Friday Fungus: Morel of the Story

The Yellow Morel (Morchella esculenta) grows in the woodland.


Business Leadership Classes Have Really Gone Downhill

I signed up for a self-improvement class at work a couple of weeks ago and took the class this week. It was called Mental Models. I won’t name the company or the instructor as it would be too identifying for this blog. But some of these same comments will be reserved for the evaluation form that my company will send me in a few days. Heh Heh Heh.

The class was advertised as an introduction to critical thinking and problem solving. Instead, I was subjected to 2 days of pop psychology, brain teasers, attempts by the instructor to sell his Multilevel Marketing scam, and his bizarre right-wing political theories. There were good tidbits of information buried within the class and the instructor was very entertaining, but far too much time was taken up by the instructor with his pseudo-scientific garbage.

I decided to search the internet for the company and the class to get an idea of the subject material for the class, and any background for the owner of the company and the instructors. A couple of the higher up management people at my company are very fundamentalist Christians and I wanted to see if there would be any bias in the class and the company selected.

Wow! Looking at the bio of the owner of the company, his customers are companies that I recognized as having a very heavy fundy orientation, and lots of articles in religious magazines. This does not mean that I would be subjected to conversion attempts or anything. I simply wanted the guy’s background so I could understand where he was coming from, as well as identifying any bias in the information taught. This is something that I always do before taking a class.

The first day of the class went pretty good, but he gave only a very rudimentary introduction to critical thinking. This consisted only of identifing facts versus interpretations of facts. Nothing that I didn’t already know before taking the class. And that was it for critical thinking. No logic and logical fallacies, no identifying bias, no skepticism, and no determining the validity of data and facts. There was a lot missing from this topic. But he did teach a lot of good techniques for listening to others and conflict resolution on the first day of the class.

But, he inappropriately advertised (trolled) for his MLM in the class at the start of the first day. I just ignored it and the exaggeration’s that usually accompany those who try to suck others in this type of scam in order to enrich themselves. The MLM had something to do with expensive vitamin supplements or some such nonsense.

Day 2 is where the weirdness started. First, we had an assignment to determine facts versus interpretation in the news. I gave an example if bias in differing coverage of the fires here between Fox News and NBC and CNN. Showing how Fox New’s bizarre theory of Al Quaeda fires was off the wall and the other new stations had the coverage of accidental and arson files. No sooner than I mentioned the word “bias” as a factor in interpretation, the instructor cut me off and went to the next person. Well, I thought “Perhaps I’m just off topic and he only wanted cover facts versus interpretation, and not get into bias yet.”

Then we had a break about an hour later. I came back from the restroom and the instructor was talking about Hillary Clinton having massive amounts of lesbian affairs. WTF did this have to do with critical thinking? All it showed was that he uncritically accepted rumors as fact, thus ruining his credibility to me. What was next? Reptoids in the White House basement? Twin Tower conspiracy theories? But this was only the start of the insanity that was to come in the afternoon.

After lunch, we had a couple of good exercises on talking out problems, resolving issues and identifying emotional points that could hinder problem solving. All well and good, until he made the remark about management authority. He said “Well, if you can’t solve the problem or change something wrong, then just let management take care of it. Then you could just wash your hands of it and it would be someone else’s fault.”

Talk about authoritarianism in a nutshell. Just submit to authority and all would be well. It was all I could do not to roll my eyes and go take a restroom break or something. The instructor said something interesting in the previous day about anger and frustration being the result of violated values. Well, this advice certainly violated my values (integrity being a value I hold dear). It was yet another case of a fundamentalist Christian seeming to have a lower standard of ethics than my own. And what about other options? I can easily think of a few much better options: 1) call the company ethics or legal department, 2) alerting the customer (anonymously) or 3) quit.

But the highlight came in the last hour of the class and left me absolutely speechless. He started shilling The Secret of all things. That bunch of repackaged bullshit, pseudoscience, and prosperity gospel crap. That all we had to do was simply want something and it would be ours. If this wasn’t a work class I would have challenged him by asking him “If I get cancer, then all I have to do is simply wish it away?” I left the class totally disgusted. He certainly won’t get a good review from me.

But perhaps he was looking for suckers that would fall for his bullshit. If they would fall for The Secret, then perhaps they would fall for his MultiLevel Marketing scam. You know, I like being skeptical, it really helps you avoid getting taken advantage of. Perhaps I should of hung around to see who was getting sucked into the scam.

The Harassment Continues

In an article by Kay Campbell in the Huntsville Times shows that the situation in the military towards the separation of church and state continues to erode.

Though the U.S. Constitution mandates that the government apply no test of faith for employment – and, one presumes, deployment – of American citizens, soldiers who are open about being non-believers can face harassment and ostracizing from fellow troops and their officers, some say.

“We didn’t let anyone know we were atheists,” said Steve Moore of Huntsville, who served two tours in Iraq as an Army staff sergeant.

Moore and his wife, Renee, also an Army veteran, were taking a break a couple of weeks ago from packing goody boxes for non-believing soldiers for the project Operation Foxhole Atheist sponsored by the North Alabama Freethought Association.

“We didn’t want any stigma to thwart our career,” Moore said. “There is nothing more frightening than a radical fundamentalist with an assault rifle.

Holy shit!

Chaplain Major Rajmund Kopec, a veteran of Serbia and Iraq now stationed at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, has seen it all – both the violation of military principles of respect for each soldier’s conscience and the heroic support of it.

As a Catholic, he’s been assured of his own eternal damnation by some Christians, he said during an interview in his office recently. He’s not surprised some atheists would rather keep their beliefs to themselves, though he remembers enjoying long conversations and friendly debates with one atheist stationed in Iraq.

