"Of all the questions you might want to ask / about angels, the only one you ever hear / is how many can dance on the head of a pin." -- Billy Collins, bio {Others' quotes}


Caught Up In The Rapture

This blog took a few dozen months off to recover from the Rapture.
-- The Management
via OBRag.org
Just kidding, but we may soon resume regular programming.


What would you ask, if you had one question?

This song, pondering a God with all the troubles of his creations, is kind of a throw-back to the Greeks' view of their Gods and their human foibles. Opinions vary if it was elevatory, celebratory or derogatory.

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that
you would have to believe
in things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints
and all the prophets


Pointedly Funny

Among the things that separate us from the animals is our drive to believe in the supernatural and our willingness to make fun of each other. Those practices collide into Emo Philips.

Philips, who wrote the funniest God joke ever, is included in the Know Beliefs Memory Passages page


Seeking A Metaphor: Lazarus, Phoenix, Atlantis...

The Macho Response blog, recently put behind an "objectionable content" wall, has been removed by Blogger. Its publisher, The Crack Emcee, is a friend of mine from long ago and eventhough I often vehemently disagree with his viewpoint on many many things it's still a viewpoint worth exploring. His anti-cult, conservative, atheist angle on culture and current topics was unique -- not unusual, unique -- in the blogosphere.

I sure hope he shifts to a more broad-minded server soon. Then again, maybe it's a glitch. and he'll be back on-line in few hours.

UPDATE: Maybe the metaphor is Rasputin rather than Lazarus, you just can't kill the guy. He's here now.

"Who Are You Calling A Christian?"

At this point in the evolution of human development a majority of the tribalism that marked our pre-history is manifest in the sectarianism of our faiths.
jpg via Amazon.com
Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner from South Africa, asserts that God doesn't belong to any particular faith (which begs the question if any particular faith belongs to God, but that's a separate issue).

Surely it is good to know that God (in the Christian tradition) created us all (not just Christians) in his image, thus investing us all with infinite worth, and that it was with all humankind that God entered into a covenant relationship, depicted in the covenant with Noah when God promised he would not destroy his creation again with water. Surely we can rejoice that the eternal word, the Logos of God, enlightens everyone—not just Christians, but everyone who comes into the world; that what we call the Spirit of God is not a Christian preserve, for the Spirit of God existed long before there were Christians
SOURCE: taken from Tutu's book "God Is Not a Christian: And Other Provocations" by way of BeliefNet.com


Beating Each Other With The Body Of Christ

Both sides of the political spectrum claim Jesus as a member, and here is an example of the tug-of-war.

Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC discusses radio host Rush Limbaugh's monologue on liberals citing Jesus in the tax cut debate.


Surfing Madonna, Surfboard At Your Feet

We should be aware that when the next evolutionary species that succeeds ours pieces together the few remnants remaining of our culture, if this is the first one they find of Jesus' mom it will be reasonable to assume that He got the "walk on the water" trick from her.
jpg via SignOnSanDiego.com

An installation of unofficial and unapproved public art mural consisting of a mosaic stained glass tiles happened last week depicting the Mother Mary on a surfboard emblazoned with an environmental motto.

On an afternoon shortly before Earth Day and a few days prior to Easter, a group of men in hard hats installed a 10-foot square stained-glass mosaic of a surfing Our Lady of Guadalupe, complete with booties. “Save the Ocean” runs along the side of the mural. On the nose of her surfboard is the face of Saint Juan Diego who, according to legend, saw the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in 1531.
On Monday, the identity of the artists was a closely-held secret among a select few in Encinitas.

SOURCE: SignOnSanDiego


"Worship that?"

Sometimes in our fiction we put our most atheistic ideas in the mouth of a supernatural being, here a NSFW kinetic typographic excerpt from "The Devil's Advocate."


Missing The Boat

jpg via Biblical Christianity blog
Biblical Christianity blog has a few comic panels on the extinction of dinosaurs, the top one is my favorite, but see Far Side's and Bizarro's takes. Blogger Dan Phillips takes his faith seriously but not so seriously as to prevent him from see humor in its applications in the world around him. He's got some general interest pop culture stuff going on and some random liberal-bashing politics and he can get a little overwrought, for example a post on "Soul Surfer", the movie about the surfer who lost an arm to shark and is sustained by her faith, is stuck into a jeremiad of "why doesn't Hollywood represent good people of faith" -- similar points made on Know Beliefs here and here -- but is compelled to ascribe the worst motives:
"... part of it is simply that Hollywood blends well with the world-system, and the world hates the real Jesus and His people, period.
More charitably, I've simply wondered whether none of the big wigs and creative minds knows any actual practicing, card-carrying Christians."
And despite that charity it is, of course, absurd. How could 80(ish)% of America not be a majority of the entertainment industry too?


"Isn't That Special?"

