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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Yesterday -- but not for the first time -- I received a religious chain letter from something called the Churches of Saint Matthew. It included a "prayer rug" (made of paper) bearing what I suppose is called a trompe l'oeil: an image of Jesus that seems to change as you look at it, from closed eyes to open ones. The letter instructed me to pray on the "rug" and mail it back the following morning, only opening the "sealed prophecy" after I'd done so.

Of course I was having none of this. I read everything the same night, including the "prophecy," which as expected was conveniently non-specific. In the morning, I sent this letter sans "rug":

Dear sister and brother humans,

I submit my mind exclusively to the information the Universe gives me about itself through my senses. To me, substituting any figments of human imagination for what reality itself tells me is idolatry.

Consequently, I am not returning your so-called prayer rug Magic Eye picture so that you can use it to promote your superstition to others more susceptible than myself. I may, however, scan and upload it to my Atheist Meetup Group for others' amusement.

Sincerely, etc.

P.S. You are welcome to visit my blog, Gondwanaland, at and leave a message in my Guestbook.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Last night I heard Nate Phelps, estranged son of Westboro Baptist Church's Fred Phelps, speak at Drexel under the auspices of the Freethought Society. His autobiographical talk fully confirmed my suspicions that WBC is a cult, including such hallmarks of totalism as cult jargon, black-and-white thinking, milieu control, the demand for purity, and the dispensing of existence. After he mentioned he's looking for psychologists to help people who've left fundamentalist churches, I told him about ICSA's network of cult-aware therapists. He was very appreciative of the contact information.

Effective Persuasion

Here's a real-life story illustrating the kind of approach that actually changes people's minds, as opposed to the kind that leaves the advocate self-satisfied but ter interlocutor unchanged: