Ricky Gervais answers: How Did You Lose Your Religion?

January 16, 2010 by

Ricky Gervais @ Big Think. •  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dknumOcNVcU

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The only part that slightly irks me is there at the end when he says “by accident,” — but I understand the colloquial shorthand used by a comedian. He’s probably more concerned with effect than precision of meaning.

Still, it’s a great to be able to distill “losing your religion” down to a precise moment like that!


Can Ken Ham can ham?

January 15, 2010 by

Around the World with Ken Ham. A, round world, Ken Ham? Where in the bible, does it say the world is round? I wouldn’t mind being literally shown, where someone literally explains, (or, this being religion, baldly asserts) that the earth is round. There is probably some apologetics for that somewhere, though. More importantly, Ken Ham comes from Australia. Atheists are having a big convention in Melbourne, and he does not approve.

Imagine—listening to a meaningless talk at a meaningless conference held on a meaningless planet in a meaningless universe! Now, that would be an uplifting conference

Alright Ken, I’ll play your game. Meaningless talk…got it….meaningless conference…ok….planet….universe….alright I’m set. So something like…..

The next generation is calling it quits when it comes to traditional church attendance, and it’s not just happening on the fringe—it’s occurring in main-line denominations as well, says a local church, pointing to national studies.

St. Luke Church in Haslett is holding an open discussion on how the church, Sunday School and families can more effectively pass on the faith to coming generations.

This 90-minute workshop will be facilitated by Nate Burmeister, director of Fellowship and Youth at St. Luke, on Thursday evening, Jan. 14 from 7–8:30 p.m., in classroom 203.

The general public is invited to attend this free forum.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! So empty, so void of life! Oh why, WHY did I chose to be on the wrong side of history?!!

Anyway, Ken Ham is obviously struggling with a bit of cognative dissonance here. I mean, he’s from Australia, and he’s a young-earth creationist.

Let those things sink in for a second.

As Fred Clark from slacktivist has pointed out, that is impressively absurd. Ken Ham is from a place with punchlines older than he claims for, say, all the existence of the universe. There are Kangaroo shits that have been around longer than Ken Ham gives for all of time.

I first was going to post about Ken Ham when the Secular Student Alliance, along with PZ Myers, went to Ham’s wretched Creation “Museum.”  Looking at various posts and videos that came out of that trip, I realized that the Creation “Museum” is really more like “The Creationist Hospital.” It is a tiny oasis in an otherwise relentless erosion of their beliefs, faith, entire world view.

Quoting Fred Clark again from the same post linked above,

The real problem with Answers in Genesis can’t be found in Genesis, or in their tortured reading of it. The real problem is that they’ve somehow become convinced that there exist two and only two possibilities. Either their particular, smallish reading of Genesis is “literally” true and the world was created in six, 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago by their particular, smallish notion of god, or else the universe and human existence within it are meaningless, a realm violence and death in which kindness, goodness, justice and beauty are nothing more than illusion. They believe that either the history of the universe is a brutally short 6,000 years, or else life in that universe is nasty, brutish and short and nothing but. They prefer the former, understandably. And any challenge to it — by argument or by exposure to science or reality — is thus interpreted as an affirmation of the latter view

This brings us back to the tragic figure of Ken Ham. The bitter apostate calling herself an atheist simply isn’t capable of organizing an international conference of like minded people. Or even imagining the point of going to such a thing.  How could she, devoting all her time to hating something she only pretends to even exists?

Ken Ham is not capable of engaging, or even honestly admitting the existence of, the people who make up the vast majority of atheists. That is a huge swath of a group that is otherwise quite diverse and fragmented.  But after the meat grinder that is Ham’s mind, it all looks the same.

We either all hate god, or all believe in nothing.  The rest is simply unthinkable.

to glenn beck

January 15, 2010 by

Just in case any of you missed what my dear colleague has done here, I’d like to reiterate the point.

glenn beck (glen-bek) v. glenn-beck•ed, glenn-beck•ing. 1. To popularize a  meme by fighting it judicially under the guise of copyright/patent/trademark infringement.  2. To call attention to a minor issue by means of its attempted squelching.  3. To make a fool of one’s self by publicly sparring a strawman which was purposefully presented as a parody. —n. 1. The act of glenn becking. 2. The act of turning a meme into a supermeme, which evolves into an object lesson in 1st Amendment principles.  –glenn-beck•ish adj. –glenn-beck•ly adv.