 Since it's a violation of the country's most important document and against our core principles for governments to discriminate -- and it is our national tradition to expand the benefits of our democracy to include ever-greater groups of people -- many local governments are passing laws that follow those very principles. So any objective observer of our society, giving even cursory scrutiny from an age where ridiculous hypocrisy isn't an impediment to such observations, won't be surprised to see outraged groups who claim the mantle of traditional principles bemoan "special rights" for others getting equal rights while they themselves enjoy special rights of their own.
jpg via Change.org
Nashville's law mandating that city contractors follow city anti-discrimination laws is under attack.
"Clearly the metro council members, a majority of them succumbed to the...intense lobbying of a minority that wants special rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people," Land laments. And the result, he told The Associated Press, "could lead to disastrous and ethical conflicts" for some business people.
The ERLC president worked with the Southern Baptist Convention of Tennessee in opposition to the ordinance after it was introduced when questions were raised about whether a soccer coach at Belmont University in Nashville was forced out of the Christian school last year because of her sexual orientation (see below).
"So a six-foot guy who shaves every day can come in wearing a dress, high heels, and earrings and tell his employer that he's really a woman and he wants to use the women's bathroom facilities, and there's nothing the employer can do to stop him if he wants to do business in metro," Land explains.
The council maintains, however, that religious institutions are exempt from the new law.

SOURCE:  on OneNewsNow.com


Q: "How Does A Mormon Screw In A Light Bulb?"
A: "That's Not Funny"

It may seem to those who look back at our religions that the older they are, the more willing its adherents are likely to have a sense of humor about it. Regarding that, compare Jews with Scientologists, for example.

In the context of the Broadway musical "The Book Of Mormon," while reading this guy's defensive defense of Mormons in Africa, I could not help of think of Bill Cosby's Noah routine and the hooey Cosby got about it at the time. His response was something to the affect of "People who are secure in their faith aren't offended at all." That digression aside, it's a lot to ask of people who believe that they have invested their eternity in something to then go ahead be OK with it being ridiculed. And this writer isn't dissuaded by non-Mormons calling it harmless or fellow Mormons who have "blogged about it seem to have gone out of their way to show how they can take it."

But he's not aghast:
Sure, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pushes back when the record needs correcting or when legal rights need defending, but the world of popular entertainment is more likely to be met with a collective shrug than by placard-waving Mormon protesters.
We'll just glance over the issue of legal rights of gays taken under California's Prop. 8, which the LDS Church supported since we're talking about something as shruggable as popular entertainment.
PREVIOUSLY: Here, and Here
SOURCE: by Michael Otterson on The Washington Post's On Faith blog.


Getting Nailed

There are many examples of higher and lower animals that hoard things that sustain them. Humans do it too.
jpg via Time.com 
For millennia, the faithful have wanted tangible pieces of the intangible-- Relics, whether purported pieces of the cross, the Shroud of Turin, or now the nails that hammered Jesus to the cross.
"We're not saying these are the nails," says Simcha Jacobovici, holding aloft a pair of smallish iron spikes with the tips hammered to one side. "We're saying these could be the nails."
The case for the possible rests on a specific combination of research, surmising, guesswork and either the ineptitude or the skittishness of Israeli archeologists who inventoried the tomb thought to contain the bones of the Jewish high priest who ordered Christ's arrest. The tomb, found in 1990, appeared to contain the ossuary, or bone box, of Caiaphas, the jurist who paved the way for the crucifixion. Researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) listed everything found in the cave, including two Roman nails.
The root of the "possibility" is the breakdown in the chain of documentation and a TV producer connecting dots that are really question marks. And the story points out there was a belief at the time of magic powers of crucifixion spikes which could account for their inclusion in a burial site.
SOURCE: by Time.com


Two Songs About One Thing

Our popular music is filled with overt references to faith, and few pop tunes are more religious than "Get Happy," here by Judy Garland from "Summer Stock."

In contrast, "It Ain't Necessarily So" from "Porgy and Bess" is unique from its time to question the veracity of the Bible. Worth seeing for the irony are this version by a choir [LINK], and this concert version by Marion Ross in Jerusalem.


Swimming With Sharks

Every poll says a vast majority of Americans are believers, yet this tale of making a movie about a person of faith getting resistance by the people who want the movie to be successful but who are reluctant about expressions of faith -- is both baffling and understandable. Maybe in 50,000 years, when someone looks at us the way we look at Neanderthal fire pits, the pottery shards of our culture will make sense.
jpg via CNN by NoahHamiltonPhoto.com
A shark took Bethany Hamilton's arm while she was surfing and now "Soul Surfer" is the second movie about her path back into the water, the other being a documentary.
"Sony (Pictures, the film's producer) was afraid to throw in the word Jesus. They said you can have God but not Jesus. They were worried about that," said Kevin Sorbo, who plays Holt Blanchard, the father of Hamilton's best friend, in "Soul Surfer."
Sorbo said Sony wanted to take out another scene in which Hamilton wakes up the hospital. Her father, played by Dennis Quaid, is shown reading a Bible. He reads to her from Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through him who gives me strength." Sorbo said the Hamilton family, which was on set every day, fought to keep that in the movie. 


