What part of the bible is worth following letter for letter?

July 30, 2014

Due to forest fires up north, the sky has been pretty smoky some days. My mother is a photographer who never misses a moment to snap a cool picture. I’ve nabbed this “red sun at night” photo from her Facebook feed.

red sun at night

She always gets a lot of likes for her stuff and supportive comments. This morning I noticed this comment from a friend of hers in New Brunswick.

It-s written in the Bible…that wewill see lhe moon red,,,,”

(Ignore the weird spelling and punctuation in this case; English is not the woman’s first language and she has no typing skills to speak of but she still wants to take part in the conversation.)

My first temptation was to retort with a comment of my own but I decided to put it here instead:

The bible also bans the eating of shellfish. Pick what part you want to follow, I guess…

(Seafood is big in New Brunswick.)

She’s confused the Mom’s Sun with the bible’s Moon in her comment but never mind that for now. What does the bible say about the Moon? First off, the anonymous storytellers were not astronomers. I take from the only version of the bible I’ll read, the Skeptic’s Annotated, starting at Genesis:

In an apparent endorsement of astrology, God places the sun, moon, and stars in the firmament so that they can be used “for signs”. This, of course, is exactly what astrologers do: read “the signs” in the Zodiac in an effort to predict what will happen on Earth. 1:14

God makes two lights: “the greater light [the sun] to rule the day, and the lesser light [the moon] to rule the night.” But the moon is not a light, but only reflects light from the sun. And why, if God made the moon to “rule the night”, does it spend half of its time moving through the daytime sky? 1:16

Ezekial 32:

(32:7-8) God “will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light.” To Ezekiel, the sun is just a little light that can be covered with a cloud, and the moon produces its own light.

Ezeikial 46:6 mentions the moon but only in terms of how to properly honour God on a New Moon night by sacrificing “a young bullock without blemish, and six lambs, and a ram.”

Why do people insist prayer in schools is what God wants? Maybe he really just misses the smell of blood and flesh burned in his name. Focus less on prayer in schools and more on holy BBQs! No wonder he sends floods and earthquakes! There’s always a flood or an earthquake within a couple weeks of a new moon! Haven’t you noticed that? It’s proof I tell you! Proof!

But I digress.

The winning entry in the possible moon verses comes out of – you probably guessed already – Revelations. In this case, chapter 6. To sum up,

Jesus (the 7-horned, 7-eyed, 7-holy spirited dead lamb from chapter 5) begins breaking seals and all kinds of bad shit happens. Before each seal is broken, a beast tells John to “come and see.”

Seals One through Five are supposed to unleash all manner of horror on the world, essentially the four horsemen of the apocalypse to rain death and destruction on everyone plus all the dead martyrs so they can see their killers get what’s coming to them, I suppose. Seal Six:

Sixth seal: A great earthquake, the sun becomes black, and the moon red, the stars fall from heaven, mountains and islands move around, and everyone on earth wishes they were dead (if they’re not already).

(6:12) “There was a great earthquake; and the sun became black … and the moon became as blood.”

(6:13) “The stars of heaven fell unto the earth.”

(6:14) “Heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”

And 6:14 is there to once again illustrate the fact that these authors didn’t understand how the universe worked. Stars aren’t loosely hung on a black bed sheet and at risk of falling to the earth if someone shakes them a little. And falling stars aren’t even falling stars in the first place. Total misnomer. It’s always meteors.

Speaking of, we’re in the midst of the yearly Perseids show, running from July 13 to August 26 and supposed to peak around August 12/13 or so. If you like watching that sort of thing.


Optimism and world peace

July 29, 2014

First, the question posed to Billy Graham.

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I’ve always been an optimistic person, believing we can solve our differences and create a better, more peaceful world. But frankly it’s been harder for me to think this way recently. Will we ever see true world peace? — G.H.

Ted Conversations had a section related to this a couple years ago suggesting it’s unattainable and naive to think otherwise. Some commentators disagreed. Writes Gerald,

Why is it naive? You gotta give reasons.
To anyone living 3000 years ago, it would’ve seemed naive to think Europe could some day hold 700 million people and be more at peace than it ever was before.

Statistically speaking, we do live in the least violent part of human history thus far even though it doesn’t sound like it when you watch the news.

Steven Pinker’s 2007 Ted Talk on that topic is here and offers a transcript. I’ll quote from it but Billy first.

DEAR G.H.: From time to time, the world may experience periods of peace, and we certainly should pray for these (and for our leaders). Othniel was one of ancient Israel’s wisest judges (or rulers), and the Bible says the nation had 40 years of peace as a result (see Judges 3:11).

Cherry picker. Pinker picks bits from the bible for his talk, too:

…we can look at the way of life of early civilizations such as the ones described in the Bible. And in this supposed source of our moral values, one can read descriptions of what was expected in warfare, such as the following from Numbers 31: “And they warred against the Midianites as the Lord commanded Moses, and they slew all the males. And Moses said unto them, ‘Have you saved all the women alive? Now, therefore, kill every male among the little ones and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him, but all the women children that have not know a man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.'” In other words, kill the men; kill the children; if you see any virgins, then you can keep them alive so that you can rape them. You can find four or five passages in the Bible of this ilk. Also in the Bible, one sees that the death penalty was the accepted punishment for crimes such as homosexuality, adultery, blasphemy, idolatry, talking back to your parents — (Laughter) — and picking up sticks on the Sabbath.

Billy goes onto say that lasting peace isn’t possible until Christ returns “to establish his perfect rule of peace and justice over the whole Earth.” He then reminds us that Jesus predicted “greater periods of conflict and war” prior to this event. (Mark 13:7) and blames the human heart as being more of a problem than politics, economics or social unrest.

Where, after all, does greed come from? Or the lust for power? Or anger, or racial pride, or anything else that people use as an excuse for war? They come from within our own hearts and minds.

Which is why he thinks Christ is the answer and prayer will “help you bring his peace to those around you and to our world.”

Yes, because that’s worked so well for the past 1970ish years so far… Religious differences have also been touted as reasons for war, too. Which faction’s prayers should which version of a god be listening to?

John wrote Revelations thinking he’d witness the end times for himself in all its horrible glory and he wasn’t the only one over the years and authors. People today are still in the grips of this end of the world thinking, too. Remember Harold Camping? His doomsday never happened like he said it would and he died the death of an elderly man. Probably his family thinks he went to heaven, but there’s no way to know. At least he apologized for being wrong. Doesn’t help anyone who went bankrupt because of his daft beliefs but so it goes.

Watch Pinker’s talk, or read the transcript, or read his interview in New Scientist where he breaks it down again and explains part of why we get an inflated sense of violence:

the human mind loves to learn about violence. Blood sells. The media don’t report that yesterday in Buenos Aires several hundred people died peacefully in their sleep, but if five of them were blown up, that would be news. More generally, when conflicts peter out it never makes the headlines. Unless you systematically tabulate violent deaths as a proportion of all deaths or as a proportion of population size, you will be misled.

The interview was given when his book, The Better Angels of our Nature came out and I never got around to reading it. Perhaps I should rectify that.

I don’t imagine a global reduction in overall violence will translate to complete world peace, though. That’s unreasonable. People are going to disagree and some people will inevitably turn to violence to deal with those disagreements without exploring any other possibilities for a solution.

Then again, I learned a very interesting thing about baboons a while back. Read the section of this article called Left Behind. These males had been very aggressive and anti social to other troops and females within their own group but they all got tuberculosis from the literal garbage they were eating and all the males eventually died. This was in the 1980s. Female baboons stay with the group they were born into but the males move away so eventually new males found their way to this group. The females did something very interesting with them compared to how other baboon groups were treating new additions. Instead of ignoring the new guys for months, within a few weeks the females started grooming them and showing sexual interest. By the ’90s, it was discovered the males of the group would also chip in to groom the new guys, too, something unheard of for other baboon troops being studied. If a group of baboons can change the way they deal with each other, there’s little reason humans can’t as well. Last quote:

Test a person who has a lot of experience with people of different races, and the amygdala does not activate. Or, as in a wonderful experiment by Susan Fiske, of Princeton University, subtly bias the subject beforehand to think of people as individuals rather than as members of a group, and the amygdala does not budge. Humans may be hard-wired to get edgy around the Other, but our views on who falls into that category are decidedly malleable.

Thoughts?


Are you gay? You must have a fart demon.

July 28, 2014

According to Bert Farias of Holy Fire ministries anyway. He’s adamant that stinky demons live in every gay person. Fart demons.

In an interview with Charisma magazine, Farias begged gay people to “not get upset with me” as he explained his groundbreaking new theory.

“[You] will see that I am actually trying to help you,” he assured them.

He continued: “Homosexuality is actually a demon spirit. It is such a putrid smelling demon that other demons don’t even like to hang around it.”

The “real proof” he has for this apparently comes from a biblical story where Jesus sent demons into pigs and the pigs drowned themselves rather than live in pigs forever. I don’t know this story so I take from gotquestions:

Why the demons begged to be allowed to enter the swine is unclear from the account. It could be because they didn’t want to leave the area where they had been successful in doing their mischief among the people. Perhaps they were drawn to the unclean animals because of their own filthiness.

I guess the latter thought is what Farias had in mind. Back to the article from Queerty:

“A genuine prophet of God told me that the Lord allowed him to smell this demon spirit, and he got sick to his stomach,” he said.

Farias also warned that the growing acceptance of homosexuality in the United States is a sign from the man upstairs that our society is in “the last stages of decay” and that there will be severe “destructive physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences.”

He can think this if he wants, I guess, but if he’s well known enough, or popular enough, then his weird thoughts on homosexuality will be passed onto other believers who’ll continue to spread this fart demon pig story around as if it’s truly God’s proof that homosexuality is the biggest sin of all, even though the original story has nothing at all to do with homosexuality directly. But, when has that stopped anyone…

Gotquestions again:

The Bible doesn’t explain to us Jesus’ reasoning, but displaying His sovereign power over demons could be one reason why Jesus sent them into the pigs. If the pigs’ owners were Jews, Jesus could have been rebuking them for violating Mosaic law which forbids Jews from eating or keeping unclean animals such as swine (Leviticus 11:7). If the swineherds were Gentiles, perhaps Jesus was using this miraculous event to show them the malice of evil spirits under whose influence they lived, as well as displaying His own power and authority over creation. In any case, the owners were so terrified to be in the presence of such spiritual power that they made no demand for restitution for the loss of their property and begged Jesus to leave the region.

It’s such a stupid story. Small wonder I never came across it before, although now that I look at the Skeptics Annotated Bible, I see where the “I am Legion” notion comes from — this guy with the demons that begged to go into the pigs. I’m more familiar with Legion from Red Dwarf. A far better and more clever story if I do say so. The crew lands on a strange planet with evidence of great intelligence and discover Legion. Kryten does a bang-up job with his logical solution to the problem they have once they realize Legion does not intend to let them leave again. Well done, Kryters. Well done.


Reading Billy Graham’s mail

July 23, 2014

Billy deals with this question this time around:

You preachers are always saying we need to change our behavior and become better people, but I don’t agree. I think we need to learn to accept ourselves just as we are and quit feeling guilty over our shortcomings. We’ll never be perfect anyway, so why worry about it? — L.S.

While I’m not a preacher, I agree changing behaviour can be a good thing. Accepting ourselves can also be a good thing. A lot of this really depends on what kind of behaviour we’re discussing, though.

I did a quick hunt of my own blog and discovered I didn’t do a write up for the banned book Lolita when we read it. That’s about a guy who falls pretty hard for a beautiful kid and runs away with her. She later runs away with someone else and doesn’t have a long life but the character of Humbert Humbert became disturbingly easy to feel sorry for. While psychologists and the like can argue about whether or not pedophilia is a mental disorder or an actual branch of human sexuality in terms of what turns people on (these days they say it’s not an orientation), it’s still a behaviour best dealt with medically instead of indulged.

If thieving or any other illegal activity is one’s mode de vie, it’s only a matter of time before the law catches up.

If, for example, procrastination/constantly being late is the societal crime, well, it’s annoying but fixable with effort. You just have to decide if it’s worth the effort. Your friends and loved ones would answer with an emphatic YES, but ultimately, it’s still up to you.

