Another devastating week for Scientology…and it’s only Monday

March 29, 2010

Tonight Anderson Cooper began his week-long expose on $cientology, Scientology: A history of violence. Last year saw a series of exposes on the cult from the local California news on KESQ-TV but those were only about 10 minutes each night. And of course the St. Petersburg Times in Florida has been running a long series of reports for the last several months. But now we’re talking about CNN! And not only that but each installment of Cooper’s series will be hours long.

Additionally, Cooper’s savvy enough to put the focus in the right place, less on all the Xenu stuff and more on the actual reported abuses. The reason this is important is that many people have already heard at least a little bit about the Xenu stuff and a lot of religious moderates and liberals have started to be turned off by the mockery of $cientologists’ “beliefs,” naively thinking the issue is just about a weird, goofy religion. It’s not. $cientology is not a religion and bares virtually no resemblance to one. Alleged $cientology churches look remarkably like office buildings inside and out and no actual prayer or meditation takes place in their “churches. ” $cientology is more of a multi-level marketing scheme that figured out long ago that they can get away with a lot more by wearing the costume of religion. But whenever being a religion is inconvenient such as when religious people accuse them of being anti-Christian or whatever, then they conveniently switch their tactics and insist that it’s all just a self-help program and that members are free to be both $cientologists AND Christians, etc.

But the real story about $cientology is not a religion gone wild (I know. It’s redundant). No, the real story is the slave labor and child labor that goes on in the Sea Org, the psychology denialism, the bogus medical treatments, the disconnection policies, the mind control tactics, the nearly forced abortions, the cruel and unusual punishments to enforce discipline, the whole Orwellian nature of the cult.

And not only will all this including interviews with former members be seen in living rooms across the country (and by tomorrow around the world via the internet) but as I’ve reported before an anti-$cientologist film is getting big press in Germany, where the cult is officially regarded as a criminal organization. In response, $cientology has rather amusingly announced their plans to make a rival film.

But something tells me they won’t be hiring J.D. Shapiro to write the script. Shapiro was the unfortunate individual responsible for writing the origin screenplay for Battlefield Earth. Shapiro, possibly the only non-$cientologist involved in the film, now apologizes for the film and humorously recounts how he got involved in the project, his weird experiences with members of the cult, how he got fired from the project, and how he had little to do with the most objectionable parts of the film. Also included is the transcript of the speech he gave when he bravely accepted the Razzie award for the film.

Oh yeah, and the AP has picked up the story about Marc and Claire Headley’s lawsuit against against $cientology over the treatment they received in the Sea Org.

All this pretty much guarantees that this will be in the hall of fame of worst weeks in the cult’s history.

Enough with the invisibility cloak hype already!

March 18, 2010

Notice the invisible bump

Okay, this is going to be a short one. I’ve written about the amazing invisibility cloak media hype before. It’s back in the news again and again there’s absolutely nothing new to report:

Researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology report they were able to cloak a tiny bump in a layer of gold, preventing its detection at nearly visible infrared frequencies.

Oh, did they?!

A tiny bump in a layer of gold?! They turned it invisible?!

WOW, THAT’S SO INCREDIBLY–hmm, what’s the opposite of exciting?

From Grimm’s fairy tales to Harry Potter, the cloak of invisibility has played a major role in fiction. Now scientists have taken a small but important new step toward making it reality.

Wow! It IS like Harry Potter. . .only you know, boring. Kids will be thoroughly thrilled about having the ability to cloak a tiny bump in a layer of gold, preventing its detection at nearly visible infrared frequencies.

Just think the all the amazing practical applications that will have. We’ll finally be able to hide pennies! Wait, what? That’s copper? Never mind. Just read what I wrote the last time.

News From Around The Blogosphere 3.12.10

March 13, 2010

1. Texas school board pushing Conservative and Christian spin on American history – Who’s pushing it? Why it”s the recently voted out creationist Don McLeroy. Essentially, they feel that American history is too liberal and atheist, so therefore, students should be taught about all those times Conservatism won out. That should be easy, right? Slavery? No. Keeping evolution out of schools? No. Black suffrage? No. Women’s suffrage? No. Segregation? No. Abortion? No. I guess they want a class to teach about the Great Depression that followed 12 years of conservative presidents, the early 90’s recession that followed 12 years of conservative presidents, the current economic crisis that followed 8 years of conservative rule, and of course Watergate.

2. A Winnipeg man, Rob Johnstone, struggles to find non-religious alcohol rehab program – I don’t understand why everyone’s always whining that AA is religious. Just because a group of people congregate in a church to kneel before god, pray to that god for strength, confess their sins, and acknowledge that they’re sinners by nature and thus powerless to change their sinful ways–that’s no reason to accuse AA of being a religion.

3. ‘Under God’ sustained in Pledge by Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – By a final vote of 2-1, Michael Newdow lost again to get the ‘Under God’ removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. That’s a very small amount to lose by though. At least someone in that decision was persuaded so that leaves room to be hopeful that we may prevail in the near future. Here’s the decision (PDF). Newdow’s next step is to ask the appeals court to rehear the case. If that’s rejected he says he’ll appeal to the Supreme Court.”

4. Ancient DNA found in fossil bird egg shell –

“We were really surprised to discover that ancient DNA is well-preserved in fossil eggshells, particularly the heaviest bird to have existed the elephant bird called Aepyornis, which is now extinct,” said Murdoch doctoral student Charlotte Oskam, who undertook the research.

5. Scientists discover 600 million-year-old origins of vision

By studying the hydra, a member of an ancient group of sea creatures that is still flourishing, scientists at UC Santa Barbara have made a discovery in understanding the origins of human vision.

. . .

Hydra are simple animals that, along with jellyfish, belong to the phylum cnidaria. Cnidarians first emerged 600 million years ago.

“We determined which genetic ‘gateway,’ or ion channel, in the hydra is involved in light sensitivity,” said senior author Todd H. Oakley, assistant professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. “This is the same gateway that is used in human vision.”

There once again goes the “irreducible complexity” of the eye argument. And of course for those keeping track, that’s 599,994,000 years before the existence of the entire universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

6. Simon Singh leaves The Guardian

“Being sued for libel is not only ruinously expensive, writes Simon Singh, it takes over your whole life. Which is why this will be his last column”

This is deeply sad. Singh is a fantastic science journalist and we could use people like him more than ever. But it’s inspiring to see him continue to fight for his article exposing chiropractic and for UK libel reform.

7. Surgeon goes into the faith healing business

Dr. Issam Nemeh is a certified surgeon in Cleveland, Ohio but is now using his hands more for praying over people. Numerous medical miracles are being reported by people after visiting and being prayed for by Dr. Nemeh. However, Nemeh refuses to accept the credit for any miracle that takes place with an individual. He says GOD heals people with the Holy Spirit. Nemeh insists he is only an instrument.

Well, we agree on one thing:  he’s a tool.

8. Cancer researchers in British Columbia make lymphoma ‘breakthrough‘ –

The discovery by a team of 26 scientists from throughout North America and Europe shows a new way to predict the 15 to 25 per cent of patients who will have a poor prognosis if they aren’t treated more aggressively from the time of diagnosis.

As Carl Sagan said, science delivers the goods.

9. $cientologists try to censor German film

Bis Nichts Mehr Bleibt, or Until Nothing Remains, dramatises the account of a German family torn apart by its associations with Scientology. A young married couple joins the organisation but as the wife gets sucked ever more deeply into the group, her husband, who has donated much of his money to it, decides to leave. In the process he loses contact with his young daughter who, like his wife, is being educated by Scientology instructors.

Scientology leaders have accused Germany’s primary public TV network, ARD, of creating in top secret a piece of propaganda that sets out to undermine the group, and have demanded to see it before it is broadcast.

Oh, come on! When have the Germans ever been known for making propaganda films? Kidding. I hope the film makes a gazillion dollars.

