Friendly Atheist Alternative Facts

The Friendly Atheist blog is excited about Netflix airing a new movie about Madalyn Murray O’Hair.  O’Hair was the original New Atheist (Dawkins is just a polished version of O’Hair), so I always thought it strange that today’s New Atheists don’t pay her much attention.  Anyway, what’s interesting is the way the Gnus are trying to rewrite history by turning her into a some victim of religion.  The Friendly Atheist blog writes:

She was also murdered for having the audacity to not believe in a god and defend those who believed the same.

This could not be more wrong.  O’Hair was murdered by another atheist, David Waters, she once employed as an office manager for American Atheists.  And it looks like her murder was triggered by one of the those atheist fights that got out of hand.   Waters apparently stole around $50,000 from Madalyn Murray O’Hair.  She responded by writing this article for her magazine which publicized all kinds of dirt about Waters, including his past criminal history.  This humiliated and enraged Waters, who then began to fantasize about gruesomely murdering O’Hair.  With the help of two accomplices, Waters kidnapped O’Hair and her son and granddaughter.  Although it wasn’t simply about killing O’Hair.  As office manager, Waters believed the O’Hairs were able to embezzle money from their organization and figured he would be able to score all the hidden money.   Anyway, the details of the whole kidnapping are strange, but as it ended, Waters killed all the O’Hairs and one of his accomplices and cut them up into pieces.

Why anyone would try to blame any of this on religion is beyond me.

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27 Responses to Friendly Atheist Alternative Facts

  1. mechanar says:

    Coming from the same People how think that:
    -Hitler was a christian
    -communism has nothing to do with atheism
    -Atheists are ALWAYS the victims never the offenders
    -Religion as the virus of the mind is Legit science
    -Religious Parents Brainwash their children
    -The theocracy is coming
    -The westboro Bapist Church is Representetiv for all religious People on earth
    – Logic and reason always will lead to unbelief
    -Logic and reason is something that you will automaticly have when you become an atheists and dosent need any further training.
    -Religious People are corrupt and malicious because they dont really believe what they believe
    -Religious People are corrupt and malicious because they Do believe what they believe
    -My blog posts and Internet comments will stop the religious from destroying the Planet
    -Mother theresa was a monster
    -the crussaders were a bunch if blind fanatics who wope up one morning and though “lets start a war”
    -Faith is believing with no evidence! dont mind what the dictonary says
    -Most wars in history are Religion wars! dont mind what the History books say.
    -Religious Belief is always Harmful! dont mind what science says.
    -Religion would go Away If we stopped teaching it again dont mind what science says.
    -Refusing to Study religious History and philosophy is an expression of sophisticated intellect
    -God,unicorns,elves all the same thing

    Did I forget something?Ironic that those that claim to defend reason and evidence are ine of its biggest offenders.

  2. Ilíon says:

    As office manager, Waters witnessed how the O’Hairs were able to embezzle money from their organization and figured he would be able to score all the hidden money.

    So, organized atheism has *always* been a scam.

  3. Ilíon says:

    Did I forget something?Ironic that those that claim to defend reason and evidence are ine of its biggest offenders.

    – That disproving, or at any rate, mocking, Zeus, who (allegedly) “arose” in a Darwinistic accidental-and-non-conscious-and-non-rational manner as an effect of the universe serves, somehow, to disprove the Creator-God who is the deliberate-and-conscious rational cause of the universe.
    – That positing logical contradictions, such as Invisible Pink Unicorns, serves, somehow, to disprove the Creator-God who is the deliberate-and-conscious-and rational cause of the universe.

  4. TFBW says:

    Why anyone would try to blame any of this on religion is beyond me.

    A suggestion: it’s the result of a general policy to blame all the world’s ills on religion.

  5. Doug says:

    Another suggestion: it is a manifestation of a new trend “lying for Nothing”.

  6. Nolan says:

    The post has been corrected. Note the author of the post wasn’t Hemant. The uncorrected quote is, of course, absurd — at least as absurd as an intelligent design proponent lecturing about the politicization of science 🙂

    I would probably draw a different lesson from this than you would. On one hand, I see a blog post that was corrected within 24 hours. On the other hand, I see a blog post at a different site that continues to carry provably false implications while its author invokes crazy conspiracies in order to justify them (https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/taking-richard-dawkins-concerns-seriously/).

    What is your source for O’Hair engaging in embezzlement?

  7. Doug says:

    @Nolan, in My life without God, William Murray (Madalyn’s son) writes:

    She stole huge amounts of money. She misused people’s trust. She cheated children out of their parents’ inheritance. She cheated on her taxes and even stole from her own organizations. She once printed up phony stock certificates on her own printing press to try to take over another atheist publishing company.

  8. Kevin says:

    Unlike the so-called Friendly Atheist piece, Michael’s post, while it can’t be decisively proven, is still a far more reasonable position, based on the evidence, than the weak attempt to show that Dawkins was being truthful about his alleged ignorance.

    If a conspiracy theory generally lacks supporting evidence without contortions and the ignoring of a larger body of contradictory evidence, then the defense of Dawkins is the conspiracy theory.

  9. Regual Llegna says:

    mechanar says:
    “Coming from the same People how think that:
    -Hitler was a christian
    …”

    Where the belief of “we are the aryan race”, “the aryan race is the more “evolved” and superior of all human races” and “the aryan race are decendents of -insert, usually, half-god people here-” fall in the christians beliefs? No one gnu atheist will ever answer that question without lying or reflecting.

    “…
    -The westboro Bapist Church is Representetiv for all religious People on earth
    …”

    Right now, in many web sites that show islamic terrorism acts, there are atheist blaming religion in generel sense as the problem for the islamic beliefs, they including christianity often saying “but the Bible..blah…blah…blah”, judaism “jews have the blame”, buddhism “all religion is bad” and any single form of theism “this is what people that belief in a god/s do”. Often you wil read in the comments something that go like this: “religion attacks again” or other general slur (prominent comment in Britain news web sites in the last years) every time that a islamic jihadist do their share in the muslim islamic belief in jihad againts unbelievers, for then those are kuffir (any non-muslims, non-practicing muslims and not enough muslims), plus their share in the global imposition of Sharia to “save the world form Allah offenders”.