DEAR L.S.: You’re right on one point; we’ll never be perfect in this life. But does that mean we ought to sit back and do nothing about our bad habits or other things we do wrong? No, of course not.

One reason we need to be concerned about what you call our “shortcomings” is because they have an effect on others. If I’m selfish and unconcerned about the needs of others, they will be hurt. If I habitually lie and cheat, others will be hurt. If I ignore my social responsibilities or act immorally, others will be hurt. As the Bible says, “None of us lives for ourselves alone” (Romans 14:7).

It can be easy to forget that, but our actions affect all of those we come across, just as the actions of others affect us. No doubt you’re familiar with the experience of getting snapped at by a stranger or a friend for what seems like no good reason. Maybe you didn’t do anything to deserve it. Chances are, you’re just the unlucky recipient of a bad mood. But something happened to that person to make their mood go dark and they’ve chosen to spread it around. You just happened to be in the vicinity. Be honest and admit you’ve done the same to people in the past, too. I tried to look for a link demonstrating how apes take out their frustration on smaller apes but due to timing, I’m just getting hits for the film I currently have no interest in.

But we’ll also end up hurting ourselves. Bad habits always have bad consequences — always. It might not be obvious at first; in fact, we may deceive ourselves into thinking we’re on the right road. But we aren’t. The Bible is clear: “You may be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

Smoking often leads to lung cancer. There’s second hand damage, and there’s even such a thing as third hand damage. It’s disturbing to read about. Does knowledge about the lingering effects stop people from smoking, though? I suppose the bible was mum on smoking specifically, but nearly any bible verse can be bent to the non-smoker cause.

We should never be content to “accept ourselves just as we are” (as you put it). But God does accept us just as we are! He knows all about us, including our sins and our failures, and yet he still loves us and wants to come into our lives to forgive us and change us. And this can happen to you, as you turn to Jesus Christ and invite him into your life. I urge you to make your decision for Christ today.

I think his advice always ends with this paragraph. Jesus fixes everything. He fixes things better than Ultimate Fix or whatever!

how to fix everything with jesus


Morality Movie Monday: When Worlds Collide

July 21, 2014

As soon as this movie started, I knew I should blog about it.

The very first images after the credits feature bible verses (Genesis 6:12,13):

And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

A pilot named Randall arrives at an observatory in South Africa, hired to deliver a top secret package to a New York observatory. The New York observatory confirms the other place got their math right and the UN or something like it meets to discuss the findings. According to the scientists, two worlds are indeed going to collide in eight months. Bellus is a star that’s on a trajectory in line with Earth. Its planet, Zyra, will be close enough to the Earth by that point to try something pretty bold. They hope “with god’s help and guidance” that humans should be able to put together rockets (modern Noah’s Arks as it were) to escape the Earth’s destruction and land on the new planet even though they have no proof it’d be at all survivable.

(This film came out in 1951 when rockets to other planets were still part of a “dreamworld,” and one guy in the meeting considers them crackpot doomsayers. He’ll soon find out he’s wrong. They all will…)

The ones putting the rocket ideas into motion have to deal with the issue of who to take, who to leave behind and how to decide. They figure between 40-50 people will fit on each rocket. A rich guy named Stanton grumpily puts money into this endeavor in the hopes he’ll be more likely to get a seat on one.

This'll work..

This’ll work..

I don’t know enough math. Will their slide conserve enough fuel to launch this puppy? I don’t know…

A montage of front page headlines and footage of prayers in the streets of the world is added. Massive evacuations have been going on to get people out of the coastal areas although if a star really was going to smack into this planet, it wouldn’t matter if you were in New York City or Montana…

The planet makes it scheduled approach near the earth and rumbles happen, bridges fall, volcanoes erupt, glaciers shed icebergs, homes and forests burn, the seas boil with tidal forces unfamiliar to the planet before this time. I don’t know what their budget was, but they use an impressive series of images.

floodwaters

floodwaters

high tide

high tide

They opt to run a lottery. Joyce, the daughter of one of the scientists is a sure bet to go for the ride. Randall doesn’t think he should go and didn’t get a number, but “she wants you, Dave” — but he’s insistent that his space should still be given to someone else. And they’re all running out of time. Doc Tony (who had loved Joyce and wanted to marry her) convinces him he should come, though, because they may need another pilot to take over flying in case the first one doesn’t survive.

Once the lottery results come out, just before it’s time to leave, people are starting to go a bit nuts, those leaving and those staying behind, but everyone on board gets out okay and they step right into a painting pretending to be another world.

worldsnew

In terms of disaster movies, it’s not the best I’ve ever seen, but it was short. There are a few scenes in there where they show families having to be split up and romantic partings and kids being rescued and a dog, too. There’s also a part near the end where Joyce’s father sees the mob coming toward the rocket intent on raising hell before take off and rather than board with Mr. Stanton, he sets the rocket in motion and the two of them stay behind. Stanton’s pretty pissed off but the father reminds him that the future is for the young. And, really, he won’t have to be pissed off for long. Either he’ll get beaten to a pulp by an angry mob or they’ll all disintegrated by the solar disaster.

I don’t recommend this film unless you like bad science in your science fiction, though.

I didn’t remember watching it EVER but the Man has laughingly reminded me that he and I had watched his VHS copy a while back and poked all manner of holes into it. My memory really sucks…


Atheist Scruples: And Bingo was his name-o

July 10, 2014

Today’s question:

You need one number to win the jackbot at BINGO. A stranger next to you also needs one and it has been called. Do you tell her?

This edition of A Question of Scruples came out in 1986, which was something of a heyday for Bingo obsession, if I recall correctly, and in 1991/92 our school band ran some Bingo nights to raise money for our upcoming trip to Vancouver. We all had to volunteer to work an evening. I was kind of shy at the time (hard to believe now) and stressed out over these women shouting at me for more cards and throwing money at me and barely waiting for me to figure out what I owed them for change. There was little time between rounds for cards and money to change hands. It also stunk like hell with cigarette smoke. I remember that overall. So disgusting. But, I digress.

Ultimately, I think it depends on what kind of jackpot we’re talking about. If this is a fundraising “top prize is a turkey” little thing for a kid’s school, or senior’s centre, then maybe I’d holler Bingo for the woman myself and then point to the spot she nearly missed. I have no room to store a turkey anyway. If this was a night of cutthroat gambling at a real Bingo hall where hundreds of dollars are up for grabs and everybody wants it, screw her. If she can’t see the spot she missed, clearly she’s playing too many cards at once. Greedy cow. (That’s assuming I even notice. I’d probably be too busy watching my own cards like a hawk watches for mice.)

Now a question posed by someone via Yahoo Answers:

Christians: Do you consider Bingo and the Lottery gambling?

The question was posed five years ago. Kerika answered:

Yes. Christians rightly avoid any sweepstakes or drawings that involve buying chances (such as raffle tickets) or putting up money for a chance to win some prize. Simply put, we avoid gambling, which certainly is an expression of greediness.—1 Corinthians 5:11;; 6:10; Ephesians 4:19; 5:3, 5.

She also quoted from some Jehovah’s Witness writings so maybe she’s not typical.

A different response from P?tsie:

I am a Christian. Are they gambling, of course. Are they a sin?… not as easy to answer. Personally, I believe that if you can control your spending and do not over indulge, then it is generally not. There are many who would disagree, but there is no verse that says “don’t play bingo”. What you believe is between you and God, and nobody else.

I bold the last line because that’s exactly the kind of thinking used to rationalize and justify a lot of behaviour including everything that shouldn’t be socially or legally acceptable anymore. And since I’m of the opinion that gods are created by the culture that wants or thinks they’re needed, I don’t think the question is ever really “What would Jesus do?” The question usually seems to be “What do I want to do and how can I interpret the Word to support my way of thinking?” The first way may be contrary to what I want to do, whereas the second way is ultimately win win…


Russell Crowe to star in remake of Evan Almighty

June 18, 2012

Well, near enough, in my opinion. He’s part of the cast for a completely unnecessary retelling of Noah’s Ark:

As well as Crowe in the lead role, Aronofksy’s film boasts Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth and Emma Watson. Furthermore, Deadline suggests Jennifer Connelly may be in line to play Noah’s wife in what would be a repeat of the casting for the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind. John Logan, who co-wrote Gladiator, was reported in February to have rescripted a draft screenplay originally penned by Aronofsky and Ari Handel. Deadline does not offer a name for the Winstone character, described as Noah’s nemesis. Liam Neeson, Liev Schreiber and Val Kilmer had previously been linked to the role, but Aronofsky reportedly wanted an actor “with the grit and size to be convincing as he goes head-to-head against Crowe’s Noah character”.

Part of me sees it getting filmed like an even bigger CG version of A Perfect Storm. I wonder what version of the story they’ll tell, too.

In Genesis 6, God tells Noah to bring two of all living creatures including (as is logical) several of all birds. The King James translation makes it slightly more flowery, but the meaning “two of each” is still clear.

“You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.”

—Genesis 6:19-20[1]

In the next chapter, Genesis 7, God directly contradicts himself. Instead of two of every animal, male and female, God tells Noah to bring seven of every clean animal – although this is also read by many as seven pairs. How can one bring seven of some animals if he is already only bringing two of all animals? Genesis 7 also contradicts God’s statement in the previous book by stating that instead of two of all birds, seven of all birds were to be brought.

“Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.”

I suspect it’s another example of the contradictions that befell Genesis. Different cultures were telling different versions of origin stories and rather than pick one version as right and drop the rest, the bible builders opted to hang onto all of them. Story telling was important as there was no way to pass on one’s history otherwise. These days (nearly) everyone learns to read and write and books are plentiful. In bible days? So not the case.

Well anyway, I’ll add it to the list of films I will probably never watch.


Old bones equal proof the bible is true!

June 16, 2012

At least, as far as Fox News is concerned. Here’s their headline: Mysterious bones may belong to John the Baptist

There’s no way to be sure, of course, as there are no confirmed pieces of John the Baptist to compare to the fragments of bone. But the sarcophagus holding the bones was found near a second box bearing the name of St. John and his feast date (also called a holy day) of June 24. Now, new radiocarbon dating of the collagen in one of the bones pegs its age to the early first century, consistent with the New Testament and Jewish histories of John the Baptist’s life.

What if the box was just owned or built by the dead guy and some family member thought it’d be nice to put it in with him? Isn’t that a more likely scenario than claiming we “just happened” to find John the Baptist? What a miracle! I’m thinking not.

“We got some dates that are very interesting indeed,” study researcher Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford told LiveScience. “They suggest that the human bone is all from the same person, it’s from a male, and it has a very high likelihood of an origin in the Near East,” or Middle East where John the Baptist would have lived.

Him, and how many thousands of other people?

Historical research by Oxford professor Georges Kazan suggests that relics supposedly from John the Baptist were on the move out of Jerusalem by the fourth century. Many of these artifacts were shuttled through the ancient city of Constantinople and may well have been gifted to the Sveti Ivan monastery from there.

None of this proves that the bones belonged to a historical figure named John the Baptist, but researchers haven’t been able to rule out the possibility, Higham said. Their study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but a program detailing the research will be aired on the United Kingdom National Geographic Channel on Sunday (June 17). National Geographic funded the research.

So this is not Fox’s fault? I thought National Geographic put more emphasis on facts over sensationalism but maybe I’ve been living under a rock or something. I’m already aware that The History Channel offers up Pawn Stars and American Pickers. And it looks like the Learning Channel long since gave up on teaching people anything useful. Toddlers and Tiaras? Say Yes to the Dress? 19 Kids and Counting? Give me a break. And I see NatGeo offers up its own share of WTF TV, too. It’s all a ratings game, I guess.


Linkskrieg! (First pass)

June 7, 2012

It’s occurred to me that I’ve collected far more links than I have time to write about, so here’s a batch of things I did want to bring up at some point but never did. I may flesh out some of these at some point, though. Time will tell.

1. The Codex Gigas:

Lore behind the codex suggests the book was the effort of one monk’s labor in a single night. After breaking the rules of the monastery, he’d been sentenced to a slow death – he’d be walled up in a room of bricks. The night before his sentence would be executed, the monk decided to write his last work, an evil book written on animal skins. He realized that finishing the book before imprisonment would be impossible, so he made a Faustian deal at midnight with Lucifer to finish the book, with the devil signing the document by painting a portrait of himself on the 290th leaf.

2. A pastor’s controversial book on sex:

The book was written by Driscoll and his wife, Grace, to, in Mark’s words, “compel married couples to have important conversations about important things.”

In the first half of the book, the Driscolls discuss their own sexual issues using the lessons they learned to discuss how to reignite a marriage whose flame may have gone out. The book’s second half, which is getting most of the negative attention, discusses sex in detail.

In response, religious scholars and writers have blasted the Driscolls’ work on a number of grounds ranging from the logistical to the biblical.

3. Apocalypse tourism:

The Mexican government is expecting 52 million tourists to visit the five regions — Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Campeche, over the next 12 months, says the Latin American Herald Tribune.

According to goverment reports, the boom is part of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s tourism campaign: “Mundo Maya 2012,” to promote Mexico as a unique destination.

4. Ancient document claims dozens visited Jesus, not just three:

The translation of the mysterious ‘Revelation of the Magi’ describes how the three wise men actually numbered over a dozen and came from a faraway land, possibly China.

(Since the bible never specifies how many wise men visited, I don’t see this as news, personally. Straight Dope dealt with this years ago.)

5. “Miracle” survival of a kid with flesh eating disease:

The pope on Monday signed a decree authenticating the miracle, clearing the way for Tekakwitha to be canonized as America’s first Roman Catholic indigenous saint.

“There is no doubt in me or my husband’s mind that a miracle definitely took place,” Jake’s mother, Elsa Finkbonner, told msnbc.com on Tuesday. “There were far too many things that could have and should have gone wrong with his illness. The doctors went through every avenue they could to save his life and he survived. It’s a miracle that all of the other things that could have gone wrong, didn’t.”

6. Utah’s festive season vs atheist billboards:

“We’re glad to share the Christmas season with Christians, but they have stolen Christmas, and it is not the birthday of Jesus,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based organization. “It’s a natural event, the winter solstice. … The shortest day of the year has been celebrated for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere with decorations and lights and celebrations. We just think it’s important to celebrate reason and celebrate reality.”

She added that the foundation has heard there’s a feeling of claustrophobia among non-Mormons and nonbelievers in Salt Lake City. “There’s a great dominance there, so we want to be there, too.”

7. Evidence from Dead Sea dirt may verify some bible tales:

Ben-Avraham, head of the Minerva Dead Sea Research Center at Tel Aviv University in Israel, noted that this is important because, when it comes to earthquakes, the last century in the Middle East was unusually quiet.

“People don’t take this into consideration,” Ben-Avraham said, “but we have mighty earthquakes.”

Looking farther back, one of the seismically active eras revealed by the core samples appears to have been about 4,000 years ago, he said.

“If you believe the biblical chronology, this is roughly [the time of] Sodom and Gomorrah,” he said. During this period, according to the Book of Genesis, God “rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed all.”

8. British PM and Dawkins disagree on need for faith schools:

David Cameron has said atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins “just doesn’t really get it” on the issue of faith schools.

The Prime Minister made the comments as he answered questions from well-known figures for a Guardian newspaper article. Mr Cameron said he thinks faith schools are “very often good schools” and he noted that the church had provided “good schools long before the state got involved”.

Dawkins would rather see more schools promoting secularism and critical thinking instead of traditions and indoctrination.


Pride week is not far away

May 7, 2012

But I found this now and don’t want to forget to post it. I found out about it via recordnet.com and their article about North Carolina’s gay marriage issue.

One hopes that plea is heeded. Vines’ speech is long – a little over an hour – but well worth the time, particularly for those seeking to reconcile first-century faith with 21st-century social concerns.

Many in North Carolina – many around the country – are swimming against the tide of human freedom and blaming God for it. Again, this is not a new thing. We saw it back when God was for segregation and against women’s suffrage.

How convenient it must be to lay your own narrowness and smallness off on God, to accept no responsibility for the niggardly nature of your own soul. Vines’ video is a welcome, overdue and eloquent rebuke of the moral and intellectual laziness of throwing rocks, then hiding inside Scripture. It is a reminder, too.


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