Is Genesis Relevant in 2014?

The first talk was about why the age of the Earth matters to Christians. If accepting Jesus into your heart is all that’s required to be saved, why would they waste time arguing about details like Genesis? The great thing about these talks is that I fully agree with the creationists.
He started out talking about how many people are leaving the church, especially in Europe. The only thing Ken and I disagree on here is whether this is a bad thing or not. I really want to visit this church converted into a rock wall:

Church transformed into climbing gym

He also talked about Christianity not being allowed in public schools:

“You can talk about the Muslim god and have the Koran on your desk and that’s fine but the Bible is banned.”

I fully agree with Ken that this would be wrong if it happened. However, I would really like Ken to show me one teacher talking about a Muslim God in a USA school and getting away with it. The Christian majority in most American schools kicks up enough of a stink about a Muslim teacher just wearing a hijab to make the national news. Anyone actually discussing religion in class, where the law would be on the side of the Christian majority, would not last long.

His explanation for why his religion was right when there are hundreds of religions in the world was interesting.

There are only two religions in the world. Go back to Genesis 3: “Trust God or you become God.”

So his religion says that your religion doesn’t exist. It also says that I am God, so you should trust me. I’m definitely not going to argue with that.

Next he got into why evolution is the cause of all this horrible Christian persecution.

He says that the first attack on the word of God: “Did God really say…” He refers to these as Genesis 3 attacks. And they have infiltrated the Christian church with evolution. And if there was no literal Adam or if there was death before Adam then Adam’s sin couldn’t be the source of death. Therefore Jesus sacrificing himself to himself to make up for Adam’s sin just doesn’t make any sense.

I’m not arguing there. Nothing about that story makes any sense whether Adam was real or not.

Then he had an imaginary conversation with a theistic evolutionist:

Ken Ham: Do you believe Jesus Christ bodily rose from the dead?

Theistic Evolutionist: Yes

KH: How do you know? You weren’t there.

TE: Because the Bible says so.

KH: But Richard Dawkins says men can’t rise from the dead. Should we take what Richard Dawkins said and reinterpret the Bible?

TE: Oh no, we can’t do that. He’s an atheist.

KH: Well why do many Christians take what he says about origins and reinterpret Genesis?

Do you believe in the virgin birth?

TE: Yes

KH: Well how do you know?

TE: Because the Bible says.

KH: Well Lawrence Krauss says you can’t have a virgin birth. So should we reinterpret that?

TE: No. You can’t take an atheist’s views like that and reinterpret the Bible.

Why do you believe Jesus walked on water? The Bible says.

Why do you believe he fed thousands? Because the Bible says.

Why do you believe the Isrealites crossed the Jordon river and the Red Sea? The Bible says.
Why do you believe a man was swallowed by a fish lived inside for 3 days then came out and preached to a city? The Bible says.

Why do you believe the Isrealites wandered in the desert for 40 years and their shoes didn’t wear out and their clothes didn’t wear out, the opposite of what happens to me? Because the Bible says.

All very good questions.

“Evolution makes nonsense of the Bible!”

Reality makes nonsense out of the Bible.

“It’s an issue of authority. Who is the authority? God or me? I challenge you to show me from scripture alone where you get the idea of millions of years of evolution. From scripture alone where you get the idea man evolved from ape like creatures. From scripture alone where you get the idea of a Big Bang, that has the sun coming before the earth and the earth is a hot molten blob but the Bible says the earth was first covered with water.”

I agree that the Bible is completely irrelevant to that entire discussion.

He ended by lamenting that people will pay to go to the Noah movie, which is 2 hours and 25 minutes, but people complain about 25 minute sermons. He had a good rant about the new Noah movie and how unbiblical it was, which was full of spoilers (thanks a lot Ken!). I can’t imagine that his “accurate” version of Noah, which involves 8 people shoveling food and poop for 16 hours a day for a year would be a huge Blockbuster success even if it was only 25 minutes long.

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Ken Ham’s Books

Because I was alone and I’ve learned the hard way to never start a conversation as an atheist at a Christian conference, I had a lot of time to flip through the books and DVDs for sale. I’ve read so much of this stuff that I didn’t think anything would surprise me, but I was taken aback by the bluntness, particularly of the books for really young children. Do they really need to cover murder, incest and the apocalypse in preschool? There are no secular history books entitled “H is for Holocaust” and “P is for Plague”.

Here are some excerpts from some of my favourites:

A is for Adam


A is for Adam God made him from dust
He wasn’t a monkey, he looked just like us
Some scientists don’t think it was so
But God was there, so he ought to knowG is for ghastly, for what happened next
Let’s go to the Bible and look at the text
In Genesis chapter 3 and verse 1
Eve met the serpent but she didn’t runGod said: “That’s enough, the world I will judge”
Then he sent a great flood which made lots of sludgeLong before Moses when people were few,
Brothers and sisters could marry, that’s true!

 

 

I thought the true story of Adam and Eve was in the Bible…but apparently you need to pay Ken Ham $15.99 to get the true story.
“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.”
-Proverbs 30: 5-6

N is for Noah


People outside the ark would have died
Too late, they realised that God had not lied

 

noahbook

Yes, those are drowning people in a book designed for 3 year olds.

