, and people should learn to say exactly what they mean. The article reports the Cancer Society as saying 'Many complementary therapies could help cancer sufferers', which appears to contradict Prof Holt's findings. But again they probably mean one or two might 'reduce symptoms or could improve quality of life' rather than actually cure cancer, which let's be honest here, is the real help that cancer sufferers are seeking. While reducing pain and suffering is vitally important, these treatments need to be clearly separated from those that are trying to cure.

    The article also reported that 'Wellington Hospital said its oncologists would not comment on complementary therapies in cancer treatments, because their effect on individuals varied'. What does this nonsense mean? Psychic surgery might work on some patients but not others, it depends on how strongly you believe? This gutless evasion from experts only encourages people to try every alternative treatment that comes their way.

    We also read that 'Wellington naturopath Jill Casey said she would recommend homoeopathy as a treatment for cancer patients as it was "fairly innocuous", although this was a treatment Prof Holt said would have no effects'. Again Prof Holt (or perhaps media reporting) is fudging the issue. Homoeopathy could have fatal effects if sufferers elected to be treated with expensive water rather than seeking conventional treatments. The naturopath then parrots the Wellington Hospital oncologists' statement: 'She said complementary therapies were unfairly judged by people who had not tried them, and it was important not to make sweeping statements about how they would affect individuals'. Again, homoeopathy either works or it doesn't (it doesn't), it is not dependant on the individual. Doctors when they suggest antibiotics, codeine, chemotherapy or an X-ray don't say that they might not be effective because human physiology differs greatly from person to person, that X-rays just don't work on some people and antibiotics only seem to work on redheads. Conventional medicines and treatments are proven to have an effect on human physiology, and that's all humans, not just some. Of course some treatments may appear more effective on some people compared to others depending on how advanced an illness is, but chemicals and radiation affect every body they enter. It's like alcohol, it certainly affects individuals differently, some more than others, but it does affect everyone, everyone gets drunk eventually. No one is immune from its effect as alternative therapists try to pretend is sometimes the case with their concoctions and laying on of hands.

    This crap from alternative therapists that you can't judge treatments if you haven't personally tried them or that they only work on some people is bullshit. I've never tried a firing squad, but I know they work, and on everyone. These quacks have to continually offer these excuses because they need to be able to 'explain' why their treatments only appear to work infrequently. Of course their treatments never work, they only appear to work when the person just recovered naturally or was healed by conventional treatments that they were also undergoing.

    Why do not only doctors and nurses but even plumbers, builders and electricians have to be licensed and yet some uneducated quack can come into our houses, examine us, diagnose an illness and offer a treatment with no licence to practice medicine and no recognised qualifications? Why can some moron attempt to treat cancer by shoving a tube up your arse and her patients don't even wonder why she doesn't have to be licensed, and aren't at all concerned when she says she knows her method is 'not scientifically proven'? Why do authorities believe that unlicensed tradespeople can cause us sufficient harm that we need protection from them, and yet 'pretend doctors' have free rein to practise their nonsense?

    More certainly needs to be done to drive these witchdoctors back into their caves and to educate a gullible public into what silly nonsense most alternative therapies really are, how they are wasting their money and quite possibly risking their health, the very thing they are trying to improve. Authorities need to enact new regulations that recognise that these quacks are practising medicine, even though they cunningly try and pretend they're not, and if they can't prove the efficacy, safety etc of their treatments as convention medicine must do, then they must be prosecuted and driven out of business. Like doctors and electricians, they must be prepared to stand behind their claims of expert knowledge and skills.

    People are rightly dismissive of any doctor that loses his licence to practice, and yet many happily go to quacks that couldn't even get a license in the first place. The alternative therapist's lack of a license, qualifications and evidence that their treatments work, and their unwillingness to get any of these things, needs to be viewed by the public as deeply suspicious.

  50. Comment by Bob, 02 Oct, 2010

    I didn't know that Christopher Hitchens has cancer of the oesophagus until I read a commentary on him in the Herald. He is probably second to Richard Dawkins as the world's most prominent atheist. Christians regard him as a bitter enemy. Now they are coming out wanting to pray for Hitchens on the basis of praying for their enemies. What riles me is the self righteous attitude of Christians who assume they are right and Hitchens has no right to be against them. There is no question he might be right. He is automatically a bad person who has to be turned on his deathbed to God. Take the following comment from a Jesuit Catholic priest:

    ""Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and popular writer on all things spiritual, noted Jesus' admonition in the Gospel of Matthew not only to love your enemies but to "bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." God sends "rain on the just and on the unjust," Jesus said, and anybody — even the pagans — can be nice to people they like.

    "The mark of a Christian is if we pray for those we dislike or disagree with," said Martin, author of "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life." He said the late Mother Teresa, who Hitchens vilified in a number of writings and commentaries, was certainly in heaven praying for him. "Which is probably driving him nuts."

    If all this supplicating is irritating Hitchens, then, isn't that a reason to at least keep quiet about one's prayer intentions — because they might backfire and turn Hitchens further away from belief?

    "Frankly, I don't think he could be any further away from God than he has been," Martin said.""

    Hitchens is far from being the only person to vilify Mother Theresa but James Martin has his head in the clouds and won't hear anything against her. The Catholic church espouses a superiority which says they can't be wrong. The Pope has been shocked at the avalanche of disgust and criticism of his Godly organisation over the pedophile and abuse scandals. No wonder he hit back at atheist extremism and secularisation of Britain in particular as a way of deflecting criticism.

    We need the Dawkins and Hitchens of the world as a timely counterbalance to the excesses of religion.

  51. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 02 Sep, 2010

    No, we didn't know Christopher Hitchens was ill either, but thankfully he will be using conventional medicine to treat his condition and not worthless prayer.

    That priest's attitude is just another example of hypocritical Christians picking and choosing what commandments of Jesus they will follow and ignoring the rest. Note that Jesus didn't just say to pray for your enemies, but to also 'bless them' and 'do good to them'. But none of them, let alone the pope with his vindictive accusations, are truly able to 'turn the other cheek'.

    And to claim that Hitchens is probably being driven nuts by the belief that Mother Teresa is in heaven praying for him is to display profound ignorance of what an atheist believes. That in these enlightened times these clueless dinosaurs still have access to children, whether to 'educate' or rape them, is a sad comment on our society.

  52. Comment by Bob, 04 Oct, 2010

    Hi John, I was looking at a talk given by an ex Catholic priest on YouTube. This man read the bible and decided the Church was wrong in one interpretation of belief. He voiced his idea to superiors and fellow priests. The only reaction he got was 'who do you think you are?' The subject would mean nothing to an atheist just a spat over a meaningless detail of belief. For himself he decided he was right and the Church was wrong. He was sent to a seminary in Rome for further instruction but he stuck to his guns. Being deeply religious and very loyal to the Catholic Church he was deeply affected. Eventually he was told to leave. The Church is monolithic and can't abide dissention when it comes to basic beliefs.

    What staggered me was that this man was eased out of the Church for daring to question Catholic beliefs regardless of his sincerity. In contrast priests committed crimes against children but were not expelled. Instead they were protected and covered for. I think the Catholic Church is little more than a typically corrupt power hungry organisation. I think he was a naive man who had led a sheltered life. He had originally come from Dublin and was shocked at what he saw of immorality in Rome. In one incident a group of priests and nuns at the seminary with him took him downtown in street clothes to a strip joint. He was absolutely amazed at what he saw. Bits and pieces of what I have read and heard over the years suggests there is a lot of hypocrisy in the Catholic Church.

    Some years ago I was reading a book about a prominent New Zealand politician. He mention when he was still a teenager he was Catholic and also had worked on the Cook Strait ferries. One of the crewman told him he would be sleeping with a nun in his cabin. The young man thought he was having his leg pulled. The next morning he saw a nun coming out of man's cabin early in the morning. It was quite a shock.

    A few years ago the biggest brothel in Dublin was called the Casbah. It was too prominent for some people so a move was mounted by Churchmen, politicians and right minded civic leaders to get rid of it. What rankled with the woman who owned it was that some of those against it had frequented the establishment and used it's services including priests. The book was ghost written by a journalist who completely agreed with her. He was happy to write it. Apparently quite a few priests came in with plenty of money. One bishop would not go in for fear of being seen. Instead he rented a hotel room and had two women sent over. One of the prostitutes had a seven year old son. He was to be confirmed so she took him to mass on the appointed morning. She was shocked to see the priest who was giving his usual holier-than-thou sermon had been cavorting at the brothel just the night before. There are also the priests with girl friends and even children.

    Perhaps I am naive but how can priests and nuns who supposedly believe in mortal sins and eternal damnation act with such hypocrisy? Another incident occurred recently which was overshadowed by the pedophile scandals. The Bishop of Rome who is in charge of the business side of the Church in Rome was questioned in regard to property dealings with shady characters.

    I am beginning to think I am the naive one.

  53. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Sep, 2010

    It would appear Bob that the Catholic Church lost its way centuries ago, and as they say, if Jesus did return he wouldn't recognise the corrupt business they've built around his name, and he certainly wouldn't approve of it. The average Catholic on the street needs to wake up and realise what most popes, bishops, priests and nuns have long realised, their God doesn't exist, and so no one will punish them for grabbing as much sex, wealth and power as they can.

  54. Comment by Bob, 09 Oct, 2010

    You might be interested in the following if you haven't already read it for yourself.

    http://travel.msn.co.nz/travelnews/8101861/ufo-closes-chinese-airport

    It is a genuine sighting seen by a number of people and acted on by the airport authorities. The report and clear picture of something real shows up the usual hazy vague UFO reports. It was identified as a Chinese missile test. Presumably the Chinese had wanted to keep their tests secret.

  55. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Sep, 2010

    What amazes us about these types of UFO sightings Bob is how they conflict with the explanations put out by ufologists. Some of the public believes they are alien spacecraft, and yet ufologists insist that visiting aliens are technologically far in advance of us, with faster-than-light propulsion systems, anti-gravity drives etc. And yet their craft blaze across the sky like a spectacular space shuttle launch or a spaceship from an old Flash Gordon movie, using old fashioned chemical rockets. We have also developed primitive stealth technology aircraft and yet we are expected to believe that advanced aliens haven't yet figured out how to switch off their cabin lights to fly overhead unseen.

    I agree that it is most likely to be a missile test, or barring that, the re-entry of some space junk or a fireball.

  56. Comment by Joe, 12 Oct, 2010

    Hi, I followed the link to the herald article ............it didnt mention aliens at all .....you seem to be the one putting the Alien theory on the table. I have never presumed the Lights to be Aliens, as i stated earlier I could only "guess" that perhaps there was a possibility of the lights being some form of experimental craft........just a guess. I would say that if the lights were Alien craft they were rubbish at flying. Why zip round all over the place like that? I did meet a man who lived up the Clarence river during the 30s and he reckons he had seen similar lights when he was ten on two occasions he was told to say nothing more about them. If his story is true it would make the experimental craft '"guess" very unlikely.

  57. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Sep, 2010

    Joe, you must be one of the few people on the planet that hears the word UFO and never thinks of aliens. For most people UFO and alien spacecraft are synonymous. That's what we take the statement 'The US has long laid claim to being the world's UFO superpower — now China is giving it a run for its money' to mean, and also why it caused a 'media frenzy'. They weren't thinking about an unusual flight from the local airforce base.

    Also your account of the Clarence river sighting really only makes sense if the people thought they were aliens and would be ridiculed if they mentioned it. No one is advised to keep it quiet when they see an unusual plane fly over. You're right that people shouldn't think aliens when they see something in the sky that they can't identify, but as your story suggests, they usually do.

    You rightly note that 'I would say that if the lights were Alien craft they were rubbish at flying. Why zip round all over the place like that?' However the same argument destroys the idea of secret experimental craft. No company trying to keep their test flights secret flies over a civilian airport while lit up like a Xmas tree.

  58. Comment by Bob, 17 Oct, 2010

    Just a comment on your remarks regarding the Chinese UFO. Taking the article at face value that it was a Chinese missile test it is most likely it was off course. No test missile will be deliberately flown over an airport. Countries only announce their missile tests when they are successful. It's hard to threaten your enemy with a dud missile.

  59. Comment by Bob, 17 Oct, 2010

    A prominent story this week has been the canonisation of Mary MacKillop as a Catholic saint. Now I have no problem with honouring her. She brought education to people in remote places such as aborigines in the outback no mean feat in the 1870's. If she hadn't been a religious nun she might still have deserved a civil recognition. What annoys me is the stupidity of having to prove she helped bring about two miracles before she could have been given the Catholic Church's highest award.

    The miracles involved medical cures both of cancer, lung cancer and brain tumor in one person and leukemia in another. How many people prayed to this dead woman to heal them of medical problems with no result? Of course she doesn't heal she just has a word with God. There must be several million people praying to saints at any one time. As Vicki Hyde said, the cures are always of the cancer or severe arthritis types, both of which are known to disappear in spontaneous remissions. She pointed out the obvious that nobody ever grows a replacement leg.

