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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70 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 (

    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 (

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

    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.

    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

    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:


    “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.

    “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?

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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. …

    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.


    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.

    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.

    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.!+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.

    “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​.​

    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.


    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.


    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.

    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:

    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.

  28. Dhay says:

    The title of one of Hemant Mehta’s 08 July 2017 blog posts looked intriguing and exciting, “The Book of Genesis… As Written By Someone Who Actually Knows How Sex Began”.

    Golly gosh, someone actually knows how sex began: that’s very exciting indeed, the origins of sexual reproduction being one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time; this must be breaking news of important peer-reviewed research, mustn’t it.

    Um, no: Mehta gives his readers an extract from a talk recently given to the American Humanist Association; it’s an interesting talk in its entirety, mostly covering the varieties of sexual differences found in different species, and Mehta recommends his audience click through — “The whole article is worth a read.”

    But what Mehta feeds his readers is:

    In biblical terms, Eve begat Eve and Eve and Eve, and one of those Eves had a mutation — that is, a slight genetic change — and begat a line of Evelyns. Some of these mutated further and begat lines of Ediths and Ednas. Meanwhile, the Eves were still busy begetting more Eves, but some of those mutated and became Esmes and Esmereldas. So females were really doing pretty well before males came along, thank you very much.

    The problems began when two of Eve’s daughters — let’s call them Edith and Esmerelda — started competing with each other. And thus the evolutionary arms race began. The problem was made worse by the fact that Edith continued to mutate and got new advantages over Esmerelda. Meanwhile, poor Esmerelda didn’t always mutate fast enough to keep up. Many strains of Esmereldas were wiped out because of this, and that was the end of their evolutionary line.

    But then a mutation took place that allowed some Esmereldas to swap genes with other members of the population. Members who were not Esmereldas. And this gene-swapping saved the day. That’s because some of these newly acquired genes allowed the New Esmereldas to compete successfully with that pesky Edith. True, the New Esmereldas were no longer pure Esmereldas, but by golly they were alive. So the New, Improved Esmereldas got ahead in the evolutionary arms race. And that is how sex was born. And it was good.
    [All emboldening is Mehta’s.]

    Yep, it’s a childrens’ story, of the ‘Just-So’ type. It no more tells Mehta or his readers how sex started than Rudyard Kipling’s famous stories told their readers “How the Leopard Got His Spots”, etc.

    What does that tell us about the intellectual age of Mehta’s target audience.


    Of the first 232 comments (ie at the time of my looking), only one person had obviously clicked through to read the whole talk; the rest just provided the monkey-mind stream of consciousness mindless chatter which each and every post of Mehta’s conditions you to expect.

    What does that tell us about the intellectual age of Mehta’s target audience.

  29. TFBW says:

    If you want to bypass Mehta’s echo chamber and go straight to the original article mentioned by Dhay, above, here’s the link:

    I seriously hope that Abby Hafer (author of said article) is deliberately dumbing it down for a lay audience, because it seems there’s an awful lot about it which you could point to and say, “no, that’s just completely wrong.” I mean, she starts with the idea that “female” is the original sex — i.e. that asexual organisms are all female. Maybe I’m just being an ignorant fundie creationist here, but I understood that asexual organisms were neither male nor female precisely because they were asexual. Dare I ask whether this is a feminism thing?

    She goes on to say, “then a mutation took place that allowed some Esmereldas to swap genes with other members of the population.” Reducing the entirety of gene transfer to “a mutation” ascribes miraculous power to mutations, for one thing, but what’s worse than that is the way it completely glosses over the difference between horizontal and vertical gene transfer, along with the latter’s reliance on meiosis and the specialised differences in reproductive organs between males and females.

    Seriously, Abby, I’m a layperson when it comes to biology, but I’m not so ill-informed that this ridiculously oversimplified fable of yours is even going to pass as a serious attempt to explain anything. I’d say that Mehta’s recommendation of the article does his reputation a disservice if it weren’t for the fact that his name is basically mud already.

    Ah, but that’s just the beginning of the article. Mostly it’s not about “how sex began”, or even about sexual strategies (which also rank a mention); rather, the bulk of it falls under the heading, “assumptions about nature and sex”, and how those assumptions are mistaken, of course. The introductory paragraph of that section ends with the following sentence.

    The point is there’s no one set of rules—sexuality is a free-for-all.

    Ah — I recognise that tune from Bill Nye the Gender Spectrum guy. More shoddy science being used to lend authority to the gender deconstructionist brigade. Imagine my shock. I won’t dignify it with any further critical analysis.

  30. Dhay says:

    Another alternative fact from Hemant Mehta is in his 29 July 2017 blog post entitled “The Bible Says Canaanites Were Killed, But New DNA Evidence Suggests Otherwise”. Mehta crows:

    It’s not surprising that science has (once again) shown something in the Bible to be wrong. But I can’t recall ever seeing a story like this before.

    But over at the Critical Realism and the New Testament blog the Biblical scholar Jonathan Bernier tells us:

    … Looking more specifically at the details in this study, we find that the ancient material used to produce the DNA profile came from Sidon. Now, that’s really quite significant, as Joshua never reports that Sidon was destroyed, while Judges 1:31 lists it explicitly as a city that was never conquered by Israel. Moreover, Sidon appears repeatedly as a non-Israelite city throughout the balance of the Tanakh. In other words, again, there is no biblical claim that the people of Sidon were ever wiped out and in fact a biblical awareness that they weren’t. Far from contesting the biblical claims on the matter, the DNA confirms them. …

    No, Mehta’s claim that “science has (once again) shown something in the Bible to be wrong” is ignorant bullshit. Mehta evidently cannot be arsed to read and understand the OT histories, and presumably is merely repeating the tired old “what every atheist knows” memes.

  31. Dhay says:

    Hemant Mehta tells us that when Richard Dawkins was asked “why people think atheists are immoral” — apparently even atheists think atheists are more likely to be serial killers, see — “Dawkins agreed it was a stigma atheists had to deal with, but then turned the table on those who believe morality can only come from God.”

    Turned the table — gosh — let’s see look at how Mehta claims Dawkins did this; firstly with:

    It’s bizarre, actually, because if you think about why they think that, it’s because they [should this be “we”? — Dhay] think that we don’t have a God [who’s — Mehta] looking over our shoulder, supervising everything, a Great Spy Camera in the sky looking at us. So we must be immoral!

    If the only reason you’re moral is you think you’re being supervised, I don’t want to know you!

    If … then I don’t either. But it’s an “if”, and although I hear stories of some Christians living in ‘hell and brimstone’ fear of divine retribution, the command in Deuteronomy 6, Mark 12, Matthew 22 and Luke 10 is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” So I wonder how many Christians actually are moral only because they live in fear of “supervision”.

    But whether or not individual Christians are moral because they are fearful or whether they are moral because they love God, Dawkins hasn’t addressed and answered the question of whether morality can only (or even does) come from God: Dawkins has ducked the question.

    Let’s look at it from another angle, using a parallel: the effectiveness or otherwise of the detection and enforcement system for offences against the civil and criminal law (“supervision”) is independent of how the laws were formulated and voted into law, it’s even independent of whether they are good laws or bad. Likewise, reference to the effectiveness or otherwise of “supervision” in enforcing compliance doesn’t address the question of whether morality can only (or even does) come from God: Dawkins has ducked the question.

    For later reference, here’s the Matthew 22 version of that command to love God:

    Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” — Matthew 22:34-40 NIV

    The second part of Mehta’s ‘Dawkins turned the table on Christians’ claim is:

    Maher raised the idea that Christians may think the Ten Commandments is key, so of course atheists who don’t accept it are bound to be immoral. But Dawkins shot back at that argument, too:

    They [Christians] don’t know what the Ten Commandments are!

    It’s true. I mean, nearly half of all Americans wrongly think the Golden Rule is a Commandment.

    (Links to a 2010 Pew Forum discussion:

    This isn’t quite as simple or clear-cut as Dawkins and Mehta make out: the relevant Pew question asked – with no mention of a “Golden Rule” – whether “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is or is not in the Ten Commandments. The correct answer to the question put is of course, No; so re-phrasing Mehta, nearly half of all Americans failed a Trivial Pursuits type question about the Ten Commandments. The obverse of that is, over half got it Trivially right.

    Let’s look again at that “nearly half” who got the answer Trivially wrong. That Pew question, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, maps very nicely to and from Jesus’ “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Which means the “nearly half” who were convinced that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” could not not be in the famed core of OT morality, the Ten Commandments, demonstrated their firm grasp of the centrality of the “Love your neighbour as yourself” taught by Jesus – the non-Trivial knowledge for a Christian to have.

    Rather than “turning the tables” – twice by Mehta’s reckoning – Dawkins has demonstrated himself ignorant of the core messages of Christian teaching: twice; Mehta likewise.


    Mehta finishes with a gratuitous sneer:

    And you rarely hear politicians trying to erect Ten Commandments monuments admit that the first four are nothing but ways to stroke God’s ego.

    You rarely…? Surely you never…; Mehta’s scenario is Mehta’s fantasy, and only his; and Mehta is a fantasist; or a liar.

    As regards the first four of the Ten Commandments being “nothing but ways to stroke God’s ego”, I have looked at the first two in a previous response, and concluded they are targeted at the loving (in practical terms, the serving) of people.

  32. TFBW says:

    @Dhay: “Dawkins has ducked the question.” More like he doesn’t understand it: he lacks a coherent meta-ethics. Take any half-dozen Dawkins pronouncements on morality, and see if you can resolve the conflicts between them.

  33. Ilíon says:

    … or whether he can resolve the conflict between his issuing of *any* of his many assertions of moral obligations-for-others and his meta-physical commitment that there are no such things as moral obligations.

  34. Dhay says:

    Sarabeth Kaplin’s 13 August 2017 post on the Friendly Atheist blog entitled “I’m Christian, But I Can’t Ignore My Faith’s Role in the White Supremacist Rally” and commenting on the protesters versus Rally participants inter-group violence, includes:

    Sam Harris began The End of Faith with a story of a hypothetical terrorist attack designed to kill innocent people and asked of the terrorist, “Why is it so easy… so trivially easy — you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it easy — to guess the young man’s religion?” Using similar logic, is there any doubt which religion is followed by the vast majority of white supremacists marching with their tiki torches in Virginia?

    It is easy but stupid for a writer to promote their own prejudices by an appeal to stereotypes and to the readers’ prejudices; Harris did so and Kaplin has explicitly followed in his footsteps.

    It’s easy, it’s facile, it’s stupid and prejudiced; and it’s oh-so-easily parodied:

    Sam Harris began The End of Faith with a story of a hypothetical terrorist attack designed to kill innocent people and asked of the terrorist, “Why is it so easy… so trivially easy — you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it easy — to guess the young man’s religion?”

    Using similar logic, is there any doubt which religion is followed by the vast majority of white supremacists marching with their tiki torches in Virginia?

    Using similar logic, is there any doubt which religion or none is followed by the vast majority of serial killers?
    … and …

    Why ever would one accept the first one or two, but not also the third?

    But what would you expect from someone writing for Mehta’s blog: she’s probably a serial killer.

  35. Dhay says:

    I see that in his 14 August 2017 blog post entitled “Kentucky Group Will Protest Eclipse Because It’s Getting Too Much Attention” …

    … Hemant Mehta has fallen hook, line and sinker for a 24-7 Press Release article entitled “”Kentuckians for Coal” to Protest the Solar Eclipse August 21!”

    Mehta starts:

    You knew this was bound to happen: There is a group that plans to protest the upcoming solar eclipse.

    Because the universe has gotten away with doing whatever it wants for too damn long.

    Ah, this is a press release by reality-denialists, people to be scorned and laughed at … if we follow Mehta’s lead.

    Staring in Mehta’s face are the possiibilities that a) the press release is carefully crafted to attract maximum press (and Friendly Atheist) attention, to raise attention to the plight of a former coal-mining town, and b) someone’s taking the piss.

    I note that the assembly is to be right outside a “fake news” newspaper, that the psychic Edgar Cayce and “a terrifying landing by space aliens in 1955” are mentioned — smiley faces to indicate a Poe, surely — also that the 500 placards already prepared for protesters to wield include messages such as, “That’s what she said!”

    So while there’s an off-chance this article is designed to raise awareness of the town’s economic plight, I don’t really doubt that this is an utter piss-take designed to see how many credulous and gullible people will turn out to protest outside a newsroom carrying silly banners.

    Or perhaps it’s both.

    I don’t think Mehta has been the same since “credulous” and “gullible” were removed from all online and new edition dictionaries.

    Silly man. Silly blog.

  36. Dhay says:

    In his 15 August 2017 blog post entitled “So Much for a Finely Tuned Universe”, Hemant Mehta plugs a YouTube video by Alex J. O’Connor (a.k.a. CosmicSkeptic).

    O’Connor is a spotty-faced adolescent; born 27 March 1999, he presumably he left school just a few weeks ago. Yet for Mehta and his readership, O’Connor has increasingly become a go-to authority on all sorts of subjects. I wonder, is it likely that a school-leaver actually is an authority on cosmology?

    And why should Mehta be keen to project to his readership that spotty-faced 18-year olds (and younger — he’s been YouTubing for years) can be authorities on just about everything.

    That’s something of a rhetorical question, really.

    Someone who is an authority on cosmology, and definitely an authority on the physics of the finely-tuned universe, is Luke A. Barnes; he has studied the subject over a number of years, from peer-reviewed papers (eg the 2011 to a recently published lay-person level book.

    Which is why O’Connor’s ‘gotcha’ reply of “How do you know?” to Barnes’ brief — it’s Twitter — correction of O’Connor is so hilarious.

    O’Connor fits the stereotype of the ‘teenager who thinks he knows everything’ oh-so-perfectly.

  37. Dhay says:

    Only three days after Sarabeth Kaplin’s 13 August 2017 post on the Friendly Atheist blog entitled “I’m Christian, But I Can’t Ignore My Faith’s Role in the White Supremacist Rally” and commenting on the protesters versus Rally participants inter-group violence, there’s Hemant Mehta’s own 16 August post entitled “Alt-Right Expert Claims Movement Includes a “Lot of Agnostics and Atheists””.

    In her post Kaplin claims – actually no, she insinuates, insinuates strongly, several times, without actually saying it – that “the vast majority” of the Charlottesville White Supremacy Rallyers were Christians.

    Gosh, she’s “annoyed by the refrain of #NotAllChristians” apparently flooding in on her social media feeds – perhaps those people social-media-feeding her that #NotAllChristians refrain are as prejudiced and stereotype bound and ignorant of the reality (read on) as she herself is – is annoyed because “these “reminders” that not all Christians act a certain way is irritating”; and she then insinuates that “the vast majority” of the Charlottesville Rallyers are Christians: yes, “the vast majority”. To use a phrase we will see Mehta using later, “There’s no evidence to back that up, though. It’s pure anecdote.” Or in Kaplin’s case, it’s pure speculation and prejudice.

    Though I hardly recognize the Jesus that racist Christians claim to worship, it’s time to admit that being a Christian and a bigot are not mutually exclusive identities

    Sam Harris began The End of Faith with a story of a hypothetical terrorist attack designed to kill innocent people and asked of the terrorist, “Why is it so easy… so trivially easy — you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it easy — to guess the young man’s religion?” Using similar logic, is there any doubt which religion is followed by the vast majority of white supremacists marching with their tiki torches in Virginia?
    [Already commented on,see three responses above.]

    Kaplin is obviously clueless about what the Rallyers’ religions or none might be, but that doesn’t stop her projecting as truth what her own extreme prejudices tell her “must” be the case.


    Three days later, Mehta’s post contradicts Kaplin and her stereotypes and prejudices – and those of her social media feeders, too:

    Professor George Hawley of the University of Alabama has a new book out next month called Making Sense of the Alt-Right. It’s a deep dive into the movement and the people who make it up.

    Yep, as the blog post title has already told us, Mehta is in no doubt that Hawley is an “Alt-Right expert”; that is, that Hawley’s views and knowledge of the Alt-Right are those of not just an expert but an in-depth expert and genuine authority.

    So by Mehta’s own account it shouldn’t be “Alt-Right Expert Claims Movement Includes a “Lot of Agnostics and Atheists”” – it’s shouldn’t be that deceptively spinning (implied merely) “claims”, it should be “declares with expert knowledge”.

