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Friday, February 20, 2009

'Join Us' - a film about a cult - by Ondi Timoner

From the website :- joinusthemovie

"There are thousands of cults in America.
This is the story of one."

"Award winning filmmaker, Ondi Timoner, follows four families as they leave an abusive church in South Carolina and realize they have been in a cult. The film documents them as they enter Wellspring, the only accredited, live-in cult treatment facility in the world, where they learn the true extent of the [so-called] 'brainwashing' they have all experienced. Eventually they return home to bring the Pastor and his wife to justice, and ... begin to rebuild their damaged lives."

"JOIN US presents an intimate look at the inner workings of a cult from both the members and the cult leaders' points of view. It is an emotional human portrait that explores the reasons why America is the number one breeding ground for cults in the world, and a chilling reminder that it can happen to anyone."

Film Trailer :-

Ondi Timoner talks about the film :-

Take the Cult Test questionaire on the website.

About: Liz Shaw - Cult Expert from the Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center.

Go _here_ for Liz Shaw's blog.

See also - pages in this blog :-
Have They Been Recruited by a Cult?
How do People Get Out of Cults?
Myths and Key Points About Cults

Monday, February 16, 2009

Doomsayers Debunked by Hawaiian Professor

'Doomsayers Retain Doubt, Ignore Science'
by Richard Brill, Professor of Science, Honolulu Community College;
for Star Bulletin, Hawaii, Feb 15, 2009.

"With a widespread distrust of authority and ignorance of science, you have a recipe for conspiracy theories. Born of fear and fed by misinformation, they can spread like wildfire in the vast forest of the information age.

"More than 1 million Web pages cite a panoply of [claims] that the apocalypse is coming in 2012.

"The basis for this [incorrect] growing phenomenon originates from the ancient Mayan [Long Count] calendar that [they say] ends in December of that year. [In fact it doesn't 'end'. It continues for thousands of our years!]

"Some [doomsayers] contend that the Mayan calendar ends on the solstice that occurs on Dec. 21, 2012, at 11:11 a.m. [GMT], which will supposedly coincide with an alignment of the sun with the center of the Milky Way galaxy, causing any number of imagined effects that defy reason.

"Actually, the sun will not come closer than 5 degrees to the center of the Milky Way, and on Dec. 18 rather than on the solstice. This happens every year with only slight variations."


Emphasis and [italics] by Que.
As at June 2012, this article no longer exists on the Star Bulletin website.

See also :- Scientist Responds to 2012 End-Of-World Hype
and :- The 2012 Winter Solstice Non-event .

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Religious Bias in Textbooks

From: "The Trouble With Textbooks - Distorting History and Religion", by Gary A. Tobin and Dennis R. Ybarra.

This book highlights 500 problematic statements about Judaism, Christianity and the Middle East that can be found in 28 of the most widely used public school textbooks in the United States. The book’s website states that “history and religion are being distorted in every one of the 50 states”, and suggests that “textbooks around the world are blatantly used as tools for propaganda.”

The website and the Executive Summary do not expand (beyond the Middle East) on that last statement, but I believe there is some evidence that supports it. For example, history textbooks used in China and Japan since WW2 cannot agree on certain facts. Quote from Wikipedia :- “The controversies primarily concern what some international observers perceive to be a systematic distortion of the historical record propagated in the Japanese educational system, which seeks to whitewash the actions of Imperial Japan during WW2.”

A few examples from the book (as quoted by Dennis Ybarra in a Fox News video track) :-

Textbook: ‘The World’
“True or False - Christianity was started by a young Palestinian named Jesus.”
The expected answer is True.
Que’s response :- In the Christian New Testament, Jesus grows up as a Jew in a Jewish community in Galilee. Both his parents were Jewish, and all the disciples were Jewish. As an adult he preached in Judea and Galilee - two provinces that strictly speaking were not part of a country called Palestine (at that time). It was at least 100 years later when Judea and the neighboring provinces were renamed ‘Syria Palaestina’ by the emperor Hadrian. (Late Roman Period II 135–220 CE.)

Textbook: ‘World Civilizations’
“Excepting the Old Testament’s poetry, the Jews produced very little of note in any of the art forms… There is no record of any important early Jewish contributions to the sciences.”
The author says that the textbook writers “go out of their way” to include those statements, and they seem to have an “agenda to disparage the Jewish contributions.”

Textbook: ‘World History’
“Ten Commandments - Moral laws Moses claimed to have received from the Hebrew god … on Mount Sinai.”
But in the glossary there is this entry: “Qur’an - Holy book of Islam containing revelations received by Muhammad from [Allah].”
The author says that the biblical reference is presented as a fable, and the Qur’an reference is presented as historical fact. He then goes on to say that the Constitution of the United States “says in schools you have to treat all religions equally.”
As far as I can tell, the Constitution doesn’t actually say that, but the First Amendment does say :-
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”. Perhaps a visitor to this blog from the United States could clarify the situation for me? … Thanks!

The major findings of the book are listed and explained in the Executive Summary that can be seen in a .PDF file _here_ .
The major findings are :-
-- Textbook writers often do not know much about their subjects.
-- Publishers use “Chop-Shops” to write books.
-- Information can be out of date.
-- Low quality scholarship is not uncommon.
-- American textbooks are “dumbed down”.
-- Politically motivated propaganda wheedles its way into textbooks.
-- Various interest groups influence social studies.
-- Organizations like the Council on Islamic Education have wide influence.
-- The result is textbooks that are anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

To be completely fair, there should perhaps be a book that exposes anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and anti-Iran (etc.) statements and bias in textbooks.

The book’s conclusion apparently includes this observation by the historian Bernard Lewis :-
"We live in a time when great efforts have been made, and continue to be made, to falsify the record of the past and to make history a tool of propaganda; when governments, religious movements, political parties, and sectional groups of every kind are busy rewriting history as they wish it to have been, [and] as they would like their followers to believe that it was."

Other links for ‘The Trouble With Textbooks’ :-

(‘Que’ originally learnt about this book while viewing video tracks at: www.foxnews.com )

from: wikipedia.org
The guidelines of the California Department of Education (Code 60044) state the following: "No religious belief or practice may be held up to ridicule and no religious group may be portrayed as inferior." "Any explanation or description of a religious belief or practice should be present in a manner that does not encourage or discourage belief or indoctrinate the student in any particular religious belief."
California State Law - Code 60044 (.pdf) - see the section on Religion on page 7.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Yellowstone: 813 Quakes in 11 days!

by Kirk Johnson, New York Times, February 2, 2009.
"Scientists said Monday that one of the biggest earthquake swarms ever recorded in the [Yellowstone National Park] took place in the last week of 2008 into early 2009, with 813 quakes in 11 days, most of them deep under Yellowstone Lake, and felt by almost no one. Only one other swarm, in 1985, was more intense. Records go back to 1973."
[extract ends]

Apparently it wasn't a sign of a looming geological upheaval !!
An upheaval would have included dramatic things like blow-offs of steam and flows of lava, especially if the activity was under land.

It seems that a lot of people aren't aware of that, because the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory received hundreds of calls and email messages suggesting a connection with the end-of-the-world. Some quoted the ancient Mayans as an authority for end-of-world disasters.

It is true that much of the Yellowstone area is above a giant ancient volcano that last erupted about 640,000 years ago. However, since then the area has been relatively calm. The observatory keeps its "volcano monitor level" for the park at normal or green - the lowest level of concern. The 'normal' level at Yellowstone represents between 1,000 and 3,000 minor earthquakes each year.

A theory (not noted in the article), describes a situation where frequent minor earthquakes deep underground is good news - because stress is being relieved. Large, strong earthquakes happen when stress builds up over long periods and is released all at the same time, possibly causing damage at ground level. The damage would be limited in sparsely populated rural areas, like national parks.

The scientist-in-charge did express some frustration because the recent swarm of earthquakes was mostly under Yellowstone's largest and deepest lake - more than 300 feet deep. It is somewhat more difficult to observe changes in hydrothermal and magma activity when it could be underwater! I guess two of the things the scientists monitor would be the water levels and the temperature of the lake water. If the scientists do monitor those things, it would have been good if it had been noted in the article, otherwise some readers wouldn't be completely convinced that the earthquake swarm was harmless.

More information here :-
Idaho Press-Tribune: Yellowstone Activity Not Precursor To Eruption