    I decided to look into spontaneous remission of cancer. In one media article a doctor claimed the rate is 2% of all cancers. I found a web page which appears to be a bona fide medical source. It stated breast cancer remissions occur in one out of five cases. Assuming other forms of cancer are not that high the 2% figure might be right or at least a figure down that way.

    http://dartmed.dartmouth.edu/spring09/html/disc_remission.php

    Why does the Catholic Church continue pushing ideas which are little more than superstition? I did read that the Church no longer accepts miracles from Lourdes. It is because there is more understanding of spontaneous remission and a realisation that sometimes it takes a while for treatments to take effect. Sometimes claimed miraculous cures are delayed effects of drugs. In my opinion the whole episode of saints and miraculous cures serves to keep the faithful in ignorance and under the Church's control.

  60. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Sep, 2010

    It's stupid alright Bob. Of course you can never prove any of these miracles, so even pretending to do so shows up the ignorance of the Vatican and its followers. Also it shows up other notions that contradict Christian belief, that you can persuade a God that is unchanging and all-knowing to change his mind. That is, by praying (or begging) you can convince God to cure someone whom he had earmarked for death. Also the Ten Commandants say you are not to worship false idols, that you are only to pray to God. And yet these morons pray to all manner of religious figures, and in the case of MacKillop and Mother Teresa, nuns who aren't even saints. In the movie 'Religulous' a Catholic priest revealed that in a survey in Italy, on a list of people that Catholics pray to for help, Jesus was number seven on the list (if I remember correctly, but certainly no higher than number five). God himself wasn't even in the top ten it seems, the rest were saints and other religious figures.

    This notion of miracle cures may have worked on ignorant peasants in the Middle Ages, but to think that Catholics today still swallow this nonsense just shows, as you say, how much control the Church still has over their minds.

    I also heard on Radio NZ National this morning that the Vatican had excommunicated Mary MacKillop for a while, which I knew, but that this was partly over her exposing a paedophile priest. So even back then they were deviously trying to hide their sexual abuse of children by attacking those that raised the alarm rather than those committing the abuse. These bastards deserve our contempt. This belated move to recognise Mary MacKillop is nothing but an attempt by the Vatican to get some positive exposure in the media.

  61. Comment by Bob, 22 Oct, 2010

    Hullo John, this post is just musing.

    Your blog has caused me to think to rejuvenate my scepticism which I have always had. Even when I was young I was aware of things which did not make sense. I think I was 14 or 15 when I heard a voluble American on the radio describing how he had been taken to Venus in a space craft by Venusians. I thought it was a load of guff. However what puzzled me was the way this man spoke with such confidence. I couldn't understand how a person could spout total nonsense loudly without missing a word. Nowadays I am only too aware of people's ability to do just that. At that time scientists thought Venus was too hot for life but weren't sure until the first space probe arrived there.

    I have wondered why people go to alternate health practitioners instead of being content with conventional medicine. There was an item on one of the documentary series a couple of weeks ago which gave me a clue. The subject was cupping which I had heard of but didn't know what it was. I was amazed when I saw it. A man was lying face down with raised welts all over his back caused by drawing up the skin with a cup under vacuum. It reminded me of love bites. The practitioner was a lady probably in her 40's, an attractive woman with a great smile and manner. To his credit the interviewer did ask her how it worked and did it cure anybody of anything, even pressing her when she gave unsatisfactory answers. She must have been annoyed and irritated to be questioned at all but she didn't show it. She sidestepped talk of a cure by saying her clients say they feel better.

    Generally doctors don't have great manners. They have an annoying habit of telling you what you don't want to hear. Give up smoking and cut down on alcohol. Give up half the things you like to eat and get more exercise. Here are some pills which won't cure you but will help you to breathe easier and sleep better — next patient. By contrast the alternative practitioner will tell you it is not your fault you feel so lousy. It is the poisons in your body and unequal energy levels. While talking soothingly she will run her hands over your body without actually touching you. She will tell you she is evening out the energy and drawing poisons. That will be $100. Come back next week and I will relieve you of another $100. What man in particular won't lap up that sort of attention from an attractive woman?

    I think doctors are reluctant to down alternative medicine because they know they don't have all the answers themselves. It might well give the patient a feeling of well being which helps the placebo effect to work. It is like prayer — useless — but it makes the believer feel better.

    It seems to be human nature to be attracted to someone with a dominating and attractive personality. That is why cult leaders, fraudsters and quacks flourish. You wouldn't believe the number of supposedly smart people who were taken in by Bernie Madoff running a massive Ponzi scheme in New York to the tune of $60 billion dollars. Investment companies handed over hundreds of millions of dollars of their clients money without checking Madoff's operation. Like the alternative medicine brigade he had answers off pat for most questions.

    The answer is education. But who is going to do the educating? A man I knew was in the business of sorting out people's financial messes. He told me he had teachers coming in for help. They weren't a lot of help to their pupils.

  62. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Sep, 2010

    It's a pity Bob, that we can't give people skepticism shots as we do with flu shots to boost their resistance to nonsense. I think most people, even those that support alternative therapies, are perfectly happy with conventional medicine and treatments, and only seek out quack cures when they come down with something that conventional medicine can't fix. This is understandable, since if one has a fatal illness or uncontrollable pain then one will clutch at straws in an attempt to get some relief and/or survive. The question is which alternative treatments might you try and which would you immediately reject as nonsense and a waste of time and money? As you say, the answer is education. There are some unusual and unconventional treatments that just might work, but there are many others that could never work. Society needs to be educated into which ones are remotely plausible and perhaps worth the risk if you're desperate, and which ones have been exposed as fraudulent and often even break several scientific principles.

    It a shame that schools don't teach a class on skepticism. Not only would it be extremely valuable, I think most students would find it fascinating. They could good look at everything from medical trials involving blind testing, control groups and placebos, propaganda in media advertising, to claims around Bigfoot, alien abduction, the Loch Ness Monster, psychics and urban myths. It could be a fun course.

    Just this week I had two elderly relatives that are both suffering from melanoma inform me that melanoma is not skin cancer, and that Negroes get more skin cancer than Caucasians. Both claims are false, but they are spreading them to anyone who will listen. It is this ignorance and an unwillingness to check their 'facts' that creates an environment where nonsense can flourish and even the most outlandish treatments seem plausible and worth handing over your credit card for.

    Many people talk of the widening gulf between the rich and the poor. I think there is also a widening gulf between the scientifically literate and the scientifically illiterate. Medieval peasants with cell phones, little different from chimps wearing clothes.

  63. Comment by Bob, 31 Oct, 2010

    Hi John, have you seen the following article from the Sunday Herald? —

    'Appointment with death' cards shocking for elderly

    The forms sent to elderly people appear to have come from Ray Comfort's organisation in America — called Living Waters. There is a local Living Waters which claims to have no connection with Comfort. What crass stupid insensitivity! Anyone over 70 knows most of their life has gone and they will die in time. An 89 year old doesn't need to be reminded of that. These idiots seem to think their beliefs give them the right to impose on anybody.

  64. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Nov, 2010

    Your anger is justified Bob, and no, we weren't aware of the article. It states that:

    'Religious extremists have been sending cards to elderly people asking them to pick the date they are going to die... and advise them to get in touch with evangelists to avoid going to hell'.
    These insensitive morons have no empathy and probably see themselves as no different to insurance agents or civil defence organisers trying to ensure that you are prepared for unwanted future events. That's the trouble with people who think they are doing God's work. These fundamentalists have a different mindset and simply can't grasp how others with freedom of thought might view the world and their place in it. For example, they can't accept that atheists don't believe in God. They are convinced that we are simply dismissing God or are angry with God, in the same way that one might ignore or avoid an abusive parent or school bully. It is nigh on impossible to reason with people that have been brainwashed by a belief in invisible fairies, and who think that their own future wellbeing is dependent on bringing us under their God's spell as well. They don't care about the elderly, but only with their own standing with God and whether they have done enough to please him and guarantee their own salvation.

    The elderly usually have enough worries without being told that tentative reservations have been made for them in hell, and that they seriously need to think about swearing their loyalty to a new master as the only way of avoiding this eternal torture. Even the elderly with religious convictions could be unsettled by this unthinking approach. Believing they have lived a good life in the eyes of their God, they are now informed that this is not the case, and that more needs to be urgently done to avoid their descent into hell. Time is running out and God is evidently not pleased. Their assumed room in heaven that Jesus has supposedly been preparing for the last 2000 years has not been confirmed.

  65. Comment by Bob, 12 Nov, 2010

    On 60 Minutes, Wednesday 10th, an item was shown on an unusual family. Two lesbians lived together each having a son through insemination by a homosexual friend. The homosexual lives with another man. The women are highly qualified with high level jobs. They live closely with the father of their sons who see him regularly.

    The purpose of the item was to highlight a finding from a professional group of psychiatrists in America showing children brought up by lesbian couples in fact do better and are less inclined to violence and trouble than those from average conventional families. Thinking about it I can see that lesbians wanting a child are similar to couples adopting. They have a definite desire for children, going to a lot of trouble to get them and are likely to look after them better than ordinary couples who have children simply because they fall pregnant. That of course is averaging ordinary couples out, most of whom look after their children just as well, while some don't.

    Amanda Miller fronting the show got the opinion of a Catholic bishop. He insisted children brought up by lesbians or homosexuals are deprived by not having their father living with them in a marriage. They definitely suffer. Miller asked him if they would be any worse off than children brought up by a solo mother. He seemed to skirt that question. He refused to accept the psychiatric report claiming it was biased. 30 years ago the churches wouldn't believe the psychiatric reports which said there was nothing mentally wrong with homosexuals. They were normal apart from being different with their sexual preferences.

    The Catholic Church has its beliefs which can't be challenged. They will claim black is white to avoid admitting they are wrong. If you look back 200 years before modern communications the Catholic Church had a distinct advantage in mass communication. It could print a letter and deliver it to all its churches around the country to be read out to congregations. Anyone disagreeing with the message could only contact a small number of people. Times have changed. A message disagreeing with the Catholic Church can be disseminated well around the country by television and newspaper in a couple of days.

    It is modern communications which is killing the Catholic Church. The Pope has now been to Spain with the same results as other countries. Those pesky atheist secularists are at it there undermining God. Around the world it appears the number of priests and nuns is diminishing, down by around 25%. An item in today's Herald says that the order of Capuchin monks in Switzerland might have to close down because no new members are coming forward. The average age of present members is 70.

    I made a prediction that at the end of this century the Catholic Church will be a shadow of its former self while the Vatican will become a religious museum. I'm sticking to that prediction, not that I will be around to check on it.

  66. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Nov, 2010

    Rachel watched part of that 60 Minutes item but I wasn't in the mood to listen to ignorant priests condemning the child rearing abilities of homosexual parents. Especially since their view is based not on objective facts, but merely on a burning hatred of homosexuals expressed by their intolerant God in the Bible. The irony is that for all their hatred of homosexuality, priests and nuns, due to the Church's ridiculous celibacy rule, are probably partaking in more covert homosexual sex than any other professional class.

    Some in the Church try to pretend that it is not about homosexuality per se, but as you say, that children will suffer if they are deprived of either a mother or father, and for this reason single sex families must be banned. But if women or men raising children without the benefit of a member of the opposite sex is so harmful to the child that it must be made illegal, then every heterosexual solo parent, male or female, whether they are single by choice or by the death of their spouse, must have their children taken from them. The fact that the Church ignores this inconvenient point shows just how weak their argument truly is.

    We'd like to think that you're right in your prediction regarding the future of the Catholic Church. I've been to the Vatican a couple of times and in my view it is already a museum in the eyes of many of its visitors. The scientific age, the reason of secularism and the revelation of the army of child abusers in their midst have all served to push them screaming ever closer to the edge of the precipice. Their demise is inevitable, and in the future people will look on the abuses of the Catholic Church the way we look on the human sacrifices of the Aztec. Atrocities visited on the innocent by an ignorant few in blind obedience to imaginary gods.

    For a very insightful and humorous look at homosexuality by philosopher Stephen Law, we highly recommend people read this chapter — 'What's wrong with gay sex?' — from his book 'The Philosophy Gym'. It may very well change the way you view homosexuality or the arguments you use when you discuss it. Law looks at such arguments as 'Homosexuality is unnatural, Homosexuality is dirty, Homosexuality is unhealthy, Homosexuality and "family values", Homosexuality corrupts the young' etc.

  67. Comment by Bob, 14 Nov, 2010

    Hi John, I am a grandparent so I have had a lot of years to learn about life and children. I have found what children want most is security and love. Other things such as having a father for boys are important but of lesser importance than the first two. At one time I would have thought homosexuals bringing up children was bizarre. Now I see no reason why sensible caring homosexuals can't make a good job of bringing them up. There are enough heterosexual couples who make a hash of it.

    I would like to have put a hypothetical case to the bishop. Imagine a woman with a young child loses her husband who dies of a medical problem. She goes and lives with her sister who never married. The child addresses the women as mum and aunty. Is that child deprived? The interviewer told the lesbian mother what the bishop had said. Her comment was what does a 70 year old celibate priest know about bringing up children.

    The disapproval of homosexuality comes from the past when the science of psychology and human behaviour did not exist. The ancients thought whatever people did was a result of deliberate choice or freewill. That wasn't unreasonable in light of their limited knowledge. It is ridiculous now to live by those standards and ignore modern knowledge.

    It's interesting how society's ideas change with time. When I was young homosexuals caught in sex acts were arrested and jailed. I recall a couple of homosexuals sentenced to 18 months in jail. Nowadays homosexuals open about their sexuality get good jobs in society even becoming politicians because nobody cares anymore.

    I've been to the Vatican once years ago. I didn't have any feeling of reverence. It seemed to be just a monument to Roman Catholicism. There was a kind of altar with the skeletal body of a previous pope in glass. I remember it looked ghoulish. I felt it should have been taken out and given a decent burial. I don't know if it is still there.

  68. Comment by Richard, 08 Dec, 2010

    Hi John, see below — The Press (Stuff) Website 08/12/10.

    I wonder by what process this blessing helps "relieve strain and keep us healthy"?

    — at least they don't charge for the service (I hope!)

    Greymouth police station blessed

    Pike River Mining Disaster

    The Greymouth police station has been blessed this morning to help relieve the stress of those involved in the Pike River recovery operation.

    Up to 80 police from throughout New Zealand have been in working on the operation in Greymouth since the first explosion on November 19. Tasman police district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said the pressure on local police had been significant.

    "Many of our people have connections with the mining families. They are suffering along with everyone else in this community and they have coped admirably with the disruption to their daily lives. This is just a part of policing. When a big operation is launched, everyone has to chip in."

    West Coast police chaplain Derek Cone, who led this morning's 6am blessing, said it was common to bless homes and businesses where people were under stress.

    "As humans we can handle a certain amount of strain. The service helps relieve that and keep us healthy," he said.

  69. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Dec, 2010

    Thanks for bringing that to our attention Richard. The only process that we can think of where a religious blessing might help some people feel less stressful is the placebo effect. Where deluded people versed in a fantasy lie to other gullible and vulnerable people and together they convince each other that angels will make everything better and their boss will put a protective fairy ring around their business to prevent further trouble.

    We can never understand the logic of these belated blessings. If their God really existed and really cared about them then tragedy and stress would never have happened in the first place. If God wanted those miners dead, and it's well documented that he's an uncaring, murderous bastard, then he is unlikely to start worrying now about the stress levels of a few police. Are we to believe that God has a guilty conscience over those he kills and tries to alleviate this by calming the lives of those that have to clean up his mess?

    If following the blessing the police are convinced that God is now looking over them and helping them with the stress of the job, surely they need to ask, where was God at the time of the mine explosion? Has God reduced his job description from an all-knowing, all-powerful protector to that of a mere counsellor that only turns up after 'acts of God' have occurred? Disasters like this should make believers question their understanding of their God and his absence in times of need, and yet few do. Most continue to praise him, while blindly accepting that he killed their loved ones or at least did nothing to save them. They continue to give support to a master that continually fails them, childishly telling themselves that God has his reasons for deserting them on this occasion.

    And unfortunately it appears that the bogus blessing service might not have been free. It was performed by the West Coast police chaplain, and if he is employed by the Police then every taxpayer, even atheists like us, is paying for his silly ritual to beg favours from a fictional character from ancient literature.

  70. Comment by Richard, 09 Dec, 2010

    Thanks for your reply John. Quite right in all that you say. And it is unfortunate that you are correct, we are paying by employing dedicated God botherers in the police force. If he were really doing his job then he could convince his boss (the big fella (fairy) in the sky, not the commissioner) to stop the criminals, and we'd all be happy. Then I wouldn't mind paying his salary

    One thing I've noticed with some Christians (such as my parents-in-law who are dedicated Baptists, and, to be honest, very naοve simple folk), is that sometimes when bad shit happens and people ask how their god could let that happen, the response was that it was the "devils" work, not god.

    This is interesting in many ways. But what particularly springs to mind is a) these christians admits that their god is not perfect, and I suppose is constantly in battle with that other guy with the horns and tail.

    But also b) it intrigues me because the Christian Go(o)d vs (D)evil/sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses kind of "rationale" doesn't seem to be widely held up as a reason for bad stuff happening (by a lot of other Christians). It doesn't seem PC to mention the other side of the god equation these days, or something, I don't know. Yet I would have thought this was a fairly good "out clause" for their god failing them. Instead they just maintain their other delusion that he IS all powerful yet bad stuff still manages to happen, but it is still worth praying to him after the event ?!?.

    I guess I'll just never understand these people (because when I do I will have truly succumbed to their madness).

    Thanks anyway, love your stuff.

  71. Comment by Bob, 21 Jan, 2011

    I am having a little bit of a moan this morning. It's over misuse of language and expressions. One of my pet peeves is the overuse of the word "miracle", mainly by TV1 newsreaders. Every time someone escapes serious injury in an accident or is saved from death or lifelong paralysis by a very skilled surgeon it is a miracle. It is not a bloody miracle! It is not a miracle no one died in the Christchurch earthquake. It was a set of fortuitous circumstances. A miracle by definition is a case of divine intervention. I have yet to hear of a case of a true miracle. Mind you, believers usually retort that sceptics are pigheaded in refusing to believe.

    On the other hand when someone is killed by tragic circumstances nobody claims divine intervention — why not? Apparently God does nice things never bad things. In an accident in Auckland the wheel of a heavy truck disintegrated sending a piece of metal into the head of a nearby pedestrian killing him. Six inches one side or the other would have missed him. Wasn't this a nasty miracle by God? If the metal had just missed him I am sure it would have been reported as a miracle he wasn't killed.

    However apart from TV1 newsreaders the word "miracle" is not used sometimes when you might expect it to be. A man who did some charitable work was shown on television mainly because he sat with patients in hospital in spite of being blind. However he had been blind, but out of the blue his sight returned. There was no mention at least on television of miracles or divine intervention. A few years ago a young woman got a lot of publicity after her blindness was cured by a bump on her head, with no suggestion of religion or miracles. Perhaps the general population is realising we are no longer governed by unseen spirits.

    That very popular pet pope John Paul 11 caused a French nun to be cured of Parkinson's disease by a miracle according to Catholic claims. Who decided that? Catholic picked doctors of course. The canonisation of saints is a process which is supposed to take many years, sometimes stretching into centuries. This pope died only 6 years ago. I wonder why the haste? Could it be the Church wants a spectacle to deflect attention from its scandals? The latest pope has faced questions over his involvement with cover ups. What of John Paul? The cover ups were going on during his watch. I don't think the Catholic hierarchy care what you and I and our ilk think of them. We are a lost cause anyway. They are afraid their present members might start thinking and resign.

    As far as that miracle is concerned there have been suggestions the nun was not suffering from Parkinsons at all but a condition mimicking it. How could anyone know exactly what was going on in her brain without an autopsy? Could it be the unblocking of a tiny vein or God's intervention.

    While on the subject of the Catholic Church the Pope wants people to name their children after biblical characters and saints not popular singers and actors. So perhaps children should be called Abraham or Ishmael. I have no problem with Matthew, Mark Luke or John. David from King David is no problem. As long as a name doesn't sound ridiculous but is easy to pronounce and spell and gives dignity to the child it is OK by me. Jebidiah — nono! Of course the pope doesn't care about names he just wants to attract adherents anyway he can.

    I was surprised to see the Catholic Church taking in married Anglican clergy. No doubt this has them whooping with joy that Anglicans are finally returning. It should be tempered by the fact it is based on discrimination against women. Those Anglicans don't want women in their ranks. Not only that but the pope has said that NOT putting down women is actually a sin against the sacraments — institutionalising discrimination when the rest of the world is going the other way.

    Catholic watching is quite interesting.

  72. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Jan, 2011

    Ahhh yes, the old nonsense that is miracles. We've also argued against the unjustified use of this word in the media. But why? Even back in the 1700s David Hume effectively reasoned why real miracles could be ignored. Why do the media even pretend that miracles have occurred? I think the word miracle will be one of those words that change their meaning over the coming years, from meaning divine intervention to merely meaning an outcome that was extremely unlikely or rare. Most people that we know now associate the word miracle in news reports with blind good luck. They don't think, even if they are religious, that the Christian god stepped in to save someone. Most now realise that it is just an emotive word bandied around by the media and it says nothing about what some imaginary being might have done. When the miners were rescued in Chile it was deemed a miracle, and locals were seen thanking their god, but when the miners failed to be rescued in Pike River, we saw no family members or priests shaking their fist at their god. As you said Bob, the public and the media only invoke the word miracle when good things happen, and refuse to hold their gods accountable when tragedies occur. They're hypocrites, knowing deep down that no gods were involved, whether the outcome was good or bad.

    In a similar vein, one of my peeves at the moment is the media use of the word carnage. It of course means 'massive slaughter, as in war; corpses'. Yet reporters continually use it to describe an embarrassing loss by the All Blacks, the Black Caps or some other sports team, or to describe mayhem at some event. There was carnage on the field last night, is the soundbite that leads the news report. Like miracle, this word is changing, and in another generation will have no connection whatsoever to death. I know language evolves, but it should evolve for the better. We already have words that describe a severe defeat in sports, massacre has this informal meaning. It is only through ignorance that some idiot has thought, well massacre and carnage are similar, so carnage must mean a severe defeat in sports as well. Language is powerful because we have different words that convey different, sometimes subtle meanings. The words carnage and defeat both exist so that we can explain different things. But to your average teenager today they have the same meaning. The media could be helping language retain its power, but instead are dumbing it down: Carnage on the playing field, it will be a miracle if they win.

    As for making saints out of these dead Catholics, their claimed miracles are laughable. It's all just magical thinking designed to keep them in the news and, as you say, deflect attention away from their raping of little boys. And you're right about the Catholics poaching from the other team. It doesn't say much for the conviction of their beliefs if the Anglicans are prepared to move and the Catholics prepared to accept them. They are united only in their belief in discrimination against women and homosexuals. They truly are rejects from the past, and the sooner their beliefs go the way of the Greek gods the better.

  73. Comment by Bob, 02 Feb, 2011

    There is an interesting series of medical documentaries showing on Prime Sunday nights. Last Sunday the subject was heart operations. The first heart transplant was carried out by Christian Barnard in South Africa in 1967. Soon after a team started doing them at the National Heart Hospital in England under the direction of a Doctor Longmore. The interesting thing is that these transplants were opposed by idiot religious fundamentalists. Longmore was threatened by them even threatening his life. He had to have police protection when he went out even having police accompany him when he took his kids to school. Police were on guard at the hospital.

    It appears that the soul resides in the heart. Transplanting a heart from one person to another transfers the soul which is an extremely sinful act. It amazes me how people can reject modern science and knowledge in favour of 2,000 year old thinking. There is an excuse for ancient people, not for people who are supposed to have a modern education.

  74. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Feb, 2011

    Unfortunately I wasn't aware that doco was on ('Blood And Guts - A History Of Surgery', Prime, 9:30pm), but I'll try and catch the remaining episodes. I suspect that most advances in medicine have been opposed by religious fundamentalists for one silly reason or another. Apart from going against their god's will, that is, if god wants them to die then it's not their place to challenge god with antibiotics and vaccines, it's also deemed unnatural.

    But the idea that the soul is attached to the heart and moves with it makes a joke of their other claim that the soul is not attached to the body and can flit off if it dies or even if it is merely unconscious on the operating table. These idiots really need to get their fantasies straight. As you say Bob, primitive people have an excuse for believing this nonsense, but contemporary, educated people in Western countries don't.

  75. Comment by Bob, 24 Feb, 2011

    Two days ago I was walking along my street going to the shops. Coming towards me were an oldish couple. Following them were two tall young men well dressed in long sleeved white shirts and black trousers with identity cards pinned to their shirts. Now my area is a retirement area where people are friendly and you get plenty of hellos in the street even though they might not know you. As I passed them one of the young men heard me speak to the old couple and said hello. Then he stopped and started to say something about Jesus. I turned and told him I wasn't the least interested in religion. That didn't stop him. He started on about God. I told him I was a solid atheist. That didn't stop him and he followed me. I turned around and raised my voice telling him to GO AWAY. Then he stopped. I got a better look at the identity. They were American Mormons.

    What a cheek! They are so righteous in their beliefs they are justified in annoying anybody anywhere.

    P.S. You wouldn't believe it! Just 20 minutes after typing the last snippet there was a knock on the door. Sure enough it was our friends the Jehovahs. I cut their spiel short. They were going to tell me about God's Kingdom. Instead I told them to go and shut the door on them.

    In view of the disastrous Christchurch earthquake, if God made the earth as a special act of creation, why make the crust so fragile that it could rupture and kill countless people around the world time and time again?

