Archives for August 2015

Dan Barker’s miracle

maxresdefault-3Dan Barker is one of the world’s most famous atheists, but he hasn’t always been so well known. In fact, for over seventeen years he toiled in relative anonymity as a Christian evangelist, receiving virtually no fame or fortune in compensation for his efforts.

Now today Dan runs the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), one of the most zealous and successful special interest groups dedicated to opposing religion in the United States. He now has millions of dollars at his disposal  — the FFRF currently boasts of holding $11.5 million dollars in assets on their balance sheet.

Obviously, atheism pays a lot better than honest evangelism. Dishonest evangelism is something else entirely — those “prosperity pimps” really know how to rake in the dough, but that’s another story.

At any rate, shortly after declaring himself an atheist, Dan was invited as a guest on Oprah Winfrey‘s television show AM Chicago to speak about what led from preaching to atheism. On the show Dan met future wife (and co-founding partner of the FFRF) Annie Laurie Gaylor, and soon they started on their journey down the road leading to fame and fortune.

I’ve been familiar with the FFRF and Mr. Barker for quite a while now — once upon a time, he was even a “virtual” friend of mine on Facebook. But I got dumped once Dan figured out that I wasn’t an atheist.

Only a few years ago, I took and then self-graded Dan’s open Bible test — a clever ploy of his obviously designed to create doubt and confusion in the minds of Christians. The “test” wants the Christian to focus on the relatively minor discrepancies in the four gospel accounts, ignoring the fact they agree on the most salient points — that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried, yet three days later, his tomb was empty because he rose from the dead. Naturally, I gave myself an “A”.

Anyway, the FFRF gets some great free publicity from the news media, plus they occasionally put up billboards mildly taunting religious believers which I used to see in the Atlanta area.

Recently the FFRF grabbed local headlines when they sent a letter to the University of Georgia and 24 other universities, demanding the schools terminate their chaplain positions associated with the school’s athletic programs. Their letter specifically accused Coach Mark Richt of using his position as head football coach to raise money for a Christian ministry, which I would assume referred to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

However, as an enthusiastic member of the Georgia Bulldog fan base, I can assure Mr. Barker that an overwhelming majority of us strongly support Coach Richt, even those who don’t share his Christian faith. Time and resources are being squandered on a fight the FFRF can’t win unless the Supreme Court overturns the First Amendment.

It would prove extraordinarily difficult to argue trying to make a case in court that holding Christian beliefs was necessary in order to play football for Mark Richt.

Evidence strongly says otherwise. For example, former first-string tailback Musa Smith is Muslim, and current starting center Brandon Kublanow is Jewish.

Belief in Christ doesn’t create football talent, and the most capable players earn the playing time on the field. The coaches make personnel decisions purely from the standpoint of keeping the best interests of the team at heart because it is their job to win football games.

There is absolutely no evidence that any sort of religious litmus test must be passed in order to play for UGA, and simply ludicrous to suggest otherwise.  11892233_10203178422740335_8179233804147072456_n

As this photo of a group of players praying on the field after a game illustrates, participation in group prayer is always optional, never mandatory — most of the team is clearly not participating. These players aren’t giving thanks for victory.

Nor are they likely to be asking God why they lost a football game. If anything, they are briefly bowing their head to give thanks that no one was seriously injured playing the game they all love — a game that provides them with free college tuition.

While my fellow Dawg fans may currently be grousing about the nefarious activities of the FFRF, I can’t help but feel sorry for Dan Barker. Sure, he has millions in the bank and authored a couple of books that became New York Times bestsellers, but I personally wouldn’t sell my soul just to make a few million dollars.

southernprose_cover_CAFGBesides, I’d gladly give away a free copy of my Counterargument for God to him, and any other atheist willing to read it. Chris Janson’s song tells the truth: money can’t buy happiness, but it could buy me a boat.

According to his own statements, Dan once had a relationship with God that others could only envy — and yet he somehow lost his faith.

Most remarkably, during his interview with Oprah, Dan claimed that the speech of a mute had been restored after he prayed for the man’s healing in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wow.

Oprah asked Dan to explain how the miracle occurred, but Dan replied that he didn’t really understand what happened and couldn’t give an explanation for the miracle he’d witnessed himself.

Now if Dan still claimed to hold religious beliefs, the average atheist would accuse him of being a fraud. He would be excoriated and called a con artist and compared to Benny Hinn, Robert Tilton, Peter Popoff, and other notorious frauds famous for exploiting poor and gullible people.

