It’s the end of the world as we know it

Well, it’s finally here – the apocalypse, came round quickly didn’t it? Do people really believe that the world is going to end today? Did the Mayans even believe that the world would end today?

A quick perusal of The Mayans on Google reveals a certain amount of conjecture on the subject, as you’d imagine.

It seems that the Mayans tracked cycles of time within greater cycles of time, based on their observations of the heavens over a prolonged period. The 21st December 2012 was significant in that it marked the end of one of these cycles with the intersecting of the central point of the milky way and the plane of the ecliptic creating a “sacred tree”. So using this tree analogy, a lot of “spiritual” folk are not claiming that this will signal the end of the universe, but rather the dawning of a new era of spiritual enlightenment — the age of Aquarius.

As you’d expect the astronomers see it slightly differently, responding to the claim that the sun will be aligned with the centre of the milky way for the first time in 26,000 years Dr Strous states:

“The Milky Way has no clear central line, so there is uncertainty about when the solstitial point crosses that central line. Different groups of people can each use reasonable definitions for the central line that yet deviate from one another. If we estimate (for example) that the uncertainty about the “best” central line of the Milky Way is half a degree (which is only a small fraction of the width of the Milky Way), then the corresponding uncertainty in the date at which the solstitial point crosses the central line is 0.5°/360°*26000 = about 36 years.”

Some wishy washy notion about the dawning of the age of Aquarius may be essentially harmless, but the sad point to all this is that some apocalyptic beliefs can have devastating consequences. The brilliant ‘what’s the harm?’ lists numerous cases of suicide and mass murder associated with predictions about the coming apocalypse.

People have really short memories; there have been numerous end times predictions since the turn of the millennium. Last year it was Harold Camping managing to convince some of his more gullible followers to get rid of all their earthly possessions in preparation for the rapture, this year it’s the Mayans turn, next year there will be someone else.

Just remember folks, all these “end times predictions” have one thing in common — NONE OF THEM EVER HAPPENED!

See you tomorrow.

Caleb Foundation No-Show at NI Humanist Event

Yesterday evening I went to the Humanists Association of Northern Ireland’s regular monthly meeting expecting to hear from their arranged speaker David mcConaghie, Press Officer of the Caleb Foundation: the group behind the inclusion of the creationist display at the Giant’s Causeway. I was joined by Colin and Peter of the Facebook campaign to remove the display, all psyched and rehearsed in our lines of debate.

Sadly, Iain Deboys, organisation Chair, informed us that McConaghie and the foundation’s chairman, Wallace Thompson, would not be attending. What followed was frustration and annoyance, whilst not being altogether surprised that they are so unwilling to talk to anyone who may oppose their views it is an utterly ridiculous and cowardly thing to back out of an event which was planned weeks ago, showing that they are unable to defend themselves in a public sphere.

We were informed that all correspondence between the Humanist Ass. and Caleb was carried out very carefully and Ian remarked that at times they even appeared jovial during telephone calls; at one point Thompson said, “Some people think we’re nuts, maybe they’re right.” A certain level of humour employed perhaps in an attempt to endear us to them. They were ensured that questions would not be pre-approved, yet all efforts would be made to see that the event is peaceful and carried out in a formal manner.

However, Iain then went and asked if a group member, John Pearson, who is also a member of Atheist Ireland, had requested to video record the event the response from Caleb was that they would have to check with “the Men”. While “the Men” weren’t that keen in the first place, thinking perhaps they’d be ambushed, and rather than simply say “no” to all recording, it was decided by “the Men” that they would not attend. McDonaghie and Thompson said yesterday that “their hands were tied.” That they personally were happy enough but “the Men weren’t”.

It was disappointing to see that such a public body is so unwilling to speak publicly about the actions which they take. Actions which affect so many people in different ways. If they are unable to defend themselves or have rational, evidence-based reasons for carrying out the actions that they have, then perhaps they should not hold the positions that they do and continue to preach the nonsense that they do.

Perhaps next time we’ll ask the women.

Millar Farr Believes Law Should Be Based on the Bible?

“How politicians can imagine they have the right to create legislation which is contrary to holy scripture is beyond belief.”

Millar Farr, Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, spoke at north and west Tyrone demonstration for Black Saturday. According to The Newsletter there were around 1,000 members of the institution on parade in 24 preceptories accompanied by 22 bands from Strabane, Castlederg and Omagh.

In his speech, Farr spoke of the adoration towards the Queen and Royal Family, as usual, while also chiming in on the issue of gay marriage stating:

“In God’s law there is no provision for same-sex marriage,” he said. “Holy scripture is quite clear on the subject – marriage is between male and female only.”

“While man-made laws can be changed, God’s law is unchangeable. How politicians can imagine they have the right to create legislation which is contrary to holy scripture is beyond belief.”

What else would he like to see made illegal?

Ken Ham on the relevance of Genesis today

Ken Ham in Belfast

On Saturday night two of us attended a “meeting” at the Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church in which Australian young-Earth creationist, author, speaker, and founder of Answers in Genesis (who are behind the Creationist Museum in Kentucky), Ken Ham, spoke to the packed congregation who hung on to his every word, often murmuring in agreement and finishing his sentences when prompted (often lines from biblical scripture).

We arrived five minutes before the “meeting” (a word used often) was to begin and took our seat in the second row. Walking into the church was daunting in itself. On noticing how packed it was as we walked up the aisle we were left with no choice but to take a row which wouldn’t require crawling over people, or being close to anybody where we may be discovered as fraudsters infiltrating the group. The idea was to appear as inconspicuous as possible, though the minute the hymns began and we fumbled to find the page correct page (to look like we were taking part), followed by me getting my notebook out and jotting down every ridiculous thing Mr Ham said, I couldn’t help but think we stood out a little and that the crowd behind us at any moment would turn on us.

Obviously that would never happen as this is a civil society and the event was open to all, and naturally we would never stand up and yell abuse or argue the absurd claims made by the speaker, because we were, after all, in their place of worship — and not militant. So we sat quietly and politely and listened to what was being said. Though I couldn’t help but be overcome with frustration at the words being preached, and how they were taking it all in.

Ken Ham appears to be very friendly, often with a joke — like the one about how he could go on for millions of years on the topic — but mostly he is authoritative. He knows what he is talking about. And he has all the “facts” to back it up! The information is given in quick bursts, mixed with scriptural passages from the Old Testament; 2 Corinthians 11:3, Genesis 3:1, 1 Chronicles 12:32, Judges 21:25, Romans 10:9 etc. It’s all there in black and white.

He begins his talk by explaining about the Creationist Museum and how it walks people through the bible. He explains how they work on “the authority of the word of God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” He then goes on to blame the Church for not teaching coming generations how to answer the “Sceptical questions”, this leads to doubt and ultimately disbelief. He is fixated on the idea that there is “an attack on the word of God”.

“The teaching of evolution; big bang, millions of years, that permeates the world… access to television, the internet and education systems that are organised in nations around the world in secular museums where anyone who has access to any of those has heard of evolution, millions of years… and you know what most of the churches have said? Here’s what’s happened, even pastors have told me, “I’ve told my young people ‘you can believe in evolution as long as God did it, you can believe in millions of years as long as God did it, you can believe in the big bang as long as God did it.'” They say to me, “What’s wrong with that?” You know what my answer is: it’s not what God said.”

“What happens when [a young kid] says, ‘Hey pastor/Mum and Dad, you told me to believe in evolution as long as God did it but evolution has Man from an ape-man and woman from an ape-woman and the bible has man from dust and woman from his side. Are you telling me God got it wrong?'”

“You know where the idea of millions of years came from? It came out of atheism. People trying to justify and explain the fossils without God.” Apparently secularists are “ballistic, because they have to have millions of years, “Millions of years is the anti-God religion. Millions is not in scripture,” he says. “If you reinterpret Genesis, if you try and fit millions of years in a gap [between Gen 1 and Gen 2], or millions of years in a day, when you try and add anything outside the bible you do two things: 1. you undermine the history that’s foundation of all doctrine and secondly, you undermine the very word of God.”

Naturally, Ken included a bit on the Giant’s Causeway, including images from his own visit to the new visitors centre about how evolution is “misrepresented” as fact. Apparently there is a battle between God’s word and Man’s word. In order to get his points across he uses numbers and a lot of detail, such as the fact that only 6.3% of British people are church-goers, that by college age in America ⅔ of people don’t believe in God: “People, we’re losing these kids at a young age. We need to be training these kids at a young age. Right from when they’re born. You know I think the bible even says something about that. Would you say questioning was the beginning of your doubt in the bible? Questioning. Did God really make the world in six days… But what about evolution? Little Johnny thinks, ‘If this is not true, and you’re telling me I can take the views of the world and reinterpret the bible here, maybe I can take the views of the secular scientists and reinterpret marriage too.”

“If there really was a global flood you’d expect to find billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth. And what do we find: billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth.” Science!

The basis of his talk is that we are being taken in by “Man’s word” over “God’s word” with “science” and secularists/atheists. He is frustrated with the enlightenment of the world today; television, the internet, secular education (though no mention of books and the printing press). As more and more people fall away from religion, we are listening to the word of God less and less. Sadly, the people who hear Ken Ham talk are likely to believe what he has said verbatim: though there is no Christian/Atheist battle, Atheists do not need to believe in millions of years to hold onto their “anti-God religion”. To call Atheism a religion is like calling “not collecting stamps” a hobby or “baldness” a hair colour. There is no hatred of a God that we don’t have a belief in. Personally, I have yet to meet a militant atheist, and neither Ken nor the audience in the room with us can say that there was any militant behaviour from the two atheists in the room.

Ken, and others like him, are gathering their armies. They can see that society is falling further and further away from religion and it scares them, and so he goes around churches to tell people that they need to change society as if it will happen and as if what they are saying is the truth. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to ask Ken about the mixed fabrics he was wearing.

Finally, he spent 15 minutes plugging his books, DVDs, magazine — if you buy 5 today you can get them for this special price!

Listen to the audio from Ken Ham’s talk we attended here.

Jesus is Everywhere

Earlier in the week the Belfast Telegraph reported as “news” that the face of Jesus had been spotted in a tree stump. This newspaper has a very vague definition of news, but we could spend a long time discussing that. A video of the tree stump was posted on the YouTube channel of ‘bestofwest‘ with the description: “An image has appeared on a tree stump in Belfast’s City Cemetery. Upon close inspection, its hard to tell just how this image got there. Recently City Council employees trimmed trees in the cemetery, and as a result this phenomenon appeared.”

Stating where it is located they say: “Its located beside the wall which borders the Falls Park, directly behind the Feile marque which is errected in the park. If you walk up the path from the direction of the Falls, its on your right hand side”

One big problem with this “news” story is the wording: “An image of the face of Jesus Christ has appeared on a tree stump in a Belfast cemetery.” They say it like it IS the face of Jesus. While I feel ridiculous saying this, let’s just remind ourselves, and journalists, there are no images of Jesus. No one knows what he looks like. He image has not appeared on things.

But here’s some other things Jesus has appeared on:

Jesus on a dog’s butt

Jesus shadow

Jesus on a stingray

Another tree

Jesus on a Marmite lid

Jesus on tea towel

There is an universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object, those qualities, with which they are familiarly acquainted, and of which they are intimately conscious. We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds; and by a natural propensity, if not corrected by experience and reflection, ascribe malice or good- will to every thing, that hurts or pleases us. — David Hume, ‘The Natural History of Religion’

This is also known as Pareidolia; a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. This is not news and people who see these things should not be encouraged or indeed duped into thinking that they have seen something significant, this simply furthers the problem of a lack of critical and scientific thought.

This is not news.

Ken Ham on Tour in Belfast

Evangelical Australian young-Earth creationist, Ken Ham, is taking his tour around various churches in Northern Ireland next week. Ham, along with others, set up the Creation Science Foundation in Queensland, though this sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to me. He later founded the Creation Science Ministries, later renamed Answers in Genesis. The Christian ministry specialises in young Earth creationism and promotes the belief that the initial chapters in Genesis should be taken as literally true and historically accurate.

On his website Ken answers many of the tough questions such as ‘What really happened to the dinosaurs?‘ and ‘was there really a Noah’s Ark and Flood?’. He refers to the idea of “millions of years” as a “disease”, answers the age-old question ‘why did God create us’, ‘why we don’t all have the same skin colour?’ And many others. He also includes many pictures and charts to aid his “scientific*” explanations. *Bible

noah's ark

It is through Ken’s Answers in Genesis that he is touring his conferences.

August 11th: Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church, Belfast.
8-9pm ‘The Relevance of Genesis in Today’s Culture’

August 12th: Newtownbreda Baptist Church, Belfast.
11am-12noon ‘The Relevance of Genesis in Today’s Culture’

August 12th: Ballygowan Free Presbyterian Church, Ballygowan, Co.Down.
7-8pm ‘Six Days and the Authority of Scripture’

August 13th: Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, Belfast.
8-9pm ‘Death, Suffering, and a Loving God’

If anyone would like to join us to any of the talks leave a comment below.
We will be attending the Talks on Sunday 12th and Monday 13th.

We attended the event on Saturday night at the Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church. It was certainly an experience. Full write-up to come on the blog.

Evolution to Blame For Aurora Atrocity?

Mega-church pastor, Rick Warren, chose to tweet on Friday, shortly after the massacre at Aurora, Colorado, that the blame is to be placed on evolution and a lack of God in society. There are many reasons why such responses should be ignored, not namely due to the fact that someone feels the need to respond to such a tragedy in political point-scoring and attacking science is nothing less than ignorant and pathetic.

Allow me to state the obvious for a minute: humans are animals. Can Mr Warren not see that evolution has brought us as humans to a state of being unique among animals? Not many other animals use guns to kill each other needlessly. Yet we are like other animals: based on the same genetic code.

A quote from Paul Braterman on as pointed out by James F. McGrath states:

United States is weaker on the teaching of evolution, both in terms of the number of people who deny it and the number of biology teachers who skip it to avoid controversy, than any other major industrialized nation. We are, on the other hand, the leaders when it comes to the number of shooting deaths and mass murders that take place each year. There may be no actual connection between science education and shooting sprees, but if there were, it would presumably have to be due to our relative failure to teach evolution, rather than with our teaching it.

Rick Warren has responded to comment on this tweet saying:

TWITTER’S limit on words allows no context for statements. A lack of contxt causes misinterpretation. So when you tweet what’s on your mind, people preassume (incorrectly) that you are talking about what’s on THEIR mind. This is a clear example. My tweet was a brief response to a question to me about SEXUAL PROMISCUITY. It had NOTHING to do with the tragedy in Colorado.! I had received this email from a dad: “Pastor Rick, my daughter told me her teacher said in class “There’s nothing wrong with sex with multiple partners! Sex is a natural, inate drive, and any attempt to limit it to one, single partner is a manmade construct.” THAT is what I was commenting on. Unfortunately, you also incorrectly presumed the context.

While the connection between the shooting at Aurora and this tweet may be coincidence, there still remains much idiocy in such a soundbite. More on this on the Exploring the Matrix blog.

Another crackpot to get on the airwaves with a hit at secularism as the blame for the shooting is Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) who spoke on on the radio on Friday:

“You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of terror like this takes place,”

“Some of us happen to believe that when our founders talked about guarding our virtue and freedom, that that was important,” he said. “Whether it’s John Adams saying our Constitution was made only for moral and religious people … Ben Franklin, only a virtuous people are capable of freedom, as nations become corrupt and vicious they have more need of masters … We have been at war with the very pillars, the very foundation of this country.”

While these are the words and thoughts of Christian American Founding Father, John Adams, the 1796 Treaty with Tripoli states that the United States was “not in any sense founded on the Christian religion”. It was written under presidency of George Washington and signed under the presidency of John Adams.

“We’ve threatened high school graduation participation, if they use God’s name, they’re going to be jailed … I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present.”

A fellow American founding father, Thomas Paine stated:

“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of… Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and of my own part, I disbelieve them all.” — The Age of Reason, pp. 89.

As per the Examiner piece, the First Amendment prevents government led prayer forced onto people, but does not prevent private prayer.

Jerry Newcombe has also blamed the attack on the lack of “fear of God“.

Suffice to say, science is not to blame for a man shooting 71 people in a cinema theatre, anyone who says so is simply exploiting what has happened to sell their ideas and political agenda. Bottom line is that at this point we do not know the shooters motives.