Sharia In Swat

April 14, 2009

By Jonathan Ward.

Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, has now signed into law a bill introducing Sharia law to six districts in the northwest of Pakistan.

This is a deal struck with the Taleban, whereby they will cease their insurgency in the northwestern regions in exchange for Sharia law being implemented. One of the six districts included within this agreement is the Swat valley. I’m sure you will all remember my previous post, detailing Sharia justice in action when a teenage girl was flogged without trial for the crime of being seen with a married man.

Although one party abstained, the Pakistani parliament unanimously voted for this bill to be enacted. With one stroke of a pen, Zardari has now effectively ceded control of part of his country to a group of brutal Islamic extremists. Bravo, Mr President.

The Taleban spokesman Muslim Khan had earlier said that any MP who did not vote for the bill would be considered an apostate, and by implication therefore threatening their lives. This blatant intimidation seems to be par for the course in Pakistani politics these days.

If Zardari believes that this craven surrender will somehow appease the Taleban, then he’s even more stupid than he appears to be. Now that they have their foothold, the Taleban will keep making further inroads.

In the meantime, expect more reports of brutal punishments handed out to women, children and homosexuals. Sharia law in action.


Girl Flogged For Being Seen With Married Man

April 3, 2009

By Jonathan Ward.

More evidence of religion’s civilising influence has emerged from the Swat valley region of Pakistan. This article contains a video taken by mobile phone of a teenage girl being flogged by a gang of men. Her crime? A heinous one indeed: being seen with a married man.

“Reached by phone, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan claimed responsibility for the flogging. “She came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her. There are boundaries you cannot cross,” he said. He defended the Taliban’s right to thrash women shoppers who were inappropriately dressed, saying it was permitted under Islamic law.”

There was no need for a trial, of course, the mere suspicion of impropriety was enough to warrant this cruel and barbaric punishment. Even worse, the girl’s brother was involved.

“”It’s symbolic that he does it with his own hands. It gives him honour in local society, that he has done it for the sake of religion.””

For the sake of religion, indeed. Sickening.

UFOs And Jesus

March 17, 2009

By Jonathan Ward.

It has frequently been observed that, while scientists attempt to alter their views and theories in light of new evidence, the reverse is true for the religious. With distressing frequency, new discoveries are interpreted “in the light of scripture” or flatly rejected because they contradict whatever the sacred bronze-age text of choice proclaims. Rationality is often rejected in favour of maintaining an irrational, unverified viewpoint.

What has been less frequently observed is that this also happens within the various forms of irrational conspiracy theories that seem to clog up a large amount of the Internet. These two articles are a hilarious example of this. They are written about a man who has uncovered evidence that UFO abductions can be prevented… praying to Jesus.

For those who are unfamiliar with the ideas around UFOs, the basic principle is this: incredibly advanced aliens have built sophisticated starships and bridged the immense void between the stars because they have an obsession with mutilating cattle and investigating the finer details of human sexual reproduction. They also enjoy flying about in the sky, slowly enough to be captured on film, but too quickly for said images to be anything but conveniently blurry blobs. They are generally humanoid, probably because being abducted and probed by slime-dripping scorpion-clawed octopoids wouldn’t have the same cachet among other UFO enthusiasts.

Joe Jordan is a UFO investigator, formerly a New-Ager of sorts, who became a Christian thanks to the influence of a woman on his investigating team.

““She said, ‘If you’re going to work in this realm, you have to have some protection.’ So I pulled out my crystals. And she said, ‘I’m talking about real protection,’ and this is when things started to change. She handed me a Bible. “I pushed it away and said that this had nothing to do with what we’re dealing with. But she showed me the protection the Bible offered.””

It’s true; the Bible does offer protection from aliens. It’s quite heavy, so if you hit them with it you could probably do some damage. If you have no alternative, you can always start reading some of the more exciting parts from Leviticus or Numbers and bore the aliens to death.

Together with his crack team of investigators, Joe looked again at the “evidence” that they had accumulated. And they encountered something that they had missed before:

“What they already had was witness testimony. One of those cases was six months old, a guy named Bill who was interviewed on video in his living room during a two-hour session. “It was like, originally, we never heard what he said,” Jordan said. “It starts out as a typical experience. He saw something from his living room window. He went to sleep and had an abduction experience. But during that experience, being terrified, he cried out – ‘Jesus, help me’ and the experience instantly stopped. He woke up in bed next to his wife.””

 A typical experience indeed. Reading this account, it almost sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it? But surely that can’t be it. It couldn’t be anything that mundane, aliens must be involved somewhere.

“Jordan wondered why this piece of the story where the abductee invokes the name of Jesus Christ did not stand out before. “If this is real,” he said. “This is huge.””

You can picture the headlines: Man awakes from nightmare after screaming. It’s never been heard of before! Now this is what I call evidence.

“Abduction experiences” can actually be explained by sleep paralysis. During REM sleep the body is paralysed. Sometimes the brain awakens, but the body remains locked in place. The condition is often accompanied by vivid hallucinations. Now, I wonder what form such hallucinations might take for a person primed to expect UFO and alien encounters?

It gets better. Jordan contacted other researchers, and found that they had encountered something similar, but not mentioned it in public.

“But when asked why this had not been brought out into the open before, Jordan said he got one of two answers. The first answer was basically, ‘well, we didn’t know what to make of it.’ “But what bothered me,” he said, “was the second answer. They were afraid to go there as it would affect their credibility in the UFO field.” Jordan was confused. “We’re looking at what people call a cover-up. They’re not sharing everything that they have.””

That’s right. The idea that Jesus can protect you against alien abductions is so absurd that even the crackpots don’t believe it. But Jordan has religion, so that didn’t stop him.

He has encountered scepticism, surprisingly.

“”I brought the evidence,” he said. “What do they bring? Heresay pictures and videos. I brought a stage full of living experience that they can touch, smell, talk to these people. Don’t trust me. Trust the evidence.””

That’s right, he’s urging them to trust the evidence. This would be a commendable attitude, were it not for two problems. The first is that his “evidence” is nothing of the kind. The second is what he later claims:

“But who are or what exactly are the Fallen Angels that Joe Jordan believes could be the source of what is commonly refered to as aliens? The answer is not simple, but Jordan explains from a Biblical perspective that God created the Cherubs – the highest order – and then the angels. Satan, he said, was created as a Cherub. The translation of angel – is messenger. In scripture, he said, there are encounters between angels and humans. They describe their purpose as communicators with man, to share a message. But within the angels, there was at one time a “galactic rebellion,” he said. There was a “force that turned against the good side and became the dark side – led by Lucifer – who wanted to be like God. He was jealous, envious. And envious of Man’s creation.””

Yes, that’s right. It all comes back to the Bible. UFOs are actually cherubs, evil beings. You can understand why even other UFO enthusiasts are having difficulty swallowing this. It’s actually quite interesting, the way in which this guy attempts to reconcile the various irrational beliefs that he holds.

“”We know that the ability of the angels can manifest from spiritual to physical,” he said, “the ability to appear to transform – pass through objects – and you see all of the earmarks as the so-called aliens.””

We “know”, do we? And how, pray tell, do we “know” that? Funnily enough, he doesn’t say.

““Then you tie it into the idea that they have to respond to the name of Jesus Christ. Why do we feel that we’re dealing with angels and not demons? Demons don’t have the same abilities as angels. Demons are more of a possession. We don’t see possession. We see deception. They are jealous of man and their purpose is to deceive.””

You see how it works? This “response” to Jesus ties in oh-so-neatly to his beliefs. No mention of all those who awoke from their “abduction experiences” by simply screaming, calling for their partners or heaven forbid, calling out the name of another god. They’re not relevant, right? Jordan has found the answer, and woe betide anything that disagrees with that.

“”The whole UFO experience is about changing the mindset. It will change your views. It changes their perception of reality – takes you away from the one true God. In this great war, the prize, is your soul. If he can take your focus away from the one true God, you’re doomed. We’re dealing with a star wars that’s way past the movie.””

So, to summarise: UFOs and aliens are really divine beings trying to steal your soul and take you away from Jesus. It’s painful to think that people actually believe this.

“Jordan recommends looking at the Bible’s Book of Enoch. “It describes this whole relationship with these angels before the flood of man. They were seducing man with technology – the science of divination, astrology, the science of weaponry.”

The book of Enoch is non-canon, by the way. Even the guys at Nicaea didn’t think much of it. And that doesn’t say a lot for it, considering the standard of some of the books they left in the Bible. Enoch is full of references to angels, Nephilim and divine conflicts. To relate this to UFOs, all you have to do is interpret the passages correctly. Don’t you always.

But what crackpot religious belief would be complete without a dose of standard anthropomorphic arrogance?

“But beyond dealing with fallen angels, does Joe Jordan believe there is life elsewhere in the universe? “Absolutely not,” he said. “There’s a reason for the stars and the planets – a reason God gave us the entire universe – so that we would be in awe. All of this was created for us. If you comprehend this, that this was made just for me, wouldn’t this make you a better person? “This is what the enemy is trying to take away from us.” “

Actually, I don’t think it makes you a better person. Believing that the whole universe was created for your benefit strikes me as a breathtakingly arrogant and self-centred position to hold, considering the vastness of what we can see, which is only a fraction of what is actually out there.

Religion: fostering delusion, irrationality and arrogance.

For all you Golfers Out There

March 11, 2009

Evangelical Christianity on the Verge of Collapse

March 10, 2009

Christian Science Monitor

We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the “Protestant” 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I’m convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

Why is this going to happen?

1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we’ve spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. Evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.

5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to “do good” is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7. The money will dry up.

What will be left?

•Expect evangelicalism to look more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church-growth oriented megachurches that have defined success. Emphasis will shift from doctrine to relevance, motivation, and personal success – resulting in churches further compromised and weakened in their ability to pass on the faith.

•Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the “conversion” of Evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

•A small band will work hard to rescue the movement from its demise through theological renewal. This is an attractive, innovative, and tireless community with outstanding media, publishing, and leadership development. Nonetheless, I believe the coming evangelical collapse will not result in a second reformation, though it may result in benefits for many churches and the beginnings of new churches.

•The emerging church will largely vanish from the evangelical landscape, becoming part of the small segment of progressive mainline Protestants that remain true to the liberal vision.

•Aggressively evangelistic fundamentalist churches will begin to disappear.

•Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism. Can this community withstand heresy, relativism, and confusion? To do so, it must make a priority of biblical authority, responsible leadership, and a reemergence of orthodoxy.

•Evangelicalism needs a “rescue mission” from the world Christian community. It is time for missionaries to come to America from Asia and Africa. Will they come? Will they be able to bring to our culture a more vital form of Christianity?

•Expect a fragmented response to the culture war. Some Evangelicals will work to create their own countercultures, rather than try to change the culture at large. Some will continue to see conservatism and Christianity through one lens and will engage the culture war much as before – a status quo the media will be all too happy to perpetuate. A significant number, however, may give up political engagement for a discipleship of deeper impact.

Is all of this a bad thing?

Evangelicalism doesn’t need a bailout. Much of it needs a funeral. But what about what remains?

Is it a good thing that denominations are going to become largely irrelevant? Only if the networks that replace them are able to marshal resources, training, and vision to the mission field and into the planting and equipping of churches.

Is it a good thing that many marginal believers will depart? Possibly, if churches begin and continue the work of renewing serious church membership. We must change the conversation from the maintenance of traditional churches to developing new and culturally appropriate ones.

The ascendency of Charismatic-Pentecostal-influenced worship around the world can be a major positive for the evangelical movement if reformation can reach those churches and if it is joined with the calling, training, and mentoring of leaders. If American churches come under more of the influence of the movement of the Holy Spirit in Africa and Asia, this will be a good thing.

Will the evangelicalizing of Catholic and Orthodox communions be a good development? One can hope for greater unity and appreciation, but the history of these developments seems to be much more about a renewed vigor to “evangelize” Protestantism in the name of unity.

Will the coming collapse get Evangelicals past the pragmatism and shallowness that has brought about the loss of substance and power? Probably not. The purveyors of the evangelical circus will be in fine form, selling their wares as the promised solution to every church’s problems. I expect the landscape of megachurch vacuity to be around for a very long time.

Will it shake lose the prosperity Gospel from its parasitical place on the evangelical body of Christ? Evidence from similar periods is not encouraging. American Christians seldom seem to be able to separate their theology from an overall idea of personal affluence and success.

The loss of their political clout may impel many Evangelicals to reconsider the wisdom of trying to create a “godly society.” That doesn’t mean they’ll focus solely on saving souls, but the increasing concern will be how to keep secularism out of church, not stop it altogether. The integrity of the church as a countercultural movement with a message of “empire subversion” will increasingly replace a message of cultural and political entitlement.

Despite all of these challenges, it is impossible not to be hopeful. As one commenter has already said, “Christianity loves a crumbling empire.”

We can rejoice that in the ruins, new forms of Christian vitality and ministry will be born. I expect to see a vital and growing house church movement. This cannot help but be good for an evangelicalism that has made buildings, numbers, and paid staff its drugs for half a century.

We need new evangelicalism that learns from the past and listens more carefully to what God says about being His people in the midst of a powerful, idolatrous culture.

I’m not a prophet. My view of evangelicalism is not authoritative or infallible. I am certainly wrong in some of these predictions. But is there anyone who is observing evangelicalism in these times who does not sense that the future of our movement holds many dangers and much potential?

Another Gem from the Bible Belt

March 10, 2009

fail owned pwned pictures

Sliding Scale or Slippery Slope?

March 9, 2009

By Styrer,

George Pitcher, Religion Editor of the UK’s The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, recently wrote in his blog: ‘So much of human life is irrational, but a central tenet of the secularist faith is that if it’s irrational then it can’t be allowed to exist.’

An epic fail, and not only because of the reference to a secularist ‘faith’ (faithoholics employing terms from their own sphere to denigrate atheists always tickles me, as they unwittingly and laughably express suspicion and criticism of those very terms on which their own daft claims to veracity lie). But Pitcher’s repetition of the tired, trite and unfounded charge that secularists are hell-bent on eradicating irrationality in all its forms is a useful reminder of the moronically blinkered response theists often regurgitate in the face of any challenge from atheists to their unevidenced beliefs.

There is a sliding scale of irrationality, between benign and delightful unevidenced beliefs on the one, Santa Clausian hand and unevidenced, anti-human and murderous religions, topped by a huge margin by Islam, on the other. The tooth fairy story is an entirely irrational belief but is delimited in precisely the same way as are many children’s experiences of ‘imaginary friends.’ Kids simply grow up and are highly unlikely to take up dentally-invoked jihad as a consequence.

But there is a panoply of irrationality between these extremes, not only religious in nature, and it is with the crucial notion of harm, both physical and psychological, caused to others that Pitcher’s words can begin to shed their mendacious duplicity and take on a real point of substance with which any secularist and atheist should be happy to agree.

Witness, on what at first may seem a harmless enough part of this vast spectrum of unreason, the case of the distinguished science writer Simon Singh, sued by the British Chiropractic Association for exposing their spine-bashing ways as nigh-on useless pseudoscience. In his co-authored book, ‘Trick or Treatment’, he concluded that traditional physiotherapy worked just as well as gentler forms of chiropractic treatments and without any of the euphemistically termed ‘side-effects’ of the ‘fundamentalist’ chiropractors.  The UK’s Private Eye reported: ‘As well as dizziness and headaches, there were 700 instances in the medical literature of patients suffering spinal compression fractures and other serious complications, and four reported deaths in Canada’.

Let’s add to this deadly mix of unreason the case of Jeremy Sherr, Fellow of the Society of Homeopaths, who recently embarked on a campaign to treat AIDS sufferers in Tanzania not with proven and effective anti-retroviral drugs but with… homeopathy. This pseudoscience has produced no definitive results in any clinical or double-blind trial it has ever undergone and that this pernicious purveyor of nothing more than the placebo effect is now preying on desperately ill people in Africa, keeping them away from traditional medicines which are proven to work, is a disgrace of the highest magnitude. Real people are dying because of this unproven ‘science’ and both secularist and theist alike should join in as vocal a condemnation as possible before more people die because of sheer wilful ignorance.

Irrationality, then, is not the sole preserve of the theists. But they can and certainly do rise to the challenge. Theists often try to castigate the scientific method as just another ‘faith’ or ‘belief system’, one which can make mistakes just as much as they claim religion can be misused for evil ends. I’ll play along just for a moment. The vital attention that global warming is receiving because of scientists’ buttoned-down findings is encouraging governments and individual citizens to re-think their stance on how to live on our one and only planet. But an equally devastating threat to the planet, which scientists have been slow to cotton on to, is ocean acidification, the so-called ‘other CO2 problem’. Left unresolved it will, according to some experts now speaking up, have catastrophic impact on Earth’s eco-systems in less than 60 years. As Jason Hall-Spencer, research lecturer at Plymouth University, stated on this: ‘The whole scientific community was caught with its pants down’. The newsflash is therefore that scientists can make mistakes just as much as anyone can. But, as absolutely distinct from the theistic and the pseudoscientific, the solution to scientific error or oversight is not less but MORE scientific inquiry. As unbending and unheeding as theism and pseudoscience remain when faced with evidence gainsaying their positions, the solution to their anti-human, destructive failings is, by contrast, not more but LESS ‘faith’ and unevidenced assertion. Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation, for example, sees the solution to the problem of destructive and ‘extremist’ faith as the encouragement and promotion of…yet more faith (Terry Sanderson, of the National Secular Society, tersely and wittily said last year: “Mr Blair’s call for religion to play a bigger role in world affairs is like trying to douse a fire by showering it with petrol”). Until this no-brainer distinction is properly grasped, then the future looks pretty damn bleak.

The good Mr. Pitcher and those whom he is parroting should re-visit, then, their closed-minded thinking on this whole topic of secular attitudes to the irrational and realize that we are objecting properly and morally-soundly to irrationality being empowered and celebrated to such a degree that it disfigures and destroys other people’s lives, other human beings who are often at their most desperate and most vulnerable. Though he perversely and proudly says in his very same blog, albeit in no doubt ironic but inappropriately frivolous manner, that: ‘Christianity is mad. Madness is at the heart of our faith. It is a completely mad notion that an artisan from an unfashionable province of an oppressed nation could emerge with a message of the simplest self-sacrifice, get himself executed in humiliating failure, and then change the course of human history forever’, he and his ilk should surely be running to join all of us atheists and secularists in condemning the destruction of innocent lives at the hands of unreason, rather than gleefully and shamefully promoting irrationality as a virtue, as fast as their little theistic feet can carry them.

A Survey of Perceptions of Science in Europe

March 6, 2009

By Oystein Elgaroy,

I listened to an interesting talk by professor Svein Sjøberg today.  His field of expertise is science education, and in his talk he presented results from surveys concerning public perceptions of science and scientists.  One survey carried out regularly by the EU among the adult population (Eurobarometer) and one world-wide survey carried out among 15-year old schoolchildren (ROSE).  One nice feature was that many questions were common to the two surveys, so that it was possible to look for differences in the attitudes to science and technology between adults and children.

On the positive side, the adult population seems to have great confidence in science and technology as the way to improve life and society.  And they consider scientists to be the most trustworthy sources of information.  I am almost tempted to say “Well, duh!” to these results, but the corresponding results among the 15-year olds shows that this is not something to be taken for granted.

In developing countries children have great faith in science and technology as a force for good, but in the developed countries the ROSE survey uncovered a widespread skepticism to science and scientists.  And girls were in general more skeptical than boys.  Children in developed countries also found science as a subject in school less interesting and few thought of science as an interesting career path.

Surveys should always be taken with a grain of salt.  Sjøberg himself mentioned an interesting point from the Eurobarometer survey which has been carried out regularly over a number of years.  In one question the participants were asked to rank several subjects according to how “scientific” they considered them to be.  The subjects included both astronomy and astrology, and depressingly they were both ranked at around 40 on a scale from 1 to 100, where 100 represented the most scientific.  But when Sjøberg changed “astrology” to “horoscopes” in the questionnaire, the approval rating for astronomy went up to about 80, whereas “horoscopes” went down to about 10.  A lot of people don’t know the difference between astronomy and astrology, but at least they don’t have much faith in the results of astrology.

If the results uncovered by the ROSE survey represent a true trend among young people in the developed world, we may have a problem at our hands in a few years. There is no quick and easy fix for this, but we have to come up with countermeasures.  I suspect the quality of science education in elementary schools is part of the problem.  It is important to attract more people with science degrees to become teachers.

If you are interested in more results from the ROSE survey you can go to

HTML Links

March 5, 2009

Oh fer Chrissakes. I can’t get the html links to work on this computer of mine. This is clearly divine retribution for years of inattentive behavior…. and of course Bachanalian revelry at every chance I got.

I pray, oh Flying Spaghetti Monster, return my ability to link html!!! The FSM giveth, the FSM taketh away. I think an “Our Father” ought to clear this up.

“Our Spaghetti, who art in Las Vegas, hallowed be thy name, the 4 course meal come, thy will be done, in my bunker in an undisclosed location, as it is in Vegas, forgive us our drunken fumblings with sorority girls as we forgive those who fondle us, for fuck’s sake lead us into temptation, and deliver us a pizza. Amen.”

Damn, still no html links… grrrr.

UN Resolution 62/154

March 4, 2009

For those interested in the anti-Blasphemy resolution in the UN, here is the full text of that “nonbinding” resolution: