Category Archives: Anti-theism / Skepticism

Kony, Khrist, and The Kloset (or, Sympathy for Jason Russell)

Imagine your favorite food, hands down, is hamburgers. You can think of nothing tastier. Problem is, you’ve been told all your life, by most everyone you know and care about, that liking hamburgers is an abomination and that giving in and actually eating them is pure evil. I’m sure it’s obvious where this is going, but even so, please indulge me for a moment. Imagine confessing these burger longings of yours to these people. So long as you agree with them that it’s wrong, they may deign to afford you some pitying acceptance, but you’ll be expected to go through your entire life seeing hamburgers everywhere you go—in magazines, on billboards and TV, and smelling them as you pass fast food joints and when you’re sitting there not eating one in every restaurant you go to while the approved people are scarfing them right under your nose—all without ever following through with your unabating desire. If they find you’re actually eating hamburgers, well…  Bad to worse. You’re deemed a pox on the very essence of all that is good. Less than a person. Your closest family might even disown you. And rightfully so;  you’re fucking disgusting. Oh, and when you die, they say, your spirit will live on to be endlessly tortured for your burger blasphemy. Okay? Now mull that scenario over a moment. Really imagine how you’d probably feel. Now imagine how much worse it must be for many gay folks who grow up in evangelical families. Everyone who’s come anywhere near puberty knows a weakness for McDowell’s ain’t got nothin’ on a sexual preference.

Which brings me to the recent internet hullabaloo that is Kony 2012 and its architect, or, perhaps more fittingly, its choreographer, Jason Russell. When I first saw his smug little propaganda video, I figured “So what if it’s really douchey and weirdly egomaniacal? If it works and this Kony fuck is dealt with, then fine. Who gives a damn?” Then there was the backlash. Then the back story began to fill in…His evangelical upbringing and connections with anti-gay groups… Then the guy went ape-shit on the streets of San Diego and into the laughing academy for a few nights. All in a handful of days. Whoa. But it never crossed my mind when I first saw the Kony 2012 video that this Jason Russell weasel was a closeted gay man.

I usually think of my gaydar as pretty decent. Definitely above average, but it has been known to fail me once or twice. In this case, I think I went in focused pretty intently on the message and the claims being made, but the overwhelming douchiness and arrogance was a huge factor in my distraction as well. In fact, it was probably the biggest factor, as I was more or less mesmerized by it. Seriously, it was almost difficult to think of anything else while watching this thing. That and maybe his hetero marriage and the cute little beard of a son he trotted out so manipulatively helped to throw me off. At any rate, I should have picked up on it.

The following day, I saw out of the corner of my eye that this guy was on CNN and un-muted the TV. Then, for some reason, he didn’t get more than a few sentences in before it occurred to me very, very strongly that he was probably gay. The way he moved, his manner of speech, the way he expressed his enthusiasm…I picked up on all these little clues at once. Of course I can’t know it for sure, and it’s not an accusation of any sort. In my view, being gay is nothing particularly remarkable in itself, and certainly nothing negative. It’s merely what I thought at the moment.

I was further convinced when I saw this video of Jason at the evangelical Liberty University, espousing his love of Christ,  and—as if there could be a better clue—musicals. Then there was this video for his organization, Invisible Children, wherein he sings and dances his little heart out. And after that? The breakdown:

Is that or is that not the single gayest breakdown possible for a supposedly straight man? Not the nudity of course, but the walk, the posture, and the gestures. As a friend posted on Facebook, “The closet really is a deep, dark place I guess. That’s it, girl. Sashay the gay away!” Really, anybody who knows gay will tell you:  GAY.