    “…
    – Mother theresa was a monster
    …”

    Say the usual atheists/secularists that never help anybody with a serious disease with their own hands.

    “…
    -the crussaders were a bunch if blind fanatics who wope up one morning and though “lets start a war”
    …”

    Say the atheists/secularists that don’t know who the saracens were or the anything about the religion of the Ottoman Empire (hint: Islam).

    “…
    -Refusing to Study religious History and philosophy is an expression of sophisticated intellect
    …”

    Why they attack philosophy? Maybe they do not know that any methodology it is in its base a philosophy: “From wikipedia (in translated from spanish):
    In the description of an adequate methodology, the philosophical stance is oriented by terms such as the following:
    – Rationalism, as opposed to empiricism, emphasizes the role of reason in research.
    – Pragmatic, which is how the elements of the project influence the meaning.
    – Constructivism or epistemological constructivism, in which knowledge is developed based on presumptions (starting hypothesis) of the researcher.
    – Criticism, also of epistemological order, that puts limits to the knowledge by the careful study of possibilities.
    – Skepticism, doubt or disbelief about the truth or the effectiveness of what is generally admitted as valid.
    – Positivism, derived from epistemology, states that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge.
    – Hermeneutics, which interprets knowledge.”

    Note that “Rationalism, as opposed to empiricism…” (philosophy and science vs experience “usually sensorial experience”) part, note the pragmatic (elements that influence the meaning), contructivism (knowledge is developed based on presumptions or hypothesis), positivism (science is the only knowledge) and hermeneutics (interpretation of knowledge) parts.

  10. TFBW says:

    @Nolan: Determined to turn around Friendly Atheist’s faux pas into criticism of The Enemy, hmm? Deflect! Deflect!

    Note the author of the post wasn’t Hemant.

    True, it was Lauren Nelson. Nobody had attributed it to Hemant, though, so … is this important for some reason, or are you just acting as bodyguard for Hemant’s reputation? I note that Lauren’s bio says, “… you’ll find her researching and writing extensively on the subjects of …” Evidently the adverb “extensively” applies only to “writing”, not “researching”, or else she wouldn’t make an “absurd” (as you say) error of this sort. As such, I stand by my original suggestion, with one clarification: it’s the result of a general policy to blame all the world’s ills on religion, coupled with complete ignorance of the facts of the case on which she was reporting. Of course she would assume that the atheist activist was murdered by an angry fundie.

    On the other hand, I see a blog post at a different site that continues to carry provably false implications …

    And here’s the deflection. I’m glad everything is “proved” to your satisfaction. I re-read part of that thread you so kindly linked to, and I’m still waiting for you to point out where Dawkins retracts any of his views regarding a religious upbringing being worse than “mild” sexual abuse (or locking children in a dungeon or knocking their teeth out, etc. ad nauseam). Failing that, all you’ve done is highlight inconsistency on his part — and demand that we ignore the inconsistency and focus on the aspects which help your case. No: a back-pedal is not a retraction. Which part of that don’t you understand?

  11. Michael says:

    The post has been corrected. Note the author of the post wasn’t Hemant.

    I know. It was written by an advocate and aspiring ally focused on intersectional justice. She is a feminist who wrote another post asking, ” Is feminism compatible with atheism? Are atheists forgetting their own humanity?” Is Hemant’s blog going the SJW route?


    The uncorrected quote is, of course, absurd — at least as absurd as an intelligent design proponent lecturing about the politicization of science.

    What made it absurd was when she also claimed “Her story is well known in atheist circles.” I suppose in the post-modern atheist circles, truth didn’t matter.

    The fact remains that an atheist activist actually believed O’Hair was murdered because of her atheism. How does that happen?

    I would probably draw a different lesson from this than you would.

    LOL. No surprise there. Time to change the focus, right?

    On one hand, I see a blog post that was corrected within 24 hours. On the other hand, I see a blog post at a different site that continues to carry provably false implications while its author invokes crazy conspiracies in order to justify them (https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/taking-richard-dawkins-concerns-seriously/).

    Huh? I responded to your silly charges over 5 weeks ago:

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/taking-richard-dawkins-concerns-seriously/#comment-16227
    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/taking-richard-dawkins-concerns-seriously/#comment-16231

    What is your source for O’Hair engaging in embezzlement?

    I corrected the post from “Waters wtinessed” to “Waters believed.” Within 24 hours of your comment. 😉

  12. stcordova says:

    “Is Hemant’s blog going the SJW route?”

    I hope so. 🙂

  13. Dhay says:

    Nolan > The post has been corrected. … [Subsequent reference to discussion in an earlier thread here regarding Richard Dawkins retracting his signature and support from a petition to make teaching religion to children illegal.]

    The “Oops” underlines rather than obliterates the author’s demonstration of her gross prejudice and pig-ignorance.

    The same applies to Richard Dawkins’ earlier “Oops”.

  14. Dhay says:

    Another post by Lauren Nelson, she who revealed her prejudice in her blog post about Madalyn Murray O’Hair, looks at a recent book by Dr. Michael Guillen; it’s entitled ““Scientist” Claims the Bible Is Compatible With Science”:

    On face, his credentials are impressive. A former Harvard professor with a Ph.D. from Cornell in physics, mathematics, and astronomy …

    Further research on Guillen makes his absurdity more understandable. He may hold advanced degrees, but his career has been less about science than it has been showmanship. Indeed, on the “About” section of his website he describes himself as a three-time Emmy winner, bestselling author, and beloved media commentator. Not exactly the bona fides of respected academic or researcher. They don’t discredit him, but they show what he’s most proud of, and it’s not published papers.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2016/02/20/scientist-claims-the-bible-is-compatible-with-science/

    I have my own reservations about Guillen; but what I want to do here is point out that his scientific credentials are impressive, as Nelson grudgingly says, and compare him with some leading New Atheists.

