This is me in the conference room in Bangkok with no smile. I wasn’t feeling like having my photo made on this day.
I guess you have noticed but I have been a bit “lazier” in writing recently. Please consider this posting as a sort of place holder blog posting due to the fact that I have been preparing for an upcoming trip. I have been damned busy lately so I haven’t had enough time to keep up with the blogging that I need to.
I will correct this though.
Keep your eye on this blog space because it will be coming around. It isn’t dead. I just have not had much time to breathe, let alone write my blog.
Thanks for your understanding!
I recently was sent a link on YouTube by a friend of mine who wanted my opinion of a video he’d seen of a young Muslim man, Mohammed, from the Muslim American Society – New Jersey Chapter. Mohammed was doing his best to assert his Islamic pride while at the same time introducing Islam as a welcome norm for the West to get used to (it seemed for an American audience in particular). He spent the first part of the video doing his best to dispel stereotypes. Fair enough. Good on him. I have no problem with that. Kudos!
Then Mohammed tries to give us a fake history lesson. Straight out of the propaganda style book.
If you don’t have much of a background in history you just might buy into this guy’s cheerleading tactics. C’mon, Mohammed seemed like a nice enough, normal kind of guy. The video was okay when he was just simply telling us what he personally believed in. Hey, we all have personal beliefs. But then he started getting into a chant, or a rant, I am not sure which, in the middle of the video when he gets into this swell of pride over a false history. Man, I just hate that kind of thing to tell the truth. (I mean, for instance, didn’t many cultures more ancient than Islamic tradition as well as less ancient than Islamic tradition also create great architecture?)
So you have a reference for the rest of the post, I supply the video below:
Now let’s skip to the part where young Mohammed (I know this is late in the post but I hope I got his variation of spelling correct – if no, my apologies) starts to name the litany of Arab (Arab, not Muslim per se – though Mohammed claims them all for “Muslims”) achievements. (Please note that I am paraphrasing Mohammed’s assertions so that it makes sense in the context. Also, for a point of reference, Mohammed’s prophet, Mohammed, was born around 570 AD – nearly six hundred years after Jesus Christ. Keep that in mind when I give you the below assertions.)
“We invented astronomy…
I am sorry, Mohammed, but you Muslims did not invent astronomy. Let me ask you, what about Stonehenge, which roughly predates Islam by about 3700 years? What about early Mesopotamian (Sumerian, Babylonian, Chaldean) astronomy? Greek? Egyptian? Mayan? Persian? Incan? Indian? Nubian? Aztec? Even Chinese astronomy predates the birth of your prophet Mohammed by 1700 years. I beg very much to differ on this point.
“We invented calligraphy…”
Wrong again my friend! Hindu calligraphers were already carving calligraphy into stone about 300 BC 0r nearly 900 years before Mohammed was even born. Imperial Chinese calligraphy began about 100 years later but it was descendent from ancient Chinese calligraphy which no one has really been able to trace its origins because it is so damned old. But let’s not even talk about these Eastern traditions. Let’s move west closer to were the Arab culture comes from. Phoenician calligraphy predates Islam. Etruscan calligraphy predates Islam. Greek calligraphy predates Islam. Roman (Latin) calligraphy, which was a late comer to this group, can be traced to 600 BC – about 1200 years before Mohammed was even born!
“We invented geometry…”
The earliest recorded beginnings of geometry can be traced to ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley from around 3000 BC, oh, say about thirty-six centuries before Mohammed was born. The earliest known texts on geometry are the Egyptian Rhind Papyrus and Moscow Papyrus, the Babylonian clay tablets, and the Indian Shulba Sutras, while the Chinese had the work of Mozi, Zhang Heng, and the Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art, edited by Liu Hui. Euclid’s classic Elements was written around 300 BC, nine tenths of a millennium before Mohammed was born. Need I go on here or do you get the point?
“We invented algebra…”
Wrong again! Arabs were a beneficiary of their location, in a round about way, as Algebra’s origins can be traced to the ancient Babylonians, who developed an advanced arithmetical system with which they were able to do calculations in an algorithmic fashion. The Babylonians developed formulas to calculate solutions for problems typically solved today by using linear equations, quadratic equations, and indeterminate linear equations. The Greeks studied this form of mathematics and the Arabs learned it in the Middle Ages via the Greek heritage left by the Byzantines, who they had recently conquered in the Fertile Crescent and Egypt. And in fact, even the first treatise in the Arabic language, from where we do in fact get the word “algebra” from (al-jabr in Arabic; it means “reunion”), was written by a Persian mathematician, Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi, not an Arab. This man is often considered the “father of algebra”, though he did not personally invent it in any way, shape or form.