As you probably know if you’ve been trying to follow this story, his wife says he wasn’t on drugs or alcohol at the time. Or rather, more specifically, that he doesn’t do drugs or alcohol. It doesn’t much matter to my point. The official story is that old bullshit favorite of people in the public eye who act a fool before it:  exhaustion and dehydration. But for those of us who are observant and aren’t members of the Kony 2012 cult or the Christ cult, it’s looking more and more like a big part of the explanation probably lies somewhere in the beginning of this post.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Anti-theism / Skepticism, Politics / World / Society

Back quackery: The dishonesty and ludicrous claims of chiropractic

My back has been fucking killing me. Evolution, the blind bastard, by shoddily adapting a quadruped’s back to serve a biped, has assured that most of us will have back problems at one time or another. But man…mine has really been hurting. All the time. Doctors tell me this is due to my pelvis slipping out of alignment and that there’s not much to be done about it except regularly manipulating it back into place, stretching, and exercise. I recently figured out how to put it back in place without assistance and hit upon a combination of the three that I think may finally be doing the trick (a little more time will tell for sure), but it’s been a long, uncomfortable pain-ride, and I, like many others, have looked to chiropractic as a possible path to relief.

A couple of years ago, I made my first two (and only) visits to a chiropractor I picked from a list of local practitioners because he was nearby. I knew there was some issue taken with chiropractic by the mainstream medical community in regards to the validity of some of their claims, but I figured a good back-cracking and a massage could at least lend me some temporary relief. And it did. But the almost religious zeal with which this guy told me what chiropractic was and how it was going to help me—not just with my back, but with practically everything else that might be ailing me—was off-putting from the start. First, though I was explicit and up-front about being there for my lower back pain only, the questionnaire I was given to fill out when I first arrived asked about every single health issue I had. What the hell do my allergies have to do with getting my back cracked? My bullshit detector was sparking and belching black smoke when, after that, he explained subluxations.

Subluxations, he tells me, are basically little blockages of the nerves caused by your vertebrae being out of whack, which prevent your body’s natural healing energies (see:  Innate Intelligence) to flow freely and properly. Sort of like a regular ol’ pinched nerve, except instead of just the obvious bio-mechanical effects of numbness and pain, the symptoms can even be things like stomach aches, allergies, depression, fatigue, and asthma. Actually, he told me, just about anything wrong with me would probably benefit from spinal manipulation. Nonsense, I thought, just crack my goddamn back, would ya? But before we could get on with it, he had another bit of woo for me:  the subluxation station.

The subluxation station is a device that purportedly “finds imbalances in your nervous system by measuring differences in heat and electrical stimulus through different vertebrae in the body via thermoscan and surface EMG.  When the left side compared to the right side of the body shows a significant difference, it means that is subluxated and there is a dysfunction at that vertebral level.”  He runs a useless thingamajig up my spine, stopping and clicking at each vertebrae, tapping on computer keys, then shows me the printed results and says something like “See there?” He points to a colored line on the left side of an illustrated spine that’s longer than the colored line on its opposite side. “That’s your T4 vertebrae. You know that fatigue box you checked-off on the questionnaire? I’ll bet if we work on that T4 it’ll reduce that fatigue. You can see it’s way out of balance here…”*

By now, I’m fiercely rolling my eyes on the inside. “I really just want you to do something about the back pain,” I say.

And he did, finally and thankfully, get around to the crack-job and a massage by a fabulous, manhandling mechanical chair. It felt nice. Afterward, he came up with a plan for me:  three times a week, possibly for several months, I should return for more of the same, as well as perhaps some lifestyle counseling. Lifestyle counseling? Yeah, see, chiropractic is a holistic practice; exercise and nutrition hand-in-hand with spinal manipulation. He seemed quite certain that with all three, anybody can be pain and illness free most of the time. No matter that I was just there because my back hurt. I left with the intention of coming once or twice more simply for the manipulation, but if I wasn’t on my way to recovery after that, then fuck this charlatan knob. I returned again later the same week. A few days after, I was still hurting and I couldn’t stomach all the voodoo anyway, so I never went back.

Since that close encounter of the woo-rific kind, I thought I’d left chiropractic behind for good, but my pain persisted and I considered going to another one just to have my pelvis tweaked back into place every now and again. I went online to see if I could find one who wasn’t full of crap and who’d merely provide bio-mechanical manipulation without the wacky claims. I didn’t get through all of them in my area, but I went through about a dozen before giving up. All were subluxation based, and many made other unsupported claims as well. Some even offer the utilization of something called a ZYTO nutritional scanner:

“a computerized scan (that) can help detect which vitamins your body needs to achieve maximum health…using the body’s natural energetic field, a communication link is established between the patient and the computer via the ZYTO hand cradle. Through this connection, ZYTO sends stimuli and then records the body’s response. This conversation is called biocommunication, and it provides insights into health and wellness.”

