Monday, December 1, 2014

What are the Best Religious Movies?

What are the best religious movies?

It's December, which means it's time for the biannual invasion of lackluster live action sermons masquerading as entertainment. Christians are celebrating the birth of Christ. Setting aside the fact that he could NOT have been born in the Winter, that the holiday was scheduled to absorb assorted pagan and Yule festivals and the "celebration" is more "orgy of stuff" than religious remembrance, I choose to focus on mainstream entertainment that's actually religious.

The Charlie Brown Christmas Special is of course high on the list. While not a movie, it does an excellent job of touching on both the religious and commercial aspects of the holiday.

"A Man for All Seasons," is, in my opinion, one of, if not the best, treatment of faith by Hollywood. It deftly and intelligently examines the intersection of Man's Law and God's Law in a manner that's far more insightful and useful than just about anything said by anyone ranting about "Activist judges."

While I enjoy the original Robocop, and it's a very obvious Christ allegory, it really doesn't qualify as a "religious" movie unless you consider criticism of corporate dominance to be a religious topic.

What are your thoughts? What do you consider the best, or the most entertaining religious movies? Please, don't limit yourself to Christianity.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Honey Badger vs the Darkness

My six year old son had been having problems sleeping at night due largely to the typical childhood fears of monsters, shadows and vague noises. Remembering the fact that Honey Badgers are formidable animals, I hatched a plan where we watched a National Geographic documentary about Honey Badgers. When it was finished my son concluded that honey badgers were about as badass as animals could get. I ordered him a stuffed honey badger and he waited with baited breath for it to arrive.

When the box was opened we played with his stuffed animals a bit, including a sequence where he had to convince his stuffed cheetahs, lions and other fierce creatures to stop being scared of the Honey badger, because he was their friend.

That night when my son went to bed, he brought up his usual fears about scary things in the darkness.

"What time are Honey Badgers most active?" I asked him.

He thought a moment and replied, "At nigh. They're nocturnal."

"Exactly. Your Honey Badger is hunting when you're sleeping. He's on guard while you sleep. That's how he evolved."

My son smiled.

"An you know what else?"

"What?"

"Do you think there's ANYTHING you're scared of that the Honey Badger can't take out?"

He laughed. "No Daddy." He then got very serious. "But what if there's too many for my honey badger to fight?"

"Remember the documentary?"

"Yes."

"Do you think your other stuffies could sleep through the racket of a honey badger fighting?"

He laughed again. "No Daddy."

"Well then, if anything scary comes by, your honey badger will take it out. If it has any trouble, it'll make so much noise in the fight all your other fierce animals will hear the racket and come to your honey badger's aid. By that point there'll be so much noise Mommy and I will wake up too."

"OK Daddy!" he announced, and flopped into bed, fiercely snuggling his new friend.

He still wakes up at night now and then, but generally because he wants to cuddle with Mommy or Daddy. His fear of dark things in the night has pretty much evaporated. He's even taken to venturing downstairs at night, so long as he has the honey badger and one or two other particularly fierce creatures in tow.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

@ksorbs Kevin Sorbo vs the Ten Commandments

I know, I know, examining the theological implications of a Kevin Sorbo quote isn't really fair, but it's fun.

I have always said, the ten commandments are basically pretty good rules to live by even if you are an atheist. - Kevin Sorbo



At first blush, that sounds like a perfectly reasonable statement, assuming your knowledge of the Ten Commandments is limited to "Well, they're rules we're supposed to follow, right?" Let's take a quick look at the Ten Commandments from the viewpoint of someone who doesn't believe in God and see if Mr. Sorbo is right.

To the Bible! Wait, There's More Than 10...

The first problem we encounter is that the Bible doesn't really contain the Ten Commandments as they're  traditionally presented in Sunday School. The "Ten Commandments" that keep cropping up on courthouse walls and monuments on public land are an edited fusion of selections from Exodus chapter 20 and Deuteronomy chapter 5. Adding to the complexity is the fact that the ordering and wording chosen varies from one religious sect to another. The Wikpedia article on the Ten Commandments has an excellent table showing the most common variations, reproduced here:

Traditions:
  • S: Septuagint, generally followed by Orthodox Christians.
  • P: Philo, same as the Septuagint, but with the prohibitions on killing and adultery reversed.
  • T: Jewish Talmud, makes the "prologue" the first "saying" or "matter" and combines the prohibition on worshiping deities other than Yahweh with the prohibition on idolatry.
  • A: Augustine follows the Talmud in combining verses 3–6, but omits the prologue as a commandment and divides the prohibition on coveting in two and following the word order of Deuteronomy 5:21 rather than Exodus 20:17.
  • C: Catechism of the Catholic Church, largely follows Augustine.
  • L: Lutherans follow Luther's Large Catechism, which follows Augustine but omits the prohibition of images[17] and uses the word order of Exodus 20:17 rather than Deuteronomy 5:21 for the ninth and tenth commandments.
  • R: Reformed Christians follow John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, which mostly follows Philo.
The Ten Commandments
S P T A C L R Main article Exodus 20:1-17 Deuteronomy 5:4-21
1 1 (1) I am the Lord thy God 2 [18] 6 [19]
1 1 2 1 1 1 1 Thou shalt have no other gods before me 3[20] 7[21]
2 2 2 1 1 2 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image 4–6[22] 8–10[23]
3 3 3 2 2 2 3 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain 7[24] 11[25]
4 4 4 3 3 3 4 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy 8–11[26] 12–15[27]
5 5 5 4 4 4 5 Honour thy father and thy mother 12[28] 16[29]
6 7 6 5 5 5 6 Thou shalt not kill 13[30] 17[31]
7 6 7 6 6 6 7 Thou shalt not commit adultery 14[32] 18[33]
8 8 8 7 7 7 8 Thou shalt not steal 15[34] 19[35]
9 9 9 8 8 8 9 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour 16[36] 20[37]
10 10 10 10 10 9 10 Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's house) 17a[38] 21b[39]
10 10 10 9 9 10 10 Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's wife) 17b[40] 21a[41]
10 10 10 10 10 10 10 Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's servants, animals, or anything else) 17c[42] 21c[43]

That's 13 commandments!

The actual passages contain more than 13 between them, even when you account for similar commandments, but the sad reality is the Ten Commandments are an editorial study aid created by church and synagogue leaders, not a literal list of rules laid out that way in the Bible. Since Kevin Sorbo never specified WHICH religious tradition he meant when claiming the Ten Commandments were a good set of rules for Atheists to live by, we're left with the following options:
  1. Pick a tradition and run with it.
  2. Evaluate Exodus 20 AND Deuteronomy 5.
  3. Evaluate Exodus 20 OR Deuteronomy 5.
  4. Go through the pool of 13 proto-commandments traditionally used to fabricate a list of 10.
From a Biblical scholarship standpoint Option #2 would be the better choice, but this article is about Kevin Sorbo's theological claims, which are already somewhat divorced from Biblical literacy by the mere use of the Ten Commandments as a baseline. To cover the bases properly, this article will go with Option 4, covering the pool of 13 commandments traditionally pared down to a Decalogue.

 I am the Lord thy God

Already we have a problem. An atheist can no more acknowledge Yahweh as their God than a Christian could acknowledge Jupiter or pray to Hercules to act as an intercessor with Zeus. Fortunately for Sorbo, this Commandment is really more God stating how he views his place in relation to humanity. It doesn't give an actual command. This is probably why many Christian sects drop it from the list.


Thou shalt have no other gods before me

This is what most Protestants and Lutherans think of as the First Commandment. While its predecessor above allows for a pantheon compatible with, for example, Hinduism and many forms of modern paganism, this one encroaches on this territory, demanding Yahweh get preferential treatment over other deities a person worships. This is particularly problematic for someone whose pantheon doesn't even INCLUDE Yahweh.

Needless to say, this commandment is right out for an atheist, as they don't believe in God to begin with.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

Often combined with the rule that precedes it, this Commandment also fails as a guideline by which a non-Christian could live. Atheists are going to follow this rule in an incidental manner. Not believing in any god, an atheist is not going to be making an idol. If they made an idol, an object intended to be worshiped, they would no longer be atheists.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain

This is one is bit more complicated than it appears at first glance. Most modern Christians see this as little more than a prohibition against using God's name while cursing. The older interpretation, and the one probably closer to what the original authors would have intended, is a prohibition against making oaths under false pretenses or that you didn't intend to keep. It takes the form of taking God's name in vain because it was common practice to swear in the name of your deity when you made a vow. Americans still do this by having people swear oaths on Bibles.


This commandment is the first one examined so far that is actually good advice. If you take it by the modern definition of "don't swear" it's a miss manners piece of advice. If you take it by the older, more accurate interpretation, it becomes a very foundational statement about maintaining your integrity and trustworthiness.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy

We'd have fewer arguments in this country about labor rights if this one was taken seriously by the allegedly Christian business leaders.The utility of this commandment to a atheist is going to depend upon what you mean by "keep it holy." If you mean "Go to Church or Synagogue" then the commandment is useless to an atheist. If you mean "rest and recuperate" then taking one day out of seven to relax is very good advice that will benefit most people.

Honor thy father and thy mother
After a long dry spell of ambiguous or useless commandments we finally get to one that has some undeniable value. This commandment is usually paired with a promise of long life if you obey it. Since Leviticus 20:9 and Deuteronomy 21:18-21 call for unruly children to be put to death, this was not an empty promise. In a Biblical context, the promise of a long life if you honor your father and mother is an unambiguous "Obey, or we'll kill you." In a more modern context, the promise is still applicable. A child who heeds their parents  when they tell them to look both ways when crossing the street or advises them on good gun safety practices is generally going to live longer than a kid who discards that advice.


In general, honoring your Father and mother is a good idea. Sadly, there are plenty of abusive and negligent parents. Because of them, a disclaimer would be advisable to allow children to, for example, not honor a parent who sexually molests them. Aside from the absence of this disclaimer this commandment is good advice for atheists.

Thou shalt not kill

This is by and large, good advice for anyone to follow, unless of course they're a soldier at war.


Thou shalt not commit adultery

The rise of Polyamory, open marriages and the fact that many Millennials aren't feeling the need to get married before combining finances or starting families makes the essence of this commandment good advice, but the wording outdated. The real essence of this commandment is to not violate the relationship parameters you've set with your partners. In Biblical times this consisted of a man agreeing not to have sex with a woman who wasn't one of his wives or concubines, and the wives and concubines in turn agreeing not to have sex with anyone but him. That rather simple man / property arrangement isn't really applicable in modern times. Despite the fact that some rewording is needed, this is still good advice for atheists. Since monogamous marriage is still the most common adult relationship structure, "Thou shat not commit adultery" still covers the vast majority of cases.

Thou shalt not steal


Again, good advice for everyone. That's why the idea was in the Code of Hammurabi.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
 

Kevin Sorbo curb stomped this commandment with his shameful and dishonest portrayal of an atheist in "God's not Dead." With that performance, he bore false witness against about 20% of Americans, according to recent research.

The key problem with this commandment seems to be how many people are perfectly happy to lie about someone who is a member of a group they're prejudiced against. Jesus tried to clarify who our "neighbor" is with the parable of the good Samaritan, but that hasn't stopped even allegedly religious men like Kevin Sorbo from a performance as insulting and hateful as if he'd smeared himself in black-face and sung "Mammy" between bites of watermelon.

The commandment is a good one, but it needs some clarification.

Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's house)
Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's wife)
Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's servants, animals, or anything else)


I vividly remember a high school religion class where the teacher had us discuss why there were two "thou shalt not covet" commandments and why they were broken up the way they were. It's a shame he never had us go back to the actual bible. If he had, we'd have seen the division we were puzzling over was an arbitrary one. Instead of two commandments with a theologically critical division, the actual bible verses are just a few lists with formatting and presentation no different than elsewhere in the Old Testament. The Old testament authors LOVED going into detail. A reformed rabbi I spoke to explained that she suspected the "Stiff Necked people" Moses was contending with were real sticklers for detail, constantly looking for loopholes and exclusions. This lead to a LOT of elaboration. The example she used was in the convoluted and extensive listing of who you couldn't sex with without committing incest.

Because of this, I'm going to treat the three of these as a single unit and say that not coveting is generally good advice. I'm particularity fond of how Louis C.K. phrased the idea.

"The only time you look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to see if you have as much as them." - Louis C.K.


Kinda sounds like something Christ would have said, doesn't it?

The Commandments for Atheists

After all of that, we can cull the pool of 13 proto-commandments into a list that atheists can actually put to use in their daily life.
  1. Do not swear any oaths or make any promises you do not intend to keep. Do not break any oaths or promises you have already made.
  2. Take one day out of seven as a day of rest.
  3. Honor thy father and thy mother within reason
  4. Thou shalt not kill
  5. Thou shalt not violate the relationship parameters you've set with your partner(s)
  6. Thou shalt not steal
  7. Thou shalt not bear false witness against ANYONE
  8. Thou shalt not covet. The only time you look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to see if you have as much as them.
I'm tempted to add a ninth commandment of "The bowl is a metaphor, don't take it literally" just to tease Creationists a bit, but that's drifting a bit from the article's topic.


Getting back to Sorbo's original claim, "the ten commandments are basically pretty good rules to live by even if you are an atheist," we see 8 out of 13 proto-commandments are good advice for atheists, If you make a few edits to disambiguate and modernize a few of them.  That makes Kevin Sorbo's comment 62% accurate, assuming you grant him the commandments that needed editing as whole commandments and not partial ones.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why Kevin Sorbo is so Angry

It's hard to miss just how angry Kevin Sorbo is in his recent interviews. Despite riding high on the success of his low-budget flick God's Not Dead, he's showing a lot of anger and animosity towards people he clearly does not understand.

How Kirk Cameron fits In

Sorbo blames his fall from fame on his Christian faith, accusing Hollywood of being "afraid" of God. His faith, however, is not what did him in professionally. To understand what happened to Sorbo, you first must look at Kirk Cameron. Parallels between the two men are natural. Both were successful television stars who are currently working in poorly written, saccharine sweet, low-budget yet profitable movies targeting the less discerning members of the Christian market. The key to understanding Sorbo's bitterness and anger is to examine Cameron's deliberate transition.

Kirk Cameron had a reputation as a holy roller while still on Growing Pains. He went so far as to have the actress playing his girlfriend written off the show because she'd once posed for Playboy. His religious demands did not, however, end the show. Quite the opposite. His insistence that his character grow up provided a level of character development and an overall story arc that was almost never seen in family Sitcoms of the period. Cameron's demands, while religion based, were largely beneficial to Growing Pains as a television program.

It's in their careers outside of their most notable television shows that we see the real divergence between the two men. In 1989, during the peak of his fame, Kirk Cameron starred in the film Listen to Me. In it, he essentially played a more mature version of Mike Seaver in a plot that ultimately provided window dressing for a pro-life message. While not a spectacular movie by most standards, it managed to insert a deliberately conservative Christian message into a mainstream film in a manner that did not turn off secular audiences. It also marked the point at which Kirk Cameron began to head deliberately towards explicitly acting for the Christian market. He began the journey to where he is now very deliberately.

The Andromeda Tragedy

This brings us back to Sorbo. After Hercules wrapped up, Sorbo got the job playing the captain on Andromeda. Any Star Trek fan who saw the show knew exactly what it really was, the story of the last Federation Starship thrown forward in time to a period where the Federation has collapsed. The Federation was renamed the Confederacy, but most the Andromeda species had clear Star Trek parallels. The show was essentially a reboot of the Star Trek franchise, with the ability to tap into the existing Trekkers while giving them the kind of "everything has gone to Hell" storyline the owners of the Star Trek franchise would never allow to happen. It even had writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe of Star Trek and Deep Space Nine fame, who had crafted an elaborate, multi-season story arc about rebuilding the collapsed confederacy. On paper, the show was poised to be the next big name in sci-fi entertainment, combining all the best elements of various Star Trek shows, Babylon 5 and dystopian sci-fi all wrapped up with a charismatic, well-loved beefcake actor playing the captain.

