A Most Unsettling Trend: Christians Rejoicing in ISIS

by Bo Gardiner

[To read my entire post, go to The Friendly Atheist.]

Charisma News is praising a video in which families of murdered Egyptian Christian Copts thank ISIS for making martyrs of their loved ones. In it, a smiling man named Beshir who just lost two brothers to ISIS chats with an audience and callers:

Beshir: ISIS gave us more than we asked… ISIS strengthened our faith… I thank ISIS because they didn’t cut the audio when they screamed declaring their faith. Believe me when I tell you that the people here are happy and congratulating one another. They are not in a state of grief but congratulating one another for having so many from our village die as martyrs.

Caller: Today I was having a chat with my mother asking her what she would do if she an ISIS member on the street… She said she would invite him home because he helped us enter the kingdom of heaven.

Beshir: How beautiful!

Caller: I asked her what will you do if you see those ISIS members passing on the street and I told you ‘That’s the man who slayed your son.’ She said “I will ask for God to open his eyes and ask him into our house because he helped us enter the kingdom of God!

Meanwhile in the U.S., Franklin Graham, son of iconic evangelist Billy Graham, is finding a massive response among American Christians with the announcement that ISIS has triggered biblical Armageddon and the triumph of Christianity. One of his Facebook posts on the matter has already received nearly 150,000 likes and over 40,000 shares:

The evil of ISIS really shouldn’t shock us — it is fully in keeping with their ultimate agenda of hastening a final apocalypse. God’s Word tells us that there will be a final battle one day, but it will result in the defeat of Satan and all those allied with him. One thing is for sure — one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Franklin’s statement reverberated throughout Christian media. Thousands of ecstatic replies on Graham’s Facebook page reveal that many Christians are thrilled by the drama brought by ISIS…

[To read the rest, go to The Friendly Atheist, A Most Unsettling Trend: Christians Rejoicing in ISIS.]

Top Five Reasons God Loves Storms

god was here

Then there are the times we can just let believers make our case for us.

Moody Adams Evangelistic Association, publisher of evangelical videos, tapes, books and a magazine, has just posted The 5 Reasons God Permits Storms.  You will undoubtedly be won over:


To scare you until you beg Him for mercy.

hanging onto cross

“Storms are allowed to lead men to seek the Lord:  ‘So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm… that they may seek thy name, O LORD… ‘“ Continue reading

Psychic who was no help in solving murder now claims she helped police

A version of this post was published at Doubtful News.

by Bo Gardiner

Psychic Lisa Lanno (left) interviewed on PBS

Psychic Lisa Lanno (left) interviewed on PBS

Connecticut media needs remedial critical thinking training.  Earlier this month, Connecticut Public Radio aired a bizarre and unquestioning interview with “psychic detectives” who made outrageously false claims about their supposed help to authorities in finding missing people. Now more news of Connecticut broadcasters’ obsession with psychics emerges.  “Spiritual medium”

Lisa Lanno is best known for appearing weekly on a Hartford, CT, Fox TV morning “news” show called “Medium Monday.”   In December 2012, Lanno was rather disappointingly invited on PBS station WGBY’s nightly public affairs  program “Connecting Point” to discuss communication with the dead.   She was joined by the mother of murdered 20-year-old Amanda Plasse, about a year after the August 2011 crime.  The killer’s identity was still unknown, and the reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction had recently been upped to $10,000.  Carrie Saldo was the show’s host:

CS:  The 2011 murder of Chicopee resident Amanda Plasse remains unsolved… Recently [Amanda’s mother Michelle] Mathieson teamed up with medium Lisa Lanno to see if that would result in any new information…

MM:  Nothing right now.  No… no leads.

CS:  No new information since…

MM:  No.