Usage: Did Glenn Beck glenn beck Glenn Beck?

Synonyms: to Dr. Laura, to Sylvia Browne, to Jerry Falwell

Related: The Streisand Effect

On August 31, 2009 08:32:26PM on Fark.com, user “oldweevil” birthed the Glenn Beck 1990 meme when he asked, “Why haven’t we had an official response to the rumor that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a girl in 1990?” (source: pg 7)

This prompted one reader to register the domain name “glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com” which has since been relocated to “didglennbeckrapeandmurderayounggirlin1990.com” and “gb1990.com

This strange query by oldweevil is actually a combination of Beck’s own rhetorical style (e.g. Interview with Congressman Ellison) with The Gottfried Technique. (e.g. Comedy Central’s Roast of Bob Saget).

The cartoon South Park immortalized this rhetorical favoring of Beck’s, and illustrates that the only way to combat it is with satire and humor:

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In September of 2009, the registrant of the domain name glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com received a Notification of Complaint, and learned that Glenn Beck had sought rights to the disputed domain through an International Panel.

The Panel rejected Beck’s complaint, for reasons too numerous to contain herein (click to download the full WIPO Decision), and he did not win the disputed domain.

However, having proven his point, the registrant handed over the user/pass of disputed domain to Beck in a scathing open letter.

The “glenn beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990” meme has morphed into the “glenn beck 1990” or GB1990 meme, which has now been consolidated nicely into the “glenn beck” meme, which is here defined.

Knee High Men’s Ribbed Socks

January 12, 2010 by

Knee High Men’s Ribbed Socks    a pattern by slightlyharmless

These socks were knit for a Men’s Size 12 recipient.

I used Lion Brand Wool-Ease (worsted weight): 1 skein for contrast toes, heels and cuffs; and a little less than 4 skeins for feet and legs.

I knit these on size 5 needles.

The gauge when laid flat is about 5.5 stitches per inch, but since some of the purls are hidden it looks like 4 stitches per inch – there are purls between the visible knits to account for.

These were Magic Loop, two a a time, toe-up; when you get to the heels, just work one at a time with the other sock on hold on the cable.


Using Contrast Color, CO 12 stitches using Judy’s Magic Cast On (24 sts per sock, 48 sts total). If using ML, always repeat for 2nd sock, using a separate ball of yarn.

Knit the first round, and make sure to knit into the back of the stitch for the 2nd half of each sock (the CO leaves them twisted, so you must untwist it as you knit around).

Increase every other round using Kf&b into the leftmost and rightmost stitch on both sides of both socks, then knit the next round even.

Repeat these two rounds 5 more times, giving you a total of 48 stitches per sock. Then knit 1 more round increasing 2 stitches (i.e. into the first stitch of each needle but not the last as before) to give you a total of 50 stitches per sock.

Knit 1 more round in CC, then switch to MC and knit 2 more rounds before switching to ribbing on the instep.

Ribbing Pattern

When stretched, the K1, P1, K1 will create the look of a “column” of knit stitches offset by 2 purl stitches on either side. When relaxed, the single purl between 2 knits will tuck itself out of view, giving it the look of K2P2 ribbing. By starting and ending each repeat with a purl stitch, the pattern of 5 columns is centered over the instep with a single purl on either side.


At 50 stitches per sock, work 5 repeats of the ribbing on side A of both socks, then knit across the bottom of the socks on side B. Continue in this way until you are 2” short of the required foot length.


Make heels with Contrast Color using the Short-Row Heel method. I wrapped 8 stitches on each side of the heel, leaving 9 unwrapped stitches in the middle (8+9+8=25).

Begin wrapping stitches:

Row 1: K to last stitch, wrap 1 and turn work

Row 2: P to last stitch, wrap 1 and turn work.

Row 3: K to 1 st before wrap, wrap and turn.

Row 4: P to 1 st before wrap, wrap and turn.

Repeat Rows 3 & 4 until you have the required number of wrapped sts on each side, ending on the Right Side with yarn in back, having just finished wrapping the final stitch on a purl row, and turning.

Begin unwrapping stitches:

Row 1: K to first wrapped stitch, lift up the wrap and work it by knitting it together with the stitch it was wrapping. Then wrap the next stitch (which will now have two wraps) and turn.