Too bad they cast Kevin Sorbo as the starship captain.

Sorbo's big problem was that he didn't understand the scripts he was given. It didn't take long for him to leverage his substantial star power to get Robert Hewitt Wolfe fired and replaced with people who would write simpler story lines he could understand. Sadly, this reworking trashed the show's primary premise, reducing it to just another episodic space show. After Sorbo's takeover, the show featured action flick level plots, without the "action" to make up for the lack of plot.

Andromeda was killed. The show was toasted, and, justifiably or not, Sorbo took the brunt of the blame. Perhaps the show was doomed anyway, perhaps it was the wrong time or the wrong market, but because he radically altered the program's direction and complexity for the worse, the fans and apparently the industry, ultimately blamed him. Even fan dreams of a reboot leave Sorbo out of the picture.

The State of his Career

Professionally this put Sorbo in a pickle. He had the ego of a genius director, but the talent of a guy who woodenly recited dialog while wearing revealing outfits. He did not have the talent to back up his ego. Even that was not enough to do him in. His fatal mistake was failing to recognize his own role in Andromeda's demise. Sorbo's recent ranting about being professionally sidelined by his Christian faith shows how he's never accepted responsibility for his own actions. He hasn't learned anything. His ignorant, even slanderous, depiction of an atheist in "God's not Dead" reflects the kind of simpleminded, stereotype driven storyline he can comprehend. Every role he's had since he killed Andromeda has reinforced the notion that he's simply not smart enough for anything more complicated than Hercules.

In light of his career, the way he humiliates himself trying to explain his irrational hatred of atheists is hardly surprising. The popular stereotype of an atheist is an intellectual, an egghead who has thought himself into not believing in the culturally dominant mythology. Truly stupid people often lash out at more intelligent or educated people. Some of them feel threatened, some of them are just scared. Whatever Sorbo's motivation, it's clear he'd rather lash out irrationally than try to learn about the people he finds so intimidating. It's the final piece of the puzzle. It shows us the ultimate reason Kevin Sorbo will never again experience mainstream success. It's not his Christian faith, it's not how he slaughtered Andromeda, it's his overt hostility to anyone with ideas different than his. His movies are so bad because he's incapable of taking direction from someone he disagrees with. The most promising project he has in the works is a Moonlighting clone for the Hallmark channel.

The Source of his Anger

That gets us down to the reason Kevin Sorbo is so angry and bitter while Kirk Cameron is so cheerful and jubilant. Both men are acting in low-budget movies targeted at the Christian market. Kirk Cameron chose this path out of religious conviction. Kevin Sorbo was stuck with it, as a result of forces he lacks the temperament to comprehend.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Epic Reaganbook Fail

I recently posted some advice on how to save Reaganbook. Being the sort of guy who actually wants to help them, I decided to use Reaganbook's Contact Us form to let the admins know about my advice.
I'm a professional developer with over 15 years experience creating and maintaining online communities. Having examined your recent launch issues, I've written up a quick list of recommendations to help you get your site back on its feet. I've posted them at: http://blog.matthewmiller.net/2014/08/how-to-save-reaganbook.html I am not trying to solicit business, merely offering up some professional advice on how to address some of the technical issues that caused you difficulty. Good luck and God bless,
Nice, professional and to the point, don't you think? The real fun started when I hit "Submit" on the "Contact Us" page. Instead of a confirmation, I got the error message:

The admin has not set any email address to contact them.

That's right folks.They didn't even bother to set up the "Contact Us" form.


At this point I'm starting to think the site's configuration consisted of domain registration, signing up for a cheap-ass web hosting service, and two hours of diddling with the default PHPfox configuration. It's conceivable I put more effort into my article on how to fix ReaganBook then they put into deploying it.

Being stubborn, I decided to try one last time to contact the folks behind Reaganbook. A quick WHOIS on the domain name revealed it was registered by Janet Porter at "Faith2Action." I decided to try Faith2Action's Contact Us form instead. THAT form gave me the message:

Your message was sent successfully to Faith2Action. Thanks.
As tempting as it is to contact Ms. Porter through the email address on the domain registration, I've spent enough time on trying to give free professional advice to people for now.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Save ReaganBook

In July of 2014, Conservative Christians launched "ReaganBook" a Facebook alternative for people who find Facebook too liberal. ReaganBook's "pre-release" lasted about a day before the site was put into "Maintenance Mode."

Running what appears to have been a stock copy of PHPfox, the site simply failed to handle the load it received when people found out about it. The site was also flooded with troll accounts posting offensive, satirical and blasphemous material.  The "Joe My God" articles linked above have a good write-up of the saga, and while the site's major public spokespeople appear to be blaming "hackers" for the death of the site, it actually failed because of slipshod deployment and inept planning. Here are just a few of the reasons the site failed:

1. Haphazard deployment. The "About" page was still lorem ipsum. Another page was lorem ipsum with a partial grocery list. If you tried to report a post you had only two options for the reason for your report: "Test" and "Test4." This shows very little effort was put into preparing the site for launch. A competently done beta or "pre-release" phase will offer a somewhat functional site to a limited audience. What ReaganBook did was not a "pre-release" but a public release of something that was nowhere near ready for public use.

2. Insufficient moderation. It's as if they expected the only people singing up to be like minded, polite members of their inner circle. That's an unrealistic expectation even with an invite code based signup, let alone an open sign-up like the one they had.

3. No email verification when creating a new account. This made it REALLY easy for people to create spoof accounts quickly. Remember, it was claimed this was a pre-release, yet it was left wide open to the public, not limited to a discrete base of testers.

4. No functions for reporting profiles, just individual posts. If they had a moderation staff, which I doubt, being able to report abusive, gag or pornographic profiles would be a very useful tool.

5. Left directory browsing enabled for image folders. People are going to eat up bandwidth indulging in curiosity alone. This isn't hacker-grade stuff either. The average 12 year old who surfs for porn will know to check for directory browsing being enabled in image folders. Even after putting the site into maintenance mode, the image folders still have directory browsing enabled:


http://reaganbook.com/file/pic/photo/2014/06/
http://reaganbook.com/file/pic/photo/2014/07/
 
6. Insufficient load testing.

7. Leaving unimplemented features in the site. An apps link for a site with no apps looks sloppy.


8. No Terms of service. Without a baseline for acceptable behavior moderation becomes haphazard and unpredictable. Yes, it's obvious that anyone posting explicit gay porn to ReaganBook should get banned, but things are not always that cut and dry. This is particularly problematic for a site like ReaganBook, explicitly founded to combat censorship but run by people who are probably among the strictest censors around.

Fortunately for the people behind ReaganBook, there's hope. Here are some steps they need to take to revive ReaganBook and bring it back from the dead.

1. Conduct an honest assessment of the technological reasons for the site's collapse. Don't scapegoat vague "hackers" as was done in the haphazard public statements during the one day of live activity.

2. Mirror Gmail's roll-out. For a long time, the only way to get a Gmail account was if an existing Gmail user sent you an invite code. This restricted traffic, restricted users and let Google add or upgrade hardware before performance issues became crippling, A similar invite code strategy would allow ReaganBook to restrict the early users to the social circle they trusted most, allowing them to address technological and social issues in stages instead of all at once. This would, in turn, allow volunteer moderators to arise from the early membership.

3. Disable directory browsing on image folders.

4. Add e-mail validation to the registration process. This is an incredibly useful tool for cutting down on spammers and trolls. It won't eliminate them, but it will reduce the number of garbage accounts people can create as well as slow down the more dedicated trolls and spammers.

5. Require unique email addresses. This will force people to use a different email account for each ReaganBook login. Since email accounts can be time consuming to create, this will further slow down trolls. As a bonus, it will reduce the number of people who accidentally create an additional account, especially if the registration process is combined with a notification that an email address is already in use.

6. Write Terms of Service. Run it past a lawyer and then assign the "report" feature's options based upon the kinds of behavior you don't allow on ReaganBook.

7. Accept that you will face accusations of hypocrisy from Liberals and Moderates. ReaganBook will be censored. There's no way the people behind ReaganBook will allow liberals to share their views with the freedom they do so on Facebook. Own up to it.

8. Actually FINISH the deployment and configuration of FOXphp. Don't leave it half implemented.

9. Remove the icons and links for features you haven't implemented or don't plan to implement.

10, Add the capability to report profiles, not just posts.

11. Hire full time moderators. If you use invite codes to keep the initial roll-out limited then you can get by with one or two at relaunch. Over time you'll need to add more as traffic and activity increase.

12. Stop being so precious and thin skinned. This is the Internet baby. There WILL be trolls. Many of them are trolling you not because of actual philosophical, religious or political diss agreements, but for the sake of trolling. If you get hysterical and rant about the trolls, you'll only attract more.

13. Focus. The vague goal of a censorship free Facebook alternative is a foolish one for Conservatives to undertake, because it means allowing uncensored posting of Liberal content or face legitimate accusations of censorship. Give up the pretense of being anti-censorship and embrace the fact that this is a deliberately, enthusiastically and sincerely conservative endeavor.

14. Get ready for the law enforcement calls. All this started because a conservative was censored by Facebook for posting threats. Regardless of how you explicitly you do or do not state it, you are deliberately inviting people who threaten violence to use ReaganBook as a social media platform. You need to know what you're going to do when the inevitable happens and the authorities come knocking over someone on your site posting death threats.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nury Vittachi Makes Claims he Doesn't Support

Scince 2.0 has posted an essay by Nury Vittachi entitled "Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke." It's a bold claim to say the least and worth examining.The essay starts off with the statement:

Metaphysical thought processes are more deeply wired than hitherto suspected

That's not much of a claim. Saying any aspect of human psychology is more complicated than we previously thought is about as obvious as saying that quantum physics is more complicated than we previously thought.
WHILE MILITANT ATHEISTS like Richard Dawkins may be convinced God doesn’t exist, God, if he is around, may be amused to find that atheists might not exist.

Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.

Now that we have a clear idea of the essay's thesis, Vittachi goes on to spend a few more paragraphs, which I won't quote here, restating it. He quotes Graham Lawton and Pascal Boyer in an apparent effort to suggest they agree with his basic premise. A reference is made to "studies" showing a cognitive bias in favor of religious thinking, but the studies are not mentioned by name, no citation is given. A new claim is made, but not supported, when he writes:
Scientists have discovered that “invisible friends” are not something reserved for children. We all have them, and encounter them often in the form of interior monologues. As we experience events, we mentally tell a non-present listener about it.

Again, no evidence is offered to support the claims. "Boyer of Washington University, himself an atheist" is quoted to support the assertion, but so far the essay has consisted of nothing but bald assertions commingled with appeals to authority. Eventually however Vittachi lets slip a reference to something we can check:

These findings may go a long way to explaining a series of puzzles in recent social science studies. In the United States, 38% of people who identified themselves as atheist or agnostic went on to claim to believe in a God or a Higher Power (Pew Forum, “Religion and the Unaffiliated”, 2012).
Taken at face value, this seems to counter Vittachi's claim. According to the quoted statistic, 62% of people who identified as atheist or agnostic do NOT believe in a higher power. The very USE of the statistic is suspect, as it lumps atheists and agnostics into the same group. Given the difference between the two, it's only reasonable to assume that a selection of agnostics will hold out hope for a deity. The dividing line between atheists, agnostics and deists can be a fuzzy one. Vittachi is using variation within the population to declare that a segment of the population does not exist. This is despite the fact that 62% of the people mentioned in the statistic meet the very criteria for the group Vittachi is arguing does not exist. Vittachi might as well be arguing that heterosexuals do not exist because he can find examples of homosexuals and bisexuals.

Vittachi's quoted statistic seems to come from the "Religious, Spiritual or Neither?" section of Religion and the Unaffiliated. the actual survey results includes 7% of people who identified as "Atheist/ Agnostic" as being "religious." While this reduces the 62% above to 57%, it still means over half of the people who identified as atheist or agnostic meet a criteria that Vittachi appears to be arguing does not exist.

The next line is even more absurd:
While the UK is often defined as an irreligious place, a recent survey by Theos, a think tank, found that very few people—only 13 per cent of adults—agreed with the statement “humans are purely material beings with no spiritual element”. For the vast majority of us, unseen realities are very present.
That's right folks, Nury Vittachi appears to be making the claim that being a minority means you don't exist. He also fails to provide a citation for the claim.

When researchers asked people whether they had taken part in esoteric spiritual practices such as having a Reiki session or having their aura read, the results were almost identical (between 38 and 40%) for people who defined themselves as religious, non-religious or atheist.
It's important to point out that pseudosciences like auroa reading and Reiki are called pseudoscience because there are word soup explanations for them that can trick a person into thinking there's a scientific basis for them. Babbling about Reiki being proof someone isn't really an atheist is a bit like calming that nobody who likes the color purple can really be an atheist, because of all the Biblical references to royal purple.

What follows are a few paragraphs of rhetorical wanking, more assertions and claims made without any evidence. For an essay that claims scientists may have proven atheists don't exist, it's shockingly sparse on references to the studies that one presumes support the thesis.  The closest the essay gets to a citation is a vague and mangled third hand reference to Einstein followed by the claim that Darwin found one atheist too "aggressive" and that he supposedly wanted his children to attend church services.

The rest of the essay meanders on and peters out in much the same way. A few half-hearted philosophical claims are made with a few vague quotes, but no real SCIENCE is offered.

The essay title implies there's some research, some evidence to demonstrate atheists don't really exist. The actual essay demonstrates that Nury Vittachi spews rhetorical BS about as well as a first year philosophy student while engaging in what may be the laziest and most inept demonstration of quote mining since Kent Hovind's dissertation.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

L'endroit à éviter au Cap-Ferret : Il Giardino

English:

Il Giardino in Cap-Ferret, France is apparently so bad that it has to sue people over negative online reviews.

Blogger Fined For Bad Review: There's No 'Point of Criticism If It's Only Positive'

A French blogger who was fined thousands of euros for writing a bad review online now tells Eater she stands by her critique. "I regret not having left the restaurant from the beginning and therefore never having written the article. That would have been easier," food blogger Caroline Doudet writes in an email to Eater (translated). "But otherwise, yes [I stand by the review], because it's still a lot of trouble for not much."
Last week, Eater reported that French courts demanded Doudet pay 1500 euros ($2,040 USD) for writing a negative review of Il Giardino, an Italian restaurant in Cap-Ferret, France in August of 2013. In the review (cached and translated) she wrote that the restaurant should be avoided and that the boss is a "diva."
Six months after the review ran, the restaurant brought Doudet to court. According to Sud Ouest (translated), the restaurant's lawyer claims the review caused "great harm" to his client because the negative review would come up as one of the first Google search results for the restaurant. The court asked Doudet to change the title of the post, which was "L'endroit à éviter au Cap-Ferret : Il Giardino" or "The Place to Avoid in Cap-Ferret : Il Giardino."
It'd be a shame if the wastes of skin at Il Giardino, the Italian "restaurant" in Cap-Ferret, France, learned about the Streisand effect.

The lawsuit forced the blogger to delete her scathing review of Il Giardino, but you can read a copy of it at the bottom of this post.

Français:

Il Giardino à Cap-Ferret, France est apparemment si mauvais que cela doit poursuivre les gens sur les commentaires négatifs en ligne.

Blogger reçoit une amende pour mauvaise critique: Il ya aucun "point de la critique si elle est seulement positif'

Un blogueur français qui a été condamné à une amende milliers d'euros pour écrire une mauvaise critique en ligne dit maintenant Eater elle se tient par la critique. "Je regrette de ne pas avoir quitté le restaurant depuis le début et n'a donc jamais avoir écrit l'article. Cela aurait été plus facile," blogueur alimentaire Caroline Doudet écrit dans un courriel à Eater (traduit). "Mais sinon, oui [je me tiens par la revue], parce que c'est toujours beaucoup de mal pour pas grand chose."

