Category Archives: Religion

5 Ridiculous Things About Dianetics

Firestorm in Waco

How much truth is there to the conspiracy theories that the FBI deliberately killed the Branch Davidians?

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Today we’re going to delve into the deepest, ugliest corner of urban legendry: conspiracy theories claiming that the US government deliberately attacks and kills its own citizens. In this case it’s the infamous 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian religious sect near Waco, Texas resulting in the deaths of some 75 people inside. The accepted narrative is that the Davidians, intent on apocalyptic death according to their prophecies, committed mass suicide as the federal agents entered the compound with armored vehicles; while the conspiracy theory holds that it was the federal agents who set the fires in a successful effort to murder the entire population inside. Today we’re going to examine the claim, and find out how we know what we know.

The Mount Carmel complex burns in Waco, April 19, 1993

The Mount Carmel complex burns in Waco, April 19, 1993

The Branch Davidian sect, originally an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, had been on its land outside Waco for nearly 60 years when young Vernon Howell took it over in the aftermath of a 1987 armed raid. He luckily escaped conviction, changed his name to David Koresh (telling his followers that Koresh meant “death”), and assumed the role of prophet. A few years later, a confrontation with federal authorities led to a six week siege that ended with the complete destruction by fire of the compound as tanks rolled in with tear gas, killing Koresh and 75 other Branch Davidians inside.

The conspiracy theories came thick and fast. The most prominent were popularized by a pair of independent filmmakers, Linda Thompson (who was a full-throttle conspiracy theorist best known for her film Waco: The Big Lie) and Mike McNulty (who was more measured, and received an Academy Award nomination for Waco: The Rules of Engagement). We’ll take a look at the two most commonly repeated claims:

Brian Dunning via Continue Reading @ Skeptoid – – –

The Zionist Conspiracy

Are the rumors true that Jews are planning to take over the world’s governments and banks?

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Today we’re going to point the skeptical eye at conspiracy theories that claim Jews are trying to take over the world. There is not just one version of this, there are many; and in their various forms, they’ve been around for centuries. There’s hardly been a moment in the past 2,500 years when some group somewhere has not been fomenting mistrust and suspicion of Jews and their motives:intjew_300px The Jews want to take over your government, the Jews want to take control of your banks, the Jews want to abolish your church. The accuracy of these claims is one thing; the history behind them is another.

Although the word Zion means many things to many cultures, it’s usually a place of peace and unity, and cross-cultural brotherhood. However it’s most often associated with the Jewish people in particular. In that lexicon, the word Zion typically refers to the “promised land”, the homeland promised by God to the Jews according to Judeo-Christian canon. Zion can also refer more specifically to the city of Jerusalem or the location of Solomon’s Temple, and sometimes to the Biblical land of Israel.

Historically, a Zionist was any person who fought for the establishment of a Jewish nation in Zion. This was finally fulfilled over the course of many bloody months from 1947 to 1949, as various nations fought over the partitioning of Jerusalem and the surrounding region. The nation of Israel has held a tenuous foothold ever since, and it remains the political and spiritual homeland of all Jewish people all over the world. Since its establishment, the mission of Zionists has been to defend and strengthen Israel, and to oppose challenges to its sovereignty; in short, Zionism is Zionist nationalism.

Judenstern_225pxSome critics of Zionism frequently broaden the application of the word Zionist to include any people anywhere who express support for Israel. Suffice it to say that antisemitism is not your everyday bigotry. Its roots run deep, it is cross cultural, and it’s been institutionalized as an official national policy by some of the world’s greatest superpowers. Nazi Germany is the only most obvious example of antisemitism as policy, but it’s hardly the only one. 500 years before Christ, in the time of ancient Persia, Xerxes ordered all Jews in his kingdom to be killed. Various Roman emperors and Greek kings ordered the Jews to be exterminated. While the Christians prosecuted their Crusades against Muslims and Jews, the Muslims were forcing Christians and Jews to either convert or be killed. In the 1300s, Jews were widely burned at the stake throughout Europe for “causing” the plague. In the 1400s, the Spanish Inquisition burned some 30,000 Jews for refusing to leave their country. But this list could go on and on ad nauseum. Jews have always been blamed for something, and were always at the receiving end of the genocide. There are scant examples in history of Jews doing the same to anyone else.

And yet claims of Zionist Conspiracy have always persisted, lack of evidence notwithstanding.

Continue Reading @ skeptoid – – –

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Televangelists (HBO)

By Last Week Tonight via YouTube

U.S. tax law allows television preachers to get away with almost anything. We know this from personal experience.

10 Unsettling Teachings Of The Eccentric Aleister Crowley

By Debra Kelly via Listverse

Regardless of anyone’s religious or spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof, Aleister Crowley is an incredibly fascinating figure. There’s as much myth and legend surrounding him as there are facts, and sifting through the stories is a strange, strange look into one of the most notorious lives of the 20th century. He left behind an incredibly rich history of teachings and beliefs, not to mention more than a few outrageous claims.

10 • Claimed To Have Developed The ‘V For Victory’ Sign

V-For-Victory_300pxThere was some pretty powerful symbolism going on in World War II, and according to Crowley, the Allied “V for Victory” sign was his creation. Since we know what happened at the end of the war, it goes without saying that he was right—if, that is, he did do what he claimed.

At the time, he was friends (or at least acquaintances) with real-life super-spy Ian Fleming. Just what kind of impact Crowley had in the war years is up for debate. There are some claims that he was a spy and some saying that, even going back to World War I, he was posing as a German supporter to drum up a significant amount of crazy in order to help sway the Americans to join the war on the side of the British.

Aleister also said that he had the ear of Winston Churchill, and when it came time to develop a symbol that would rally the Allied troops, he was the one that came up with the “V for Victory” salute. More than just an inspirational sign, it was also designed to strike fear in the hearts of Nazi occultists. The swastika, which gained its power from the Sun and solar energy, was a powerful thing; that’s why the Nazis chose it, after all. Crowley stated that the “V for Victory” sign was just as powerful in its opposition. Supposedly, it was a magical, mystical sign that invoked the power of Apophis and Typhon and channeled their destructive forces to fight for those who wielded it.

9 • Crowley And The Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn

Golden-Dawn-Cross_300pxOnce a major player in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Crowley’s falling-out with the secret society within only a few years of his 1898 induction set a pretty good precedent for just how many different stories have been developed around him. According to Crowley, his disillusionment with the organization came when he realized that the people who were initiated didn’t necessarily know what they were dealing with when it came to mysticism, rites, and rituals. He stated that while the founder, S.L. MacGregor Mathers, did have some mystical powers, he had essentially bitten off more than he could chew and had started mucking about with evils over which he had no control. His actions had destroyed the Order, and Crowley left.

The Order tells a very, very different story. According to their official biography of Crowley, his rather over-the-top personality and his sexual orientation were already causing problems when there was a falling-out between two opposing factions within the organization. Ultimately, Crowley didn’t actually leave the Order, not as he described, but finished off his alienation of the group by publishing some of their secret documents. To add insult to injury, he wasn’t just revealing secrets, but he was giving himself credit for works that Mathers had written. Crowley claimed to be doing it because Mathers was actually under the influence of the evil that he couldn’t control.

Lawsuits soon followed, but since Mathers hadn’t copyrighted the works outside of the organization, Crowley won.

8 • Invisibility And The Lamp Of Invisible Light

Invisible-Man_300pxAfter his falling-out with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Crowley fled first to Paris and then to the Americas. While in Mexico, he was absolutely inspired by what he found there and established his own order—The Lamp of the Invisible Light.

According to Crowley, his time in the Order of the Golden Dawn was just a warm-up. He likened his exodus from the Order to putting away “childish things” and went out to learn on his own. Once he was freed from the shackles of the already organized society, he did a lot of things with inspiring names.

He learned to wield the “all encircling chain of the Great Brotherhood” and the “Sword of Flaming Light,” killing the serpent that had started the downfall of Christ, while taming good and evil bulls, sowing dragons’ teeth, and acquiring the Golden Fleece. It was while he was writing his self-initiation ceremonies for his new order that he also discovered how to make himself invisible, which is apparently pretty easy once you know the tricks. Crowley says that it doesn’t have anything to do with truly making yourself invisible but just controlling everyone else around you and making them completely uninterested in making eye contact with you or noticing you in any way. He says that once he figured out how to do it, which he could gauge by the faintness of his own reflection, he could don his red robes and golden crown and walk the streets of Mexico, where no one would ever, ever make eye contact with him or initiate a conversation.

Clearly, this was because he was invisible.

7 • Aiwass

Aiwass_300pxAiwass meant several different things over the course of the evolution of Crowley’s beliefs. In 1904, Crowley wrote The Book of Law, supposedly with guidance from the otherworldly Aiwass. At the time, Crowley painted him quite clearly as something that existed outside of himself rather than as a part of him. It was necessary, after all, as The Book of Law was designed to be the new religion that he had hoped would make all other religions obsolete. This religion, Thelema, was to be world-changing, and for that, it needed to come as a message from something outside the world. Aiwass was painted as the messenger, but as the doctrine developed, so did Aiwass’s role.

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25 of the biggest lies told by L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology

By Jeffrey Augustine via The Underground Bunker

L. Ron Hubbard audits a tomato to determine whether it experiences pain, 1968.

Hubbard audits a tomato in 1968.

  1. The lie: “I happen to be a nuclear physicist; I am not a psychologist nor a psychiatrist nor a medical doctor.” — L. Ron Hubbard, in the 1952 lecture “Dianetics: The Modern Miracle.” Also found transcribed in the Research and Discovery series, Vol. 3 page 470, and New Tech Volumes, Vol. 5 page 143.

    The truth: Hubbard flunked both high school and college, leaving after his sophomore year at George Washington University during which he failed a course of “Molecular and Atomic Physics.”

  2. The lie: Hubbard was a “blood brother” of the Blackfoot nation.

    The truth: Blood brotherhood was not a practice of the Blackfoot.

  3. The lie: Hubbard slept with bandits in Mongolia, and traveled to India and Tibet.

    The truth: Hubbard never traveled to those countries.

  4. The lie: Hubbard was a “pioneering barnstormer at the dawn of aviation in America.”

    The truth: As Jon Atack points out, Hubbard flew gliders in the early 1930s, which doesn’t really put Hubbard there with the Wright Brothers (1903) or Charles Lindbergh, who crossed the Atlantic in 1927.

    scientology volcanoctopus_190px

  5. The lie: Hubbard’s 1940 adventures in Alaska led to the development of LORAN, a radio-based system for navigation.

    The truth: Alfred Lee Loomis invented LORAN (Long Range Aid to Navigation) in the 1920s and 1930s at Tuxedo Park in the US. Hubbard was not even remotely qualified to do any serious electrical engineering.

  6. The lie: Hubbard created the US Air Force.

    The truth: In 1941, Hubbard was one of many people offering free advice to government officials about how the US should prepare for a war the country seemed sure to get involved in. On June 30, Senator Pat McCarran of Nevada wrote a letter to Hubbard telling him the he would, indeed, push for a bill to create a US Air Force. But ten days earlier, the US Army Air Corps had already changed its name to the US Army Air Force. The US Air Force, under the name we know today, came into existence later, in 1947.

  7. The lie: Hubbard claimed to have been awarded 21 or 27 combat medals in World War II as a navy lieutenant.

    The truth: Hubbard never served a single day in combat and was never awarded any combat medals.

    scientology bart simpson xenu

  8. The lie: Hubbard was wounded in combat and was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.

    The truth: Hubbard’s US Navy service record shows that he never received Purple Hearts or a Bronze Star.

  9. The lie: Hubbard was “returned home as the first American casualty of the war in the South Pacific.”

    The truth: The US Naval Attache in Brisbane ordered Hubbard returned to the US for being meddlesome and quarrelsome.

