Saturday, November 30, 2013

#811: Terry Jones

Terry Jones is probably a familiar name, but if you don’t remember Jones is a hardcore lunatic Christian pastor (currently based in Florida), who runs the “Dove World Outreach Center”, most famous for threatening to stage a mass burning of copies of the Qur'an to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 attacks in 2010 – which he eventually carried out in March 2011 and later (he was arrested prior to 9/11, 2013). Jones may also be rather heavily involved in the creation of the September 2012 video that caused some serious international brouhaha. It is worth mentioning that he was expelled from Germany in 2009 for the way he was running a religious group over there (in addition to some financial issues).

Burning the Qur’an and inciting lunatic response from deranged fundamentalists, even if you know this is going to happen, is not enough to qualify as a loon, however (the often overlooked “ritual” part of the plan is a different matter, perhaps, and his idea that burning the Qu’ran was justly punishing Muslims for 9/11 is not quite obviously entirely coherent either). Even more obvious lunacy was displayed when he and his church hung an effigy of BarackObama in front of Dove World Outreach Center headquarters in 2012 for all of the usual batshit crazy reasons based on all the usual sorts of conspiracy nuttery. In short, say what you want about his Qur’an burning plans – Jones is a deeply deranged fellow.

Diagnosis: I suppose we had some kind of duty to mention Terry Jones. He is, indeed, quite insane; he is also relatively inconsiderate when it comes to preserving other people’s health and safety. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

#810: Laurie Beth Jones

Laurie Beth Jones is an author and motivational speaker who is supposed to motivate you to become, I suppose, a better leader (in the style of the human potential movement). But Jones’s approach, instead of being just fluffily newage, is rather hardcore religious. So, for instance, she can help your company develop “spiritreneurship”, which seems to mean ensuring that your employee’s work honors God. In other words, Jones is some kind of missionary (“my Personal Mission is to recognize, promote, and inspire divine connection in myself and others”) dressed up with the fluff and hollow gestures of motivational speech, as well as New Age ideas, a bit of Kabbalah rant, shamanism, and astrology.

Jones is, for instance, author of JESUS, Career Counselor: How to Find (and Keep) Your Perfect Work, Jesus, Inc.: The Visionary Path, Jesus, Life Coach: Learn from the Best, and Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership. You get the idea.

If you want to see some real crazy, however, I recommend having a look at her critics, mostly fundamentalists who lament her paganism. Here is Bob DeWaay dismissing her work not because it is fluffy bullshit, but because it is occult paganism. And here is Ingrid Schlueter lamenting how Jones is channeling the occult and Satan through her writings and apparently bringing about the endtimes.

Diagnosis: It is hard to distinguish loonery from marketing techniques targeted at the critical-thinking challenged, but Jones’s bullshit has actually had a bit of influence, it seems (some of her books have apparently enjoyed decent sales). 

#809: Heather Johnstone

“Have you ever considered this simple question: Are you clean inside?” asks Heather Johnstone. The reason she asks is because she has convinced herself that colon cleansing is the magical way to avoid disease, and now she wants to convince you. The fact that the idea is really ridiculous an so far away from any evidence-based advice is less important when Johnstone applies her powers of intuition and lack of basic insight into how the body actually works. Instead, for Johnstone it’s all about the toxins, and she claims – just as well, I suppose – that unclean bowels may be the cause of every chronic disease there is.

To promote her woo, Johnstone runs the website (yes, you guessed it; it is all about “what’s natural”). As for herself, she presents herself as “Heather Johnstone, PhD” (in fact, she presents herself as “PhD RN BC APN AMP-C RYT at 500 hour level”). Of course, her “PhD” is a “PhD in Metaphysics” from the American Institute of HolisticTheology. It is probably unnecessary to say that this is an unaccredited institution. She also claims to be enrolled in Homeopathy and Naturopathy Programs at Greg Lawton’s Blue Heron Academy. It is probably unnecessary to state that the accreditation level of said institution is approximately that of your average spam.

Diagnosis: Woo. As pure, shining, and idiotic as it comes. In fact, it is very likely that colon cleansings are not only not beneficial to you, but possibly harmful, so Johnstone’s threat to civilization should not be completely dismissed. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

#808: Michael Johnston

Michael Johnston is an ex-gay anti-gay activist, promoter of reparative therapy, and founder of the (now defunct) Kerusso ministries. In the 90s he became central enough in the movement that even Jerry Falwell would use him as “proof” that gays could become heterosexuals, and Johnston toured churches and schools with his message, underlining the fact that he had contracted HIV during his gay years, and even helped the Assemblies of God write their official position on homosexuality. He was also campaigning to use sexual orientation as a criterion to deny fellow citizens equal treatment under the law, the face of the Truth in Love campaign, and founder of Americans for Truth (currently AFTAH, run by Peter LaBarbera). Then, in 2003, Johnston and the Kerusso ministries disappeared, and all references to him by the American Family Association and the Family Policy Network were deleted. Story here.

The reason, of course, was that Johnston had been going by the name Sean and had been cruising men online. He had also been organizing unsafe sex parties and lying about his HIV status. Of course, once the news were released to the media, the anti-gay movement desperately tried to downplay Johnston’s involvement.

In 2007, however, Johnston reappeared as Director of Donor Relations for the Pure Life Ministry. Though he is assuming a somewhat lower profile, his anti-gay efforts apparently continue as before.

Diagnosis: It is somewhat hard to believe that Johnston actually thinks of himself as “ex-gay”, but his efforts in the anti-gay movement surely qualify him for an entry in the Encyclopedia. The Assembly of God’s official position on sexual orientation is not reason-based, to put it rather mildly.

#807: Donald E. Johnson

Didn't really manage to
locate a better photo.

Donald E. Johnson is a vocal creationist and author, who runs the creationist website He is a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s petition “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism”, and has legitimate credentials in Information Sciences and in chemistry (though nothing that touches on evolution), but is nevertheless not a working scientist.

His books include Probability's Nature and Nature's Probability, which also exists in a version for non-specialists for outreach purposes – after all creationism is not particularly concerned with science as much as outreach – and Programming for Life. The latter purports to study the intersection of physical science and information science with creationist conclusions, complete with persecution complex concerning the oppressive Darwinian paradigm in research institutions. Indeed, it argues that since no one can disprove the existence of God, Intelligent Design as a theory does not need evidence, and that evolution remains falsified as long as there are gaps in the fossil record. Standard creationist lack of understanding of science, in other words.

Diagnosis: In one sense Johnson is standard fare, and his influence – even within denialist communities – is probably somewhat limited. He is nevertheless worth mentioning for the way he inadvertently manages to reveal why Intelligent Design is not science through his writings, and for exposing his own agenda (outreach in the name of Jesus; it has nothing to do with science).