Baby Steps

As this shows, it took 3.8 billion years for humans to evolve from the one-celled primordial stew and 200,000 years to get where we are now. Next?

via DNAfish.com


No Hell Below Us?

I predict whatever the future equivalent is for a doctoral thesis will focus on how people of our time were afraid of not being afraid.
jpg via HellHappens.com

Chad Holtz lost his job because he struggles with hell.  What did he do for a living? He was a pastor.
jpg via BeliefNet
Marrow Chapel in Henderson, North Carolina, dismissed him not because he doesn’t believe in hell but because he struggles with the concept.  Here are Pastor Holtz’s own words:
“I think justice comes and judgment will happen, but I don’t think that means an eternity of torment.  But I can understand why people in my church aren’t ready to leave that behind.  It’s something I’m still grappling with myself.”

SOURCE: by Robert Gelinas on his Jazz Theologian blog at BeliefNet


First Guy To Clast An Icon

Oh ant/mollusk hybrid of the future, seeing how the 21st Century primate with consciousness still managed to implode under the weight of the differences of our opinions about the unknowable, here you can see not every single example of the species was so cursed and a sliver have known differently for 2400 years
png via BeingHuman
The wonderful Being Human blog, provides a summary of the history of Western iconoclasts under the title of "Who Was The First Atheist?" His research shows it was Anaxagoras from about 450 BCE. He wrote that Gods were just made up, and he lived to tell about it. See their complete list.



It Sure Sounds Silly, By George

Archeologists in the post-religious society that will dig through this society will not do much better to view things like this to explain the paradoxes of religious rhetoric. Sure, this is really just a shallow view, but even deep investigation doesn't mitigate the issues here.

Because this is George Carlin, of course the audio is NSFW


Cracking A Whip

Niceness is the work of the devil, according to the dictionary-deprived logic-gymnast video blogger atop this post at The Macho Response, where the site's Crack Emcee (amazing bio) tears into a murderous voodoo grandma and the unrequited love women have for religion plus some arty zoophilia prints, not porn exactly but not family-friendly either.

In a different time and place, Crack and I knew each other pretty well and his work over there inspired me to put my efforts here. Though more political and sociological than this site, he covers a similar ground from a non-believers perspective, but is unabashedly conservative politically. Check it out, but it's deep dark water;  the feints may be indistinguishable from the sincere (like the anti-Muslim, anti-nice, pro-Christian video)  and it's not for the faint-of-heart.

If Moses Tweeted, OMG Would Really Mean Oh My God


"The Evolution Of God" -- Book Review

In "The Evolution of God," Robert Wright writes that God got more civil as civilization did, or in the words of the 2009 reviewer of the book, "God grew up."
... the increasing goodness of God reflects the increasing goodness of our species. “As the scope of social organization grows, God tends to eventually catch up, drawing a larger expanse of humanity under his protection, or at least a larger expanse of humanity under his toleration.” Wright argues that each of the major Abrahamic faiths has been forced toward moral growth as it found itself interacting with other faiths on a multinational level, and that this expansion of the moral imagination reflects “a higher purpose, a transcendent moral order.”
Wright tracks the conception of the divine, not the divine itself. He describes that as “a good news/bad news joke for traditionalist Christians, Muslims and Jews.” The bad news is that your God was born imperfect. The good news is that he doesn’t really exist.

SOURCE: by Paul Bloom in the NYTimes, 7/09

Nine Countries Could Grow To Be Virtually Religion-Free

I see there are benefits for some people to have faith -- not the least being that we know where people are on a Sunday morning -- but the human drive to be a member of the larger group which served religion for millennia is the same motivation that is causing a group of Western democracies to become post-religious societies. 
jpg via GetReligion.org
Via Releasing Religion, a very fine blog whose mission -- so to speak -- overlaps with this one somewhat.
Religion will all but vanish eventually from nine Western-style democracies, a team of mathematicians predict in a new paper based on census data stretching back 100 years.

It won't die out completely, but "religion will be driven toward extinction" in countries including Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, they say.

The mathematicians say it will also wither away in Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland and Switzerland.
Because the U.S. Census doesn't survey religion, numbers could not be adequately compared,  but seeing data from university and think tank polls inspired the trend analysis.
Studies suggest that "unaffiliated" is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, with about 15% of the population falling into a category experts call the "nones."
They're not necessarily atheists or non-believers, experts say, just people who do not associate themselves with a particular religion or house of worship at the time of the survey.
The root of the trend analysis comes from the human propensity for people to move toward the opinions the majority and the universal, long-term trend (in one case back to 1860) of people moving from affiliated to unaffiliated.
SOURCE: CNN.com Belief blog


"Does Religion Make My Butt Look Big?"