Row 2: P to the first wrapped stitch, lift up the wrap and work it by purling it together with the stitch it was wrapping. Then wrap the next stitch (which will now have two wraps) and turn.

Row 3: K to the next wrapped stitch, lift up both wraps and work them by doing a K3tog with the stitch they were wrapping. Then wrap the next stitch (which will now have two wraps) and turn.

Row 4: P to the next wrapped stitch, lift up both wraps and work them by doing a P3tog with the stitch they were wrapping. Then wrap the next stitch (which will now have two wraps) and turn.

Repeat Rows 3 & 4 until you have unwrapped all but one stitch on either side, ending on the Right Side with yarn in back, having just finished working the 2nd to last wrap, wrapping the last stitch on a purl row, and turning.

(This will leave one unwrapped stitch on each side, one will be worked in the next step, the other should be worked in the following round as you come to it naturally, it will be worked on the RS in the round, rather than on the WR flat.)

Knit across, working the final wraps at the end of the needle. Then repeat the whole process on the 2nd sock, which has been waiting patiently on the cable.


With Main Color, resume the ribbing pattern for the front and back of each sock; at 50 sts per sock, you will be working 10 repeats per sock, beginning and ending each needle with a P1 in order to center the columns evenly. Work in this manner until you reach the beginning of the calf shaping.

Calf Shaping

The calf shaping takes place in the upper two thirds of the length of the leg (measuring roughly from just above the ankle to just below the knee).

To determine where your calf shaping should take place, measure the length of your recipient’s leg as described and refer to the following diagram.

The length of the leg is divided into three roughly equal sections by the blue lines. Each of these sections is again subdivided into three equal sections, marking the sites of all increases and decreases to shape the calves. All incs and decs are to be done on the back (heel side) of the sock, the front (instep side) is to be worked in the established ribbing pattern. Thus, the first 3rd of the leg is worked according to established ribbing pattern.

(Referring to hand drawn diagram on far right): each “column” is represented by a thick black line (there are 5, centered across the back of the sock), the purl stitches have deliberately not been drawn, in order to give a clearer picture to the placement of the increases.

All increases occur in the middle 3rd of the leg, represented by downward pointing triangles.

The first pair occurs at the first subdivision, centered around the middle column. In order to do this, work 2 repeats as usual, increasing into the final purl stitch of the 2nd repeat with a Kf&b, then work 1 more repeat, again increasing into the final purl stitch with a Kf&b, then work 2 more repeats as usual. You will have increased two stitches into the back for a total of 52 sts per sock.

Continue in newly established pattern (there will be two spots where the columns are offset by 3 purl stitches instead of 2).

The second pair of increases occurs at the second subdivision. These will again be centered, but this time around the middle 3 “columns.” Work these increases as before, with a Kf&b, into the first of the pair of purl stitches which offsets the “columns” between which the increase is positioned. You will have increased 2 more stitches, for a total of 54 sts per sock.

Continue working this newly established pattern until it is time to begin the first of 2 decrease rounds.

All decreases occur in the final 3rd of the leg, represented in the diagram by an upward pointing triangle.

The first pair occurs at the first subdivision.

This time, in order to mirror (across the “x-axis”) the increases, you will reverse the order of decreases by first decreasing the outter portion, and then the inner portion.

Work decreases with a P2tog at the points diagrammed.

Refer to this closeup of the increase and decrease positions for further clarity.

Increase and decrease into the first of the two (and the first two of three) purl stitches which offset the “columns” of ribbing.

The remaining decreases will all ocurr at the 2nd subdivision of the upper portion, and there are two steps.

First, decrease back to the original 50 stitch ribbing pattern in the same manner as before, with a P2tog in the remaining inner positions centering the middle column. Then work 2 more rounds in pattern.

For the final round of decreases, work the following over both sides of both socks: P1, *K3, P2tog, repeat from * 3 time, K3, P1. You will have decreased down to 42 stitches, for a snug fit just under the knee. I do this rather than changing needle sizes, though you could just as easily go down a needle size instead of decreasing, but make sure that each “column” is now a K3, in order to make the cuff pull in more than the leg. For a larger calf, incorporate more increases and decreases, doing your best to evenly distribute and mirror them horizontally and vertically. Keep in mind that the ribbing is EXTREMELY stretchy.


