"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}


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