 Mmmkay. And luckily for you, their offices just happen to carry an expensive line of vitamins to take care of the deficiencies “detected”. Also, why does this remind me of the E-Meter? For readers unfamiliar and too lazy to click the link, the E-Meter is famously used by Scientology to assess the “spiritual” progress of its adherents. This thing reminds me of it because it is it. It’s the same fucking technology, and equally useless. Unsurprisingly, the E-Meter was invented by a chiropractor.

They’re not joking.

To understand chiropractic, it’s important to know its origin. It was created in 1895 by one D.D. Palmer, a guy who claimed to heal people with magnets, and thought of chiropractic as a religion (again, see:  Innate Intelligence). He also claimed that in his very first chiropractic session, he cured a deaf man, simply by manipulating his spine. His son, B.J. Palmer, also in the family business, once wrote:

“Chiropractors have found in every disease that is supposed to be contagious, a cause in the spine…There is no contagious disease… There is no infection… There is a cause internal to man that makes of his body in a certain spot, more or less a breeding ground [for microbes].”

So much for germ theory, huh?

The American Medical Association denied all this madness, of course, and fought the legitimization of chiropractic for a very long time, calling them, in 1966, an “unscientific cult”. Many chiros have since tried to distance themselves from the more crackpot elements of the practice’s founding, desperately citing any legitimate study it can that even hints at its efficacy. And in another parallel with Scientology, they’ve been successful enough with lawsuits against informed naysayers to stay in business and become more firmly ensconced as an acceptable form of treatment. However, even at this date in 2012, there is zero peer-reviewed scientific evidence to show chiropractic manipulation is any more effective than placebo and/or already existing, mainstream methods of physical therapy.

This dubious origin and the tendency of chiropractors to supplement their practice with other unscientific flapdoodle are underlined by a very basic dishonesty, which almost always accompanies magical thinking. After my failure to find that rare orchid: a chiropractor who wasn’t a snake-oil salesman or a hippy-dippy believer in all the hogwash, I did some research and in the process stumbled across this chiro in California. He has a section on his website dedicated to the question “Who are the quacks?” where he attempts, by making stuff up and distorting facts, to show that it’s mainstream medicine who are the nuts, not the chiros. He prattles on about a conspiracy by the American Medical Association to maintain a “total monopoly of the practice of medicine”, then quotes a number of physicians who appear to be pooh-poohing science and medicine and confessing to acting as though they know more than they actually do. I chose this quote at random and decided to check it for accuracy:

“Medicine is a humbug! I know it is called a science, but it it nothing like science. We are ignorant, as ignorant as men can be. I know nothing about medicine, and I don’t know anybody in the world who does know anything about it.”

Frances Megendie, M.D.

What I found immediately was that the name was wrong. Frances Megendie never existed. There did exist, however, a 19th century physiologist named Francois Magendie. This “mistake” is likely deliberate obfuscation, because when I looked to see if Francois indeed said what is attributed to him, I quickly found this volume of The National Magazine from 1856 and the truth. See, Dr. Magendie did say those things, but not in that order. Put in order and context, we learn that the quote is second hand, from a very long time ago, and that Francois was trying to communicate that, though medicine had a long way to go, it was advancing everyday. And in the next century, he predicted in this passage from the same speech, medicine would be a robust science indeed:

“True enough, we are gathering facts every day. We can produce typhus fever, for example, by injecting a certain substance into the veins of a dog; that’s something; we can alleviate diabetes, and, I see distinctly, we are fast approaching the day when phthisis [tuberculosis] can be cured as any disease. We are collecting facts in the right spirit, and I dare say in a century or so the accumulation of facts may enable our successors to form a medical science… “

And he was correct.

See? Quote mining. Clearly this sort of sneaky slight of hand wouldn’t be necessary if there were actual evidence that chiros were legit.