La semaine dernière, mangeur rapporté que les juridictions françaises ont demandé Doudet payer € 1500 ($ 2040 USD) pour écrire une critique négative de Il Giardino, un restaurant italien à Cap-Ferret, France en Août 2013. Lors de l'examen (en cache et traduit), elle a écrit que le restaurant devrait être évité et que le patron est un "diva".

Six mois après l'examen a couru, le restaurant a Doudet à la cour. Selon Sud Ouest (traduit), l'avocat du restaurant affirme la revue causé "beaucoup de mal" à son client parce que la critique négative apparaîtrait comme l'un des premiers résultats de recherche Google pour le restaurant. Le tribunal a demandé Doudet de changer le titre du poste, qui était "L'ENDROIT A EVITER au Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino" ou "La place pour éviter à Cap-Ferret:. Il Giardino"
Ce serait une honte si les déchets de peau de Il Giardino, le restaurant italien à Cap-Ferret, France, tirés de l'effet Streisand.

Le procès a forcé le blogueur de supprimer son rapport cinglant de Il Giardino, mais vous pouvez lire une copie de celle-ci au bas de ce post.


The Review that started this fracas (Courtesy of the Wayback Machine):
http://web.archive.org/web/20131204090140/http://leschroniquesculturelles.com/2013/08/24/lendroit-a-eviter-au-cap-ferret-il-giardino/
Aigreurs D'estomac
Il Giardino (aigreurs d'estomac)71 Bd de la plage
Cap-Ferret


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Elliot Rodger was a Loser

I consider it a mark of my good taste in friends that I have yet to see a single post defending Elliot Rodger.

I've been through dry spells in life. It's frustrating. Never once did I feel the urge to go out and hurt anyone else over it. But then, I didn't wallow in self-aggrandizing BS that depicted any women who said "no" as a villain denying me something I deserved. I wasn't so egotistical that I convinced myself that there couldn't possibly be anything in my behavior causing the rejections.

I did what any sane person would do, what I would expect anyone else to do. I took a good hard look at myself and asked some female friends of mine why I was striking out. Unlike Elliot Rodger, I didn't seek the consul of other men who were also striking out. Talk about the blind leading the blind. I asked women.

Then again, I actually have female friends I can talk to about this sort of thing. It looks like Elliot Rodger's toxic personality and total lack of remedial communication skills meant he didn't even have that resource to turn to. You'd think the fact he couldn't even maintain a friendship with a woman would have been a red flag to the moron, an indication that his family's endless efforts to get him psychiatric care might have been the right course of action.

If you read his manifesto or watch his videos you realize one of Elliot Rodger's big problems was he expected women to come to HIM. He didn't have the guts, even with his overblown and unjustified ego, to ask a woman out. I was at least asking women out. Rodger, despite his rampant egotism and self-entitlement, couldn't bring himself to even TRY. He was a baseball player who never even tried out for a team complaining about his lack of major league home runs.

Academically he was a lackluster performer. He never even HAD a job, because he refused to take anything entry level, deeming it "beneath" him. His parents had wealth, but not the kind that would result in a lifelong trust fund for their ambulatory ID offspring. As a result, he wasn't even going to attract a "gold digger" who just wanted to marry well. He had, quite literally NOTHING going for him and he was so self-entitled that he was convinced the world needed to change to accommodate him, not the other way around.

In the end, he committed suicide, but he was so self-centered and frightened that he couldn't bring himself to do it alone, he had to take other people with him. Instead of growing up and learning to behave as a worthwhile human being, he took the easy way out.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Getting Ready to Drop Dropbox

DropBox has hired a big fan of Warrantless wiretaps. I can't really trust them with my data after that. Whats next? Snagging a few Obama era NSA executives?

http://www.drop-dropbox.com/

What cloud services do all y'all use other than Dropbox? I'll need 250 GB to 300 GB to replace Dropbox, another 100 GB to consolidate a few other services I'm using. Box.com is in the running, but I'm still a bit miffed at their very poor documentation about support for older platforms. (They support 64 bit OS 10.6, but not 32 bit, and their support staff is CLUELESS about the difference. I'd be OK with the distinction if they were capable of communicating it up front.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Janet's Revenge Available in the Kindle Store

My efforts to write under the pen name "Matthew Wunderlich" have produced "Janet's Revenge," the tale of a woman getting back at a man who did her wrong. Inspired by a true story. The names have been changed to protect, well, everyone. I'm not sure all the statues of limitation have expired.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Inspired by The Bloggess, Search Terms that Lead People Here

Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess, will periodically post a list of the strangest search terms that have lead people to her blog. With that in mind, I thought I'd examine the same data for  my own blog.

michael cremo debunked  Not surprising, given my article Michael Cremo, fraud or just incompetent?

auburn wa motor city books 
motor city books These search terms are expected, given my post Motor City Books, no book, no contact, I want a refund

paul mounet keanu reeves
is keanu reeves a reptilian alien  These results are unsurprising as the "Popular posts" widget on my blog lists my post about The Keanu Reeves Conspiracy Theory as the #1 most popular post I've published so far.

joshua mills fraud  I'm glad people looking up the Glittering Flaming Con Man for Christ! are finding my article about the huckster.

The rest of the search terms that lead to my site were just as mundane, leading people to posts like The Truth about Atlantis THEY don't want you to know and my battle with First Financial and their efforts to rip me off. Frankly, I was hoping for something a bit more "out there" in the search terms. All of these are related, at least tangentially, to actual articles on my blog. Jenny Lawson gets incoming search terms that are delightfully irrational yet mine are, given the content of my blog, depressingly accurate.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The book is live!

Answering Kirk Hastings is now live on the Amazon Kindle store. The full content is available for free under the "Kirk Hastings" category on this blog, but the Kindle book puts it in a convenient format for reading without an active Internet connection.


I may offer the book on Nook, iBooks or in print in the future, but I want to give Kirk Hastings a chance to respond, possibly even offer up a new idea.


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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Bacon stuffed gluten free pancakes

It turns out making bacon stuffed pancakes is pretty easy. My first attempt was messy but delicious.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

Answering Kirk Hastings: Tenth Question for Darwinists

This post is part of the ongoing saga to answer the questions asked by Kirk Hastings of the defunct Evidence 4 Faith podcast. This post addresses the fifth question of Kirk's "Top Ten Questions for Darwinists."

10) If Darwinian evolution is true, and we are simply the result of random processes with no real reason or purpose, then why should we even be concerned about surviving, either as individuals or a race? Why shouldn't we all commit suicide as soon as possible, in order to get all the pain and suffering of this world over with quicker -- especially since we are only going to die eventually anyway?


Because most people actually enjoy living.


On a more pragmatic note, a suicidally minded species is going to go extinct. We’re here because our ancestors chose to live.


This last question is, in many ways, the saddest one. In it Kirk reveals something of himself that I don’t think he knew he was exposing. With this question he reveals an emptiness inside. There’s something missing in the life of Kirk Hastings, and while he apparently tries to fill it with religion, in the end, I think he knows he’s only fooling himself.


For all his misinformation and misdirection, in the end I feel sorry for him. He really seems to think that without religion life isn’t worth living. This says a lot of very depressing things about his family, professional and social life.


Referenced Podcast Episodes with Full Descriptions



Surprise! Kirk Hastings’ recent email drew me out of (semi-)retirement. After recovering from those withering electronic insults, I sat down with expert Hovindologist Matt W to review Hastings’ magnum opus, “What Is Truth?” We examined his many and varied claims about truthology, and how they relate to science and most especially “Darwinism.” In this episode — part one of a three-part series — we discuss Kirk’s conversion process and his absolutely unshocking failure to grasp even the basic principles of science and mathematics while he attempts to take down Darwinism. This series could also be entitled, “We read Kirk Hastings’ shitty rehashed creationist screed so you don’t have to.”
Kirk does get an A for effort, though, and should he succeed in his quest to demolish Darwin’s theory of evil-ution, he may ultimately end up with a Nobel Prize. History (or maybe the next episode, where we finish talking about the science portion of his book) will have to render a verdict on that score.


Continuing our hard-hitting inquiry into the nature of Truth with Kirk Hastings as our guide, we cover the following chapters: “Sixteen Additional Problems with Darwinian Evolution,” “What Does Microbiology Indicate?”, “Is the Concept of Intelligent Design Scientific?”, and “Superstition, Philosophy, and Religion.”
Do Kirk’s arguments fare any better than they did in the last episode? Could they possibly fare any worse? Has he gained any scientific understanding at all? Does Chuck answer more of your questions from Facebook?
And if you can’t get enough of those lovable Evidence 4 Faith guys, check out Joe and Emma’s E4F takedown podcast on Meat Mutant.


The next chapter in our continuing series on “How Dumb Can Arguments for Christianity Get?” is live! The answer: pretty dumb indeed. We cover Kirk’s gaffes on the manuscript evidence for the Old and New Testament, discuss the Amazon reviews for “What Is Truth?”, dramatically re-enact some of Kirk’s Irreligiosophy comics, and engage in serious literary criticism of one of Kirk’s fan fiction stories.
All that packed into one hour of juicy podcasttainment. Don’t say I never gave you anything


114: "WIT" IV: The Case for Christ                   
It all ends here, folks. I have given up the ghost after trudging my way through 12 chapters of the oddly-named “What Is Truth?” by Kirk Hastings. In this episode we cover the recent bannings of 99% of the members posting on Kirk’s “Question Irreligiosophy Project,” as well as my now-deleted review of his Superman fan fiction story. Matt and I make it all the way through Part XI, “The Case for Christ,” but only halfway through Part XII, “What About All These Other Here Religions?” before my brain finally overloaded from the sheer magnitude of dumb.
I must retreat now, and think no more on moronic Christian pseudo-arguments for their evidence-free religion, or quite possibly even dumber Christian arguments against other evidence-free religions.


2.6 Spontaneous Generation and Abby O’Genesis                       
WARNING! This podcast contains explicit science not suitable for creationists!
In this episode Matt and I go over the history of spontaneous generation, how the idea began and how it fell out of favor. We then go over various myths of creation before proceeding to the Scientism myth of creation: abiogenesis. We take a whirlwind tour through hydrothermal vents, the Krebs Cycle, the iron sulfur world of Günter Wächtershäuser, and about a semester’s worth of high school biology in just a few excruciating minutes.
So strap on those nerd glasses, get your pocket calculators out, and let’s do this thang.


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