Other People's Blogs

Jim Downey's picture

Wait, what? 'Conversations with God' author lied, you say? No, really!

I just cannot believe that such a good and holy man, a spiritual leader for our times, who has . . .

*ugh* Sorry, even I can't keep up that level of snark.

Here's the story, in all of its Schadenfreude glory:

Christmas Essay Was Not His, Author Admits

Neale Donald Walsch, author of the best-selling series “Conversations With God,” recently posted a personal Christmas essay on the spiritual Web site Beliefnet.com about his son’s kindergarten winter pageant.

During a dress rehearsal, he wrote, a group of children spelled out the title of a song, “Christmas Love,” with each child holding up a letter. One girl held the “m” upside down, so that it appeared as a “w,” and it looked as if the group was spelling “Christ Was Love.” It was a heartwarming Christmas story from a writer known for his spiritual teachings.

Except it never happened — to him.

Jim Downey's picture

Makes me crazy.

I posted the following over on my blog this morning. The specifics of it have very little to do with UTI, but I have some more thoughts to share after it.

* * * * * * *

So, Saturday I stopped in at my local gun shop, needed to pick up some components for a reloading project yesterday. They were busy, which is good to see, so it took a bit before I had a chance to chat with Dave.

"Had a chance to check out the Ballistics by the inch site yet?"

"No, not yet - busy with the holidays and stuff. You know."

"No worries."

"Going well?"

"Yeah, we've had over 350,000 hits in the month since it went up."

"Wow." Pause. "Um, is that a lot?" (They're not real big on computers, these guys, which is why there's just a link to a Yellow Pages listing for them off of our website.)

"Heh. Yeah, that's a hell of a lot. It's gotten quite a lot of attention. More and more, I see it cited as a reference when people are talking about this or that caliber performance."

"Huh. Well, I guess. But everyone knows that it's just basically 25 fps for each inch of barrel. Simple."

Paul Fidalgo's picture

The Empty Happy Medium

Ed Halliwell on the Guardian's blog makes what I can only assume is an attempt at a kind of charming, I'm-okay-you're-okay détente between believers and atheists in an otherwise benign post about the Buddha's unwillingness to delve into the question of the existence of a supreme being.

I suppose that's all well and good, but in his admiration for the Buddha's disinterest, he woefully mischaracterizes the atheist position:

Part of what makes the argument [over God's existence] so comical is how the concept of "God" onto which atheists project is rarely the same as the one defended by believers.

Whatever images of God some atheists might like to invoke in heated antitheistic rhetoric, the God whose existence is denied is not limited to one or another caricature, but all gods, all supernatural beings, all unknowable, mystical, cosmic consciousnesses. So not only is the concept of God that is refuted the same as the one defended by believers, but every concept of God (that is not merely a shorthand metaphor for what actually is).

Jim Downey's picture


So, imagine that your job is to help people. People with disabilities. People who need help with transportation, getting on and off the buses operated by the company you work for. Sometimes, these people are entirely at your mercy, trusting you to secure them safely, to see them safely to their destination.

Got it?

Now, what happens when at the end of your shift, and you're running late. There's still someone with cerebral palsy on your bus, strapped in and unable to move. The bus has gone back to the lot, rather than taking the young man to his home, as it was supposed to do. What should you do?

Well, the obvious answer is that you leave that person strapped in overnight, and make sure you don't miss the start of church. At least, that was the answer for bus matron Linda Hockaday:

Paul Fidalgo's picture

Andrew Brown Gets Sam Harris Completely Wrong

I opted not to deal with Andrew Brown's recent incoherent diatribe against the New Atheists on the Guardian's website, mainly for its messy impenetrability and my own sense that life is just too short.

Today, though, Brown posts again to respond to criticisms of the first posting, particularly the charge that he intentionally leaves out the philosophers of the bunch, namely Daniel Dennett (whom he admits he loathes and therefore can't write about objectively) and Sam Harris.

The crime? See for yourself:

Jim Downey's picture

Revenge? Justice?

This will not be an easy post to read. If you're looking for something light and happy, move along.

So, when is something an act of revenge and torture? And when is it a simple act of justice?

A doctor can remove your hand to save you from death by gangrene, or a doctor can remove your hand as a state-sanctioned punishment. What is the difference?

Jim Downey's picture

Kill your TV.

Let's see how many people I can piss off . . .

Saw a good thread over on Balloon Juice. In a nice rant about the stupidity of how the mainstream media is covering the effects of the financial collapse on Wall Street, John Cole made the comment "I may have to just shoot my tv."

This particular sentiment was picked up in the discussion which followed. One of the best passages from that said, in part:

Fifteen years ago I was so broke I sold my tv to make rent. I didn’t have much of a withdrawl. I spent the next 10 years without a tv, and I began to notice very weird things. I noticed how a ton of people couldn’t describe an event or situation without referring to some TV show. I call it the Seinfeld Effect, because at that time so many people would try to describe some event in their life and they just couldn’t without saying ‘Omygod it’s just like that Seinfeld where George and Jerry do that thing with..blah blah blah’.

Paul Fidalgo's picture

The Shameless Claptrap of Robert Sibley

Bloc Raisonneur reader StanB directed my attention to two pieces from the Ottawa Citizen that I think are very important. One is a full-length article, another a short response.

The main article is by Robert Sibley who inspired another post by me only a couple of days ago. I did not realize the degree of revulsion Sibley feels for the New Atheists and atheism in general, but his December 26 essay is brimming with resentment that reveals itself in absurd acts of psychological speculation and rhetorical foul play. What follows are just a few examples. First, my jaw dropped when I read this (my own emphasis added):

Modern philosophy, natural science and psychology are, more often than not, atheistic in outlook. So, too, are many of our social and political institutions. It is a virtual taboo for a Canadian politician to refer to his or her religious faith in public life. The school system teaches students about sex and drugs, but classroom prayers have largely been cancelled.

[continued after the flip...]

Jim Downey's picture

Open-source morality.

In a discussion about the over-influence of religion in British government on MetaFilter, the predictable give & take about activist atheism got going. I read these threads because they provide another snapshot into the current "temperature" of the debate, but once in a while I come across something either insightful or well stated that I like to share. Two such, this time:

Why is it that people complain about atheists evangelizing, but don't complain about the much more ubiquitous evangelism from the religious?

Because atheists are a threat to religion in a way that religion isn't to atheism.

It's like they have open-sourced morality and are undermining the business model of religion.
posted by srboisvert at 4:34 AM on December 28 [24 favorites]

I really like that idea: atheism is an open-source system, versus an entrenched and closed-source authority.

And then there's this:

Jim Downey's picture

Watch out,

Dr. Horrible - there's a new league of Superheros around!

Wow - that's just awesome. So, what would your Superhero name be? I've already been GalleryMan, but I suppose I would need to come up with something new now. Hmm...

Jim Downey

Via PZ. Cross posted to my blog.

Jim Downey's picture

You say Po-tay-toe . . .

I've been a bit busy with something else, so I was a few days behind on some of my usual reading. So, via PZ, I bring you this miraculous tale:

Vicar went to hospital with potato stuck in bottom :

The clergyman, in his 50s, told nurses he had been hanging curtains when he fell backwards on to his kitchen table.

He happened to be nude at the time of the mishap, said the vicar, who insisted he had not been playing a sex game.

Would a churchman lie? Of course not.

Oh, and Merry Christmas!

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

In response to Holiday tip No. 349.

Well, since I don't tweet (though some say I'm a twit), I'll just respond to Brent's most recent item noted there on the right that perhaps keeping down the alcohol in the eggnog isn't the best solution:

What effect does drinking have on your waistline?

It's in BFUs (British Food Units), but I think you'll be able to convert the information OK . . .

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Same planet, two different worlds.

The First Church of Starbucks:

OK, what was your thought when you watched that? I thought it was hilarious, and a good ironic indictment of the absurdity of religious marketing - and religion itself.

Now, what if I told you that it was indeed meant to be an indictment of the absurdity of religious marketing, but as a prod to get churches to do a better job of marketing themselves.

No kidding: it's from a guy who runs a marketing blog aimed at churches. Hey, he's got a book to sell, and that's a market niche, so more power to him. But this is from the post accompanying that vid:

Jim Downey's picture

Enter the vortex.

Ever stand on the bank of a stream and watch a submerged stick oscillate up and down? Or maybe seen something similar happen when you were fishing, and a cork/bobber got pulled underwater, the way it will swing back and forth?

That's vortex induced vibration. And it is a real problem for all kinds of engineering disciplines - just about any real world application which involves a fluid (or a gas, or even a plasma I suppose).

It could also be the thing which saves us from a carbon-based energy nightmare. Vortex Hydro Energy is a new technology which could supply clean, renewable energy. Professor Michael M. Bernitsas at the University of Michigan has helped pioneer this system. From his University profile:

Jim Downey's picture

You better watch out,*

You better watch out,
You better all cry,
You better all pout,
AFA is telling you why:
The evil gays are coming to town.

AFA's making a list,
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out
Who's naughty and nice.
The evil gays are coming to town.

They'll get you when you're sleeping.
Or even when you're awake.
Evil gays are bad, not good,
So be good for God's own sake!

You better watch out,
You better all cry,
You better all pout,
AFA is telling you why:
The evil gays are coming to town.
The evil gays are coming to town!

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Giving Up on God

Giving Up on God

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

I'm bathing in holy water as I type.

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth -- as long as we're setting ourselves free -- is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

OK, she still makes a bow in the direction of the alter, saying that private belief still makes people and society better. But the main thrust of her column is that religion has poisoned politics, particularly Republican politics, for the last generation.

Jim Downey's picture

From the stupid to the *really* stupid.

Some quick hits, absurd-religion-news style:

Garden gnomes banned from church cemetery because they are 'unnatural creatures'

The gnomes, along with plastic flowers and other decorations such as teddy bears, have been called "inappropriate" and tacky by the Diocese of Bath and Wells.