    Jerry Coyne is a (now emeritus) professor at a provincial university of somewhat less reknown and standing than Guillen’s Harvard. Coyne seems to be starting a new career as a writer and interviewee. Eg https://areomagazine.com/2017/03/10/jerry-coyne-on-taboos-in-science-skepticism-and-the-incompatibility-of-faith-and-fact/

    Richard Dawkins was Assistant Professor of Zoology 1967-69, Lecturer (ordinary professor, in US terms) at Oxford (Harvard level) until 1990, was Reader (the next higher grade of near-Professor) until 1995, then was a full Professor until retirement in 2008. But on appointment as full Professor he seems to have effectively retired from academia and devoted his time to being a bestselling author, presenting occasional TV documentaries and being a media commentator. I’d say there’s pronounced similarities.

    Michael Shermer got a PhD in History of Science (ie not in a science), then became a bestselling author, TV personality presenting science (via debunking pseudoscience), and media commentator. Not exactly the bona fides of respected academic or researcher, as Nelson puts it.

    Then there’s Neuroscientist Sam Harris, who got his PhD then abandoned the idea of being an academic or researcher ** for a life as a journalist, podcaster, event speaker and media personality.

    ( ** I suspect Harris merely commissioned and financed the 2016 Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence research by Stuart Kaplan, which bears Harris’ name as co-researcher; if I’m wrong and Harris was involved at each stage, as the paper claims, then Harris is lying about never lying, for that research relied upon deliberately exaggerated “facts” to make the “counterevidence” more impressive and persuasive; but since I don’t envisage Harris agreeing to deliberately lie — it’s against strongly held and expressed philosophical principles of his – I can’t see Harris as having been much involved in or even aware of the experimental design, whatever the paper claims.)

    In short, that jibe, “bestselling author, and beloved media commentator. Not exactly the bona fides of respected academic or researcher” seems to apply not just to Guillen but also to the more prominent New Atheists. If Guillen can be criticised as being such, so too can these prominent New Atheists.

    As for Hemant Mehta, he’s not in the same league. To borrow terminology from Peter Boghossian, Mehta’s still at the kiddies’ table. He shows no aptitude for science, for philosophy, or for original and distinctive thought; Mehta’s a non-entity. What’s his opinion worth on any subject.

    *

    Nelson quotes Guillen and comments:

    … “The first truth that I talk about in the book is the belief in the existence of absolute truth.” He continued, “That is to say, both science and religion believe that absolute truth, absolute right and wrong exists.”

    He is, of course, dead wrong. The assertion that science is about right and wrong could not be more inaccurate. Science is, at its core, about the pursuit of truth, but that pursuit is not about serving as an arbiter of morality. It never has been. It’s about facts and evidence.

    I suspect she is misunderstanding what Guillen wrote; but whether she is or not, her comment is a slap-down of Harris’ claim in his The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values that science can serve as an arbiter of morality. Looks like the neuroscientist and philosopher has been slapped down by someone whose “About” says:

    Lauren Nelson is an advocate and aspiring ally focused on intersectional justice. When she’s not gabbing on social media or chasing after her precocious seven year old, you’ll find her researching and writing extensively on the subjects of politics, policy, culture, neurodiversity, and faith for The Friendly Atheist and Rethink the Rant.

    No, neurodiversity is not neuroscience, Nelson’s not a scientist, not even a TV science populariser like Guillen, who’s a Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson lookalike. Odd, then, that she should slap the far better qualified Harris down – she herself appears to be merely a journalist.

    *

    The thesis of Nelson’s post is that Guillen’s book claims and argues that science and the Bible are compatible, and that this is wrong, they’re incompatible; though she doesn’t tell us what any of Guillen’s ten claims are or argue that any one of them is wrong, settling instead for the dismissive generality that the Bible is just myth that Christians are required to simply believe because it’s the Bible.Well, that’s hand-waved that away.

    (Funny how anti-theists tend to be 100% Biblical fundamentalist, more fundamentalist than most Christians.)

    But an equally prominent thesis of Nelson’s post is that Guillen, a Harvard Professor for eight years after gaining a PhD in physics, mathematics and astronomy, before diversifying into TV science presenting and into media-related businesses of his own, is really merely a showman. Well, so too are many prominent New Atheists, by that reckoning, and most of them do not have anywhere near the scientific and academic achievements and credential that would match Guillen’s.

    Nelson finishes her post by saying of Guillen:

    Make no mistake: this whole hullabaloo is about Guillen’s brand [of showmanship]. A scientist is not claiming compatibility between the Bible and science, but a hack sure is.

    I think we can turn that around slightly and comment on Nelson in her own words: a scientist is not claiming incompatibility between the Bible and science, but a hack sure is.

  15. Tim'L says:

    Nolan,

    “Note the author of the post wasn’t Hemant.”.
    I hope you read Mike’s post because he never said “Hemant” he said “The Friendly Atheist’s blog”.

  16. Barry Wilson says:

    It is always unfortunate to find a figure in history who accomplished important things was a truly awful person. Many men and woman who accomplished good words were disgusting humans . While I have found contradictory information about her. The one thing that is in all reports is that she was vicious and meanspirited. Perhaps because she wanted the publicity, she was also stupid in her arrogance. Writing the article about her ex con employee did not make her murder excusable in any sense, the murderers were a million times worse than anything she did using words. But one should be careful in high crime districts and one should not bother with a criminal who one had arrested. It is a tragedy.