With Contrast Color, continue in cuff ribbing for at least 2 inches. Then Bind Off VERY LOOSELY, exaggeratedly loosely, as the cuff will need to pass over the widest part of the calf. The ribbing should be much snugger than the Cast Off in order to keep the sock in position.

These socks were originally knit in Jan/Feb of 2009; the pattern was written out Jan 2010. If you should happen to find errors, or need clarification on any points, please leave your comments below. They are greatly appreciated.

Did Glenn Beck “glenn beck” Glenn Beck?

December 29, 2009 by

The internet is a vast and lonely place. Websites come into existence, pour out their information, then wink out, sources forever lost. But the internet, like the universe, is a large place.

So it was with shock and horror that I noticed “glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com” had gone down. The link was broken (and still is).

Thankfully, I only had to ask myself “DID Glenn Beck rape and murder a young girl in 1990?”, and my shocked horror was quickly replaced, by mellow relief (also because you can just use GB1990.com instead). But the reason for the minor change in url, even better.

It seems that despite having no case, appealing to an international court, and what could have been some furious crying, Glenn Beck could not “glenn beck” the meme (by way of website) which had him deploying his lawyers en mass. After winning the case, domain owner Issac Eiland-Hall sent Beck a letter with a delicious finishing move: he gave him the user/pass to the site which he fought so hard to get taken down with his silly lawsuit.

Well done, Issac (and his awesome lawyer Marc Randazza). Satire superslam complete, first amendment defended, intenet meme now dipped in gold. The actual website domain? Not really all that important. I think “didglennbeckrapeandmurderayounggirlin1990.com” is just as funny as “glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com” was, (though GB1990.com is better still) and even more on point, too. ‘Cause we don’t know if he, in fact, did do that. I’m not saying he did it, but he certainly hasn’t denied doing it.

But the point isn’t about the actual domain, its that Glenn Beck can’t cry defamation for searing satire, just because he doesn’t like it.

2009’s Misinformer of the Year leans on the 1st Amendment almost every time he opens his mouth on TV. *I* don’t like him, but *I* don’t own a media network, so on he goes, spreading his own particular brand of weird right-wing lunacy. Such is free speech in this country. Its a wonderful thing, even if we have to live with people like Beck being allowed on TV as a consequence.

But for Beck to try to reach around the first amendment, while standing behind it shows just how much we really do need to hear him deny that he raped and murdered that young girl in 1990. You can do it at any time, Beck.

The Hovind Hundred (and one)!

December 10, 2009 by

Oh no! “Dr” Kent Hovind “Ph.D” is probably too busy (in prison for tax evasion and fraud) to do much about his crappy dissertation entering public domain. In the spirit of the great Fred Clark at slacktivist, I think it may be worth checking out the rocket that launched “Dr” Kent Hovind to his intellectual orbit.

Fred Clark has been wading though the “Left Behind” rapture novels, taking his time to unpack the awfulness page by page, and I want to give Kent’s dissertation a similar airing-out with this series of posts. His “Dissertation for Doctor of Philosophy in Christian Education — A Project Submitted to Dr. Wayne Knight” (nice title) is a hardly comparable to the quivering theological madness that animates LeHaye and Jenkins in their awful books, but it is still worth taking a good long skeptical look at.

Both Hovind and L&J are chock full of strange, American-grown evangelical Christian fundamentalism, but Hovind is no premillennial dispensationalist. Hovind didn’t write an 11 novel fiction series to “prove” his wacky beliefs right, but at least LeHaye and Jenkins don’t try to pass their “literal” reading of the bible off as science in the classroom.

In any case, the exercise of slowly pulling apart something terrible should (might) be worth the effort for three reasons. One, to show what can pass for scholarship at unaccredited diploma mills. I have heard Hovind make a fuss over people calling out his “Ph.D”. “So what if its an unaccredited college?”, he says. Well, Hovind can now serve as his own refutation to that question.

Second, this is a chance to get a first-hand glimpse of the mind of someone dedicated to young-earth creationism. In amidst the paragraphs of endlessly repeated assertions, there may well be a few interesting and revealing thoughts, intentional or not, as to how he thinks. Even if turns out to be all dreck, its dreck straight from the source, and I like to sample my bullshit pure when possible.

Third, it will be pretty funny. Not so much for his kooky, young-earth creationist beliefs, out there they may be. Hovind, like most creationists, is piously unoriginal. It is often a point of pride to toe that young-earth line, no matter how much intellectual artillery is shelling it. But when Hovind plays the part of the apologist, or says almost anything about science — that’ll have some funny shit. I wonder how many factual errors he can pack into 101 pages? Can he keep up with the likes of Deepak Chopra for gibbering nonsense aped as science? I’ll try to compile a list and keep track as I go, so some kind of lies errors/page ratio can be found.

To give a small idea of where this Doctorate of Philosophy in Christian Education will be taking us, I will quote the last four sentences of this 101 page document. The last paragraph is five sentences, so this is our closing gesture, the final flourish. I don’t want to take Hovind out of context, the first sentence of the closing paragraph is “These honest questions deserve an honest answer.” He is referring to a raft of questions about evidence for a young earth that preceedes it. But here it is, Hovind’s parting shot:

I believe we have been lied to about the age of the earth. Satan, the father of all lies, has come up with this one to make a fool of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 19:4 that the creation of Adam and Eve was the beginning. I believe Jesus was right.

See? Look at how tight, how concentrated, how streamlined those last 4 sentences are. Nonsense, religious nonsense, bible quote, affirmation of faith, DONE.  Now for the rest of it.

Mahered and Feathered

November 19, 2009 by

In a shocking move, Bill Maher has done a near 180 on his vaccine position. This comes hot on the heels of his recent angry rant about getting flack over his opinions, controversial to some, incoherently false to others, regarding vaccinations.

“Like I pointed out on my show, I’ve read Microbe Hunters when I was eight. But then I realized — I had read practically nothing about it since then. I’d mostly been listening to a bunch of alternative medicine people, and none of them even liked Microbe Hunters.” began Maher, during a recent fictional lunch discussion with me.

Maher, being very smart, and not one to be suckered like the countless masses of people who do not watch his show, realized it was too late and he himself had, himself, gotten himself infected with the big Pharma’s latest disease – anti-vaccinationism.

“It came as a total shock to me one night”, Maher continued, “not like the kind of shock of like, that first coffee enema to remove the festering toxins, but, you know electric acupuncture? Like twice that. I was thinking about some of the things I said a while ago”, said Maher, citing some various, recent, beatings showered upon him on the internet, and his own show. “And I hadn’t really thought about all the things, I had actually said, were all out there – on the internet – and people just kept linking me back to my own stuff over and over and over. At the same time, I keep getting these emails, lots of them, about the “millions and millions” of lives saved by vaccines. And that’s when it hit me.”

Maher is not afraid to take anti-authority stances. He is known for being willing to deny the whole of western medicine as a scare tactic. With his new revelation idea conspiracytheory in the works, he was going to have to go once step further. He was going to need to take an anti-authority stance — with the anti-authorities.

“These weren’t your run of the mill ‘Ph.D.’ doctors we’re talking about”, Maher explains. “They were directly opposite of that, if not more so. I had just assumed because they were opposite, they were equal. But it went much further than that.”

Maher had found that night, with his own mind, the root of the entire system. “It was those millions and millions”, Maher continued, mimicking Carl Sagan’s memorable “billions and billions” quote. “Who had the most to benefit from all those people living long lives? It was obvious : Big Pharma itself”.

“I’m just asking questions here”, Maher warned. “But it looks like the medical community is secretly using dirty tricks, like these anti-vaccine cranks, to finally do away with their biggest, most arrogant mistake. Vaccines. By getting rid of all these diseases, western medicine is robbing itself of untold profits. They regret cranking out healthy kids, many with near disease free childhoods. The hospital industry has been hankering to undo the money lost ever since the CDC was formed, to rid the United States of malaria.”

“A flu shot is the worst thing you can do!” Maher exclaims angrily. “A flu shot just compromises your immune system! I said those things, on TV. How many people were tricked because I myself was tricked. I checked the evidence, it’s overwhelming how much there is, for vaccines. And now they just want to use these Wakefield charlatans to scare people off vaccines, to line their pockets again. It never ends, does it?”

When asked about his new position, Maher was cautionary about how solidly he stood. “You never really can be sure”, he explained. “My change isn’t a near 180. It’s more like a near 540. And I’m ready to do another anytime, when it comes to medicine.”