A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies

The Skeptic's Dictionary Newsletter

Volume 12 No. 12

December 2013

“What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”--Christopher Hitchens

What's New?

An audiobook of The Critical Thinker's Dictionary: Biases, Fallacies, and Illusions and what you can do about them is in production.

The book is available in digital form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo for $3.99. Amazon provides a significant "look inside" if you're interested.

The paperback is still available from Lulu.

New SD entries: the nasty effect, debiasing, single-cause bias/fallacy/illusion, and proportionality bias.

New Skeptimedia entries: O'Reilly and the Faith Card and Chiropractor Busts "Medical Monopoly."

New reader comments: A Course in Miracles, a defender of Ted Cruz makes a statement, a scientist bids adieu to skeptics, mediums, and alternative health practices.

New book review: God Bless America Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States by Karen Stollznow.

Revised: neuro-linguistic programming.

Atheist Churches?

Some people claim that Atheism is a religion and that science, rationality, or the self is the god from which we derive our values and moral codes. All that's needed to complete this picture is for Atheists to gather together on Sundays in praise of science and reason. We might even sing a few songs together, shake hands or embrace, and give inspiring pep talks about what will happen if we don't stop overpopulation, global warming, the spread of AIDS, and the like. Of course, the meetings have happened and not all Atheists are happy about it.

British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans founded an 'atheist church' known as the Sunday Assembly. Their organization is currently on a tour across the United States and Australia trying to crowdfund $800,000 to expand its operations. They're calling the tour "40 Dates, 40 Nights." Jones said: "If you think about church, there's very little that's bad. It's singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people — and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?" So, the Sunday Assembly brings together non-believers for a night of inspiring song and talk. It also makes Atheists visible and provides them with a sense of community. But the idea sticks in the craw of Michael Luciano at PolicyMic. He calls the Sunday Assembly a foolish idea.

On the other hand, there are many religious people who share the same concerns that many Atheists have about the environment, the welfare of the species, the continued progress in science and medicine, and the like. What's so foolish about like-minded people joining together for the betterment of our world and ourselves, as Michael Dowd recommends?

As Luciano correctly notes: Atheism is not a belief system.We don't worship reason or science. We are not in the business of perpetuating superstitions. We don't have rituals or imagery to assist in the transmission of superstitions and falsehoods. "Creating a church-like atheist institution," says Luciano, "plays directly into the hands of those who fundamentally misunderstand the philosophical underpinnings of the theism-atheism debate....If atheism is to be organized at all, it should be for the purpose of repelling religious infringements on secular society and little if anything else."

Anyway, you won't find me at one of these Sunday Assemblies and I won't be making any contributions to the cause. On the other hand, if organizing and meeting up is your thing, go for it. I think there's plenty of room in the Atheist tent for those who get together to praise reason, sing a few songs, and plan to make the world a better place. There's also plenty of room for Atheists who are actively working to keep religion separate from state activities and who seek to protect the civil rights of Atheists. There's also room for anti-theists in this tent. There is no contradiction between seeing religion and faith as detrimental to morality and human progress, seeing religion as infringing on the civil rights of non-religious people, and seeing religious meet-ups as having some qualities worth imitating.

Holographic Kinetics & Dreamtime Healing

Steve Richards is an Australian with aboriginal roots. He claims he's spent over 40 years researching a hodgepodge of "modalities in understanding the power of the subtle bodies" to create and remove "internal-created realities within their own separate dimensions of time." He believes other-dimensional forces are the main reasons for most mental illnesses and that these forces "can enter through drugs, alcohol, trauma, and certain medication." He says he knows how to get rid of all the bad things caused by the imbalances brought about by these other-dimensional entities.

Richards calls his work dreamtime healing and his method holographic kinetics. His website is a fascinating collection of his writings in which he expounds on his beliefs. They include about every New Age notion you can think of joined with traditional aboriginal myths. His healing is a type of exorcism in which he asks or commands various entities to leave. Rather than review his writings here, I suggest the reader look at his website if you're interested. A quicker way to understand what Richards believes and does is to read the account of a session as described by one of his customers.

We delved into some pretty heavy stuff from my current incarnation as Dan (D-DAY), all the way through to a couple of my previous incarnations here as well ... Steve managed to clear out a helluva lot of stuff that’s been holding me back from achieving my full potential and being my true/authentic self. For instance, today Steve cleared 1 draconian entity, 1 reptilian entity, 2 thought forms and the spirit of my deceased father during our session – not bad for just over and hour’s work, eh? Some of the entities I mentioned above did not want to leave and it got a little “heated” at some points during the session. I use the word “heated” because at various stages my body temperature rose considerably, I started to sweat, and I could feel the intense energy of those beings surging through me as Steve was doing his thing and removing them. Pretty hairy stuff, but well worth it in the end. As a side note, the insights I gained about some of my past lives was pretty amazing for me ... until today I had no idea about any of them and was amazed to find out how events that happened hundreds of years ago were still being held by my spirit and were still having an effect/impact on me now in my current incarnation as Dan.

Anyway, at the close of the session Steve got me to sit up again so we could have a bit of a debrief. I actually found it a little difficult to concentrate through most of it though because it pretty much felt like I was waking up from being knocked unconscious or being in a coma or something - I was groggy as hell and literally in a daze/haze. To put it mildly, it felt as though I’d just gone 12 rounds in the ring with some of the nastiest entities getting around out there. ... I walked out of there feeling like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and that I had basically been given a clean slate to work with once again. I don’t ever remember feeling as good as I do now (it’s only a few hours after the session). Steve said that it may take 24-48 hours for my body and spirit to reintegrate/recalibrate after today’s session and that once things had settled down again I should end up feeling pretty good … I already do though I honestly feel as light as a feather, more connected to “the all that is” than ever before in my life, and more confident and sure about myself than I can ever remember feeling before. All in all, I’d say that deciding to have a session with Steve was the best things I’ve ever done in my life – a real life changer (at least for me). I may even go back for another session at a later date when finances permit – it was well worth the $150 by the way.

If we measure success by having a satisfied customer--for at least a few hours after a session--then we have to say that Steve was a success with Dan. Richards says he works with aboriginal people locked up in mental wards in Australian prisons and that he has succeeded where all others failed. Good on him.

For the skeptic who doubts the reality of dreamtime spirits or entities taking over and denying people the chance to achieve their full potential, Richards has developed the perfect belief armor. Here is his advice on how to deal with those who think he's deluded:

Remember: the intent of a sceptic is to prove ... to themselves that nothing works; therefore, they will never find anything that works, as their intent creates their reality

Actually, the intent of the skeptic is to inquire. If the skeptic finds that there is no strong evidence in favor of a claim, the skeptic suspends judgment. If there is strong evidence against the claim, the skeptic rejects it. And if there is strong evidence in favor of the claim, the skeptic accepts it at least provisionally.

Sacramento Atheists Holiday Billboard Campaign

According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, 55 billboards around the greater Sacramento area will carry messages from Atheists for the month of December. Each billboard will feature a face of and a quote from a real Atheist.

Atheist billboard






The national Freedom from Religion Foundation is funding the campaign sponsored by the local chapter in Sacramento. This national outfit has a sense of humor that is not appreciated by some religious folks. The Sacramento campaign is referred to as the "Non-Sacramental" Billboard Blitz and is part of the "Out of the Closet Campaign." One of the billboard high resolution images you can download from the FRF website features a wrapped present (green paper with red bow) proclaiming "Heathen's Greetings." This kind of in-your-face Atheism offends people like Metwalli Amer, executive director of the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims (SALAM) Islamic Center. Such billboard quotes denigrate people of faith, according to Amer. “When they say, ‘no God,’ as a Muslim, it is an attack on my faith.’ If you say, ‘no God,’ you’re not only attacking me as a Muslim, but also the Jews and the Christians.”

No, we're not. If I say there is no god, I'm not attacking anyone. Nor are you attacking me when you say there is a god. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Rastafarians, etc. are not denigrating Atheists when they proclaim belief in gods or spirits. If anything, Amer is denigrating himself by making such specious claims and by publicly admitting his belief in ancient superstitions.

Amer continues his self-degradation by trumpeting the old saw about how Atheism leads to moral chaos, as if the moral codes of Jews, Christians, and Muslims are something to be proud of. The only parts of those codes that are decent are the ones that any rational person recognizes without the assistance of any "spiritual leader." Does Amer really need somebody pretending to get a message from a god to tell him that murder, cheating, stealing, and lying are wrong? As Christopher Hitchens noted: there is nothing in the Ten Commandments about the protection of children from cruelty, nothing about rape, nothing about slavery, and nothing about genocide. Worse, in the Bible there is "a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre." There would be order if there were one religion ruling everybody, but there would not be goodness or morality if the world were ruled by, say, the Vatican, the mullahs in Islamabad, or the Hasidic Jews of New York City or Jerusalem.

Amer was not the only religious person interviewed (for journalistic balance, I suppose) for the Bee article on the Atheist billboard campaign. Equally doltish was the response from a Catholic monsignor, Jim Murphy, who is vicar general for the diocese of Sacramento. Murphy dismissed the campaign as involving a "very small minority" and noting that “The vast majority of people believe in [a] god. There are a lot more people in church on a Sunday morning than at a football game.” Really, Jim? If the vast majority of people jumped off a bridge, would you jump too? If more people attended football games than went to church, would you give up your superstitious lifestyle?

In the case of Amer and Murphy, it appears that faith is not only opposed to reason, faith has crushed reason and infected their brains.

Didn't we hear that "small minority versus a vast majority" defense before when Catholic apologists were defending their institution's disgusting behavior in response to worldwide revelations about priests raping children? Heathen's greetings, sir.

Vatican Plan to End Family Planning Worldwide

In 2006 the Vatican formally allied with Evangelicals in a war on family planning, thinly disguised as the continuing war on abortion. According to Concordat Watch:

This alliance has now been extended to include the large Russian Orthodox Church and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Now the Vatican — doubtless with its eye on China — is making overtures to the Buddhists.

The Catholic Church may have lost all claim to the high moral ground with its official behavior in recent decades toward priests who rape children, but it continues to preach what it considers to be its infallible doctrine that contraception is "intrinsically evil." Since the Evangelicals are involved, you can look forward to the anti-contraception movement entering the American political scene, stage right and in a Republican platform coming to your neighborhood. These people may seem irrelevant and immoral to you, denying, as they do, what the United Nations and most decent people consider to be a basic human right: family planning. But they are powerful and fanatical and dangerous. Whatever good you might think there is in religion is far outweighed by the potential harm to people and the planet that these organized religious folks are trying to accomplish. The ugliness of it all will become apparent as our illustrious Supreme Court takes up the challenge to Obamacare that it require insurers to cover contraception....as if Obamacare didn't have enough problems.

Written by Bob Carroll
with the assistance of John Renish
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