  17. Dhay says:

    The Friendly Atheist post by Bo Gardiner, dated 15 March 2017 and entitled ‘This Atheist’s Obituary from 1889 Is Delightful: The “Infidel” Was “Perfectly Rational to the Last”’ struck me as rather absurd; I’ll pick out the meat:

    … if his final act in the spring of 1889 and these sweet words about him are any guide, I wish I could have known old Gus:

    He was a pronounced infidel, believing in neither God nor a future of any kind. Two weeks before his death, knowing his demise to be imminent, he went to a tree near the yard and under it marked a place for his grave, giving instructions as to how it should be dug and his mode of burial. He wanted a layer of cedar brush at the bottom of the grave, to be filled up with dirt. He said that when decomposition set in the sap of the tree would draw him up the limbs and he could perch on the top of the tree and view the surrounding scenery for ages to come.

    But it was the last line that really left me smiling in delight:

    Setzer was perfectly rational to the last.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/03/15/this-atheists-obituary-from-1889-is-delightful-the-infidel-was-perfectly-rational-to-the-last/

    “Delightful” the old newspaper clipping might or might not be. But on the internal evidence of the clipping, Gus was plainly not rational.

    *

    The Friendly Atheist blog pays $25 for each article used. You get what you pay for, I guess.

  18. Ilíon says:

    ^ Dane Cook has the perfect joke for that “rationality”. The punch line being that a big, sweaty lumberjack can cut down the tree, it can be ground into paper, and then have the Bible printed on it.

  19. Dhay says:

    Anybody remember that “Friendly Atheist Insists We Should Mock the Religious” post here in May 2016 quoting Hemant Mehta saying on his blog, “We should absolutely mock religion”, and giving his opinion why ‘we atheists’ should do so?

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/05/12/friendly-atheists-insists-we-should-mock-the-religious/

    This same friendly guy has now posted “At Least a Dozen Dead After Church Bus Collides With Pickup Truck in Texas”, and what with his blog not being a ‘news collation’ site but specifically and relentlessly an anti-religion blog, I rather wonder how sincere he is in blogging that:

    My heart goes out to everyone in that community suffering right now; I’m sure the same is true for a lot of readers. It’s not hard to set aside our differences in times like these and recognize that these sorts of accidents can happen to anyone. If there’s a way to help the families of the victims, I’ll be sure to post an update.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/03/29/at-least-a-dozen-dead-after-church-bus-collides-with-pickup-truck-in-texas/

    Tell you what, Mehta, fair’s fair, you go ahead and pretend you didn’t post this in order to attract the snark from your readers that you both knew you would attract and have attracted and I’ll pretend you’re not a hypocrite cynically exploiting a tragedy for the enjoyment of yourself and (many of) your readers, and to get hits and advertising revenue.

  20. Dhay says:

    In his blog post dated 10 March 2017 entitled “White Evangelicals Are the Only People Who Think White Evangelicals Have It Rough”, Hemant Mehta looks at a PRRI opinion poll (linked from Mehta’s post) and spins it in ways unfavourable to Christians in general and to Evangelicals in particular, while also spinning in ways favourable to the “Religiously Unaffiliated” group which group presumably includes agnostics and atheists.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/03/10/white-evangelicals-are-the-only-people-who-think-white-evangelicals-have-it-rough/

    This particular PRRI poll asked various groups whether they thought other groups (and their own) were being discriminated against. My memory triggered, I’d seen something about how to lie or “lie” with similar polls in Darrell Huff’s ancient (1954, observe the language used!) but still truly excellent small book How to Lie with Statistics; it’s in Chapter 7 – The Semiattached Figure:

    … Anyway, here is a trickier version. Let us say that during a period in which race prejudice is growing you are employed to “prove” otherwise. It is not a difficult assignment. Set up a poll or, better yet, have the polling done for you by an organization of good reputation. Ask that usual cross section of the population if they think Negroes have as good a chance as white people to get jobs. Repeat your polling at intervals so that you will have a trend to report.

    Princeton’s Office of Public Opinion Research tested this question once. What turned up is interesting evidence that things, especially in opinion polls, are not always as they seem. Each person who was asked the question about jobs was also asked some questions designed to discover if he was strongly prejudiced against Negroes. It turned out that people most strongly prejudiced were most likely to answer Yes to the question about job opportunities. (It worked out that about two-thirds of those who were sympathetic toward Negroes did not think the Negro had as good a chance at a job as a white person did, and about two-thirds of those showing prejudice said that Negroes were getting as good breaks as whites.) …

    … You have achieved something remarkable by careful use of a semiattached figure. The worse things get, the better your poll makes them look.

    Got that? There are major perils in taking people’s opinions on levels of discrimination at face value. In the absence of some objective reality check, of some Princeton study type way to calibrate report against actuality, a poll of the type described in Huff’s first paragraph – and although the PRRI poll is more sub-detailed and finer grained it clearly is of this type, even commenting on how some of the answer figures have changed over time – a poll of this type can yield very misleading results; and, for the unwary, yield very misleading conclusions.

    The Princeton study showed that the more the actual level of discrimination, the less the reported level of discrimination, in a poll like this PRRI poll. And vice versa, of course, the less the actual discrimination, the more discrimination will show up in a poll like this PRRI type poll. With serious caveats (eg but especially the mere two data points Huff quotes) the Princeton study appears to have discovered an inverse correlation between reported discrimination and actual discrimination. Let’s call this ‘Huff’s Hypothesis’.

    The actuality of discrimination against others appears to be the inverse of what people report. This implies that the actuality of discrimination is the inverse of what people report they think it is eg to the PRRI poll.

    That is, this PRRI poll, which reports and tabulates peoples’ opinions of what levels of discrimination people think is occurring and to whom, may well report and tabulate the inverse of the actuality: it may be reporting the actuality of who is discriminating against whom arse-backwards.

    Huff and his readers knew this sixty-plus years ago, whereas Mehta evidently still doesn’t.