  10. The lie: Hubbard was a “commander of corvettes” in the North Atlantic.

    The truth: Hubbard was assigned command of navy yard patrol vessel YP-422 in Boston Harbor. However, he was relieved of command before the vessel was commissioned after getting into an argument with the Commandant of the Navy Yard.

  11. The lie: Hubbard fought German U-Boats in the North Atlantic.

    The truth: No he didn’t.

MORE – – –

Also see Tom Cruise at his craziest:

Going Clear Scientology and The Prison of Belief 2015

I don’t know how long it will be before this is pulled from dailymotion.com, but while it’s there, here is the full version of Going Clear Scientology and The Prison of Belief 2015.

DO NOTE: Some of the adverts in the sidebar contains adult content.

https://dailymotion.com/video/x2l7b1p

The Zionist Conspiracy

Are the rumors true that Jews are planning to take over the world’s governments and banks?

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid (August 16, 2011)
Read transcript below or listen here

Today we’re going to point the skeptical eye at conspiracy theories that claim Jews are trying to take over the world. There is not just one version of this, there are many; and in their various forms, they’ve been around for centuries. There’s hardly been a moment in the past 2,500 years when some group somewhere has not been fomenting mistrust and suspicion of Jews and their motives:intjew_300px The Jews want to take over your government, the Jews want to take control of your banks, the Jews want to abolish your church. The accuracy of these claims is one thing; the history behind them is another.

Although the word Zion means many things to many cultures, it’s usually a place of peace and unity, and cross-cultural brotherhood. However it’s most often associated with the Jewish people in particular. In that lexicon, the word Zion typically refers to the “promised land”, the homeland promised by God to the Jews according to Judeo-Christian canon. Zion can also refer more specifically to the city of Jerusalem or the location of Solomon’s Temple, and sometimes to the Biblical land of Israel.

Historically, a Zionist was any person who fought for the establishment of a Jewish nation in Zion. This was finally fulfilled over the course of many bloody months from 1947 to 1949, as various nations fought over the partitioning of Jerusalem and the surrounding region. The nation of Israel has held a tenuous foothold ever since, and it remains the political and spiritual homeland of all Jewish people all over the world. Since its establishment, the mission of Zionists has been to defend and strengthen Israel, and to oppose challenges to its sovereignty; in short, Zionism is Zionist nationalism.

Judenstern_225pxSome critics of Zionism frequently broaden the application of the word Zionist to include any people anywhere who express support for Israel. Suffice it to say that antisemitism is not your everyday bigotry. Its roots run deep, it is cross cultural, and it’s been institutionalized as an official national policy by some of the world’s greatest superpowers. Nazi Germany is the only most obvious example of antisemitism as policy, but it’s hardly the only one. 500 years before Christ, in the time of ancient Persia, Xerxes ordered all Jews in his kingdom to be killed. Various Roman emperors and Greek kings ordered the Jews to be exterminated. While the Christians prosecuted their Crusades against Muslims and Jews, the Muslims were forcing Christians and Jews to either convert or be killed. In the 1300s, Jews were widely burned at the stake throughout Europe for “causing” the plague. In the 1400s, the Spanish Inquisition burned some 30,000 Jews for refusing to leave their country. But this list could go on and on ad nauseum. Jews have always been blamed for something, and were always at the receiving end of the genocide. There are scant examples in history of Jews doing the same to anyone else.

And yet claims of Zionist Conspiracy have always persisted, lack of evidence notwithstanding.

MORE – – –

21st century exorcisms: Examining the psychology of possession

james-randi-69Via James Randi Education Foundation – JREF

A video has surfaced of a reported exorcism as it was taking place last February behind the closed doors of a Roman Catholic church in Vranov nad Dyji, Czech Republic.  A 26 year old visitor heard screams and filmed through the keyhole of the door. Not much is visible; there is plenty of screaming and obscenity (in another language) but nothing supernatural happens from this perspective. The drama that unfolded is what we would expect an exorcism to look like from our familiarity with sensational news reports. Pope FrancisOnly in the movies, in fiction, are there visions of horror that break the bounds of physics or human capabilities. In reality, exorcisms at their most basic, are an interaction between the victim in some disturbed state and the people who are enacting the ritual. Some might say the ritual enables the victim, encouraging the expression of possession. For some afflicted people, they may benefit psychologically from the process.

The Czech priest confronted over the released video says they were asking for God’s help to protect the anonymous person in the church. He is quoted as remarking, “Of course it helps.” Does it really help, or is this reinforcement of an antiquated belief system harmful? Therein lies a tricky question for religious officials, psychologists, and the skeptically-minded about the value of exorcism. Most rationalists would not condone an exorcism, likely feeling that the potential for harm that could occur is unethical or the endorsement of belief in demons is nonsense.  What once was a given fact – evil spirits can possess people, and had been usurped by modern medicinal practice, has recently been re-embraced by the Catholic Church and endorsed through rejuvenation of the exorcism ritual.

On November 11, 2014, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved an English translation of the Rite of Exorcism that was published by the Vatican in 1999.  The vote was 179 “yes” to 5 “no.” Pope Francis recognized 250 priests across 30 countries who are members of the International Association of Exorcists which many observers saw as a surprising step backwards in time for the church. exorcism_225pxThe church sees exorcism as something of a last resort and repeatedly notes that the cases are carefully evaluated by medical professionals to address medical or psychological problems. Who does these evaluations? Are the psychiatric evaluators Christian? What are their criteria for concluding that, yes, this person can not be helped by Western medicine and must be treated spiritually?

Curiously, as noted in this Catholic news agency piece, exorcism is “not magic.  It is the Church imploring God to come to the aid of the person afflicted.” This can be interpreted in a secular way –  if the troubled person believes that they can be helped with this ritual, then perhaps they really are helped. It is plausible that many cases of deliverance or exorcism have been successful because people have “named” their troubles and outwardly cast them away, like the devil, to be gone and leave them free. Professor Christopher French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit of the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London has studied the psychology of possession. He also thinks that, under certain circumstances, people can benefit from exorcism.

“As I believe that “possession” is a purely psychological phenomenon, any psychosomatic symptoms might be cured by any form of treatment that the victim believes in. Also, adoption of the “possessed” role sometimes allows people to let off steam without being held responsible for their actions.”

Dr. French is clear that exorcism will not directly help anyone who has an underlying neurological condition, although, he says, “If the condition was aggravated by stress and the ritual reduced the stress, it might produce temporary relief.” This is not to make light of the several downsides to exorcism. There have been several cases of families who subjected “possessed’ elders, women, the handicapped, and children to abuse. In some cases, this has resulted in death.

Yet, the popular belief in exorcism is growing.

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Monster Energy Drinks Are Satanic!!!!!!!

I won’t even try to write an intro. There’s nothing i can say. Just watch. icon_rolleyes

Adam West and Burt Ward in Batman.

Added 11/13/14: snopes.com: Monster 666 (snopes.com)

The Science and Non-Science of the Ouija

Benjamin Radfordby Benjamin Radford via Discovery News

The new supernatural horror film “Ouija” hits theaters soon, and is expected to scare up big numbers at the box office this weekend.

The Oujia board, also known as a witch board or spirit board, is simple and elegant. The board itself is printed with letters and numbers, while a roughly heart-shaped device called a planchette slides over the board. The game was created in the 1890s and sold to Hasbro in 1966. It began as a parlor game with no association with ghosts until much later, and today many people believe it can contact spirits.

“Ouija” is only the most recent in a long line of movies featuring the board. Since the Oujia board’s film debut in the 1920 Max Fleischer film “The Ouija Board,” it has appeared in hundreds of films including “The Uninvited” (1944);”The Changeling” (1980); “Witchboard” (1986); and “Paranormal Activity” (2007).

Speaking to the Dead

People in all cultures have long believed that communication with the dead is possible, and throughout the ages many people have claimed to speak to the dear departed. Ghosts and spirit communication shows up often in classic literature, including in mythology, the Bible, and Shakespeare’s plays.

Seance Scene in Dr. Mabuse the GamblerIn Victorian England it was fashionable in many circles to conduct séances; Ouija boards, three-legged tables, and candles were used to try to contact the dead. A century ago mediums “in touch with the spirit” during séances would write pages and pages of “automatic writing,” the psychic’s hands allegedly guided by ghosts to convey lengthy handwritten messages.

Since that time ghosts seem to have lost their will (or ability) to write—or even communicate effectively. These days the spirits (as channeled through mediums) seem to prefer a guessing game and instead offer only ambiguous, vague information: “I’m getting a presence with the letter M, or J in the name? A father, or father figure perhaps? Did he give you something special to remember him by, something small?” The Ouija board seems to cut out the middleman and let you communicate directly with the dead.

Fearing the Ouija

There’s a reason that scary movies are based on the Ouija game and not, for example, Monopoly or Scrabble. Many evangelical groups believe that playing with Ouija boards can lead to demonic possession.

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Also See: Video: What Makes Ouija Boards Move?

10 Ancient Books That Promise Supernatural Powers

By K.Fane via Listverse

Humankind has long dabbled in the supernatural, lured by the promise of obtaining power and enlightenment. Several texts have been devoted to this practice, outlining complicated and mysterious rituals that were presented as the key to achieving communion with otherworldly spirits.

10 • Greek Magical Papyri

0120

Photo credit: Glasgow University

The Greek magical papyri from the second century B.C. listed spells, rituals, and divinations. These included instructions for how to summon a headless demon, open doors to the underworld, and protect yourself from wild beasts. Perhaps most tantalizing of all, they describe how to gain a supernatural assistant, an otherworldly entity who does your bidding.

The most commonly found spells in the Papyri are divination spells—ceremonies that offer you visions of the future. One of its most well-known passages provides instructions for how to forecast upcoming events using an “iron lampstead,” “an offering of frankincense,” and an “uncorrupted and pure” child. After being placed into a deep trance, the child sees images flickering in the flame.

Among the Papyri’s most famous components is the Mithras Liturgy. This ceremony describes how to ascend through seven higher planes of existence and communicate with the deity Mithras.

9 • The Black Pullet

0218Originating in France in the 18th century, The Black Pullet focuses on the study of magical talismans, special objects engraved with mystical words that protect and empower the wearer. It was reportedly written by an anonymous officer in Napoleon’s Army, who claimed to have received the contents from a mysterious mage while on expedition in Egypt.

The Pullet includes detailed instructions for how to construct talismans out of bronzed steel, silk, and special ink. Among these invocations is a spell to call upon a djinn, a creature made of smoke and fire who will bring you true love. If your ambitions are slightly more cynical, then the Pullet also provides talismans that will force “discreet men” to tell you their secrets, allow you to see behind closed doors, and destroy anyone who is plotting against you.

The apex of the book’s mystical teachings is acquiring the Black Pullet itself—a hen that can find buried treasure.

8 • Ars Almadel

0319The Ars Almadel is Book Four of the Lesser Key of Solomon, also known as the Lemegeton, a significant grimoire of demonology compiled in the 17th century by an unknown author. This particular book of the Legemeton provides a blueprint for constructing an Almadel—a magical wax altar, somewhat like a ouija board, that allows you to communicate with angels.

The Almadel is composed of four Altitudes, or “Choras,” each of which corresponds with a unique set of angels with different domains. The text provides the names of the angels of each Chora (Gelomiros and Aphiriza, for example), the proper way to direct your requests to them (ask only what is “just and lawful”), and the best calendar dates for invoking them. It also includes brief physical descriptions of these angelic manifestations. The Angels of the Third Chora, for example, come in the form of “little women dressed in green and silver” wearing crowns made of bay leaves.

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Is there really a Jesuit conspiracy?

By Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know via YouTube

Do any of the rumors about the Jesuit organization have a grain of truth?

The Death of Rasputin

Legend says that Grigori Rasputin, the “Mad Monk”, was hard to kill. What does the history say?

Alison Hudsonby Alison Hudson via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

The legend started almost as soon as the cold, lifeless body was fished out of the water. Gregory Efimovich Rasputin, a man who claimed powers from God but whom many saw as the Devil himself, did not die easily. Legend says that his assassins first poisoned him , then shot him, then shot him again, then beat him, and then finally dumped him into the Malaya Nevka River where he drowned only after struggling out of his bonds. Is this unlikely story true? Let’s see if the history agrees with the legend.

RasputinRasputin was born in early January, 1869, in the Siberian village of Pokrovskoye. As a young man he developed a strong interest in religious mysticism. He eventually abandoned his family and went to stay at a nearby monastery, where he read theology and debated Scripture with the monks, though he never became a monk himself. In 1890 he claimed to have a vision of the Virgin Mary which marked him as someone chosen by God for a greater purpose. Eventually, he began to claim the powers of a spiritual healer, saying that through prayer he could cure illness.

Rasputin’s reputation as a healer grew, eventually bringing him to St. Petersburg, where he came to the attention of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra, the reigning couple of the Romanov line. You see, they were keeping a dark secret: their only son Alexis had been born with hemophilia. The next Tsar of Russia was fated to bleed to death long before he could take his father’s place. When the boy became very ill in 1907, and no doctor was able to bring him back to health, a desperate Alexandra decided to place the fate of the royal line in Rasputin’s hands. Rasputin visited the palace and prayed for the boy; to the Tsarina’s surprise, Alexis improved.

Over the next decade Rasputin developed an increasingly influential relationship with the royal family and a complex yet undeniable place in Russian high society. Alexandra became convinced that Rasputin had been sent by God to save her son, and he eventually became a close confidant of the Tsarina. Rasputin, in turn, used his new favor to wield both social and political influence. Getting into all of the subplots and side stories of Rasputin’s life amongst the Russian elite would be an episode unto itself. Suffice it to say that Rasputin quickly became a noted, sometimes notorious figure, and in doing so made both political and religious enemies, some of whom eventually decieded to remove the bothersome peasant.

The first attempt on Rasputin’s life came  .  .  .

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Why reiki masters can’t lose

by Orac via Respectful Insolence

reiki 1225Regular readers of my not-so-super-secret other blog, where I write under my own name, know that last month Steve Novella and I published a rather nice (if I do say so myself) opinion piece in a peer-reviewed journal about what we called “clinical trials of magic.” In it, we argued that certain alternative medicine modalities are so incredibly implausible from a purely basic science viewpoint, on physics and chemistry considerations alone, that it is a waste of time and resources, not to mention unethical, to do clinical trials testing them. Two of the main examples we used were homeopathy (of course!) and reiki.

Reiki, as you recall, is a form of “energy healing” that I’ve discussed many times before. Its basic precept is that reiki healers, known as reiki masters, can, through a series of hand gestures that might or might not involve touching the patient and often involve symbols drawn in the air over the patient, tap into what they call the “universal source” and channel energy into the person being treated to heal them. You can probably see why I generally refer to reiki as faith healing that substitutes Eastern mystical beliefs for Christian beliefs. If you can’t see why, then simply substitute the word “God” or “Jesus” for the term “universal source,” and my meaning becomes obvious. Of course, reiki can get even more bizarre, particularly when it’s used in distant healing, which can only be likened (to me, at least) to intercessory prayer or when reiki masters claim to be able to send reiki energy into the past or the future. Yes, it does get even woo-ier than claiming to be able to channel healing energy.

reiki cat 139_300pxReiki is, without a doubt, far more a mystical belief system akin to religion than it is anything having to do with medicine. That much is obvious. That’s why I couldn’t resist a bit of amusement when I somehow (don’t ask how!) came across an article by someone named Tammy Hatherill, who runs Tammy’s Tarot and Healing entitled When Your Reiki Client Doesn’t Feel the ‘Energy’.

Wow. So reiki doesn’t always work? Who knew? Well, not exactly. Remember, reiki is a mystical magical belief system. Like a religion, it always works, and if it doesn’t it isn’t because the reiki has failed. You’ll see what I mean in a minute. First, savor the frustration of reiki masters who can’t get their clients to “feel it”:

It doesn’t happen to me very often, but on occasion it does. A client will say, “I don’t feel any different.” Or they may say, “In all honesty I didn’t feel the energy at all”.

What!!! How could the client not feel the wonderful and glorious energy that I felt and sensed whilst giving the treatment? How could they not ‘feel’ any different!!!

Please don’t despair, as the Reiki energy will still be working its magic and will still support the client on all the different levels (emotional/psychological/physical and spiritually.) Just because the client didn’t ‘feel’ anything doesn’t mean the Reiki wasn’t working.

reiki-cat 1104_250pxSee what I mean? If the patient doesn’t feel any different after the mystical magical glory that is reiki, it doesn’t mean anything at all. The reiki’s still working. How do you know? Well, you don’t. But if you’re a reiki master you do have a patter ready for your client before and after. Before, you basically tell the client that they will feel “something.” That something could range from tingles, colors, heat, cool, floating, heaviness, sleepiness, or peacefulness, to nothing at all. Convenient, isn’t it? I wonder what it would be like to be able to tell my patients that virtually any sensations they feel mean that the treatment worked—even if they feel nothing at all! Talk about a “can’t lose” setup. You really have to tip your hat to whoever thought of this scam.

Then, of course, there’s the after treatment patter for the mark client  .  .  .

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Second Madoff Son Dies: Why Some Blame Karma

Benjamin RadfordBy Benjamin Radford via Discovery News

With the news of convicted Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff losing a second son — the first to suicide, the most recent to cancer – some have speculated that some sort of divine cosmic justice is being meted out to a man whose Ponzi scheme cost about $65 billion in savings.

Andrew Madoff 738A piece on Salon.com noted that the recent deaths of Joan Rivers and Andrew Madoff were attributed to karma on social media:

“2 weeks ago Joan Rivers stated Palestinians deserve to die and they were asking for it,” noted one typical tweeter Thursday evening. “Now she’s dead. #karma.” Another added, “Karma at work there. Without a doubt.” It was a sentiment that had already been expressed elsewhere earlier in the week, when Bernard Madoff’s son Andrew died of mantle cell lymphoma at the age of 48. (Madoff’s other son Mark committed suicide four years ago.) “Bernie Madoff’s last remaining son passed away today,” tweeted one armchair analyst of spiritual payback. “If you have any doubts about Karma catching you for bad deeds, here’s the sad proof.” Another observed, “There’s a mysterious karma that still surrounds Bernie Madoff.”

Karma is a widely-used word and pop culture notion, but is there any validity to the idea that if you put bad stuff out there, it comes back to you? Let’s take a closer look.

Karma Chameleons

Karma 745_300pxWe must first distinguish karma from justice. After all, if a criminal is apprehended, convicted, and sentenced to prison, that’s not karma, that’s just the ordinary course of justice. Karma is also not simply paying the consequences for an act. If you punch someone in the face and get punched in return, that’s just retaliation, not karma.

Instead karma usually refers to delayed and/or extra-judicial moral revenge, something that a person did at one time that they didn’t have to fully answer for — in their critic’s eyes anyway — but paid a higher price for later, in the form of some devastating misfortune.

The word karma comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “fate, work or action.” The concept of karma varies somewhat among Buddists, Hindus, and Jainists, but the popular understanding is that karma assures that good things will happen to good people and bad things to bad people. Karma in Buddhism holds that the fate of the soul is determined by its karma or actions. Every act — whether good or bad, no matter how insignificant — will eventually return to the person who does the act, and with equal force.

karma science-of-karma_250pxHowever many people mistakenly assume that the good or bad will come back in this lifetime, but that’s not what karma says. Those who do good deeds will be rewarded in future lives, and those who do bad deeds will be punished in their future lives (such as by being reborn as a lowly animal).

While many Westerners say they believe in karma, most don’t really understand or believe in the Buddhist or Hindu idea of karma. For one thing, there would no need for prisons or punishment. Cosmic justice will be meted out in another realm. Karma is fundamentally linked to belief in reincarnation. In Western society anyway, the idea of being reborn as a dog or rodent in a future life doesn’t really seem very likely, nor that much of punishment.

There is also a dark, cruel aspect to karma, one that is rarely discussed. The doctrine of karma holds that everything bad that happens to you is  .  .  .

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Faking Science Cred at a Sci-Fi Con: Not Smart

Paranormal investigators playing the role of “experts” and pretending to be scientific is not going to fly when the lack of deep knowledge is evident and there are actual scientists in the audience.

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI

When it comes to Creationists, I’m actually fine when they say “God did it—that’s what I believe.” They don’t have a scientific worldview, and that’s their choice (I don’t think it’s a good choice, but that is not the point). They ought to be happy with their science-suspending miraculous explanations. Instead, a few try to interject the sciencey stuff in there and shoehorn blatantly unscientific ideas into a scientifical framework. They just don’t know what they are talking about. For the listener with a scientific background, it is painfully obvious that they are ignorant of how difficult research is, how rigorously it must be undertaken, how carefully definitions are crafted, and how diligently records are documented. hill-faking-cred-dog_250pxIt’s nails-on-a-chalkboard difficult for me to listen to. The champions at doing this same thing are paranormal investigators. So what happens when paranormal investigators give talks at a science-fiction convention? It doesn’t go over very well.

I was at RavenCon, a sci-fi fantasy convention in Richmond, Virginia, last April. As an invited speaker, I was there to talk about science from a scientist and skeptical advocate’s point of view. Bob Blaskiewicz, CSI’s “Conspiracy Guy,” was also there to talk about conspiracy theory. We aimed to bring the hammer down on nonsense thinking! Not really—we were going to schmooze and look at people in cool costumes and listen to presentations and panels about topics we just don’t get to talk about every day.

As with any such event, I expect that the invited speakers have prepared quality content. Many are professional authors and artists, and there were many scientists, too. One thing that is noticeable at these events is that the audience is pretty up on science and engineering. ElmerGhost02_250pxThe majority is really smart, read a lot, and comprehend and appreciate complexity and detail. This is not the best place to show off weak science cred.

The paranormal view has a presence at RavenCon. Not all sci-fi cons have speakers in that subject area. (I’ve been to the Paranormal track at DragonCon, but there is not an equivalent at Balticon.) In the lead up to RavenCon, the organizers invited Bob and me, perhaps partly to counter the presence of the paranormal group, to give some talks. One original idea was to have a panel about paranormal investigation with the different views represented, pro-paranormal versus application of scientific skepticism, or as I prefer to call it, evidence-based skepticism. However, this idea was scuttled when the leader of the paranormal group said she doesn’t do debates. (I actually don’t wonder why not.)

hill-faking-cred-muppet_250pxSo, they presented their talks and we presented ours separately. They didn’t come to our talks, but I went to theirs. I’m interested in their views and what they have found. The first presentation was by the group’s “scientist.” He did some demonstrations and experiments with chemicals (that should NOT have been used in a hotel ballroom) presumably to show that science looks like magic… or something. I thought the whole thing was rambling and pointless, meant to look “gee whiz” but was more like “Oh, Jeez…”

Up goes my hand: “Can you tell us about your scientific background?”

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Demonic texting

Gordon Bonnetby Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia

It’s an increasingly technological world out there, and it’s to be expected that computers and all of their associated trappings are even infiltrating the world of wacko superstition.

About a year ago, we had a new iPhone app for hunting ghosts, called the “Spirit Story Box.”  Early this year, there was even a report of a fundamentalist preacher who was doing exorcisms… via Skype.  So I suppose it’s not surprising that if humans now can use technology to contact supernatural entities of various sorts, the supernatural entities can turn the tables and use our technology against us.

Father Marian Rajchel is convinced he’s being stalked by a demon via text message (Picture: CEN)

Father Marian Rajchel is convinced he’s being stalked by a demon via text message (Picture: CEN)

At least, that’s the claim of a Roman Catholic priest from Jaroslaw, Poland, named Father Marian Rajchel.  According to a story in Metro, Rajchel is a trained exorcist, whatever that means.  Which brings up a question: how do you train an exorcist?  It’s not like there’s any way to practice your skills, sort of like working on the dummy dude when you’re learning to perform CPR.  Do they show instructional videos, using simulations with actors?  Do they start the exorcist with something easier, like expelling the forces of evil from, say, a stuffed toy, and then they gradually work their way up to pets and finally to humans?  (If exorcists work on pets, I have a cat that one of those guys should really take a look at.  Being around this cat, whose name is Geronimo, is almost enough to make me believe in Satan Incarnate.  Sometimes Geronimo will sit there for no obvious reason, staring at me with his big yellow eyes, all the while wearing an expression that says, “I will disembowel you while you sleep, puny mortal.”)

But I digress.

Father Rajchel was called a while back to perform an exorcism on a young girl, and the exorcism was successful (at least according to him).  The girl, understandably, is much better for having her soul freed from a Minion of the Lord of Evil.  But the Minion itself apparently was pissed at Rajchel for prying it away from its host, and has turned its attention not on its former victim, but on the unfortunate priest himself.

Apparently such a thing is not unprecedented.  According to an article about exorcism over at Ghost Village, being an exorcist is not without its risks:
DEVIL TEXT_250PX

[John] Zaffis [founder of the Paranormal and Demonology Research Society of New England] said, “You don’t know what the outcome of the exorcism is going to be – it’s very strong, it’s very powerful. You don’t know if that person’s going to gain an enormous amount of strength, what is going to come through that individual, and being involved, you will also end up paying a price.”

Many times the demon will try to attack and attach itself to the priest or minister administering the exorcism. According to Father Martin’s book, the exorcist may get physically hurt by an out-of-control victim, could literally lose his sanity, and even death is possible.

So there you are, then.  Rajchel, hopefully, knew what he was getting into.  But I haven’t yet told you how the demon is getting even with Father Rajchel:

It’s sending him evil text messages on his cellphone.

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Banned books of the Bible

By Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know via YouTube

How did we get to the modern Bible — and what was left out? Check out this collaboration with Alltime Conspiracies!

Pope John Paul I

By Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know via YouTube

Pope John Paul I was one of the shortest-reigning popes in Church history, and his untimely death led to numerous conspiracy theories. But could any of them be true? Why do some people believe this pope was murdered?

Five Stupid Things About Faith Healing

By Steve Shives via YouTube

It’s the slimiest, most predatory and irresponsible part of televangelism. It’s faith healing! And it’s stupid, and a few other things, too.

Derren Brown – Messiah

Intro by Mason I. Bilderberg

Derren Brown_300_250pxI’m not one to sit and watch lengthy videos on my laptop. So when i suggest you watch a 49 minute video, you can trust me – it’s worth watching.

Have you ever heard of Derren Brown? I’ve been following Derren Brown for over a decade, i’ve read many of his books and i think i’ve seen all of his performances. I’m never disappointed.

Here is how WikiPedia describes him:

Derren Brown (born 27 February 1971)[3] is a British illusionist, mentalist, trickster, hypnotist, painter, writer, and sceptic. He is known for his appearances in television specials, stage productions, and British television series such as Trick of the Mind and Trick or Treat. Since the first broadcast of his show Derren Brown: Mind Control in 2000, Brown has become increasingly well known for his mind-reading act. He has written books for magicians as well as the general public.

Though his performances of mind-reading and other feats of mentalism may appear to be the result of psychic or paranormal practices, he claims no such abilities and frequently denounces those who do.

From Derren Brown’s webpage (2012):

Dubbed a ‘psychological illusionist’ by the Press, Derren Brown is a performer who combines magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship in order to seemingly predict and control human behaviour, as well as performing mind-bending feats of mentalism.

In a nutshell, while repeatedly reminding us he doesn’t have any kind of magical abilities, Derren Brown mimics with perfection all those who DO claim to have magical abilities.

In this video, Derren takes on the following roles:

  • A psychic that can see what you’re drawing when you’re in a different room,
  • The ability to convert people to Christianity with just a touch,
  • A new age entrepreneur with a machine that can record and play back your dreams,
  • An alien abductee who was left with the ability to sense your medical history and
  • A psychic medium that communicates with the dead.

He is so convincing in these roles that he gets endorsements for his “special powers” from the “experts” who witnessed his performances.

I believe he will convince you too!

Enjoy!:)

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

More:

derren brown books_600px

Ouija wackiness south of the border

Gordon Bonnetby Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia

Ouija boards have been around for a long time — since 1890, in fact — but they’ve only really hit an upswing in popularity (and a commensurate downward spiral amongst the highly religious) in the last couple of decades.  In fact, I’ve dealt with them before, and wouldn’t be back on this topic again if it weren’t for our dear friends at The Daily Fail.

a98653_possession_250pxMail.  The Daily Mail, is of course what I meant.  They’ve once again reinforced their reputation for high-quality, groundbreaking journalism with their story entitled, “Three Americans Hospitalized After Becoming ‘Possessed’ Following Ouija Board Game in Mexican Village.”

In this story, we hear about twenty-something siblings Alexandra and Sergio Huerta, and their cousin Fernando Cuevas, who were visiting relatives in the village of San Juan Tlacotenco, Mexico, when they decided to whip out the ol’ Ouija board and see what the spirits had to say.  And of course, as with most cases of the ideomotor effect, the spirits very likely didn’t have much of interest to say other than what the participants already knew — until Alexandra Huerta went into a “trance-like state” and started growling.

Then the two boys began to “show signs of possession, including feelings of blindness, deafness, and hallucinations.”  So all three were taken to a nearby hospital, where all three were given “painkillers, anti-stress medications, and eye drops.”

ouija board animated_300pxBecause you know how susceptible demons are to eye drops.  Whip out the Visine, and Satan is screwed.

Interestingly, Alexandra’s parents called a local Catholic priest for an exorcism, who refused because the three were “not regular churchgoers.”  I guess as a priest, your job fighting the Evil One is contingent on the possessed individual belonging to the church Social Committee, or something.

But so far, all we have is the usual ridiculous fare that The Daily Mail has become notorious for — a non-story about three young adults who either were faking the whole thing for attention or else had suffered panic attacks and some sort of contagious hysteria.  Worthy of little attention and even less serious consideration, right?

Wrong.  You should read the comments, although you may need some fortification before doing so, because I thought that the comments on CNN Online and the Yahoo! News were bad until I started reading this bunch.  These people bring superstitious credulity to new levels.  Here’s a sampling, representing the number I was able to read until my pre-frontal cortex was begging for mercy . . .

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10 Theories That Will Make You Lose Your Mind

by Jake Anderson via ODDEE

I consider myself a collector of sorts. I collect strange, bizarre notions and theories that warp traditional narratives about reality and existence. The following is a presentation of 10 of my favorite mind-blowing theories. There is compelling evidence for each, but you certainly don’t – and, for the sake of your sanity, probably shouldn’t – need to take them as gospel.

1 • The Singularity: We will transcend biology and live as posthuman Gods

a98991_singularity2_300pxFuturists like Ray Kurzweil say in the coming decades humans will experience a technological singularity by which we will transcend biology itself. Intelligent civilizations such as ours, says Kurzweil, are destined to evolve into super-intelligent, possibly machine-based beings whose computational powers grow exponentially.

After such a singularity, we would be able to harness the power of our own sun in order to accomplish interstellar feats only dreamed of in science fiction, such as creating Dyson Spheres and literally saturating the known universe with consciousness.

Some progressive thinkers like Noam Chomsky have labeled the theory science fiction, while others question the classist undertones of the theory’s transhumanist enthusiasts.

(Source | Photo)

2 • Project Bluebeam: the Government Will Engineer a False Flag Supernatural Alien Invasion

a98991_bluebeam_300pxProject Blue Beam is a highly controversial conspiracy theory. Originally proposed by Canadian journalist Serge Monast in 1994, it holds that the New World Order will use advanced holographic technology in order to create a false flag alien invasion and/or a worldwide religious “awakening” in order to achieve servitude by the masses and acceptance of a one world government and religion and possibly depopulation efforts as well.

There are supposedly 4 parts to the implementation of Project Blue Beam. These stages include:

  1. The dissolution of major religions due to archaeological discoveries disproving them.
  2. A holographic “space show” in which deities and aliens appear as our overlords (it is not clear how these two would coexist).
  3. Telepathic Electronic Two Way Communication, via ELF(Extra Low Frequency), VLF (Very Low Frequency), and LF (Low Frequency) waves, whereby people will think they are being spoken to by the new true God or extraterrestrial overlords.
  4. Use of worldwide microchips to fabricate horrifying supernatural events that will make people desperate for the New World Order.

(Source)

3 • Our handlers use Predictive Programming To Plan, Communicate, and Brainwash

a98991_PredictiveProgramming_300pxPredictive programming is the idea that society embeds messages into pop culture media and other modes of transmission in order to psychologically prepare and incubate the general population for certain events. It is, of course, a conspiracy theory,

Many people maintain instances of predictive programming are simply coincidences on par with synchronicity and Déjà vu; others say they are sinister calling cards for shadow groups who communicate across media channels through coded signals.
(Source)

4 • Human DNA contains the signature of an alien creator

a98991_humanDNA_300pxNew evidence is suggesting that instead of searching the stars with telescopes, we should have been searching our DNA with microscopes. Vladimir I. shCherbak of al-Farabi Kazakh National University of Kazakhstan, and Maxim A. Makukov of the Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute claim they have discovered an intelligent signal inside human DNA. In this case, “biological SETI” as it’s known, involves “arithmetical and ideographical patterns of symbolic language.”

In other words, it’s possible that an intelligent species encoded a message or signature into the very structure of our DNA. (Source | Photo)

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It was the best of times…

Gordon Bonnetby Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia

If there is a group of people I hate arguing with even more than I hate arguing with young-earth creationists, it’s the conspiracy theorists.

At least the young-earth creationists just think I’m working for Satan, a charge that I can understand, considering their view of things.  young_earth_300pxSure, we don’t accept the same ground rules for proof (evidence versus revelation); sure, we have different conclusions regarding where you can apply the laws of scientific inference (damn near everywhere versus only places where it doesn’t conflict with Holy Writ).

But at least we can talk.  The conspiracy theorists, you can’t even have a civil discussion with.  They accuse you of either being stupid or else working for evil humans, both of which are in my opinion worse than working for Satan because stupidity and evil humans actually exist.  The worst part, though, is that they pretend to accept the principles of rational argument, but then when it comes down to the point, they don’t, really.  You can bring out the best-researched study about the efficacy and safety of vaccines, the most convincing argument that 9/11 and Sandy Hook were not “inside jobs” or “false flags,” the most persuasive evidence out there that HAARP has nothing to do with raising tsunamis or causing earthquakes.

conspiracy to do list_200px_200pxAnd where does it get you?  They just write you off as a dupe or a shill.  It’s the ultimate example of the False Dilemma Fallacy; if you don’t agree with us, you’re one of…. Them.