“We invented the modern numerical system… (Not the Greeks, but Muslims!)”
I don’t know who said the Greeks gave us the modern numerical system. I must have missed that somewhere. But nonetheless, these symbols passed via the Arabs from the northern Indians. They were not invented by the Arabs, but rather only altered. The modern numerical system today, which we do refer to as Arabic numerals, in fact are not the same numbers that are used by Arabs themselves (look at any Arabic text book to suss this yourself) but rather a European modification of these Arabic numerals which in turn are themselves a modification of the older Hindic numerals from which the Arabs borrowed their own system.
“It is pronounced ‘Iss-laem’, not “Iz-lam”…”
First of all, young Mohammed repeated this twice – which the second go round he pronounced it how? “Iz-lam”; exactly the way he just told us indignantly not to pronounce it. Secondly, Mohammed is speaking North American English here, not Arabic. Don’t correct how Americans and Canadians might pronounce foreign loan words in our own language. Otherwise I would have the right to go nuts in Cairo, Dubai or any other Arabic speaking community when they (constantly) mispronounce English words that they have adopted as loan words into Arabic. The point of how a North American pronounces a foreign word is mute. Try going to the root pronunciation of all of the borrowed words that can be found in a King James Bible. There are hundreds of examples of Hebrew, Chaldean and Greek words that have a much more bastardized pronunciation that “Is-laem” to “Iz-lam”. And even in the Arabic language itself there are variations of this word which means there are even Arabs who don’t pronounce “Islam” the way that you do.
Come on, give me a break, Mohammed…
Now, I challenge anyone to put what I have said above against what Mohammed says in his propaganda video. Don’t take sides right away. Look up what I have written here. Compare it. Challenge it. Research it. You will find that obviously our friend Mohammed of the MAS New Jersey Branch just bought into bullshit that Arabs and Muslims have been peddling about their history of achievements for a long, long time. I don’t believe Mohammed made this up. I believe he believes every word of what he said, hook, line and sinker of this faux histoire. He’s probably been told this by “his people”. The longer I live the more I see “alternative histories” in subcultures – some more true than others. But a word of advice to Mohammed and the Muslim American Society, New Jersey Chapter…
If you are going to insist on extolling your culture and creating grand illusions of your past in propaganda meant for the masses, do your best to check the facts or someone will bust your balloon like I just did.
Next thing you know Mohammed will be telling us Islam is the “religion of peace”…
What an odd question, I know…
Some time back a friend asked me this question over a few beers. “Don’t answer it now!” he told me, “Just think about it for a while.” I have to be honest about it. I didn’t think about this question for some time. Until last week that is.
I had some free time to reflect about things for a few days as the family was away visiting more family. I found myself in front of a clean notebook with three pens: one black, one red and one blue. I thought to myself that such a question comparing organized religion to organized crime would be a given – organized religion would win out. So I wrote down on one column all of the positives of organized religion. Then on the other side of the page something quite strange happened. I told myself that I would brainstorm all of the positives of organized crime, and guess what? I came up with as many good points to organized crime as bad points. So then I decided that I would do the opposite and write down all of the bad points of organized crime on one side of the paper and see if I could match the bad points of organized religion on the other side of the paper. And I could.
Before this creates a moral vacuum or a philosophical conundrum I just want to be clear. I am not trying to state that organized religion is bad and that organized crime is good. In fact, I am not saying that I have become neutral on either subject. I am just saying that all the evidence gleaned from this exercise just supported the notion that there is no black and white.
So now I ask you for your own answers. Which is worse (or better)? Organized religion or organized crime? What say you?
“The secret of being a top-notch con man is being able to know what the mark wants, and how to make him think he’s getting it.” Ken Kesey
This is one sentence by Ken Kesey is possibly the best quotation I have ever seen regarding con men and how they operate. This also holds true, I have seen, with the conspiracy theory crowd, whether it be with Alex Jones, David Icke or the likes of the religious conspiracy ilk.
