Monday, August 31, 2009

Watch what you put in your fuel tank


Jewish date:  11 ’Elul 5769.

Today’s holiday:  Monday of the Twenty-Second Week of Ordinary Time.

Worthy cause of the day:  “Support a Strong International Climate Treaty”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Why We in Englewood Pushed Out Gaddafi”:  Good point about repentance:  When one celebrates the crime, one has definitely not done repentance for it.  And lying about it afterwards does not help either.
  2. See today’s weird thing below.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is the Pink Panther cartoon “Pink Lightning”, which is a take-off on Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.  There have been many variations of the theme of a person manifesting separately as good and evil personalities, but this cartoon is the only instance of which I am aware in which it happens to a car.  Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, August 30, 2009


Jewish date:  10 ’Elul 5769.

Today’s holiday:  Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Today’s quasi-holiday:  National Toasted Marshmallow Day.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  “The Day Moshiach Came”:  This is a short story on the dangers of fighting the wrong battles and claiming to know what one does not know.  It is well-written enough to speak for itself.

Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “The watermelon catapult had”:
funny pictures of cats with captions
Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Beware of performing in front of someone


Jewish date:  8 ’Elul 5769.

Today’s holiday:  Feast Day of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.

Today’s quasi-holiday:  Dream Day Quest and Jubilee.

Worthy cause of the day:  “Urge the Senate to protect sharks”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  “Swedish Future”.  This is a sarcastic cartoon on the recent anti-Semitic accusation based purely on hearsay of organ-harvesting by Israelis.  Despite the improbability of this claim and absence of supporting evidence, it was published anyway in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.  So far the Swedish government, in the name of free speech, has done nothing of any consequence except retract a condemnation of the article in question by the Swedish ambassador to Israel.  This is a failure of critical thinking which encourages further failures of critical thinking, as those who want to spread misinformation in Sweden now have reason to believe they can get away with it.  It also reinforces the Islamic jihad against the West in Sweden, since jihadists know they can use the press in Sweden to spread their claims and values, no matter how outrageous.

Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Chances of doing a really cool trick”.
song chart memes
Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Beware of Aw


Jewish date:  7 ’Elul 5769.

Today’s quasi-holiday:  International Kitchen Garden Day.

Worthy causes of the day:  “Fight Back Against Health Reform Myths” and “Protect Bristol Bay Wildlife”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  “Yale Intimidated”:  Because one intimidates or forces someone into silence, it does not actually make what they have to say wrong.  (Someone morally impaired could actually prove this experimentally.  And then this person would probably be killed by something he/she tried to intimidate out of existence.)  Furthermore, if other people know this is occurring, it invites the suspicion that what the intimidator has to say is wrong; if he/she were right, he/she could use the much more viable tactic of giving evidence.

Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Eberybudy wants to picks me up”:
funny pictures of cats with captions
Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Beware of graphics tablets


Jewish date:  6 ’Elul 5769.

Today’s holidays:  Wednesday of the Twenty-First Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of Cagliostro.

Today’s quasi-holidays:  International Dadaism Month.

Worthy causes of the day:  “Sign on to the Public Option Resolution”, “Add your voice - don't forget Darfur”, and “Stop the Killing of Bluefin Tuna”.

Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Steampunk'd Wacom Tablet”.  The people at Wacom really ought to make something like this themselves.  Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Beware of knights in pink armor


Jewish date:  5 ’Elul 5769.

Today’s holiday:  Feast Day of Friederich Nietzsche.

Today’s quasi-holidays:  Soy Bean Day, Kiss and Make-Up Day.

Worthy cause of the day:  “Tell your senators to support a strong clean energy bill.”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  “A travesty of justice”.  Rav Shmuely Boteach rightly condemns the release of Libyan terrorist Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and the mind-set that allowed this to happen.  Noteworthy is the fallacy of arbitrary redefinition, which in this case means that “compassion” is misused to mean a tolerance for evil and a lack of sensitivity to the feelings of the victims of evil.

Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is the Pink Panther cartoon “Pink Valiant”, which has the coolest riding animal I have ever seen.  Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Beware of telephones


Jewish date:  4 ’Elul 5769.

Today’s quasi-holiday:  Vesuvius Day.

Worthy cause of the day:  “Stop Shark Finning”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  “Abusing freedom of speech” and “In Sweden, silence is golden - just ask FM Carl Bildt”:  These articles deal with anti-Semitism in Sweden being defended as “freedom of speech”, all the while inconsistently trying to silence the Jewish/Israeli side of the story.  Much fallacious thinking is documented therein.

Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Retro Cell Handset Mod”.  Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beware of iCat


Jewish date:  3 ’Elul 5769.

Today’s holiday:  Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Today’s quasi-holiday:  International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition.

Worthy causes of the day:  “President Obama, Please Protect the Grand Canyon” and “Protect Deep-sea Corals”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “World’s first Muslim superheroes, the 99, out to conquer the West”:  The idea behind the 99, a group of Muslim superheroes, is an attempt to counter the negative image that Muslims have on much of the planet.  This is an interesting idea, but it is like trying to cover a brontosaurus with a wash cloth.  To be very blunt, the Muslim world is at war with the West.  Islam has been at war with the rest of the planet since Muḥammad, who conquered much of Arabia, and his followers went on to conquer a band of territory stretch all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.  The only Muslim country which is more or less democratic is (non-Arab, more or less secular) Turkey.  As for the rest, even the ones “friendly” to the United States, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have authoritarian governments and are no bastions of tolerance.  Non-Muslims are at best second-class citizens in Muslim countries, and even Muslims can be subject to harsh punishment or death for failing to adhere to Islamic norms.  Islam has become virtually synonymous with terrorism and war.  In short, the Muslim world is an obvious choice to provide villains, not heroes.  If Muslims want people to think better of them, it would make much more sense to start treating their own people and the rest of the planet a lot better.
  2. “Is Ga. kosher law kosher?”:  The law in Georgia is that in order to label a product as kasher, it must be kasher according to (Orthodox) Jewish law.  This has the “Conservative” movement unhappy, since according to Jewish law their “rabbis” are (to be blunt) heretics and incompetents, and thus not to be trusted to give competent hekhsher (kashruth certification).  Let the “Conservative” movement be unhappy.  Even if they get the Georgia law overturned, it makes little or no difference in practice.  A “Conservative” hekhsher is worthless, whether or not Georgia allows it.  No serious Orthodox Jew is going to accept a “Conservative” hekhsher, and a “Conservative” Jew does not need the approval of the state of Georgia to eat something when his/her “rabbi” says it is OK to eat anyway.
  3. Even a New Siddur Can’t Close ‘God Gap’”:  (Submitted by Harold.)  One of the hardest parts of Judaism is to try to maintain a personal relationship with YHWH, towards which we are required to pray.  However, maintaining enthusiasm and concentration in prayer is itself an uphill struggle; it is very easy to just recite the words by rote and to let one’s mind wander.  This article argues that new editions of the siddur (prayer book) are not solutions to the problem, based on the fact that this tactic has not worked in the past.
  4. Swiss basketball association forbids Muslim headscarf”:  More pointless religious intolerance.
  5. Homosexual Parenting”:  I really need to post more articles by Rav Maryles.  This is a good demonstration of calm thinking and rejection of irrational moral shortcuts, with the excellent points that all of us are subject to temptation and all of us screw up occasionally.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “iCat may not be compatible with other Apple products.
funny pictures of cats with captions
Enjoy and share the weirdness.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Beware of George Lucas


Jewish date:  1 ’Elul 5769.

Today’s holidays:  Ro’sh Ḥodhesh, Jewish New Year for Animal Tithes.

Today’s quasi-holiday:  Poet’s Day.

Worthy cause of the day:  “Tell Verizon Wireless: Stop supporting Glenn Beck's race-baiting hate speech”.

Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “John Scalzi's Guide to the Most Epic FAILs in Star Wars Design”.  Though not quite as funny a job as my brother’s alter egos would do, it still does a devastating job.  Enjoy, share the weirdness, Shabbath shalom, and happy new year.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Beware of big game hunters


Jewish date:

Today’s holidays:  Ro’sh Ḥodhesh; Feast Day of Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux.

Today’s quasi-holidays:  National Radio Day, Virtual Worlds Day.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. Material on anti-Semitism:  “Do Arabs See Israel as a Permanent Fact?” and “Antisemitism (1991)”.  Many ideas, even bad ideas, take a long time to die out.
  2. See today’s weird thing for another unexpected religious reference.
Today’s weird thing is the Pink Panther cartoon “Sink Pink”.

Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Beware of the surprise narrator


Jewish date:  29 ’Av 5769.

Today’s quasi-holidays:  Root Beer Float Day, Potato Day, National Aviation Day.

Worthy causes of the day:  “Protect Our National Forests!” and “Tell Obama: The public option is not optional.”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Twitter site offers followers line to God”:  While I can appreciate the sanctity of the Western Wall and that going to the trouble of going there in order to pray or directly place a written prayer in the Wall might well have a huge impact on one’s kawwanah (intent, concentration) and demonstrate the seriousness of one’s petition to YHWH, somehow using a Twitter account to get the prayer there sounds more like placing an emphasis on the place rather than the Deity to Whom the prayer should be addressed.
  2. Something of an experiment:  Earlier this summer I sent out a bunch of requests to various religious organizations requesting various religious texts listed as being for free.  These are most of what I received:

    This is about half of what I (or rather my alter ego “Hiergargo Adelman”) requested, consisting of the King James Version of the Christian Bible, the Book of Mormon, a few copies of various versions of the New Testament, a few copies of the Qur’an with associated material, The Urantia Book, some Eckankar material, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Journey of a Soul, some Witness Lee/Watchman Nee material, and various pamphlets.  (Note that the bookends are there just to hold up the books; no one mailed them to me.)  Those who sent for free what I requested have demonstrated that they value spreading their message more than making money.  This is especially true for Urantia Canada, who sent me two hardback copies of The Urantia Book.
  3. Recent reading #1:  Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis (of The Chronicles of Narnia fame).  I really need to reread this book (which I feel is worth reading twice, as good books usually are) and mark out where all the interesting material is.  This is an exposition of basic Christian ideas from the point of view of someone who is sane and who does not think those who disagree with him are necessarily stupid or evil.  Very notable is Lewis’s notion that being a Christian is not an all-or-nothing deal.  Rather, he considers it a sliding scale and that people can be fractional Christians, depending on how much of Christianity they accept; thus members of other religions and even nominal Christians(!) according to him can be fractionally Christian.
  4. Recent reading #2:  The Witch’s Bible by Gavin and Yvonne Frost.  This book is not worth reading once.  It never gets into why anyone should believe in Wicca other than it is (allegedly) ancient.  Rather it is mostly a manual for rituals and the operation of covens.  There is also a large emphasis on pseudoscientific ideas, such as developing psychic powers and dealing with hauntings.  The Frosts do not seem to be able to distinguish between scientific and pseudoscientific sources at all.
  5. Unexpected religious reference I ran across yesterday:  See today’s weird thing.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is The Pink Panther cartoon “Pink Panzer”, which ends with a surprise twist as to who the narrator of the cartoon really is.

Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Beware of a three-hour tour


Jewish date:  28 ’Av 5769.

Today’s holidays:  Feast Days of Roderic Borgia and Pope Alexander VI.

Today’s quasi-holiday:  Bad Poetry Day.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  More religious intolerance and paranoia:  “India: Hindu Extremists Attack Pastors, Manhandle Women”.

Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is Gilligan's Island the Musical.  (It seems they will turn anything into a musical these days.)  Included on the site are some samples of songs.  Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Beware of dust


Jewish date:  27 ’Av 5769.

Today’s holiday:  Monday of the Twentieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s quasi-holidays:  Sandcastle Day, National Thriftshop Day.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  “Iran: Trial of 7 Baha'is accused of spying for Israel to begin on Tuesday”:  File this one under religious oppression.

Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Photo gallery: Dust art”.  Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Obituary of James McCullen, XXIV (1935-2009)


Jewish date:  26 ’Av 5769.

Today’s holiday:  Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Today’s quasi-holidays:  Watermelon Day, Bratwurst Festival, International Dadaism Month, Joe Miller’s Joke Day.

Worthy causes of the day:  “Harlequin Frogs Near Extinction as Temperatures Rise” and “Give Us an Open, Honest Debate on the Healthcare Crisis”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. More religious oppression and intolerance:  “Mexico: Christians Jailed For Acteal Massacre Win Release”, “Suicide bombers target small religious group in Iraq”, “Boko Haram ressurects, declares total Jihad”.
  2. “Why I Think the New Atheists are a Bloody Disaster”:  Major rule:  No religious groups are composed of people with perfectly identical views.  This includes atheists.  This article is written by an atheist who does not approve of the recent “new atheism” movement.
  3. Nu, nu? Am I going to hear anything about my idea for spinning off a separate Divine Misconceptions blog?  Even something as simple as “Go for it” or “Bad idea” would be appreciated.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is an obituary submitted by someone with a big gun, included below.  Enjoy and share the weirdness.


The Fall of Destro:  An Obituary by the Cobra Commander
I remember the first time I set eyes on Jimmy McCullen.  It was 1969, just as men were taking their first steps on the moon.  I was a young cleric then, fairly brash and naïve and thinking that I knew all there was to know about our holy scriptures.  After all, wasn’t our god Golobulus everywhere and in everything?  So if I was well versed in all the words of his prophet Serpentor, then I must know everything worth knowing.  He who was then the Cobra Commander always chuckled at me, pleased at my zeal for the cause, even if he found me a bit deluded.
Jimmy was not.  His father, James McMullen, XXIII, was by then quite frail, and it had fallen on his son to run the family business.  Even Jimmy’s recent marriage had failed to mellow him.  He was formal to a fault in his manner, not just wooden as he greeted us, but stone-cold.  He met us at the airport with a vintage limousine, waiting for us with obvious impatience, as if the mere thought of just standing around was offensive.  For some reason he opened the door himself; we never saw the driver behind his partition.  Jimmy’s handshake was amazingly firm, almost as if his own hand was fashioned of steel.  Every word that burst through his lips was brief and emotionless, highly contained, as if he were some kind of robot.
There we were in the back of the limousine, Jimmy, the Cobra Commander, and myself.  The Commander’s words flowed freely, thanks and praises for having us and for the services we hoped he would provide, how blessed he must be by Golobulus.  Jimmy hardly looked at us, said only exactly what he had to say in precise terms, not a word more.  I wondered if the deal was falling through, that he was just going through the motions, perhaps to please his father, but in the end we would return with nothing.
For the next hour we toured one of his many warehouses, unassuming on the outside but quite full within.  Anything we could ever want was there, short of perhaps a nuclear warhead.  Jimmy claimed to be working on that.  Guns, bombs, grenades, survival gear, bullets, missiles, they were all packed in crates to the ceiling, every bit of space efficiently used, a masterpiece of organization.  And then there were all the vehicles parked there, rows of tanks, jeeps, small helicopters, and something that might have been a one-man clawed metal diving suit.  This was nothing, Jimmy claimed.  Next week it would be half-empty.  As much as peace and love were in fashion, so were war and hate, and there was plenty of business to go around.  I couldn’t care less if I had your business, was the message.
If the Cobra Commander was at all nervous, he never showed it.  He calmly noted he had contacts with other weapons suppliers, then noted how common were some of the merchandise were.  Everyone has AK-47s.  And these gas grenades, I know a man in Cairo who can get me something similar, maybe even cheaper.  Was this it?  Everyone spoke so highly of MARS and the McCullens.  Didn’t he have anything more?  Jimmy remained impassive as we rounded the warehouse, leading us back to the limousine with hardly a twitch, as if his own face were cast in metal.  And then he smirked as he looked at the Commander, just a slight lifting one of one corner of his mouth as he nodded, a sinister glint to his eye.  “Tux,” he said casually, tapping the hood of the limousine, “transform.”
The limousine jerked and shifted with a cacophony of pops and whirs, and I fell to my knees.  My head beneath my arms, I expected to be showered with hot metal and die right there, a seeming eternity of searing pain before my eternal reward.  But death never came, nor even the shower.  Hadn’t I seen it?  The limousine had come apart before my eyes.  The silence around me was almost as painful as the shrapnel should have been, unyielding and uninformative.  Curiosity finally won over fear, and I raised my head.
The Cobra Commander was just as shocked as I was at the bulk of metal towering over us.  The limousine had been replaced, pieces of it hanging off the outside of this thing which must have been twenty feet tall.  I was reminded of the robot in Metropolis, though this looked more like a man, with something like a top hat on its head.  There was a blue sheen to its eyes as it looked down on me, its shining metal face as impassive as Jimmy’s.  Tux, Jimmy explained, was one of his “iron grenadiers,” a mechanical race that was now in his employ.
Jimmy was always able to surprise me.  For all the years I have known him, from my ascent to being the Cobra Commander and beyond, he has always had something interesting to show me.  Not that everything always worked, of course.  There was always something special planned, some unforeseen trick or gimmick or angle that gave the man an edge to his dealings.  I might put my trust in Golobulus to provide, knowing how dire the situation is for the faithful, and then casually over coffee, just as you might mention some idiotic twaddle you saw on the television the other night, he would have some unbelievable find, just the supplies or ammunition to solve whatever problem we had.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the man was his dedication.  All men are dedicated in some way, some to their own pleasure, some to art, some to callings, others to Allah, Jesus, Golobulus, or whatever they may be calling the highest being.  Jimmy was truly dedicated to his work, and we sincerely appreciated it.
But even more than that, he was dedicated to his wife Anastasia.  Their courtship was something out of a romance novel, meeting under the backdrop of the civil war in Viet Nam.  She was but a young lady then, her parents refugees from the Third Reich who had done well in Canada.  Nobles, some said, others political leftists.  Her parents had begged her in vain not to volunteer as a nurse, they feared for her life, and rightly so.  She nearly died during the Tet Offensive, and it was only Jimmy riding in with some new weapons that saved her life, special ones he was demonstrating for the American military.  The bond was almost instant, and within a year he had made her his wife.
It was never an easy marriage between them, with families on both sides opposing it with many intrigues and threats to disown them.  And Anastasia herself has always been quite willful and fiery, not one to submit, not even to someone equally unyielding as her husband.  Breakable items had a short life expectancy around her.  Rare was the man who could stand up to Anastasia McMullen, and though we are lucky enough to count her among the faithful, I have seen her make even battle-hardened soldiers cry.  And as stormy as her temper was, she was as sharp and brilliant as her husband and an even more vicious debater.  It is a mark of his dedication and passion that he weathered what no other man could.
It is an open secret that the G. I. Joe toy franchise (the action figures, not the dolls) is loosely inspired by both Jimmy’s family firm, the Military Arms Research Syndicate, and the faithful of Golobulus and his prophet Serpentor, the Cobra Organization being just a military wing of such.  It may seem odd that a man like Jimmy would tolerate what must seem like mockery.  Many wealthier men have not, as William Randolph Hearst did when Orson Welles fictionalized the former’s life in Citizen Kane.  And while Jimmy was indeed a proud man, and rightly so, he never let his pride get in the way of good business.  Just as the fast food industry has ingratiated itself into people’s lives through children, so did Jimmy realize that he could do the same.  With the help of his wife and the iron grenadier Loki, they came up with the premise of the cartoon, comics, and action figures.  Jimmy would be a major baddie, vying to rule the world.  We took his doppelgänger’s outfit from one he wore at a costume ball, with leopard fur and leather and a shiny mask that would become his trademark, one that got him nicknamed “Pimp Daddy Destro” for years after that.  Destro’s love was called “the Baroness” after a nickname a servant once called Anastasia (and thereafter rightly earned the servant a beating), her jumpsuit drawn from the same ball that produced the other costume.  (She was actually trying to dress as Mrs. Emma Peel of The Avengers.)  And as for myself, by then ascended to the Cobra Commander, I got a sharp uniform and a spiffy mask totally unlike anything I’ve ever worn and a degree of incompetence I am incapable of.  (The character was actually an homage to Yosemite Sam.)  Together we would be bickering and disunited, constantly trying to conquer the world by outlandish means.  And fighting Cobra would be the alleged good guys, an elite force called G. I. Joe.  Their disarray of uniforms being anything but military, somehow this bunch of oddballs with no real coordination was supposed to work as one.
It was all very silly and supposedly innocent fun, but it was full of psychological traps.  Cobra is quite genuinely an enemy of the United States, but if who would worry if Cobra never seems to win?  Cobra was evil, but what about them was evil was never explained or even shown.  And the so-called Joes always charge in and save the day, regardless of the odds.  Even while he feigned outrage over the whole thing, he secretly was amused at the elegance of it all.  Not only were Cobra and MARS now well known, but generally thought harmless.  Our missionaries found youth painfully ignorant of the true nature of Golobulus and, never having seen the need to exercise their minds before the “obvious,” could not stand to the slightest challenge.  Our faithful in the West subsequently rose.  And those assurances of safety in the hands of the military were nothing but false hope.  The Joes were a bunch of superheroes, a few ultra-powerful beings who can overcome anything.  The myth of the superhero is quite enduring in the West, idealized despite their unreality.  Police to not employ masked acrobats or strongmen to go out by themselves and deliver vigilante justice, for the problems are too many and would lead to chaos.  No certain rescue there.  Note how the armies of the United States and Great Britain have yet to destroy al-Qaida or capture Usama bin Ladin; how absurd to think a handful of even the best soldiers could do better.  By teaching such unrealistic expectations to the Western youths, ultimately we have a much safer world for Cobra and all the faithful.  Although Jimmy feigned fury every time there was this new action figure or that new series that he claimed impinged on his honor (one of his public rants over Sigma Six was truly a masterpiece), that was only part of the ruse.  Anger always made for good gossip, and gossip spreads news.  Secretly he was often hysterical that he was able to manipulate the minds of an entire generation, a supreme joke if there ever was one.
The recently released movie, G. I. Joe:  The Rise of Cobra is no different.  Indeed, the very title is deceptive, for Cobra appears nowhere in it.  The contest is merely between the Joes and Jimmy, and it is taken to absurd heights.  Nothing in this movie is remotely plausible, and indeed it has the right ingredients for a camp classic.  G. I. Joe is now an international team; perhaps the Americans feel shame being so after their country’s fiascoes in international affairs.  The team includes a variety pack of unlikely members, from a jet-flying soldier who coattails his way in, to a Caucasian ninja who has taken a vow of silence, to a supergenius who just who just happens to speak Celtic and whose body armor lifts and separates.  The baddies are now presented in even more distorted form.  It has Jimmy (played by Christopher Eccleston) as a weapons manufacturer, and the movie does capture some of his sternness and determination.  But the movie also presents him as trying to take over the world, which he never did, and never cared to.  My own self (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was presented as a stereotypical disfigured mad scientist with no connection to either the comic-book character or myself.  Anastasia was reduced to “Ana Lewis,” a former fiancée of one of the Joes who has since turned evil, as signified by dyeing her hair black and dressing in black and glasses.  Utterly ridiculous connections are drawn between the three.  The evil scientist who poses as me uses “nanomite” technology to control minds.  Anastasia becomes my sister, controlled like a puppet into serving the military and sexual interests of Jimmy.  (Personally, I think that destroys the character’s charm, her being a robot.)  In the end this same man disfigures Jimmy with his nanomites into having a metal head, puts on his own mask (which is quite ugly), and calls himself “Commander,” all without any real claim to the position.  There is no rise of Cobra, for in the end there is no Cobra, this so-called “Commander” and Jimmy being utterly defeated.  Meanwhile the Joes, with preposterous technology, abundant teamwork, and the power of true love, rise up over Jimmy’s minions and completely obliterate them.  I could complain about a number of absurd places and events in this movie.  It has bases under the desert near the pyramids of Giza and under the ice in the Arctic Ocean.  Weapons range from guns which project some kind of air distortion to mechanical suits which allow one to run and jump at fantastic speeds.  Massive public disregard for human life is portrayed without any cries for war crimes tribunals.  And as Eccleston has previously played the title character in the revived Doctor Who series, whenever he opened his mouth, I expected to hear such phrases as “Let’s see how well the Joes stand up to the Daleks” or “I’ll just deactivate that fancy jet plane with my sonic screwdriver.”  But deep down it was all the same pattern as the cartoons:  the good guys win no matter what, while the bad guys always bicker, turning on each other and getting nowhere.  Watch it enough and maybe you’ll soon believe it.  I certainly know some world leaders who do.
The real Jimmy was full of surprises to the end.  The world media have been slow to provide details on his death, and I shall be glad to supply them.  His iron grenadiers may have added to his wealth but also to his torments.  As it turns out, the larger tribe of these beings do not want their brothers on Earth, and they have come to fetch them back.  Mostly they have been cowards about it, sneaking about and snatching them away one by one.  It was no accident that when Jimmy sent the bulk of them to serve the United States, he insisted they be housed in a protected location well within the country’s borders.  (In any case, there’s more room for them at Area 51 than at Guantánamo Bay.)  Their slow drain of numbers was a constant irritant, but taking a public side, even against these “invaders” and “thieves” as he called them, was not in his nature.  (He always liked to play the neutral third party as an arms dealer.)  It was only when the iron grenadier he called Convoy was publicly humiliated and taken away that he finally had enough, doing what his wife could never do.  Convoy was a key part to the publicity of the iron grenadiers, and there would be no way he could accept the loss.
He asked me for a favor, and I was happy to oblige.  With the help of a Cobra submarine and a missile he supplied, we aided his iron grenadiers attack his enemy.  We damaged their floating fortress, killed quite a few, and let the iron grenadiers satisfy their own bloodlust and rescue their imprisoned comrades.  The operation was fast, for soon their enemy’s soldiers returned from their own rounds, and a battle ensued.  Our submarine retreated to the safety of the depths, happy to help a friend in need.
I believe he expected things to turn out differently.  Not quite so many of his iron grenadiers were liberated as he expected, though his precious Convoy and the military genius Meister were among those who returned.  Up until then, no one wanted to challenge the “bloody bastard thieves,” there were so many unknowns, and what was known suggested staggering losses would occur.  Showing them to be vulnerable would make them seem less scary, and for a moment it did.  They have whined and complained at the United Nations and in the Hague for justice, but hardly any country has seen it fit to validate their cause.  They pleaded with Britain to extradite Jimmy and were ignored.  Jimmy was hysterical.  He had called the biggest bluff in history, punched a giant gorilla in the nose and simply walked away.  Suddenly even pirates who usually prey on freighters were emboldened enough to take his enemy on.  For the longest time his spirits were high, that is, until the night they came for him.  
If he made a mistake, it was his thinking “those steely gits” would always stick to diplomacy.  But even someone as stern and patient as they are has his limits.  It was just hardly a week ago that it happened, when a thick fog rolled over his estate, and then his enemy appeared, ready to deal with any security measures he had and more, save one.  For years Jimmy tried to reverse engineer the weapons the iron grenadiers brought with them without success, but that never stopped him trying.  And he did keep one for his personal use.  Jimmy had that one last surprise waiting, one that put him on a more equal footing with his enemies.  Not equal enough, sadly, for by the time the Royal Air Force was able to respond, it was already over.  Half of his mansion was reduced to char and rubble, the underground bunker torn open.  Anastasia had been taken, alive apparently, while his servants and personal security forces had fled in terror or been knocked unconscious by unknown means.  The spot where Jimmy had made his stand was utterly obliterated.  The only one there who had seen anything was his granddaughter Caroline, there on a visit, and she was hardly any use to the military.  They took her! she screamed.  They took Grandmama!  The bloody metal bastards took her!
I am writing these final lines, not from my desk, but from the back of a private jet as I hurry away from my beloved Cobra Island.  Not long ago I received word that a very large number of aircraft were approaching, and I doubt they’re friendly.  Our warriors will fight bravely, and no doubt many will find their eternal reward, but I fear this battle is lost.  But it is not the battle that matters, but the ongoing struggle.  For there is no war where a machine can overcome the divinely given human soul, and I believe as firmly as ever this is one we shall win.  Thank you, Jimmy for all your help.  May Golobulus seat you with all the faithful martyrs at the right hand of Serpentor.
And now I must go.  The bloody metal bastards are coming.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Beware of robots


Jewish date:  24 ’Av 5769.

Today’s holidays:  Forefeast of the Dormition.

Worthy cause of the day:  “Repower America | Email Your Senator”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. Religious oppression never ends:  “S Korea deports Falun Gong pair”, “KYRGYZSTAN: 'Don't meet for worship'”, “India hit over religious violence”, “Girl Flees Father for Religious Freedom” (video)
  2. “Mayoral Candidate Anna Falling Wants Creationism Exhibit”:  She wants an exhibit promoting creationism at the zoo in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  And she is treating it as a campaign issue.  Putting aside the fact that creationism is wrong (as I have noted over and over again), how is this not a violation of separation of church and state?
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is The Robot Egg.  Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beware of red lights


Jewish date: 23 ’Av 5769.

Today’s holidays: Feast Day of Hippolytus.

Today’s quasi-holidays: Left Handers Day.

Worthy causes of the day: “We Don't Need More Dirty Coal!”, “5% FOR THE WORLD'S MOST VULNERABLE: ASK YOUR SENATORS: We can convince the Senate to invest in helping the world's poorest people overcome the threats posed by climate change”, and “End Health Care Discrimination Based on Pre-Existing Conditions”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Muslim woman barred from wearing 'burquini' in Paris pool”: And yet again France makes itself look stupid when it comes to freedom of religion. Yes, many of us worry about Islam, but that does not translate into violating freedom of religion for Muslims, especially ones who are merely trying to go swimming. Framing this as a hygiene issue is particularly lame and transparent. The real issues with Islam are to the tune of jihad, dhimmitude, trying to coerce acceptance (as opposed to tolerance) out of everyone, violence, terrorism, intolerance, imposition of shari‘a, and questions of whether Muḥammad was a real prophet at all. Freaking out over the clothing people chose for themselves is concentrating on something superficial and fairly harmless and ignoring what is actually dangerous.
  2. I am seriously considering moving the Divine Misconceptions feature to its own blog again. The breadth of material covered in Weird thing of the day has gotten very wide, and much of the Divine Misconceptions material may not be what people normally consider weird. While Weird thing of the day and Divine Misconceptions are both “accidental” projects, their purposes and goals are different. Weird thing of the day started out as periodic E-mails in which I noted unusual things; it has never gained a set goal beyond that. Divine Misconceptions started out as a list of ideas about religion that were wrong and has turned into a serious writing project; its current goal is to produce at least two books on religious fallacies and misconceptions. A separate Divine Misconceptions blog might be able to focus better on religion and religious epistemology better, while allowing Weird thing of the day to focus more clearly on weirdness. Any thoughts? (And I really mean it. The last time I publicly considered doing this, no one responded.)
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Percent of Green and Red Lights While Driving”:
song chart memes
Enjoy, share the weirdness, and please comment on this post whether I should spin off a separate Divine Misconceptions blog.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Beware of filler


Jewish date:  22 ’Av 5769.

Today’s holidays:  Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of Heracles, Feast Day of William Blake, Feast for the First Night of the Prophet and His Bride.

Today’s quasi-holidays:  Vinyl Record Day, International Youth Day.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Cypriots seeking love potions wear away saints' tomb”:  Before stealing a chunk of poor Saint Agapitikos’s tomb to make a love potion, one might want to reflect a bit on where miraculous power is supposed to come from.  No matter how great a person Saint Agapitikos was and how much favor he had or still has in the eyes of God, Saint Agapitikos is still a man.  Any powers he might have he has only through the Divine Will.  As such, anyone wishing to tap into such powers really ought to ask whether one’s actions are in accord with the Divine Will first, lest God deem one unworthy and refuse to grant what is desired.  As such, anyone wishing to chip away part of Saint Agapitikos’s tomb to use as a love potion ought to first ask whether such behavior really is in accord with the tenets of Christianity and whether there might be better ways to achieve one’s goal, such as a better expression of one’s love to the object of one’s desire.
  2. More theological musings from my recent trip:  I was introduced to the simulation game The Sims, in which one creates virtual people (or rather fairly stupid automata which superficially resemble humans) and manipulates them into doing what one wants.  I was quickly reminded of the movie Bruce Almighty, in which a man who is angry with how God runs the Universe is temporarily given by God God-like powers over his local area; said man proceeds to abuse said powers and show he has no clue how to make the Universe run any better than it is run already.  It was very easy, too easy, to make the simulated characters do silly and immoral things for no good reason.  (In my case, this consisted of making my characters use joy-buzzers on and throw water balloons at standard game characters.)  This puts the sad story of Oedipus, who was predestined by the Greek gods to kill his father and marry his mother for no good reason, into perspective.  (The Greek gods are not famous for concern for human welfare.)  I am also very glad my own god, YHWH, does not take such a trivial attitude towards humanity.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is — Filler text generator, which may be of some use to people who need to write text which no one will ever read anyway.  Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Job application stupidity of the day


I have just encountered a job application stupidity which violates the logical fallacy of many questions. I am required on one form to answer the question “If you are under 18 years of age, do you have a valid work permit?” with either “Yes” or “No”. There is no meaningful Boolean answer for anyone who, like myself, is over 18 years old, yet they still demand an answer. Go figure.


Beware of woodchucks

Greetings, after an absence due to being out of town and not taking my computer with me.

Jewish date: 21 ’Av 5769.

Worthy cause of the day: “Tell Congress: No more unnecessary antibiotics for livestock”, “Threats to Humanitarian Aid in Sudan”, and “Tell Your Senators Why America Needs a Strong Climate Bill”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. On Sunday I saw the first episode of the “reality show” There Goes the Neighborhood. (It was not my idea.) I was morally offended by the promos (as I am offended by promos for “reality shows” in general), and the actual show itself confirmed my suspicions that the producers are morally impared. The idea of the show is to seal off eight families from the rest of the world by (literally) building a wall around a neighborhood and pit each family against the rest in the hopes of winning $250,000 in the end. My complaints about the show, based on the episode I actually saw, in no particular order are:
    • I wondered whether they would kick people out of their own homes, analogous to voting someone off the island. Indeed, they actually did this. This cannot be anything other than a major inconvenience for whoever is voted out.
    • People are pitted against each other for the audience’s entertainment. This is not even friendly, respectful competition, since a large amount of money is at stake and cooperation with other families in the long-term is not an option. The show is structured so as to foster paranoia, suspicion, and politics (in a very negative sense of the word). Whoever designed this show is trying to force the worst of human nature to the surface for no good reason.
    • People are encouraged to air in public thoughts and aspects of their lives better kept private.
    • The challenge the producers set up for the families was basically an excuse for a wet T-shirt contest. (I cannot make this up.)
    • What will be the long-term consequences on the neighborhood? People can apologize for the backstabbing and badmouthing that this show creates, but even under the best of circumstances the effects will likely linger. Unless the contestants are covertly hoaxing the producers, there is a good chance that the social atmosphere of this neighborhood will be horribly damaged for years.
    • What are the effects on the family and friends of those trapped inside the wall?
    • Does this show qualify as torture?
    • How much informed consent were the contestants given? Considering that the contestants did not seem to know in advance about the wall or the cutting off of electricity, there is a good chance that the answer is “insufficient”.
    Overall, I am very disappointed with the show, and I hope the producers are thrown in jail.
  2. Stupid attempt at religious oppression: “Euless to ask court to rehear Santeria animal sacrifice case”. General rule: freedom of religion means freedom of religion for everyone not hurting or endangering other people, not just those one likes.
  3. I am going to let this one speak for itself: “Toronto's newest speaking star: a would-be suicide bomber”.
  4. More Jewish self-introspection: “Modern-Orthodox Alternatives to Reactionary Judaism”.
  5. Who says we are necessarily going morally downhill?: “Monogamy Is All the Rage These Days”.
Personal weirdness: Lijit has reported to me the “Top Searches that Brought Readers to Your Blog” for August 3 to August 10:
  1. thing of the day (10 times)
  2. harlow several dumplings and the sabbath queen (7 times)
  3. harlow and the sabbath queen (4 times)
  4. harlow the sabbath queen (3 times)
  5. adhar university cairo egypt (2 times)
  6. harlow, seven dumplings, and the sabbath queen (2 times)
  7. coptic cherch design (2 times)
  8. misconceptions about the meaning to life (2 times)
  9. "harlow and the sabbath queen" (2 times)
  10. cardboard coffee table (2 times)
  11. ezekial youtube lego dry bones (1 time)
  12. speaking in latin without knowing (1 time)
  13. harlow, several dumplings and the sabbath queen (1 time)
  14. shaktism misconceptions (1 time)
  15. harlow, seven dumplings and the sabbath queen book (1 time)
  16. the harlow several dumplings and the sabbath queen (1 time)
  17. maher and ridicule (1 time)
  18. harlow, several dumplings, and the sabbath queen (1 time)
  19. flying carpet commodore 64 (1 time)
  20. steel mask weapons dealer (1 time)
  21. miscavige prophecy 2009 (1 time)
  22. harlow several dumplings (1 time)
  23. fiji blog sites (1 time)
  24. "harlow" and "sabbath queen" (1 time)
  25. weird thing of the day (1 time)
Again, ten of the top 25 searches had something to do with Harlow, Several Dumplings, and the Sabbath Queen, the fictional book in the episode “The Sabbath Queen” of the miniseries Kings, the only search producing anything more being “thing of the day”. Go figure.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “why yes . . .”:
funny pictures of cats with captions
Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Beware of mice


Jewish date:  17 ’Av 5769.

Today’s quasi-holidays:  Hamburger Day, Sea Serpent Day.

Worthy cause of the day:  “Tell Republicans to Denounce Rush Limbaugh's Outrageous Comments”, “Whales in Danger”, “Ask the United Nations to End Violence in Schools”, and “Tell Your Senators to Ignore the Scare Tactics”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Defending the Frum and Blaming the Non Frum”:  This article deals with a moral shortcut sometimes made in dealing with conflicts between one or more members of one’s own group and members of another group:  to automatically assume whoever belongs to one’s own group is right.  Most of us probably have a bit of a bias in this direction, but the author deals with a documented cases in which the assumption was taken to the point of ignoring evidence to the contrary, even constructing elaborate “conspiracy theories”.  The author is correct that evidence should always trump preconceptions.
  2. More religious intolerance and oppression:  “Bangladesh: Police Torture Pastor, Two Others”, “Sudanese police beat women opposing Islamic ban on pants” (I do not make stuff like this up; I just report it), “Ahmadiyah followers seek exit from shelter”.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Mouse Trouble: 20 Weird Pointing Device Patents”.  Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beware of the future


Jewish date:  16 ’Av 5769.

Today’s holidays:  Transfiguration, Feast Day of the Magi: Tahuti

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  More religious intolerance and oppression:  “UZBEKISTAN: Registration a weapon against freedom of religion or belief”, “Blasphemy laws, a pretext to attack Pakistan’s religious minorities”, “Vietnam moves on outspoken sage”, “Council of Churches: Pakistan failing to protect Christians”
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “The Future”:
song chart memes
Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Beware of Sam Harris


Jewish date:  15 ’Av 5769.

Today’s holidays:  15 ’Av (to be forgotten by Jewish men with women in their lives at their own peril), Dedication of St. Mary Major.

Today’s quasi-holidays:  National Mustard Day.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. In lieu of a weird thing today will be a review of the militant atheist text Letter to a Christian Nation.  See below.
  2. “Orthodox Judaism Must Lead to Moral Behavior”:  More introspection of one’s own religion.
  3. More religious intolerance:  “TIMELINE: Ethnic and religious unrest in Nigeria”, “Nigerian police probe clashes that killed 700”, “Pakistan Christians shut schools to mourn killings”, and “'They Want to Destroy Christians'”.
  4. “'Gaza man killed daughter for owning phone'”:  I have mentioned this case before, and this article  gives a reason for the murder:

    The groups' reports said that the assault was triggered by Jawdat Najjar's discovery that his daughter Fadia - a 27-year-old divorced mother of five - owned a cell phone. He suspected she used it to speak to a man outside the family, according to the groups' reports.
    Note honor-killing was done over a mere suspicion of talking to someone improper, not evidence of any impropriety worthy of death.  This is why, as I keep saying, taking the law into one’s own hands is a bad idea.  For all anyone knew, the poor woman was innocent.
Today’s news and commentary:
And now for the review.  Enjoy and share the weirdness (or be scared or disgusted or something).


Redefining morality:  a review of Letter to a Christian Nation
by Aaron Solomon Adelman
Your humble reviewer is going to get through what seem to be the most important books of the militant atheism (= evangelical atheism, new atheism) movement, whether he likes it or not.  Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris (Harris 2006) is one which was inspired by and spurred on by Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (Dawkins 2006), and unfortunately it repeats many of the same mistakes (e.g., paranoid religion-bashing and a venous disgust for religion which permeates every single original sentence), which will not be repeated here because what was wrong in The God Delusion is perforce still wrong in Letter to a Christian Nation, and your humble reviewer has better things to do than repeat himself.  However, Letter to a Christian Nation is not a complete copycat either, as it makes its own original errors.

Problem 1:  Redefining morality.

Harris, like Dawkins, gives Christianity a negative moral evaluation.  Dawkins, as mentioned in this reviewer’s review of his book, never really defines morality.  Harris, on the other hand, does define his moral system:  “Questions of morality are questions of happiness and suffering” (Harris 2006, p. 8).  This is the whole foundation for his moral system, and anything which he perceives as causing unhappiness, suffering, and needless death he labels as immoral.  Harris is correct, at least to some degree, that we can make objective claims about happiness and suffering (Harris 2006, pp. 23-25).  However, he still misses my major point about morality:
Who told Harris that morality must be defined in terms of happiness and suffering?  For that matter, why would one think morality has to be defined in terms of happiness and suffering?  Not only do your humble reviewer’s comments on morality in The God Delusion hold, but Harris’s system fails on two accounts.  

1) The first problem is that this is an arbitrary opinion, so if he wants other people to adopt it, it is his duty to convince others to accept it.  He never does.  He just assumes he is right and bashes away.  And since he does nothing to prove his system is the “one true moral system” (which is not meaningful, since one cannot prove an opinion), anyone can reject it without having to give the least justification.

2) Harris’s moral system is the wrong one to use on his alleged target audience.  Remember, this book is supposed to be A Letter to a Christian Nation.  If one wishes to make moral arguments to Christians, one has to work within a moral framework acceptable to Christians.  This is why when Christians argue about morality they do it in reference to the Christian Bible; since they accept it as a basis for morality, one can make arguments based upon it which are persuasive to Christians.  Harris, however, cannot use the Christian Bible as a basis for what is right and wrong, because anything the Christian Bible says is right is going to be accepted as right by Christians.  This makes it illogical to use the Christian Bible as a moral basis to attack Christianity and be accepted by Christians.  Unfortunately, Harris’s use of his own moral system, even if his factual claims about Christianity were correct, makes him unable to articulate a moral argument that Christians must accept.  To put it colorfully, he’s damned if he does, and he’s damned if he doesn’t.  Ignoring the fact that he is doomed to fail no matter which moral system he chooses, Harris goes ahead anyway and tries to make an argument against Christianity on one of the worst bases ever attempted:

Problem 2:  Mistaking (alleged) immorality for falsehood.

Suppose for a moment that one accepts Harris’s negative moral evaluation of Christianity.  Does this have anything to do with the question of whether Christianity is true?  Absolutely not.  It is still conceivable that Christianity is true.  The Christian God, if He really does exist, is as entitled to have moral opinions as anyone else, and there is no reason He has to follow Harris’s moral opinions.  The truth or falsehood of Christianity—or any other religion—depends on whether its essential claims are true, not how anyone feels about them.  Harris, however, barely goes beyond mistaking moral outrage for proof or (following Dawkins) attacking a straw man version of Christianity.  He does make one attempt at attacking the New Testament for being written to make it look like prophecies from the Hebrew Bible are being fulfilled and there being disagreements among the Gospels (Harris 2006, pp. 57-59), but then he lapses into complaining that prophecies are not written the way he wants them to be written, including giving an untenable interpretation of 1 Kings 7:23-26 and 2 Chronicles 4:2-5 that π =3 which only someone completely ignorant of mathematics would believe (Harris 2006, 59-62), and degenerates into another straw man attack after that.

Problem 3:  Who is the real audience for this book?

The title of this book is Letter to a Christian Nation.  Early on Harris claims to be addressing specifically conservative Christians, which he defines as people who believe “that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that only those who accept the divinity of Jesus Christ will experience salvation after death” (Harris 2006, p. viii).  While not explicitly targeting non-conservative Christians or non-Christian religious people, Harris accuses them of giving “shelter to extremists of all faiths” and lending “tacit support to the religious divisions of the world”, yet claims to envision liberal and moderate Christians ganging up with nonbelievers against conservative Christians (Harris 2006, pp. ix-x).  However, Harris’s style of argumentation (“you are horrible people, and your religion is utterly repulsive”) is extremely badly calibrated to win any converts (or in this case, apostates) from any religious group.  The problem is made worse by Harris’s failure to even try to understand conservative Christianity as conservative Christians understand it.  Letter to an Christian Nation is, in fact, so abrasive and insulting to religion and religious people that few of its alleged target audience are likely to bother to reading more than a few pages, if they read any of it at all.  Given that Harris managed to get into a PhD program in the natural sciences, he is presumably sufficiently intelligent and aware of how humans think to know that this book’s chance of success among adherents of any religion other than atheism are negligible.  The most likely explanation your humble reviewer sees is that this is actually a book for rabid atheists who hate conservative Christianity, much like Dawkins’s The God Delusion, and its claim to be a letter to a Christian nation is a transparent pretense.

Problem 4:  Poor book design.

This is not a matter of fallacy or getting the facts wrong.  However, trying to find anything in a book which has no table of contents or index is a pain in the neck.  If your reviewer had not followed his standard procedure of folding over corners at notable passages and writing in margins, he would not have been able to find anything again after reading it.  Furthermore, there are few footnotes, even fewer of which give sources.  A listing of sources is found at the end on the book (Harris 2006, pp. 93-96), but these do not cover everything claimed.  For someone who is working on a PhD in neuroscience (Sam Harris), this is inexcusable.  There is a major rule in academia that one is supposed to source all of one’s nontrivial claims.  And while it is easy to fail to achieve this ideal, never has the author ever read another book from an academic (real or alleged) which ever made it so hard to find material on a specific topic.  This is exactly how a book is put together in order to keep anyone from keeping track of what the author is claiming or doing fact-checking.

Conclusion:  Letter to a Christian Nation is, like The God Delusion, grandstanding for theism-hating atheists with little or no interest in reason.  Harris ought to have learned from Dawkins’s deficiencies, but instead he repeats many of the same mistakes and a few of his own.  The only people who have any need to read this book are those doing research on militant atheism or Sam Harris.

Overall classification:  Worthless outrage professing to be reason.

Theological rating:  F, with a recommendation that Harris be banned from theology and logic until he repents and demonstrates that he understands the Christian Bible competently.

Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Harris, Sam. 2006. Letter to a Christian nation. 1st ed. New York: Knopf.
Sam Harris [Web-site] [cited 2009-08-02. Available from

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