Some future investigator who looks at the country's faithful, will be able to discern that once churches were informed that their practices made their most-faithful congregants overweight, did they do anything to change it or did they encourage it in order to have them as a ready food supply for after the coming Armageddon.
jpg via ryezalchaplin.blogspot.com
Young adults who regularly attend religious services are 50% more likely to become obese in their middle age, a study by Northwestern University shows.
The study, which tracked 2,433 men and women for 18 years, found normal weight young adults ages 20 to 32 years with a high frequency of religious participation were 50 percent more likely to be obese by middle age after adjusting for differences in age, race, sex, education, income and baseline body mass index.
It's obviously not issues of doctrine, but likely the fellowship get-togethers featuring fattening foods at the potlucks and bake sales. Other studies that show that the faithful live longer than the general public, in part because of lower smoking rates, higher incidents of teetotalers and niches like the Mormons who tend to have healthier lifestyles.

SOURCE: Northwestern University


Having The Many Pay To Underwrite the Faith Of A Few

When the history of this time is written, they'll point to issues like this as an example of how our social core was eaten from inside by our hypocrisy of believing government should stay out of the realm of religion, and then having We The People give it a special status and pay for it.
jpg via LATimes
The Supreme Court's conservative majority opened the door for new state support for religious schools, ruling that special tax credits that pay for children to go to church schools cannot be challenged on constitutional grounds.
The 5-4 decision Monday is a major win for those who support the "school choice" movement and aid to parochial schools, and a potentially far-reaching loss for defenders of strict separation of church and state.
By claiming that which you would otherwise pay in taxes, you don't have to pay because you funded religion, Religionists have set themselves up as a special class.

SOURCE: by David Savage in the LATimes


Who Wrote The Book of Love? Or Even The Rest Of It?

Whichever culture follows us in the evolutionary cycle will be dismayed by the fact that our single-most influential book was written by liars who said we shouldn't do that.
Many of the books of the New Testament were written by people who lied about their identity, claiming to be a famous apostle -- Peter, Paul or James -- knowing full well they were someone else. In modern parlance, that is a lie, and a book written by someone who lies about his identity is a forgery.
Most modern scholars of the Bible shy away from these terms, and for understandable reasons, some having to do with their clientele. Teaching in Christian seminaries, or to largely Christian undergraduate populations, who wants to denigrate the cherished texts of Scripture by calling them forgeries built on lies? And so scholars use a different term for this phenomenon and call such books "pseudepigrapha."
You will find this antiseptic term throughout the writings of modern scholars of the Bible. It's the term used in university classes on the New Testament, and in seminary courses, and in Ph.D. seminars. What the people who use the term do not tell you is that it literally means "writing that is inscribed with a lie.
Why does it matter?
Whoever wrote the book of 1 Timothy claimed to be Paul. But he was lying about that -- he was someone else living after Paul had died. In his book, the author of 1 Timothy used Paul's name and authority to address a problem that he saw in the church. Women were speaking out, exercising authority and teaching men. That had to stop. The author told women to be silent and submissive, and reminded his readers about what happened the first time a woman was allowed to exercise authority over a man, in that little incident in the garden of Eden. No, the author argued, if women wanted to be saved, they were to have babies (1 Tim. 2:11-15).
Largely on the basis of this passage, the apostle Paul has been branded, by more liberation minded people of recent generations, as one of history's great misogynists. The problem, of course, is that Paul never said any such thing.
SOURCE: by Bart D Ehrman on the Huffington Post (which doesn't allow a link to only their diverse religion content)


Cognitive Dissonance Of Newt Gingrich

Aliens sifting through the wreckage of planet Earth will see that we chose our leaders for their physical gifts, like twisting their heads to envelope two opposing thoughts and ability to sustain massive weight loss.
jpg via Syracuse.com
Either the former Speaker of the House doesn't understand what he's saying, or he doesn't care. Ignorance or dissembling, there can't be much middle ground.
"I have two grandchildren -- Maggie is 11, Robert is 9. I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."
Despite him thinking that two tiny demographic groups (atheists at 2%-9%, muslims at 1-2% and that's ignoring Newt's adjectives which would make the numbers smaller) will in two generations  control the country -- he seems to confuse how diametrically opposite secular atheism is from radical Islam. People keep saying how smart he is, so this can only be attributed to him either lying and presuming his audience doesn't know any better, or, he's been spending too long on his I'm-Running-For-President-Soon whistlestop tour and has accidentally conflated his buzzwords.
SOURCE: on CBSnews.com's Political Hotsheet by Brian Montopoli


Pagans Have A Right To Be Discriminated Against Too

Note to the archeologists in the future: After our armageddon, it should be obvious that our fear is based in stupidity not knowledge.

MSNBC reported on a Wiccan who worked for TSA airport security who was fired for casting spells, after she blew the whistle on workplace practices. It's an issue complicated by Establishment Clause issues since the TSA is a government agency. Story contains this gem:
... her former mentor in on-the-job training, officer Mary Bagnoli, reported that she was afraid of Smith because she was a witch who practiced witchcraft. She accused Smith of following her on the highway one snowy evening after work and casting a spell on the heater of her car, causing it not to work. Well, actually, Bagnoli said she hadn’t seen Smith’s car, but she had seen Smith. “I thought to myself,” Smith recalls, “what, did she see me flying on my broom?”
Carole Smith proudly acknowledges being a witch, a practitioner of Wicca, the pagan religion.
SOURCE: GetReligion.org


What Would They Call The Sequel?

We called them "movies" wherein we told fanciful stories:
This week saw the release of the Blu-Ray edition of Cecil B DeMille's "Ten Comandments." Yet, in many ways, the animated "Prince of Egypt" was a much better film.

A quiz asks how much you know about the "Ten Commandments" ... the movie, not the Biblical laws.
SOURCE: on Belief.net


There'd Be Less Outrage If They Called It "Jacob's Ladder Dancing"

Not only do some people think their faith is about not having fun, they think it's about no one else having fun either.
The Pole Dancing For Jesus exercise class was the news "brightener" for a day and the news video went viral:

But the feedback has been profound:
The coverage on MyFoxHouston has raised some confused and very critical eyebrows, with commenters comparing her to Satan and calling pole dancing "a vehicle for sins of the flesh," but Dean doesn't mind and defends herself with her faith.
"It's a good thing. It reminds me that we're all human," she said. "I think most of the people who criticize it are ignorant about the history of the pole."
Like many Christians, she will tell you that God reigns over every area of her life and that everything in this world can be used to his glory, including activities we don't usually think of as religious.
"It is the center of my life and everything I do, it all is centered in Christ," said Deans, a mother of three whose family has attended Houston Northwest Church for six years. "My business would not be possible without God. I know people don't get it or think it's a gimmick, but it's an opportunity for me. I have people's attention."
SOURCE: from the Houston Chronicle's Belief column by Kate Shellnutt
Be sure to read the comments. This is a highlight:

I like watching pole dancing and like Jesus, so it sounds like a great combination to me!
My next venture may be the evangelical tractor pull for Jesus!
And if pole dancing isn't too secular to be Christianized -- this might to be (use any definition of "tea-bagging" you want)
jpg via ebroodle.typepad.com

Coffee Cups In Hell

Who ever gets the odious task of wading through the detritus of our culture after we destroy it will be a little confused to discover that atheists don't really hate people of faith-- unless they are in large groups, chasing them down the street.
NYTimes columnist Maureen Dowd offers her review of the "Book of Mormon" by the trio of creators responsible for "South Park and "Avenue Q":
The Mormons in the musical are depicted just as Mormons on “South Park” were — naïve but nice.
There is one song called “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” featuring Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Johnnie Cochran and a couple of Starbucks coffee cups in hell. (Mormons can’t have caffeine.)
The raunchiness is offset by traditional tropes. There’s an odd-couple pairing of two 19-year-old missionaries, Elder Price, a golden goody-goody, and Elder Cunningham, a schlubby boy with a penchant for lying; and a cultural collision between white-bread missionaries and Ugandans plagued by AIDS, warlords, maggots and female genital mutilation.
“Africa is nothing like ‘The Lion King,’ ” a befuddled Price says. “I think that movie took a lot of artistic license.”
In the end, she's positive on it:
In the end, the message is not against Mormonism but literalism: that whatever our different myths, metaphors and rituals, the real purpose of religion is to give us a higher purpose and a sense of compassion in the universe.
“The moral,” the writer Andrew Sullivan observed on opening night, “is that religion is both insane and necessary at the same time.”
Previously: (Book By Joseph Smith) SOURCE


"Either God Is Responsible, Or He Isn't In Control"

In light of the post-quake poll (Smitten By God) saying most Americans don't blame God for natural disasters (though most Evangelicals do) I dug out this TED Talk from Rev. Tom Honey, who for that Technology-Entertainment-Design conference repurposed the sermon he gave after the '04 Southeast Asia tsunami. (Link to video)
I am a vicar in the Church of England. I've been a priest in the Church for 20 years. For most of that time, I've been struggling and grappling with questions about the nature of God.
the people most affected by the devastation and loss of life do not want intellectual theories about how God let this happen. He wrote, "If some religious genius did come up with an explanation of exactly why all these deaths made sense, would we feel happier, or safer, or more confident in God?"
So the first big question is about control. Does God have a plan for each of us? Is God in control? Does God order each moment? Does the wind and the waves obey him? From time to time, one hears Christians telling the story of how God organized things for them, so that everything worked out all right. Some difficulty overcome, some illness cured, some trouble averted, a parking space found at a crucial time. I can remember someone saying this to me, with her eyes shining with enthusiasm at this wonderful confirmation of her faith and the goodness of God.

But if God can or will do these things -- intervene to change the flow of events -- then surely he could have stopped the tsunami. Do we have a local God who can do little things like parking spaces, but not big things like 500 mile-per-hour waves?

Mr. Anonymous Sure Talks A Lot

It seems as if a quote has come from an unknown source, it renounces the supernatural. I find irony in that.
God is innocent. Noah built in a flood plain. ~Author Unknown

Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish. ~Author Unknown

Geology shows that fossils are of different ages. Paleontology shows a fossil sequence, the list of species represented changes through time. Taxonomy shows biological relationships among species. Evolution is the explanation that threads it all together. Creationism is the practice of squeezing one's eyes shut and wailing "Does not!" ~Author Unknown

I believe in God; I just don't trust anyone who works for him. ~Author unknown, from a stand-up comedy routine on television

There are three religious truths: 1) Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. 2) Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian faith. 3) Baptists do not recognize each other in the liquor store or at Hooters. ~Author Unknown

Not all religion is to be found in the church, any more than all knowledge is found in the classroom. ~Author Unknown

Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned. ~Author Unknown

There are ten church members by inheritance for every one by conviction. ~Author Unknown


Smitten By God

No, really, they say he's a loving God. Really. They're not kidding.
jpg via CTV.ca
Most Americans don't blame God for natural disasters according to a poll taken since the disaster in Japan.
The one exception to this pattern is found among white evangelical Protestants. 
Nearly 6-in-10 (59%) white evangelicals also believe that natural disasters are a sign from God. Only about one-third of Catholics (31%) and white mainline Protestants (34%) believe natural disasters are a sign from God.
A majority (53%) of white evangelicals believe that God punishes nations for the sins of its citizens--a view held by just 1-in-5 white mainline Protestants and Catholics.
67% of Evangelicals and 52% of Republicans see catastrophic events as a sign of the Biblical "End of Days."
SOURCE: PublicReligion.org More at Religion News Service


One Nation, Under Canada

You might ask, "who is stronger willed, the one who defies facts or the one who accepts them?"
When asked if humans evolved through natural selection, 58% of surveyed Canadians answered affirmatively compared to only 16% of Americans.

When asked if humans evolved with help from divine guidance, 19% of Canadians agreed compared to 38% of Americans.

Finally, when asked if humans were created by God in the last 10,000 years, 14% of Canadians agreed while 40% of Americans said yes.

This is according to a recent poll conducted by EKOS that gauged attitudes of Canadians toward politics, science and religion. The data is compared to a survey conducted by Gallup in the U.S. last December in which similar questions were asked. (Story in the Toronto Globe & Mail)
SOURCE: Yahoo! News Canada


Why This Man Is Scary To Islamophobes

... because he's not frightening. He's an American-born Orthodox Muslim cleric whose AlMaghrib Institute has classes, seminars and video presentations.
He is confident to a fault, often trailing a sentence with “God protect me from arrogance.” In class, he can be staid and professorial, with flashes of frivolity. He once implored students to “make love, not jihad.” 
Qadhi said he fell down a slippery slope where criticism of Israel gave way to attacks on Jews. Beneath the vitriol, he said, was a sense of victimization — that non-Muslims were to blame for the afflictions of the Muslim world. “When you’re young and naïve, it’s easier to fall prey to such things,” said Qadhi, who publicly recanted years later. Last August, he joined a delegation of American imams and rabbis on a visit to the Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps, which he said left him “sick” and more embarrassed by his Hitler remarks.
In August 2006, at a meeting for Muslim leaders in Houston, he walked up to Daniel W. Sutherland, a Homeland Security official. “Hi, I’m a pacifist Salafi,” Qadhi said to him. Looking stunned, Sutherland sat and talked with Qadhi for more than an hour.
Qadhi rose before a crowd of thousands in Elizabeth, N.J., to finally speak about Awlaki. “I am against this preacher when he tells our youth to become militant against this country while being citizens to this country,” 
While he unequivocally denounces violence against civilians, he believes Muslims have the right to defend themselves from attack. But he says “offensive jihad”— the spread of the Islamic state by force — is permissible only when ordered by a legitimate caliph, or global Muslim ruler, which is nonexistent in today’s world.

Yasir Qadhi's blog: MuslimMatters.org; his site on issues of jihad: The JWord.org
SOURCE: By Andrea Elliot in the NYTimes Magazine; see her Pulitzer Prize-winning 3-part series from 2006


Book by Joseph Smith

"The Book of Mormon" (NYT advance story on musical that opened Thursday) is the work of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the duo behind "South Park,"and Robert Lopez of "Avenue Q," is a critical success based on a round-up of reviews, including from the Hollywood Reporter:
the team has "created one of the freshest original musicals in recent memory." The show "packs plenty of blissful profanity, sacrilege and politically incorrect mischief," but its "defining quality ... is its sweetness."
SOURCE: LATimes Culture Monster blog


Burn, Bury or Bestow

It may seem that only people who love a book are allowed to burn it. It's hard to argue against that presumption.

How to dispose of a Bible, with specifics for Catholics, Lutherans and Jews.
Christians treat the Bible with respect and ask that non-Christians do the same. The basic guideline for handling a Bible is reverence. For example, don't leave it on the floor. If you follow the same principle when you dispose of a Bible, you will cause no offense.

SOURCE: eHow.com, the compendium of how-to everything except how-to dispose of a Q'uran.


Closer To God

I always suspected this Indigo Girls song (as catchy as any song about angst and despair could hope to be) was, at its roots, religious. Commenters at SongMeanings.net think it's about coming out of the closet (both bandmembers are gay), among other things. Many apply their own messages to this metaphor-rich passage:

"Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear"

The writer Emily Saliers (a "PK"*) says on SongFacts.com that it's a little less specific:
"... about not beating yourself up too hard to get your answer from one place. There's no panacea, that in order to be balanced or feel closer to fine it's okay to draw from this or to draw from that, to draw from a bunch of different sources. So it's about being confused but looking for the answers, and in the end knowing that you're going to be fine. No seeking just one definitive answer."
Saliers and Amy Ray's song won the Best Contemporary Folk Grammy in '89 and the Indigo Girls were nominated for Best New Artist Grammy as was Milli Vanilli, which didn't work out for either group.

*Pastor's Kid


Is Comet A Cleanser?

There's a comet coming; so of course there's goofy assertions about it.
A dizzying collection of doomsday predictions have been linked to comet Elenin. The hysteria was inevitable as anxiety grows over the approach of 2012 -- that is supposedly a game-changing year for life on Earth. At least according to some interpretations of the ancient Mayan calendar.
If you believe the gobbledygook on numerous websites and YouTube videos, this is a "renegade comet" that just couldn't wait for 2012 to mess with the Earth.
Though it's now over twice as far away from Earth than the sun is, comet Elenin has already been blamed for triggering earthquakes and shifting Earth's rotation axis. The comet has also been accused of melting ice on Mars and stirring up a storm on Saturn. It's predicted to flip Earth's magnetic field.
Story compares the impact an astrally tiny aggregation of rocks and ice could have upon the Earth with the impact of a mosquito upon a supertanker. But YouTubers are dubious: It's a Dwarf Star; The magnetic poles will shift. One is mocked at the GodlikeProductions.com forum
 SOURCE: by Ray Villard in Discovery News


Pretty Big Love

Some species in the distant future discovering our society might well ask if faith were really so important why doesn't our art reflect it, except in these fringe examples:

The End Of Days Show (25mins of summary and recap)
Forgive them their soap opera melodramatics, their hyperbolic angst and their self-righteousness, but the just-ended "Big Love" was the only show on TV where lead characters wrestled with issues of faith in the face adversity and recrimination. The show never really got into the "why" of polygamy (besides "because") but that gap allowed group marriage to serve as a metaphor for any niche belief trying to endure under the tyranny of majority. Thus, the dramatic arc of having multiple wives could serve as a stand-in for Universalism, Baha'i or Voodoo.

The last program to do anything like that was "Kings" on NBC (videos available til mid-Oct) -- a modern allegorical retelling of the King David saga -- and that never found much of an audience despite Christian advocacy pundits demanding that television represent people of faith in a positive light; see a trailer via Belief.net

There is "Sister Wives" on TLC,  an unscripted program showing plural marriage lifestyle, but I haven't seen much on faith.

Mayor Gives Open Door To Religious Leaders

Art Madrid, mayor of La Mesa, Calif., in San Diego County, met with an interdenominational group that included Wesleyans, Mormons, and Roman Catholics to discuss fair trade, homelessness and disaster preparedness -- providing an example that fairness, compassion and preparedness are values government can share. SOURCE: by Karen Pearlman in the Union Tribune

Animism As A Narrative Device, But Inverted For Movie Plot

Amid this essay about a cinematic trend of animals as metaphor, it's not just cute animals acting like humans.
“Rango,” so thoroughly saturated in references to well-known, non-beast-centered stories, practices a kind of reverse animism. Animism is a set of beliefs emphasizing the power of local spirits: creatures, plants, rock formations and other objects of nature. In “Rango,” though, the “spirit of the West” turns out to reside not in a mesa, a cactus or a coyote but rather in a person, a ghostly cowboy rendered by computers (and the voice of Timothy Olyphant) into the spectral likeness of Clint Eastwood.
SOURCE: By A.O. Scott in the NY Times


Cults Of Many Flavors

5-part video series (aprox. 50 minutes) published at the blog The Macho Response looks at some women ensnared by groups purported to be cults: W0RD Center Ministries which is a Bible-based group in Nebraska, a Jehovah Witness-based group in Colorado,  Freedom Foundation in Alabama, and others-- originally aired on the WE: Women's Entertainment TV's "Secret Lives of Women" documentary series.

Praying They Stop Violating The Constitution

From the Associated Press, a Minnesota lawmaker is asking State Senate leaders to allow only nondenominational prayers to open sessions, after feeling uncomfortable when a Baptist pastor repeatedly mentioned Jesus and Christianity in one of the invocations. Terri Bonoff, a Jewish Democrat from Minnetonka, said:
“We honor God in public and our political discourse, and that’s proper. But in doing a nondenominational prayer, we are honoring him without violating the separation of church and state.”
Story goes on to note that the Amy Koch, the Republican Senate majority leader (apparently a Roman Catholic) rejected the requirement and will not follow the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.
SOURCE: New York Times


5 Things About The Bible

If you weren't paying attention, or were paying attention to something else, the writer pegs five vitally relevant if arguably unimportant specifics that people ought to know about the Bible, believe it or not.
1. Every Bible is actually a collection of books. The word itself means something like "little library." Many of the Bible's books developed over a long period of time and include the input of a lot of people (ancient Israelites, Babylonian Jews and Greek pastors, to name a few), reflecting particular places (urban Jerusalem, the northern Galilee, rural Judah and ancient Persia, for example) and times (spanning as much as 1,000 years for the Old Testament and a couple of centuries for the New Testament). Plus, the collection as a whole developed over centuries. This helps to explain the tremendous variety of theological perspectives, literary style, and sometimes perplexing preoccupations (which animal parts go to which parties in which categories of sacrifices, e.g.), as well as why some texts disagree with others.

There are four more, by Kristin Swenson, PhD, and author via Huffington Post


Forcing Sectarianism Onto All Americans

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) pushes the idea that only monotheists deserve to be franchised in America.
Congress voted in 1956 to make “In God We Trust” the nation’s official motto. A year earlier, Congress passed a law that mandated the phrase be on all coins and currency. President Eisenhower signed the currency bill into law in 1956, and since then all American paper money and coins have the motto on them.
“This is not just about Christians. This is about a number of different religions across the country,” said Forbes.
Of course, none of those religions include Hindus, Buddhists, Confucianists, Taoists, Wiccans, any number of Native American faiths, Animists, ... or any wrinkle of non-believers.
 SOURCE: By Emily Miller on Human Events -- by way of RightwingWatch.org


"The Unbelievers" -- A Book Review

"The Unbelievers: The Evolution of Modern Atheism," by S.T. Joshi
When the priest asks him why, with his days numbered, he still has not turned to God, Meursault, the death row inmate in Albert Camus’s “L’Étranger,” exclaims, “I just didn’t have the time to interest myself in what didn’t interest me.” By contrast, a new book introduces us to an array of individuals who, while sharing Meursault’s religious nonbelief, most certainly do not share in his insouciance. ...

Joshi’s book is structured in 14 chapters, each focusing on an individual whom he credits with advancing contemporary atheism (a term to which one must affix countless definitional footnotes; for Joshi’s purposes, and ours here, it is used loosely to include “agnostics,” “freethinkers,” “brights,” “de factos,” and others). He begins, appropriately, with the British scientist Thomas Henry Huxley, who could fairly be described as Charles Darwin’s self-appointed publicist in the later half of the 19th century, and culminates with another Briton, today’s well known “anti-theist” journalist and essayist, Christopher Hitchens.
Author also includes Leslie Stephen, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Mark Twain, Clarence Darrow, H. L. Mencken, Bertrand Russell, H. P. Lovecraft, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Gore Vidal, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris.
SOURCE: By Stuart Whatley in The Christian Science Monitor


Religion's Impact On Governance

A number of essayists address the issues of private belief  overlapping into public policy, in the context of the House of Representatives' vote to defund Panned Parenthood -- including Valerie Elverton Dixon's (bio) salient piece stating that an unborn child has the rights that its mother gives it:

... the right of women to exercise choices remains under attack. This is done in the name of an unborn child. Let us be clear: there is no right to be born. Birth is a gift. A coerced gift is no gift at all. Thank God and your mother for your life.
The state's primary purpose is to protect the rights of individuals once they are born. So, in the collision of concerns--the rights of women to control her own body and the concern for an unborn fetus--the duty of the law is to protect the rights of the woman. Therefore, we must necessarily leave the protection of the fetus to the judgment of the woman. Here religion may play a part in persuading her one way or another. However the coercive force of law in this instance is unjust.

SOURCE: Washington Post