Psychic Lanno is incoherent in her attempt to  explain her failure:

LL:  [Amanda] will give me some validations that are very specific, and I’ll bring them to her mother… I’ll ask Michelle, “Does that make sense to you?  Does that make sense to you?”  And even if I don’t know exactly what’s going on, she will tell me “Yes, that makes sense.”  Because in order to do this type of work, I have to validate with her that these things make sense.  Because otherwise—people should be skeptical, it’s good, you should be.  So it’s my job to prove it and say “Does this make sense to you?”  And when she says, “Yes, that makes sense…”

CS:  [Interrupting] So, Lisa, in terms of information that Amanda has communicated to you, do you feel that you’ve received any information that might help lead to the person who murdered Amanda?

LL:  Good question.  She’s given me a lot of information, but there’s not necessarily anything I can do personally with that information.  It’s a big puzzle.  What I see may make sense to Michelle, it may make sense to the police, but I don’t have the authority to go in and arrest somebody…

CS:  Well, of course.

LL:   And if you think about it, it’s all a big puzzle.  If any medium were able to get every little speck of information… our lives would be in danger, and then there’d be no need for police…

Lanno did go on to say that Amanda had revealed her  interest in sunflowers, tattoos and Pink Floyd. Another year later, an arrest was finally made in November 2013.  Amanda had filed a police report of a burglary before her death, which led police to obtain DNA evidence on the man she suspected of being the burglar:

A state police report made public in March stated that DNA evidence led investigators to Rosa-Roman, whom Plasse suspected of breaking into her apartment several weeks before she was killed.

A third year passes.  And as usual, the psychic’s story has evolved into something unrecognizable and bigger than life.  Lanno claimed yesterday in a TV interview that she did help the police find Plasse’s killer:  The interview, billed as one in which “Lanno discusses how she assists investigators in such cases,” was by Theresa Dufour on WTNH, a Connecticut CBS affiliate.  Dufour introduces the segment with a highly questionable claim of her own: Continue reading

‘What ISIS Really Wants’ — Digested Version. Read It If You Read Nothing Else This Week.

[Apologies to Graeme Wood and The Atlantic for such long excerpts.   Let me know if you need this taken down.  But more people need to read this who may avoid the longer version.-BG]

What ISIS Really Wants

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

Graeme Wood, March 2015, The Atlantic

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? …In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

… We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million…

We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature… In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse. Continue reading

Atheist Group Wins Dispute with Sign Company, Gets Alabama Billboards Resurrected, Confirms Removal Was to Appease Christians

 Mobile-billboard.pngTwo weeks ago we learned that the Gulf Coast United Coalition of Reason (CoR) had its Mobile billboards taken down by Lamar Advertising:

The CoR was told Lamar had received a large amount of complaints about the billboard and that he questioned the motivation to take the billboard down… “They just want to start a fight,” [Lamar VP Troy Tatum] said.

Today the good news is that the group won that fight, and successfully persuaded Lamar to put the signs back up.  The news story at AL.com rather downplays the disagreement, noticeably omitting any mention of complaints about the billboard’s message:

“Don’t believe in a God? You’re not alone,” and “Good without God? So are we” read the billboards re-erected in Mobile, Pensacola and Pascagoula after a contract dispute.  The original billboards went up in early Jan. but Mobile’s was yanked down two weeks later.

But the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR), who provided the funding for the signs, explains what really happened: Continue reading

Egyptian Student Who Supported Atheism on Facebook Given Prison Sentence and Allegedly Tortured for “Contempt of Religion”

Suez Canal University

Sherif Gaber, a 22-year-old student at Suez Canal University, was given a prison sentence yesterday by an Egyptian court for “contempt of religion.”  Sherif was turned in by his own college president and arrested at home in an excessive raid officials somehow thought required five military-style vehicles:

A student from Ismailia was given a one year prison sentence by a court Monday for contempt of religion relating to activities on campus and atheist statements online.