The problem in this country has gotten so bad that Kurt Eichenwald did a big piece in Vanity Fair on the topic this week, and you all should read it.  In fact, everyone in the civilized world should read it, because it’s brilliant, even though it’s depressing.  I’ll give you a brief passage from it, but then I want you to go to the link and read the whole thing:

(W)e have become scientific and political illiterates, and no nation can survive on a bedrock of such delusional stupidity.  Of course, the 26 percent (or more) won’t believe me, if they manage to read this.  I’ll just be deemed an “elitist” for daring to suggest that demon science and data, rather than ridiculous conspiracy theories, should be used to judge reality.  So, it may be a losing battle, but we should all try.  I don’t want to be forced, someday, to stand by as the rest of the world renames our nation “America the Ignorant.”

It’s a bit of a coincidence that I should come across this when I did, because it came on the heels of another article, one sent to me by a loyal reader of Skeptophilia, femacamp2_250pxthat details one of the most pervasive and bizarre conspiracy theories out there: that the US government in general, and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) in particular, are laying plans to kill us all.

Apparently, the whole thing is supposed to be carried out via guillotine, which is at least creative, if messy.

And here, we find out what they have in store for us:

Code ICD 9 E 978 Makes Execution by Guillotine Legal Under Obamacare.  The specific code sent to me will make any American’s hair stand up on the back of their neck.  The code is ICD 9 E 978.  After reading this code I decided that it was my duty to investigate further and get to the bottom of why we have a medical code in the United States for “Legal Execution.”  The Jesuits are behind most conspiracies and this one is no different…  Execution by Guillotine is painless.

And I’m thinking: what the fuck does Obamacare have to do with this?  Was that just something extra to throw in, along with the Jesuits for some reason, the way that the anti-GMO crowd will throw in the name “Monsanto” as a stand-in for Hitler?

At least they tossed us the cheerful tidbit that getting your head sliced off is painless.  I’m relieved, actually, considering what other methods they could have chosen.

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Geocentrism – Seriously?

steven_novellaby via NeuroLogica Blog

I just saw the trailer of a new movie, The Principle. The movie is produced by Robert Sungenis, who writes the blog Galileo Was Wrong. Sungenis is what we technically call a kook. He believes the earth is at the center of the universe and that there was no Jewish holocaust, but rather the Jews were conspiring with Satan to take over the world.

The Principle is produced by the kook Robert Sungenis.

The Principle is produced by the kook Robert Sungenis.

Sungenis, however, is apparently a kook with money, so he is making a documentary film preaching his bizarre notions to the world. This much is nothing new. There are plenty of such films out there, like What the Bleep Do We Know and Expelled. They superficially follow the science documentary format, but they have an ideological agenda.

This film, unfortunately, will be narrated by Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. Old Star Trek stars lending their fame to pseudoscience is also, sadly, nothing new.

I was surprised to see Lawrence Krauss and Michio Kaku in the film. I know that Kaku has been flirting with the edges of responsible science promotion, but not Krauss. I suspect that they were duped into being interviewed for the film.* Perhaps they were not aware of the film’s editorial stance. (I will be seeing Krauss this weekend and will ask him.)

Krauss did tweet about the movie: “It is nonsense,” in case there was any doubt there.

It seems that Krauss and Kaku are there to simply say how strange and mysterious the cosmos are, and to discuss the edges of our current knowledge. This is a common ploy – focus on what we do not currently know in order to make it seem like we don’t know anything. The movie trailer opens with Mulgrew saying that everything we think we know about the universe is wrong.

Apparently Sungenis thinks he is smarter than the entire scientific community. Perhaps he thinks that modern science is all a conspiracy.

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*Update: This is from Krauss’s blog:

“I have no recollection of being interviewed for such a film, and of course had I known of its premise I would have refused. So, either the producers used clips of me that were in the public domain, or they bought them from other production companies that I may have given some rights to distribute my interviews to, or they may have interviewed me under false pretenses, in which case I probably signed some release. I simply don’t know.”


The Principle trailer via YouTube

The Soviet Quest for Shambhala

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know

You’ve heard of MKULTRA in the US, Soviet psychotronics and so on, but the USSR had another program that might surprise you: For several years they searched Mongolia, Tibet and Eurasia for the fabled city of Shambhala.

9 Ways Groups Become Cults

cult
Via Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

The line between religions and cults can be a blurry one at times. Although some prefer to distinguish between cults and religions, there are some indisputable similarities. For example, both sometimes encourage donations from their followers and promote the sacrifice of food and other luxuries in the name of ritual observances. However, cults significantly differ in their belief systems, rituals and indoctrination. A religion that uses mind control techniques, deception and exploitation to teach its followers has strayed further away from a religion and is much closer to a cult. Here are 9 ways groups become cults:

1 • Mind control

mindcontrol_640px_200pxCults were built upon the foundation of mind control. Cults use mind control and brainwashing techniques in virtually every aspect of their teachings, recruitment and policies. Cults aim to reduce one’s critical thinking skills and gain control of one’s thoughts, emotion and behavior through the use of mind control techniques. Researchers may argue that mind control is nothing new to religion and most religious groups use some form of brainwashing to get their members to alter the way they perceive the world, but there is certainly a fine line between coercive thinking and suggestive interpretations of the truth.

2 • Charismatic leader

Manson 739_225pxA signature characteristic of cults is their charismatic leader. Although many religious leaders are considered charismatic, cult leaders have a different kind of magnetism and power that wins over followers. A cult leader is considered the supreme authority of the group, and he or she typically becomes the object of worship. This figurehead commands the upmost respect and compliance from its members and they have the only and final ruling on matters. Cult leaders lead the pack in using mind control and brainwashing techniques, so they can take full advantage of the members financially, physically and psychologically.

3 • Deception

LIG-trojan_225pxWhen it comes to religion people will do anything to seek the truth. Cults know this and use it to their advantage. Unlike most religions, cults will use deceptive and manipulative ploys to get people to join the cult and stay in it. They are notorious for using deceptive recruitment efforts, such as not indentifying themselves and not being transparent about their organization or message. Cults often use confusing terms and languages to control their followers’ minds and strengthen the group’s belief system.

4 • Exclusivity

IMG_5991_250pxOne way for religious groups to become cults is to claim exclusivity. Cults are notorious for claiming that they have an exclusive line to God and have a special revelation of the truth. Most groups believe they are an elite and secretive group that is expected to recruit and fundraise with hidden objectives and limited disclosure to protect their sacred mission.

5 • Offer explanations and solutions to everything in life

Most religions will admit that there are many things that can’t be easily explained or easily solved. This is a concept that many cults refuse to believe. Cults have a tendency to give ambiguous explanations for the most complex things in life and suggest unethical solutions to the world’s problems. These deceptive teachings are all part of the cult’s totalitarian worldview and brainwashing.

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5 Things I’ve noticed about … Cults

cult
By via The Soap Box

Cults… those groups of seemingly nutty people that have been around with us since forever.

Most cults tend to die off, but some do stick around and in some cases evolve into religions.

Now many cults do have a lot of things in common but I’ve noticed five certain things about them.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about cults:

5. They’re self destructive.

With a few notable exceptions most cults will eventually die off and cease to exist.

cult manson_225pxMost of the time a cult will cease to exist due to it’s leadership’s abusive and controlling behavior, which sometimes results in either a member getting kicked out for some minor infringement, or a member getting fed up with the behavior of the leadership and leaving. These combined with the public’s finding out about a cult’s abusive behavior, plus what ever strange beliefs they may have, might keep some people from wanting to join, and thus the the cult eventually dies out due to it being unable to gain new members.

Of course sometimes a cult dies off not slowly and gradually, but very quickly due to it’s members committing criminal acts that forces law enforcement to imprison most of it’s members (those that come peacefully that is) or they get killed by law enforcement because they refuse to be arrested, or the members commit mass suicide or murder/suicide.

4. They isolate people.

CultAlmost every cult there is encourages (or forces) it’s members to engage in some form of isolation. For some this may be as minor as encouraging it’s members to have as little contact as possible with people that are considered to be possibly “harmful”, to having no contact with people who left the cult, to outright isolating themselves from society in general.

Sometimes this isolation isn’t the result of a cult encouraging it’s members to stop having contact with other people, but instead encourages them to engage in behavior with non-members that is usually considered to be bizarre, imposing, or abusive. Such behavior often times causes non-members to not want to be around any of these members, regardless of whatever relationship they may have with these people.

Regardless of however a cult does it, ultimately a cult will usually end up causing a member to be isolated from those that were closest to them (i.e. friends and family).

3. They’re financially ruinous.

SCIENTOLOGYMAG greed_250pxMany cults encourages it’s members to do things that can cause them to go broke, or at least set them back financially.

One of the ways that cults ruin people financially is that they encourage their member to give large sums of money to the cult.

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Mystery of glowing Virgin Mary statue visited by hundreds in Belgium is solved

Story H/T: by @ Skeptic Wars


… after scientists discover it was covered in luminous paint

By Belinda Robinson via Mail Online

madonna figure

Mystery solved: Scientists found that the statue was covered in paint containing zinc sulphide which made it glow

The mystery of the Madonna figure which glowed in the dark, attracting thousands of pilgrims to a sleepy Belgian village, has been solved – and it’s not a miracle.

A team of scientists from the science faculty at Liege university discovered the Madonna was glowing in the dark because it had been covered with paint containing zinc sulphide on an unknown date.

Dr Rudi Cloots, who led the university team said: ‘This chemical has a luminous effect and is the reason for the strange light. It’s no miracle.’

But he could not explain why it took 15 years before the glow appeared.

After the statue was discovered in mid-January, police had to control crowds in the village of Jalhay, near Liege who were eager to touch the figure which suddenly began to glow in the kitchen of an elderly couple’s home.

Over 500 people visited the house in one day, eager to pay homage to it.

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Is Leftist Science-Denial The Most Dangerous Kind?

Science Denial Is Not Exclusive To Right Wing Fundamentalists

By David Jerale via The Libertarian Republic

Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer
“The Liberals’ War on Science.”
(click to download PDF)

In a column for Scientific American January of last year, Michael Shermer, the founder of The Skeptics Society, exposed what he calls “The Liberals’ War on Science.” Shermer observes that, while it is true that Republicans are more overwhelmingly opposed to well-established scientific consensus like anthropogenic climate change theory and evolution, the problem of science denial also reaches epidemic proportions on the left.

“Try having a conversation with a liberal progressive about GMOs—genetically modified organisms—,” Shermer writes, “in which the words “Monsanto” and “profit” are not dropped like syllogistic bombs.”

Taken only at face value, this seems fairly innocuous– and critics like Chris Mooney were quick to point out, correctly, that science denial is predominantly right-wing.

Fair enough, but I offer this riposte: Rick Santorum and his ilk don’t teach science.

What-are-GMOs-and-How-Safe-Are-They-_250pxDiscovery News, on the other hand, does– and in June, they posted a YouTube video by Laci Green, a popular online social justice advocate, feminist and peer sex educator, about genetically modified organisms.  In this video, Laci doesn’t explicitly state her own opinion with regard to whether or not genetically modified foods are safe, choosing instead to present arguments for and against, with a heavy bias against, ending by asking viewers to post their thoughts on the matter in the comments section below the video.

This is a clear example of “false balance,” a tendency for media to overstate controversy in scientific matters.  Fox News has been criticized for this because their coverage of climate science greatly over-represents those who disagree with anthropogenic global warming theory while there is a strong consensus among climate scientists that the theory is correct.  As it happens, there is a similarly strong scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified foods, but Laci conveniently ignores it for the sake of manufactured controversy– and she’s not alone.

SciShow, hosted by Hank Green, is a YouTube channel with over 1.5 million subscribers devoted to discussing scientific topics.  Last year, Hank posted a video wherein he discusses genetically modified organisms– what they are, why they exist, how they’re made, etcetera– which included some cherry-picked information and outright fabrications about the supposed dangers of genetic modification, in spite of the existing scientific consensus to the contrary.  It was later removed, and re-uploaded by another YouTube user– in the comments section there, Hank explains “We dropped it because we cited studies that have since been discredited.”