  76. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Feb, 2011

    Those evangelists are bloody annoying aren't they? We think that Mormons, like Muslims and their duty to perform the Haj if possible, have a duty to spend some time evangelising abroad. We've run into them all over the world, from Europe to Asia to South America. And they're nearly always male, although we have seen a couple of females. I guess any Mormons in Christchurch were unharmed in the quake since they all wear protective underwear. What's that all about? Why would people who see themselves as particularly close to God need to wear protective underwear? Don't they have trust in God's ability to protect them?

    And you're right of course Bob, the quake raises the age old question of suffering, of why God allows evil to occur? I've also noticed the destruction, sometimes total, of the many churches around Christchurch, including perhaps 20 deaths in their famous cathedral. I found it revealing that these religious ministers spoke on TV of the destruction to their churches with no mention of God, as if they were afraid the reporter would ask: 'Why would God do that, especially to his own house?'. Strangely it is a question that the religious have no answer to, even though they insist they have a loving relationship with their god. Are they too afraid to ask?

  77. Comment by Barry, 27 Feb, 2011

    Hi John, you have an interesting website. It's great to see such a resource available on the web.

    You're clearly interested in the sciences and I presume you have a scientific tertiary education. What scientific discoveries have genuinely surprised you by challenging your existing beliefs?

    I'm sure you'll agree, science is a serious matter. It's not about the personality or beliefs of the scientist, it's about the data they collect. Should not the refutation of apparently erroneous analysis also be done soberly, with scientific rigour? Or is it unneccesary to take the trouble where ad hominem argument will suffice?

    Last point. The belief that the earth is getting warmer and humans are the reason why has gone from Never Contemplated to Entirely Mainstream in my lifetime. What's your take on the global warming question?

  78. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Mar, 2011

    Hi Barry. Thanks for your comments and queries. Yes, we do all have an interest in the sciences, but nothing qualification wise. As we've said in our Ken Ring article and elsewhere, none of us are scientists of any description. Personally, I can't immediately think of any scientific discoveries that have 'genuinely surprised' me by 'challenging [my] existing beliefs', in the sense that I've had to struggle to accept them. Reading about both science frontiers and science fiction I think prepares one for future discoveries, and unlike religious types, I am not dogmatic about what is considered scientific 'fact'. People born in the early 20th century would no doubt have had some of their firm beliefs challenged, ie there are other galaxies, the universe had a beginning unrelated to the bible (Big Bang theory), not only can man fly, even space travel is possible, but there is no one living on Venus or Mars. A friend's mother still believes that travel to the moon is impossible. But these days we get such advanced warning of what might be possible, that when it happens it's not really a surprise, more inevitable. Even rejecting religion and embracing science as a child didn't challenge my existing beliefs, since I wasn't committed to religion. I have no problem in rejecting a belief if I'm replacing it with one with better support. I don't lose any sleep over the fact that I once believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Since I side with science these days, I don't really find believable discoveries that conflict with science.

    I would say that quantum mechanics and parts of relativity theory certainly challenge my 'common sense' views of how I see the world, but I am perfectly happy to take them on board even though I only grasp them in a basic sense. Of course there are areas of science that are very uncertain at present, such as the validity of superstring theory, but I don't commit myself firmly to this or that theory and will let scientists inform me as to which has the best support. I was surprised when they found that the expansion of the universe appears to be accelerating, but I wouldn't say it shook my beliefs at all. And again I won't lose sleep if superstring theory doesn't work out and is replaced by something else. Things that would challenge me would be evidence that the Big Bang theory or natural selection is completely wrong or that the supernatural exists. But I'd like to think I would still go where the evidence points, regardless of the shock.

    You're right of course, science is about the data, the evidence that supports a theory. The validity of a theory has nothing to do with individual scientists, their personalities, ethics or beliefs. Hitler's scientists first discovered that cigarettes were carcinogenic, co-discoverer of natural selection with Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, believed in talking to the dead, and astronomer Johannes Kepler practised astrology. It is the scientific advances that are really important, not the scientists.

    The ad hominem argument, attacking the person rather than their argument, is well recognised as being a badly flawed tactic. Ken Ring, for example, utilises this tactic often in an attempt to convince people that our criticism of his method is false. He has called us, on more than one occasion, a 'white supremacist red-neck jack-booted fascist nazi... that hates Catholics, the Irish, Muslims, Jews, people of alternative medicine, of alternative immigrant cultures and descents...'. He claims that we 'make money from dissing alternative practitioners, attracting a readership then selling book recommendations...They also sell weather to big companies and I am competition'. Of course every one of these scurrilous accusations are false and insulting, but even if they were true, they in no way demonstrate that our argument is false. Really obnoxious people can still be right and really nice people can be utterly wrong.

    We have indeed sometimes accused people of lying, including Ring and various psychics, but this is not an attack on the person per se, this is a fact that exposes their credibility and integrity. As you say, the 'science is about the data', and if a person is less than truthful in what they say, then this indicates that one should carefully check any data they provide. We have always tried to be careful to challenge the logic and integrity of claims and not be swayed by the person themselves. Only Ring has ever accused us of attacking him personally, even though it has been him that has been insistent that we tell him who we are and where we live, as if that would destroy our argument. Ring can not grasp the difference between attacking a belief such as Catholicism and personally attacking friends who are Catholic. Any argument won through ad hominem is a false and hollow victory that is meaningless.

    Global warming? It's true that the idea 'has gone from Never Contemplated to Entirely Mainstream in my lifetime', but then so too has the Big Bang theory, the existence of galaxies, genetic engineering, cell phones, computers and the internet, continental drift, civil unions and birds evolving from dinosaurs. To be honest we know far less about the climate change debate than we do about certain other scientific topics, but we are siding with the scientific community and its experts. The great majority of those that are qualified to talk on this topic, and we certainly don't mean the likes of Ian Wishart or Ken Ring, believe that there is good evidence to support the contention that mankind's activities are contributing to climate change. While many climate change deniers could no doubt confuse us, and perhaps even convince us, with their 'science', we will only be truly convinced when they can convince and sway the view of the scientific community. We are suspicious of scientists that can only convince the man on the street, and not their peers, and find it difficult to believe that a handful of scientists can clearly see what the majority cannot. Nor do we believe that scientists, and science writers, investigative journalists, politicians, government officials etc, are all part of a large conspiracy that are prepared to hide the truth and squander trillions trying to make changes to something that they know isn't real. There were only two people who knew of the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, and yet the secret still couldn't be contained. What chance is there of the thousands who supposedly know that climate change is a scam, that no one has squealed for fame and fortune, or even a guilty conscience?

    The scientific consensus may be wrong, but if it is, the reasons why are far more complex than what the likes of Ian Wishart or Ken Ring claim. The errors they believe they can see in climate change data will most likely be based on their lack of qualifications and expertise in the appropriate fields. Just as I'm not qualified to debate superstring theory with the experts, I'll let the climate scientists inform me as to whether there is anything to anthropogenic global warming.

  79. Comment by Chris, 01 Mar, 2011

    Yes [re comment #76] I believe young Mormons are sent out to do 'missionary work' as part of their apprenticeship, though one has to wonder about their success rate. Several decades ago I was on a boat to Pukapuka in the northern Cook Islands and there were a couple of young Mormon guys on board. Since Pukapuka is 2/3 LMS and 1/3 Catholic and quite content about it thank you, this seemed about as futile as the Childrens Crusade. Pukapuka is also locally famous for its relaxed and pragmatic attitude towards what young people do, so one wonders just what the Mormon hierarchy was expecting to happen. From all accounts the magic underwear didn't hold up for very long. At least the guys had a more enjoyable fiasco than the Childrens Crusaders.

    But, re Christchurch Cathedral, I'm saddened to see it in ruins. One doesn't have to believe the religion to appreciate the ambience it lent to the city centre, I hope it is rebuilt in the same style (with appropriate concealed reinforcing of course).

  80. Comment by Anonymous-2, 01 Mar, 2011

    Congratulations for the most necessary exposing of the increasing amounts of garbage that is being foisted on the gullible. As President of an Astronomical Society, I am becoming more angered too, to find increasing evidence of the 'Dark Age' people putting together video productions that features largely all the brilliant Hubble and other large telescope images to get the audience hooked, only to find towards the end, the subtle propaganda on creation is injected in a blantant effort cloud whatever gains the true knowledge might have been gained in the early part of these productions.

  81. Comment by Bob, 06 Mar, 2011

    There were two articles in today's Sunday Herald:

    1. Apparently there is an increase in parents enrolling their children in religious schools. They want values based education. Only two churches were mentioned the Catholic Church and the Elim Church. I went to Catholic schools and got a good education in spite of the religious propaganda which I threw off the moment I left at 15. I don't know much about the Catholic schools now but I understand they have a lot of lay teachers because the Church can't attract members to their orders.

    I am more concerned about the Elim Church. I suspect it is fundamentalist denying any science out of tune with it's beliefs. That would mean denial of evolution. I might be wrong however their web page doesn't enlighten me.

    I would support the right of church schools to exist provided they follow Education Dept. guidelines. They do have an advantage over state schools in that they can select who they want. Unruly pupils must be taken by the state schools.

    I have doubts about values based education. My experience is that Catholic school pupils grow up much the same as state school pupils. Their home backgrounds have much more influence.

    2. 12 months ago Deb Webber predicted the Christchurch earthquake. I'll bet you didn't know that! Why didn't she tell us all so people could have been evacuated? She didn't want to cause panic. According to the article she predicted a big earthquake would split the country in two. She did tell a certain Carolyn Rosenberg in Melbourne. Carolyn knew nothing about New Zealand so was amazed when the earthquake did occur. Webber has predicted there will be another one still later in March in line with Ring's prediction. Bob Parker of Christchurch wasn't impressed calling it scaremongering. If the Christchurch quake hadn't occurred no doubt she would have claimed any one of the small quakes we get constantly would have been the fulfilment of her prediction or quietly forgotten about it.

    It reminds me of Princess Diana's death. None of the well known psychics in Britain predicted it. Most were predicting remarriage and more children for her.

    I don't know if you saw the Campbell interview with Ring. Campbell had a scientist on, a specialist in geophysics. He said no scientist he knows of takes any notice of Ring's theories. He said the second big quake was predicted by scientists based on statistics. It seems among the after shocks of a big quake will be one on average about 1 point in magnitude less than the main quake. The second quake was larger about half a point less. The damage was caused by the position of this aftershock. People like Ring sound good until they are confronted with real facts.

    PS: I have discovered the Elim Church is Pentecostal meaning every word in the bible is absolutely true. Evolution is unproven, explains nothing and denies God. In their article proponents of evolution are aligned with atheists, humanists, communists and other undesirables. I hope not too many parents are opting for Elim church schools and other similar religious schools. They have an agenda to get at school kids to promote their ignorance.

  82. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Mar, 2011

    We're all for teaching values in school Bob, the problem arises when we have to decide whose values we teach. Catholic values, Pentecostal values, Muslim values, New Age values, Neo-Nazi values? And yes, these fundamentalist church schools like Elim are just promoting ignorance. I often see a mini school bus from a local fundamentalist church school go past as it collects kids from the entire city and takes them off for brainwashing. Yes children, your ancestors did live with dinosaurs.

    We hadn't heard that psychic Deb Webber had predicted the Christchurch quake, but that doesn't surprise us. These idiots are always reviewing what they might have said in years gone by to see if it might apply (with a little tweaking) to what has actually happened. To our knowledge the quake didn't split the country in two. And yes, we did see the Campbell interview with Ring. We've just had another go at debunking him here.

  83. Comment by Graeme, 19 Apr, 2011

    [From the 'The Dominion Post']:

    Mention of God bothers district councillors

    A fine example of how a little secularism could better protect the religious of all shapes, and the non-believer.

    Some of the quotes are hilarious.

  84. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Apr, 2011

    Thanks for the link Graeme. We've commented before on the prayers that our elected officials, both in councils and parliament, continue to utter at their meetings, and we are dismayed that a deluded few are still hanging on to worthless medieval practices. A secular attitude would treat every councillor equally, giving no belief preference over others and forcing no one to utter or sit through prayers that they might find hypocritical, if not offensive. Would Christians happily start every council meeting with the Muslim cry: 'Allahu Akbar'? Of course not, they would say it offends their beliefs and their God, and would campaign to have it removed. And yet when their childish prayer to an imaginary being offends non-Christians they cry ignorance, pretending to be completely unable to grasp how praying to a god you don't believe in could cause offence to the god you do perhaps believe in or to your integrity.

    The only people that challenge these outdated begging rituals are those of the minority, eg those that don't see the God mentioned in the prayer as running their lives and dictating their decisions. It's the arrogance of the majority, that while we are in control you will all pray to our God, and there will be no mention of what we view as false gods or false beliefs. And their stupidity is amazing as well, seemingly believing that as long as they continue to mention their God then that means he's still real, even while completely surrounded and immersed in a secular society. Their denial of reality is not something one should look for in an elected official.

    And some of the quotes are hilarious, and worrying. Take the one from Councillor Alan Anderson who admits that reciting the prayer means that 'we will step back and acknowledge we don't have the wisdom to deal with certain issues'. Then resign Mr Anderson and let someone who does have the knowledge do the job. Don't accept a salary while sitting back waiting for some fairy on a cloud to solve the city's problems. You were elected to consider issues and make intelligent decisions, not simply beg for help from sky fairies. That is not a sign of intelligence but an admission of incompetence.