Dan’s atheist friends would almost certainly make one or more of the following assumptions about him:

  1. Dan was deliberately, even maliciously lying. The story is a complete fabrication.
  2. The “victim” wasn’t really mute, but a speaking person pretending to be mute in order to fool Dan.
  3. Dan and the “mute” collaborated to fool their audience, working as a team.
  4. The placebo effect occurred — the “miracle cure” was a unique event coincidentally timed with relief from some psychosomatic illness that temporarily caused the “victim” to become mute, followed by the spontaneous remission of a perceived condition reversed by the power of suggestion.
  5. Assume any other explanation that doesn’t involve divine intervention or supernatural phenomena.

Curiously enough though, Dan didn’t confess that he’d perpetuated a fraud.

Nor did he claim the “healed” person was never mute. Instead, Mr. Barker seemed to suggest that he’d witnessed, and even facilitated an inexplicable phenomena, a remarkable healing.

He called on the power of Jesus Christ to heal the man. And the man was healed. Yet now Dan isn’t sure what happened, even though he was there.

Unlike my atheist friends, I would not assume that Dan lied, or that the mute man could actually speak the whole time. Instead, I would merely ask Dan a few questions:

  1. How did you verify that the man couldn’t speak prior to this remarkable healing took place?
  2. Did medical records document and confirm his condition?
  3. Were other witnesses able to confirm the man couldn’t speak before this alleged miracle occurred?

Depending on his answers, my followup questions to Mr. Barker would be these:

How can you be sure that a miracle did not occur? Why have you assumed that your prayers were not answered? And what exactly is your definition of a miracle, anyway?

Begging for money

RichardCarrierSM

Richard Carrier (From Wikipedia)

Richard Carrier holds a PhD from Columbia University in ancient history. He is a prolific author — his work includes books with provocative titles such as On the Historicity of JesusProving HistorySense and Goodness without GodNot the Impossible FaithWhy I Am Not a Christian, and Hitler Homer Bible Christ. 

According to his website, Dr. Carrier is also a very busy and highly sought “world-renowned author and speaker.” 

So naturally I became curious: why is this guy practically panhandling for money on his website that has not one or two, but six different ways you can “Help Support Dr. Carrier?”

Seriously? Exactly how many mouths does this man have to feed?

Admittedly, the first option we’re offered seems reasonable enough — Dr. Carrier wants you to buy one of his books. As a fellow author with my own books and novels promoted here on this very website, it would be rather hypocritical of me to criticize another author for trying to market his own work.

So no problems with option #1.

Visitors to his website are also offered a second option, which is buying a book recommended by Dr. Carrier through a link provided. He apparently earns a small percentage of the sale. That also sounds like a fairly decent way to bolster one’s income — something I admit that I wouldn’t mind learning how to do myself.

The third option we’re offered is where things begin to get sketchy — we are invited to send “Dr. Carrier” a donation via Paypal, ostensibly just because he’s a swell guy and needs the money more than we do.

But why? For what? Apparently, as we’ll soon see, it’s to “get your money for nothing, and your chicks for free.”

We are then offered the (4th) option to take a monthly online course from Dr. Carrier.

Or (a 5th option) we could pay him a speaking fee.

Finally, we are given the opportunity to negotiate hiring Dr. Carrier as a “consultant” for $150 per hour, though we are warned he is “rarely available” and his “services are expensive.”

No kidding — $150 per hour works out to roughly $300 grand per year. So I’ve been wondering — why does this guy with a PhD from an Ivy League school need to beg for money?

Richard Carrier’s website does offer us a few clues.

For example, he doesn’t appear to hold a legitimate teaching position anywhere, except offering monthly online courses through something called the Partners for Secular Activism…which hardly sounds like an academic enterprise. It sounds more like a brief indoctrination into becoming some sort of an evangelist for atheism.

Unlike his nemesis Bart Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Carrier doesn’t have a cushy, secure full-time job to provide a steady income. So he’s got to scramble to make his money.

Furthermore, his lifestyle can be quite expensive — Carrier allegedly practices polyamory. That can’t be cheap, to constantly date and try to keep multiple women happy. He’s got more than a few mouths to feed. But if Dr. Carrier thinks his current lifestyle is expensive, just wait until one of these women has his baby. His monthly budget will get blown through the roof.

He might actually have to get a real job.

An experiment in wealth redistribution

Dan Price

Dan Price

Dan Price apparently had the best of intentions.

He wanted his employees to stop worrying about petty problems like their mortgages and car payments, so Dan one day called a company meeting and announced that going forward, everyone would receive the same pay.

Even his own salary would be slashed from seven figures all the way down to $70,000 — the arbitrary “minimum” (and maximum) wage for every employee of Gravity Payments.

Now everyone should be happy, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Well…everything. First, Dan’s two best employees quit.

“He gave raises to people who have the least skills and are the least equipped to do the job, and the ones who were taking on the most didn’t get much of a bump,” said former Gravity financial manager Maisey McMaster. When she complained, Price called her selfish and naturally, she resigned.

Web designer Grant Moran observed, “Now the people who were just clocking in and out were making the same as me,” and he also quit.

Then Dan’s big brother filed a lawsuit against him that may bankrupt the company. However, “We don’t have the margin of error to pay those legal fees,” Dan told the New York Times.

Well, Shazam! Apparently it never occurred to Mr. Price that there might be some blowback to his plan to redistribute the wealth of the company’s investors by ludicrously increasing their salary expenses.

This story should become the classic case study that illustrates the value of capitalism and a free market system.

It would be easier to feel sorry for Mr. Price — he’s renting out his house, no longer able to afford to live in it himself, after all — except his own liberal arrogance brought about his current misfortune.

Price blamed his Christian upbringing and good intentions when he spoke to the Times for their articlebut God only asks for ten percent of the gross.

Question: the minimum NBA salary for a player with 3 years of experience is just about $1 million — should that be the same salary paid to LeBron James? Of course not.

LeBron James

LeBron James

No disrespect meant toward Anderson Varejao or Joe Harris, but fans aren’t buying Cavalier tickets to watch those guys ride the pines. They are buying tickets and wearing t-shirts with LeBron’s name and number on them. Whether you’re a fan or not, Mr. James draws thousands of fans to the game.

It sounds perfect and wonderful to say everyone should receive the same salary…except for the fact that not everyone deserves the same salary. People should be rewarded according to their efforts and ability.

If everyone is paid the same regardless of how hard they work, what is their incentive to work hard?

The new hire who is basically useless and the CEO of the company shouldn’t receive the exact same pay. That isn’t Christianity, or capitalism. You can’t sugarcoat it…that’s just plain stupid.

And now Mr. Price is paying a steep price for his foolish social experiment. He may even lose his company — due to legal fees. Pretty soon nobody will be making $70,000 per year.

The real minimum wage is zero.

Jon Snow and Game of Thrones

Kit Harington as Jon Snow

Kit Harington as Jon Snow

The HBO series Game of Thrones is famous for brutal, gory sword fights mixed in with dire wolves, dragons, and quite a bit of kinky sex.

Based on the A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels written by George R. R. Martin, the television adaptation has largely remained faithful to the books thus far.

And for the most part, the television shows have been dazzling.

Martin has published five novels. The television series has now run for five complete seasons.

However, the novels and “seasons” of the show haven’t matched up perfectly — events occurred in the most recent novel that have not happened onscreen, and not everything in the books made it onscreen.

In the final episode of season 5,, one of the few remaining heroes in the broad saga, Jon Snow, was murdered,  which (according to my wife and son, who read them) also happened in the most recent novel. Readers of the books will remember that Jon was brought back from the dead in that same novel in which he was killed, because he’s become an essential character in the overall story.

Clearly, the word “ice” in the title for the series refers to Jon Snow, just as “fire” refers to the dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen.

Yet in response to speculation coming from fans of the books, HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo has been quoted by Deadline Hollywood as saying, “Dead is dead as dead as dead. He be (SIC) dead. Yes. From everything I’ve seen, heard, read, Jon Snow is indeed dead.”

The problem is that the show really won’t make any sense or have much of a future without Jon Snow. Therefore, I don’t understand the current marketing strategy. The show is insanely popular already — there’s no need to create additional hype. In fact, this may backfire.

If Mr. Lombardo was deliberately trying to deceive fans (meaning Kit Harington will return next season as Jon Snow) he’s irritated people like me for no reason. If he really doesn’t know the fate of Jon Snow, he just should keep his mouth shut.

Conversely if he’s telling the truth and Jon Snow is gone, I’m done with the show.

If the character Jon Snow is permanently dead, Mr. Lombardo can forget about making three more seasons. I seriously doubt I’ll be the only fan who loses interest in the show after the last remaining truly heroic and noble character left in the story has been killed off.

Furthermore, if Jon Snow is truly gone for good, the storyline for Game of Thrones will no longer be faithful to Martin’s vision for the final resolution of the series, and his devoted fans will not be happy.

The writer in me will want to boycott the show on principle.