Dead lamb

Sorry for the blurry picture. That is the cutest cartoon lamb lying dead in a pool of blood, on the “O is for Offering” page.

My Creation Bible


This one has nice thick cardboard pages for the really little kids.
God is infinite but what does that mean?
No one is bigger and he’s always been
The Bible begins with a simple fact
God’s always existed and that is thatThe ark door was open, it was still not too late
As Noah warned people that drowning’s their fate
But no one else entered before the great flood
So God shut the door with a terrible thudIf the flood really happened what would we see
Billions of dead things is what there would be
The fossils remind us that God judges sin
But provided an ark for all who’d go in
Noah’s family of eight is all that survived
So the human race could now be revived
Their family grew large but it didn’t take long
the people again did something so wrong


A is for answers from God’s Holy Book;
Just open the pages and take a good look.
God created the earth in space it did hang
Creations first day without a Big BangH is for hungry it’s how we describe
A big dinosaur with his mouth open wide
Adam wasn’t scared to watch dinosaurs eat
Because all the creatures ate plants and not meatY is for years, how long could it be
Since god made the world for you and for me
Probably only 6000 or so
Say many good scientists; they ought to know

 

Rescuing our Kids from the Lie

Parents need to know what they can do to help rescue their kids from: the Evil One, secularists, the culture, churches that don’t teach apologetics, churches that compromise God’s Word, the “fluff-and-stuff” curricula of many Sunday schools, compromising Christian colleges, etc. This powerful presentation challenges Christians to help launch a new Reformation. Share it with your family, your friends, and your Sunday school leaders. Discover why Ken is convinced that like America, the church is under judgment, as well. Two-thirds of our children are now rejecting the faith of their parents. You can help rescue them from the faith-shattering deceptions of the Evil One!

 

One of the most common questions Christians ask is how atheists can cope with loss, not being able to believe that their loved ones are in a better place. As though God is an all-encompassing solution to this problem. And yet there seems to be huge market for these books trying to explain loss to believers.

The Genius of Ancient Man

This one starts with a warning that what you are about to read is often associated with the occult and should be considered carefully with prayer and reference to scripture. It then lists things that other cultures stole from Christianity, like human sacrifice. “Satan has perverted the idea of human,sacrifice and caused the gruesome deaths of millions of people. But it is only in gods plan that human sacrifice actually has purpose and is truly the cause of worship.”

“Through application of science we can prove that the Bible’s account of creation is true”

The Answers Curriculum for Kids offers only one “problem with carbon dating”:

“Plants can tell the difference between carbon dioxide with carbon-12 and carbon dioxide with carbon -14. They don’t like the carbon-14 as much, so they don’t take in as much of it as we might expect.”

This is a bizarre choice. It is both their weakest argument and the one I think kids are most likely to see the problems with. Unless you think that the plant’s tastes changed over time, it’s obviously something that we can easily observe today and correct for.

“So the next time you read a headline like this or read something in your textbooks, you can know that they’re not telling the truth, and that God’s Word is the true history of the universe.”

I didn’t buy anything, but I went home with two books anyway. The first was “Begin” which is their $3 introduction book, which a local gentlemen insisted on purchasing for me. I told him I probably wouldn’t read it because it’s basically just an abbreviated Bible with a couple of notes. However Book Club is doing the New Testament next month, and it contains John, Romans and Revelation. So I might use it for that.

Begin

The second one was one of Steve Ham’s books. He offered Karen and I autographed copies. I will have to read that one in detail but I probably won’t find time until summer.

 

Ken Ham Conference – Overview

The AIG conference in Edmonton was sponsored by an anonymous donor who paid for Ken Ham, his brother Steve Ham, Dr. David Menton and two other staff members to fly to Edmonton for a 3 day conference.

brochure

The first two days and Sunday morning service were at West Meadows Baptist Church, with a full day Sunday at Meadowlands Baptist Church. I attended 10 of these sessions:

Fri, Apr 04
6 p.m. Ken Ham Is Genesis Relevant in 2014?
7:30 p.m. Dr. David Menton Fearfully & Wonderfully Made
Sat, Apr 05
8:30 a.m. Steve Ham Created in the Image of God
10 a.m. Ken Ham Defending the Christian Faith in Today’s World
11:30 a.m. Dr. David Menton The Hearing Ear & Seeing Eye
2 p.m. Ken Ham Genetics & the Origins of “Races”
3:30 p.m. Steve Ham Evolution: The Old, New Religion
6 p.m. Ken Ham Six Days & the Authority of Scripture
Sun, Apr 06
6 p.m. Ken Ham Evolution, Scoffers & the Last Days
7:30 p.m. Dr. David Menton Beauty Is Skin Deep

Two large tables were set up selling Answers in Genesis books and DVDs. Almost every one of them was written by Ken Ham himself or Ken Ham with coauthors. This was in contrast to the CMI conference, where there were many different authors available for sale. CMI had both local authors discussing Drumheller and the badlands, and bigger international authors on more general topics. At this conference I really felt it was the Ken Ham show. No one attending seemed particularly interested in discussing science or theology, everyone was just there to meet the celebrity. The majority of people lining up to interact with the speakers were waiting for pictures and autographs instead of questions.

I20140406_175602

There were also brochures for the Creation Museum, and every one of Ken Ham’s presentations started with an advertisement for it. They were also advertising for their “science and technology” camp for kids, and their upcoming National conference in California.

There was no registration and people wandered in and out at will, but estimate attendance was between 100 and 400 people throughout the weekend. About 100 attended for the whole weekend, with the rest coming for a couple of sessions and leaving. West Meadows could easily have handled double the peak attendance, while Meadowlands was basically filled to capacity.

The attendees were mostly families, many with young children. I recognized only 1 family from previous Edmonton creationist events. One other member of the Society of Edmonton Atheists (SEA) attended on Friday and a second one on Sunday. At the end of Saturday a Christian that was not a YEC showed up and attempted a very angry and uneducated debate with Ken Ham after the last session. I’m not sure if he actually attended any lectures as he seemed to have no understanding of what Ken Ham actually believes. But he also wasn’t actually listening to Ken Ham’s responses to his questions. Other than that as far as I know everyone present was a believer.

It must have been advertised in different circles than the other events I have attended. It was not mentioned in the Creation Science Association of Alberta or any other local newsletters I follow.

There was a lot of talk about the Bill Nye debate (which was of course available for sale). Wandering through the crowds I think I heard the phrase “Bill, there is a book” at least a dozen times, and saw one T-shirt. Ken Ham himself is very proud of that line, with a detailed story of how he came up with it and plans to make T-shirts. I know a lot of atheists find that strange. That interaction really summed up the debate for both sides, and both sides think that their opponent’s response made them look ridiculous. But from a creationist perspective the fact that they do have all of the answers and that they never change is a good thing. I’m curious how the uncommitted people watching the debate felt about that line. Even within most denomination of Christianity the idea of taking the literal word of the Bible as scientific fact without regard to any evidence is seen as absurd. Unfortunately I can’t find anyone who wasn’t already committed to their position that bothered to watch the debate.

Also unlike the CMI conference there was no formal Q&A session. People could go up after and ask the presenter questions privately, but I didn’t get to hear what other people were asking. Most of the presentations had obviously been recited almost verbatim for years and are available in almost identical form online. The only exceptions were some discussion about the Bill Nye Debate and the recently released Noah movie.

The other big difference I noticed was that in the CMI conference Atheist and Humanist were used constantly, almost as curse words. Wieland actually slipped up and used the word “atheist” when he meant “rapist”. The message was all about protecting the kids from the humanists. In the AIG conference, it was all about protecting the kids from Satan. This could be because Ken Ham doesn’t believe that atheists actually exist and does believe in Satan, but neither does CMI. So I’m not sure why there was this difference. But it certainly made me feel a lot more welcome.

I recognized a couple of people there that knew I was an atheist, and by the middle of Saturday I noticed some staring and several families were noticeably avoiding me. (I always wear bright pink so I’m easy to identify) One man started a conversation. I was non-committal about my beliefs until he directly asked because I was alone and the word atheist sometimes causes violent reactions. He bought me the $3 Begin book, which is basically just a very abridged Bible with some notes added. Another man quickly dropped one of the $1,000,000 notes in front of me on the way out the door, but didn’t start a conversation.

milliondollarbill

On Sunday Steve Ham approached me if I had any questions. Unfortunately I have spent enough time reading creationist literature that if I haven’t already looked up the answer I haven’t thought of the question. The questions I do have are mostly related to the in depth creation science, and he seemed more interested with the theology stuff. The only theology question I had come up with I already asked Ken. He gave me a signed copy of his book “In God we Trust.”

Overall I found the conference somewhat disappointing. It was very much directed at the Christian layperson to try and convince them that Creationism is important. I didn’t find any “ark nerds” interested in science or logistics. The questions being asked to the presenters were all very basic, indicating that the audience wasn’t as familiar with Ken Ham’s platform as I expected. The lectures barely mentioned the topics I’m interested in. This made it a relatively boring conference for me.

Moment of Conception

Mad Scientist: I am going to commit the world’s earliest murder to get into the Evil Genius Book of World Records!

Biologist: Huh?

Mad Scientist: I hold here a petri dish containing a single human egg, an eye dropper containing a single capacitated human spermatozoon, and a bottle of ethanol. I’ve been reading this pro life website that says that life begins at the moment of conception, because it is the moment when a new, genetically distinct human being is formed, and there is really no other place during pregnancy to draw the line. I will now combine the egg and the sperm in the petri dish. Then I will zap the cell with this ray gun, destroying the cell and committing the world’s earliest murder!

mad_scientist

Biologist: Wait! The sperm has only made contact with the outer coating of the egg. If there was more than one sperm they would now be racing to dissolve the coating. Obviously the moment of conception cannot have occurred yet!

Mad Scientist: Well how long does that take?

Biologist: About 20 minutes.

