Escape from the Amish

5 Aug 2008

The Amish? Those gentle, hardworking Luddites that won't lift a hand in anger even if you smear ice cream onto an Amish farmer's nose?

It looks like life among the Amish isn't all butter churning and barn raising. There's also the rape, incest, child beatings, misogyny, animal abuse, and religious brainwashing that take place among the Old Order Amish, according to one amazingly brave girl who had the head to see that she was in a bad place, and the nerve to make an escape.

I'm not going to blame religion here as the cause for the ills she describes. They're the kind of nastiness you'll find in any closed, insular world – heck, in the big, wide world too. As the story takes pains to point out, there are also praiseworthy qualities in the Amish upbringing, and the bad qualities certainly can't be taken as representing all members of the community.  Readeth thou more

The "woo" gets heavy: Steve Pavlina "Being Psychic" podcast

21 Jul 2008

You may know of blogger and podcaster Steve Pavlina. One of many writers on the topic of "personal development", Steve is ahead of the blogging crowd on name recognition, and is frequently mentioned among the elite of "Internet celebrities".

I've paid attention to his work on and off; there's often some good inspirational or practical content in there, along with some feel-good fluffiness that doesn't speak to me (though I begrudge neither the appeal it may have to others, nor Steve's success in gaining fans).

The thing that dropped Steve from my must-listen podcast list was a positive mention by him, many months ago, of his wife Erin's work as a "psychic medium". "Great, Steve", I thought, "your wife is a charlatan and you're happy with that. Bravo." It lowered the fellow a few notches in my book (though in all fairness to him, I know that brutal objectivity about one's better half is a perilous path to tread : ).

In early June, a new entry appeared in iTunes: Steve Pavlina podcast #021, "Being Pyschic". I let it sit ignored for a long time, but my eye hit it repeatedly. "Being psychic? I know his wife has something going on with the woo - but is Steve serious about this too?" Finally, I gave it a listen.

The Pavlinas are beyond serious - way beyond. Maybe I'm just not experienced enough in what transpires out there in the woo industry, but I found it pretty jaw-dropping. Get ready: Readeth thou more

An "oops" moment: Did I desecrate the Body of Christ?

9 Jul 2008

Via the invincible PZ Myers, here's the kind of "they've-got-to-making-this-up" story that passes for reality in religiondom:

A student went to Catholic mass, and instead of chewing the communion wafer, walked off with it. (Instead of respectfully, piously swallowing and digesting and defecating it.)


The Catholic community is in an uproar. The student has desecrated and defiled the Body of Christ. He has commited a mortal sin and sacrilege. There's talk of disciplinary action at his school, and accusations of "beyond a hate crime".

It's got to be a joke, right? No. Catholics worldwide are seizing this opportunity to prove that they are not going to take second place to fundamental Islamic fanatics in medieval superstitious lunacy. 

Anyway. I have a confession (or is it Confession?) to make. I may have desecrated the Body of Christ myself. Readeth thou more

There's the word I was looking for: dogma

25 Jun 2008

In Reframing the argument: Is it "religion vs science"? , I mused on how I'm not too keen on battling "religion" per se. Oh, sure, I'm all for bashing religion in the sense that it's usually meant: a collection of beliefs – often harmful ones at that – not based on evidence. But "religion" can also be applied to something as benign as "a sense of awe" or "curiosity over whether there might be 'something more'".

In addition, attacks on "religion" invariably become confused with attacks on stained glass and soup kitchens and kind Salvation Army volunteers. Sure, it's dumb to read an anti-religious stance that way, but people will do it. In short, it's tricky and sometimes ineffective to target an enemy whose definition isn't even agreed upon by all. Readeth thou more

Science classes must recognize every "possibility"

23 Jun 2008

This could be true! Familiar with the case of John Freshwater? He's the Ohio middle school teacher who, despite orders to cease, has for years been pushing creationism in the science classroom. He made news in a bigger way recently by burning a cross into a student's arm. (Yes, you read that right.)

For a recap of the story, read

On that page, I replied to one commenter, evangelistbro, who seems to think that it's perfectly all right to inject non-science into the science class, as long as the belief in question is his belief:  Readeth thou more

John 3:16: The expanded version

18 Jun 2008

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

John 3:16. It's one of the most widely-quoted Bible verses there are. It's been called "the Gospel in a nutshell", for its succinct summary of the New Testament's "message".

A verse as vital and revered as John 3:16 deserves proper examination in the light of the rest of Holy Scripture. Let's place it into the wider context of the entire Bible: Readeth thou more

My science embarrassments

11 Jun 2008

One of the unfortunate side-effects of a religious upbringing can be a sad deficiency in Vitamin Science.

Okay, that's just as true for many average folks who aren't raised religious. But anyway:

It's not entirely accurate in my case. I loved science stuff as a kid; I sought it out and ate it up. Especially books on biology; if it was about animals, especially cool stuff like dinosaurs and herps and invertebrates, I was all over it.

But at the same time, I wasn't encouraged to pursue science, and I ended up with the occasional embarrassing lapse in knowledge. Here are a couple of misunderstandings that I kept well into my adult years:

No gravity on space missions?

Astronauts in shuttles or on the space station float about weightlessly, we all know. Why? Because they're in space, and there's no gravity there, of course! Right? Readeth thou more