Catholic sex scandals episode 20,000

March 7, 2010

Yup, it’s that time again. No, not for the Wheel of Morality. That comes at the end. It’s time for more sex scandals, courtesy of everyone’s favorite church.

1. A senor aide to the Pope and a Vatican chorister have been removed from their posts following allegations they were involved in a homosexual prostitution ring – One of the two, Angelo Balducci, was known as “a Gentleman to His Holiness.”

Police had been tapping his phone in connection with a corruption inquiry, when they heard about the sex ring.

2. And in New Haven, Connecticut a man is suing retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan and other Catholic church officials – The plaintiff, Brooks Thopsey, claims to have been molested at St. Theresa’s Church in Trumbull by a priest, John Castaldo, who was hired after being expelled from the seminary for being psychologically disturbed.

Egan’s spokesman has denied he ignored warning signs.

Of course he denied it. It’s actually part of Church doctrine to remain silent on such matters and to lie to protect the the reputation of the Church.

3. And then finally there’s the German school scandal, where “new revelations of child abuse by Roman Catholic priests at German high schools are surfacing almost daily.”

First it was seven alumni of the prestigious Canisius Kolleg prep school in Berlin. Then it was Aloisius Kolleg in Bonn and then St. Blasien, another Jesuit-run boarding school in the Black Forest as well as other Catholic schools in Hamburg, Goettingen and Hildesheim.

Just days ago, the renowned boarding schools Ettal Monastery and St. Ottilien in Bavaria made headlines when allegations about child molestation by Benedictine priests there surfaced. The total number of alleged victims has reached at least 150.

Once again, it should not be just the atheists who are enraged by this. Again, I call on all Catholics to officially exit the Church and renounce it not only for the heinous crimes of its employees but the now well-documented cover-ups from the highest levels of the Church of these atrocities.

4. In Camden, New Jersey a priest was removed from his post after reports of rape from 29 years ago

The report said Camden Diocese took the action against Rev. Brendan V. Sullivan, 75, who worked in parishes in Margate, Absecon and Ventnor, and was a former principal at Holy Spirit High School. Sullivan confirmed the incident to the newspaper, which came to light in February after a 43-year-old man made a call to toll-free hotline to report the abuse that he said occurred when he was 14.

So now it’s that time again for the Wheel of Morality! Wheel of Morality, turn, turn, turn. Tell us the lesson that we should learn. Moral number

Go to And if after all looking at the evidence, you still don’t dissociate yourself from this criminal organization, then you are contributing to it.

News From Around The Blogosphere 2.4.10

February 5, 2010

1. 1000 rabbis warn against gays in the military – Their claim is that gays in the military will lead to more natural disasters. Well, considering that natural disasters have occurred throughout human history, that seems like a pretty unfalsifiable claim. Are they suggesting then that if gays are kept out of the military that there will never be another natural disaster again? I’d love to see them put their nickel down on that claim. Ugh! Silly rabbis. Trix are for kids. But I am curious. Do you think if a 1000 rabbis were typing on a 1000 typewriters, they could reproduce the Bible?

Alternate title: How to profit off friends and kill people

2. Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray, guru of The Secret, has finally been officially charged with manslaughter over the three people who died after a northern Arizona sweat lodge ceremony he led last year.

Ray has built a multimillion-dollar empire as a self-help superstar who teaches people about financial and spiritual wealth, and uses free seminars to recruit followers to more expensive events. He soared in popularity after appearing in the 2006’s Rhonda Byrne documentary “The Secret,” and he promoted it on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Larry King Live.”

The Oct. 8 sweat lodge ceremony was intended to be the highlight of Ray’s five-day “Spiritual Warrior” event at a retreat he rented near Sedona. He told participants, who paid more than $9,000 each to attend, that it would be one of the most intense experiences of their lives.

Well, he can’t be sued for false advertising. It was intense all right.

About halfway through the two-hour ceremony, some began feeling ill, vomiting and collapsing inside the 415-square-foot structure. Despite that, Ray urged participants to push past their physical weaknesses and chided those who wanted to leave, authorities and participants have said.

Two people – Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee – passed out inside the sweat lodge and died that night at a hospital. Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., slipped into a coma and died a week later. Eighteen others were hospitalized.

According to his attorney, this was all just a freak accident, an isolated incident. Yeah, I bet.

3. Anti-evolution bill in Mississippi proves unfit for survival

Mississippi’s House Bill 586, which if enacted would have required “scientifically sound arguments by protagonists and antagonists of the theory of evolution” to be presented in the state’s schools, died in committee on February 2, 2010, according to the legislative website. In 2009, the bill’s sponsor, Gary Chism (R-District 37), introduced a bill, HB 25, requiring biology textbooks in the state to include a hybrid of two previous versions of the Alabama evolution textbook disclaimer; that bill also died in committee.

Suck it, creationists!

4. More Catholic child buggery – Only a few short months after the final report came in about the Catholic conspiracy to cover up decades of child rape in a Catholic-run reform school in Ireland, now comes news of numerous accounts of child rape in a top German school run by Catholics:

Almost 30 alleged victims have come forward with claims against three Jesuit staff, saying that they were abused in the 1970s and 1980s at Canisius college in Berlin, alma mater of some of the country’s political, business and academic elite.

Peter Riedel and Wolfgang Stab left the school in 1981 and 1979 respectively while the third alleged perpetrator, named as Bernhard E (70), was suspended from the Jesuit order yesterday after admitting one case of sexual abuse.

Stab (65), a former gym teacher, now living in Chile, has confessed to the allegations and last week wrote an open letter of apology, while Riedel has denied the allegations.

You’re telling me that a guy with a name as innocent-sounding as “Stab” has committed heinous crimes? I’m shocked. Again, I’m forced to wonder how the world would respond to Coca Cola Co. if hundreds, if not thousands of its employers were found to have raped children? Why is the Catholic corporation treated any differently?

5. Lancaster, California Mayor claims to be “growing a Christian community” – Both Muslim and atheist groups have condemned Mayor R. Rex Parris’ comments:

Parris made the remarks last week during his annual state of the city address before an audience of mainly clergy and their spouses.

“We’re growing a Christian community, and don’t let anybody shy away from that,” he said, according to the Antelope Valley Press. Parris is also promoting a ballot measure that supports prayer at public meetings with reference to a specific deity such as Jesus.

Someone has already come up with an awesome name for a website critical of him:

German Family Ministry trying to get book labeled ‘dangerous for children’

December 18, 2009

The German Family Ministry trying to get book labeled ‘dangerous for children.’ Why is it that every organization with the word “family” in the name is a front group for evil fascism? And if that organization is German, you know it’s got to be, like, at least twice as fascist as, say, Focus on the Family or the American Family Association. They should all just get together and form one big group called the Focus on the Fascist Family or the FFF.

Anyway, they claim that the children’s book, “How Do I Get to God, Asked the Small Piglet,” by Michael Schmidt-Salomon is dangerous because it criticizes Judaism and it’s two bastard children, Christianity and Islam. Who wants to bet they’re more outraged at the insulting of Christianity than the other two? At least I suppose they can’t play Bill “I love child rapists” Donohue’s classic, “you wouldn’t dare mock Islam” gambit.

The illustrated kiddy book at the center of the outrage tells the story of a piglet and a hedgehog searching for “God.”

Along the way they encounter a rabbi, a bishop and a mufti who are portrayed as insane, violent and continually at each other’s throats.

Ah ha! What kind of sick monster would provide children with an accurate description of the three Abrahamic religions?!

The rabbi is drawn in the same way as the caricatures from the propaganda of 1930’s Germany; corkscrew curls, fanatical lights in his eyes, a set of predator’s flashing teeth and hands like claws.

Yes, clearly this book is anti-semetic because it equally attacks three different ideologies, one of which happens to be the Jewish religion. You see, it’s really just about slandering the Jews. The author just must have thrown in the negative depictions of Christianity and Islam to throw us off.

The mufti fares little better.

See, what did I tell you?

While he greets both animals at first as a quiet man and invites them into his mosque, he soon changes into a ranting fanatic. He assembles a baying Islamic mob and holds the animals up in a clenched fist while condemning them to everlasting damnation through bared teeth and an unruly-looking beard.

That is so inaccurate. As everyone knows, Islam is the religion of peace and doesn’t have any fanatics at all. And everyone knows Muslims don’t believe in everlasting damnation or have unruly-looking beards. This book is so wrong.

The insinuation here is that all visitors to mosques are extremists and every imam who appears reasonable is, in truth, nevertheless, a preacher of hate.

Yes, I’m sure there’s even a page in the book that tells the reader any moderate message that can be interpreted is wrong and that the only possible interpretation is that all religious people are pure 100% evil. In fact, I think I heard that was a possible alternative title to the book.

The bishop, a pale fat man with a clearly insinuated predilection for child abuse, makes up the unholy trinity which eventually convinces piglet and hedgehog, after they have survived the long search in the maze of religions, that nothing of any importance has been missing from their lives.

Oh, come on! Just because the Catholic Church has been proven in a court of law to be responsible for at least thousands of well-documented cases of child rape and that the Pope himself is personally responsible for aiding a decades-long cover-up that allowed child rapists to continue to rape more and more children when they could have been rotting in jail, that’s no reason to characterize–wait, what was my point again?

“I think that God doesn’t even exist,” the hedgehog says at the end of the book. “And if He does, than he definitely doesn’t live in [a synagogue, cathedral or mosque].”

Ah ha! See! The moral of the story is that Jews are filthy dogs that should be killed in death camps and that all religious people on the planet are violent rapists. It’s all right there in the end of the book. What over message could possibly get from that book?

Calling the ministry’s accusations an “attack on freedom of expression,” the publisher said the book answers the question of whether a nonreligious child is missing part of life “from the perspective of secular humanism.”

Schedel added that the book is intended for nonreligious parents looking to provide their children with a critical view of religion.

“All three religions are treated equally in the book,” he said. “No one is negatively singled out.”

Author Schmidt-Salomon said the book was “desperately needed considering the enormous mass of religious children’s stories.” He added that he the book offers children and their parents the opportunity to read about agnostic beliefs if they choose.

“Children also have a right to enlightenment,” he wrote on a Web site set up dedicated to the book. “They should not be left defenseless to the scientifically untenable and ethically problematic stories of religion.”

Oh. That actually kind of makes sense. In fact, if read that way, it’s not really all that offensive at all. Rather, it kind of makes the accusations against the book seem like the real offensive behavior.

German researchers find that staring at women’s breasts may increase men’s health and life expectancy

December 10, 2009

Yes,  a study conducted by German researchers indeed suggests that staring at breasts may increase men’s health and life expectancy. I freakin’ love German researchers! And the lead author of this study wasn’t even a man.

According to Dr. Karen Weatherby, a gerontologist and author of the study, gawking at women’s breasts is a healthy practice, almost at par with an intense exercise regime, that prolongs the lifespan of a man by five years.

She added, “Just 10 minutes of staring at the charms of a well-endowed female, is roughly equivalent to a 30-minute aerobics work-out.”

So that’s how Hugh Hefner does it!

Researchers at three hospitals in Frankfurt, Germany did an in-depth analysis of 200 healthy males over a period of five years. Half the volunteers were instructed to ogle at the breasts of women daily, while the rest were told to refrain from doing so.

Best excuse EVER! No really, it’s for scientific research!

At the close of the study, the researchers noted that the men who stared at the breasts of females on a regular basis exhibited lower blood pressure, slower resting pulse rates and lesser episodes of coronary artery disease.

Sexual desire linked to better blood circulation
The researchers declared that sexual desire gives rise to better blood circulation that signifies an overall improved health.

Weatherby explained the concept stating, “Sexual excitement gets the heart pumping and improves blood circulation. There’s no question: Gazing at breasts makes men healthy.

“Our study indicates that engaging in this activity a few minutes daily cuts the risk of stroke and heart attack in half. We believe that by doing so consistently, the average man can extend his life four to five years.”

In addition, she also recommended that men over 40 should gaze at larger breasts daily for 10 minutes.

The German research is believed to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Once again, the words of Carl Sagan come to mind:  “science delivers the goods.”

[UPDATE 12.11.09 – It seems that MedGuru, the site I took this story from, just fell victim to an old urban legend. Oh well.]

Religion coming to schools in atheist Berlin?

April 28, 2009

Berlin has been called the “atheist capital of Europe” with only 36% of its population having a particular religious affiliation. But now the religious in Berlin are fighting for the right to invade the schools, arguing that religion should have the same status in the classroom as Ethics. Now religion already has been an elective class in Berlin schools ever since the end of WWII.

The “Pro Reli” campaigners, led by figures from the CDU of the chancellor, Angela Merkel, and church leaders, want to change the regulations so that pupils can choose between ethics and a religion class, with Muslims, Catholics and Protestants being taught separately. “Pupils now have the choice between religion and free time – basically between religion and the ice-cream salon,” said Berlin’s leading Protestant bishop, Wolfgang Huber. “It is not really fair to say that pupils have a choice … Religion needs a proper place in the school timetable.”

Yeah, who needs Ethics class when you can learn a bunch of nonsense instead.

The “Pro Ethik” campaign is being spearheaded by the Social Democrats and the Left party, who make up Berlin’s city government. They argue that ethics teaching is central to ensuring integration in Berlin, which is now home to Germany‘s biggest Muslim community.

“What’s so awful about an ethics lesson in which everyone takes part?” asked Michael Müller, regional head of the Social Democrats. “Isn’t it a good thing that I learn something about my neighbour’s religion, his family and cultural background?”

Makes sense to me. But of course the religious must play the old persecution card:

Jauch, who is most famous for hosting the German version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, said: “Religious education in Berlin is systematically pushed to the edge of the curriculum and discriminated against on the school agenda. Whoever votes ‘yes’ [in favour of religious lessons] on Sunday, will be voting for the free choice between ethics and religion.”

You had to know a dopey celebrity would show up somewhere in this story. Now it surprises a lot of people that I am in favor of teaching religion in schools. However, I take the same position as Mr. Müller. We should be teaching children about many religions and reading from the many holy books as literature, as I did in an elective course I took in my final year of high school. In that class we might have been reading The Epic of Gilgamesh one day, Genesis the next, Antigone the day after that, and The Bhagavad Gita and Rig Veda then next.

PETA goes from being offensive to mammals to “an offense against human dignity” Ouch.

March 30, 2009

Ugh! Here we go again. The masters of sensational, over the top hyperbole are at it again. Unfortunately, this time they made the mistake of invoking the very sensitive subject of the Holocaust in Germany, a country that doesn’t much care for free speech when it comes to provocative statements relating to the Holocaust:

Germany’s supreme court has ruled that a series of PETA ads comparing factory farming to the Holocaust are “an offense against human dignity” and not protected speech. The ads show pictures of concentration camps next to pictures of animal farms and bear the slogan “The Holocaust on your plate”.

As a passionate defender of free speech, I’ve never supported Germany in these cases, even when they usually involve those whose messages I too find distasteful. So unfortunately I got to stand with PETA on this one, despite the overall idiocy of their message and their foolishness in thinking they could get away with this kind of crap in Germany. Though maybe this is exactly what they wanted to have happen and this was just a less transparent version of the tactic they pulled with their recent Superbowl commercial.

Atheist Bus Campaign Launched in Finland & Germany

March 15, 2009

Friendly Atheist reports Germany is going with the following bus athvertising:

Translation can be found here.

And in Finland: