Mad Christian Ads (Part 3)

Here are the final set of classic Evangelical Christian adverts. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here.

The PAX Network (now Ion Television) shows special programmes made just for Christians, as if they have special needs that normal programmes do not provide. Miracle Pets has the dubious claim of EVEN MORE 'cross species friendship' stories (as if to answer the calls of thousands of people who complained there weren't enough), Doc solves medical problems by saying 'ahh well he died, it must have been Gods will' to cover up his surgical incompetences, and Mysterious Ways attempts to outdo the X-Files by having some paranormal event occur every episode, but then spoiling the mystery for everyone by saying '..that strange flying saucer you saw? That was just Jesus doing some recon'.

Quite what a fire bible is, they don't say (their website has its own rather incendiary interpretation), but the rather ominous claim that it's a lesson they will never forget is enough to make me wary of sending my kids there. Do they set the classroom on fire and then the children that survive are told they did so because of Gods will? This banner also advertises lessons where inquisitive kids can pick up a human brain and what appears to be a child's shoe made from a turd. Finally, their use of 'objects' as teaching aids is sold to us as a reason not to go with a rival company, as if all other forms of teaching conjure things out of thin air. You would have thought that these people would employ that sort of tactic, given the tendency for religious types to do just that.

Only if you click on the banner would you ever know whether you are allowed to believe in both. Until then, risk eternal damnation if you even consider the wealth of evidence available to support their existence. The banner doesn't tell me much about which book it's going on about, but there's a crapload of them out there preaching both sides of the fence. Of course, if you do choose to believe, you will have to compromise with reality because due to the earth being only 4000 years old, man and dinosaur must have co-existed in a Flintstones stylee.

Saint A. Tujay is apparently the guy in charge of reviewing computer games for the Christian community. In order to remain down with the kids, he had picked up the street speak even back as far as 2002 and lets it all hang out for Saints of Virtue. #1 Christian Computer Game of All Time? To be fair, there's not going to be that many contenders for such a spot, except for Noah's Adventures and The Zoo Race, of course.

As for Tujays' glowing recommendation? Shine didn't have to look too far for it - its on their site's hall of fame - not an actual review.

On the last post, there was Clowning4Christ, well, it appears that no form of child-bothering physical showmanship is left un-christed. Mime4Him similarly allows your children to experience the wonder of annoying whited-up grossly thin men pretending they are trapped inside a box, but with a dusting of religious magic pixie-dust on top. It doesn't say whether the mime act includes the religious execution of hethens.

That's all, I'm afraid. I've enjoyed going back through these, and also enjoyed going back through the websites they refer to, I'm glad they are still going; if nothing else, they celebrate the wierd and wonderful world of religious people and their attempts to bend and stretch themselves around peculiar subject matters.

Around Japan - My Route

Something I never got round to was a visual representation of my Japan trip. Well, thanks to Google providing a map editor, here it is:

View Larger Map

I will add some more detail to it as time progresses, but I have the basics up there now, so feel free to revel in my maddest and most excellent adventure.

Caught in a Trap

The Darwin Season has recently come to an end on the BBC, but before it started, I was paid what has become the latest in a series of visits by the God Squad. Clearly sensing the need to do a pre-emptive strike, a pair of middle-aged ladies knocked on my door and waited patiently as I put away my satanic books and freshly sacrificed chickens. (Note to religious people: this is a joke, I don't want nutters sending me hate mail).

There followed the standard thread of friendly debate that has been followed a half-dozen times since I moved to my area; it starts with general intro questions about whether I thought wars were a bad thing and whether and why I thought the world was going to crap, and whether I thought there was something behind it. Inevitably, this is guided towards reasoning that because people are not following [the Christian] religion any more, morals have disappeared and decadence rules, and that a belief in God would fix it all. This was accompanied by a Bible being offered to me to read, with some random assurances that 'they knew the world was round back then' and 'they knew about bacteria' as an implication that the bible contains all the facts worth knowing before those scientists came around and found out about them a second time around.