People who are familiar with my any of my blogs or my books will know that I spend considerable effort debunking these bogus myths thrust upon the masses by what I like to call the “Cons-Piracy Mafia“. My first book even dealt directly with all the points that one religious fraudster, Alberto Rivera, claimed in his Vatican Islam Conspiracy. But since the book’s publication in 2006 I have had lots of mail from people condemning me for debunking Rivera and the shots over my bow mainly come from the direction of the very dupes who refuse to even open the book. When I consider who my main critics have been over these years it becomes extremely apparent that Jack Chick and Alberto Rivera are giving their audience what they want to see and hear: That the Roman Catholic Church schemed to create Islam in order to subjugate true Christians.
I can’t but help see the psychological parallels in those who follow these conspiracy theories and the victims who get caught up in the Nigerian 419 advance fee scams (as I am currently reading McMafia by Misha Glenny.)
In each case the victims were drawn closer and closer into the scam until in many cases they have allowed themselves to be fleeced of all their money and then some. Of course, in the case of the Nigerian scams people put this crime down to greed but it goes to a level even beyond. You see, the greed in the 419 scam comes from both sides, from both the perpetrator and the victim as well. And I find that this is exactly the same when we look into conspiracy theories. Both the originator of the theory as well as the follower are both “believers” in conspiracy. The follower, the more they are drawn in, become increasingly self-delusional in their acceptance of the lie. The followers begin to lose their free will to judge in these matters, much like a hypnotized person, like the proverbial zombie.
This is definitely true in the Vatican Islam Conspiracy, though I believe that the roles of Alberto Rivera and Jack Chick were initially quite different. Rivera on one hand, I believe was actually a scoundrel. Rivera found the audience and spun the tales to suit what the audience hungered for. It could be very possible that he suffered the fate of many habitual liars – that Rivera eventually began to believe his own lies. Jack Chick on the other hand, in my opinion, was one of the zombies. Chick was predisposed to the type bullshit that Rivera was selling because it fit in with his theological beliefs that were already in place. Chick was a willing dupe who has in turn become the vehicle of this lie.
Part of the art of spinning these conspiratorial tales is the ability of throwing out facts, quasi-facts and disinformation in a way that is either very difficult to check, beyond the education and background knowledge of the audience or preferably both. The well spun conspiracy yarn is certain to leave their heads in a spin. A general feeling of doubt is created from which distrust of the truth in general is created and the Cons-Piracy Mafia feeds on this scenario. For example, think about the last time you watched a movie such as JFK. For the casual viewer so many facts were thrown out to the viewer as “true” that even a clear headed person would be likely to leave the cinema with no idea of what really happened in the assassination of John Kennedy, but he would be fairly convinced that there was indeed a government cover up.
And the people who went into the movie already expecting a government cover up? Well, the got what they paid for!
I have gotten to know Kurt Kuersteiner a bit over the past few years. I first met him when I was interviewing him for my first published book Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness: The Truth about the Vatican and the Birth of Islam. Kurt is a very interesting character if you ask me and he is well known in the “Jack Chick” circles. Kurt is the author of an exceptionally well done anthology of Chick Publication works The Unofficial Guide to the Art of Jack T. Chick: Chick Tracts, Crusader Comics, And Battle Cry Newspapers and he directed the documentary God’s Cartoonist: The Comic Crusade of Jack Chick, which I found engrossing. I have copies of both the book and the film. Kurt is an adjunct Communications professor in Tallahassee Florida, where he also publishes entertainment trading cards for Monsterwax.
Kurt and I approach Jack Chick in very different ways. Personally I don’t care what he puts in his tracts about sin in and of itself – it is when Chick tries to glaze over historical fact to promote his own point of view that I get bent out of shape with him. Kurt, on this other hand, sees Jack Chick as a cultural phenomenon that deserves respect for his work and his accomplishments. Or at least this is my understanding of Kurt’s point of view. You can see for yourself what he has to say.
What is it that you like most about the Chick Publication tracts and what got you to research your book?
It is inspiring to me to see a writer try to get his message to the masses, and without the help of any corporations or political party or even organized church, he is able out-publish everyone else! What is especially interesting is that his message is so politically incorrect, and if anything, the corporations, political parties, and (the majority of) organized churches have tried to marginalize him. Yet there is his, an underground cartoonist with his vision, who engineered a crusade that catapulted his work around the world and made him the most published author alive today. Chick has printed over 800 million tracts and is still going strong. That is a testament to creativity, determination, faith in the product, and the American dream. It proves that unconnected individuals can still succeed in this country if they work long enough and hard enough.
Personally, which do you like better, the Jack Chick style or the Fred Carter style?
I especially love Fred Carter’s art. It’s beautiful. He’s one of the best comic artists around and he’s very versatile. Too bad he’s ignored by both ends of the comic book business because the corporate side can’t hire or exploit his talents, and most of the customer side thinks he’s a square since he’s a fundamentalist. Even if most people disagree with his beliefs, they should still recognize his artistic talent and respect his willingness to give up so much in order to promote his faith. Interestingly enough, most my artist friends prefer Chick’s art, because his style is so distinctive and retro. Together, the two artists make quite a team!
Do you think that it is possible to be a fan of Jack Chick and disagree with what he is trying to get across? Is it possible, for instance, to be a secular art collector who appreciates the work but remains untouched or unchanged by the message?
To the first part of your question, the answer is definitely “yes”. I know all sorts of gays, Catholics, Jews, Rock and Roll fans, Witches and even self proclaimed Satanists who love collecting Chick’s tracts. Some feel it’s a guilty pleasure and others rationalize that his conspiracy theories are so extreme, that they only encourage the opposite view. Several of these Chick critics/ collectors wrote reviews for my book, so I know he has fans who love his product but hate his message.
When you ask if it is possible to remain untouched by his message, of that I am less sure. I suspect the more people collect his work and appreciate his talent, the harder it becomes for them to hate everything he represents. In other words, it tends to soften them to Chick and his message over time. They may still remain a gay Satanist Rock and Roller, but when their pals come around with a truck and baseball bats and want to go crack some Christian heads (to use a Chick analogy), they become less inclined to join the fun. It’s much easier to hate a group when you don’t actually know anyone in that group, yet everyone who reads Chick can’t help but get to know him after a while.
I look at the tracts and the comics as totally different kettles of fish because I think more often the tracts are aimed at a specific “sins” or “lifestyles” whereas the comics tend to tell “untold” histories or present conspiracies to the reader. Most of these subjects are quite controversial. How much research into these subjects do you feel that Jack Chick would have done before producing the tracts and comics?
The tracts are different from the comics, as you point out, but the comics tend to split up into two different groups as well.
The comic books remind me a lot of the TV show The X-files, but instead of agent Mulder and Scully, you get Tim Clark and James Carter, aka “The Crusaders”. Remember how there were two different types of X-files episodes? The first type was the conventional monster-of-the-week (M.O.T.W) tale, where Scully and Mulder track down the vampire or Mutant on the loose. With the Crusaders, that monster is Satan in the guise of some evil villain or cultural vice.
The earlier X-files M.O.T.W. stories were the episodes that got the public hooked, because they had the most action and eye candy. The same goes for The Crusaders. The first eleven comics have Tim and James dodging bullets, racing cars, and escaping other violent entrapments (thanks to the power of prayer) and always saving the day (or non-believer) by the end.
Later on, the X-files created a different formula, the conspiracy episode, which featured less action but put more emphasis on mystery and intrigue. So did The Crusaders. The basic difference was that while Agent Mulder and Scully got information from Deep Throat (a former insider) who tattled about the ongoing UFO conspiracy, The Crusaders listened to Alberto (who was said to be an former Jesuit) explain the vast Vatican conspiracy. The general public was less impressed when both series got deeper and deeper into the conspiracy plots, but the hardcore fans loved it.
Ironically, Deep Throat was shot in Mulder’s presence for revealing the truth in the X-files. And someone actually shot at Alberto Rivera in Chick’s presence (in a drive by situation) in real life. Year’s later, Alberto died of colon cancer, but he blamed it on a special poison given to him by an undercover Catholic. (I think I hear the X-files synthesizer playing now!)