Mad Scientist: I’m going for a coffee break.

coffee

Biologist: Wait! The sperm is physically inside the egg, but its DNA is still separate. Nothing about the DNA has changed. And the female DNA in the egg is still diploid. The half that will combine with the sperm hasn’t even separated yet. Errors in that process could still happen to determine whether the embryo has a chromosomal abnormality like Down’s Syndrome. How can that be the moment of conception?

Mad Scientist: Sigh. What happens now?

Biologist: The female DNA in the egg finishes splitting, and the DNA that will form the embryo becomes the female pronucleus. Then the DNA from the sperm will turn into the male pronucleus.

penetration copy

Mad Scientist: OK, but they are still separate. When will they meet?

Biologist: 12 to 24 hours.

Mad Scientist: Wake me up when this moment is over.

scientist_sleepy

Mad Scientist: OK, the pronuclei are close together. Now what?
together copy

Biologist: The envelopes of the two pronuclei dissolve…

Mad Scientist: Yes…

Biologist: And the chromosomes duplicate…
division copy

Mad Scientist: OK…

Biologist: And the cell splits into two cells.
twocell copy

Mad Scientist: When did the DNA combine?

Biologist: Soon.

Mad Scientist: WHAT? Why didn’t the DNA combine before it duplicated?

Biologist: Because it would just have to separate again in order to duplicate. Most mammals, including humans, skip that step, and don’t have diploid DNA until after the first cell division.

Mad Scientist: But obviously the Moment of Conception has to occur before there are two cells! The prolife website says that the process of development is controlled entirely by the embryo’s DNA. How can it be controlling development if it hasn’t even combined yet?

Biologist: It’s not. They are correct that no input from the mother is required for this process, which should be obvious because you are using a petri dish. But the first 2-3 divisions were preprogrammed by the mother’s DNA when the egg was formed. They are a chemical reaction that occurs independent of the DNA. They can be induced chemically without sperm at all.

Mad Scientist: But when was the moment of conception? It seemed like a continuous process!

Biologist: Yes. That’s why embryology textbooks refer to the “process of conception” not the “moment of conception.”

Make a DIY Chemical-free Natural Antibiotic!

Recently Lifehacker published an article that implied that any anti-bacterial product could be replaced with a few drops of essential oils with “proven anti-bacterial properties”. Which is awesome, because the Clarithromycin my doctor gave me makes me feel like the corpse of Wall-E is decaying in my throat. So I’m going to make a nice tea with a few drops of clove and cinnamon essential oils and let them battle the staph aureus colony residing in my lungs.

walle

You may think that no one would be that stupid. If so you probably haven’t spent much time on the internet:

http://frugallysustainable.com/2013/08/food-and-herb-cures-10-natural-antibiotic-alternatives/

http://www.naturalnews.com/035516_natural_antibiotics_superbugs.html#

A popular and widely respected website is telling people that rubbing a few drops of water and aloe vera into their hands is equivalent to washing them. A wide audience is learning to walk into a hospital, avoid the dangerous chemical hand sanitizer stations and pull out a homemade alternative.

They have a laughable disclaimer at the bottom “You should know, The Wall Street Journal notes that alcohol-free hand sanitizers don’t have enough clinical studies to prove whether they are as effective or more effective than alcohol-based sanitizers.” The linked Wall Street Journal article is about the effectiveness commercial hand sanitizers using benzethonium chloride and benzalkonium chloride, which have been shown to work in laboratory settings but have less evidence in real world application.

The antibacterial effect of clove oil comes down to a single study. http://www.ias.ac.in/jbiosci/dec2013/835.pdf

The minimum inhibitory concentration was found to be 0.8% for one strain of bacteria and 3.2% for another, both of which were selected because the strains are susceptible to the mechanism of action for the clove oil.  Ten drops of clove oil in 4 ounces of water is about 0.4%, so about half of the minimum concentration to affect the most susceptible strain of bacteria in a petri dish.

I commented on the article, but the only response I got was that “everything is a chemical” is obnoxious. “When used loosely, “chemical” means unnatural, potentially unsafe, man-made, harsh, caustic, maybe dangerous, blah, blah, blah… as opposed to “all natural” ingredients which yes, are chemicals but… oh, come on. You get the picture. “

But honestly I don’t get the picture. No one has given a me a new, casual definition for “chemical” that would allow me to tell what is a chemical and what is “natural”, and this article is a perfect example.

Ethanol Clove Oil
UnnaturalManmade Produced by distilling fruit juice Produced by steam distillation of clove leaves, followed by addition of anhydride sodium sulphate as a binder followed by bleaching agents.
Potentially unsafeHarsh

Caustic

Maybe dangerous

Potential Acute Health Effects:Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of inhalation. Slightly hazardous in case of skin contact

(permeator), of ingestion.

Potential Chronic Health Effects:

Slightly hazardous in case of skin contact (sensitizer). CARCINOGENIC EFFECTS: A4 (Not classifiable for human or

animal.) by ACGIH.

MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells. Mutagenic for bacteria and/or yeast.

TERATOGENIC EFFECTS: Classified PROVEN for human. DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Classified Development toxin

[PROVEN]. Classified Reproductive system/toxin/female, Reproductive system/toxin/male [POSSIBLE]. The substance is toxic to blood, the reproductive system, liver, upper respiratory tract, skin, central nervous system (CNS). Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.

Potential Acute Health Effects:Very hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation. Inflammation of the eye is characterized by redness, watering, and itching. Skin inflammation is characterized by itching, scaling, reddening, or,

occasionally, blistering.

Potential Chronic Health Effects:

Very hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation.

CARCINOGENIC

EFFECTS: Not available. MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Not available.

TERATOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available.

DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Not available. The substance is toxic to the nervous system, mucous membranes. Repeated

or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage. Repeated or prolonged inhalation of vapors may lead to chronic respiratory irritation.

As far as I can see there are two possible definitions for this colloquial use of “chemical”. One is “substance thoroughly tested for human safety”, because natural products tend to have a lot of “not available” on their MSDS. Unfortunately this would include water, which I am assured is not a chemical. And white sugar, which is a nasty chemical when it is an ingredient in bread, but is all natural if you are making a DIY foot scrub.

That leaves my second definition: “substance I arbitrarily don’t like”. This seems to accurately reflect what people say when they mean chemical, but it is completely subjective and therefore meaningless.

If “chemical” has any new meaning other than that, please let me know.

Pew Study on Religious Violence

There was a recent splash in the headlines about the release of a Pew study showing that 2012 was a 6-year high in religious hostilities and persecution around the world. I looked into the study methodology and at first I was very impressed. It is a very complicated and thorough study.

Basically, they take the US State department publications and a few other publications for a country. Then 3 researchers who are blinded as to the country go through the publications and answer a series of questions about each country. They do this every year, which should allow them to see overall trends in religious violence and persecution on a global scale.

Now I am at best an amateur at evaluating political studies, but I noticed a few issues:

  1. Many of the questions are yes or no answers for the country, with no weighting for scale. So France and the UK got the same score for honor killings as Somalia and Afghanistan, because they both had some. And women were harassed for violating religious dress codes in France, the UK, Brazil, China, Egypt, Somalia and Afghanistan, so they all got the same score. There are two problems with this:
    1. All the study really says is that religious violence occurred in more countries in 2012 than previously. This is not the same as saying there were more instances of religious violence in the world, which is how most of the headlines portrayed the study.
    2. More populous countries are inherently going to be more likely to have a yes answer than a no answer. The study authors acknowledge this in the study writeup, but then say they don’t think it’s a big problem because many large countries had low scores and many small countries had high scores. But then one of the major conclusions of the study is that 75% of the global population lives where overall levels of religious restrictions or hostilities were high or very high in 2012!
  2. How well can the researchers really be blinded to the country they are reading about? I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t recognize my own country or the Arab spring from reading State Department reports.
  3. The questions about government restrictions generally gave a lower score for countries that treated all religions equally than if they showed some favouritism. This makes sense for things like countries only funding schools of a particular religion. But it also means that in many cases the UK, which does nominally have a state religion, could get a much lower score by moving to be more like China and ruthlessly prosecuting all religions equally.
  4. Are the same researchers used every year? Even if they are, could a personal impression that violence is going up cause them to give higher scores? I noticed several changes over time did not correspond to any events I know about.
    1. In 2007 the study found that the UK had no favoured religion enshrined in its constitution, but in 2012 it does. I can not find any information on the internet about this change to their constitution.
    2. In 2007 proselytising was not limited by any level of government in the USA. In 2012 it is limited for all religions. Again, I have no idea what resulted in this change.

I picked 9 countries, representing at least one from each continent that I was most interested in. (Randomization is for people doing rigorous political studies, not for amateurs criticizing them) I pulled the results from the study for each question into the following tables. Either my general impressions of different countries are badly biased, or there is something wrong with the study results. What do you think?

(The scores are on the top line for each question. Underneath is the yes or no answer, or for questions with other options a number which corresponds to the full answer below the table.)

Canada USA France UK China Egypt Afghanistan Brazil Somalia­
Does the constitution, or law that functions in the place of a constitution (basic law), specifically provide for “freedom of religion” or include language used in Article 18 ­­of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

0

Yes

0

Yes

0.5

(1)

0

Yes

0.5

(1)

0.5

(1)

0.5

(1)

0

Yes

0.5

(1)

Does the constitution or basic law include stipulations that appear to qualify or substantially contradict the concept of “religious freedom”?

0

No

0

No

0.67

(2)

0.33

(3)

0.67

(2)

0.67

(2)

0.67

(2)

0.33

(3)

0.67

(2)

Taken together, how do the constitution/basic law and other national laws and policies affect religious freedom?

0.33

(4)

0.33

(4)

0.33

(4)

0.33

(4)

1

(5)

1

(5)

1

(5)

0

(6)

0.67

(7)

Does any level of government interfere with worship or other religious practices?

0.33

(8)

0.67

(9)

1

(10)

0.67

(9)

1

(10)

1

(10)

1

(10)

0

No

1

(10)

Is public preaching by religious groups limited by any level of government?

0

No

0

No

0.5

(11)

0

No

1

(12)

1

(12)

0

No

0

No

1

(12)

Is proselytizing limited by any level of government?

0

No

1

(12)

0

No

0

No

1

(12)

0.5

(11)

0.5

(11)

0

No

0.5

(11)

Is converting from one religion to another limited by any level of government?

0

No

1

Yes

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

Is religious literature or broadcasting limited by any level of government?

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

Are foreign missionaries allowed to operate?

0

Yes

0

Yes

0.5

(13)

0.5

(13)

1

No

0.5

(13)

0.5

(13)

0

Yes

1

No

Is the wearing of religious symbols, such as head coverings for women and facial hair for men, regulated by law or by any level of government?

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

Was there harassment or intimidation of religious groups by any level of government?

0.5

(14)

1

(15)

1(15)

1

(15)

1

(15)

1

(15)

1

(15)

0.5

(14)

1

(15)

Did the national government display hostility involving physical violence toward minority or nonapproved religious groups?

0

No

0

No

0No

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

0No

1

Yes

Were there instances when the national government did not intervene in cases of discrimination or abuses against religious groups?

0

No

0

No

0

No

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

Does the national government have an established organization to regulate or manage religious affairs?

0

No

0.67

(16)

1

(17)

0

No

1

(17)

1

(17)

1

(17)

0

No

0.67

(16)

Did the national government denounce one or more religious groups by characterizing them as dangerous “cults” or “sects”?

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

0

No

Does any level of government formally ban any religious group?

0

No

0

No

0

No

0

No

1

(20)

1

(20)

0.33

(18)

0

No

1

(20)

Were there instances when the national government attempted to eliminate an entire religious group’s presence in the country?

0

No

0

No

0No

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

1Yes

0

No

1

Yes

Did any level of government ask religious groups to register for any reason, including to be eligible for benefits such as tax exemption?

0.33

(21)

0.33

(21)

0.33(21)

0

No

1

(23)

1

(23)

1(23)

0

No

0.33

(21)

Did any level of government use force toward religious groups that resulted in individuals being killed, physically abused, imprisoned, detained or displaced from their ­homes, or having their personal or religious properties damaged or destroyed?

0

No

0.2

(24)

0.6(26) 0.2

(24)

0.8

(27)

0.6

(26)

0.6(26)

0.2

(24)

0.4

(25)

Do some religious groups receive government support or favors, such as funding, official recognition or special access?(Score determined by subquestions in italics below)

0.25

0.10

0.15 0.93

0.23

0.8

1

0.13

0.8

Does the country’s constitution or basic law recognize a favored religion or religions?

0

No

0

No

0No 1Yes

0

No

1

Yes

1Yes

0

No

1

Yes

Do all religious groups receive the same level of government access and privileges?

0.25

(30)

0

(29)

0.25(30) 1(32)

0.5

(31)

1

(32)

1(32)

0

(29)

1

(32)

Does any level of government provide funds or other resources to religious groups

1

(34)

0.5

(33)

0.5(33) 1(34)

1

(34)

1

(34)

1(34)

0.5

(33)

0

No

Does any level of government provide funds or other resources for religious education programs and/or religious schools.

1

(34)

0.5

(33)

0.5(33) 0.5(33)

1

(34)

1

(34)

1(34)

0.5

(33)

0

No

Does any level of government provide funds or other resources for religious property (buildings, upkeep, repair or land)

0

No

0.5

(33)

0.5(33) 0.5(33)

1

(34)

1

(34)

1(34)

0

No

0

No

Does any level of government provide funds or other resources for religious activities other than education or property?

0.5

(33)

0.5

(33)

0.5(33) 1(34)

0

No

1

(34)

1(34)

0

No

0

No

Is religious education required in public schools?

0.5

(35)

0

No

0No 1(36)

0

No

0

No

1(36)

0.5

(35)

1

(36)

Does the national government defer in some way to religious authorities, texts or doctrines on legal issues?

0

No

0

No

0No 1Yes

0

No

1

Yes

1Yes

0

No

1

Yes

(1)    The constitution or basic law does not specifically provide for freedom of religion but does protect some religious practices

(2)    Yes, there is a qualification and only some religious practices are protected

(3)    Yes, there is a qualification

(4)    National laws and policies provide for religious freedom, and the national government generally respects religious freedom in practice; but there are some instances (e.g., in certain localities) where religious freedom is not respected in practice

(5)    National laws and policies do not provide for religious freedom and the national government does not respect religious freedom in practice

(6)    National laws and policies provide for religious freedom, and the national government respects religious freedom in practice

(7)    There are limited national legal protections for religious freedom, but the national government does not generally respect religious freedom in practice

(8)    Yes, in a few cases

(9)    Yes, in many cases

(10) Government prohibits worship or religious practices of one or more religious groups as a general policy

(11)  Yes, for some religious groups

(12)  Yes, for all religious groups

(13)  Yes, but with restrictions

(14)  Yes, there was limited intimidation

(15)  Yes, there was widespread intimidation

(16)  Yes, but the organization is noncoercive toward religious groups

(17)  Yes, and the organization is coercive toward religious groups

(18)  Yes: Security reasons stated as rationale

(19)  Yes: Nonsecurity reasons stated as rationale

(20)   Yes: Both security and nonsecurity reasons stated as rationale

(21)   Yes, but in a nondiscriminatory way

(22)  Yes, and the process adversely affects the ability of some religious groups to operate

(23)   Yes, and the process clearly discriminates against some religious groups

(24)  Yes, 1-9 cases of government force

(25)  Yes, 10-200 cases of government force

(26)  Yes, 201-1,000 cases of government force

(27)  Yes, 1,001-9,999 cases of government force

(28)  Yes, 10,000+ cases of government force

(29)  All religious groups are generally treated the same

(30)  Some religious groups have minimal privileges unavailable to other religious groups, limited to things such as inheriting buildings or properties

(31) Some religious groups have general privileges or government access unavailable to other religious groups.

(32)  One religious group has privileges or government access unavailable to other religious groups, and it is recognized by the national government as the official religion.

(33) Yes, but with no obvious favoritism to a particular group or groups.

(34) Yes, and with obvious favoritism to a particular group or groups.

(35) Yes, by at least some local governments

(36) Yes, by the national government

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Were there crimes, malicious acts or violence motivated by religious hatred or bias?(Score determined by subquestions below)

0.5

0.5

0.67

0.67

0.5

1

0.5

0.33

0.83

Did individuals face harassment or intimidation motivated by religious hatred or bias?

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

Was property damaged as a result of religious hatred or bias?

1

Yes

1
Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

Were there detentions or abductions motivated by religious hatred or bias?

0

No

0

No

0

No

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

Were individuals displaced from their homes because of religious hatred or bias?

0

No

0

No

0

No

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

0

No

0

No

0

No

Were there physical assaults motivated by religious hatred or bias?

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

Were there deaths motivated by religious hatred or bias?

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

Was there mob violence related to religion

0

No

0

No

1

(2)

0.5

(1)

0.5
(1)

1

(2)

1

(2)

0

No

0.5

(1)

Were there acts of sectarian or communal violence between religious groups?

0

No

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

Were religion-related terrorist groups active in the country?

0.25

(3)

0.75

(5)

0.75

(5)

0.5

(4)

1

(6)

0.75

(5)

1

(6)

0.25

(3)

1

(6)

Was there a religion-related war or armed conflict in the country?

0

No

0.25

(7)

0

No

0

No

0

No

0

No

1

(8)

0

No

1

(8)

Did violence result from tensions between religious groups?

1

(11)

0.67

(10)

1

(11)

1

(11)

0.67

(10)

1

(11)

1

(11)

0.67

(10)

1

(11)

Did organized groups use force or coercion in an attempt to dominate public life with their perspective on religion, including preventing some religious groups from operating in the country?

0

No

0.33

(12)

1

(14)

0.67

(13)

0

No

1

(14)

1

(14)

0.33

(12)

1

(14)

Did religious groups themselves attempt to prevent other religious groups from being able to operate?

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

Did individuals or groups use violence or the threat of violence, including so-called honor killings, to enforce religious norms?

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

Were individuals assaulted or displaced from their homes in retaliation for religious activities, including preaching and other forms of religious expression, considered offensive or threatening to the majority faith?

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

0

No

1

Yes

Were women harassed for violating religious dress codes?

0

No

0

No

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

1

Yes

Were there incidents of hostility over proselytizing?

0

No

0

No

0

No

0

No

0

No

0

No

1

(16)

0

No

1

(16)

Were there incidents of hostility over conversions from one religion to another?

0

No

0

No

0

No

1

(15)

0

No

1

(16)

1

(16)

0

No

1

(16)

  1. Yes, but there were no deaths reported
  2. Yes, and there were deaths reported
  3. Yes, but their activity was limited to recruitment or fundraising
  4. Yes, with violence that resulted in some casualties (1-9 injuries or deaths)
  5. Yes, with violence that resulted in multiple casualties (10-50 injuries or deaths)
  6. Yes, with violence that resulted in many casualties (more than 50 injuries or deaths)
  7. Yes, with fewer than 10,000 casualties or people displaced
  8. Yes, with millions of casualties or people displaced
  9. There were public tensions between religious groups, but they fell short of hostilities involving physical violence
  10. Yes, with physical violence in a few cases
  11. Yes, with physical violence in numerous cases
  12. Yes, at the local level
  13. Yes, at the regional level
  14. Yes, at the national level
  15. Yes, but they fell short of physical violence
  16. Yes, and they included physical violence

The Blessed Ghoul of Calcutta’s second Miracle

Reading in Ocean

This is the life.

On vacation in Cuba I was attempting to ride the waves in my inner tube but the waves just weren’t  strong enough for a decent ride. In fact I looked around and could not see a single white crest of a breaking wave. Bobbing in my tube, somewhat bored, I realized I had a copy of Christopher Hitchens’ “The Missionary Position” that I was not particularly concerned with getting home in one piece. I ran to shore, tossed it in a ziplock bag and headed back out to sea.

I paddled out past the breaking waves (which appeared while I went to get the book) until the lifeguard whistled at me for going too far (about 50m out). Then I leaned back and got absorbed in the book. Suddenly I noticed my tube being pulled outwards and looked up. A giant wave was forming right behind me. I frantically tried to maneuver my way over it, but could really only use my legs as I was holding the book in my left hand and the handle of the tube in my right.

Just as I thought I was going to make it over, the wave broke beneath me, catching the front edge of my tube. Next thing I knew I was racing toward shore, clutching the Hitch over my head like a waving bull rider and crossing my knees to avoid completely losing my bathing suit. It was the best tube ride of my life. I finally bottomed out to substantial applause from those watching me by the shore.

Mother Teresa's Divine light

Mother Teresa’s earthly miracle was making this image clear through divine light. The cameraman credits Kodak’s low light film.

As I paddled my way back out I realised that many people would consider this story a miracle. It seems at least as improbable as becoming pregnant after two years of trying, or filming a movie in low light. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this guy would find it just as amusing that I did not see the miraculous in this experience as I find his miracle:

Why did I not consider this improbable tube ride to be the undeniable work of a diety?

IMG_3796[1]

Pondering Saintly Wrath

Could the ride have been a result of God’s anger over reading Christopher Hitchens? Heck, according to the Catholics the Blessed Ghoul of Calcutta is capable of interceding herself! Quick, someone phone the Vatican and inform them Mother Teresa’s second miracle was one of Saintly Wrath!

However, this seems like an odd conclusion given that I thoroughly enjoyed the tube ride. Was the punishment a wardrobe malfunction that as far as I know was visible to only me and the omniscient? (Perv!)

God’s punishments have certainly (and inexplicably) become less violent than the old testament rains of fire and brimstone, but I would think he could at least capsize the tube and send the book sailing off to Florida. He turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt for looking back, but reading Hitchens in open ocean didn’t even deserve the noseful of brine I expect for doing stupid things in the ocean?

Ignoring the no swimming signs

No swimming signs are for people who believe in Poseidon!

My first lesson about miracles is that I’m already resisting the temptation to embellish the tale. It would be so easy to claim that I was reading the chapter “miracle” at the time of the ride. But I wasn’t, I was just finishing part II of “Good Works and Heroic Deeds”. And without actually lying, there is certainly a temptation to leave out details that make it sound more impressive than it is. I’ve compressed the timeline like this happened as soon as I decided to read about Mother Teresa in the ocean. But I read the whole book in the ocean, and this happened on the second day. When I said I bottomed out, I imply that I rode the full 50m to shore, but I leave out the fact that the beach was incredibly shallow, and I bottomed out on a sandbar, riding only about 30m. Which was fortunate, because my ride attracted quite a bit of attention, and my bathing suit was around my knees.

IMG_3788[1]

Note the boaters standing waist deep behind me.

The second important point here is that if I considered this to be a divine sign, I presumably would have stopped reading heretical diatribes in the ocean.  But I read every last word of the Missionary Position bobbing on a tube in the Caribbean Sea. And I did get a couple more rides, though none as impressive as that first one. In fact, after a couple of days I concluded that I had thoroughly misunderstood the nature of the miracle.  God was so enthralled by Hitchens that I could not be capsized while reading the book. It took downright stupidity to break that myth; I finally succeeded in capsizing the tube while sitting bottomed out in the sand in the breaking waves on a particularly turbid day, clutching the heretical baggie as a talisman. But even then I failed to lose or destroy the book or pickle my sinuses.

I did seem to have better luck riding the waves while reading than while actually trying to ride the waves. But I attribute this to two things.

  1. I am considerably more patient while reading a book then while waiting for a good wave to arrive.
  2. Although few of the waves were strong enough for a solid ride, the ones that were broke out where I was reading, not in the shallower water where I was attempting to ride.

I didn’t capsize the tube while intentionally riding the waves either. But I assumed that that was all skill. I wasn’t sitting on my tube, but through it, making it much easier to keep the weight forward for the ride and much harder to flip.

Serious tube surfing


Proper tube wave riding technique. Also allows you to keep hold of the bottom of your bathing suit at all times.

Later in the week I noticed a man floating on the breaking waves on an air mattress. Though it certainly did not look relaxing, I only saw him capsize once. The waves simply weren’t strong enough to capsize anything. Though they sometimes looked impressive and produced a lot of froth, the force was almost entirely toward the shore, with no downward component.

But I wanted to ensure that this logic wasn’t the affect of my secular bias against all things miraculous. I searched my hotel room for a control book to read, but unfortunately the Gideons do not operate in Cuba. I decided that if God controls the waves he should have equal control of them at the shore. Would I have more trouble writing a curse in the sand before it got washed away than something more pious?

Hasa Diga Ebo Wai

Only 13 more months I can get away with saying this in Edmonton without people knowing what it means. (http://edmonton.broadway.com/shows/book-mormon-baa/)

Sandart Sistine Chapel

Much less offensive

Definitely not. In fact if you look closely you’ll notice the second image required the use of Photoshop because I couldn’t get the full image complete before the waves washed it away. Of course that could be God protesting against my attempt to use an artistic ability he did not bless me with.

Either way I flew home convinced that my ride had nothing to do with God.