After assuring them that I had read enough of the Bible at school as a child under pain of death (or, at least a good telling off) they asked my opinion of evolution, which seemed to be the point of the visit.

'Do you believe in Evolution?',

'Well, 'believe' isn't really the correct term as it isn't a faith, but I think that evolution can explain the processes of how most things on the planet came to be as they are.',

'See, that's what I don't get about evolution, how can a whale just 'grow' some fins if it wanted to?',

'Well, what you have said to me there tells me that you don't understand the evolutionary process..',

'And the idea of a whale and a cow combining together to make an entirely new species..',

'Please, let me stop you there. You have shown me that you have little or no grasp on what evolution actually is. You are going from door to door, spreading a mutated, ridiculous twist on the theory of evolution, and then providing people with a much more convenient alternative which amounts to little more than 'God did it'.'

'Are you saying we are lying!?',

'That's not what I am saying. I think that you are two pleasant, intelligent people who would not knowingly spread misinformation about something to get people on your side, but that is what you are doing. Have you read 'On the Origin of Species'?',

'No, what's that?',

I cried a little inside.

'It's the seminal work by Charles Darwin, explaining his theories for the interrelationships between the animal orders. It explains in laymans terms the theory behind Evolution, some of the observable evidence in the real world, and how it continues to change things'.

'I don't have time for that'.

'It's a shame you should take such a view. You should read it not only for your own personal development, but to also become fully aware of that which you are denouncing. If you have no idea what it is you are refusing to believe in, how do you know it isn't true?',

'Erm..', (one of the ladies grips her bible a little tighter) '..but you have not accepted the words of the Bible, so why should I even go out of my way to buy this book?',

'You came to my house professing the words of the Bible and stating that evolution has no scientific basis in fact, and you have done the same for other people and will do again. The onus is not on me to convince you or to spend time and effort reading something I do not believe in or agree with, you have made it your job to convince me and other people that God exists and that evolution is false, and so far you have only shown me that your knowledge is limited to the biased discussions from your own flock.',


'I would like you to take at least one thing away from this debate - that your idea of what evolution is, is fundamentally wrong. And now that I have told you this, it would probably not go down very well with your God if you knowingly continue knocking on doors down this street using your inaccurate descriptions to get people to join your flock. You would be using lies to achieve your goal.',

'I can understand your point, but what I believe is in this Bible', (tries once again to offer me it)

'You* should* read Darwins' book, taking time to understand the concepts within it, and then come to a conclusion - your own conclusion - as to whether it is right or not. And you should do this without having the barrier laid down in your head that says 'if what is written goes against the bible account, it must be false'.

The first lady nods begrudgingly, at least I have got her to understand the situation. I smile sympathetically to her, as I feel I have just knocked the ground from her feet. Perhaps a bit of diplomacy is required.

'It is feasible that God exists and evolution is also correct - they're not mutually exclusive. It's feasible that God may have started life and then sat back and watched as the evolutionary processes did their stuff. After all, nobody yet knows where life actually came from..',

However, the second lady who has remained quite quiet until now, is gearing up for an attack on another front.

She says with conviction, 'I do not believe in evolution.'.

'That is quite a statement. All forms of evolution?',

'All forms. They are all wrong.'.

'Because we need to be clear about this, there is the general term 'Evolution', which was around before the time of Darwin and refers to the change and refinement of things, and the specialisation, 'Evolution by Natural Selection', which is part of Darwin's theory.'

'No, all evolution is a lie. Everything was created by God'.

I guess she is concentrating a little too hard on denying the Darwinian evolution to realise quite what she is saying. I am standing next to my front door and notice the complex lock mechanism.

'Evolution is not a lie, it is all around us, observable and demonstrable in many forms, such as the evolution of the motor car, evolution of internet websites, and even the process of evolution leading to this lock on my door. When locks were first invented many years ago they used a basic mechanism for the lock that was easy to circumvent; and as people found ways to open a locked door, the locks were refined and different types of locks - 'sub-species' if you will - emerged that were suited to specific environments. For example a lock for a door is different than for a window or a car, and some are still simple because the simplicity suits that purpose (eg a lock on a shed door), whereas some are more complicated (I point to the mechanism inside the front door), and others are even more so, such as electronic locks requiring a retina scan as the 'key'.',

'But if you were to take the lock apart and place the component pieces on the ground, it wouldn't put itself back together would it?'.

I was a little gobsmacked at her counter-argument, but I finally saw where she was going with it.

'No, it would need me to come along and stick it back together again....',

'Exactly! So that is like what our relationship with God is like. He creates us and everything around us, it all needed a creator.',

'But Darwinian evolution provides us with an alternative theory of how we have arrived at this point in time..',

Sensing an opportunity, she takes it: 'Aha! Exactly! Evolution is a theory, nothing more. You do not have proof.'.

'Evolution is a theory because it is not realistically provable. In order to come to an absolute proof, a person would have to live for millions of years tracking the changes in all the species of plant and animal on the planet, and show the shifting changes within a species as a whole over that time. We cannot do this in our lifetime.'.

'So it is not provable',

'..because the limiting factors are 1) how long we have been actively cataloguing animal species and the development of technology to accurately record them, 2) how long we have known about Darwins' theories, and 3) the lifespan of human beings. In theory, we will be able to prove it in a million years time, because then we will have catalogued such changes..'.

'But it is not provable now!',

'Only in so much that the theory of gravity is not provable, because it is a scientific theory We cannot accurately say that gravity will always be around, or that it is predictable, or that it occurs everywhere in the solar system. Yet gravity is a demonstrable fact, and I don't think that the church will be trying to disprove that any time soon. Evolution is also a fact for similar reasons.',

'No! That is not right. Evolution is nothing more than a theory and will never be proven.',

'Well not quite. Leaving aside the wealth of evidence taken out of the earth to support macroevolution (i.e. the big changes), the process of microevolution is far more practical to demonstrate and has actually been replicated and proven in a lab. A bacterial strain has shown the ability to absorb a chemical within glucose that it couldn't originally do because the evolutionary process that occurs between successive generations of the bacterial cells produce genetic mutations, some of which were progressively better at metabolising the chemical, which in turn drove the evolutionary path towards a new strain. This experiment took about 20 years, because the individual stages of evolution are far closer together with bacteria as they multiply at a far faster rate compared to that of larger animals.'.

Shortly afterwards, the debate disintegrated and reached a rather inconclusive end. The ladies could see they had not won a convert with their arguments. They thanked me for my 'interesting viewpoint' and after an offer of an issue of The Watchtower, I thanked them and they went on their way as it was getting cold. I don't know if they went next door because I was all religion-ed out and just wanted to put it behind me for the day.

You're probably wondering when I'm going to get to the crux of this post, and it's now. The trap I refer to in the title is that of strong religious conviction. After all the other things I have levelled at the notion of believing in a god over the years (incidentally, I will fight for the right for people to believe in a religion, as that is part of a free society, I just find it ridiculous that people do) this incident has brought home to me one particular characteristic: the truth is no longer relevant to the argument.

Taking Christianity as an example, (although this could be applied to any of the Abrahamic religions, and some other select groups too). If you attempt to convince a person of faith something that contradicts the implied or direct writings of the Bible, they will not believe it. You can debate with them, you can point them towards information and supporting evidence, but you will get nowhere.

Why is this so? Oversimplified explanations may involve a lack of intelligence on the part of the believer, or a lack of articulation on the part of the persuader, or simply a reluctance for the believer to take a dent to their pride and admit that they were wrong. I believe that there is a more convincing argument - fear.

Fear is what drives people to make decisions based on the information in their immediate surroundings. Fear has been used throughout the ages to get people in line. Additionally, the nature of human beings is to form a communal group of people striving for the same goal - humans originate from the pack cultures of apes and we feel naturally safe within one. We see example of this all through society; religions, football supporters, gangs in school playgrounds, and many more.

If you manage to persuade someone to join your religious group, it would not be such a difficult thing once they fully buy into the faith, to stop them from leaving by proclaiming eternal damnation in the pits of hell if they were to leave, meted out by the very god you have just got them to unflinchingly believe in. You can crank this up a notch by threatening similar punishment by even letting these thoughts enter their head. The trap is set.