    I think that if you look at the PRRI results with eyes informed by ‘Huff’s Hypothesis’ you’ll find confirmation of ‘Huff’s Hypothesis’ in the tables, particularly in:

    Discrimination Against Whites vs. Blacks
    … Nearly nine in ten (87%) black Americans say black people face a lot discrimination, but only 19% say the same is true of whites. Approximately half (49%) of whites say blacks face discrimination, while just over one-third (34%) say the same of whites. …

    I note this discrepancy is mirrored in the highish levels of discrimination against “White Evangelicals”, as claimed by “White Evangelicals”, versus the much lower levels of discrimination against “White Evangelicals” claimed by the “Religiously Unaffiliated” – which latter group presumably includes agnostics and atheists, and who by ‘Huff’s Hypothesis’ are presumably guilty of high levels of discrimination against “White Evangelicals”. Which somewhat undermines the message Mehta is tacitly spinning that “White Evangelicals” are paranoid or delusional.

    Can they be flipped back? A subjective opinion poll like this one won’t tell us; it takes objective non-opinion research to do that.

    *

    Another semi-attached figure is the PRRI’s “a lot”, as in “Percentage who say there is a lot of discrimination against each of the following groups”; it’s not only semi-attached, it’s not even a figure.

    Some years ago I overheard some dock workers passing by and was startled by the unexpected level of coarseness of their language. Do dockers swear much? Not a lot according to a docker, one presumes, just a normal amount; horribly over the top, one presumes, according to the genteel woman from the Women’s Institute. So what’s “a lot”.

    *

    I have targeted this one PRRI poll in particular, but warn that many other PRRI polls – the Friendly Atheist blog has quoted a number recently – and likewise many Pew polls, etc, suffer from the same or similar deficiencies; it always pays to look at them critically and sceptically – even cynically; especially so when they appear to support your own prejudices and agendas.

    There are lies, damned lies and statistics.

  21. Dhay says:

    Hemant Mehta’s blog post dated 12 April 2017 entitled “Why Would a Church Advertise Easter Sunday Services Like This?” is short, just three lines and a picture, and is a good example of how Mehta spins, and sneers, and jeers, and hates:

    This sign advertising Easter services for a North Carolina church is a little too on the nose, don’t you think?

    [Picture of sign:]
    Nailed it (with nails replacing each of the two “i”s)
    April 16th
    You’re invited
    Easter Celebration
    9:00 am and 11:00 am
    Colossians 2:12-15

    Why not just go the next step? Show a picture of a hand or wrist with a nail through it and advertise a sermon about the Hole-y Ghost.

    These people take such joy in the torture of their Lord.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/04/12/why-would-a-church-advertise-easter-sunday-services-like-this/

    What’s the “it” that’s been nailed? The context is Colossians 2:12-15, the sign says so, and there we find:

    … And you, who were dead in your trespasses … God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. …

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Colossians+2%3A12-15&version=ESVUK

    It’s about the Old Testament system of six hundred plus laws which were impossible for a normal person not to trespass against, together with the Temple-bound priest-mediated sacrificial system for restitution of those trespasses (debts) – which older system has now been set aside, “nailed to the cross”, we are free of it. We are free now to ask directly, and in confident expectation and promise, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

    Mehta’s “These people take such joy in the torture of their Lord” is not based on the poster, it is a Mehta fantasy, pure anti-Christian malice, a deliberate and unjustified slur, a mere sneering jeer based on nothing more than Mehta’s hate.

    Mehta’s post word-paints an image of a bloodied Jesus writhing on the cross, and Christians enjoying the spectacle. That’s purely Mehta’s image, not that painted by the poster. It is Mehta’s image which is “a little too on the nose, don’t you think?”

    Having criticised the church for an image which is his, not theirs, as being “a little too on the nose”, Mehta then word-paints a “next step” which is even more “too on the nose” – yet it’s clearly his next step, not theirs; in faux outrage he’s word-painting Christians as taking the next step in grossness, though the hypocrite is himself taking that next step beyond his own first step in grossness.

    Accompanied, I see, by the usual braying pack of rabidly anti-Christian followers in the comments; not a one is bright enough, conscientious enough and intellectually honest enough to look up what the sign is about, or knowledgeable enough to already know; all are ignorant and pig-ignorant followers of their jeer-leader.

    Mehta’s ‘Jesus as “Hole-y Ghost”’ “next step” shows a total misunderstanding of the Trinity; it is an atheist fantasy; it derives from and plays to atheist ignorance, atheist stereotypes, and atheist malice.

    How to sum up? If Mehta had directed similarly ignorant, irrational, pig-ignorant jeers towards someone who was eg Black, a woman, LGBT2S*, he would be branded a racist, a misogynist, a hate filled hate speaking bigot.

  22. Dhay says:

    Hemant Mehta, having found an evangelical Christian musical director – not a well-qualified minister but a well-qualified musicologist – and fellow patheos blogger who is as incapable as himself of actually reading the text referred to, has doubled down with a second post on that same “Nailed It” sign. Mehta starts:

    I had so many questions for the pastor who signed off on this…
    Did he think the torture of Jesus was funny?
    Was he trying to be cool and hip? (Because he was neither.)
    Who was he trying to impress?

    Which tells me Mehta has still not looked up the sign’s context – see my response above to see why Mehta’s three “questions” simply ignore the actual sign and address Mehta’s fantasy version only. His clueless non-answer to those “questions” emphasises that I was right to accuse him of faux outrage: he was out for a laugh.