Well it seems that a few chaplains are doing their job correctly. Sounds like this particular chaplain is an alright guy. I think that the religious people who force their beliefs on another are very insecure and probably haven’t thought about why they believe what they believe.

“My own personal experience in being in the Army and working with different denominations and faith groups has helped me,” Kopec said. “Number one, I have come to appreciate my own tradition even more. Number two, I appreciate, respect and love other traditions, too. You find a balance: to work in a pluralistic environment and to not compromise your own faith.”

Too bad many Christians don’t share this point of view. I think a lot of Christians have grown up in an overly sheltered life and don’t really know to work with others who don’t share their background. They have grown up in an environment where their beliefs have never been challenged and have never really given them much thought. I grew up in the South and would run into these people. They seem lost and threatened when they are not surrounded by other Christians or in a non-Christian environment.

Pervert Alert: A Sad Ending

What is going on in the heads of some ultra fundamentalist Christians these days? Every time I turn around there is some story or another about right-wing Christian conservatives getting into extreme kink. Apparently Gary Aldridge, a long-time friend of the late Jerry Fallwell was found dead last month.

He was found wearing not one, but two wetsuits, rubber underwear, booties, five ties, a diving mask, and bound with 11 straps. Apparently, the two possessions he was found dead with were his wedding ring on his left hand, and a dildo stuck up his ass. How sad for him that he went to such lengths to enjoy himself. I guess all of those guilty, and repressed feelings were eventually expressed with such kinkiness. Details can be found at the Smoking Gun. Was he trying for a full body condom?

More details can be found over at Pharyngula, as well as a nice memorial poem.

A member of the Christian nation,
Friend of Jerry Falwell,
His last attempt at masturbation
Didn’t go at all well.

Masturbation and Christian Nation go so well together as we find in the news lately.

I Wonder Why, Hmmmmm…

The latest Barna Group Poll on the number of non-believers shows that as the younger the age group becomes, the greater the percentage of non-Christians. Note that they call non-Christians “outsiders”. I see there is an overlap between the age groups of 18-41 and 16-29. These groups have very similar numbers. This means that the large number of people aged between 18 and 41 are approximately 37% non-Christian. WooHoo.

As pointed out in the Barna Update related to atheists and agnostics, this is not a passing fad wherein young people will become “more Christian” as they grow up. While Christianity remains the typical experience and most common faith in America, a fundamental recalibration is occurring within the spiritual allegiance of America’s upcoming generations.

Sounds all good to me.

David Kinnaman, who is a 12-year-veteran of the Barna team, pointed out some of the unexpected findings of the research. “Going into this three-year project, I assumed that people’s perceptions were generally soft, based on misinformation, and would gradually morph into more traditional views. But then, as we probed why young people had come to such conclusions, I was surprised how much their perceptions were rooted in specific stories and personal interactions with Christians and in churches. When they labeled Christians as judgmental this was not merely spiritual defensiveness. It was frequently the result of truly ‘unChristian’ experiences. We discovered that the descriptions that young people offered of Christianity were more thoughtful, nuanced, and experiential than expected.”

Well what do they expect when a lot of Christians act like arrogant asses. It certainly does not make me want to be a Christian when I’m the recipient of death threats and condescension from them.

They Just Won’t Stop

More tales of Christian evangelization in the military are detailed today over at truthout and over a DailyKos by Jason Leopold. In this story Military Ministry and Military Missions Network are shown to be actively trying to convert fresh, young, vulnerable recruits into a form of fundamentalist Christianity.

Military Missions network even has a 40 page document on its web page showing their plans. This document is filled with references to Paul, but not very many references to what Jesus teaches. They seem to be Paulists, like many fundamentalists.

Our mission – The mission of the MMN is to ignite a shared vision, to equip kingdom leaders, and to build a global network for the purpose of reaching the world through the military of the world.

This is found on page 28. They seem to think that the military is their own personal army of missionaries. What fucking arrogance.

Our vision – An expanding global network of kingdom-minded movements of evangelism and discipleship reaching the world through the military of the world.

Found on page 29. Again with the idea that US military forces are their own personal army of missionaries. Never mind that the people in the military come from very diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.

Why is it important to intentionally connect with others doing strategic missions through and ministry to the military? First, all Christians should be concerned for the health, well being and propagation of the body of Christ worldwide. Second, Christians are required to partner in the matter of winning, discipling, and caring for those within the military lifestyle and culture. After all, the body of Christ is worldwide and the military is worldwide. Partnership is a required necessity! The question is, will we do this well, in an intentional and strategic way, or will we do this haphazardly and poorly? When it comes to military missions and ministry, missional churches intentionally connect with others both locally and globally in order to be more effective in fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

Throughout the document, there seems to be an emphasis on selling Christianity as some sort of product and where you need to get more customers. Why do fundamentalists try to apply marketing techniques to a person’s most deeply held beliefs? I’ve run into several evangelists who seem to think that changing one’s belief is like switching a brand of soda or something.

At the end of section 5 there is a list that Christians should believe. Wow, the arrogance in the expectation that people should all conform to the same set of identical beliefs. And throughout the document, there seems to be an attitude that everyone will simply just convert. Holy shit, again, what arrogance.

They seem to think that someone who does not believe as they do will simply stop any say “Gee, Mr Christian, I’ve never heard Jesus advertised like this before. Wow, a new and improved Jesus, I’ll simply get on board and be apart of this happening scene.” What idiots.

And in the document, they don’t seem to have any advice for would-be Jesus salespeople who will end up running into someone who is not convinced by their advertising campaign. This is especially worrisome when someone is being proselytized by their military superior. Especially when the missionary won’t take “No” for an answer.

Upon further reflection, I find the thought of an official military presence for spreading Christianity very disturbing. Didn’t this happen in the 12th century, and don’t we call those military folk “crusaders”?