    And councillor Sue Westwood fears altering the prayer might mean that the city motto 'Sans Dieu rien' — (Without God, nothing) might then be changed. Well wouldn't that be a good thing? Would we want a police force whose motto was: 'Women are second class citizens', or a health system whose motto was: 'Leeches are the cure'? We shouldn't perpetuate or live by mottos that are false or harmful or discriminatory. The fact is that most people in Wanganui wouldn't have the faintest idea what their city motto was, or even care. To be naive enough to think that removing it would have any affect on the city's wellbeing is truly primitive, superstitious thinking. It's worrying to contemplate how the religious thinking of some councillors might influence important issues that come before the council. Perhaps people running for office should clearly declare whether they personally would be making independent decisions or just asking 'What would Jesus do?'

    And of course it's not just Wanganui, most councils and even parliament start with prayers to God. We wonder if the Christchurch city council still thanks God for watching over them? We're sure they probably still do, but might they not feel a little silly now? Perhaps they should try changing God to Shiva and see how that works out?

  85. Comment by Bob, 29 Apr, 2011

    Hi John, I have a few snippets and comments on recent religious events:

    I saw a photo of a blind Muslim girl in America. She was going to school on a school bus with a small pony. The pony was a seeing eye guide. She was not allowed a seeing eye dog because dogs are unclean in Islam. A few years ago a Kiwi girl travelling in India was appalled to see dogs being abused, kicked and so on. It appeared that the souls of dead people come back to inhabit the bodies of animals hence the sacred cows. But only the souls of good people come back in cows. The souls of bad people come back in dogs so it's ok to mistreat dogs.

    A certain dangerous idiot by the name of Terry Jones publicly burned a copy of the Koran in America. He knew very well what was likely to happen. It was like poking a stick at a mad dog. It resulted in the deaths of several people. Crazed muslims could see no distinction between one idiot and all Europeans. Yet according to his remarks as reported he had no regrets about his action. Personally I also blame the media. They knew what publicising the action was likely to do. Unfortunately there is no law against what Jones did. Jones is the pastor of a very small religious group.

    The Catholic Church is reported to have paid out $166m to victims of pedophile priests in north west USA. Apparently priests were sent to this area after reports of child abuse by them because that took them far away from the more highly populated areas further south. Presumably the Church thought it would be out of sight out of mind. Of course all it did was to introduce a new set of unsuspecting kids to the priests.

    The Pope is still trying to entice people back to the church suggesting that people are making technology and modern knowledge their god. Stop learning and just believe.

    There has been some questioning of the unseemly haste with which the latest pope is trying to get Pope Paul II made a saint considering that he was in charge while most of the child abuse was going on. To me it's like panic repairs to a sinking ship. A report in the Herald said that upon his death two phials of blood were taken from his body to be kept as relics. This means it was decided to make him a saint even before he died. So far only one miracle can be attributed to him while two are required for sainthood. So good Catholics who have been praying to the dead pope have been asked to come forward if they think he has caused unusual medical cures. Knowing people and wishful thinking that probably won't be hard.

    A recent public comment by the Pope said that while evolution can be accepted God intended for human beings to arise. Evolution was guided to an end. I see it as the Pope wanting his cake and eat it too. If God wanted humans to arise why not just create them at once? What would have been the point of the dinosaurs and all the other unintelligent creatures. The Catholic Church can't let the bible stories go. If it did it would crumble.

    I took a book about Buddhism out of the library recently. The Lord Buddha seems to be the equivalent of Jesus. According to him people are born over and over again until they reach perfection and that is it. The Christian religion teaches each person has one life while the soul lives on forever. You would think the religions would get together and decide what all could believe. Scientist have diverging theories at times but then work to a consensus where all can agree. Forty years ago there were two theories on the development of the universe. One was the steady state theory and the other was the big bang theory. Eventually evidence supported the big bang and now there is a consensus on that theory. Without agreement on the real facts and insistence on unsubstantiated beliefs will see religion go the way of the dinosaurs.

  86. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Apr, 2011

    When I was in India a number of years ago Bob we were told in a talk that cows were originally only described as 'sacred' as a cunning ploy to stop people eating them. There weren't all that many compared to the human population and they were more valuable for their milk than a once only feed. Of course like the reasons for the origin of most religious practices, this has long been forgotten by your typical Hindu. It is quite amazing the ignorant arguments that adherents of all religions now use to protect or abuse various animals.

    As for pastor Terry Jones, we support his right to burn as many Korans as he wishes, but you're right, people like you or I wouldn't do that if we thought that this would harm others. In this latest episode I believe it was his posting of the video on YouTube that alerted the Islamists rather than the media, who just reported it after the fact. This shows that Jones wanted to incite hatred. Of course it does show that Jones was right that some Muslims are dangerous, unthinking killers. They slaughtered Europeans, beheading two of them, even though it was an American that taunted them.

    It is extremely suspicious that the Vatican is breaking its own rules in its haste to make Pope John Paul II a saint. We've already exposed their nonsense regarding these saints in our post 'Vatican proves another miracle'. Why are all these bloody selfish Catholics wasting their prayers on asking the dead Pope to cure their cancer or an ingrown toenail? Why aren't they praying for world peace or the end of hunger, something truly worthwhile and of benefit to all mankind? As for their acceptance of evolution, Catholics are caught by the intellectual realisation that science is correct but held back by the emotional need to be a fawning servant to a powerful god that occasionally hands out rewards.

    The weird thing about Buddhism is that when you reach Nirvana, the Christian equivalent to Heaven, rather than enjoying eternity, you more or less disappear. The goal is to cease to exist in any form. Of course the paradox with Buddhism is that one of the requirements to move up a step and eventually reach Nirvana is to give up on all desires. But if you don't have the desire to better yourself and reach Nirvana then you never will. If you do have the desire, they won't let you in. You're screwed whatever you do.

    Scientists are happy to debate various theories and change their minds because they recognise that they haven't reached the stage of knowing all the answers, and never will. Religions on the other hand won't consider debating their beliefs because each is utterly convinced that they are right and already have the correct answers. There is no room for compromise or need for adjustments. It is this arrogance and blind adherence to primitive ignorance that will, as you say Bob, see religion go the way of the dinosaurs. In many sectors of modern, western society religion has already vanished and nothing remains but occasional fossils, such as priest child abuse trials and young women wearing crosses as fashion accessories.

  87. Comment by Bob, 30 Apr, 2011

    A comment on your comment on sacred cows. A lot of religious beliefs and rules originally were sensible and practical coming from people's experience of life but the reasons are forgotten after a while and they become commands from God often in spite of no longer being necessary. Take the prohibition on eating pork. Pigs were subject to a disease called trichinosis which can infect humans. This disease is similar to hydatids in sheep. It's not a problem now with modern pig farming and hygienic handling of pork. Yet Jews and Muslims have a prohibition on eating pork.

    Both diseases are apparently caused by parasites in the meats. Thorough cooking of the meat will kill them. I can understand very backward uneducated people still believing God forbids eating pork but why do modern day Jews still adhere to it?

  88. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Apr, 2011

    As you say Bob, sensible reasons for doing something or avoiding something perhaps once made sense, but those pragmatic reasons have been lost in the mists of time. Furthermore, the deliberate transfer of these reasons of practicality to commandments of God by religious leaders means that Jews for example no longer connect pork with disease. That said, there are arguments that say that disease may not be the reason for the prohibition. The major civilisations of the time did not prohibit the eating of pork and were able to manage any health problems it might cause. The Hebrews should have been aware of how to eat pork safely. However modern Jews connect the prohibition of pork to God because to do otherwise would be to admit that this prohibition might actually be about health and not God, that these commandments were just a way to trick ignorant people into safe eating habits. We tell the same silly stories to children to stop them doing dangerous things — don't go outside in the dark or the bogeyman will get you — but when they grow up we tell them the true reasons why children shouldn't wander alone at night. Religious people just refuse to grow up and see the world as it really is.

  89. Comment by Bob, 05 May, 2011

    Liberal bishop 'forced' to quit

    How can the Catholic Church get rid of a priest so easily for voicing some doubt on basic Catholic principles but not get rid of pedophile priests as easily? What distorted values that church obviously has.

  90. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 May, 2011

    Thanks for the link Bob. I guess the views of this liberal priest were abhorrent to the church, whereas the behaviour of the pedophile priests is apparently only abhorrent to some of us on the outside. Distorted values indeed, and disgusting that millions still support them.

  91. Comment by MikeC, 09 May, 2011

    Re getting rid of liberal bishops — probably because there's a shortage of priests, but no great shortage of bishops!!

    However note the this guy remains a bishop — he has not been removed from that rank — "just" removed from the appointment to the particular bishopric.

  92. Comment by Anonymous-3, 18 May, 2011

    I received this earlier from a dear friend and I am pleased to send it on.

    Subject: Stephen Hawking

    Stephen Hawking interview: 'There is no heaven; it's a fairy story'

    tell the idiots to stick this in their pipe and smoke it

    This man is truly amazing, having lasted for 40 years now with this terrible disease. And what a legacy he is creating. Nearer home I am infuriated that the Catholics estimate it will cost a hundred million dollars to dismantle and rebuild their church in Christchurch. This doesn't include the Cathedral and all the other useless churches there. In my opinion, they should be left as they are as a memorial to the ignorance, brutality, torture and countless millions of murders that [have been] are being committed in the name of religion. Man made God...... not the other way round as these dumb idiots keep insisting. Just think of what all this colossal amount of money could do for better causes, like moving housing to a better area and improving education for starters.
  93. Comment by Graeme, 27 May, 2011

    Hi John. Parents Inc get 2.4 million from the Government without any other programmes getting a look in, because that's the programme they want and any other organisation would have to create the same thing. Really? What does this say about the Minister for Social stuff, Paula Bennett? Why doesn't the article below not mention the Christian basis of the organisation?

    http://www.odt.co.nz/news/politics/162045/govt-awards-24m-contract-without-tender

    Parents Inc. is a Christian organisation, they say so if you dig deeper into their material, though creepily they keep it pretty quiet in the open media. Why? Is it because they want to get their evangelical agenda in under the radar of scrutiny? i.e. secretly, i.e. dishonestly.

    Check out their line-up of staff.

    http://www.parentsinc..org.nz/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=19&Itemid=76

    Ian Grant at the top, who is anti-evolution, pro Noah's Ark (I heard him say so on ZB Easter Christian shows) and claims Jesus cured him of a stutter.

    And their CEO Bruce Pilbrow clearly proclaims he doesn't even put his own family first. Here's his header on Twitter.

    bruce pilbrow

    @brucepilbrow Auckland New Zealand

    God - Family - then Everything else

    And a revealing tweet from Bruce here.
    "Parents Inc. So humbled when I see young people give everything to God and find faith for themselves. As they say skux delux :)"
    I'm not saying Christians should be banned from such organisations, but this is a Christian organisation. There's a big difference.

    As the recipient of your and my money, I want the deception to cease at the very least, but they shouldn't be getting it anyway, let alone getting the cash without the ministry looking anywhere else. I believe that you and I are funding an evangelical Christian organisation to tour our schools and advise parents. They may argue that they do much good with their "toolbox" and I bet they say they don't push Jesus in their material, but I maintain they do have a deeper agenda. A subtle but effective promotion of a dangerous and morally redundant superstition. I wonder if they'd consider hiring a gay Jewish atheist? I wouldn't hold my breath even if it was Stephen Fry offering his services. What morality ARE they promoting when addressing homosexuality?

    I'm gobsmacked.

  94. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 May, 2011

    You're quite right Graeme. Taxpayer dollars and a secular government should not be 'funding an evangelical Christian organisation to tour our schools and advise parents'. And there is little doubt that they are an evangelical Christian organisation, and the government knows it. Here is an article from 2008: 'Nats to give cash from family body to churches', which quotes John Key:

    Key said he liked the work of Parents Inc, run by evangelical Christian Ian Grant.

    "The current Government won't touch them because they've got a Christian-based perspective," Key said.

    "I personally think they happen to deliver fantastic results, and I'm going to make sure they get some money to run their programmes far and wide."

    If this were the USA, under President George W Bush, then we could expect our government to throw money blindly at Christian-based organisations, but this is NZ. Key said that 'I personally think they happen to deliver fantastic results', so he should produce the evidence of these fantastic results. We need to know what's in this Parents Inc toolbox and how their belief in God influences their programs.

    As you say Graeme, if you dig deeper into the Parents Inc. website, they reveal where their values come from:

    Values: Judeo-Christian in our motivation and ethics
    Not that we have a problem with all Judeo-Christian 'motivation and ethics', but those that we do agree with are simply universal human 'motivation and ethics' and Christians have no ownership to them. They can and should be taught without the belief that some God is policing them.