The bottom line is that chiropractic is a practice neck deep in horseshit. It may offer some minor relief for bio-mechanical discomforts, but none that can’t be obtained through your physician, physical therapist, masseuse, or sometimes even just a placebo. Why bother wading through all the feces?

.

.

For more on the subject:  http://www.skepdic.com/chiro.html

*I have no clue what vertebrae is what and which corresponds to what ailment in subluxation theory; this is only an approximation of the actual dialogue and is essentially true.


			

1 Comment

Filed under Anti-theism / Skepticism, Science

Yes, but no *true* Christian…

Jessica Ahlquist first noticed this prayer banner hanging within the walls of Rhode Island’s Cranston High School West when she arrived there as a freshman:

It reads:

Our Heavenly Father.

Grant us each day the desire to do our best.
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically.
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers.
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others.
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win.
Teach us the value of true friendship.
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.

Amen.

Her immediate thought was that it wasn’t at all appropriate (Cranston West is a public school), but she got on with her day and tried not to let it get to her. The thing had been hanging there since the ’60s, and as a freshman she didn’t exactly want to stir up shit first thing after walking through the door. But when she later learned of an ACLU lawsuit over the banner, she sacked up for what she believed in and agreed to be the plaintiff. Well, now that 16-year-old Jessica and the ACLU have rightly won the case because the banner is blatantly unconstitutional and alienating to non-Xtians, the seething Christ huggers are out in force to show what they’re truly made of (see more examples here):

Lovely people, aren’t they? Oh, and Jessica has had to leave the school because of threats and a fear for her safety. But just remember:  religion makes you a better person. Got it?

3 Comments

Filed under Anti-theism / Skepticism

Poll: Should the 9/11 cross stay or go?

After the towers fell on September 11, 2001, as the smoke cleared, some people looked over the destruction and noticed a cross-section of steel beams poking up through the rubble. The Xtians among them noted it looked like their religion’s primary icon, the Holy Cross. It looked just as much like a lower-case letter “t”, but whatever. These Xtians, using very poor reasoning (as they’re inclined to do in these matters), took it as a sign of some sort from their God; some vague, half-assed pat on the back of sympathy or something. At any rate, in their trauma it gave them comfort, and that’s fine. But now they’ve installed it as a permanent exhibit in the National 9/11 Museum and some atheists feel like they’ve crossed a line. A group called American Atheists has sued to either have it removed or to force the museum to display symbols for other beliefs just as prominently, including a symbol for atheism.

I’ve been mulling it over for a little bit, but I’m still not sure where I fall on this. On the one hand, I don’t think religion should be involved in the memorial whatsoever. It’s in memory of the victims collectively, and collectively they weren’t Xtians, Jews, Muslims or atheists, they were just people who didn’t deserve what happened to them. But this Xtian symbol will likely be the largest and most prominent of any religious images in the museum. Reportedly there will be a Star of David, a Jewish prayer shawl, and some other nonsense displayed too, but it’s doubtful any of them will rival the cross in size. And after the so-called “ground-zero mosque” controversy, can you imagine them putting a giant symbol of Islam right next to it? Yeah, it ain’t gonna happen. And to make the icon of this one religion more visible and acting as a de facto symbol for all faith, hope, and courage in the face of horror is insensitive and arrogant. People of all kinds, with many different religious beliefs and life philosophies, were affected that day.

On the other hand, if I understand correctly, the museum got some federal funding and it’s on government land, but it’s not really a government building. It’s technically a non-profit and will probably be charging admission fees to cover some of its overhead, so this is a far cry from hanging the Ten Commandments in a federal courthouse. Also, this is a museum memorializing an historical event and the cross does have some (small) historical significance in that people traumatized by the event found this piece of the wreckage from the site meaningful to them and it gave them comfort. It’s delusional, but it’s part of the story.

So I’m still thinking on it. But regardless of whether the cross should stay or go, I think asking for an atheist display is asinine. If they put one in, why shouldn’t someone else sue to include a section honoring the people who preferred boxers to briefs? It’s just silly.


2 Comments

Filed under Anti-theism / Skepticism, Politics / World / Society

Looks like we have a Jewish zombie to thank for NASCAR. Who’d have thought?

Yeah, thanks a million Jesus.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anti-theism / Skepticism

Imagine there *is* a Heaven. It’s easy if you try…

I imagine the gods aren't going to make this soup taste any less awful.

There’s an article in today’s Ottawa Citizen titled Ask the Religion Experts:  Does imagination play a role in faith? And they’re not just being facetious. What follows is a bunch of priests, imams, rabbis and religious scholars answering “yes” while simultaneously acting all oblivious to the 500 pound gorilla in the room, which is that it plays the primary role given that their belief systems are based on wholly imagined deities. So, of course, the unintended irony factor is off the charts:

  • “The ultimate goal in the Sikh faith is to seek union with God and by meditating on naam (God’s name) to reveal God’s light within. This too requires… imagination.”
  • “Imagination is a God-given gift to human beings which enriches our lives if it is anchored to a positive reality. However, if it…is tied to false or unnatural things, it simply amounts to fantasy.”
  • “Whether praying in a mosque, at home or in a park, our imagination helps us feel as if we were standing in the House of God in Mecca and talking to him.”
  • “…it is vital to live as if God was right in front of us and watching every move we make. So, in a sense, what we are really doing is imagining that God is right here.”
  • “Jesuit spirituality places a special emphasis on using the imagination…while praying to help us listen to God’s guidance and to help us grow in faith.”
  • “…the word ‘imagine’ allows people of faith to envision and to bring into being those higher realities which do not yet exist in the “real” world…” 

Haha! Yep, sure does take a lot of imagination to believe the imaginary is real, doesn’t it? That these people can say things like this with a straight face never ceases to amaze and entertain me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anti-theism / Skepticism

How to keep the mean ol’ atheists off your back

Just as I was wrapping up my web surfing last night, I came across this post on my Facebook news feed:

“Finished the book ‘Heaven is for Real’ Very inspiring!”

Now, I see religious and woo-related stuff on Facebook all the time. It’s everywhere, so I’m sure most of us do. If I went around mocking or arguing with every single one, I’d be a huge dickhead. Plus, I wouldn’t have enough time for anything else, so I usually just ignore it and pray to Satan later that these people spontaneously combust. Just kidding. I usually laugh at them or shake my head and move on to something reasonable. But Heaven Is for Real claims to be the true story of Colton, a four-year-old boy who died, went to Heaven, and came back to tell the tale:

Colton…describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help us. – From the Amazon product description of the book

So in this case, I couldn’t resist. And why should I? Facebook is a social networking site after all, and when someone posts something on their wall they’re implicitly inviting comments from their Facebook friends. This was mine:

“I don’t suppose you were inspired to throw it in the garbage…”  

It’s a simple criticism of the book, and a rather mild-mannered, humorous expression of my sincere hope that people stop believing silly shit. It would be quite a stretch to construe it as a verbal attack or a slander. It’s a bit snarky perhaps, but hardly vicious (or even coarse). But this person felt that I insulted her beliefs, and deleted my comment because she didn’t want her religious in-laws to see it and become offended too. So the question is, was I out of line?

Had I written the very same thing about a political book she enjoyed, or one about, say, genetics, would she have reacted the same way? Not likely. If you tell someone their belief in Reagonomics is wrong or harmful, the conversation might heat up a little but I doubt you’ll be accused of being mean, offensive or inappropriate. So what makes people think their religion should be exempt from criticism, no matter how soft? The funny thing is it’s almost always the believer that brings the subject up in the first place. They’ll announce that their receding rash is a miracle from Christ and I’m supposed to clam-it unless I totally agree that Almighty Jesus is deeply involved in their jock itch. It’s ridiculous. I respect a person’s right to believe whatever the hell they want to, and I might even respect the person who believes it, but neither of those makes it necessary to respect the unreasonable things they believe.

So my answer is no, I wasn’t out of line. If you’re one of these people who gets all butthurt every time someone hears you making some supernatural claim and points out it’s unfounded, I have terrific news. There exists a nearly perfect, sure-fire way to keep us nasty non-believers from (*gasp*) rolling our eyes at you. It costs nothing, requires no effort, and it’s this:  simply keep the crazy to yourself.

2 Comments

Filed under Anti-theism / Skepticism