    A “Lot of Agnostics and Atheists”. Is there some fault in Hawley’s methodology – perhaps Hawley doesn’t get out much, perhaps he’s based in one of the more heavily atheist and agnostic areas of the country and this has skewed his findings and conclusions; but no, he’s based in Alabama, deep in the Bible Belt, at the opposite end of that particular spectrum. It’s almost a wonder that in his local area he found any atheists or agnostics in the movement at all. But:

    I would say it is definitely a young movement. I’d say that it is predominantly white millennial men. It is not sort of stereotypically conservative in its profile. I’d say that probably it is a more secular population than the country overall. That is, there are a lot of agnostics and atheists or people who are just generally indifferent to religion. And I think that it is a fairly well-educated movement on average, that as I think that probably the model alt-right member has at least some college education.

    [Mehta’s emphasis.]

    Mehta acknowledges that “The sort of people who hang out on hateful internet forums aren’t exactly swapping Bible verses …” ie obviously Christian “… But it’s not like they’re spreading Richard Dawkins passages either. The idea that they’re atheist or Agnostic suggests that alt-righters have put thought into he subject of religion and — more importantly — are acting on those beliefs.”

    Then follows two Kaplin-style insinuations, the which, Kaplin-style, are based upon, and show up, his ignorance:

    If anything, the Religious Right’s roots are planted in the white nationalist movement. (You’ll never guess which religious demographic is most likely to oppose interracial marriage…)

    So the Alt-Right must be Christians, mustn’t they. As Mehta says of Spencer: “There’s no evidence to back that up, though. It’s pure anecdote.” Or in Mehta’s case, pure “you’ll never guess…” insinuation.

    Mehta admits that, yes, “Richard Spencer, one of the figureheads for the alt-right movement, is an atheist”, but looks quickly through the book and finds little mention of atheists:

    … the only significant mention of “atheist” or “Agnostic” was a quote from Spencer describing the average alt-right supporter as

    “someone who is thirty years old, who is a tech professional, who is an atheist, and who lives on one of the coasts.”

    There’s no evidence to back that up, though. It’s pure anecdote.

    Anecdote, perhaps, Mehta, but if Theresa May were to give me a similarly brief characterisation of a typical Tory supporter, I’m going to take it seriously as coming from someone in a position to know. Spencer, a leader, an open atheist himself, has described the ‘average’ Alt-Right supporter – and he’s in a position to know – as being an atheist.

    Did Hawley have any further justification for saying the movement primarily consisted of non-religious people? I asked him that question last night and he told me this:

    … in my qualitative research, I did not talk to a single Alt-Right supporter that was a serious Christian. There are Christians in the movement, but most of the leaders share Spencer’s views of Christianity. On average, I am confident that the Alt-Right is much more fond of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris than, say, Pope Francis or Russell Moore. That said, the Alt-Right has largely moved away from its overt hostility to Christianity, probably because it does not want to alienate potential supporters.
    [Mehta’s emphasis.]

    (I see Mehta uses lower-case “alt-right”, so presumably this quote containing “Alt-Right” has been copy-pasted from an e-mail or similar text, hence is Hawley’s own words.)

    Let’s re-phrase that first bit: Hawley has never talked to even one Alt-Right supporter that was a serious Christian; re-phrased again, Hawley has never talked to even one serious Christian who was an Alt-Right supporter.

    Sounds clear enough to me: instead of the religion of “the vast majority” of the Alt-Right Rallyers being Christianity, as Kaplin insinuates – and it’s most certainly not the active, serious Christianity of “the Religious Right”, as Mehta insinuates – those Rallyers are “on average” atheists.


    Mehta spends much of his post in damage limitation: Alt-Right supporters might not be strong Christians but he hasn’t seen evidence that they’re strong atheists either.

    It’s also worth mentioning that several large atheist organizations in the country unequivocally condemned the alt-right march, including the Center For Inquiry, American Humanist Association, International Humanist and Ethical Union, and American Atheists. No group with any sort of prominence has defended the alt-right crowd. (Update: The Freedom From Religion Foundation has released a statement denouncing the alt-right as well.)

    Gee whizz, what impressive evidence: except that these are “Science and Reason” liberal social-political activist organisations which attract similarly minded liberal social-political activists. (Tories don’t join the Labour Party, nor do even the vast majority of Labour supporters.) I doubt these organised politically liberally oriented groups would claim to speak for the majority of atheists, only for their actual memberships; and if they ever did make that broader claim, I’d want to see it backed up.

    So let it be known that even if the alt-right is made up of non-religious people, no organized group of atheists wants anything to do with them.

    Let’s re-phrase that: even if no organized group of atheists wants anything to do with them, the alt-right is made up of non-religious people. I don’t think there’s any doubt, not even in Mehta’s mind, that they are actually atheists, though he quibbles whether they are strongly and actively atheists (New Atheists?)

    What was it that Kaplin (nearly) said: it’s time to admit that being an atheist and a bigot are not mutually exclusive identities


    It’s perhaps as well that the hated Alt-Right have been authoritatively identified as being atheists and (anecdotally) as not including a single strong Christian. We now know authoritatively that atheists are far, far more likely than Christians to be supporters of the Alt-Right and members of those Charlottesville Rallyers.

    For those who would blacken Christianity by associating it with the Alt-Right, as Kaplin attempted to do, Hawley’s evidence that they can’t do so must be a disappointment indeed. Yet for those many who would love to blacken the Alt-Right and the Charlottesville Rallyers, by association with a demonised group, Hawley’s expert testimony must be a God-send – atheists! ‘Everybody knows’ – even atheists themselves, apparently – that atheists are the group most likely to be serial killers.

    When they’re not Rallying at Charlottesville, that is.

  38. Dhay says:

    I wondered, if the Alt-Right are atheists (and also agnostics, but not strong Christians), were there any Christians involved at all. So I looked at to see who the opposition — the protesters against — were, and found Mark Bray’s Washington Post article entitled “Who are the Antifa?”:

    … antifascists again captivated the public imagination by battling the fascists assembled at the “Unite the Right” white power rally in Charlottesville.

    But what is antifa? Where did it come from? Militant anti-fascist or “antifa” (pronounced ANtifa) is a radical pan-leftist politics of social revolution applied to fighting the far right. Its adherents are predominantly communists, socialists and anarchists who reject turning to the police or the state to halt the advance of white supremacy. Instead they advocate popular opposition to fascism as we witnessed in Charlottesville.

    Ah, Antifa the (main?) anti-Rally protesters, are “predominantly communists, socialists and anarchists”, ideologies not famed for their friendliness towards Christianity and Christians; presumably Antifa groups contain few Christians, those few feeling uncomfortable and out-grouped, or none.

    Remember George Hawley’s “I did not talk to a single Alt-Right supporter that was a serious Christian.”

    Was this, possibly or probably predominantly, perhaps even completely, an atheist-Right versus atheist-Left spat?

  39. Ilíon says:

    Was this, possibly or probably predominantly, perhaps even completely, an atheist-Right versus atheist-Left spat?

    No, it was an atheist-left vs other atheist-left “spat” … *intentionally caused* by the allies-in-government of the former.

  40. TFBW says:

    @Ilion: while I agree with you (especially the “intentionally caused” part), I think it’s time to abandon the traditional meaning of “The Right” in politics. Let the Nazis have that designation, and refer to fiscal or political conservatism in explicit terms.

    Personally, I have figured out to my own satisfaction why Marxists and Nazis are forever at each other’s throats, despite the fact that they have more similarities than differences, and it is because they are mirror images of each other, like a left and right hand. This is the sense in which “Antifa” is an appropriate name.

    To explain: Nazis, Fascists, and White Supremacists are The Right. They believe that the strongest should rise up and displace or kill the weakest and least productive, then rule over the remainder by merit of strength. It’s an ideology only a sociopath could love, unless you felt backed into a corner by a hostile under-class. It’s an openly aggressive position.

    Marxists, Communists, and Anti-Fascists are The Left. They are the exact opposite. They believe that the weakest should rise up and displace or kill the strongest and wealthiest, then rule over the remainder by merit of justice for former oppression. This is a passive aggressive position, where one wins battles not by open combat, but by provoking the other into acts of aggression and then rioting over the injustice of it all, giving justification to one’s own escalating violence. They have passive-aggressive names, like “Black Lives Matter”, implying that everyone else thinks black lives don’t matter.

    The Left is the more seductive ideology, as it coats all its poison in worthy ideals like fairness, justice, and an end to racism, prejudice, and oppression. This is why people are quick to denounce violence on The Right, but go soft on The Left. Thing is, The Left manufactures its own victimhood in order to advance its agenda. It can not be appeased. Also it is just as racist and prejudiced as The Right by any objective measure, but conceals it in a smokescreen of victimhood.

    Given this understanding of The Right and The Left, it’s clear that The Centre is the place to be, and it’s the place described by Galatians 3:28. I don’t know how much of the escalating violence can be attributed to atheism as such, but I think that this trend is simply to be expected given the rise of the “nones” which the atheist activists celebrate. Leftism and Rightism have filled the “none” vacuum to some degree.

  41. Dhay says:

    Further to my response above regarding Hemant Mehta’s gullibility about the “Kentuckians for Coal” anti-eclipse protest at Hopkinsville — his blog post was based upon a single press release in a nationwide ‘cost effective press releases for businesses etc company’, not the local media, and there’s many an internal ‘winking smiley’ in the release to indicate it’s a Poe — the eclipse has now passed without any report of any protest.

    The alleged protest was to assemble outside of the Kentucky New Era newspaper offices for the handing out of 500 pre-prepared placards (or bring your own). Not a protest a paper could miss right outside their offices. The paper’s website has no mention of any such protest:

    Nor does entering [“Kentuckians for Coal” Hopkinsville] (omit brackets) into my browser reveal any press report of such a protest happening.

    Gullible Mehta.


    PZ Myers also fell for it hook, line and sinker with his 15 August 2017 blog post, “You can count on coal 24/7. You can’t always depend on the sun!”

    Mehta’s (many) and Myers’ (few) followers also largely fell for it, too. Although some spotted it must be satire or a Poe, many took the release and posts at face value and jeered the stupid Kentuckians. It’s time now for them to jeer their own stupidity.

    Mehta’s followers are in a class of their own, so many veering all over the place, evidently with the attention span of gnats, contributing — if that term is correct — inanities. But what’s new. The following of evidence and reason is clear in some responses, but obviously absent from most.

    Mind you, I’d say Mehta and Myers took the lead in not following evidence and reason.


    My ad-blocker blocks 22 adverts on a fresh load of Myers’ site, and 34 adverts on Mehta’s. I guess that, for both but especially Mehta, a click is a click is a click is an earner, whether the post is evidenced and rational or whether the post is spin or fake news gullible garbage. Any post earns, however rotten.

  42. Dhay says:

    Hemant Mehta, in his 22 August 2017 blog post entitled “Christians and Atheists Speak a Different Language on Facebook”, tells us that:

    In 2013, a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that Christians seemed happier on Twitter than atheists, judging from the words they used. Atheists also swore a lot more.

    And a recent study of information — again, the data set is from several years ago — which Facebook users had been made publicly available found pretty much the same, this time with a ‘word-cloud’ to show the distinctive words which self-identifying Christians used but atheists generally did not, and another which showed the distinctive words which self-identifying atheists used but Christians generally did not. Mehta kindly reproduces those word-clouds:

    Yep, Christians seem happier on Facebook, too, and atheists swear a lot.

    The most distinctively atheist word on Facebook, and by quite a bit, is “fucking”,

    Top atheist words by both how distinctively they characterise atheists (indicated by word size) and how frequently atheists use them (indicated by brightness of word colour) include:

    fuck, fucking, fucked, shit, fuckin, bloody, dead, drunk, I’ve, I don’t, …</blockquote

    Mehta surely draws attention to this study and to its results as a damage limitation exercise: if he can pre-load his readers with his spinning ready answer, they'll blank with that answer when they see the study referred to later. How Mehta spins explains the results is:

    [Twitter study] I thought there was a perfectly good explanation for that, and it wasn’t that Christians were nicer, kinder, or less angry. Simply put, when atheists (who identify that way) are on Twitter, we’re likely to talk about problems with religion. We’re reactionary for a reason. Internet Christians, on the other hand, talk a lot about God and their churches. They share images with Bible verses. On the whole, they have little reason to complain.

    [Facebook study] In case you see articles about this study online, let’s hope they all note that this isn’t a value judgment. There’s nothing wrong with the words atheists use online. The unique words we use are just different from the unique ones religious people tend to use. And again, remember that atheists tend to vent online. (It’s not like most of us discuss religion in a private setting once a week.) Believers have the luxury of not having to fight for their rights all the time. Their views are represented at the highest levels of power.

    No wonder they’re so damn happy.

    It’s all very simple, isn’t it: atheists are angry because they are put upon and at the bottom of the pile, Christians happy because they are comfortably at the top. Hmmm, looks to me like Mehta’s provided a rationalisation, spin.

    What the study tells me is that the stereotype of the angry internet atheist out on a rant isn’t merely a product of prejudice; it’s supported by science, evidence and reason.

  43. Dhay says:

    In his 25 August 2017 blog post entitled “Christian Textbook Urges Readers To “Keep a Closed Mind” Hemant Mehta castigates a Christian book for saying:

    Lesson Summary
    In 1 Timothy 4, Paul is very specific about why it is so important to keep a closed mind. With approximately ten thousand thoughts going through our brain waves every day, it is easy for the wrong things to slip in. This lesson focuses on why having a closed mind is essential to living a Christ-pleasing life.

    Lesson Aim
    To close our minds to unrighteous thoughts as they come through various diversions, demands and deceptions.

    This, according to Mehta is an instruction to Christians to completely close their minds and let no new thoughts in whatsoever. Not that I can see why Mehta should suppose that, except as a thin excuse for a gratuitous sneer at supposedly closed-minded Christians.

    Now what ever sort of person would suggest you shouldn’t concentrate your mind on being a good Christian (in the best sense) and shouldn’t close your mind to the spectrum of unrighteousness – a spectrum ranging from lack of love of neighbour right up to theft, fraud, violence or even murder.

    The answer is, Hemant Mehta apparently thinks you shouldn’t, and he is using his Friendly Atheist blog to get that message, unwholesome at best and evil at worst, out to his rabble of scatter-brained follower atheists.

    Maybe that’s why even atheists think atheists are more likely to be serial killers.

  44. Dhay says:

    I see Hemant Mehta has competition of a sort. The Atheism and the City blogger, aka ‘The Thinker’, has posted:

    Amazingly, evolutionary biologist Nick Matzke has charted the evolution of anti-evolution (read: creationist) legislation in the US, as reported a few years ago by Slate. Ironically of course, it looks remarkably similar to the tree of life of actual Darwinian evolution. Don’t these creationists see the irony?
    From the article:

    To make the chart, Matzke performed a phylogenetic analysis, tracking the language in 65 bills since 2004 that have sought to limit or oppose the teaching of evolution. He found that these bills had been directly reproduced with a few mutations and modifications. For the most part, all employed the seemingly reasonable-sounding strategy of encouraging educators to “teach the controversy.” Shocker: It’s the same technique that has been used in bills that oppose the teaching of climate change.
    [Phylogenetic tree of language used in successive bills.]

    Amazingly, “amazingly” has no meaning — unless ‘The Thinker’s readers are very easily amazed. That a phylogenetic tree is an example of phylogenetic trees in general, and looks like many other phylogenetic trees, should surprise and “amaze” nobody; furthermore, and contrary to ‘The Thinker’s claim, it neither looks to me “remarkably similar to the tree of life of actual Darwinian evolution” — that latter being a much more extensive and complicated tree — nor does the source article claim it does.

    That is, ironically, the phylogenetic tree of the 65 bills doesn’t look “remarkably similar”, except in a very superficially way, to the tree of life of actual Darwinian evolution. The remarkable resemblance is a figment of ‘The Thinker’s imagination.

    As for creationists seeing “the irony”, it’s not creationists who constructed the tree, it’s not creationists reading the Slate article reporting Nick Matzke’s “bill” tree construction, the tree doesn’t look like the Darwinian [**] tree; it’s ironical that “these creationists” — no nuance there, just ignorance that many creationists are perfectly happy with evolution and the Darwinian tree — should be expected to even sight the tree, let alone feel any irony.

    (** Is this right? — I always thought phylogenetics (“classification”) long preceded Charles Darwin.)

    Looks like the same ignorance, pig ignorance, insinuation, false information, and pandering to the baser instincts of the fan base found in Mehta’s posts.

    Except — unlike Mehta’s posts — exactly zero fan comments have flooded in during the month since he posted.

    An ‘award’ logo and accompanying text tell us that this blog is “Selected As One Of The Top 30 Atheist Blogs Every Atheist Must Follow!” (Yes, complete with exclamation mark.) If “every atheist” is dutifully following this blog, they are remarkably quiet about it.

  45. Dhay says:

    Hemant Mehta’s 24 September blog post entitled “Man Kills 1, Wounds Several Others, Outside Tennessee Church” reports an attempt to commit multiple murders of churchgoers.

    When Mehta reports some tragedy involving churchgoers it’s usually to gloat (or to enable his rabble of followers to gloat) or it’s to deny involvement by an atheist. In this case Mehta pointedly says:

    We don’t yet know the shooter’s name. We certainly don’t know his motives. But I hope for damn sure this wasn’t an attack on people because of their faith. …

    So we know which of those two is likeliest: ah yes:

    Emanuel Kidega Samson made several cryptic Facebook posts, one alluding to a sudden attack, on Sunday morning before police say he went on a shooting rampage at a church in Antioch where he used to attend.

    Samson, who, according to his Facebook page, is originally from the Sudan, wrote just before 11 a.m., “Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice versa, B.”

    The murderer used to be Christian, but has now flipped and is now emphatically not Christian.

    It’s a damage limitation exercise.

    Mehta promised “More on this story as it develops.” The original blog post has not been updated, nor, two days later so far, has there been a subsequent post. Crickets.

  46. Dhay says:

    Nothing more on that story. Still crickets.


    In his blog post dated 02 October 2017 and entitled “A Christian Created a Mass Panic on a London Train by Preaching About Death” Hemant Mehta tells us:

    Given the terrorist attack in Manchester, England a few months ago (not to mention the mass shooting in Las Vegas last night), you can understand why people on the train in London would freak out when a man begins talking about how everyone’s going to die.

    But it wasn’t a terrorist.

    It was a Christian preacher shouting things like, “death is not the end.”

    Odd, Mehta links to just the BBC report, which tells us the preacher wasn’t shouting, he was speaking:

    … began reading lines aloud from the Bible. … asked the man to stop speaking …

    At which polite request “the guy stopped and stood there with his head down.”

    And far from being a genuinely frightening figure, the people in his immediate vicinity not only didn’t react, they stayed calm and unbothered, the train guard and the police likewise — it’s only a few years since a suspected terrorist (who wasn’t) got shot in the head as a precaution in case he might trigger a bomb, a massive contrast in police behaviour showing how unconcerned they were in this case:

    Cops, transport police here to meet him, all very calm, police shake his hand, take him to chat. Some people offer to be witness for him

    Another source says he wasn’t shouting, he was reciting verses from the Bible.

    One passenger, Ian, said: “I specifically heard him say things about homosexuality and sex before marriage being sins and how we had to repent for our sins, the lord gave his son for our sins et cetera. I sort of zoned out a little after that as I had no interest in listening to him.

    “The passengers immediately around me didn’t really react. It seemed it was some people further down the carriage behind me started to panic and push and as the train was packed they caused a crush and more panic and the Chinese whispers snowballed I guess.”

    Ah, the problem was ‘Chinese whispers’, a process of innocent accumulation of distortions; or in Mehta’s case, ‘Chinese shouting‘ of deliberately made up distortions.

    Other terms for that are the thread OP’s “Alternative Facts”, though I quite like the modern “Fake News” or that good old-fashioned term, “Lying.”

  47. Dhay says:

    Distracted weaving stories together, I omitted to point out that, contrary to Mehta’s claim quoted above, no source that I can find says the preacher was “talking about how ‘everyone’s going to die.'” Mehta’s made it up.

    And no source included Mehta’s insinuation that the preacher threatened everyone’s going to die … today, now! Mehta’s made it up.

    So far as I can tell, the preacher was not talking about death but about eternal life, the resurrection: as Mehta himself quotes, albeit without understanding it, “death is not the end.”

  48. Dhay says:

    I see the Guardian’s account includes:

    “He was quite well spoken and calm,” …

    That’s very different from Hemant Mehta’s sensationalised report of him shouting. Mehta took the little information that he had at the time, added details which were not in the original BBC News article he linked to (nor anywhere else), hence which were evidently purely products of his own imagination, and happily lied to his readers.

    In a very friendly manner, I’m sure, as one would expect from the eponymous Friendly Atheist.

  49. Dhay says:

    In her 21 October 2017 Friendly Atheist post entitled “Trump Administration Pushes Abstinence and “Rhythm Method” Over Contraception” Sarahbeth Caplin’s message is encapsulated by the title and by the observation that the second method is notoriously unreliable and ineffective in 25% of users.

    Caplin portrays the leaked plans as (adapting the quote below) a “desperate attempt to keep [women] from accessing [oral contraception] in order to enjoy “consequence-free sex.””

    She compares how women’s contraception is treated differently from men’s:

    You never see this kind of desperate attempt to keep men from accessing Viagra in order to enjoy “consequence-free sex.”

    Caplin’s probably not the best person to give advice on contraception methods; she thinks Viagra is a contraceptive.

  50. Dhay says:

    In his 23 October 2017 blog bog entitled “Dan Brown Offers Blistering Critique of Religion in Interview for New Book” Hemant Mehta quotes Brown from an npr interview:

    … You know, I don’t think anybody who reads this book will think that I have a soft spot in my heart for creationism.

    I personally believe that it’s shocking in the year 2017 that we can have American congressmen who openly proclaim the earth is 6,000 years old and that the fossil record was put there to test our faith. And because it’s a religious idea, not only are we not allowed to question or ridicule it, we are debating whether or not to teach it in our schools, and that’s upsetting to me. I really feel that religion does itself no favors by declaring itself immune from rational scrutiny.

    And Mehta adds, “If I ever get a tattoo…”; Mehta evidently agrees wholeheartedly.

    Hmmm. I personally believe that it’s shocking in the year 2017 that … that we can have an American author declare that we are not allowed to question or ridicule religious ideas; religious ideas in general, by the look of it, and specifically those “the earth is 6,000 years old and that the fossil record was put there to test our faith” religious ideas which are .. but I’ll let PZ Myers speak on this one:

    * Young Earth Creationism is not in the Bible.
    * A “literal interpretation” is still an interpretation; “literal”, in this case, is empty of meaning.
    * The radical young earth interpretation of Genesis would have been considered heretical only a hundred years ago. This is not an eternal truth of Christianity.
    * The Bible is actually a messy, complex book full of contradictions and changing perspectives. You can’t treat it as the spiritual version of your car repair manual.
    * Christianity actually has a long history of trying to reconcile faith with scientific evidence; it’s only with this creationist nonsense that they’ve given up and resorted to outright denial.
    * Your Holy Book is not the Bible, but Whitcomb & Morris’s 1961 fan fiction, The Genesis Flood. Look it up. It’s a rationalization derived from Seventh Day Adventist prophecies.
    * You can be a solid Christian and still accept evolution; you just have to realize that the Bible (or The Genesis Flood) is not a science textbook. Quit trying to pretend it is.
    * Creationism seems to appeal most to people who only read the first page of the Bible and think they have all the answers. Surprisingly, most of the book says absolutely nothing about origins or evolution, and the core concepts of the faith are not found in Genesis 1.

    (By the way, sometimes I have to remind atheists of these things, too.)

    Myers has to remind atheists like Mehta, it seems — not that Mehta has read, has understood, has been reminded or has heeded Myers’ post.

    And does Brown (and Mehta) really think that “religion” (whatever that might be) declares itself immune from rational scrutiny.

    Hmmm. I personally believe that it’s shocking in the year 2017 that we can have an American author, Brown, who is not only ignorant of traditional Christian teachings, and the Bible itself, but also unaware of the First Amendment and its guarantee of freedom of speech and press.

    And the atheist blog owner, Mehta, is proudly equally ignorant. “If I ever get a tattoo…” I suppose over the top ignorance attracts more clicks that rational scrutiny of Brown’s words.


    Off-topic, I love this part of the The Guardian review of Brown’s book:

    Obviously, Brown hasn’t got any better at writing since his last outing. If there were an antonym for “unerring” – something that captured the way that over more than 400 pages he avoids producing a good sentence even by accident – it would be the one for Brown. He still lobs modifiers about like an out-of-control tennis machine. He still drops in Wikipedia-style paragraphs of factual boilerplate…

    I might give it the book a miss.

  51. Dhay says:

    Looking down the comments of that same post, I spot:

    I’ve had enough. Stalin was right. It’s all you can do with’em.

    ORigel to prinefan

    prinefan to ORigel

    Shoot’em in the fucking head. Dump’em in a ditch. Plain enough?

    Maybe that’s why even atheists think atheists are more likely to be serial killers.

  52. Michael says:

    Dan Brown: “we are debating whether or not to teach it in our schools, and that’s upsetting to me.”

    We are? After the interview, Dan Brown put on his leisure suit and went out to find a disco tech.

  53. Dhay says:

    Michael > … went out to find a disco tech.

    Damn that spell-chequer!


    On a lighter note, you’ll probably be interested in a book I discovered recently in an antiquarian bookshop, which throws a completely new light on the doctrine of original sin.

    It was the first edition of the Gospel of John, its flyleaf signed by the author himself; and the really interesting thing about it is that it shows that the opening words as we now know them are not as they were originally; for it originally began: In the begginning was the Spelling Mistake.

    Comparisons with the second and subsequent editions of the Gospel, and with mysteriously altered other works of the time, indicates that towards the end of the First Century AD a copyist probably checked the spelling and grammar using the Microsoft Scribe 97 program, with predictably predictable results.

    A Microsoft watcher has commented to me that ordinary everyday language was Greek at the time, and has remained so for Microsoft’s spell- and grammar-checkers ever since.

  54. Dhay says:

    PZ Myers is another who thinks Dan Brown a bad writer: in his 25 October 2017 blog post ironically entitled “Hooray! Dan Brown has published a new book!” Myers displays empathy for the “horde of appalled English majors forced to wade through the sewage and write out disbelieving summaries” as part of their coursework. Myers quotes from one such student review, then adds his own comment:

    It’s terrible, but you also get an inkling of why he is popular. His hero is supposed to be this super-smart, highly educated professor in some field so esoteric that no one has ever heard of it, yet he recites banalities as if they were profound. The truly stupid reader can follow this story and assemble superficial trivia as if they were insightful…as if they too were as brilliant as Robert Langdon supposedly is. If you are reading a book to affirm that you are clever enough to be able to read a book at all, then Dan Brown will pat you on the back on every page and coo reassuringly that yes, you are just as intelligent as a Harvard professor.

    Hmmm. Clickbait banalities (like Jim Bakker’s food tubs) recited (time and again) as if they were profound … the truly stupid reader can follow the stories and assemble superficial trivia as if they were insightful…as if they too were as brilliant (as the main and contributing authors self-portray as.)

    If you are reading a blog to affirm that you are clever enough to be able to read a blog at all [**], then Friendly Atheist will pat you on the back on every web page and coo reassuringly that yes, you too are intelligent.


    ( ** Ask yourself why some YouTube and SoundCloud atheists, their presentations devoid or nearly devoid of the written word, have large followings.)

  55. Dhay says:

    David McAfee’s 24 October 2017 blog post for Friendly Atheist, entitled “U.S. Government Ran a $666 Billion Deficit in Trump’s First Year”, starts:

    If I were a Christian, I’d take this as a sign from God.

    McAfee would?! Such credulity.

  56. Dhay says:

    David McAfee’s 28 October 2017 blog post for Friendly Atheist, entitled “Woman Will Spend Years in Jail For Beating Her Daughter Over Bible Verses” is a classic example of Friendly Atheist distortion and spin.

    McAfee alleges that the child in this case (and the child in another case five years ago, adduced as evidence that this kind of thing is happening all the time) was beaten to death for not reading their Bible.

    Bollocks! If you follow the links and links onward, you find that in both cases the ‘child wouldn’t read the Bible’ crap is, well, crap: a malicious, abusive, controlling and violent killer sought and found a reason to attack.

    In a British case that I know of an abusive father insisted his daughter both did her homework and cleaned the kitchen, and both tasks were to be completed in an impossibly short time; then he returned after that impossibly short time and punished her — sexualised punishment — for not finishing cleaning the kitchen.

    Were any of these attacked (punished, each attacker claimed) because of the claimed reason? No, the attacker found a convenient reason — any reason would have done — to do what they were going to do anyway.

    And this, I think, is obvious from the accounts. But for Hemant Mehta and for McAfee, Christianity is to blame; at least they tell their readers so.

    I must stop reading that blog; it’s moronic.

  57. Dhay says:

    In Hemant Mehta’s 30 October 2017 blog post entitled “Creationist Ken Ham Claims Atheists “Want Christianity Outlawed” he quotes a Ken Ham tweet saying:

    Atheists are not only religious zealots, most are extremely intolerant of & hateful toward Christians. They want Christianity outlawed

    Ham is too sweeping, of course, not all atheists are extremely intolerant and hateful towards Christians, and not all atheists want Christianity outlawed. Neither Ham nor Mehta can speak for all atheists.

    But Mehta thinks he can speak for all atheists, even the most vocal:

    Ham didn’t offer up any evidence of this claim. (…) But he wouldn’t be able to even if he tried. Even the most vocal atheists don’t argue for banning religion.

    Hmmm. Just a few responses above I documented:
    prinefan: I’ve had enough. Stalin was right. It’s all you can do with’em.
    ORigel to prinefan: ??
    prinefan to ORigel: Shoot’em in the fucking head. Dump’em in a ditch. Plain enough?

    And that was on Mehta’s own blog. Was, because someone — charitably, probably an assistant, because Mehta tacitly claims to have been unaware of it, though it’s still there on Disqus — deleted the two replies. That’s good, but shouldn’t the assistant have informed Mehta, so he could know not to talk ill-informed bollocks about “Even the most vocal atheists don’t argue for banning religion” when he’s got one such vocal atheist on his own blog advocating for eradicating Christians by mass-murder. It’s not a case of “Even the most vocal atheists don’t…”, it’s “Especially the most vocal atheists do…”

    And Mehta is not only unaware of what is happening at home, he doesn’t get out much, either; is it difficult to find atheists who would like to ban (make illegal, outlaw) parents from providing religious education to their children, it didn’t ought to be allowed.

    And here’s a quote from prominent atheist Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists:

    Once religious or delusions are integrated into the DSM, entirely new categories of research and treatment into the problem of faith can be created. These will include … and legitimizing interventions designed to rid subjects of the faith affliction.…

    In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is [sic] refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith.

    Boghossian doesn’t want merely to outlaw Christianity (and religion generally), or even just to create more atheists: what Boghossian wants — and what the currently 472 (target 10,000) Street Epistemologists who have publicly attached themselves to Boghossian’s stated aims and methods presumably also want — is to eradicate Christianity.

    Perhaps the book should have been called A Manual for Eradicating Religion.

    And the bottom line is that Mehta is claiming that Ham’s tweet is not just partially false, nor even mostly false, it’s totally false (“Not even the most vocal atheists…”); which is bollocks and he must know it’s bollocks.

  58. Dhay says:

    It’s only a month since part of a Hemant Mehta post included this snippet:

    … And even if this person had an animosity against religion, why the hell would he shoot up a random country music festival in Las Vegas and not, say, a megachurch in Mississippi?

    Gee, thanks, Mehta, please don’t make any more suggestions like that. The BBC reports, “Texas church shooting leaves many dead”:

    Such a shooting would probably be because this “person had an animosity against religion”, would it. I have difficulty believing the shooter wanted to shoot his wife after a domestic tiff and had very bad aim. I await the inevitable ‘we don’t yet know for sure’ blog post.

  59. Dhay says:

    The title of Hemant Mehta’s 29 November 2017 blog post entitled “Someone Stole Baphomet’s Head from the Top of a Satanic Christmas Tree” is self-explanatory and accurate; reading his post and the links to the Satanists’ FaceBook page and local news, it seems that was it, that the damage to the display was confined just to the theft of the Head; there was no actual vandalism in the sense of wilful damage to the tree or its decorations, as this comment from the FaceBook page makes clear:

    I came out with a friend to see your tree—and nothing else. And the Baphomet topper was gone! We were so disappointed. The ornaments were there, though. The hand-painted “Hail Satan” was extra cute. Do you have any for sale? I might put up some dead twigs at home to keep with the season spirit, and those would make a fine decoration.

    Mehta spins it as a Christian anti-Satanist act of vandalism, indeed, as a Christian anti-Satanist act of persecution:

    It’s worth noting, though, that if this happened to a Nativity scene, Christians would be up in arms about how people are “persecuting” them and how this is an attack on their religious freedom. Overreaction or not, they’d be understandably upset. The way the Satanists are handling this is, by comparison, very calm and forgiving.

    I suspect the Satanists have spotted what Mehta obviously hasn’t spotted: if only the striking and artistically designed head is missing, and no damage or disturbance to anything else on the tree, the head probably adorns the bedroom wall of some teenager or young man after a good evening’s drinking and fun-making.

    I reckon vandals would have wrecked the tree and smashed up the Head. Didn’t happen.

    After the Sutherland Springs Church massacre Mehta lectured that, “It’s better not to jump to conclusions and make a tragedy all about your pet issue.” Funny that, that when a Baphomet Head goes missing Mehta immediately jumps to conclusions and makes it all about his pet issue.

  60. Julian says:

    Of course its never a “false Christian” act of vandalism when one of these losers smashes their own window and scrawls “Jesus Saves” on it, is it, Hermie? Then it’s a legitimate act of Christian vandalism. Projection never requires consistency.

  61. Dhay says:

    In his 04 December 2017 blog post entitled “The Christian Version of Amazon’s Echo Will Ruin Your Date Night” Hemant Mehta tells his readers:

    Christian substitutes for secular pop culture are always worse than the real thing. They’re too preachy, caring far more about evangelizing than producing art that anyone outside their bubble would ever want to consume.

    Comedian John Crist found out the hard way that there’s a Christian version of the Amazon Echo, too.
    You know that machine would automatically set the alarm for early Sunday morning whether or not you wanted it to.

    If I read Mehta right, he’s selling his readers the idea that there really is a Christian version of the Amazon Echo. No there isn’t: comedian johnbcrist (who sent Mehta the link to the ‘Christian version of the Amazon Echo’ comedy sketch) is a producer of a long string of comedy sketches which he is trying to publicise, presumably for the advertising clicks; here’s another of many similar, called “Tryna impress your new Bible study like”:

    Is Mehta so stupid he cannot spot an obvious satire?

    Or does he suppose his readers are that stupid?


    On a quite sideways note, that “Tryna…” video quotes Jeremiah 29:11 in passing as meaning “God has plans for us”. I’ve also recently seen it quoted in a blog post as meaning that, likewise heard it (complete with wrong verse number) from a minister. In its context it doesn’t mean God has plans for us, not us today, nor can it legitimately be cherry-picked out of context to mean “God has plans for us, us today”. When I read or hear that, or a similar cherry-picked sentence-in-isolation, its pseudo-authority deriving from being a verse in the Bible, I detest the quoter’s hypocrisy.

    I remember my youth, when my main access to Christian literature was the Jehovah’s Witness spam, which was full of ‘God says …’ followed by a reference to what would almost certainly turn out to be an utterly irrelevant Bible verse: to my mind, that’s sheer dishonest, and that dishonesty misled me away from Christianity for many years.

  62. TFBW says:

    Given what Alexa has actually said in response to questions, I find Mehta’s assertions regarding the alternatives being “too preachy” to be fairly rich. Evidently, one’s perception of “preachy” varies greatly with the content of that being preached.

  63. Julian says:

    He can dish, but not take.

  64. Dhay says:

    Looks like for Hemant Mehta presenting alternative facts is deliberate policy.

    In his 19 December 2017 blog post entitled “The FDA Is Taking a Tougher Stance Against (Some) Homeopathic Products” Mehta quotes a reply from a spokesman:

    No wonder the head of one homeopathic association wasn’t bothered by the FDA’s move.

    Mark Land, president of the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists [Link to Info page provided], said …

    And you better take him seriously since he speaks on behalf of one member spread throughout the entire country.

    If you click through (Link below) to the AAHP Info page and count members, there’s 23 members; there’s very obviously not just the one member Mehta claims there is; I doubt Mehta is innumerate and has honestly miscounted — even an innumerate person should be able to distinguish at a glance there’s a lot more than one member.

    Looks like for Hemant Mehta presenting alternative facts is deliberate policy.

  65. Dhay says:

    And with 139 comments by Hemant Mehta’s rabble so far, not one has spotted Mehta’s alternative fact claim. Odd, that, for Mehta went out of his way to make it, and pointedly.

    What’s up with them? Are they very, very trusting of Mehta and his guest posters. Are they too lazy to click through, or are they too lacking in attention span to click through? Are they credulous and gullible?

    Did some readers withhold comment so as not to embarrass Mehta? Or perhaps noted the alternative fact mentally but blanked it out with disconfirmation bias?

    This exemplifies why, for me, Mehta’s followers are a rabble.

  66. Dhay says:

    In his 25 January 2018 blog post entitled “What’s the Main Source of Global Conflict? Survey Says: “Religious Beliefs”” Hemant Mehta provides his gloss on a Best Countries gloss on their own survey entitled “Religion Needs a Savior” — odd, that, for the title is the only place where a saviour or the alleged need for one is referred to, it’s just not in the text body — and subtitled “Most people think religion is the root of the world’s problems, according to a recent international study.”

    The subtitle just about says it all: they asked people across the world what they think, what is their opinion. Garbage in, garbage out.

    Nor do the results inspire confidence that the questions asked were sensible questions. “What’s the primary source of most global conflict today?” — um, just global conflict, is there any global conflict, did World War 3 start but nobody told me, what about regional or local conflict, I have no confidence in the wording — that question elicited the opinion from 30% that the primary source is “Religious beliefs”. Which sounds significant until you realise that “Power”, “Economy” and “Political beliefs”, overlapping categories which are not that easily disentangled one from another, total a much larger 55%. Which is still merely opinion.

    Oh, and if … :

    In many Muslim-majority nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, religion is directly tied to national policy and politics.

    … how do the pollsters disentangle religion, power, national economy and politics in those countries — those Muslim-majority countries where, it seems to me, most of the world’s various wars are. And how, at that, can those who were opinion-polled possibly have “it’s this but not that” clear opinions on such a tangled subject. Garbage in, garbage mangled, garbage out.

    The Best Countries article figures are embedded in a deliberately provocative initially anti-Muslim rant which then becomes a general anti-religious rant before returning again to anti-Islam:

    Raised as a conservative, Sunni Muslim girl in Canada, Yasmine Mohammed said she was taught to always be in fight mode. “The first thing Islam teaches you is to not question, but follow,” she says. And what she had to follow was a “Muslim supremacy ideology” that called for violence against anyone who fell out of line and full armies prepared to join the fight when the caliphate was to rise. Systematic suppression of critical thinking is what makes Muslims ripe to join groups like the Islamic State group or become suicide bombers without questioning the motives of their directives, she says.

    And doesn’t get better: not only is this an opinion poll, not science, it’s embedded in anti-religious polemic.


    To give the poll a spurious air of credibility they call in the “experts”:

    Spiritual beliefs create an inherent “us vs. them” scenario, experts say.

    Anonymous “experts” say … Go on, give over.

    But not entirely anonymous: the sole “expert named or quoted is Sam Harris, “a neuroscientist and philosopher who has published books on Islam and the conflict between religion and science.” Personally, I’d call Harris an anti-Muslim polemicist, which is his role here too.

    Is Harris an expert on Islam? Harris does indeed like to pose as an expert on Islam, but in his book The End of Faith, on Pp 30-31, there’s this priceless paragraph:

    Islam is a missionary religion: there is not likely to be an underlying doctrine of racism, or even nationalism, animating the militant Muslim world. Muslims can be both racist and nationalistic, of course, but it seems all but certain that if the West underwent a massive conversion to Islam—and, perforce, repudiated all Jewish interests in the Holy Land—the basis for Muslim “hatred” would simply disappear.

    It’s so stupid, so clueless, it’s hard to know where to begin: even back in 2005 when he wrote this there was plenty of Sunni on Shia violence, and plenty of Shia on Sunni violence — how could he possibly miss it? And then there were the Sunni followers of Sayyid Qutb, who had long been attacking as renegades — with bombs, not just words — not just Shia Muslims but also their very own mainstream Sunni community:

    “The main tenet of Qutbist ideology is that the Muslim community (or the Muslim community outside of a vanguard fighting to reestablish it) has been extinct for a few centuries having reverted to Godless ignorance (Jahiliyya), and must be reconquered for Islam.”

    Harris shows himself up as astonishingly naive and ignorant. Expert he obviously ain’t.


    Mehta, of course, swallows it hook, line and sinker; which shows he is rather poor at science and reason.

    I reckon Mehta puffed the poll and Best Countries article because one minor (7%) ‘predominant cause’ picked by the polled was “Fake news”, giving Mehta the opportunity to jibe:

    On a side note, I have no idea why “fake news” is a separate category. That should really be combined with the “religious beliefs” bar.

    I rather think that “Fake news” has a well-established meaning, and that by well-established usage it has no connection to religion. It’s a jibe that falls flat and makes Mehta look juvenile and silly.

    The “Fake news” choice seems an odd one to give, so odd I wonder whether it’s a winking smiley. The Best Countries article and the poll it is allegedly based on are both so bad, so skewed, so biased, so pseudoscience, so politically extreme, that I would be not at all surprised to find it is fake news itself.

    And there’s the anonymous plural “experts”, who turn out to be a solitary non-expert polemicist.

  67. Dhay says:

    More fake news from the Friendly Atheist site; reporting on a horrific case of the years-long child abuse and eventual murder of an eight-year old boy by his mother and her partner, ostensibly because the boy was “gay” (however can you tell?), Sarabeth Caplin claims:

    While their religious beliefs, whatever they were, weren’t discussed in much of the media coverage of this case …

    One early commenter, ‘TimfromMaine’, hits the nail right on the head, there was no mention of their religious beliefs (or atheism) in any of the media coverage — the LA Times site doesn’t display in Europe, but as that is where ‘TimfromMaine’ will have followed her first link to, presumably there’s no mention there either:

    Pure bullshit, I had to look back to see if this was written by David McCaffee. Religious motive wasn’t discussed in any media coverage because it didn’t exist – this was simply the work of sadistic bullies. I gather Sarahbeth’s introduction of religion to the gruesome story is to justify posting it at this site.

    Evidently ‘TimfromMaine’ has a low opinion of McAfee, as have I; but yes, there is someone yet more capable of “pure bullshit.”

    Does Hemant Mehta pay extra when his guest posters demonstrate they lack integrity?

    Having insinuated that there might have been some discussion of the perpetrators’ religious beliefs, contrary to the evidence of her own eyes — and we can be pretty sure there was nothing to quote, because we can be sure she would have been delighted to avail herself if there actually had been anything to quote — Caplin immediately continues:

    … it’s tough to pinpoint what else may have led to their thinking about homosexuality. Doctrine itself doesn’t kill people, but it’s still a powerful influence. When other Christians ask me why I’m LGBTQ-affirming, I point to stories like this as evidence of its toxic fruit.

    There was nothing about religious beliefs but … but like the opinionated pub drunk she demands, Hey, I ask you, what else could virulent anti-gay sentiment and a violent murder be caused by!

    The answer is provided by a commenter there, ‘Foxglove’:

    We shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that haters are exclusively religious. They’re not, not by a long shot. There are plenty of “secular haters”, as I call them, out there. A lot of people don’t need any real reason to hate. They just hate.

    Looks like Caplin is not only misinformed about science — above, I quote her supposing Viagra is a contraceptive — she’s also misinformed about anti-gay haters and she’s a vitriolically bigoted hater of Christians.

    And she has crap reasoning skills. (But why use reason when a simplistic and irrational polemic will both earn you a fee and provide a vent for your bigotry.)

    I ask myself, what sort of blog owner commissions posts like these.

  68. Dhay says:

    Back in March 2017 Hemant Mehta posted twice to express his outrage that the theme and title of a church’s Lenten Talks was “Nailed It”, and I responded twice (linked for convenience, see…)

    The executive summary is that Mehta was luridly fantasising that Christians were luridly fantasising about torturing Jesus. Er, no, the Colossians quote on the sign Mehta clearly says that the “It” that was nailed (and set aside) …

    … 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. …

    … was our trespasses, our record of debt, our sins.

    Two years and four months later, I find in his 13 July “Progressives Are Using #ThingsJesusNeverSaid to Point Out Right-Wing Hypocrisies” that he reproduces some nicely humorous Christian Tweets and quips. Mehta, being Mehta, evidently thinks he can do as well or better and wants the last word; he adds his own wording to go on one such Tweet:

    Nailed it.

    That one’s also on the list.

    I didn’t get it straight away, and then recollection tickled my mind and I looked back. Yep, two years and four months later, Mehta is still obsessing over “Nailed It” and his lurid fantasies that Christians have lurid fantasies.

  69. Dhay says:

    More ‘Alternative Facts’ (see thread title) from the Friendly Atheist site, this time from Beth Stoneburner (formerly Sarabeth Caplin), in her 28 January 2020 blog post entitled, “Christians Back Lawsuit Against UK Government for Not Passing Online Porn Block”.

    The very title’s utterly misleading: the “Online Porn Block”, which is Part 3 of the ‘Digital Economy Act 2017’, is existing law (requiring age-checking of anyone accessing age-restricted ‘adult’ content online); it is, furthermore, the express will in writing of Parliament, a Parliament democratically elected, hence under normal conventions Part 3 is ‘the will of the people’. The Goverment (Tory) which presented Part 3 to Parliament was and is very secular, Parliament was and is very secular, the UK populace was and is very secular: the Act and its Part 3 are wholly secular in orgin and intent.

    The intention of Part 3 is to extend to digital media the uncontentious restrictions which are already in place – and are they not in place in the US? – preventing UK children of all ages (ie not just older teenagers) from watching age-inappropriate films, reading age-inappropriate magazines, playing age-inappropriate computer games, etc etc.

    Would you allow or encourage your child to smoke, to drink alcohol, to access porn? If so, you are probably due a visit from Social Services and the Police to enforce Child Protection policies and law.

    The words and intentions of a UK Act (or in this case its Part 3) are brought into effect, after due consultation with interested parties, by means of Regulations which detail what the Act or Part prohibits and requires (and a Code of Practice usually follows, setting out model behaviour for compliance); in this case the consultation on the Draft Regulations was to have taken a year, but following (legitimate) concerns about the large dataset that (apparently) would be needed for checking ages and conflict with privacy and security, the Minister concerned sat on it for six months, then another six months, then a six month delay because of an administrative blunder, then announced an intention to water down Part 3 majorly – no age checks at all – via a proposed Act to be enacted at some time in the future.

    There’s a constitutional issue here: Part 3 is existing law but a Minister is disregarding the express will of Parliament (which is sovereign over the will of the Tory Goverment and its Minister) and is refusing to implement Part 3 of the Act. There’s already a Peer seeking to introduce proposed legislation through the House of Lords, which if passed will require the Minister to implement Part 3. (“[The Peer’s] Bill would place a duty on the Government to set an implementation date for age verification to be introduced, which is the same outcome being pursued through this legal challenge” [follows].)

    At a less exalted level, four (very secular) internet security firms, after having presumably gone to considerable expense to develop the age-checking technology needed according to existing law, are now taking the Government to court for a Judicial Review to decide whether the Minister may legally ignore existing law (with at present a mere promise to legislate to change it, no concrete proposals yet) or whether the Minister must implement the law. The four companies assert the Minister “did not have the authority to ditch the policy after Parliament had approved it and was supposed to only determine when the program would be implemented.”

    And, “A Christian public policy [ie it lobbies – Dhay] charity has applauded four technology companies for launching legal action against the Government for its failure to implement age verification on pornographic websites.” It was “one of the signatories [just one of evidently several, and if The Christian Post mentioned only this one, the remainder of the lobbying signatories will have been secular – Dhay] of a letter published in The Sunday Times”.


    That’s the potted summary of the facts. So what are the Friendly Atheist ‘Alternative Facts’? Good heavens, who’d believe it, that (according to Stoneburner):

    Evangelical Christians are using the courts to try to force an unwilling Parliament to pass a religiously inspired Bill (proposed legislation) to unfairly deny kiddies the access to hard porn they are fully entitled to.

    That’s slightly too strongly phrased, but it’s as near as dammit what Stoneburner wrote and it’s what the Friendly Atheist Commenters on her post evidently understood her to mean.

    Who’d believe that? It’s what the Friendly Atheist Commenters below evidently understood her to mean. One puzzled commenter commented that if you can’t force a Bill on the Legislature in the US, surely you can’t do that in the UK either; another, replying, agreed and hazarded it must instead be about enforcement regulations, but seems not to have grasped anything else; the rest suspended their critical faculties entirely in favour of launching their usual rants displaying mindless anti-Christian bigotry.

    There is a saying that one should not put down to malice what can be put down to incompetence; but how can Stoneburner be so utterly incompetent that she has replaced every relevant fact with Friendly Atheist ‘Alternative Facts’! There’s more than incompetence involved here.

  70. Ilíon says:

    ^ All God-deniers (both atheist and ‘agnostics’) are liars by their very God-denial.

    One may be in honest error regarding whether Christianity, of all religions and philosophies, understands God most accurately. But, no one is in honest doubt or honest denial about whether God is (nor, for that matter, about most of Christianity’s doctrines regarding both God and man).

    So, *of course* evangelical atheists are going to lie about this bill and about its supporters who are Christian.

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