    I had no clue. But the only thing the sign seemed good for was giving atheists a good laugh.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/04/15/the-pastor-whose-easter-sermon-series-is-called-nailed-it-doesnt-get-why-you-find-it-funny/

    *

    What’s up with that musicologist, Jonathan Aigner – apart from an apparent inability to read and comprehend a text, that is – who so foolishly granted Mehta hegemony? Aigner’s got a bee in his bonnet about, well, apparently any of those series of pre-Easter talks which churches often put on to promote deeper understanding of the significance of what happened at Easter (“Lenten Talks” as they are called in the UK):

    Most of you who have read what I’ve written know that I abhor the preaching style of most evangelical churches. The topical sermon series has spurned more bad theology and crappy exegesis than any other. I especially dislike the silly little titles pastors give these series, the way it stamps their own brand on the gospel of Christ and peddles it out to a semi-captive audience. I’ve been in these churches, and heard some pretty bad ones. “Angry Birds.” “Not a Fan.” “Purity.” “Real Marriage.” I read about them online all the time, I see the Facebook ads, I’ve encountered the work of the bestselling authors they’re shamelessly stolen from.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ponderanew/2017/04/14/nailed-poor-theme-easter-celebration/

    Ah, a dissident evangelical by the look of it; very dissident, he “abhors”, no less; churches should adopt some preaching style which he approves of – or what, shut up?

    Aigner then says Lenten Talks (in general) have “spurned” – probably true, but surely totally the wrong word for what he probably actually means – have “spawned”(?) bad theology and crappy exegesis; that’s a matter of opinion, his is an obviously dissident or ‘maverick’ opinion, he doesn’t give any particulars regarding what he actually finds problematic, if anything, about this particular series of talks, and who is he to spout off about bad theology and crappy exegesis – just take a look at this excerpt from Aigner’s immediately previous blog post:

    Following the church year takes us to the deepest valley in the church year. We’ve walked with Christ for those 40 days. Soon, we will have greeted his entry into Jerusalem with loud hosannas and dead shrubbery. Before we know it, we will ascend to the upper room. Slumber will overtake us as our Savior prays in the garden. “Hosanna!” will turn to “Crucify him!” When the nails pierce his hands and feet, we will look down in horror to see the hammer locked in our own palm’s grip.

    When we are tempted to dissociate from the violent scene, when we want to deny our own culpability, may we press on, fixing our eyes on the Author and Finisher, as he finishes his masterpiece of love, mercy, and grace.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ponderanew/2017/04/05/20-hymns-holy-week/

    Not just crappy eisegesis from Aigner – “we will… we will… we will… when we are tempted to dissociate from the violent scene…” (no mate, I won’t do that, if you are going to indulge in weird hysterical fantasies of you and I (“we”) betraying and torturing Jesus, you can do it on your own, that’s a classic of “bad theology and crappy exegesis”) – not just crappy eisegesis but also displaying, himself, that overheated fantasy “revelling in the torture of Jesus” which he wrongly projects onto the sign and onto the Minister giving the Talks.

    By the way, he let the church know his objections “via a short, tactful post on its Facebook page.” I think not, somehow: Aigner seems to view over the top as ordinary. (I do not see Aigner’s “tactful post” there, so presume it has been removed as being one of those comments referred to by the Minister as “nor can we respond to every malicious comment”.)

    When the Minister traced and phoned Aigner to ask him about his evidently inappropriate post, Aigner was “dumbfounded”, he said.

    “But what was it about “Nailed It” that I found so distasteful,” the Brother Pastor wanted to know.

    Well, there’s the marketing, the topical sermon series based on a tiny sliver of Holy Scripture. There’s even the fact that Easter is about the resurrection, not the nails. But those aren’t the main problems.

    The marketing is presumably the sign, which arguably is unproblematic. It takes the ignorance of Mehta or the wild imagination of the musical but theologically ignorant Aigner to see something wrong. I see Mehta’s post came first, so wonder whether Aigner simply fed uncritically and unreflectively off of Mehta’s alternative facts.

    Topical sermons, being topical, are based around a stated theme. Why is it a problem that the theme title is based on a “sliver” of Colossians, it’s got to come from somewhere, and a title based on a Chapter, or on an Epistle, or on a Gospel is a) unwieldy and b) the Talks themselves. Get real.

    Aigner’s “main problems” effectively parrot or paraphrase Mehta’s blog post. Which is probably why Aigner is able to claim:

    Even my fellow Patheos blogger, Hemant Mehta, the “Friendly Atheist” gets this.

    And why he links to Mehta’s post. Looks like Aigner’s post is derivative of Mehta’s.

    *

    Aigner’s closing lines are a puzzle to me:

    “Wait! I thought we were making Christ relevant to a younger generation!”

    Apparently not.

    Lord, have mercy.

    Aigner appears to be quoting someone in that first line, but who? He’s not quoting himself from earlier in his post, he’s not quoting Mehta, the Minister seems far too dignified and restrained to say that, and a web search finds only this post.

    https://www.google.co.uk/#q=%E2%80%9CWait!+I+thought+we+were+making+Christ+relevant+to+a+younger+generation!%E2%80%9D&newwindow=1&filter=0

    My best guess is that Aigner is referring to his words immediately following the first passage I quote from him, above:

    And most of the time, I say nothing. I just let it happen. It’s another phase in the evangelical obsession to cloak its old, outdated, beautiful story in the language of the culture in the attempt to try and redeem it for Christ.

    Looks like Aigner has condemned the Talks, talks unheard, text unseen, for failing to be the “old, outdated, beautiful story” (whatever that is), the which, and only which, is approved by Aigner. By coincidence, stcordova has just posted about The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, which his link to Wkipedia tells us is, “a scholarly analysis of evangelical anti-intellectualism”; I suspect Aigner of such anti-intellectualism, of being unable to accept any interpretation except the familiar, even to the extent of rejecting the “Nailed It” talks because they might be unfamiliar territory.

    *

    Let’s return to how Mehta finishes:

    When it comes down to it, though, it looks like the church tried to “sell” the story of Jesus to an otherwise uninterested audience and chose an awful way to get the message across.

    It’s a sign, a bog-standard roadside sign, as commonly used. It’s an excellent way to get across the church’s actual message, as opposed to such as Mehta dreams up for polemical purposes. Mehta has no source of information on whether the audience is interested or not, this is just spin, this is just alternative facts.

    They also issued a statement on Facebook Thursday night. There’s no apology or even any acknowledgement that it came across the wrong way. They basically said that Jesus getting nailed to the cross is in the Bible (get it? GET IT?) as if that’s supposed to clear everything up.

    If it came across the wrong way, that’s Mehta twisting its meaning, there’s no reason why anyone capable of looking up the Colossians reference should misunderstand the correct meaning, and nothing requiring an apology. They certainly didn’t say that “Jesus getting nailed to the cross is in the Bible (get it? GET IT?)” – that’s mere Unfriendly Atheist alternative facts.

    And finally, there’s:

    Honestly, I’m surprised we’re not hearing more sermons this week with line like, “United doesn’t want you flying the friendly skies, but Jesus is waiting for you in the clouds!” It would be equally tone deaf. And exactly what we’ve come to expect from churches like these.

    Exactly what Mehta would expect, eh? He’s not one to pass up the chance to sneerlead and jeerlead, and to present alternative facts.

  23. Dhay says:

    A minor but very symptomatic example of Friendly Atheist alternative facts is in Hemant Mehta’s post dated 23 April 2017 and entitled “Two Welsh Students Launch Petition to End Collective Worship in Public Schools”.

    His opening line is:

    In Wales, where prayer is a routine part of the school day, two students have launched a petition urging the Welsh government to do away with the religious ritual.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/04/23/two-welsh-students-launch-petition-to-end-collective-worship-in-public-schools/

    “End”, no less, in the title; “do away with” in the opening line.

    Compare and contrast that with the petition itself (which he links to, so he must have read it, and it’s not exactly hard to understand):

    e-Petition: Remove the Obligation on Schools to Hold Acts of Religious Worship

    ​We call on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to pass a law that removes the obligation on schools to hold acts of religious worship​.​

    https://www.assembly.wales/en/gethome/e-petitions/Pages/petitiondetail.aspx?PetitionID=1175

    I’d say Mehta is definitely misrepresenting what the petition asks for; the petition asks it be made optional for schools to hold acts of religious worship, so that schools can choose to hold them or not to hold them, not that acts of religious worship be “ended” or “done away with”.

    *

    Reading the main article, it looks like two atheist kids (under-16’s) don’t like having to be part — unless their parents opt them out, which it looks like they’ve chosen not to, I can’t believe the kids are petitioning the Welsh Assembly (the Welsh version of Parliament) but not their own parents first — two atheist kids don’t like having to be part of religious worship in assembly and want to be able to choose to opt out.

    If so, the wording of the petition will certainly not get these pupils what they want. As the petition is worded, if enacted into law it would grant the option to opt out of having religious worship in assembly to schools (ie each school’s managers), but not to individual pupils: if Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf’s management decides it will continue having a religious assembly after enactment, these two will be part of it.

    I trust the education of these two in basic English Language and logical skills will continue until and past the point where they are able to petition for what they do want.

    Be careful what you petition for: you might get it.

  24. Dhay says:

    I spot another set of alternative facts in Hemant Mehta’s 03 May 2017 post entitled “We Should Celebrate New Information Even When It Means We Were Wrong”.

    What do you do when you learn accurate information that contradicts everything you believe? Do you accept it and change… or cling to your comforting lies? That’s really the core difference between critical thinking and dogmatism (or science and religion). Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) describes the problem and urges us to celebrate reality and be willing to change.

    [Linked: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/believe%5D

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/05/03/we-should-celebrate-new-information-even-when-it-means-we-were-wrong/

    It sounds like it features recent research by Stuart Kaplan, Sarah Gimbel and Sam Harris as published in their paper entitled Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence; and it does indeed feature that research, as the context and the link to the paper show.

    Problem is, that research presented some accurate information to its experimental subjects but also — deliberately, and knowing the subjects might and probably would spot the distortions and lies – also presented a wad of inaccurate information sexed up to be slam-dunk convincing (such as presenting a near-doubling of the number of Russian missiles so it looks like the Russians have a large advantage in numbers, instead of the accurate information that the US has an advantage in numbers); and the Oatmeal comic follows suit: like the researchers, instead of presenting “accurate information that contradicts everything you believe”, the comic presents alternative facts.

    I can’t say I’m interested in what Washington’s false teeth were made of, or other specifically US-centred facts or claims, so by all means trawl through the examples given of new information (c/w authenticating sources) which contradicts ‘what everybody knows or supposes’, but I recommend you scroll down to the enlarged words “backfire effect” and the bent-barrelled revolver and go from that panel.

    Inman starts straight away:

    “A few years ago …” [the Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence study was carried out.] Wrong: the paper was published December 2016, there was an indication in a December 2015 Cosmos interview that the results were then being processed, on a reasonable timescale we can expect the experiment itself was performed some time in 2015; that’s not “A few years ago” from mid-2017.

    Then Inman quotes two examples of beliefs to which strong counterarguments were presented in that study: the first – gun control – is accurate (See the Supplementary Materials pdf); the second – claimed to be “Gay marriage should not be legalized” – inserts a “not”, hence polarly misrepresents both the belief and the counterarguments to be their opposites.

    “What the study revealed was that the same part of the brain that responds to a PHYSICAL threat also responds to an INTELLECUAL one. This area of the brain is known as the amygdala.” Hmmm, dodgy information indeed: firstly, you will search to study in vain to discover where the study mentions a “physical threat”, the study consistently refers merely to “threats”; it might well be that there are one or more studies showing that the amygdala responding to physical threats looks the same as the amygdala responding to intellectual threats, but it’s not demonstrated or in this study. The brain is famously multi-functional, with various bits showing the same level of increased activity under a variety of stimuli – a bad smell, disgust or (as Harris’ previous papers demonstrated) simply because you have formed a negative judgement; so of course the amygdalas showed increased activity when claims were rejected, that’s what amygdalas do when rejecting a claim – the amygdala of an atheist rejecting the Virgin Birth or anybody rejecting a factual claim like 2+2=5 responds just like that.

