The brilliant Edward Current takes on fundamentalists who believe that every word of the Bible is literally true.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
After Nicky mailed the form for me, I realized I had forgotten to put in a cheque for Peter Popoff. Oops!
Monday, April 28, 2008
I'll admit, I've been negligent. I got another "personal" letter from Peter Popoff about a week ago, but didn't open it until last night because the envelope looked boring and I was busy enjoying the first decent weather of the year. But now it's gotten cold again so I have time for Pete's correspondence.
This letter is shorter than the last one, thank goodness. And he sent me another gift!Again, I'm posting the letter in full (with my personal info blurred out) for the benefit of anyone else who is getting these "personal" letters.
The opening line of this one is interesting: "What's going on? Haven't you received my last letter?" I don't recall him writing anything like this before, although I usually do not respond to his letters. Perhaps Peter Popoff Ministries has upgraded their client management software?
In the second paragraph, he specifically predicts two major changes in my life between April 28 (that's today) and May 18. I'll post on May 18 on whether or not this prediction came true.
In the fifth paragraph, he asks me to clear my mind of various things like "the worry over your need of a job". Whoops, looks like the computer put me in the wrong category for these mailings, since on the form I filled out way back when I'm pretty sure I said my biggest worry was my chronic health problems (which have lead to financial problems). Regardless of what I put on the form, since he has claimed numerous times that he is getting personal communication from God about my situation, he should know that my big worry is not getting a job, but getting well enough so that I can worry about getting a job. But I guess it's safer to promise jobs to the unemployed than to promise cures for the incurably ill.
He also mentions in the third paragraph "a family problem that has been at a stand still for a long time". I haven't a clue what this could be referring to.
In particular, he's promising what he calls a Numbers 17:8 miracle.
"Have you been in a situation where all of your hopes were dashed instantly?" While there have been times when certain things have been hopeless, I can't recall ever having my hopes dashed instantly. More often I have foolishly maintained hopes of things improving when most people would have given up long before (e.g. my second marriage).
"Have you ever been in a situation where people who are really important to you just seem to, for no apparent reason, drift away from your grip?" Yes, though not right now, but like with the first "personal" question, he has described a situation in such generic terms that no doubt a large percentage of the population could identify it.
Of course he is hoping that I (and the thousands of others who no doubt received this letter) am thinking, "Wow, he really understands what I'm going through!" To bad for him that I have read too much about cold reading to be taken in.
In the bottom half of page 2, he starts his usual plea for money in general terms, ("things must be done", "There is at least one important thing you must do")
On page 3 he puts on the pressure. In fact, according to him, only he can solve my problems because he has a "supernatural anointing", whatever that means. Otherwise, "there is no way out". And if I do not read his whole letter and do what he says, I "may regret it for a long, long time, probably for the rest of your life".
On page 4, he asks me to press the "Numbers 17:8 Aaron's Rod" against my forehead and say a prayer. I actually did this. He also asks me to sleep with the rod under my pillow. I forgot to do it last night but I'll do it tonight, so that no one can claim that's why I didn't get my miracle. Then I'm to break the rod in half and mail half back to him.
If you're curious what Aaron's rod looks like, according to Popoff, here it is. To me it looks just like a piece of a bamboo skewer, the kind that sells at 100 for a dollar around here. But he did put it in some kind of cloth pouch. Interestingly, although this is supposedly like Aaron's Rod in Numbers 17:8, he doesn't promise that it will sprout and bear almonds.
And finally, at the bottom of page 4, he gets around to asking me for money. To be precise, he asks for "$17.08 to honor Numbers 17:8". Interestingly, he never asks for a donation to honour any verses from the first chapters of any of the books of the bible, I wonder why that is?
Here's the form he wants me to fill in, which asks not only for money but also for my "secret" requests, presumably so that he can show his "divine" knowledge of my situation in future letters. He even stuck on this post-it note to remind me to send as much money as possible. Gotta love that personal touch.
Then, at the very end of all this correspondence, he mentions that no one else should touch the Aaron's rod. Of course, he doesn't mention this until after I have spent 10 minutes reading his letter and my curious child has had lots of time to ask what's going on and handle the rod. Probably most people who got this letter who have kids have accidentally let the kids touch the thing. So that gives Popoff an easy out for when our Numbers 17:8 miracles doesn't come according to his prediction.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Petition to Wal-Mart about Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and other magazines that sex-negative people object to
Through Morality in Media I learned of this petition asking Wal-Mart to require their suppliers to cover up magazines with "ANY nudity OR sexually explicit language on the cover". The petitioner, Angie Smethers, started the petition because she was upset when her daughter saw the 2008 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover, shown.