 Bill Nye “The Science Guy” - perhaps the most well-known science popularizer alive - supports the global warming theory while trying to scare people into thinking GMOs are harmful.


Bill Nye “The Science Guy” – perhaps the most well-known science popularizer alive – supports the global warming theory while trying to scare people into thinking GMOs are harmful.
Science education programming being used to spread pseudoscience?


But Hank and Laci Green are just a couple of online personalities– No real harm, right?

Enter Bill NyeThe Science Guy.”  Bill has been, for the most part, strongly against science denial– he has spoken against teaching creationism to children as well as climate change denial, but oddly, he breaks form when the topic is genetically modified organisms.

Let that sink in for a moment– perhaps the most well-known science popularizer alive, Bill Nye, trying to scare people into thinking GMOs are harmful.

That’s a far cry from some preacher doing the same thing because it conflicts with his religious dogma.  It’s science education programming being used to spread pseudoscience, and the consequences could be devastating.

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Ryan Hamilton files two new suits against Scientology’s drug rehab network — in California

Story H/T: @ Skeptic Wars


Via The Underground Bunker

Ryan Hamilton

Ryan Hamilton

Ryan Hamilton is branching out.

We’ve reported previously about the two federal fraud lawsuits the Las Vegas attorney has filed against Scientology’s drug rehab facility in Nevada. Now he’s filed two more — against a Scientology facility in San Diego County, California.

Angelo Amato of Illinois is suing the Narconon Fresh Start of Warner Springs after he went there for an addiction to Vicodin. He’s a mixed martial artist who became addicted to the pain pills and in December 2013 he searched the Internet for a rehab center. He found a site that had an 800 number and he called. The site claimed to be an “independent consultant.”

When he called, he spoke to Narconon’s Dan Carmichael.

1968 - American science fiction writer and founder of the Church of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard uses his Hubbard Electrometer to determine whether tomatoes experience pain, 1968. His work led him to the conclusion that tomatoes "scream when sliced."

American science fiction writer and founder of the Church of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard uses his Hubbard Electrometer to determine whether tomatoes experience pain, 1968. His work led him to the conclusion that tomatoes “scream when sliced.”

Carmichael told him the usual thing we’re used to hearing about Narconon’s come-ons, that there would be medical staff on hand, that Amato would get drug counseling, that Narconon staff are trained in addiction treatment, and that the facility had a 76-percent success rate.

As in his previous lawsuits, Hamilton points out that the Narconon contract conceals Narconon’s connection to the Church of Scientology by, in part, altering the title of a book by L. Ron Hubbard.

Amato paid $31,000 up front and began a detox period, and found that he was being monitored not by doctors or nurses, but by a 19-year-old staff worker.

Told he would get his own room, when Amato got to Narconon he found he was asked to stay in a small room with three other men.

Amato then learned what everyone else does in the Narconon program — that it’s not drug counseling but instead the same courses that beginning Scientologists go through in the church, including making clay models to illustrate ideas, and also exercises that has students yelling at ashtrays.

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Top 10 Ancient Aliens Mysteries

By Bryan Johnson via Listverse

cc

Click the image to visit Ancient Aliens Debunked

Ancient aliens is the idea that aliens visited earth in the past. The idea of ancient aliens is not a new one either. Imagination is one of the most powerful tools in humanity’s evolutionary struggle for survival. As a race, we are hardwired to consider important concepts, such as the creation of life on Earth and the history of people on this planet. At some point, we are all presented with various explanations and theories regarding the expansion of human life on Earth. In the long history of mankind, the majority of these concepts have followed religious teachings, and the power of a spiritual God or Gods. In modern times, many people have come to challenge these claims.

The idea of evolution has been used to describe the gradual change of traits that living organisms undergo over time, which is related to the environment, but it doesn’t explain how the biological cells of human’s first ancestor were spawned. Because of the fact that everyone is interested in the creation of life on Earth, and concurrently we have been taught to believe in the power of religion and the impossibility of alien life, the idea that this article will be examining is controversial. It will be based around some concepts that have been labeled absurd by the scientific community, but let your imagination go, and have some fun with the list.

10 • Ancient Aliens

Ancientastronauts_250pxThe idea surrounding ancient aliens is a basic one. It states that the human population was influenced by a group of extraterrestrials that visited Earth in the past. The ancient aliens were directly involved in the evolution of primates, including humans. It has been suggested that this was accomplished by way of genetic engineering, cross-breeding, or a combination of both, ultimately helping in the development of human cultures, technologies and religion. The idea first gained widespread exposure with the 1968 publication of Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Däniken, but the concept has been around since the middle of the 19th century. A common variant of the idea includes proposals that deities from most, if not all, religions, including angels and demons, are actually extraterrestrials whose advanced technologies were taken by people as evidence of a divine status.

This concept is related to the religious practice of a cargo cult, which can be seen in modern day pre-industrial tribal societies. Especially during World War II, when indigenous people were contacted by soldiers with advanced equipment, such as guns and tanks. The cults subsequently attempted to obtain wealth through magic and religious rituals and practices. The ancient alien theory states that extraterrestrials purposely tricked the human population into believing they were Gods, creating religion to help people evolve more efficiently. The Fermi paradox is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such civilizations.

crop circle alien mow
It has been proposed that, with the current age of the universe and its vast number of stars, if the Earth was typical, extraterrestrial life should be common. In response to this paradox, the zoo hypothesis has been suggested. It states that aliens generally avoid making their presence known to humanity, or avoid exerting an influence on development, somewhat akin to zookeepers observing animals in a zoo, or experimental scientists observing a study of life. Adherents of the hypothesis feel that the Earth and humans are being secretly surveyed using equipment located on Earth, or elsewhere in the Solar System. Charles Fort’s unpublished 1915 manuscript, novel X, describes how Martian beings or Martian events control life on Earth. Fort ultimately burnt the manuscript, but one surviving quote from it is “The Earth is a farm. We are someone else’s property.”

9 • Angels and Demons

raelians_250pxThe idea of ancient alien as astronauts has spawned a UFO religion named Raëlism. The Raelian Movement teaches that life on Earth was scientifically created by a species of extraterrestrials, which they call the Elohim. Members of the Elohim appeared human and were mistaken for angels, cherubim or gods. The Bible is full of accounts of angels and demons. The text mentions millions of angels and their experiences on Earth and in the heavens. In Christian tradition, demons are similar to angels. They are spiritual, immutable and immortal. The individual demon owns a specific knowledge, sometimes on only one subject. The apocryphal Book of Enoch recounts that a group of 200 rebellious angels, or Watchers, left heaven and came down to Earth to marry human women and have children with them.

The Quran depicts a story of angels that are given minds of their own, found in verse [2:34]. One of the angels was Iblis (Satan/Lucifer), who rebelled and was therefore banished on earth to create mischief amongst mankind. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, angels were all created as good beings, but some decided to become evil. It was written that angels do not need faith as they already have the knowledge of celestial things, which means that their action constitutes unforgivable sin. The idea of alien intervention on Earth can be found in the modern religious philosophy of Thelema. Thelema was developed by the early 20th century British writer, Aleister Crowley.

touching-fingers_banner
Crowley’s system of Thelema begins with The Book of the Law, which he claims was a direct dictation from an entity named Aiwass. Crowley later identified Aiwass as his own Holy Guardian Angel. The religion is founded upon the idea that the 20th century marked the beginning of the Aeon of Horus, in which a new ethical code would be followed; “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” The famed American rocket propulsion researcher, Jack Parsons, was one of the first Americans to take a keen interest in the writings of Aleister Crowley. Parsons research into rocket propulsion was some of the earliest in United States history. His pioneering work in the development of solid fuel, and the invention of Jet-fuel Assisted Take Off units for aircraft was of great importance to the start of humanity’s space age. The work of Parsons and his peers helped people usher in the age of space travel. Jack Parsons was largely self-educated.

8 • Men in Black

men_in_black_Vector_03BThe extraterrestrial hypothesis is the theory that some unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are best explained as being extraterrestrial life or non-human aliens from other planets. The idea sounds simple to modern day humans, but it a relatively new concept that originated out of the saucer sightings and close encounters of the 1940s-1960s. Thousands of UFO sightings have been reported in the last 50 years, and one of the emerging themes in these events is the Men in Black. The Men in Black are men, or aliens, dressed in black suits who have been reported to harass or threaten UFO witnesses to keep them quiet about what they have seen. In most cases, the men claim to be government agents, but it is often suggested that they may be ancient aliens themselves.

People who have reported an encounter with the Men in Black often describe them as men of short stature with a deeply tanned and dark complexion. According to the accounts, Men in Black always seem to have detailed information on the person they contact, as if the individual had been under surveillance for a long period of time. They have been described as seeming confused by the nature of everyday items such as pens, eating utensils or food, as well as using outdated slang. Those who have encountered them say they produce identification, but when verification is later sought, the people described do not exist or have been dead for some time. Another defining characteristic of the Men in Black is wide grins and disconcerting giggles.

The phenomenon has been frequently reported since the 1950s and 1960s, but some researchers, including John Keel and others, have suggested similarities between the Men in Black reports and earlier demonic accounts. Keel suggests that the beings are a modern-day manifestation of the same phenomena that was earlier interpreted as the devil, or encounters with fairies. The term “the black man” has been used for centuries in reference to the Devil. In history, the Black Man was often reported as meeting with the accused and having sexual intercourse with them. Old Scratch or Mr. Scratch is another folk name for The Devil that is used in the local legends of New England and pre-Civil War America.

men-in-black
During the Middle Ages, the black man was not a person with African features, but rather a man colored black and dressed in black. In modern times, another phenomenon known as the Grinning Man has become associated with the Men in Black, and various reports of paranormal activity. These creatures are larger and characterized by a wide grinning face. In most cases, people describe a strange sensation of not being able to focus in on the Grinning Man. It has been suggested that the smile is an attempt by the aliens to conform to society and keep humans feeling safe, but in all reports the figure is described as extremely creepy. In the Half-Life series of first-person shooter video games, there is a mysterious character named G-Man that parallels some of the Men in Black descriptions.

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Shrouded in pseudoscience

Via Skeptophilia

The Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin

I hate to break it to you, LiveScience, but in the interest of accuracy, it’s probably time to take the word “Science” out of the name of your website.

What you’re promoting isn’t really science, any more than The History Channel has anything even remotely to do with history.  You’re passing along to the public the idea that science is this mushy, hand-waving pursuit, where you can do an “experiment” to support an idea you’d already decided was true, generate essentially nothing in the way of data, and then claim that your results support whatever your original contention was.

I say this in light of a recent story called “Shroud of Turin: Could Ancient Earthquake Explain Face of Jesus?”  If the very title makes you suspicious, then good; you’re starting out from the right vantage point.

Let’s begin with the facts.  The Shroud of Turin is a piece of linen cloth that has been preserved for centuries as a holy relic — supposedly the sheet that covered Jesus’ body after the crucifixion.  It shows the image of a naked man, with wounds similar to those described in the bible.

The problem is, the linen cloth was carbon-14 dated — a step that the religious powers-that-be resisted for decades — and it was conclusively shown to date to around 1350 C.E.  It is, put simply, a fake.  So you’d think that would be that.