    Also Christians, churches and Christian organisations clearly believe Parents Inc are pushing a Christian agenda as all these comments on various websites confirm:

    Parenting Magazine is published by Christian parenting not-for-profit, Parents Inc.

    Elim Christian Centre... has linked up with Parents Inc to inspire, encourage and teach practical parenting skills using the Toolbox program

    Leith Valley Presbyterian Church are hosting some parenting courses run by Parents Inc who are a Christian organization...

    Christian Lawyers Association Capital Prayer Breakfast [present] Bruce Pilbrow, CEO of Parents Inc as the guest speaker

    Bruce Pilbrow... was the marketing manager for Radio Rhema...

    Dr Emil Silvestru of Creation Ministries International [lectures on] Genesis, the Gospel and the Creation/Evolution Issue... Auckland Bible Church, Meeting at Parents Inc Centre...

    Christian Web Links
    The following links are to Christian organisations... Parents Inc

    Christian Network Supports Parenting Toolbox... Mr Carpenter said that Parents Inc has built up a long track record of quality programmes based on Judeo-Christian values... [and] New Zealand Christian Network... seeks to present a biblically orthodox position on issues, reflecting the views of the majority of Christians in New Zealand.

    We don't see how God and the Bible and 'What would Jesus do?' can be kept out of their silly toolbox. These are devout, fanatical, evangelical Christians, there is no way that they could leave their beliefs at the door, in the way that I could suppress my love of Monty Python while teaching a course on CPR. As you say, if homosexuality came up, or sex before marriage, masturbation, abortion, discipline of children with the rod, civil unions etc, can we really believe that these devout Christians would suggest a modern secular view rather than their religious one? What about a parent who says they're worried about their child because she says she's an atheist, or supports stem cell research or reckons the Big Bang created the universe, not god, or scoffs at talk of Noah's Ark? Is it likely that these deluded Christians will tell the parent to support their child, she's obviously quite bright, or will they suggest ways to bring her back to god? As you say Graeme, these courses are 'A subtle but effective promotion of a dangerous and morally redundant superstition', and anyone that would argue otherwise has no grasp of what truly believing in and following Jesus really means. True Christians are no more capable of teaching and promoting a secular philosophy than I am of sincerely thanking god for the Christchurch earthquake. To claim that the likes of Ian Grant and Bruce Pilbrow could happily set their fairytales aside when designing their toolbox is ridiculous and naive. To believe that they would let secular or atheistic philosophies into their strategies at the expense of their Judeo-Christian values is delusional.

    As Graeme points out, why should we let someone like Bruce Pilbrow lecture to vulnerable families that places God first and the family second, that says he feels 'So humbled when I see young people give everything to God/? This god botherer isn't interested in helping families find their way in the world, but to find their way to God.

    And frankly, if their programs are anything like others developed by Christian organisations in NZ, the USA and elsewhere, then they may well be not just worthless, but actually harmful. And it's not just religiously motivated counsellors, we actually have little confidence in many of the psychologists and poorly trained social workers that attempt to correct societies ills. Many quote Freud and Jung, supporting psychoanalysis and synchronicity and other nutty theories, without realising they have been debunked as bogus with no scientific support whatsoever. And look how easily psychologist Nigel Latta was fooled by the 'Sensing Murder' mediums, or how the deluded social workers and psychologists got Peter Ellis falsely imprisoned, or the apparently large number of social workers whose main qualification for the job seems to be that they have suffered the same abuse as their clients. And many politicians seem just as gullible, driven by primitive beliefs, superstition and outdated theories on how the mind functions.

    Before the government starts throwing taxpayer funds at any program — religious or secular — that's designed to improve societal values, they need to first provide proof that it actually works. And that the values it might deliver are the values we actually want. We suspect that all $2.4 million for this contract will be completely wasted, unless you work for Parents Inc. For them it's a godsend. New Bibles for everyone!

  95. Comment by Bob, 31 May, 2011

    On the front page of the Sunday Star Times there appeared an ad from the abeeco company selling a herbal product for the treatment of prostate problems which are common to old men. I looked up their web page for a description of how wonderful this product is. It came with one testimonial so I wrote them the following email:

    Re: Prostate formula.

    Can you please advise me if this product is approved by the NZMA or possibly the FDA? Also has it been subject to double blind testing? If not how can I possibly know if it works? I don't want to waste $ 73 on a product which might have no more than a placebo effect.

    Thank You,

    Bob.

    and their reply:
    Hi Bob,

    I think I chatted to you on the phone yesterday. We do offer a money back guarantee and our products are made in a GMP factory in New Zealand.

    Our website has reference to testimonials and other information you may find interesting.

    I hope you enjoy your holiday.

    Yours in good health

    Raewyn
    www.abeeco.co.nz

    On their website there are a number of different "natural" products all presented the same way, glowing reports backed by testimonials. Now I am not saying none of these products are beneficial. In pre-scientific days many indigenous people such as our own Maori knew the medical value of certain plants. I understand some of our approved drugs originated from plants. However as I said in the email without approved testing how can you possibly know these products do what is claimed.

    I am sceptical about their money back guarantee. How can you know it has or hasn't worked without a thorough medical check both before and after taking the product? Would they accept your word for it? I suspect you would have trouble collecting. Making unsupported claims for medical products are dubious at best fraudulent at worst. I was disappointed to see the Prime Minister has given this company credibility by praising it no doubt on it's business performance not on it's products.

    Why can't companies putting out products as health treatments have to prove they work? I have noticed on American websites with promotions of alternative medicines a disclaimer to the effect that the product has not been approved by the FDA. I assume that is mandatory.

    Incidentally I did not phone them nor am I going on holiday.

  96. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 01 Jun, 2011

    We agree with your sentiments Bob. A large number of our medicines are indeed derived from plants, but without scientific testing and trials you can never know which actually work and which are safe. Testimonials are an admission that their products are worthless. Any product that has evidence that it works and is safe never ignores that evidence and falls back on silly testimonials.

    These charlatans are make making irresponsible and dangerous claims, for example, they state that: 'You should take this product if you..... want to PREVENT PROSTATE PROBLEMS'. This clearly states that their product can PREVENT prostate cancer, and this could potentially stop men seeking real medical treatment and real cures until it is too late.

    Governments need to force promoters of 'natural' health products to prove their efficacy and safety just like real medicines have to, and stop pretending that they're just some harmless backyard nonsense that few people take seriously.

  97. Comment by Renee, 15 Jun, 2011

    Just a short note to say THANK YOU. I have spent about 20 years gradually moving away from a very Christian upbringing. This is a long story which I will not bore you with. However, about 3 years ago my search finally ended and I most definitely became an atheist. The book that helped me here was Richard Dawkins 'The God Delusion'. At last everything fell into place and I cannot understand that anyone can think otherwise! Since then I have been like a sponge absorbing as much information as I can and loving it. Recently I came across your website — what a discovery! It is on my 'Favourites' and I read from it daily. Sometimes going over the same article several times. Your no-nonsense, well thought out arguments have helped me clarify many issues as well as giving me good advice for debating my new world view. However, now that close family and friends know that I am an atheist they are very reluctant to talk to me about my views. They seem to rather want to avoid any topics of this sort, but I will be ready when they are ready to question me. Among my top favourites are: Yourselves, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, P.Z.Myers. Thank you again for helping an unscientific mind to think scientifically. Is it possible to suggest topics for you to check up on or just to ask you the odd little question to get clarity as I often feel quite isolated. I live in a small town in Zululand, South Africa and do not have anyone close by to ask. Keep up the good work. Once again, many thanks.

  98. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 Jun, 2011

    Thanks for your comments Renee, and we're glad we could be of help regarding atheism and thinking scientifically. The key to truly understanding the world and our place in it, as you've discovered, is to read up on science, philosophy, history, religion etc, and the authors you listed are certainly well worth reading on atheism. Asking a religious person or priest gets you nowhere.

    Most of our friends and family don't talk to us about atheism either, but no doubt for slightly different reasons, they just aren't that interested.

    You are welcome to ask us any questions you have, although of course we can't guarantee we can answer them. We only run this website as a hobby. Although none of us have ever really been religious, we also are still learning from the likes of Richard Dawkins about atheism and evolution etc.

  99. Comment by Graeme, 05 Sep, 2011

    Hi John, and all. I enjoy (yes, enjoy) listening to Radio Rhema. I'm going to have a crack at their Manna Bible quiz too one day (7:40am).

    It is the inadvertent comedic moment on Rhema that really cracks me up. Here I think is a beauty.

    Breakfast host Aaron Ironside wonders aloud if in fact it is a good idea to engage in argument about the existence of god because you might.... drum roll.... LOSE!

    Priceless I reckon.

    Here's the link:

    http://www.rhema.co.nz/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=1&Itemid=304

    Scroll down to..

    Friday 2 September 2011: Atheists & Conservative Party

    Atheist Conference — Feature Audio, listen below
    A conference focusing on how Christians should respond to the strident "New Atheism" movement that has emerged in recent years will be held at the University of Otago, Aaron chats with Professor Stephen Evans

  100. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Sep, 2011

    Thanks for the link Graeme. Discussions by religious types are often good for a laugh, although I haven't listened to Rhema for ages, my stereo tuner refuses to pick it up for some reason (maybe it's artificially intelligent?).

    I agree with host Aaron Ironside wondering whether it's a good idea to for Xians to question god's existence. It's not. Just yesterday I tried to explain to a lukewarm believer that people can only maintain these silly beliefs as long as they don't question them, as long as they don't think too deeply about them. It's no different to young children and Santa Claus, as soon as they start wondering how a fat guy can get down their chimney or fit all those toys in that one little bag then their belief starts down the hill to disbelief, gathering speed with each question asked.

    We hadn't heard of their 'Atheist Conference', and we suspect that there probably weren't many atheists invited, which is a shame. They could have held up large numbered cards to judge how effective the Christian arguments against atheism were. It's far too easy to delude yourself that you possess a killer argument if you don't let your opponents hear it.

    My friends, associates and family know only too well that I'm an atheist, and those that are religious maintain their faith by never discussing religion with me. Unlike Rhema's breakfast host, they have seemingly already realised that discussing god's existence is foolhardy, since if approached honestly it can only lead to doubt and atheism.

  101. Comment by Bob, 07 Sep, 2011

    Hi John, I can't help putting in a comment on Radio Rhema. A couple of times I have tuned across the band on my car radio to find something to listen to and found a station with very pleasant music. I was surprised to find it was Radio Rhema playing Christian music. As long as they stuck to music I didn't mind listening.

    If you can think back to prime minister Rob Muldoon's funeral you will recall he featured so large in our lives he was given a public funeral with the hearse driving a route around Wellington. All the TV and radio stations broke into their programmes to broadcast the funeral. One radio station didn't. You guessed it. It was Radio Rhema still going on about God and Jesus. It seemed they didn't live in the same world as the rest of us.

  102. Comment by Graeme, 07 Sep, 2011

    The Burkha, a cultural right?? Yeah, right.

    An appalling story here. I'm nearly crying, but unlike Hitchens it doesn't take much to make me cry.

    Afghans launch self-immolation campaign

  103. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Sep, 2011

    Like many stories regarding the Muslim religion and culture, that article makes depressing reading Graeme. To think that women are committing suicide because they're the victims of domestic violence and abuse, and then their families with their disgusting sense of honour claim that it is they that feel shame, it is they that are suffering.

  104. Comment by Bob, 09 Sep, 2011

    Circle of mistrust: Flab to abs ad banned

    The above ad has been banned by the Advertising Standards Board because it's claims are unrealistic. In my opinion it is only one of a flood of ads which should be banned for making outrageous claims. Turning flab into hard muscle can be achieved but it requires hard work and a long time exercising. Body builders are at it all the time. I have looked at this machine and wondered what it could do that a half hour of press-ups every day on the floor couldn't do along with a daily jog at no cost.

    So far as I can tell the main ingredient to losing weight and improving body tone is a good diet. Recently a series from England was shown on television fronted by a lady who was both a doctor and a scientist. In the first programme she looked at diets, diet pills and the like with most being useless. She then carried out an experiment. She had some pills made up of chalk and placed them in professional looking packets. She then got some women wanting to lose weight to take them and see how effective they were. As well she gave them a diet to go with them. The diet wasn't particularly strict just an emphasis on salads and other healthy food. Several months later she got them back and asked how they went. All had lost weight. Then she told them the pills did nothing. Their weight loss came from a better diet. Try telling that to people who can't resist their hamburgers and pizzas. Incidentally I feel sorry for McDonalds. They don't force their hamburgers down anyone's throats yet people call for them to be restricted.

    The programme I referred to looked at a variety of alternative medicines. She wasn't particularly critical letting the scenes speak for themselves. She spoke to a homeopath. He explained how he diluted his medicine so many times. She asked how such low dilutions could do anything especially when analysis showed them to be just water. He talked about water memory, admitted he couldn't explain and science couldn't explain, but they worked. Why aren't homeopaths prosecuted for selling water as active medicine?

  105. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Sep, 2011

    You're quite right Bob, there should be many ads banned for making outrageous claims, and many, many people should be encouraged to go on a critical thinking course so they can see through all this nonsense. And the excellent TV show you described was 'Can We Believe The Science?', with Professor Lesley Regan.

  106. Comment by David, 19 Sep, 2011

    John you don't have any leads on climate change. Not a topic that interests you?

  107. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Sep, 2011

    Hi David. To be honest, no, climate change doesn't push our buttons like gods or aliens do. Don't know why. I did recently buy Ian Plimer's book 'heaven+earth: Global Warming: The Missing Science', but haven't got around to reading it yet. He's an Aussie geologist and I enjoyed his previous book 'Telling Lies for God: Reason vs Creationism'. He thinks climate change is a con if you're not familiar with him. Along with Kiwis Ian Wishart and Ken Ring, who are both deluded on other matters of science. For the record we are siding with the majority scientific view at the moment, that climate change is real and humans are playing a part. As to how, or if, we can fix it, that's an entirely different story.

    We've read quite a bit on religion, the paranormal, evolution, cosmology, UFOs, psychics, ghosts etc and thus have an improved chance of realising when an author is fudging his case. When a person argues, as some do, that there are real fossil footprints of humans walking alongside dinosaurs in Texas, many people might provisionally accept this, whereas we know it is bullshit. Unfortunately we don't have the background knowledge to challenge those that have studied the climate change debate in depth. There are plenty of very knowledgeable and qualified people explaining why climate change is happening, or not, and our arguing with them would be like a kindergarten kid debating religion with me. The only arguments we can realistically apply to climate change debate are the simple ones that challenge any conspiracy theory, such as how many have to be lying to keep the secret, and do they have good reasons to do that? Also do the conspiracy proponents have the qualifications and experience to balance their opponents? For example the main proponents of the moon landing hoax are a retired carpenter, a librarian and a videographer, who go up against scientists. NZ's outspoken proponents against the science of climate change are Ian Wishart, a journalist who believes in Adam and Eve, and Ken Ring, an astrologer who believes Maori were brought to NZ as slaves 20,000 years ago. Is it likely that these people have discovered flaws in the science that the experts can't comprehend? Without us knowing much about the science, the conspiracy theorists must first explain why there is a conspiracy, who benefits to such a degree that they are willing to create such a massive lie?

    Real problems need to be resolved before we can believe in a conspiracy, such as this: Australian PM Julia Gillard and her government have recently brought in related changes that will cost Australia billions of dollars and some claim that this move may well cost them the next election. If all our government leaders know that this climate change nonsense is just a con to keep a handful of climate scientists in jobs, as the conspiracy theorists claim, why do they commit political and financial suicide just to help out a few scientists, while ruining their country in the process?

    Maybe the climate change debate will be like the evolution debate of the 18th century and the Big Bang debate of the 20th. Initially there were experts supporting both sides of these debates, but now the evidence has landed convincingly on evolution and the Big Bang, and even laypeople like us can understand the science of why. Perhaps it will take time before the climate change debate reaches that stage.

    Global Warming

  108. Comment by David, 20 Sep, 2011

    Fair enough John, and do I admit to being uncomfortable about sharing the views of Ken Ring and a raft of Christian fundamentalists although they are certainly not the only people who question the mainstream dogma. Climategate aside (where there was clear evidence of a conspiracy amongst a particular group of researchers) I don't see climate change as a conspiracy, more a bandwagon.

  109. Comment by Bob, 30 Oct, 2011

    NZHerald: Sick put faith in prayers, not pills

    I am absolutely appalled when people of influence push dangerous ignorant ideas on the gullible. Convincing people to stop taking essential medication is the height of criminal irresponsibility. HIV turning to AIDS was a fatal disease giving sufferers a maximum of ten years survivability. They were not good years either. As the body's resistance decreased the sufferers were constantly sick having no resistance to any bug which came by. Now by a stirling effort medical researchers have produced antiviral drugs which while they don't cure the disease have increased longevity from a sickly ten years to virtually normal lifetime with good health.

    To my mind stopping people taking treatment for mental illness is even worse. At least sufferers understand their physical ailments. On the other hand the very nature of mental illness means people don't understand themselves. They can't think straight. If the illness comes in episodes they are often appalled by their own behaviour when becoming unbalanced. Many of those who think they are God or Jesus are in fact under schizophrenic delusion. One lady convinced she was God took her young children down to a waterhole intending to walk on water. It's only their medication which keeps them mentally balanced. To talk people in deep depression out of taking their medication is simply criminal. If the sufferer commits suicide the other person is as guilty as if they had handed them a loaded pistol.

    Here we have enacted hate legislation applying to ministers of religion who encourage hatred of homosexuals from their pulpits. I would like to see legislation where religious leaders and others can be held responsible for the deaths of their followers when told not to take medication.

  110. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Oct, 2011

    As you correctly point out Bob, these are 'people of influence'. They shouldn't be in this modern day, but for far too many people, they are. These deluded people are seen as leaders in the community, and many gullible people look to them for guidance and advice. And these ministers and priests right up to archbishops and popes want to be leaders, to have their pronouncements taken seriously. They want to influence our thoughts and behaviour. When these ministers tell their followers to reject proven medication and put their health in god's hands they are playing god. When the pope says that Catholics can't use condoms to help prevent the spread of HIV or contraception to prevent pregnancy, these aren't just expressions of what he personally chooses to do. They are demands that he wishes everyone would follow, including non-Catholics. This is not like me recommending a movie, these people are playing with the lives of others, and losing. If someone dies or suffers because of their advice, they can't claim after the fact that they didn't expect people to take their comments seriously or literally. If I contributed to someone's unnecessary death because they valued my primitive, superstitious advice and even felt fearful not to follow it, I would at the very least be condemned by society and probably — hopefully — be investigated by the authorities.

    Religious people go to these supposed experts in the same way that we go to lawyers, doctors and engineers, and generally accept their advice as reliable. But while they may be experts in nonsense, their ignorant ideas are indeed dangerous and are killing people. If the aforementioned lawyers, doctors and engineers are found to give incompetent, irrational, life-threatening and wrongful advice, especially if it leads to deaths, then they are charged with crimes and stripped of their legal ability to practice their profession. It is totally irresponsible that religious leaders aren't treated as the experts they claim to be and are held accountable for the deaths that they cause. And as the article stated, the problem, just like child sex abuse by priests, is far worse in Africa than it is in the West. Religion is continuing with its proven track record of killing the innocent, and needs to be brought to account.

    Of course many people will gripe that enacting extra protections for gullible people is just turning us into a nanny-state, and that people should be able to do as they wish, even if it kills them. However we believe society has a duty to help those that can't think for themselves, those that let religious leaders think for them, and believe that their physical and mental ills will be cured by an old guy sitting on some cloud.

    Update: Prayer better than medicine, Nov 25, 'At least six people have died in Britain after being told they had been healed of HIV and could stop taking their medication': Church Tells HIV Patients To Stop Treatment.

  111. Comment by Roger, 05 Nov, 2011

    Great site. Keep it up

    Have you seen Crispian's table of irrational nonsense? ie very witty and much in keeping with your site

    As a doctor who has seen children die of vaccine preventable disease in the third world and middle class NZ I am interested in the thought processes that lend support to stupid thinking

  112. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Sep, 2011

    Thanks Roger, and no, we hadn't seen Crispian's table. It certainly is a humorous and organised overview of all the nonsense that's out there. There should be one on every science classroom wall.

    Like you we are also annoyed and frustrated when people die from preventable diseases, and it must be far worse when you experience this first hand with children. We all need to play our small part in helping reduce this stupid thinking, and get people to examine the logic of their choices.

  113. Comment by Bob, 21 Dec, 2011

    Virgin Mary Hi John, I have been having a chuckle to myself over the St Matthew-in-the-City billboard. The vicar appears to be trying to put the birth of Jesus into a modern context. This has upset believers. The last thing they want is to bring biblical miracles down to earth. If Mary has morning sickness, backache and a painful delivery somehow it would diminish the nature of the miracle. It might even cause people to question whether a miracle really did take place. Beliefs seem to depend on the suspension of everyday experience. Those hundred or so Catholic activists who tore down the poster value their beliefs so highly they are prepared to forgo their intelligence. It's sobering to think that in the past it was people like that who made up the Spanish Inquisition and exercised control over European society. We see it today in Muslim societies.

    Cardy, the vicar of St Matthew, wrote an interesting article in yesterday's Herald, 20/12. He showed the 25th Dec. as an ancient day of celebration being the winter solstice. The virgin birth was a symbol of the emergence of the new warm season. Holly represented the growth of new greenery in the spring. Historians point out that Jesus was unlikely to be have been born on Dec 25th as the lambs mentioned would have been born months earlier. The birth and nativity story were placed on that date as a way of taking over pagan celebrations and diminishing them.

    Cardy seems to be joining that group of mainly Anglican clergy who can no longer ignore their intelligence. They seem to keep their belief in God while casting doubt on most of the biblical stories. I wonder if he will stay in the Church.

  114. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Dec, 2011

    Hi Bob. I find the yearly billboard stunt rather weird. If it was done by someone like us who are skeptical of Christianity and want to highlight the obvious flaws, then I would understand, but that the people that are questioning the validity of the virgin birth are professional Christians is surprising to say the least. They are essentially demolishing their own myths and doing our work for us. As you say, Jesus (if he even existed), was certainly not born on Dec 25th, and the Christian hierarchy have known and accepted this for ages, and yet your average Christian on the street is ignorant of this fact. And every church wants them to remain ignorant of the numerous problems surrounding the stories of the birth of Jesus. My local church has a large billboard on their lawn: 'Remember Jesus is the Reason for the Season'. Many Biblical scholars now agree that the phrase 'virgin Mary' is a mistranslation, and the word incorrectly translated as 'virgin' actually meant young woman. But even if it did mean virgin, all that means was that, like everyone, she was a virgin until she first had sex. If someone called Mary did, in a real world sense, give birth to someone called Jesus, then she was either a promiscuous harlot or she was raped. If the birth resulted from a divine cause as Christians maintain, then she was definitely raped. She was made pregnant against her will or even her knowledge. If a human did that to a young woman, he would be arrested, so why does a god expect us to worship him for treating an innocent young woman in this despicable way? These are the frank discussions that the billboard should be encouraging, and in doing so showing up the Bible and its silly stories as outright fantasy, and in many cases the work of a monster if they were true.

    As for the ignorant and arrogant Catholics who vandalised the billboard, as you say, these are the same as the people with the superstitious and fearful mindset that ran the inquisitions and crusades etc. Completely ignoring Jesus who told them to love their enemies, to turn the other cheek and not to judge others, like your typical mob fuelled by ignorance and hate they take the law into their own hands and destroy the property of others. If Jesus were real then he would be ashamed of them and what they are doing in his name. But then every religion throughout history has committed unspeakable atrocities in the name of their gods. We are just fortunate that modern secular laws prevent these fundamentalist religious bastards, or at least most of them, from torturing and slaughtering those of us whom they feel have insulted their imaginary god.

    I can understand how naive young children can be fooled into believing in a benevolent being on Dec 25th, and his flying reindeer, but how adults can maintain their nonsense beliefs in imaginary beings, and even attack those that giggle at the notion of virgins giving birth, is beyond me.

    And those at St Matthew-in-the-City need to grow a spine, leave their church, climb over the agnostic fence and admit to the world that their god, his son and his virginal mother don't exist.

  115. Comment by Bob, 10 Jan, 2012

    DESTINY CHURCH

    The Destiny church plans to have a complex in South Auckland including a school and university according to the media. In this mornings news it is suggested he might start up a charter school and be eligible for public money. What bothers me is what children would be taught in science class as Destiny as far as I know are creationists. I am totally against supporting any off beat school which does not teach fully recognised and approved science.

    In touring British schools Richard Dawkins showed examples of religious schools pushing their own agendas. One was a Muslim school another a Jewish Orthodox school. In the case of the Jewish school the children were kept in a tight community to avoid outside influence. When secular teachers tried to teach evolution and old earth science they received angry rebukes from parents. Some teachers were afraid to teach certain subjects and tried to avoid them. If they want to set up religious schools they should pay for them themselves.

    I have said in the past that I agree with some public money going to private schools on the basis that they take a load off the state system. That is only if the curriculums are government approved identical to state schools.

  116. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Jan, 2012

    We agree with your view entirely Bob. Approved qualifications should only come from approved schools that teach an approved curriculum, which naturally includes recognised science and history. Qualifications issued by 'schools' that ignore and even attempt to discredit modern science should be treated no differently than a secret agent badge one used to find in a box of cereal. We often refuse to accept qualifications from foreign institutions, believing them not up to standard, so it ridiculous that we allow schools within NZ to issue qualifications based on a curriculum that we know is substandard from the very outset.

    And taxpayers certainly should not be funding this substandard education. Religious schools, and it is typically religions that want their own schools, should fund their own brainwashing. We see nothing good coming from these charter schools. We know very well that religions only want control over the education of their followers so they can censor what they hear and keep them ignorant of modern scientific advances, as they have done for centuries. A compulsory, secular education is one reason that we have an advanced and more enlightened society today, placing the education of children back in the hands of religions intent on pushing a fantasy will only see society go backwards. There are enough ignorant creationists in NZ as it is without taxpayer funded schools creating more.

    And the religious are hypocrites, continually telling us that their god will provide for them, and yet they repeatedly beg non-believers for money to keep them afloat. Where is their bloody god in their time of need?

  117. Comment by Graeme, 10 Jan, 2012

    We should keep an eye on this little series the Herald is running. Breathlessly credulous by the looks. Let's hope it improves.

    Part one... Leeches anyone?

    Alternative therapies: Little suckers a first taste of unusual medicines

  118. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jan, 2012

    Thanks for the heads-up Graeme. The article tells us that 'In this new series Herald reporters try out alternative relaxation and remedies', offered by recent immigrants, such as Japanese ganbanyoku, Indian ayurveda, Korean jimjjilbang, Thai yoga massage and Greek leech therapy. We're also told that 'A UMR Research survey on the beliefs of New Zealanders... found a majority believed in alternative remedies'. It amazes us that people report survey results like this as if they give alternative remedies some credence. If a survey showed that a majority believed the world was flat, that doesn't make it flat. All it shows is that a majority are ignorant and wrong in their beliefs.

    The first in the series saw a reporter try out leech therapy, but since he wasn't suffering any aliment that they claimed to cure, how could he evaluate their effectiveness? It's as silly as taking a painkiller if you haven't got any pain, you would have no idea if it would work with real pain. Regarding leech therapy, the practitioner Mehdi Jaffari 'says the therapy has "gone global" since Greek physician Nicander in Colophon was recorded as using them in 200 BC'. What utter nonsense, that was 2,200 years ago, so why is leech therapy still a fringe therapy if it has 'gone global'? Things like antibiotics, vaccines and stethoscopes have gone global, leeches haven't and it is disingenuous to pretend to a gullible client that they have.

  119. Comment by Steve, 17 Jan, 2012

    Hi John. Your interest in investigating "silly beleifs" and publishing your findings and opinions on your website have covered a variety of topics.

    Would you be interested in applying your expertise in myth busting to what some are saying maybe the biggest scam perpertrated on the people of this country. I'm refering to the New Zealand Crown. Check if the NZ Crown AKA the "Government" is, in fact a company named The Queen in Right of New Zealand (google it) that John Key is the current CEO of. This company is registered with the Securities Exchange Commission in New York (see link below).
    http://www.secinfo.com/$/SEC/Registrant.asp?CIK=216105

    It would be interesting to see who the current shareholders of the "Queen in Right of NZ are.

  120. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jan, 2012

    Sorry Steve, there are only so many hours in the day, so we prefer to challenge the silly beliefs that most people have heard of and are using to influence their behaviour, such as belief in religion, mediums, Ken Ring, homeopathy and alien abduction.

    If you really have good evidence that NZ is just a secret company run by John Ring, and presumedly most other western countries are also companies run by their 'pretend' leaders, we suggest you take it to a lawyer, or at least the media. And if this really is a big scam, one wonders if registering the company with the Securities Exchange Commission in New York is such a good way of keeping it all secret?

  121. Comment by Ross, 17 Jan, 2012

    Hi guys, have you seen this?...

    Poland fines singer for bashing Bible

    A Polish court slapped a fine on a popular singer who bad-mouthed the Bible - the latest episode in which authorities grapple with religious defamation in a traditionally Catholic country that is growing increasingly secular.

    Dorota Rabczewska, a singer who uses the stage name Doda, said in a 2009 interview that she doubted the Bible "because it's hard to believe in something that was written by someone drunk on wine and smoking some herbs."

    A Warsaw court ordered her Monday to pay a fine of 5000 zlotys (NZ$1827) for offending religious feelings.

    The case comes months after another Polish court let off a death metal performer, Adam Darski, who tore a Bible during a 2007 performance. It deemed his act artistic expression.

    Darski and Rabczewska once dated.

    I guess we have a way to go yet... sigh....
  122. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jan, 2012

    Fined $1827 for telling the truth! Many Catholics have a major problem understanding that not everyone thinks as they do, that we are no longer in the Middle Ages and that the Inquisition is no longer in charge.

  123. Comment by Mike, 18 Jan, 2012

    I think that is a bit unfair — I'm pretty sure almost every catholic in the world actually does understand those 3 points.

    They just think that the people who believe the 1st are completely wrong, the 2nd is just the march of time & there is nothing to be done about that, & the 3rd is a grievous error of modern governments.

    OK — so actually I think most are pretty happy about the 3rd....even catholics don't expect the Inquisition......any more (whether Spanish, Roman, French or anywhere else)

  124. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jan, 2012

    We'd agree Mike that most Catholics in NZ, although not the ones that continually broke the law by vandalising that billboard in Auckland because they didn't like it, have relinquished the notion that they're running the world. We would suggest that many Catholics, and Christians in general, are nothing but Catholic and Christian in name. Jesus would not recognise the modern beliefs of most Christians, and be utterly astounded that they could reject so much of what the Bible proclaims and yet still call themselves Christians. But regarding that Polish singer, the fact is that the charge of blasphemy is a medieval type law, and that Catholics can bring blasphemers before a court, find them guilty and punish them, is nothing other than medieval thinking. An arrogance that insists non-Catholics will be punished for expressing views contrary to Catholic dogma. NZ still has the crime of blasphemy on our law books, but unlike Poland, our courts no longer act on it. And the Office of the Inquisition still actually exists, they've just renamed it because the word inquisition has a bad historical record, and the present pope was its head until he was promoted.

  125. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jan, 2012

    Heather sent us a link to this article on US politicians — Republicans turn their back on the Enlightenment — which looks at their 'uncomfortable relationship with scientific fact'. Heather suggested we 'read this. Not that there is too much in there that we didn't already know'. She's right of course, we knew that Republicans are generally very religious, many denying evolution and any inconvenient scientific fact that shows up the Bible and God as being primitive, superstitious nonsense. We knew that President George W Bush and his administration consulted God rather than scientists on matters of science, and consulted God rather than diplomats and academics for foreign policy advice when he wanted to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. And now the Republicans, both the politicians and their supporters, want to replace President Barack Obama and his Democrat administration with an ideology closer to the likes of the Taliban than they realise.

    It's depressing and worrying that possibly the most scientifically and technologically advanced country in the world, as well as militarily powerful, that contains many highly intelligent and highly educated Americans, runs the real risk of again being run by a political party that rejects scientific evidence and instead puts their faith in a jealous and vindictive — not to mention imaginary — god. As people outside the US often say, shaking their heads, Only in America!

  126. Comment by Alison, 25 Jan, 2012

    Hi guys. That Herald series on 'alternative therapies' is probably best described as unduly credulous & lacking any evidence of critical analysis. Over at Sciblogs we did do our best to counter it (see articles by me, Siouxsie Wiles, Michael Edmonds & Darcy Cowan), but sometimes I do wonder if the people we're aiming at actually read the material on offer.

    Keep up the good work!

  127. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Jan, 2012

    You're right Alison. The series [first mentioned by Graeme at Comment #117) was utter nonsense and typical of what one expects from true believers, not from independent journalists in the county's largest newspaper. They appeared to be fluff pieces aimed at gullible sunbathers to simply fill out the paper over the summer break. Your articles over at Sciblogs certainly did show up the numerous flaws, but we suspect you are correct. Those unfortunate souls that need enlightening regarding worthless alternative therapies are least likely to be seeking out articles that debunk them. The NZ Herald has done typical Kiwis a disservice by perpetuating the myth that any therapy or practice that has been around for hundreds or thousands of years must work and be good for us. People aren't lining up to swap their houses, cars and designer clothes with caves, horses and smelly animal skins, and yet for some silly reason many argue to swap proven conventional medicine with ancient, unproven healing nonsense.

  128. Comment by Anonymous-4, 30 Jan, 2012

    The very title of this series of articles is a give-away, and shows a prejudiced mind at work.
    When on the first page you try to define the different kinds of "medicine" as being either "scientific" or "alternative" you betray your narrowmindedness.
    'scientific' medical practitioners in past ages have upheld their old practices against new ideas and held back new developments which did not conform to their standard methods. Look at the opposition to just washing their hands !
    Also consider how much damage is being done by the big drug companies rushing through the development of new products. Very scientific, I am sure, but using one such approved drug last year nearly cost me my life.
    Using some of these 'alternatives' rarely causes such devastating results and if there is a chance of help why not use them? The big drug companies and traditional medical workers are in it for the money just as much as anyone else.....

    I think it is as silly just to trust 'science' as it is to uncritically accept other approaches.

  129. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 31 Jan, 2012

    In reply to Anonymous-4, we are of the view that there is only one type of medicine, not scientific medicine and alternative medicine. If it works (and is safe), it is medicine. If it works (and is safe), it will be able to be shown scientifically that there is good evidence for its efficacy and safety. There is no known healing therapy that works (and is safe) that conventional medicine refuses to adopt or consider. Alternative therapies continue to carry the 'alternative' tag because they refuse and fail to provide good evidence that they work (and are safe). If an 'alternative' therapy or drug ever gains acceptance by conventional medicine, its promoter drops the term 'alternative' with indecent haste and quickly migrates to the medicine club. They now proudly claim that there is scientific evidence for their product, that randomised, double blind, controlled trials have elevated them from an unproven alternative therapy to real medicine.

    We agree with you that in the past (and the present), many people steadfastly held onto old healing practices that were harmful and/or worthless, while refusing to accept new ideas that were proving effective and safer, like simply washing your hands to prevent the transfer of unseen germs. This is regretful, since no doubt many people suffered and died unnecessarily, and we should learn from these past mistakes. So it is strange that you present this cogent argument while trying to argue that we should return to embracing old healing practices that have no evidence supporting them, while at the same time being distrustful of new ideas, like synthetic drugs (antibiotics, vaccines, analgesics etc), germ theory, genetics, computerised scanners, ie modern medicine, and science in general.

    Supporting age old practices and arguing that science, and modern medicine, can't be trusted, one suspects that if you had lived a couple of hundred years ago you would have been in the group opposing hand washing. And perhaps it is our alleged narrowmindedness and prejudiced mind at work, but your refusal to trust 'science' suggests that you don't understand what science is, and how scientists using the scientific method reach their conclusions.

    You further confuse us when, based on your obvious support of alternative therapies, you nevertheless opted to start taking a modern medical drug, the use of which you say 'nearly cost me my life'. For a start, if this drug is so dangerous and life threatening, why aren't you telling us what it was and warning us not to take it? This aside, why did you even consider using a rushed into production, artificial, chemically synthesised drug from an untrustworthy company when there are untold alternative treatments available? Alternative therapies are claimed (by the therapists and their supporters) to be far more effective and far safer than conventional medicine. And they have the test of time. And yet, rather than going for a traditional, natural, alternative therapy that has been used by peasants worldwide for centuries, you opted instead for a product from a drug company motivated by profit rather than efficacy and safety? Why? Why did you lose confidence in alternative therapies?

    As for the drug's alleged effect, it's well known that every drug has side effects, some more serious than others. You correctly state that ''alternatives' rarely causes such devastating results'. This is because alternative therapies are normally worthless and have no active ingredients, or pretend to use 'energies' and such that don't exist. For example homeopathic remedies are just plain water and can't harm you, and chakras don't exist so can't be dangerously misaligned.

    Of course this is not saying that some alternative therapy or drug might not have a beneficial effect on some medical condition. However it's the responsibility of those making these claims to provide evidence, which they consistently refuse to do. You spoke of the conventional drug you took being 'approved' and of drug companies 'rushing through the development of new products'. The fact is that all drugs that are approved go through years of testing at great expense, with the great majority of drugs investigated failing to get to market. As insufficient and flawed as you believe this process to be, it must be remembered that the alternative therapies that you are recommending people adopt instead go through no testing whatsoever and are not approved by any testing body. Alternative therapists make no commitment whatsoever to safety or efficacy. If after years of testing, conventional drugs are still not safe, then alternative drugs that undergo no testing must be far more dangerous to take. Surely you can't be arguing that no testing makes them safer to use?

    Doctors undergo years of academic study and are legally constrained as to what they can offer you in the way of drugs and therapies. Alternative therapists, if they undergo any training at all it's at the equivalent of clown college, have no restrictions on what they can offer you from their kitchen in the way of natural drugs and unproven therapies. To us, it is clear that you are far safer with conventional medicine, and far more likely to be cured, than you are with alternative drugs and therapies that consistently fail to show that they work or are safe.

    Was it modern medicine that only recently eliminated smallpox from the planet, or was it some alternative therapy centuries ago? Was it modern medicine or some alternative therapy that has provided treatments to untold diseases that have afflicted mankind throughout history and dramatically increased our longevity? Can you in fact name one disease or affliction that alternative therapies have eliminated or proven effective against, and which century this therapy first started becoming widespread? And please explain why, if this alternative therapy works, and can be proven to work, why it is not used by conventional medicine.

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