Chris came into work at lunch after checking the letterbox, all happy and brandishing a pamphlet entitled “Challenging Religion”, subtitled “big fraud or big solution”, obviously thinking that it was some skeptical/aethist conference along the lines of the one in Melbourne. His face fell moments later when he had a look at the list of speakers – two, thereof; Lyle Southwell (a theologian and Christian commentator) and Barend Nieuwstraten (another Christian commentator). There is a free gift, on registration! A KJV (King James version?) bible, yours “free to keep”, “supplied for your use”. It’s almost a bait and switch – maybe a Christian-specific version since it’s executed so poorly.
Update: Talking it over with Bobbie, this morning, we’ve come to the conclusion that they must be some offshoot of Hillsong – too crazy for the crazy evangelical people. The big conspiracy that is being unmasked here must be the Catholic Church – evil masquerading as Christianity, and preventing “real” Christians from spreading peace and joy in the world 🙂
Lyle Southwell has a bunch of videos on BeyondPatmos, a Christian video site, with titles like “Signs of the Times” and “The Prophetic Code” and, oddly, “The Code that Hounted Hitler”. How do you get hounted? Is that when ghosts start hunting you instead of haunting you? Obviously Lyle isn’t going to be challenging the Christian religion anytime soon, since he makes money from it.
Nieuwstraten has apparently given talks around the city on “The most unfair trial ever”, and “Minor prophets of the bible”, and “Predictions of the Hebrew Prophets”. No chance he’s likely to contradict anything biblical either, so let’s have a look at the conference agenda…
Day 1, session 1: Does A Supernatural Exist?
In this presentation, we examine a prophecy over two and a half thousand years old in an attempt to answer the question: Does the supernatural exist? Raising a further question: What being knows the future with such accuracy and why?
Thanks Lyle. Question for you… is any of this about challenging religion?Â The brochure accompanies the blurb with a picture of Hitler, by the way, as well as a Babylonian (Assyrian?) statue. Oh goodie – some prechristian wrote all about the death camps in clear and unambigious detail – NOT!
Day 1, session 2: Intelligent Design or Accidental Intelligence. What are we asked, or told, to believe?
This is presented by Barend, who obviously is the one pretending to be a scientist. The screed is entirely fatuous, begging the question it pretends to ask, and recycles the old exploded canard that evolution is equivalent to chance. “Compelling questions”, my arse. I love the conspiracy theory touch, though.
Day 2, session 1: The Greatest Book of Physical Life – DNA.
Again Barend morphs into a pseudo-scientist. If they were taking this seriously, they would have a real scientist to talk about DNA. However, this is not really about science at all:
The conflict between good and evil, negative and positive, strong and weak, is older than the world itself. Do we find, in this conflict, the origin of our existence? […] Are the answers found in the newly revealed information contained in our DNA?
What The Fuck??? Apparently this is a “powerful and insightful” talk. Yep, the farce is strong here. Once again, there’s the presupposition that Christian morality is correct; that the fall of man can somehow be validated by DNA. Let’s all point and laugh at the retards.
Day 2, session 2: Why doesn’t God do something? – subtitled “If God is good, who so much pain?”
Hey, Lyle! If you were really about challenging religion, you would not start by presupposing the existence of god.
The existence of bad things is a perpetual thorn in the Christian paw, and they need to keep digging at the topic. I seem to recall that PZ mentioned something in the Creationist Museum that was an attempt to explain poisonous snakes et al. (since they couldn’t have existed in Eden) and, from I recall, there are all sorts of convoluted arguments that come down to saying that it’s all like punishing a child who’s been bad – it hurts but it’s for our own good; if we didn’t play up, we wouldn’t get a smack.
Day 3, session 1: 6 days or 6 billion years.
Oh fuck, they’re young earth creationists, too 🙁 This session is about how to rationalise Genesis with science. It’s all acompanied with a picture of Darwin and a chimpanzee and a photo of the Genesis heading from the bible, and the text ends with the words “Do you really trust the accounts of your origins?” Hey Barend! Not if the account is you saying that Genesis is true, you fuckwit.
Day 3, session 2: Secret scrolls reveal the religion of the ancients
Here, Lyle tries to reconcile the bible with scriptures it doesn’t contain, and again harps on about trying to explain away evil and violence. He ends up with more prophecy crap working towards end-of-days rubbish. Way to challenge religion there, buddy.
Day 4, session 1 and 2: The Global Agenda (parts 1 and 2)
This is a millenarist rant in two parts about a global conspiracy to prevent world peace. Lyle’s starting point is another two thousand year old prophecy. which obviously explains in unambigious clarity “the driving force behind the globalisation of our world”. We get images of a forehead stamped with 666 and fingers holding a CPU, as well as various satanic images. It’s all very spooky 🙂 Apparently we’re in for a “shocking revelation”. Don’t worry guys, I know that you’re idiots. It’s no shock.
Day 5, session 1: Blowing the cover on theist evolution
This is Barend making sure that all Christians toe the line. No accomodation with the enemy, now. God isn’t some figure who set events in motion and then disappeared from the stage. Evolution isn’t true, even as a mechanism God used to carry out his plan.
Day 5, session 2: Global Warming… Fact or Myth?
No suprise on which side Barend comes down, I’m sure (God is punishing us for turning from him in these immoral times), but the screed is a strange incoherent rant:
In recent years we have been concurrently threatened by major global crisis (sic) fueled by political breakdowns, international terrorism, financial and, most particularly, environmental meltdown.
What does the bulk of that have to do with “the facts associated with Global warming”? Their capitalisation, by the way – but global is lower case again, just a couple of sentences later. This session is more end-of-days stuff, by the look of it, and is again “compelling and insightful” 🙂
By the way, this is all sponsored by Fountain Marrickville (an offshoot of these guys?), “Sydney city’s newest Christian fellowship”. Yep – they’re really challenging religion; challenging it not to be a laughing stock.