    Inman’s “the amygdala of your brain is screaming BATTLE STATIONS” instead of calmly and rationally rejecting a false statement – and some counterarguments presented were deliberately and obviously false – is unproven; Inman is indulging in reverse inference, argument by mere association, a particularly weak form of argument, while presenting his speculation as truth.

    At the end, Inman tells us “This comic was inspired by this three-part series on the backfire effect from the You Are Not So Smart Podcast.” Ah, he’s not himself responsible for the alternative facts he presents, he’s relied on other sources; which highlights a problem with alternative facts: if you don’t bother to do basic error-checking and apply a modicum of science and reason the alternative facts pass unchecked and echo back and forth across the bubble.

    Did Mehta do any fact-checking? Apparently not. I guess he’s happy to cling to comforting lies.

    The fact-checking by Inman and Mehta is truly awful; according to the comic the paper was “By Sarah Gimbel and Sam Harris”; this will be a considerable surprise to the principal researcher, Stuart Kaplan, whose name was omitted.

  25. Dhay says:

    On S2L here I’m sure I have occasionally spotted that the shortened view of a post, as shown on the Home page, differs slightly from the full length view shown by clicking “Continue reading–>”, albeit in the very minor way that a video which appeared as a click-to-run still picture in one was a click-to-run link in the other.

    No change to the content, though — at S2L when you click “Continue reading–>” you see the same text (continued), and you run the same video. No change to the content between Home page view of a post and the full post.

    This contrasts with the Friendly Atheist blog, where clicking on “Read more…” generally reveals at the start of the full blog post not the text you have just been reading on the Home page, plus its continuation, but something different: sometimes it’s recognisably the text you have just read, with minor changes; sometimes it’s entirely different text, not a word the same.

    Compare:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/?s=Atheist+Activist+from+Colorado+Arrested+on+Suspicion+of+Second-Degree+Murder
    with
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/05/15/atheist-activist-from-colorado-arrested-on-suspicion-of-second-degree-murder/

    I don’t think Hemant Mehta actually means to deceive, it’s probably just the case that underneath every click-bait title (leading, if you click, to a click-bait post) Mehta puts what amounts to a click-bait summary sub-title.

  26. Dhay says:

    In his 25 May 2017 blog post entitled “Conservative Host: Even Peaceful Muslims “Need To Be Eradicated” After Manchester Attack”, Hemant Mehta asks – in the Home Page flyer for the fuller blog post:

    Why get rid of peaceful Muslims? They’re the best hope we have for convincing the radicals to turn away from extremism.

    The fuller blog post adds:

    The suicide bomber, we now know, was radicalized, … So we should absolutely talk about the role Islamic beliefs and religious extremism played in this attack. But right-wing commentator Josh Bernstein took it much, much further than that. He wants a complete genocide of all Muslims. Even, he says, the “peaceful” ones.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/05/25/conservative-host-even-peaceful-muslims-need-to-be-eradicated-after-manchester-attack/

    And Mehta embeds the relevant clip from Bernstein’s show, and provides a Readers’ Digest Condensed version – that’s a compliment – of what Bernstein said, including:

    “These people need to be eradicated from Western Europe, they need to be eradicated from the United States, they need to be eradicated, I would say, pretty much from everywhere,” Bernstein declared, “because they have shown time and time again — whether you’re a peaceful Muslim, whether you’re a radical Muslim — you’ve shown time and time again that you just cannot deal and cope with being in a civilized society. So we’ve got to do something about it.”

    Strong words, a call by Bernsten for eradication of Muslims “pretty much from everywhere”; which Mehta interprets as a call for “a complete genocide of all Muslims”.

    Mehta’s view is:

    I understand the desire to push back against radical Islamic extremism… but people you’re describing as “peaceful”? You’re literally admitting they’re not part of the problem. Those Muslims condemn these attacks as much as the rest of us. In their mind, the suicide bomber hijacked their faith rather than following the proper interpretation of it.

    Even if you don’t buy that explanation, why get rid of them? They’re the best hope we have for convincing the radicals to turn away from extremism.

    I’ll point out that there’s two very outspoken New Atheists with views which are very similar to Bernstein’s, and with wish-list programmes (or pogroms) which are very similar to Bernstein’s.

    One is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is on record as very clearly and unambiguously stating she wants to “crush” Islam, not radical Islam but “Islam, period”, ie including those peaceful Muslims Mehta is standing up for. Ali wants to:

    “defeat” Islam, not radical Islam, but “Islam, period”; “crush” 1.5 billion Muslims; “we are at war with Islam”; “there’s no middle ground in wars”; “There comes a moment when you crush your enemy”; “enemy”

    — see several paragraphs near the bottom at:
    https://reason.com/archives/2007/10/10/the-trouble-is-the-west/1

    Then there’s New Atheist Sam Harris, whose response to the 2006 Edge Question, “WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?” was “Science Must Destroy Religion”.

    Yes, destroy, eradication by violence. Ali would violently crush Islam; Harris, going further, would destroy religion in general.

    This is not the language of “let’s combat jihadists who wish to end the world while leaving the peaceful Muslims alone”: this is the language of eradicating Islam in any of its forms, immoderate and warlike Islam and moderate and peaceful Islam alike.

    I suggest that anyone who condemns Bernstein for his extreme views including his publicly stated wish for the eradication of Muslims “pretty much from everywhere” – even the moderate and peaceful Muslims – should also condemn Ali and Harris for their very similar views and publicly stated wishes.

  27. Ilíon says:

    Ah, but there is no such creature as “moderate and peaceful Islam”. That some nominal Moslems are “moderate and peaceful” — which is to say, they are “bad” Moslems, if perhaps good men — does not change the fact.

    The thing about a “moderate and peaceful” Moslem — i.e. a “bad” Moslem — is that you never can tell when he will decide to become a “good” Moslem.

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