The Bible is seen by the faithful as an absolute. It decides for them what is truth and what is fiction. Such a book of God has great power, and if someone were to discover something that appeared to be true but was not in the Bible - or worse still, contradicted it - they would suffer exclusion from their cosy group at best, and burning in the pits of hell at worst if they were to even consider accepting that which they see in front of them. People do not like change, and such an alteration in the foundation of their lives is not a pleasant prospect. Reasoning with them that the Bible was produced a long time ago when human knowledge was a fraction of what it is now is useless against such an immovable object.

The Bible even has its own section on the subject, where Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge forever casts the human race into sin. Its message is clear. Don't go hunting down knowledge, because you'll end up paying for it. The bit they left out was, that the greater the sum of human knowledge, the less room there is for the notion of a god. If we were to universally accept evolution as the process by which life has become as it is now, then a whole job lot of pruning and editing will be needed to make the Bible relevant again, an unthinkable act.

This is the trap that religious people find themselves in. The information is out there, proofs and evidence and accounts and data, most of which freely available, but the believer cannot allow themselves to consider it, for the consequences for themselves would be grave. This goes not only for that which has direct contradiction with the holy books (such as evolution by natural selection), but also those theories and concepts that support them.

One example is the concept of continental drift, and the tectonic plates slowly shifting around the continents of the world. These theories which were a topic of controversy 100 years ago, but their eventual acceptance as scientific fact helped lend credence to evolutionary flow; the isolation of a group of animals by continental drift, which would then evolve separately according to their new environment. We know that this shifting takes place - the UK is measurably moving away from France and towards America at a rate of a few centimetres per year for example - yet many of the faithful wipe whole swathes of such knowledge from the list of acceptable things to understand or believe in - simply by the process of association. To believe in them would be to give credence to that which would get them a first class ticket to hell.

Again, whether evolution is correct or not doesn't matter to a person of faith. They just aren't allowed to consider it.

Without wishing to sound glib, Atheists have no such restrictions; they are free to accept or reject things purely based on the evidence and reasoning to hand, with eyes unclouded. This is not a perfect system: it may be that something an Atheist holds true is actually not, but the process that the person used to arrive at their conclusion was not flawed; it was because of the accuracy of the information at hand, not because they felt compelled by dogma to take one explanation over another.

This is truly the definition of free thinking, and I hope for a time when we can all be freer to think for ourselves, and avoid falling into such traps.

Mad Christian Ads (Part 2)

This here is part 2 of a little series based on some old Christian adverts I pulled off some Evangelical website many years back. Part 1 is here.

One thing you have to hand to those kerayzee evangelicals - they know how to focus on the positives when advertising their religion product.

Bible Man, with his wee-coloured light sabre and a forehead designed to keep the rain off his feet, must save the world from the nasty heathens who happen to have a load of Anger Dust to spread all over the place. Not only is it implied that his arch nemesis is a Mexican, (an association of which might irk America's southern neighbours), but also a damned god-denier. (I assume this is how atheists are seen by these people, spreading hate and suffering in their silly cloak and helmet getups when not doing their day-to-day jobs).

'Ordered to worship monkeys' is clearly a slant against the Evolutionists, but otherwise you might think this is referring to the Bible. It's not until the final frame that you realise its actually a film. The Jesus Film - which despite having been seen by 1.5 Billion people I had not heard of before this - dates from 1979, post-dating the far more capable 'Jesus of Nazareth' by 2 years and thus coming off as a bit of a cash-in.

The ad gets extra points by implying people who showed it were committed as nutters, and also by talking down to the tribal bushmen of the world. At least the film eventually came along, otherwise who knows how many more generations of bushmen would have had to burn in hell (after the 1800 years or so where God decided not to reveal himself to them) if it hadn't.

Gotta wonder just what made them use a pair of nubile ladies kissing as the focus point for concerned parents. After all, they do seem to be enjoying themselves. Now obviously homosexuality is an unforgivable hell-burning sin for these people, but I reckon that was an interesting evening beside the computer searching for a source image..

Evangelical 1: 'Just type in 'Lesbians' and see what comes up.',
Evangelical 2: '..pfft.. 'comes up'..',

*nervous shifting in seats*

Evangelical 1:
'Holy Mary, there's a lot of results. Click on that one there..',
Evangelical 2: 'That page has some.. good.. images on it..',

*both heads turn to one side in unison at a particular image*

Evangelical 1:
Evangelical 2: 'Yeah, but...',

*more uncomfortable shifting*

Evangelical 2:
'Maybe there is some better examples if I click on this link..',
Evangelical 1: '..... Do it'.

And for the 'unsaved youth' who turn their nose up at the thought of that dusty, wordy old Bible, there's a hip, rad version containing 'just the facts' for them! America's public schools are after all under attack from scientists, Islamic people and everybody else who has found something out that goes against the words of the Bible. They must be stopped!

Yes, you read that correctly. Clowning 4 Christ! Available for weddings, parties, but not Bar Mitzvas. A 'clown conference' may be heading to a town near you this year, and if so you too can witness first hand their drive and commitment in 'bring[ing] the best possible instructors that will raise the level of professionalism in all areas of clowning, Christian as well as secular.', and who wouldn't want that at their 5-year olds' birthday?

Just enough for one more part, which I'll post later. If anyone has any other mad ads they have found, please share them - add or link through the comments!

Bringing back the Missing Link

I am currently jobless, and in my newfound shirker state I have a lot of time to surf between bouts of job hunting. I found that where I live, IT jobs are a bit thin on the ground. As the days turned into weeks, I found my ideas of what was an acceptable commuting radius getting larger and larger.

One potential job required a 45 minute journey (jams not included) between the east and west of England, and begrudgingly, I applied. But one thing stood out at me when I was checking Google Maps to see its location - you can make out the path of a disused rail line between Colne in Lancashire and Skipton in North Yorkshire. If the track was there, it would connect the east and west with another line and would thus make such commuting for work or anything else much more practical.

View Larger Map

Interest piqued, I did a little search for some more information on this old line. Turns out it was torn up nearly 40 years ago, when British Rail tried to make some major cutbacks. They cut out over 11 miles of rail, leaving the new track-end at Colne shrivelled and obsolete, devoid of reasons for people to visit. Backpackers, walkers, passing tourists and commuting employees disappeared, and local economies on the old line died.

But there has been a group of people working to get the line put back down again. SELRAP have reached a pretty advanced stage of persuading those with the power to sign the chequebook, getting support from MPs, tourism boards and other people in influential positions, and have for the past two years arranged for a Skipton-Colne train ride to highlight the current daftness of the situation. The train travels from Skipton to Leeds, then back to Colne via Hebden Bridge, a trip of 100 miles and a mere 2 and a half hours.

If the line, nicknamed the 'missing link' was reinstated, the trip would take 15 minutes, with the added benefits of removing hundreds of cars off the road that runs by it, the rail passage through a beautiful scenic countryside and the re-injection of commerce and business to a long-forgotten route. Reinstating it would be relatively cheap, since the track bed is still mostly intact and it would only require the relatively minor work of relaying the track itself and building a couple of bridges/level crossings, far less than creating a new line from scratch. Several economic models have been studied, and all show that it would pay for itself within a few years.

Though my motivations were purely to help me get to my potential place of work, it was quite an eye-opener. I hadn't considered that the countries' railways had been so degraded now from how they used to be not so long ago. Further searches reveal other 'missing links', and the grass-roots activists lobbying for them to be implemented (or re-laid). Many such appeals have been active for many years, and initial economic models dismissed many of them as impractical. With the increasing amount of cars on the road, and the environmental considerations now shift the balance of the argument in their favour with every passing year.

Someone has helped further raise the profile of the Colne-Skipton cause by setting up a downing street petition to have it rebuilt, and at the time of writing is a little shy of a thousand signatures. If you agree with the prospect of this line being reinstated please click here to add your name to the list. It's free!