Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Halloween- Have Fun

HALLOWEEN IS ALMOST HERE! I've discussed many spooky incarnations of dumbness- but now I want to have some fun. The following are some of my favorites:

The Perennial Favorite- The Scary Maze Game:

If you're looking for spooky stories this is a good website:

Halloween Recipes:

Halloween Party Games For All Ages:

Online Halloween Games:

Have a Happy Halloween You Guys! See You In November!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Botched Circumcision

This is a really good example of how dangerous religion can be:


It's a link to a news blurb about a man who attempted to circumcise his 4-year old son, and botched it. That isn't even the alarming part- before botching his son's circumcision, he botched his own circumcision.

Real Witches... um...er....Wiccans

I had a very difficult time deciphering precisely what it is Wiccans believe. Unfortunately so do the Wiccans. Witches are real, but they call themselves Wiccans. Unless they don’t. Then they’re called Witches or Warlocks, unless they find those terms offensive. Then you just call them “Hey you over there!”. Typically, they believe in two Gods; a God and a Goddess. Unless, they don’t. Then they might believe in a God called ‘The One’ (the God and Goddess are sometimes- but not always- viewed as incarnations of the God’s dual aspect), or no God at all. They have no scripture (and how could they? Could you imagine trying to read that book?) but they generally follow the Wiccan Rede: "An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will"(1). Although there is no specific definition given, even in the Rede’s full version, of precisely what constitutes ‘harm‘. They practice witchcraft, except when they don‘t.
It’s like a mix-and-match theology grab bag. There are a few common denominators, however. As I said, Wiccans generally follow the Wiccan Rede and have a reverence for the natural world. But the Rede is vague at best. Even the origins of the Rede are somewhat convoluted. In spite of it’s awkward and antiquated wording, there is no record that the Rede existed prior to a speech given by Doreen Valiente in 1964 (2). Even sources within the religion acknowledge that their principle code of ethics (the complete version of the Wiccan Rede) didn’t appear until the 1970’s (3). The Rede isn’t the only thing that’s new about the supposedly ancient religion.
In spite of Wicca’s attempt to poach credibility by implying it’s longevity, it is actually a new religion. Wicca was ‘invented’ in the 1950’s, following England’s repeal of laws prohibiting witchcraft, by a man named Gerald Gardner. Gardner worked as a customs officer before retiring after he was “initiated” into a coven 1939. In 1949 he wrote a fictional book about witches called High Magick's Aid (under the pen name Scire) before publishing the “non-fictional” work Witchcraft Today in 1954 (4).
Modern witches try as best they can to give validity to their religion by linking it to the religion of the ancients Celts, who seem to be idolized by modern pagans (5). But the idea that Wicca is founded on beliefs that originated in “Ireland, Scotland, and Wales” is offensive. It assumes that there are no meaningful cultural differences between the Welsh, the Scottish, and the Irish. The mythology of one, in Wiccan thinking, can simply be substituted for the mythology of another. The Celts were notorious for infighting, so many Celtic tribes were often at odds with one another, each advocating different beliefs and sometimes completely different Gods. It would be difficult to make a statement about what the Irish uniformly believed at any given time. Let alone, reconciling what the Irish believed with what the Welsh believed, and reconciling those two with the Scots. Though geographically close, the beliefs of different Celtic peoples were not necessarily more similar to one another than they were to other pagan cultures. Oddly, on the very next page… it talks about Chakras. Go fig…
As to the practice of magick (spelled with a K for extra kookiness), do I really need to say it? The best definition of how magick works is this: “Magick is the ability to make changes in the physical world through manipulating the spiritual world. How this is accomplished can be described by many words - Mind over matter, blind faith, will power are but a few - and all give a good description.” (Apparently, magick can alter the physical world but it can’t help you spell correctly. Willpower is a compound word guys!) But the description doesn’t get any clearer than that. There are statements that one needs to believe in a “spiritual world” and harness our spiritual energy. The basic essence of the Rede is restated, and the author of the page points out how “Karmic return works in mysterious, yet undeniable ways”(6). Although karma is a Hindu concept, not a Celtic one.
There seems to be chanting and candles and occasionally odd ingredients involved in most spells. In other words… it’s like a birthday party only sometimes you’re naked and there’s no cake. Well… it’s a lot like my birthday party at least. Only there’s no cake and my cousin Rory isn‘t yelling “Why are you out of beer?”…
C’mon. If were supposed to believe magick works then why were the original witches stomped out in the first place? If you can magickly affect the physical world don’t you think saving yourself from extinction would kinda be near the top of your priority list? We’re discussing a religion that lost out to free wine and crackers. How all powerful were these mages? I don’t see a strong historical argument that persuades me to take “magick” seriously.
The claim is that the Romans terrified everyone so much that they gave in and converted to Christianity out of fear, but that only proves that ancient magick had no real power. If the spells were real then it stands to reason that no one would have needed to be afraid of the Romans because they had magickal protection.
Even if we forgive Wicca for it’s ridiculous hocus pocus, which is an insult to the intelligence of any thinking person, we’re still left with their shaky ideology. Harm none. I stated before that Wicca’s only real rule is pretty much open to interpretation. The best definition of how a Wiccan might interpret the “harm none” credo was given by Patti Wigington from about.com: “While there are a few different interpretation of what actually constitutes harm, most Wiccans follow the concept that no harm should intentionally be done to another individual” (7). That really doesn’t define what harm means, it simply explains that however you define harm, you probably shouldn’t do it to others on purpose.
It’s a shortcut, an easy way to getting what one desires without doing the legwork, which shortchanges the people who come by what they have honestly. Doesn’t that constitute harm?
In fact, there isn’t a spell you cast that you can be absolutely certain won’t hurt anyone. Ignorance doesn’t excuse transgression if you are intentionally tinkering with the universe. You have to be somewhat more responsible…
But, fear not. You too can reap the benefits of universal tinkering… for a nominal fee. For the low, low price of $39.99 you can have a direct spell cast on your behalf! The website prompts you to “Chose from areas listed , most common are Money, Retun a Lover, Break em up and Make em love me, Quit Addictions, and Hex Removal and Hexes.” (Wouldn’t at least two of those count as harm? Oh, yes, that spelling error “Retun“ is on the website. It isn‘t mine.) Apparently, that’s just the tip of the ice burg folks! There’s another witch who offers even more spells, like the “make them bald or fat hex” and “TAKE YOUR HUSBANDS OR BOYFRIENDS MONEY”. Call me nutsy, but that sounds a little like harm too (8). Maybe the should change the Rede so that it says, “Harm none, unless you’re making $39.99”.
In the end, Wicca is not a religion about Celts, a Rede, or magick. It’s a religion about feeling good- the theological equivalent of a one night stand. There are no real standards or restrictions on behavior- no bothersome requirements to adhere to. Best of all, it lets you feel special and powerful. It’s good to feel more powerful than the people around you, but it’s GREAT to convince other people to buy into your delusion…and even better to charge them for it.

Works Cited
1- http://www.religioustolerance.org/wic_faq.htm
2- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiccan_Rede
3- http://www.waningmoon.com/ethics/rede1.shtml
4- http://www.bcholmes.org/wicca/gardner.html
5- http://www.wicca.com/celtic/wicca/wicca.htm
6- http://www.web-witch.ca/magickworks.htm
7- http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/wiccaandpaganismbasics/p/Wiccan_Basics.htm
8- http://www.therealwitches.com/apps/webstore/products/show/510839

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Psychic Vampires

Vampires are perhaps on of the most ubiquitous folklore monsters that have ever existed. The earliest vampires in folklore that bear any resemblance to the conventional idea of vampires seem to have arisen to explain problems with childbirth and infant death. Examples of creatures from this tradition are the langsuyar of Malaysia and the Lamiai of Greece (Melton; 505). Lilith in Hebrew myth also conforms to this archetype. She was said to attack human babies, and steal the souls of children (Melton; 422). The idea of a romantic vampire was an outgrowth of the Victorian era, a time where the undead were given new life in literature. Like every good idea, it occasionally undergoes a makeover to keep it relevant in a new era. (Anyone wanting to argue can take a look at Twilight). If the updates to vampire mythology was kept between the pages or saved for campfire tales, then I wouldn’t have a problem. But apparently, according to some people who should know better, we do need to be afraid of vampires. Very afraid.
Psychic vampires are an update on the oldest incarnations of the vampire. They drain your energy, a concept I have a real hard time distinguishing from stealing a soul. According to Joe H. Slate, Ph.D.,
“Psychic vampirism is alive and flourishing in the world today. As consumers of energy rather than blood, vampires of the psychic kind exist in many guises but with one common trait--their own inadequate energy system compels them to tap into and feed upon the energies of unsuspecting host victims.” (Slate).
Well thanks for letting me know, doc! Just when I thought it was safe to dangle my tootsies over the edge of the bed and turn out my closet light I receive this juicy tidbit of info. Damn it all to hell!
Even Slate acknowledges the uncanny resemblance of psychic vampirism to the origins of the vampire in folklore. He cites the example of Delilah vampirizing Samson when she cut off his hair the “source of his energy”. He even suggests the Jesus was the victim of a vampire attack when a woman touched the hem of his garment.
This, of course, is evidence proving that psychic vamprism is a real threat, with an established history of harming innocent victims. But is it? Last time I checked, the story of Samson and Delilah was considered fictional by all but the most out there fundamentalists. Even if we assume that the story of Samson and Delilah is true, then why did Delilah need to take Samson’s hair? There’s no mention of hair taking as an MO of modern psychic vampires, so why would the aforementioned Delilah feel compelled to defile Samson’s ‘do to suck his energy? Supposedly, these dangerous psychic vampires perform their dastardly energy sucking with their victims none the wiser. It differs from the Jesus/Woman encounter too, which also diverges from modern accounts of psychic vampirism.
So apparently, according to Slate at least, a psychic vampire could be anyone doing anything! Beware your hairdresser kiddies.
Slate even cites odd examples, like God fashioning Eve from Adam’s rib, and giving Adam the “breath of life”. What is that supposed to be? Divine Reverse Vampirism?
Though the ‘vampires’ he describes follow no set pattern, the symptoms of vampirism do. Apparently, you could be the victim of psychic vampirism if you “suddenly feel emotionally or mentally depleted, you may be under attack by a psychic vampire. The unfortunate effects of prolonged energy loss are damage to the energy system itself and in some instances, serious illness.”
Aren’t there a lot of other reasons to feel tired? Like, not getting enough sleep? Or working too hard? Or having mono? Emotionally depleted? If you were attempting to treat and diagnose victims of a psychic vampire attack the question wouldn’t be who suffers from these symptoms, but instead “who doesn’t”. Everyone, including myself, has felt these symptoms at one point or another (bad breakups… that’s all I’m saying). Does that mean everybody has been the victim of a psychic vampire? If everybody has felt this way, then that means that psychic vampires have felt that way too (they’re part of ‘everybody’) and does that mean that psychic vampires vampirize each other?
Slate goes on to cite “proof” that psychic vampires do exist. He said in his study, which was allegedly funded by U.S. Army Missile Research and Development Command, he discovered that couples that had positive interactions “energized” one another’s’ aura, and those who had negative interactions caused the aura to contract. When a person’s aura was in this state they experienced such adverse effects as slowed intellectual faculties (perhaps Slate is the victim of a psychic vampire himself), impaired short-term memory, and a decrease in physical strength by up to 50%.
That raises all sorts of neat questions like how did they measure someone’s physical strength in order to determine that it dropped by 50%? The answer may seem fairly simple. They had test subjects lift weights to determine what maximum weight could by lifted, or at least that’s one scenario. But if that was the case, did they first interact positively then lift weights, followed immediately by negative interactions and more weight lifting? If that was the case, then how could researchers tell the difference between fatigue and a decrease in strength related to psychic vampirism? Even if the segments of the experiment were conducted on different days how could Slate and his researchers be certain that the only variable affecting the max weight lifted was negative interactions? Furthermore, how could Slate be sure that the “constrictions” in his test subjects’ aura were not merely another symptom of some other condition?
I don’t know, and neither will you, because Slate doesn’t care to enlighten us further. There are some photos that are supposed to illuminate the idea, but fail completely. One can only assume that these are supposed to be auras of test subjects, yet there is no specific information indicating such. There is also no mention of how these auras were observed, though Slate says “direct observations of the aura as well as aura photographs taken before and after a psychic vampire interaction”. Psychics? Kirlian photography? Those would be the two most likely methods. The only problem is that Kirlian photography means the test subject had to be “placed on a photographic emulsion within an apparatus that generates a high-voltage (15,000 to 100,000 volts), low-amperage, high-frequency electric current.” (Barrett).
Does this sound like a procedure that would be conducted whilst the test subject lifted weights? Furthermore, it has been proven that Kirlian photography does not photograph “auras”, and that these images are more impacted by factors like voltage and barometric pressure (Skeptic‘s).
It leaves me wondering exactly how Slate managed to get his results. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any peer-reviewed literature on the study, which complicates any evaluation of the study’s methodology.
Fear not though, good people, for Dr. Slate has some techniques that can help you combat psychic vampirism. According to Slate, one of the most effective techniques for combating psychic vampires is called “The Finger Interlock Technique” (it was developed in the lab by golly!). You push fingers together to form two interlocking circles, envision yourself surrounded by a “sphere of impenetrable energy”, and then affirm “I am now energized and fully protected”. And you thought it was going to be something ludicrous… you silly goose.
The Finger Interlock technique also helps you overcome stage fright, improve memory, and promote positive social interactions! Though there is absolutely no explanation given as to why.
Should that fail (how could a foolproof technique like touching your fingers together possibly fail?) you can always use a quartz crystal. If you need help using any of these techniques, Slate never fails to point in the direction of one of his many books. On that webpage alone, three of Slate’s books are advertised.
If you needed any persuasion to believe in psychic vampires (and who would?), then this should do the trick: psychic vampires even have their own support group!
I really wish I was kidding, but I’m not. The site is real enough (so are the spelling errors on it!).
The psychic vampire support group, however, alleges that no everyone can become a psychic vampire. You must be born a psychic vampire (Psychic Vampires).
If Slate read that would his aura constrict? Are they vampirizing him?
I would like to pitch everyone my idea for a new kind of vampire. They don’t drain your blood or your energy, they drain your money. They write books, like Slate does, that appeal to people with problems in their life and no meaningful connection to reality. They perpetuate their own existence by taking advantage of others’ misfortune.
I’m not saying that this description fits Slate, but if the cape fits…
Works Cited
Barrett, Stephen M.D. “Kirlian Photography”. Quackwatch. 2 June, 2001. Retrieved on 10 Oct. 2009.
Melton, J. Gordon. The Vampire Encyclopedia. Farmington Hills, Mi; Visible Ink Press. 1999.
Psychic Vampires. “Frequently Asked Questions”. Retrieved on 10 Oct., 2009.
Skeptic’s Dictionary. “Kirlian Photography”. 23 Feb., 2009. Retrieved on 10 Oct. 2009.
Slate, Joe H. “Psychic Vampire”. LLEWELLYN JOURNAL Retrieved 10 Oct. 2009.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Kirk Cameron Scares Me

This may not actually be a Halloween post, but it is definitely frightening. It’s scarier than Dracula, and more terrifying than the wolf-man. It’s Kirk Cameron.
I won’t bother paraphrasing the recent Youtube video: I’ll just give you the link.
The most obvious problem is the idea, as Cameron put that “nothing created everything”. Over and over again proponents of intelligent design and creationism make that argument; some how it’s illogical to believe that nothing created everything. In other words, complexity must have a source, a designer to conceive of its’ intricate system.
That’s a fine argument… until you ask yourself the obvious question. If we find a watch and we have to assume that a watchmaker made it, then who made the watchmaker? It’s only logical to assume that the designer is as complex as its design. But if complexity cannot be spontaneously generated, then that must mean that the designer itself had to be designed.
Some people tap dance back forever to protoGods or aliens (why is it always aliens) but eventually they have to acknowledge that someone had to have created themselves. If they concede that a God could make itself, then why not a universe?
There answer is a resounding “Because I said so!”
They are still basically saying that nothing created everything, only they’ve incorporated a needless intermediary. The creator of everything sprang from nothing, then created everything. That’s only a problem because their entire argument lies squarely on the idea that it’s irrational to believe that.
Clearly not bothered by the contradictions in their own theory, the assault on our collective intelligence went on.
As far as Hitler and Darwin is concerned… Charles Darwin died April 19th, 1882, approximately 23 years after the publication of “Origin of the Species (About Darwin.com). Adolph Hitler wasn’t born until April 20th 1889, 7 years after Darwin was already dead. It’s impossible that Hitler and Charles Darwin ever new one another personally. Thus, we must assume that the clip on YouTube suggests that Hitler was a follower of Charles Darwin’s works.
The supposed link between Hitler and Darwin is this: Hitler believed the Aryan race was a master race, and that the master race was destined to prevail over “inferior races”- a sort of ethnic natural selection. Because of this, that makes Darwin (in the eyes of Comfort and Cameron at least) responsible for the holocaust. What the claim insinuates is that anyone who believes in or supports Darwin’s theory is somehow a Nazi.
What if Darwin had never come along? Is it possible that Hitler would have been crazy anyways? Would someone else have proposed Darwin’s theory of natural selection? History suggests that twisted madmen existed long before Darwin, and long after Hitler.
There are plenty of other madmen, who never mentioned Darwin’s theories. In fact, I think Christianity also has a little blood on its hands… remember that thing called the Crusades? The Inquisition? The Protestant/Catholic conflict in Ireland? Hitler himself was a Catholic (http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/boyhood.htm).
(Wasn’t there some guy who said something to the effect of “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”? Was it Mick Jagger?)
Does that mean that Christians are all ruthless murders, and that Catholics in particular played a role in the Holocaust simply because Hitler was raised a Catholic? Of course not. That idea would be ludicrous.
The idea espoused by Cameron and Comfort is irresponsible at best, and morally repugnant at worse. It should offend everyone because it attempts to brand an innocent man (Darwin) with a moral role in some of the worst crimes imaginable for the sole purpose of winning supporters over to Comfort and Cameron’s cause.
It would be roughly the equivalent of blaming Einstein for the casualties of the atomic bomb. It would actually be easier to assert that Einstein was responsible for the atomic bomb, because Einstein was at least associated directly with its creation. Darwin, however, was long dead by the time Adolph Hitler produced his warped philosophy.
As to transitory forms… well that depends on what you would consider transitory forms. In the minds of thinking, rational people there are many examples of transitional or intermediate forms. Creationists say “prove it”, but short of the second coming of Lucy, there is no way to offer definite proof. The best science can do is tell you what is most likely and most probable, what the objective evidence would suggest. No single scientific fact is iron clad.
It is the precise opposite of a religion, which posits that it knows everything about everything beyond the boundaries of what fact can prove. Science has to acknowledge what it doesn’t know, along with what it does, and has to take seriously the possibility that it could be wrong.
We now have even better evidence of evolution. With sonogram technology, images from inside the wombs of marine mammals, like dolphins, reveal embryos with distinct limbs. The limbs vanish approximately 2 weeks after developing, but the mere presence of the vestigial limbs hints that something more is going on (http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/in-the-womb-animals-2864#tab-time-line).
If God created dolphins in their fixed forms, then what purpose do those little legs serve? Is a private joke between God and Dolphin? If so, then I think the dolphins got the short end of the stick. After all, growth requires an expenditure of energy that’s ultimately wasted, since the limbs are completely useless and have to be reabsorbed anyways.
The most confusing and useless assertions concern Darwin’s alleged misogyny and racism. Darwin probably was a misogynist racist by today’s standards, but who wasn’t?
Charles Darwin should not be characterized as the secular version of Jesus Christ. He was a product of his time, as much as any other historical figure. And he was a naturalist, not a saint. Darwin’s subjective morality is not relevant to his theories, because we aren’t accepting the idea of natural selection based on the strength of Darwin’s character.
Racism and misogyny were the standard of the 1800’s, and I would imagine that anyone traveling back in time would be mortified at the casual attitudes towards sexism and racism that existed at that time. To put it in perspective, slavery wasn’t abolished in the United States until 1865. Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 1859.
To put Darwin’s “misogynistic” views into context- women were not granted the right to vote in the United States until 1920.
And misogynist compared to what? Has Mr. Cameron read the Bible? Can Mr. Cameron read at all? Inquiring minds want to know…. Perhaps they’ll answer that question in their next YouTube video. That might actually get me to say “Hallelujah, it’s a miracle!” But I doubt it.