Regarding Chick’s research: Chick’s background was in acting. He graduated the Pasadena Playhouse just after fighting in WW2. He likes drama so sensational plots are a natural attraction to him. That being said, he also feels constrained to tell the truth as he sees it. He believes in a living God who intervenes in our daily lives, which many Christians also believe. Where he differs is that he also believes in a real Satan, and that the devil ALSO intervenes in our daily lives. (Many Christians say they believe in the Bible but don’t actually think the devil is real.) This is why Chick is so suspicious of conspiracies, because it only stands to reason that the Prince of Lies would use conspiracies to promote evil, corrupt popular culture, and turn people away from the true Word of God (The Bible).
Chick reads his King James Bible, and sees how modern translations keep watering it down with newer and looser language, until they get to the point where certain churches want marry gays, and another wants to make Mary a “co-redeemer”. Chick sees these beliefs as blasphemies and proof of a Satanic plot to undermine Christianity from within. Now some may believe its just a coincidence that our culture, our government, our schools, and even many churches are working together to lead society further and further away from traditional Biblical values, but Chick and his supporters find that too hard to swallow. They recognize these changes as being orchestrated by activists, factions, unions, and special interest groups who have a progressive agenda. Chick and fellow fundamentalists believe that agenda is evil and inspired by Satan to turn the world against God. (You can choose not to believe it, but you can’t say that it doesn’t make sense.)
Like any good lawyer, Chick sets out to research and gather information that supports his position. He’s not interested in proving the other side’s case, so he only includes info that supports the fundamentalist view. He’s used different sources in the past, and some of them are quite controversial and shaky. However, David Daniels, the man who currently helps Chick write tracts (and numerous books), is a good researcher who knows how to document his sources. Daniels has a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological University and is well trained in the Bible and linguistics. So basically, it appears that Chick is responding to criticism that his claims have poor sources by bringing people like Daniels on board. Whether that helps him win more of his cases in the court of public opinion remains to be seen.
Do you have a favorite tract or comic (or both)? If so, which ones and why?
My favorite tracts are Wounded Children (about homosexuality), Angels? (about Rock and Roll), Satan’s Master (about witchcraft), Lisa (about child molestation), and Dark Dungeons (about role playing gamers). The main reason those are my faves tend is a combination of the sensational plots, the cool art, and, I confess, the fact that they are all out of print and rare.
My favorite Chick comic is Spellbound. It’s an action packed tale revolving around John Todd’s testimony about the Rock and Roll industry being run by the Illuminati. (Alberto later co-opted this claim by saying the Vatican controlled the Illuminati.) Spellbound has a pretty down beat ending too, with only a Pyrrhic victory, since one of two main characters is murdered before he can convert, and the news media compare the Christians to Nazis when they burn the Satanic Rock and Roll records.
On a happier note, John Todd’s character (Lance Collins) is saved from being shot in a drive by attempt, something that John Todd claimed happened to him in real life (but Chick did NOT witness that situation). These sure aren’t your average comic books!
I was recently interviewed by myUsearch.com regarding the value of online degrees (I am quoted under the section “Opinion Four”) and the author, Elizabeth Kudner, got a thing or two wrong on the final write up of the blog. First of all, my name is down as “Gary Dale” and not “Gary Dale Cearley”, which makes it look like Dale is my family name. I have to deal with this mistake all the time. And secondly she mentioned that I graduated with an online degree, which is also a misunderstanding.
Just to clear the air on it, my associate’s degree and bachelor’s degree both come from what used to be known as the University of the State of New York but is now known as Excelsior College. I received my Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma in their Department of Political Science. A good overview of my professional résumé can be seen on my LinkedIn profile.
These degrees which I earned did pretty well come in non-traditional ways. For my undergraduate degrees I transferred credit from the Defense Language Institute where I studied their 47 week course in the Vietnamese Language, other credit came from challenge exams and also I received credit from courses taken directly from UCLA and West Coast University. With the Oklahoma degree I studied the entire degree program in Seoul, Republic of Korea, at the Yongsan Garrison where the university sent professors to give classes abroad to military and government personnel and their dependents. Although I was not in the military at the time I was allowed to study in the OU program to help make up the numbers for the school.
So with this kind of background I do feel like a bit of an expert on non-traditional education but none of my degrees came from online programs. Anyway, I won’t make much of a stink about it because it won’t change the price of tea in China. I can live with it and sleep well tonight on top of it all.