Fundamentalist Mormons At War
Dec07

Fundamentalist Mormons At War

Mormon Fundamentalists: A reasonably long but disturbing and well-worth-reading account of inner fighting, ostracism, and threatening behaviour enacted on behalf of the now-jailed leader of a group of fundamentalist Mormons, Warren Jeffs. In recent years, this enclave has been ripped apart by a modern holy war, led by a divisive spiritual leader who ended up on the F​⁠BI’s Ten Most Wanted list and is now in prison. The majority of Short Creek residents remain loyal to him and his sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or F⁠​LDS. But they are losing ground to apostates — those who either walked away from the church or were pushed out — who are starting to build their own community. To the F​⁠LDS, they are nothing less than an existential threat. The article includes quite harrowing details of the lengths to which the fundamentalist religious group go to in order to spy on people they consider outsiders, as well as details of the power that Jeffs and his supporters wield. One of the last sentences gives you a taste: [Jinjer] won’t leave their dogs — Buddy, Boots, and Rebel — outside for long; she’s convinced they’ll be...

Read More
Christadelphians
Nov16

Christadelphians

Through the letterbox popped something from Portsmouth Christadelphians… Scepticism about the Bible? I was intrigued. Could this be a local group with a rational outlook when it comes to religious matters? I took a look at their website The Evidence – You Decide. The answer to my question was no. I’ll explain. The website starts with a challenge: The Bible is either a great hoax or a message of great relevance and help. Immediately, they’re removing other options so that they perform a little trick: if they can subsequently remove one of the two choices you’ll be more likely to fall for the message that whatever remains must be the truth. This is a con. Over the rest of the website all they need to do is produce enough weak or anecdotal evidence to support eliminating the hoax option and that will leave them with the “message of great relevance and help” and, by extension, reinforcing the “it must all be true” mantra. Where are the other options? That it’s just a bunch of stories told by superstitious shepherds that morphed into a religion? That it’s a collection of appropriations from other religious tales and in no way the word of a sky pixie? That it’s a means to control people used throughout history by whoever is in charge? That it undergoes changes in interpretation over the centuries to fit the facts of the time? The next section is “accurate predictions” and included are a handful of different types of predictions: vague ones that can mean anything, obvious ones that anyone could see would happen, and potentially specific ones. The problem is that the predictions almost universally come from the portion of the Bible that was passed down by word of mouth and not written until long after the events. Further, the accurate predictions all refer to things that already happened absolutely ages ago, conveniently enough. Where’s the prediction about Islamic State? Where’s the prediction about Americans and Russians almost starting nuclear war? Where’s the prediction about what’s going to happen in the next hundred years? This is not evidence of anything other than the gullibility of humans. Many of the techniques used in these sorts of predictions are used these days too by the scam artists who go around calling themselves psychics and mediums (people that the Catholic church itself says are charlatans because a) it’s true and b) they don’t want anyone else muscling in on their territory). Moreover, this section is a great example of cherry picking data. Why doesn’t the site present the “predictions” that didn’t come true? Skipping over to the “Science & The...

Read More
Viral Bible
Jun14

Viral Bible

Shamelessly inspired by this tweet Inspiring the internet generation to pick up the Bible using a few tips and tricks from the headline writers of viral media websites. This Deity Started With Nothing. What He Achieved In Six Days Will Amaze You! This Bush Catches Fire And Starts Talking And I Still Can’t Believe What It Says! These People Started Counting Israelites. OMG… So Many Israelites! Where These People Set Out From Will Make You Laugh So Much! I Was Shocked That This Army Murdered Men, Women, Children, And Animals. But Then I Saw God Said It Was Okay. LOL! This Old Man Receives Some Bad News. What Happens Next Will Truly Shock You! This King’s Love For Virgins Will End Up Saving His Life! Wow! This Man Replies To His Friend. What He Says Will Bore The Living Shit Out Of You! I Learnt That If You Disobey God He’ll Put You In A Fish. And Now I’ll Never Forget It. This Man’s Wife Is Having Someone Else’s Baby But He’s Sticking By Her. What An Idiot! This Lamb Can Do Some Amazing Things Without Opposable Thumbs....

Read More
Trouble At The Sunday Assembly
May11

Trouble At The Sunday Assembly

I never was a fan of the idea of The Sunday Assembly, an attempt to provide a non-religious alternative to church modelled very closely on church itself. It’s a bit like vegetarian burgers or sausages; why pretend to be something you’re not? Don’t look like a burger if you’re not a burger. Be your own foul-tasting thing. Have you thought about soya-based dodecahedrons? And it isn’t just the churchiness of the non-church that I don’t like. It’s the high profile, the publicity, the franchising of it as an organisation that smells bad to me. It smells like a business. Do the people attending see themselves as part of a community or as customers? Because I’ve got a sneaking suspicion they’re the latter no matter what they think. I help to run Portsmouth Skeptics in the Pub and the SitP network functions differently. It’s more autonomous, not run from a central point or by a single person, has groups that grow and fade naturally, run by people who want to hear interesting talks and have interesting discussions with no aim to make a profit or form new groups or anything else really. Think of Skeptics in the Pub groups as terrorist cells, independent from one another but able to call on other cells for help, localised, inflicting education and intelligence on victims once a month in the company of alcohol. Think of Sunday Assembly groups as Subway stores, lovely to have around when you’re hungry but you’ve got to remember that their ultimate goal isn’t actually feeding you but increasing the bottom line in a ledger somewhere and finding new markets in which to invest. To reiterate: I’m not a fan of The Sunday Assembly. However, until recently I mostly ignored it as an entity. Just this week, though, I’ve read two interesting articles talking about the organisation. The first article was by Simon Clare – a fellow SitP organiser, running Horsham’s terrorist cell group – who explained why he had left the Sunday Assembly after ten services for Brighton’s franchise. There were developments at “Sunday Assembly Towers” (as the London team call themselves) that I felt that I could not announce to our congregation for fear of losing them. The moment that someone decides to hold back information from their congregation for fear they might disapprove or walk away, is the moment SA ceases to be a wholly positive movement. I love the idea of reclaiming the positive aspects of traditional churches for humanity, but those in charge of the Central SA group have lost sight of this aim, allowing SA to succumb to the same flaws that twisted...

Read More
Boko Haram
May07

Boko Haram

From GQ magazine an article on Boko Haram who are somewhat belatedly making international news for their horrific actions in Nigeria. Boko Haram: Sons of anarchy The article does go some way to showing how small acts can snowball. From an incident involving the not wearing of helmets on bikes to the death of Boko Haram’s spiritual leader Mohammed Yusuf while in custody, and from there to where we are now. In the final hours of 30 July, the forces of the Nigerian state sowed the seeds of the violence that was to come, violence that would replicate the devastation of Maiduguri in towns and villages across the region. There is internet footage of Mohammed Yusuf, heavily bandaged, issuing a stumbling confession in a cell. An hour later, Yusuf was dead, executed without trial. While the police later claimed he’d been trying to escape, witnesses reject this. The 39-year-old Yusuf left behind four wives, 12 children and a legion of enraged followers. Very well worth a read especially as Boko Haram are featuring heavily in the news right now (but how long until that fades?) There’s even a glimmer of hope in the rising of civilians against the terrorist...

Read More
UFOs And The Nation Of Islam
Apr08

UFOs And The Nation Of Islam

There are a lot of religions out there which is pretty strange if you’re an adherent to one that purports to proclaim the one and only truth with the one and only all-powerful creator at its midst. And because there are a lot of religions it’s not particularly feasible for anyone to keep track of them all so sometimes it comes as a bit of surprise to learn about a new one or learn some new fact about the practices of one you’d not been aware of before. So it is with the Nation of Islam, a religious movement I’d only really heard about through exposure to hip hop music, pictures of Louis Farrakhan, and Brother Mouzone from The Wire. I guess my assumption about the group was that they dressed well, spoke well, had a fondness for bow ties, and listened to Public Enemy; overall, a minor and perhaps eccentric branch of Islam, US-centric, with some unsavoury views of the world if Professor Griff was typical of the group members. Today, though, through one of my Google Alerts I learned something else about the Nation of Islam: its patriarch, Elijah Muhammed, apparently met God (which is nice) and God showed him his UFOs(*). This comes courtesy of this article written by Safiyyah Muhammad: Hollywood and the portrayal of UFOs. Another religious movement that features UFOs. Ah, that’s just wonderful. Of course, it’s easy to roll your eyes and mutter “really?” under your breath but when you think about it at least there’s some microscopic thread that attaches a UFO-based cult to reality (no, I’m not advocating anything put forward on Ancient Aliens). The same can’t be said for deities appearing as animals or bushes or swiftly covering planets in water as part of a benevolent genocide, to name but a few preposterous events. The aforementioned article isn’t a great read but by all means give it a go if you want to learn how much money Independence Day grossed at the box office and whether Minister Farrakhan’s favourite sci-fi movie is The Day The Earth Stood Still or Plan 9 From Outer Space(**). So what do we know about these UFOs and what evidence do we have for them? I’ll answer that latter question first with an interpretive dance that involves rolling on the floor and convulsing with mimed laughter, holding my sides tightly, and then leaping up to perform a move reminiscent of a Whirling Dervish at full speed in order to symbolise my innards spilling out in all directions, unable to remain within the confines of my body any longer as the muscles and tissue gives...

Read More