Sherif Gaber, 22, was studying at Suez Canal University in 2013, when teaching staff and fellow students reported him via a petition to the institution’s President. They said he had made posts supporting atheism on Facebook, and suspected him of being behind a page called ‘The Atheists’.  Subsequently, the university’s then-president Mohamed A. Mohamedein personally filed a legal complaint against the student to the local prosecution on the grounds of contempt of religion…

Gaber said that… on 27 October 2013 he was arrested from his home at 3am.  “[I couldn’t believe] the strength of the security of the state – three armoured cars and an army vehicle, surrounded my house,” Gaber said. “I said there must be another Osama bin Laden living in the same tower… I didn’t know I was that dangerous.”

Continue reading

David Tennant Really Hates Astrology


This week’s “Just a Minute” crew: Julian Clary, host Nicholas Parsons, Stephen Fry and David Tennant.

Astrology fans seem to love Doctor Who, going by the galaxies of Internet astrologers analyzing Doctor Who incarnations by birthday.  That love is not returned from the Tenth Doctor.

On BBC Radio 4’s venerable “Just a Minute” celebrity radio panel game, guests are tossed a subject and must immediately speak on it for one minute, “without hesitation, repetition or deviation.”  Or they get buzzed and lose points.

This week David Tennant played for the first time, and was a natural.   After beautifully addressing two Shakespearean topics, he was next thrown the phrase “It’s in the stars.”   In a lovely Scottish lilt, David launched into a passionate speech on the ridiculousness of astrology: Continue reading

NPR Station Gushes Over ‘Psychic Detectives’ and ‘Forensic Astrologer’

WNPR News - Connecticut’s Public Media Source for News and Ideas 2015-02-08 11-00-51

Your Radio Has Let You Down

You turn on your radio, and are surprised to hear a talkshow host gushing “Oh wow!” over “psychic detectives” and “forensic astrologers.”  Did you accidentally tune in to the home of the fringe, “Coast to Coast?”  You check the dial.  Nope, it’s right there on your usual NPR station… in this case, WNPR News, Connecticut Public Radio.

Has your faith been misplaced?  No, seriously, what is Faith Middleton doing, this award-winning long-time contributor to NPR news programs All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition?   You’re listening to the latest  episode of the 50-minute Faith Middleton Show, Retired Law Enforcement Working With Psychics to Find Missing Persons, Solve Murders.  You think, Oh, I get it, she’s looking into their claims, good.  You expect what any good journalist would bring: challenging questions, rational skepticism, and at least some basic factchecking.

You’d be wrong.   The show was a tribute by a fan.  Continue reading

India’s government dangerously pushes homeopathy to combat its deadly swine flu epidemic while its news media censors criticism

India not only has a growing and deadline swine flu epidemic, but its government is using worthless homeopathy to combat it.  Meanwhile, the country’s newspapers seem to be censoring objections to the strategy.

I’ve been impressed for some time with the large English-language daily newspaper, The Hindu, and its often excellent coverage of astrology and other paranormal skepticism.  So it was with extreme surprised that I read this article advocating homeopathy a few days ago, titled  Swine flu prevention: homeo pills effective, say officials.

Officials of the Ayush and Medical and Health wings of the district on Tuesday launched distribution of the homeopathic medicine for prevention of swine flu, at various centres in district, and appealed to the people to shun panic and take the pills…

District Coordinator of the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBKS) Dr Annareddy Sudarsan formally inaugurated the homeopathic medical camp at Prakasam High Road here, and within a couple of hours a large number of people thronged the camp to receive the medicine.

Speaking to the media, Dr Sudarsan said that homeopathic pills had always proved effective deterrents against mass epidemics like swine flu and brain fever. “The pills are safe and can be consumed by people of all ages, including child in arms. The three-dose course spread over three days is considered the best preventive method at present…” he said.

Medical officers Dr Sree Vani and Dr Selvaraj said that thousands of doses of homeopathic pills were distributed to students in several schools, in addition to the public at the distribution camps.

Continue reading