Scientology

I’m not fan of religion.  I consider all of them creepy and weird, if not potentially very harmful for a variety of reasons.  Even so, religion and “weird beliefs” in general are among my favorite topics of discussion.  How great for me, then, that I host an internet radio show and podcast, Strange Frequencies Radio, that is all about digging into this kind of stuff!

Recently, my friend Bobby and I talked to Mark Bunker about Scientology.  Mark runs the website XenuTV and is an ardent and educated critic of this particular cult.  I now know why Scientology doles out only a little information about it at a time to their adherents.  Hearing so much of it at once from Mr. Bunker was mind boggling!

Scientology may be creepy and weird, but their practices are also terrifying.  If you would like to learn more about it, or just want to hear from someone as knowledge as Mark Bunker, check out this interview we did with him and be sure to check out his website as well for a wealth of further information.

http://strangefrequenciesradio.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/episode-206-mark-bunker-on-scientology/

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Did Jesus Really Exist?

I’m not shy about being an atheist anymore.  At one point in my life, when I was much younger, just hearing someone say out loud that they didn’t believe in god made my stomach feel weird.  It was just this sensation of, “Stop!  How can you possibly say that?”  It was very uncomfortable.

Nowadays, not so much.  I’m an open atheist.  I don’t see any good evidence that there is a god and arguments for the existence of a god seem to be logically invalid to me.  So, I don’t believe.  But that being said, I’m not in anyone’s face about it.  I don’t go around shouting it from the rooftops and I’m not about to go out of my way to make people feel like shit for believing.  When I say I’m an open atheist, I simply mean that, should the topic of religion or who believes what comes up, I’m not ashamed or afraid to say “I’m an atheist” out loud.

Though I don’t believe in god, up until about 6 months ago I was pretty sure that Jesus had at least existed.  Sure, I may not have believed he performed miracles, rose from the dead or ascended bodily to heaven, but I figured there probably was a religious teacher named Jesus who the Biblical stories were based on.  But lately I’ve read a lot and heard from several educated people who have convinced me that it probably isn’t true.

For one thing, I’ve learned that the Bible, particularly the Gospels, were not written by eyewitnesses.  Mark, the first Gospel, was written decades after Jesus was said to have lived.  Furthermore, there are so many contradictions in the Gospels and throughout the Bible that it’s tough to know what the hell happened, if anything at all, during the events being written about.

But forget the Gospels.  There is not a single reference to Jesus at all while he was alive!  No contemporary historian, statesman, or even scribe seems to have heard of him.  That is pretty damning when you consider how influential Jesus is said to have been.  Again, this is a guy whose birth and death brought on long periods of darkness and earthquakes through the land.  He turned water into wine.  He walked on water.  He rose the dead.  He himself rose from the dead!  He ascended bodily to heaven and caused Christianity to spread like wildfire throughout the lands.  And no one seems to have noticed?  No corroborating record of earthquakes or eclipses?  No historians or scribes had anything to say?  No one even wrote a letter to their friend about him?  This is guy who, one could argue, is the most important person in history.  So why didn’t anyone write anything about him in the midst of his life?

I’ve heard it argued that historical records weren’t as well-kept in those days.  But that’s not true.  Consider the case of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, for instance.  Caesar lived prior to Jesus, but not only do we have his own writings, but a variety of contemporary sources of his life and travels.  Why nothing for Jesus?

I’ve also had people tell me that the people of the time and place were illiterate, so it is expected that there would be no mention of Jesus.  But that’s not true either.  Seneca the Younger and Nicolaus of Demascus lived and traveled in areas which intersected that of Jesus.  But they apparently never heard of him since they never saw fit to mention him.  And what about Philo of Alexandria?  Not only a statesman and scholar, but he wrote a great deal about religious movements and literally was in the same places as Jesus while he is said to have lived.  His family was close to the royalty of Judea.  There’s no way he wouldn’t have at least heard of Jesus!  But he mentions nothing.  He writes nothing.  This doesn’t make any sense!  Unless, of course, maybe there was no Jesus to notice…

But Paul!  What about Paul?  He was basically responsible for the spreading of Christianity, people say.  He knew Jesus, right?  Nope.  Never met him.  Paul had what would now be called “a vision” in the desert long after Jesus would have been crucified.  It’s true he helped spread Christianity, but certainly not true he met Jesus in person.  His reports of his “vision” are what many people nowadays refer to as a story about a “batshit crazy person.”  I don’t know if he was insane or not.  But the historical record is clear:  he didn’t know Jesus.  And half of his known letters, also known as “epistles,” are known forgeries.  Even the epistles historians do recognize as legitimately Paul’s have been tampered with and edited over the years.  Not exactly a strong case to build your faith around.

It has taken me some time, but I’m now prepared to say that I no longer believe Jesus really existed.  I guess it doesn’t really matter anyway.  I’m not a Christian and I don’t think Jesus was magic.  But if I’m going to proportion my beliefs to the evidence, I don’t believe in god and I don’t believe in Jesus for the same reason.  The evidence is just not there.

NOTES:

I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post that I had been learning a lot about this topic from a few different people.  Well, I’ve been lucky enough to talk to those people on Strange Frequencies Radio.  Their names are Richard Carrier, Robert M. Price and David Fitzgerald.  Please check out their websites, or feel free to listen to the interviews we did with them at the links below.

Thanks!

Dr. Richard Carrier and Dr. Robert M. Price on Strange Frequencies Radio

David Fitzgerald on Strange Frequencies Radio

Ghost hunter contradictions

Recently, along with my friend and fellow co-host of Strange Frequencies Radio, Bobby Nelson, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jenny Stewart.  Jenny is the founder of the Paranormal Research and Resource Society, and we had her on the show to discuss a few of her beliefs about the philosophy of ghost hunting, as well as her own research into spirit communication.  While we disagreed on pretty much everything, the conversation was pleasant until close to the end, when Jenny began to raise her voice in objection to a line of questioning that pertained to a myriad of contradictions we were noticing.  While those contradictions are certainly not unique to her, I thought a post about them might elucidate some of my thoughts on the frequency of which they appear in the ghost hunting community.

Early in the interview, I talked about how many paranormal investigators have things they don’t like about their community, and asked her if there was anything in particular she found distasteful.  She responded by saying that too many investigative team’s websites are like trophy cases, indicating they appear more interested in fame than in helping anyone.  I agreed, but I found it curious when, just moments later, she mentioned working on a television series for A&E about her team’s ghost hunting activities.

Later, we began talking about her ghost box research.  She is quite fond of it, believing that she has contacted entities that have given her team pertinent information on several cases.  She even recounted a story where her ghost box divined the future; foretelling a murder, in fact.  While she went to great lengths to testify to the usefulness of this particular technique, she said she uses it only as a tool; not as evidence.  How funny, then, that her team’s website has a copious amount of ghost box sound files on their evidence pages.

Finally, we talked about her rationale for being in the paranormal community.  While she does not consider herself a ghost hunter in the traditional sense, she does seek her own style of evidence for the existence of ghosts and the paranormal.  She also said that she isn’t trying to prove anything to anyone.  In my opinion, many ghost hunters get into the field because they want to prove the existence of ghosts.  I know that was one of my reasons, and I’ve talked to many who say the same.  But it is strange to hear someone say they aren’t looking to prove ghosts but then, as Mrs. Stewart did, say we are basically denying reality unless we agreed she has captured the image of a spectral baby in a window.  While Bobby told her it could be an example of pareidolia, I told her it was unfair to try and force our opinion when we had never seen the photograph in question.

This article is not about what is or is not proof of ghosts.  I’ve made it clear before that I used to believe and have explained the reasons I no longer do.  This isn’t even about whether or not people should go ghost hunting.  I have nothing against it.  I may not believe in ghosts, but even I enjoy creeping around allegedly haunted locations.  No, this is about the lack of honesty and consistency I see among ghost hunters.

I’m sick of hearing ghost hunters say they aren’t in it for fame while simultaneously seeking out their own reality show.  You have an ego; we all do, so at least be honest.  I host an internet radio show and, while I don’t want to be “famous,” I know a little something about wanting attention for what I do or say.  If you so much as have a Facebook or Twitter page, you have to admit that you do as well.

I also don’t have time to listen while you tell me your team doesn’t use certain items as evidence, or how you aren’t trying to prove anything to anyone.  I especially don’t want to hear it when what you are saying is demonstrably false, or while you are yelling in my ear about how right you are, like Mrs. Stewart did.

Now, to be fair, Jenny did end up writing to apologize a couple of days later.  She said that she originally got angry when one of us brought up science but, upon listening to the interview again, she doesn’t understand why she got mad [1].  And that’s fine.  It is not like I harbor any kind of grudge.  Many people have written to me to express their surprise at Mrs. Stewart’s reaction to the questions we posed on the show.  It surprised me too, but I also very much want to have her back on sometime to discuss the points we disagreed on.  One thing I want Strange Frequencies Radio to be known for is that we went out of our way to invite guests on simply because they disagree with us.  I continue to believe those types of conversations are important, particularly in the paranormal world.

Why are so many in the paranormal community so inconsistent?  Do they really not recognize their own contradictions, or is it, as I suspect at times, they divert attention away from their motivations in the presence of someone they perceive as an outsider?  In other words, when they are around other people who believe as they do, will they still downplay the significance of their ghost box, or talk about how little they want attention or to prove anything?  Somehow, I seriously doubt it.

Why?  Because I’ve been there.

NOTES:

[1] This is the impression I got from Bobby, who received her letter of apology.  However, Jenny has written in the comments of this blog that she was apologizing for having done the show at all, since she was exhausted from lack of sleep.