Buddhist and Jewish apostasy

June 5, 2009

Osel Hita Torres has had a strange life:

In 1986, at 14 months, his parents took him to see the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. The toddler was chosen out of nine other candidates and eventually “enthroned”.

At six, he was allowed to socialise only with other reincarnated souls – though for a time he said he lived next to the actor Richard Gere’s cabin.

By 18, he had never seen couples kiss. His first disco experience was a shock. “I was amazed to watch everyone dance. What were all those people doing, bouncing, stuck to one another, enclosed in a box full of smoke?”

Torres has been worshipped and treated like a god by Tibetan Buddhist monks for his entire life. But he turned his back on all of that crap, is now at the age of 24 studying film in Madrid, and has denounced the Buddhist order that elevated him to guru status.

Instead of leading a monastic life, Osel Hita Torres now sports baggy trousers and long hair, and is more likely to quote Jimi Hendrix than Buddha.

Yesterday he bemoaned the misery of a youth deprived of television, football and girls. Movies were also forbidden – except for a sanctioned screening of The Golden Child starring Eddie Murphy, about a kidnapped child lama with magical powers. “I never felt like that boy,” he said.

. . .

“They took me away from my family and stuck me in a medieval situation in which I suffered a great deal,” said Torres, 24, describing how he was whisked from obscurity in Granada to a monastery in southern India. “It was like living a lie,” he told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. Despite his rebelliousness, he is still known as Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche and revered by the Buddhist community. A prayer for his “long life” still adorns the website of the Foundation to Preserve the Mahayana Tradition, which has 130 centres around the world. The website features a biography of the renegade guru that gushes about his peaceful, meditative countenance as a baby.

And in an only slightly related story, while some former Christians have chosen to undergo “de-baptism ceremonies, there hasn’t been anything similar proposed for those atheists who were former Jews…until now. Behold, the de-Bat-Mitzvah/de-Bar-Mitzvah:


News From Around The Blogosphere 02.13.09

February 14, 2009

An end to the cold?

Researchers from the University of Maryland and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have mapped the genome of the common cold virus. This doesn’t mean that a cure is just around the corner, but it gives scientists a clearer idea of how to begin planning a cure.

And here’s the story at Science Daily.

This Drink Tastes Like Piss

India’s largest Hindu nationalist group, the RSS, is developing a new beverage made mostly from cow urine that they hope will take their country by storm. They see the popularity of non-Indian soft drinks like Coca-Cola as a corrupting force in Indian culture, so they want to bring people back to the kind of hard-line Hindu cow reverence that would inspire people to consume bovine waste as a cleansing agent.

So my choice is between Mountain Dew or cow piss? Ewww. I’ll take the cow piss.

News From Around The Blogosphere 01.19.09

January 19, 2009

What happens after $cientology chews you up and spits you out – The story of a man who managed to rebuild his life after $cientology destroyed it, and is now fighting back.

atheist-bus-battling-buses-picadilly2Attempts to Atheist bus ads in UK – The gambit they’re using is that religious people are made to feel uncomfortable riding on these buses. Funny, they’ve never acted to remove Christian ads from buses out of fear that it would make atheists feel uncomfortable. Friendly Atheist sums it up nicely:

Victoria’s Secret promotions, posters for Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and ads for pseudoscientific books like The Secret? Those are ok to have on buses. Suggest there may not be a God? That’s apparently horrendous, evil stuff that must be blocked from the public eye.

PZ Myers goes off on religious nut Gerald Warner for his absurd position on the atheist bus ads

Would you pay for something if you didn’t have to? – Regular church attendees in Austria wouldn’t, according to a recent pop psychology or quirkological study.

How to hallucinate with ping-pong balls and a radio – Also find out how to relieve pain with nothing but binoculars and feel like you have a very long nose and see beautiful imaginary images with nothing but your hand and the sun.

The Health Department has re-issued a warning that these pills could cause a diabetic coma, permanent brain injury or death.

It is marketed on websites as 100 per cent herbal, but contains ingredients such as donkey kidney and deer antler. It is also claimed to be a natural alternative to Viagra with no side effects.

Natural versus “natural” in CAMworld – David Gorski gives a proper thrashing to the sCAM folks who sell the 21st century’s answer to voodoo as if it were real medicine just labeling it “natural.”

foil-hatLately I’ve been more aggravated at grand conspiracy theorists than the standard creationists. So I was glad to read Greta Christina’s reponse to the nonsense:  What Would Convince You That You Were Wrong? It reminds me a little of a blog I wrote 2 months ago, Why I go after the grand conspiracy theorists.

In India, two 7-year-old girls married to frogs to prevent disease

The ceremony, an annual feature during the Pongal (harvest) festival, is conducted “to prevent the outbreak of mysterious diseases in the village”.

And no, the frog never turns into a prince ever!

The evolutionary roots of storytelling – This article attempts to explain why storytelling endures across time and cultures.

Chinese erection pill sends 3 to hospital – The pill was Nangen Zengzhangsu.


scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyLanguage Driven By Culture, Not Biology? – “Language in humans has evolved culturally rather than genetically, according to a study by UCL (University College London) and US researchers. By modelling the ways in which genes for language might have evolved alongside language itself, the study showed that genetic adaptation to language would be highly unlikely, as cultural conventions change much more rapidly than genes. Thus, the biological machinery upon which human language is built appears to predate the emergence of language.” So it wasn’t the Tower of Babel!

‘Molecular Parasites’ In Human Genome? – “Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany, determined the structure of a protein (L1ORF1p), which is encoded by a parasitic genetic element and which is responsible for its mobility. The so-called LINE-1 retrotransposon is a mobile genetic element that can multiply and insert itself into chromosomal DNA at many different locations. This disturbs the genetic code at the site of integration, which can have serious consequences for the organism.”

Prehistoric Fish Reveals Vertebrate Origins – “In an article in the journal Nature January 14, Uppsala researcher Martin Brazeau describes the skull and jaws of a fish that lived about 410 million years ago. The study may give important clues to the origin of jawed vertebrates, and thus ultimately our own evolution.” So for those keeping track, that’s 409,994,000 years before the whole universe existed, according to Young Earth Creationists.

News From Around The Blogosphere 11.25.08

November 26, 2008

Witchcraft on India’s school curriculum – It’s part of an effort to dispel superstition and stop deadly witch hunts.

Victims of abuse can sue the Vatican!!!

A great blog article by Phil Plait on The Long Tail of Skepticism – It includes another plug for Stop Jenny McCarthy, so I’m happy. I’ve blogged in the past about how skeptics need to start focusing on strengthening the the “Long Tail” and I’m planning on writing a potentially very long essay on the direction I think the skeptics movement should be heading, which expands upon the popular essay by Daniel Loxton “Where Do We Go From Here,” the blog by Tim Farley of “What’s The Harm” that Phil Plait links to “The Long Tail of Skepticism,” and the Skepticamp essay recited on the most recent Skepticality podcast (episode #90). All of these are must-reads for those interested in getting involved in skeptical activism.

Boy did this psychic go to the wrong site – This is hilarious. It’s remarkable to me that “Sean” didn’t see this one coming. . .you know, with all the psychic powers and all.

No atheist ads in Australia – And probably won’t even be in the film, “Australia.” It’s particularly sad because all 3 slogan options were better than the recent ones used in London and Washington:

  • Atheism: Because there is no credible evidence
  • Celebrate reason: Sleep in on Sunday mornings
  • Atheism: Celebrate reason

If they didn’t even go for the last one, then I guess we can forget my slogan idea: “God Is Imaginary. Get Over It.”

A circuit court judge has ruled that Florida’s ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional – Reason wins out. But there’s still Utah, where no unmarried couples are allowed to adopt, be they gay or straight, and Mississippi, which bans gay couples from adopting, but not single gay people.


scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyMissing Link’ Galaxies Discovered – “Astronomers in two UK-led international collaborations have separately uncovered a type of galaxy that represents a missing link in our understanding of galaxy evolution.”

Flies May Reveal Evolution Of Live Birth – “A species of fruit fly from the Seychelles Islands often lays larvae instead of eggs, UC San Diego biologists have discovered. Clues to how animals switch from laying eggs to live birth may be found in the well-studied species’ ecology and genes.”


F.U.T.K. – Okay, so this time Toby Keith is being deliberately funny with this “War on Christmas” song from A Colbert Christmas (and it is very funny), but is there any doubt that Toby Keith take the message of the song seriously?

And of course here’s a little piece of unintentional comic gold. Proof that religion rots your brain:

News From Around The Blogosphere 10.10.08

October 11, 2008

Indian censors say no to condom and yes to sex – By Bollywood standards, just the make-out scene in the new movie Hello featuring former Miss India and Maxim model Gul Panag is risqué. But what India’s Censor Board is really upset about is that in the scene, Panag and actor Sharman Joshi are fooling around and Panag’s character asks her partner if he has a condom.

Catholicism: The Cause of Needless Suffering – Washington state has a ballot measure coming up that would make it legal for doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication for the terminally ill. Pope Ratzinger approves, saying people must accept death at “the hour chosen by God.” So I guess The Pope doesn’t seeks doctors or medical treatment of any kind, right?

Jeremy Hall withdraws his suit – Jeremy Hall, who had previously filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense, has now voluntarily withdrawn it. Earlier, he had stated that he was denied a promotion and prevented from holding a meeting for fellow atheists. He had also received a death threat from another soldier. Those charges still stand. However, since Hall is planning on leaving the Army in the spring, he dropped the lawsuit (PDF).

Parents outraged by pro-Islam baby doll:

A doll some are claiming utters pro-Islam and even satanic messages has outraged parents in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

Well, which is it? Pro-Islam or satanic ? Or is this just one fickle doll? Well, it turns out to be, like with EVPs, just an example of auditory pareidolia. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to be hearing then you either just hear random-sounding noise or you hear something else. Listen for yourself here.

Lisa: “Don’t you people see anything wrong what Malibu Stacy says?”
Celeste: “There’s something wrong with what my Stacy says…” [Pull’s string]
Stacy: “My spidey sense is tingling… anybody call for a web-slinger?”

As I was going to Saint Ives,
I met a rabbi with seven wives.
Every wife had seven sacks,
Every sack had seven cats,
Every cat had seven kittens,
Kittens, cats, sacks, wives,
How many were going to Saint Ives?

Times Online article on the “ex-gay movement”

Another day, another preacher caught collecting kiddie porn:

A deacon will likely preach Sunday at Oswegatchie First Baptist Church in the aftermath of the resignation of the Rev. Merton E. Parks, who admits he downloaded child pornography from sites on the Internet.

DNA proves virgin birth in Virginia? – Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water–Shark Messiah! Amateur Scientist calls it Jawsus.

The Plant Liberation Front – Switzerland scientists there must now justify the ethics of genetic research on plants.

Death From The Skies! – Now available on Amazon and fine bookstores everywhere.

Skepbitch gets a personal tour of the JREF by James “The Amazing” Randi himself.

Ray “The Banana Guy” Comfort declares the economic crisis is a sign of the End Times! – I’m sure he’s not the only religious nut making this leap. And of course, when the crisis has abated (after the landslide Democratic victory on November 4), they’ll conveniently forget that once again, THEY WERE WRONG! But of course the real problem is that these religious kooks are looking forward to disaster and the end of the world. This is what Bill Maher’s talking about in Religulous. They want the apocalypse to happen and some will stop at nothing to ensure that it does.


Warming Threats To Tropical Rainforest Species – “Contrary to conventional wisdom, tropical plant and animal species living in some of the warmest places on Earth may be threatened by global warming, according to an article by University of Connecticut Ecologist Robert K. Colwell and colleagues the journal Science.”

Skeptologist Dr. Kirsten Stanford presents The Science Word for 10.10.09.

News From Around The Blogosphere 9.1.08

September 2, 2008

More Gov. Sarah Palin – She’s pro-ignorance and anti-civil rights all the way, opposing gay marriage, sex education, and reproductive rights for women. This includes some actual quotes like this little gem:

“Parents should have the ultimate control over what their children are taught.”

Tired of your old fascism! Sarah Palin’s got the new and improved version! And even better is her answer to the question of whether she’s offended by the phrase, “Under God” in the pledge.” Are you ready? Wait for it. Wait for it:

“Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.”

Wow! I’m starting to wish Paris Hilton was really running for president.

MythBuster Adam Savage: 3 Ways to Fix U.S. Science Education

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids – Don’t tell them they’re smart.

Another celebrity has drank Generation Rescue’s anti-vaccine Kool-Aid – This time it’s actually a fellow atheist and one who owes his very life to good science. I can’t believe they got Lance Armstrong. YOU BASTARDS!

But some good news on the war against anti-vaxxer front – my home state of New Jersey is now requiring preschoolers to get flu vaccines. Once again, New Jersey proves more progressive than most other states in the union. Of course there’s much bitching and moaning about it among the anti-vaxxers, which brings a huge smile to my face. I think anti-vaxxer Jim Carrey said it best: “LOOO-HOOO-ZUH-HER!”

Answers in Genesis is very upset over “the intense persecution against Christians going on in one of the states in India.” Not upset enough to actually try to do anything. Just upset enough to pretend they’re doing something. You know, by praying. After all, it worked so well in Focus on the Family’s plot to make it rain over the DNC. How’d that turn out again? Oh, right. LOL.


‘Armored’ Fish Study Boosts Darwin’s Theory – “Shedding some genetically induced excess baggage may have helped a tiny fish thrive in freshwater and outsize its marine ancestors, according to a UBC study published today in Science Express.”