Saturday, 2 July 2011

John Cleese explains the "advantages" of extremism...

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Miracles for Sale - Derren Brown exposes faith-healers in new show

The illusionist Derren Brown has spent the last six months using his talents to expose the scam of faith-healing. In his new show, Miracles for Sale, Derren looks for a candidate to train as a fake faith-healer by  hosting auditions for the star of a new TV show.  Derren eventually picked a diving instructor named Nathan. As Derren was aware, Nathan believed in God and could easily have rejected the challenge before him, but he seemed quite up for it. Half a years work was squeezed into an hour long programme aired at 9pm on Monday 25th April.  

Derren has previously confronted charlatans who profit from the grief and gullibility of others such as mediums, psychics and ghost hunters. He often poses as a practitioner of one of these trades/crafts, imitates their techniques perfectly or even better than the original and then explains how this can be done using  the powers of suggestion. Although Derren is very skeptical of the phenomenon he investigates, it is important to note that he seems to be motivated by a concern for those whose belief in the paranormal is exploited by charlatans. Despite this, many people who believe in such paranormal phenomenon have found his approach quite unsettling and have developed a dislike for the man.

In his new show, however, Derren appears to be incredibly sensitive about the beliefs of other people and repeatedly emphasises his concern for those who give their trust and what little money they have to faith healers, who then blame the victims for not having enough faith  if they aren't healed. One of the founders of the Trinity Foundation, a group of Christians who investigate fraud committed by faith-healers and televangelists, describes how he is motivated by a phonecall from a woman which he received after he was seen on TV successfully exposing a Televangelist:
"She had a thirteen year old daughter who had multiple sclerosis, and there was a testimonial...where a woman had made a thousand dollar vow of faith and, supposedly, was healed of multiple sclerosis. Of course it was an actor that did it. And so she, unbeknownst to her mother over the course of the year, paid off the thousand dollars - mostly from her grandmother.

So at the end of that year when she'd finally paid it all off, she wasn't healed - she was far worse. She called the man of God that told her she would be healed, and he told her that... the reason she wasn't healed was that she had secret sin in her life. And this little girl, now fourteen, went to the back yard and poured a can of gas over herself and lit herself, and committed suicide. And the mother just begged me to do something about this."
This really seemed to strike a chord with the crew especially Nathan, the faith healer in training, who was having doubts about the project. Throughout the show it was obvious that Nathan was uncomfortable with the extent of deception involved, as were the rest of the crew (including Derren) who decided to cut their ties with a man who ran a Texan Christian PR company for fear of negative impacts such a stunt could have on his business. I thought that such a moral decision should be commended, and it is a stark contrast to the disgraceful deceit and lack of concern for the opposition in the making of creationist films such as Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

The founder of the Trinity Foundation drilled home the fact that there are necessary evils which need to be addressed in order to serve the greater good.
We are so sickened by what we see, these guys taking advantage of people, and if you're successful in teaching this guy that you 'took of the street' to do the same thing that they're doing there couldn't be a better example to show how foolish these people are by continuing to support these idiots. You've got to be a hypocrite for a while so that the reality can be shown.
For me the most interesting parts of the show were the examples Derren gave of the techniques used by fake faith healers such as:
  • Misleading the audience about the extent of someones condition and presenting examples of things they can already do as 'proof' of change.
  • Stating that one leg is shorter than the other by loosening the shoe from the heel of the foot furthest away from the audience, and suggesting that they they are lengthening other leg by slowly sliding the shoe back onto the foot.
  • Creating slight pain by keeping body parts raised for a while and then releasing them to alleviate the pain and claiming that they're healed.
  • Whipping the audience into a frenzy so that adrenaline will temporarily dull the pain.
  • Claiming to know details about people in the audience via god, despite the fact that they had to fill in cards before the event.
Check it out on YouTube or 4OD and see what you think.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Does being an atheist make you closed minded?

It's often assumed that people who don't believe in supernatural entities like gods and ghosts are closed minded. However, you can except the possibility of something being true without believing in it. How is that closed minded?
Here's a video I made a while ago in which I argue that being an atheist does not make you closed minded.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Jokes and Humour for Atheists and Agnostics

Why can’t atheists solve exponential equations?...Because they don’t believe in higher powers.


What do you get when you cross an atheist with a Jehovahs Witness?…. Someone who knocks at your door for no apparent reason

An atheist buys an ancient lamp at an auction, takes it home, and begins to polish it. Suddenly, a genie appears, and says, “I’ll grant you three wishes, Master.” The atheist says, “I wish I could believe in you.” The genie snaps his fingers, and suddenly the atheist believes in him. The atheist says, “Wow. I wish all atheists would believe this.” The genie snaps his fingers again, and suddenly atheists all over the world begin to believe in genies. “What about your third wish?” asks the genie. “Well,” says the atheist, “I wish for a billion dollars.” The genie snaps his fingers for a third time, but nothing happens. “What’s wrong?” asks the atheist. The genie shrugs and says, “Just because you believe in me, doesn’t necessarily mean that I really exist.


An Atheist dies and, to his surprise, finds himself met by St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.
St. Peter reviews the man's record and tells him, "Well, even though you didn't believe in any deities, you led a good, moral life. It is especially good that you did so without expecting any eternal reward. So we are going to let you into Heaven."
St. Peter then assigns an angel to take the Atheist on an indoctrination tour. During the tour, the Atheist sees Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, other Atheists, and people of all religions. He also notices a high wall in a far corner of Heaven. When the tour ends, the angel asks him if he has any questions. The man asks, "What's behind the high wall in the corner?
The angel replies, "That's where we put the Christians. They think they're the only people up here."
A man sees a boy with a box of kittens
the man goes over and says "oh what cute kittens!" the boy replies "yes they are Christian kittens". About a week later the man sees the boy again with the same batch of kittens. once again he walks over and says "my, those are just adorable!" the boy replies "yes, they are atheist kittens" the man asks "wait, weren't they christian before?" the boy looks at the man and says " yeah but they have their eyes open now"

How many atheists does it take to change a light bulb?
Two. One to actually change the bulb, and the other to videotape the job so fundamentalists can’t claim that god did it.


This guy needs to win the lottery really badly he thinks it will help get his life on track, so he kneels down to pray. He says "God if you let me win the lottery I will pay my tithe every year and never complain about it." He doesn't win.
The next week he gets down on his knees again and says,"God if you just let me win the lottery I will give my tithe and then some to the church and help the local orphans find good loving homes." 
He doesn't win again.
The next week he again prays and says,"God I will pay for a modest home and a gently used car and give all the rest to good charities in your name and the church if you just let me win the lottery.
Yet again, he doesn't win.
Finally the next week he is so mad and he prays,"God what do you want from me? I don't know what else to promise. Why can't I win the lottery." Suddenly a big booming voice comes from the heavens and says, "Would you buy a fucking ticket already, geez."

An Atheist and a Christian get in a car wreck together. The Atheist sees the Christian's crucifix necklace and begins talking about how lucky they are to be alive, and the Christian says God granted it. The atheist is surprised to find an unbroken and unopened bottle of vintage wine by the roadside. "God has decided to bless us twice today!" says the Christian. "Let's not put it to waste then!" says the Atheist, handing the Christian the wine. The Christian takes two big gulps then hands it back to the Atheist. The Atheist in turn, without drinking, puts the cork back in the bottle and says, "I think I'll just wait until the police get here before I celebrate."

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Must be the wind.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Creationism and Intelligent Design in AQA biology exam papers

In june 2009, a British examination board (AQA) featured this caper of a question in their GCSE Biology paper:
 AQA received a lot of criticism for the question because of it's misleading nature. It implies that Creationism and Intelligent Design are genuine theories within the field of biology. It also implies that this nonsense was being taught as part of the curriculum. Is it necessary to learn about alchemy to better understand chemistry, or to include astrology in physics and cosmology exams? No, so why is it necessary here? It's quite possible  that the word theory was being used in the sense that Muammar Gaddafi has a theory about how he is a  fashion god in charge of one of the happiest countries in the world. However, this is not an acceptable use of the word in a science paper.

Following the exam, the Daily Telegraph printed a story about the bizarre question. AQA replied with a swift response :
"Merely asking a question about creationism and intelligent design does not imply support for these ideas. Neither idea is included in our specification and AQA does not support the teaching of these ideas as scientific.

In the examination question, information was given to candidates and they were asked to relate evidence to conclusions. The use of the term 'theory' was intended in its common, everyday sense. However, we accept that in the context of a science examination this could be misleading and we will be addressing this issue for any future questions."
It seems they paid attention to the criticism because their 2010 Biology paper did not include any mention of Creationism or Intelligent Design. New Humanist magazine contacted AQA to see if these topics would feature in their 2011 paper. Their spokesperson responded by saying:
"The subject team have confirmed that future exam papers will not contain any questions on creationism or Intelligent Design."