As we’ve seen before, that is never that when religion enters the picture.

b_shroud JesusThe article in LiveScience tells about a study headed by Alberto Carpinteri of the Politecnico di Torino, in Turin, Italy, which discovered that when you crush rocks using a mechanical press, it can cause a brief emission of neutrons.  From that single piece of information, he concludes the following:

  • Earthquakes can therefore be associated with neutron emissions.
  • The neutrons could interact with nitrogen atoms in the linen cloth (or in anything else, presumably), and mess up the carbon-14 dating protocol, causing it to give a wrong answer.
  • The neutrons could also have burned a pattern into the cloth as they passed through it.  Because the cloth was wrapped around a human body, it would have caused an image to appear on it, much like an x-ray.
  • The bible says that there was an earthquake around the time of Jesus’ resurrection, and the “stone rolled back from the tomb.”  [Matthew 28:1-2]
  • So: the Shroud of Turin is actually the burial cloth of Jesus.  Therefore god and the Catholic Church and all of the rest of it.  q.e.d.

Oh, come on, now.  This qualifies as science?  It’s about as bad an example of assuming your conclusion as I’ve ever seen.  And if earthquakes interfered with carbon-14 and nitrogen-14 levels, then radiocarbon dating would never work, since earthquakes happen basically all the time, all over the Earth.  And yet carbon-14 dating has been shown to be extremely accurate, over and over again.

Funny thing, that.

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Are Exorcisms Real?

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

Human beings have believed in possession — and exorcism — for thousands of years. Nowadays most people associate exorcisms with horror movies, but are there any real exorcisms in the modern age?

What is Stigmata?

By Benjamin Radford via LiveScience

Stigmata15b_250pxPeople who have stigmata exhibit wounds that duplicate or represent those that Jesus is said to have endured during his crucifixion. The wounds typically appear on the stigmatic’s hands and feet (as from crucifixion spikes) and also sometimes on the side (as from a spear) and hairline (as from a crown of thorns).

Along with possession and exorcism, stigmata often appears in horror films, and it’s not difficult to see why: bloody wounds that mysteriously and spontaneously open up are terrifying. However, stigmatics, who are typically devout Roman Catholics, do not see their affliction as a terrifying menace but instead as a miraculous blessing — a sign that they have been specially chosen by God to suffer the same wounds his son did.

Curiously, there are no known cases of stigmata for the first 1,200 years after Jesus died. The first person said to suffer from stigmata was St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), and there have been about three dozen others throughout history, most of them women.

Padre Pio

A young Padre Pio (born Francesco Forgione) displays his stigmata.

A young Padre Pio (born Francesco Forgione) displays his stigmata.

The most famous stigmatic in history was Francesco Forgione (1887-1968), better known as Padre Pio, or Pio of Pietrelcina. The most beloved Italian saint of the last century, Padre Pio first began noticing red wounds appearing on his hands in 1910, and the phenomenon progressed until he experienced full stigmata in 1918 as he prayed in front of a crucifix in his monastery’s chapel.

Padre Pio was said to have been able to fly, and also to bilocate (to be in two places at once); his stigmata was allegedly accompanied by a miraculous perfume; the Rev. Charles Mortimer Carty, in his 1963 biography of the saint, noted that it smelled of “violets, lilies, roses, incense, or even fresh tobacco,” and “whenever anyone notices the perfume it is a sign that God bestows some grace through the intercession of Padre Pio.”

Journalist Sergio Lizzatto, in his book “Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age” explains the social context in which Padre Pio’s stigmata emerged: “In the first years of the twentieth century, when Padre Pio was a seminarian, the Eucharist — the body and blood of Christ — was at the height of its importance in Catholic practice. Communion was celebrated frequently and became a mass phenomenon. At the same time, asceticism was interpreted in ever more physical terms. Body language — ecstasy, levitation, the stigmata — was held to be the only real mystical language.”

Pio’s stigmata appeared, Lizzatto argues, because that’s exactly what the church and its followers expected to appear in its most devout servants: Jesus’ real, physical torment visited upon the holiest of men.

Though Padre Pio was widely beloved, many weren’t convinced that the friar’s wounds were supernatural. Among the skeptics were two popes and the founder of Milan’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Agostino Gemelli, who examined Padre Pio and concluded that the stigmatic was a “self-mutilating psychopath.”

Still, Padre Pio garnered a widespread following and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002. Though Pio, who died in 1968, never confessed to faking his stigmata, questions about his honesty surfaced when it was revealed that he had copied his writings about his experiences from an earlier stigmatic named Gemma Galgani. He claimed ignorance of Galgani’s work, and could not explain how his allegedly personal experiences had been published verbatim decades earlier by someone else. Perhaps, he suggested, it was a miracle.

Is stigmata real?

Encyclopedia of Claims_300pxSo is stigmata real, or a hoax, or something in between? The claimed miracle of stigmata — like inedia, where people who claim not to eat food — is very difficult to scientifically verify. Veteran researcher James Randi, in his “Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural,” notes that “Since twenty-four-hour-a-day surveillance would be necessary to establish the validity of these phenomena as miracles, no case of stigmata exists that can be said to be free of suspicion,” and though the possibility of genuine stigmata can never be ruled out, “It is interesting to note that in all such cases, the wounds in the hands appear at the palms, which agrees with religious paintings but not with the actualities of crucifixion; the wounds should appear at the wrists.”

If stigmata is real, there is no medical or scientific explanation for it.

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What’s the deal with DMT?

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

When users take DMT they experience vivid hallucinations. Some users even believe they have communicated with nonhuman creatures while on DMT — but why?

Conspiracy theories as quasi-religious mentality –

An integrated account from cognitive science, social representations theory, and frame theory

Via Frontiers in Psychology

Conspiracists gone camping

Conspiracists gone camping

Conspiracy theories (CTs) can take many forms and vary widely in popularity, the intensity with which they are believed and their effects on individual and collective behavior. An integrated account of CTs thus needs to explain how they come to appeal to potential believers, how they spread from one person to the next via communication, and how they motivate collective action. We summarize these aspects under the labels of stick, spread, and action. We propose the quasi-religious hypothesis for CTs: drawing on cognitive science of religion, social representations theory, and frame theory. We use cognitive science of religion to describe the main features of the content of CTs that explain how they come to stick: CTs are quasi-religious representations in that their contents, forms and functions parallel those found in beliefs of institutionalized religions. However, CTs are quasi-religious in that CTs and the communities that support them, lack many of the institutional features of organized religions. We use social representations theory to explain how CTs spread as devices for making sense of sudden events that threaten existing worldviews. CTs allow laypersons to interpret such events by relating them to common sense, thereby defusing some of the anxiety that those events generate. We use frame theory to explain how some, but not all CTs mobilize collective counter-conspiratorial action by identifying a target and by proposing credible and concrete rationales for action. We specify our integrated account in 13 propositions.

Introduction

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

[…] our present purpose is not to debunk yet another CT, but to theoretically elucidate their dynamics and inner logic. Like Freud (1914) considered slips of the tongue as openings to the unconscious mind, Norman (1981) presented action slips as markers of the organization of memory, and Reason (1990) uses errors to gain insights into skilled performance, we consider CTs as occasions to elucidate actual representations of reality as part of human social functioning. Understanding CTs in turn helps us understand the potentially high human costs of over-generalizing agency. Though we need to guard ourselves against creating a conspiracy theory of CTs, our working hypothesis is that CTs have a degree of functional autonomy in modern societies which needs to be understood.

Conspiracy theories have many facets. On the one hand, they constitute cognitive resources that fulfill a need to explain unusual, disturbing events such as disease outbreak, disruptive technology, major scandal, or sudden celebrity death (McCauley and Jacques, 1979; Wagner-Egger et al., 2011). On the other hand, they are narratives that circulate in culture – in mass media, as rumors, in stories (Byford, 2011). These narratives reduce the complexity presented by such events, contain the uncertainty they generate, and translate unspecific anxiety into focused fears (Barrett and Lawson, 2001). CT narratives are also inscribed in the context of antagonistic relations between groups, drawing on recurrent negative views of outgroups to explain events and, sometimes, motivate collective action.

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9 things you didn’t know about Freemasonry

freemasonry_600pxBy David Morgan via CBS News

1. When meeting, Masons do not discuss religion or politics.

“There are certain subjects which are prevented or we simply proscribe from discussing within the lodge,” Piers Vaughan, master of St. John’s Lodge #1 in New York, told Mo Rocca. “And religion is one. Politics is another.”

One of the world’s leading experts on Freemasonry confirms.

“Do they discuss forms of politics and events that have happened? Yes, they do,” said UCLA history professor Margaret Jacob. “Do they say, ‘Well, I’m a Democrat and therefore I think …’ Or, ‘I’m a Republican … ‘ No, I don’t think they do that.”

2. Freemasonry is not a religion.

“Freemasonry has the look of a religion,” said Jacob. “You think of religion as ritual, there’s also this ritual element. But there are no priests, there are no ministers, there are no rabbis, there’s no system of clergy of any sort. Everybody’s their own thinker.”

From Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, a book of esoteric philosophy published by the Supreme Council, Thirty Third Degree, of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction of the United States. (source)

From Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, first published in 1872 and regularly reprinted thereafter until 1969, is a book of esoteric philosophy published by the Supreme Council, Thirty Third Degree, of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction of the United States. (source)

3. The Catholic Church condemns Freemasonry.

Jacob said the initial response to Freemasonry in continental Europe, particularly in Catholic Europe, was suspicion from seeing “all these men [from] different neighborhoods, different professions meeting in the cafe, breaking bread together, doing rituals, what could this be? Political conspiracy or religion.”

In 1738 the Catholic Church condemned Freemasonry, and has since issued about 20 decrees — directly or indirectly — against the fraternity. In 1983 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) re-affirmed this position.

4. Atheists are not welcome.

ap05Freemasonry is not a religion per se, but agnostics or atheists cannot belong, said Brent Morris, a Masonic historian, editor of the Scottish Rite Journal, and a 33rd degree Freemason.

“This is an organization of believers,” he said. “When it was started on a formal basis in 1717, many historians believe that it was trying to bridge the gap between the religious civil wars that had been going on in England at the time. The Catholics would get in power and beat up on the Protestants; the Protestants would get in power and beat up on the Catholics; and everyone was beating up on the Jews.

“So when the Freemasons were formed, [they] said, ‘Here’s a group of men that agree that God is central in their lives, they can even agree that God compels them to do good in the community, then they can shut up after that.” That was a radical concept — that men could get together and agree on that fundamental level, and then get on with their lives.”

So could an atheist join? No, said James Sullivan, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York: “The reason we, I think in the past, wanted somebody that had a belief in a supreme being is because we take certain obligation to be a good man, to support the fraternity. And if you didn’t have a belief in a supreme being, the obligation would mean nothing.”

5. Most of the Founding Fathers were NOT Freemasons.

Two of America’s earliest presidents, George Washington and James Monroe, were Freemasons, as were Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Paul Revere. But many leading figures in the American Revolution — including John and Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Thomas Paine — were not Masons.

Of the 56 figures who signed the Declaration of Independence, only nine were confirmed Masons, according to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania; and of the 39 delegates of the Continental Congress who signed the draft of the new nation’s Constitution in 1787, only 13 (one-third) were Freemasons.

6. There are NO secret Masonic symbols on the U.S. dollar bill.

US dollar pyramidThe back of the collar bill features an incomplete pyramid with an eye on top of it. Many people — including some Freemasons – say it’s a Masonic symbol, but that’s not the case. UCLA’s Margaret Jacob says these symbols have been used by many different groups, including Masons, throughout history.

“I’m sure there are a lot of Freemasons who want to believe [they’re Masonic symbols] and who will tell it to you, because it makes the Lodges seem important,” Jacob said. “I mean, if you have a symbol on the dollar bill, that’s a big deal!”

Brent Morris said there are two types of people who want to promote the idea that the symbols are Masonic: “The pro-Masons and the anti-Masons — and that pretty well covers the universe.

“The Eye of God is a common icon for God looking over the affairs of man,” Morris said. “It’s an icon that appears in cultures across the centuries. The uncompleted pyramid [which also appeared on a 50-pound Colonial note] represented that our country was not yet completed, that we were continuing to grow.”

MORE . . .

Also see: Freemasons & Satan (iLLumiNuTTi.com)

Who are the Anunnaki? What is the Planet Nibiru?

Intro by Mason I. Bilderberg

If you’re a follower of some of the more wacky conspiracies, you have run into the theory of ancient aliens called the Anunnaki.

According to conspiracists, the Anunnaki were said to first come to Earth 450,000 years ago from their home planet named Nibiru, a brown dwarf 4 times the size of Earth that is on a 3,600-year elliptical orbit in our solar system.(source)

The Anunnaki are a reptilian alien race that crossbred with the ancient humans to create human-alien hybrid reptilians that now run the world. But this was after the evil Anunnaki won the battle with the good aliens from Mars.

Icke - Remember what you are_250pxThis is all according to David Icke, truly one of the craziest conspiracists out there.

According to Icke, the secret societies running the world are human-alien hybrid reptilians with “secret knowledge” or, as he calls it, “advanced knowledge” which they use to control the world. Some how the human-alien reptilians take advantage of the sun’s power and “universal consciousness” to predict and manipulate people and world events. Crazy stuff.

It is this “secret knowledge” that the Icke brand of conspiracist believes exists and is being hoarded by the matrix masters.

Are you completely confused? It’s okay, i had to read several Icke books to get a handle on his brand of crazy. If you still want to learn more about this theory, watch the following video. This is an 8 minute excerpt from a much longer Icke video i did a couple of years ago.

Not only will you fully understand all the gobble-dee-gook preached by Icke conspiracists, but i guarantee you will be stunned at what is being proposed in this theory. It is truly crazy.

The bottom line is, EVERYTHING in David Icke’s world of conspiracies is rooted in the existence of these human-alien hybrid reptilians. EVERYTHING.

If the Anunnaki never existed, human-alien hybrid reptilians don’t exist. If human-alien hybrid reptilians don’t exist, Icke’s entire quiver of conspiracy theories goes down the crapper along with the bluster of every conspiracist buying into the Icke horse and pony show.

And this brings me to tonight’s two featured articles:

The first article is called “Who are the Anunnaki?.” It gives you a scholarly perspective of who the Anunnaki really were (hint: They weren’t aliens) (surprise! surprise!)

Dr. Michael S. Heiser

Dr. Michael S. Heiser

The second article is from a website called “sitchin is wrong.com“. Named after the author Zecharia Sitchin, it is Sitchin’s work upon which the Anunnaki theory is built. The site is run by Dr. Michael S. Heiser, a scholar of biblical and ancient Near Eastern languages, cultures, and religions. Dr. Heiser is openly challenging Zecharia Sitchin’s theory of the Anunnaki. As Dr. Heiser says on his website, “I can tell you–and show you–that what Zecharia Sitchin has written about Nibiru, the Anunnaki, the book of Genesis, the Nephilim, and a host of other things has absolutely no basis in the real data of the ancient world.”

Whether to debunk your favorite Icke-minded conspiracist or whether you’re just curious about crazy, i think you’ll enjoy this information.

Enjoy:)

Mason I. Bilderberg


Article 1: Who are the Anunnaki?

By D.M. Murdock/Acharya S via Truth Be Known

Are the Anunnaki real? Are they aliens?
Or are they part of a bigger picture?

Zecharia Sitchin

Zecharia Sitchin

The “Anunnaki” are the major players in a paradigm making its way into popular folklore, via the work of the late Zecharia Sitchin, an economist by education and profession, and the author of several best-selling books, including Genesis Revisited, that explore ancient mythology and the mysterious megalithic ruins found around the globe. These various books also seek to demonstrate that there was in ancient times an extraterrestrial race that genetically manipulated mankind for various reasons. The Sitchin thesis (“Sitchinism”), now embraced by numerous other writers, who have incorporated it into what is apparently a new worldview, essentially asserts that these ancient Sumero-Babylonian gods, the Anunnaki, are aliens from the planet Nibiru (Sitchin‘s “12th Planet”), which passes by the earth every 3,500 years or so, at which time they planet-hop to the earth and create mischief.

Although the idea of the ancient gods being aliens may seem novel, the tendency to make the gods of old into “real people” or “flesh and blood” is not at all new, dating to before the time of the Greek historian Herodotus (5th c. BCE) and developed by the Greek philosopher Euhemeros or Evemeras (c. 300 BCE). This tendency is called, in fact, “euhemerism” or “evemerism,” which claims that the numerous gods of various cultures were not “mythical” but were in reality kings, queens, warriors and assorted heroes whose lives were turned into fairytales with the addition of miraculous details to their biographies. The current Anunnaki thesis is a modern version of evemerism, although it seeks to explain the miracles as not fabulous “additions” to the tales but genuine attributes of advanced extraterrestrials.

Unfortunately for those who would wish to see concrete evidence of such exciting notions as extraterrestrial visitation in Earth’s remote past, the Anunnaki will not be the place to look, as the true nature of these various gods and goddesses was already known long before the era of modern revisionism.

MORE . . .


Article 2: Sitchin is wrong

By Dr. Michael S. Heiser via sitchiniswrong.com

Open Letter

The work of Zecharia Sitchin was brought to my attention in 2001, shortly after I completed my book, The Facade. As a trained scholar in ancient Semitic languages with a lifelong interest in UFOs and paranormal phenomena, I was naturally enthused about Mr. Sitchin’s studies, particularly since I had also heard he was a Sumerian scholar. I thought I had found a kindred spirit. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Zecharia Sitchin is not a scholar of ancient languages. What he has written in his books could neither pass peer review nor is it informed by factual data from the primary sources. I have yet to find anyone with credentials or demonstrable expertise in Sumerian, Akkadian, or any of the other ancient Semitic languages who has positively assessed Mr. Sitchin’s academic work.

[ . . . ]

Sumerian cuneiform tablet, listing herders and cows in the goddess Inana’s fields, 21st–20th century B.C., replica.

Sumerian cuneiform tablet, listing herders and cows in the goddess Inana’s fields, 21st–20th century B.C., replica.

The words Mr. Sitchin tells us refer to rocket ships have no such meanings according to the ancient Mesopotamians themselves. Likewise when Mr. Sitchin tells readers things like the Sumerians believed there were twelve planets, the Anunnaki were space travelers, Nibiru was the supposed 12th planet, etc., he is simply fabricating data. It isn’t a question of how he translates texts; the issue is that these ideas don’t exist in any cuneiform text at all. To persist in embracing Mr. Sitchin’s views on this matter (and a host of others) amounts to rejecting the legacy of the ancient Sumerian and Akkadian scribes whose labors have come down to us from the ages. Put bluntly, is it more coherent to believe a Mesopotamian scribe’s definition of a word, or Mr. Sitchin’s?

[ . . . ]

What I’ve said here is very straightforward. It would be quite easy to demonstrate that I am wrong. All one needs to do is produce texts that I say don’t exist, and produce verification of Sitchin’s translations by other experts (that’s called peer review). Since I don’t believe such evidence will be forthcoming, I wrote what follows as an open letter to Zecharia Sitchin in 2001. With Mr. Sitchin’s passing, I now direct the letter (rewritten on Jan 1, 2011) to his followers and other ancient astronaut theorists whose views are, in many ways, based upon Sitchin’s original work.

MORE OF THE OPEN LETTER . . .

Other worthwhile links from Sitchin is wrong:


[END]

What was “Operation Snow White”?

via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

Did agents of the Church of Scientology really infiltrate the US government? If so, then how widespread was the infiltration? What was its alleged purpose? What does the Church have to say about the accusations? Tune in to learn more about the fact, fiction and controversy surrounding the Snow White program.

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Five Stupid Things About the Bible Code

Via ▶ Five Stupid Things About the Bible Code – YouTube.

Remember the Bible Code? You don’t hear as much about it now, but it used to be kind of a big deal for some Christians. It was sort of the TAG argument of the 1990s — the magical, undeniable proof that Christianity was true. The only thing it actually proves is that some people will believe anything.

If you want to search for “codes” like the Bible Code on your own, there’s a program called Code Read Inspiration that allows you to search any .txt document. It’s the program I used to find my name “encoded” in the text of Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason 91 times. Download it at:

http://tinyurl.com/mff24oz

Chopra Shoots at Skepticism and Misses

By via NeuroLogica Blog

CHOPRADeepak Chopra apparently has no love for organized skepticism. This is not surprising and his particular brand of spiritual pseudoscience has been a favorite target of skeptical analysis. He is also not the only one who has decided to fight back against the skeptics – if you cannot defend yourself against legitimate criticism, then shoot the messenger.

In a recent article Chopra renews his attack against what he calls “militant skepticism.” This is a blatant attempt, of course, to portray skeptics as extremist and on the fringe, a strategy that has been used against “militant atheists.” Chopra also uses his article to conflate skepticism with atheism, almost as if he is completely unaware of the internal discourse that has been taking place for decades within the skeptical movement.

Chopra writes:

The rise of militant skepticism clouded the picture, however, beginning with its popular attack on religion. The aim of Richard Dawkins, as stated in his best seller, The God Delusion, was to subject “the God hypothesis” to scientific scrutiny, the way one would subject anti-matter or black holes to scrutiny. In fact he did no such thing with God, for the scientific method requires experiments that can be replicated and facts that can be verified. Dawkins offered no experiments to prove or disprove the existence of God. What he actually did was to subject religion to a barrage of scorn and ridicule, attacking it on the rational improbability – as he sees it – that a deity could possibly exist.

This is an interesting bit of historical revisionism, although I think it probably just reflects Chopra’s complete unfamiliarity with his subject matter. The modern skeptical movement predates Dawkins by decades. We have had a clear philosophy and scope long before Dawkins appeared on the scene.

Dawkins is a highly respected figure among skeptics because of his powerful writing, his popularizing of science, and his unflinching criticism of pseudoscience. Most skeptics are atheists, and we also respect his defending science from the intrusion of religion and spirituality.

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

Where many skeptics, myself included, disagree with Dawkins is precisely in treating “the God hypothesis” as if it were only a scientific question. I say “only” because certainly it is possible to treat any supernatural hypothesis as if it were in the realm of methodological naturalism, and there is general agreement among skeptics when approached in this way the only reasonable conclusion is that there is no credible evidence to support the conclusion that any god exists, or that the laws of the material universe need to be extended to account for any alleged supernatural phenomena. If you frame God as a scientific hypothesis, it can be scientifically refuted. Looked at another way, the psychocultural hypothesis is a far better and more parsimonious explanation for belief in God than the actual existence of such a being.

The big “but” is that not everyone believes in God as a scientific fact. Some people choose to have faith in an unfalsifiable god, one that resides outside the realm of science. Once someone’s faith has retreated outside the realm of science, then science is no longer the tool by which one should address such faith. Logic and philosophy are now more appropriate, but you cannot say, by definition, that an unfalsifiable God can be scientifically proven to not exist.

MORE – – –

Karen Stollznow – What an Excellent Day for a Talk about Exorcism! – TAM 2013 – YouTube

This video is about 34 minutes long. I was hesitant to post it because it’s not the most captivating video. But the information is very good. Judge for yourself.

MIB:)


Via JamesRandiFoundation – YouTube.

Karen Stollznow is a linguist, author of God Bless America and the Bad Language columnist for Skeptic magazine, and author of the forthcoming books Language Myths, Mysteries and Magic, and Red, White and (True) Blue. She is a long-term investigator of paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs and practices, a co-host of Monster Talk, and is a Research Fellow for the James Randi Educational Foundation.

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