* * *

A spokesman for the Diocese of Bath and Wells said: "There is no such thing as a real gnome so why should we have such unnatural creatures in churchyards?"

Yo, Mr. Spokesman: Show me a 'real' cherub or angel, OK?

Cardinal at CUA: Obama is ‘Aggressive, Disruptive and Apocalyptic’

Jim Downey's picture

Good lord.

This is such a bad joke that I should post it in the Confession Time discussion:

Let Your "Light" Shine For Christ This Christmas Season!

Looking for an effective way to express your Christian faith this Christmas season to honor our Lord Jesus? Now you can.... with the "Original Christmas Cross" yard decoration.

Light up your front yard, porch, patio, driveway, business, organization or church this holiday season with a stunning Christmas cross.

As John Cole says:

Yes, thanks to the AFA, Christians everywhere can have their very own burning cross in their front yard for a mere $81.85, plus shipping and handling. Oddly enough, this does not seem to be a big seller in African American communities.

In all seriousness, I guess you can’t expect people who reject evolution, who think the world was created 6,000 years ago, and who think Adam and Eve roamed the world with dinosaurs to know anything about basic American history, can you?

Brent Rasmussen's picture

On Writing

Charlie Stross, the author of the excellent series that started with "The Atrocity Archives" and "The Jennifer Morgue", has recently finished the first draft of the third book in the series called "The Fuller Memorandum" - almost two years early.

He also provides us with a fascinating peek into the writing process and how it sometimes goes awry.

[Charlie Stross] This novel is unusual in that it was premature — very premature. In fact, I'm feeling slightly guilty about having written it, in fact — it diverted time from other scheduled projects, time I can't easily claw back elsewhere, and I suspect it means I'll be working over the festive season. But despite being premature, it's not an unwanted novel — it is in fact one I've already sold, there's a contract and everything — but the deadline is July 31st, 2010. I've got two other novels under contract that I really ought to have written first. If artistic inspiration ran on railroad tracks I wouldn't be setting finger to keyboard on this one until October next year.

Be that as it may; this book (which I knew I was going to write eventually) crept up on me out of nowhere and mugged me last month. I was sitting in front of the word processor, dully staring at an empty file and wishing I was somewhere, anywhere else — and some imp of the perverse prompted me to open a 2000 word stub of notes that I'd jotted down six months previously, and then it seemed the most natural thing in the world to write some more, and more, and moreandmoreandmoreandmore ... and suddenly I was unable to stop.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

President Palin's Acceptance Speech

Incredibly frightening satire from Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez over at AlterNet:

[link] So what else won’t change with me? I’ll tell ya. Freedom of religion won’t change either. You won’t find me settin’ restrictions on religion. It’s just gonna be a matter of learnin’ t’think about things a little different is all. We all know that there is really only one true religion and that’s why as governor of Alaska I made sure to add a Christian heritage holiday but did you see me do that for any of those other satan cults? No you did not and that’s because I know the difference, as a good a positive American, between religion and plain old superstition and crazy talk.

So you guys, I’m super happy to tell you today that you are finally free to be religious and that’s exactly what the founding fathers wanted when they wrote the USS Constitution out there in Pearl Harbor that time with the pilgrims and the Indians because they were Christians like me even if the liberals keep insisting they were Deists which also, is total crazy talk because there’s no such thing and never was as someone who believes in nature as God because God knows just like I know that nature is nothing more than his gift to us so that we can go huntin’ and drillin’ and drive around on ATVs. So you are free to pick the Christian church you wanna go to! Isn’t that awesome? There’s so many to choose from, it’s like when you go into the Target and you can’t decide which kind of disposable diaper to get. I’m all about choices.

For the first time in a long time we are on the brink of a political situation that could very easily become a death blow to this great American experiment of ours.

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross ." - Sinclair Lewis

Heinlein nailed it more than 50 years ago in the postscript to his "2nd American Revolution" collection called "Revolt In 2100", but apparently we didn't pay attention:

[R.A.H.] "As for the second notion, the idea that we could lose our freedom by succumbing to a wave of religious hysteria, I am sorry to say that I consider it possible. I hope that it is not probable. But there is a latent deep strain of religious fanaticism in this, our culture. It is rooted in our history and has broken out many times in the past. It is with us now; there has been a sharp rise in strongly evangelical sects in the country in recent years, some of which hold beliefs theocratic in the extreme, anti- intellectual, anti-scientific, and anti-libertarian."

"It is a truism that almost any sect, cult or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so. . . . The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue."

". . . Could any one sect obtain a working majority at the polls and take over the country? Perhaps not -- but a combination of the dynamic evangelist, television, enough money, and modern techniques of advertising and propaganda might make Billy Sunday's efforts look like a corner store compared to Sears Roebuck. Throw in a depression for good measure, promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, Anti-Negroism, and a good large dose of anti- furriners' in general and anti-intellectuals here at home and the result might be something quite frightening -- particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington."

". . . Impossible? Remember the Klan in the Twenties and how far it got without even a dynamic leader. . . The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed."

Dang. I just got a little chill down my back there.

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