Smethers believes that children need to be "protected" from images like this (without explaining why).
I, on the other hand, believe that children need to be protected from harmful ideas like that the body is shameful and must be hidden. What kind of message is this mother giving her daughter, when she indicates that while males routinely wear topless swimsuits, it is a terrible thing for a woman to do the same thing?
Wal-Mart is so huge that if they were to develop a policy requiring magazines to censor their covers to satisfy people who are unhappy and frightened about sex and nudity, it could well result in many magazines being censored--magazines are unlikely to produce a separate uncut edition for other retailers.
So please, take a minute to sign my petition asking Wal-Mart to continue selling law-abiding magazines such as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition rather than censoring them.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Here's the latest on the Noellee Mowatt case. I wrote earlier about Mowatt's plight: after calling the police because her boyfriend was abusing her, she was jailed, while 9 months pregnant, to make sure she would show up at his trial to testify against him.
The good news: she appeared in court today and testified, which means that she was released from jail (on bail though--why? Who is the criminal here?)
The bad news: she recanted her earlier report of his abuse. This is common in domestic violence cases. Hopefully the courts understand that this does not prove Christopher Harbin is innocent, but given the inept handling of Noellee Mowatt's case so far, I am not optimistic.
Earlier, as she reported that "she was punched, kicked in the side, strangled, had her lips squeezed together hard when she tried to speak, and was 'chopped' in the foot when Harbin swung a knife at her to back up a threat but accidentally sliced her big toe." She also reported that he masturbated in front of her despite knowing that it upset her and was verbally abusive.
I hope that Mowatt's birth goes well and that she and her baby find a safe living situation.
A few months ago, I filled out a form on Peter Popoff's website for a free "book", Prosperity Thinking (really a booklet).. Since then he has been my most frequent correspondent, sending me "personal" letters at least once a week, sometimes more. I've decided to post my "personal letters" here from now on, for the benefit of the other people who are no doubt getting exactly the same "personal" letters from Peter Popoff. Since he has sent a few little gifts in the past, when I saw this envelope I thought there might be a paper angel inside, but no, there was just... I'll reveal it later, he wanted me to read all of his letter before looking at the special envelope inside with the gift.
He writes, "I've never written you a letter like this before..." Really? I guess he's forgotten all the other letters he's sent me for the last few months...
He says God has a plan to solve my money problems, but to get this money I must be obedient to God, and "Obedience to God will involve sacrifice." I wonder what that could be? Could it be, oh, I don't know, sending money to Peter Popoff, just like he's asked in every other letter?
At the top of page 2, he writes, "You cannot deny that this letter contains things about you personally." Well, actually, the only personal information in the letter is my name, address, and that I am having unspecified money problems, all information he got from the form I filled out to order his free booklet. Which seems pretty strange since he is supposedly praying for me personally and getting visions from God about my situation.
Unfortunately he apparently is taking in a lot of people with these "personal letters". Peter Popoff Ministries raked in $23 million in 2005, according to Charity Navigator--Popoff himself got a salary of $628K, his wife Elizabeth made $203K, and his son Nickolas took in $182K.
On page 3, he finally reveals what was "terrifying" about the vision he had. The world is ending! But I will be "surrounded by a hedge of divine protection" IF I "enter into this 'endtime covenant' in the next 90 days." In other words, there's not much time left to think about it, I need to send him money soon or I'll be vulnerable to the "wars..., plagues and rivers of blood and insects". Of course my money problems won't matter then (though he claims that he "through faith... [has] found the money [I] need"), and certainly the donation he's asking for will be irrelevant when the endtime comes, while his divine protection won't be.Here on the last page of the letter, he harps on and on about how I must be obedient and have faith. The miracle money that will bring me a glorious future (even though the world is ending?) and make me rich is "only for those who can give in strict obedience and faith". I'm guessing this is not just to guilttrip those who are having doubts about sending their money to this con-artist, but also to give him an out—if someone doesn't get their miracle money, he can claim it was because they did not have enough faith. He usually includes a smaller envelope with something special inside which we are not supposed to open until we read his whole long letter (four pages, legal size). I suppose that opening this envelope without reading the whole long letter could be another excuse for the miracle money not coming. Inside the envelope are "Special Holy Instructions for Miracle New Millennium Money!" He wants me to burn some incense he's sent to me and mail him the ashes so he can "fast and pray in sackcloth and ashes... for miracle money for you!"
Now we get to the main point of this mailing: to get my miracle money, I have to send money to Peter Popoff. Not only that, but my offering will be rejected if it's not enough. "If the offering is rejected... there can be no harvest."
How much do I have to give? "Too many times people respond when they receive a ministry letter from me by just sending anything." I have give enough that it is a sacrifice to me. "If the gift you give to God does not move you... how can it move God?" (So now Peter Popoff is God?) In other words, give 'til it hurts (he suggests $50--i.e. perhaps a weeks grocery money for some person in dire financial need. I wonder how many poor people are going with out food to support this jerk's lavish salary?)
And here's the form I'm supposed to send back to him. (I occasionally do send the forms back, though never with any money.) He reassures me that "this is not a work of man... but it is the work of the Holy Spirit." (God sends form letters?) "I have not been called by God to take money from you..." (so why is he trying to do so?) "but ... to help get miracle money to you." How reassuring.
He warns me that "during the next few moments, satan [sic] is going to try to convince you that this is not of God... or that I'm only trying to get your money." Gee, why would we think that? It must be Satan's work.
And another guilt trip—my offering of sacrifice is to benefit not just me but also my "loved ones".
Not only does he want $50 now, but he wants me to pledge $1000, or $500, or $100. That makes $50 look almost reasonable.
On the back of the form, he asks for information about my debt (perhaps to insert in future form letters?) and testimonials. The lady at the bottom won a lottery of $7.2 million after sending $7 to Peter Popoff, and asks for "wisdom and insight as to what I should do with all this money." I'm sure that Peter Popoff will have a suggestion for her...
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Today, I foolishly succumbed to temptation to buy some seeds for a pretty-looking plant I was unfamiliar with as I was shopping at Valu-Mart.
I was shocked that a supposedly reputable company like McKenzie Seeds would sell an invasive species. I've already sent them a complaint; if you are concerned about invasive species too, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Mowatt, who is not charged with anything, is being held in a jail cell at Vanier Centre for Women in Milton, to make sure that she shows up to testify at her boyfriend's trial. According to her lawyer, Lydia Riva, "She's contracted the flu since she's been in jail. She already had to seek medical attention. [...] She's obviously stressed out and concerned about her pregnancy. She's afraid to have her baby in custody."
Why is this poor woman, who obviously has enough stress in her life already between raising two young children and coping with an abusive boyfriend, being victimized by the justice system, which should be protecting her?
If Noellee Mowatt was 30, and married, would she be treated so appallingly badly in these circumstances?
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Here's another person who identifies as vegan, but would be willing to make an exception for honey (though she hasn't yet). Laura, a university student writing for Taste Better argues that "...bees feel pretty much nothing..." and organic and small-scale beekeeping "isn't really exploitation", and besides "there really is no way... to live without harming others..."
But do bees really feel nothing? Their nervous system is a lot simpler than ours, which leads many to assume that they don't feel as much as we do. But there is no way for us to ever know what it is like perceiving the world from an apian perspective. However, even with such a simple nervous system, bees can communicate with each other in a surprisingly sophisticated way. As vegans, I think we should give bees the benefit of the doubt, just as we do with other invertebrates such as lobsters.
Laura's line of reasoning that organic/small scale beekeeping isn't so bad, and we can't live without harming others, could also be used to justify organic/small scale farming, etc. etc. and often is, though normally by omnivores. In the future, are we going to see omnivores calling themselves "vegan" because they consume only certain animals (fish, invertebrates), or because they "know" that their meat was raised "ethically"?
The misuse of "vegetarian" to include fish and chicken eaters already causes a lot of aggravation to people who really are vegetarian--years ago during a hospital stay, I was served "vegetarian" meals that included large amounts of nasty-smelling dead tuna fish. Now "vegan" is being misused. Already some "vegan" restaurants are serving honey, meaning that even in should-be vegan establishments, vegans have to go through the tedious questions about ingredients.
Go ahead and eat what you want, but if you're eating animal products like honey, please call yourself something other than vegan.