Siberia cursed by ancient mummy? Of course not

August 27, 2014

According to a recent article provided by the Daily Mail, the mummified remains of a Siberian princess are to blame for earthquakes and flooding in the region. Supposedly, it’s some kind of curse. Why does the Mail focus first on this part? Because it’s the Mail.

An exhumed 2,500 year old mummified Siberian princess is set to be reburied because native groups in the Altai Mountains claim her posthumous anger is causing floods and earthquakes.

The tattooed corpse of the 25-year-old woman was preserved in permafrost until she was dug up more than two decades ago. It was this act, it is claimed, that has caused her anger.

Now the Council of Elders in Altai – representing native Siberians in the region – have passed a vote to rebury her remains, a decision apparently accepted by local governor Alexander Berdnikov.

And what happens when the body is returned to “rest” but earthquakes and floods still ravage the area? Will they claim it’s her lingering resentment or search the area for some other scapegoat?

The article goes on to describe where it was found and what else was buried along with it. Then,

Spokeswoman for the regional government Oksana Yeremeeva said: ‘The decision of Council of Elders is very respectable, but we cannot implement it immediately.’

Currently the mummy was seen as a museum possession and a new law would be needed to give the go-ahead to a reburial.

She said: ‘The mummy, though it can sound quite rude, is still a museum exhibit, that is we cannot just bury it, no-one has done such things before.’

The move is likely to require validation by the Russian Ministry of Culture in Moscow.

I don’t know if it comes down to journalistic “laziness” or harsh deadlines that leave writers with little time to dig deeper into topics. Or are they just being honest when it comes to giving people what they apparently want? I know the headline did much of the work to get me interested in clicking. Going with a flamboyantly stupid headline may gain them click points on their stat meters but how many people will stop at, “Ha, ha, silly people think curses are real” and how many will notice the actual story worth pursuing that gets ignored here?

The issue worth discussing is the one about the rights of locals to maintain connection to their history versus the stance of museums and researchers intent on better understanding that history. This kind of clash is not uncommon.

Ideally, both groups will be able to work together to figure out the best way to deal with the historic pieces. I did some “digging” for other news that would fit this theme. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will officially open late September, 2014, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In an article from last August, the Winnipeg Sun had a rundown of artifacts that had been found while digging out the space for the museum. 400,000 artifacts of various types.

Local aboriginal elders were consulted about the oral history of the site and how to respect the land being excavated. On the advice of those elders, a medicine bag was buried with each of the 500 pilings constructed to support the structure.

“Bringing archaeology and oral history together will give us all a better understanding of Manitoba’s ancient past,” said Mireille Lamontagne, the museum’s manager of education programs. “The museum will undertake key oral histories related to the archaeology project that will be kept as part of the museum’s corporate family.”

The bulk of the items found a home with the Provincial Historic Resources Branch, according to the article.

update Aug 28/14: If you’ll be in the Winnipeg area Sept 19-21st Rightsfest is sounding pretty darn fun.

Many of the performances will have a human rights theme, including a collaboration between the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble, an Israeli folk dance ensemble, and the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.

Other performers will include 100 Decibels, a deaf mime troupe, and Shannon Bear, a traditional First Nations dancer and human-rights activist.


First off, don’t equate gay marriage with tsunamis

August 11, 2014

I’ve never heard of John Stonestreet but he has an article up on to advertise his new book titled Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage.

Like a tsunami, so-called gay marriage has swept aside just about every obstacle in its path, creating a very different cultural landscape than even seemed possible a few decades ago—or even a few years ago! According to David Von Drehle in Time magazine, the swift embrace of same-sex marriage is nothing short of a “seismic shift” of American culture, one “as rapid and unpredictable as any turn in public opinion.”

And that, folks, might still be an understatement.

No, no… I think what that is is hyperbole: “the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech.” (via)

The Bolton Council of Mosques quoted some statistics from the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition for the tsunami that swept over the Indian ocean on Boxing day, 2004. I’ll pick out a few.

275,000 people were killed in fourteen countries across two continents, with the last two fatalities being swept out to sea in South Africa, more than twelve hours after the earthquake.

40,000 to 45,000 more women than men were killed in the tsunami.

141,000 houses were destroyed, which accounts for 47.9 percent of the total damage (BRR & World Bank, 2005)

A 1,200km section of the earth’s crust shifted beneath the Indian ocean and the earthquake released stored energy equivalent to over more than 23,000 Hiroshima bombs.

Until thousands of people lose their lives and the planet itself is irrevocably altered by the sheer power of two men or two women in love, you can’t really equate gay marriage with tsunamis or earthquakes.

Back to Stonestreet:

It was the eminent sociologist David Popenoe who said that no civilization ever survived after its family life deteriorated. But if you don’t believe him, listen to G.K. Chesterton, and I quote: “This triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.”

Popenoe wrote a piece called “The Decline of Fatherhood” which appeared in the Wilson Quarterly. The Sept/Oct 1996 issue of Utne Reader picked it up, which is where I found it. He makes some good points about parenting and stability for children. There are stats galore around to illustrate how single mothers fare financially and how that affects everything in terms of the well being, education and futures of kids who are most likely living in poverty and aren’t expected to get out from under that in any easy way. It’s really long but worth the read.

In terms of G. K. Chesterton,

this was the man who wrote a book called The Everlasting Man, which led a young atheist named C.S. Lewis to become a Christian. This was the man who wrote a novel called The Napoleon of Notting Hill, which inspired Michael Collins to lead a movement for Irish Independence. This was the man who wrote an essay in the Illustrated London News that inspired Mohandas Gandhi to lead a movement to end British colonial rule in India.

Suffice it to say, he was instrumental in a lot of major changes in society as we know it. His quoted opinion doesn’t prove our civilization will definitely fall just because homosexuals want to marry each other, though. There are so many factors that keep a civilization prospering and so many factors with the potential to wipe it out. It’s very unlike that roadside bombs or Ebola, for example, give a damn who’s married with kids.

Back to Stonestreet:

Sean and I also look at the issue culturally. Same-sex marriage isn’t the start of the problem; it’s the fruit of a long-going sexual revolution.

The ground that has shifted is not just moral ground; it’s worldview ground. We’re not just seeing a moral slide toward more and more sexual immorality; we’ve undergone a complete shift in the way we understand the human person.

Gay marriage is a major change. No doubt about that. But watch out for the notion of moral and immoral behaviour. The more we learn about ourselves and other species on this planet, we soon learn that life-long monogamy is very rare everywhere. Morality is on a sliding scale depending on the culture and the practices of a society at any particular time. Slavery often gets brought up at this point; it’s been considered a moral right of people to own other people in America’s past and there are still places in the world thinking this way. It’s morally right in Uganda to kill gays. It’s morally right to stone and rape women in some countries. It all comes down to culture and all comes down to how people are willing to judge certain behaviours, often based on whatever holy writ or charasmatic leader currently holds sway.

Same-sex relationships can be found in parts of the animal kingdom as well. A National Geographic article goes into some detail about that and how same-sex bonding can be very beneficial within a group anyway, even though the pairing isn’t leading directly to offspring. Scientific American has also explored the issue.

So long as enough babies are born to offset the effects of same-sex pairs, it’s a non-issue, frankly. And many same sex couples want to and are willing to raise children. These children would be getting all the benefits of double income and home stability. They’d be getting the positive attention, love and education that will make them profitable members of society down the road.

I think I’ve gone on long enough. Any thoughts you wish to share?

Illinois Baptists to flood victims with the Good News…

May 11, 2011

It’s bad enough that the Mississippi River is up to five times the width it usually is and flood water may take as long as a month to recede in some places but now I read that the faithful are using this disaster as a diving board to splash the gospel around.

Can’t say I’m that surprised, of course. From the Baptist Press:

“We won’t have an opportunity like this to minister to our friends and neighbors for another 500 years,” Joe Buchanan, pastor of First Baptist Church in Metropolis, said May 8. “We must be prepared spiritually and physically to minister to hurting people in Jesus’ name.”

Buchanan said the upcoming week’s deacons meeting would have one agenda item: “Find someone who needs help, and help them.”

They’re hoping to have shelters and showers available in Cairo soon.. because the ministers want to be clean and well rested before they preach to the tired, huddled, waterlogged masses.

“We hope to have shower facilities and bunk bed accommodations ready at First Cairo by the first of June for mission groups to use as their hub as they minister in our association,” Ferrell told the Illinois Baptist. “We have many, many people who will be cleaning up for a long time, and we need mission teams to come help us this summer.”

Ideally it’d be a hub for volunteers of all stripes who want to head down there and provide assistance to people who’ve lost all they own, and be space to house at least some in need of it. Of course, their primary ambition with centers like this is probably to try and make more Baptists. That people might feel like they got their present-day life needs met in the process, well, that’s simply a bonus.

It’s not all bad, mind you. They’ve been providing food and assisting with sandbagging and helping people pack their stuff. I don’t want it to sound like I think they’re only out to show off what good, proper Baptists will do in trying times, but I expect for some of them, that might be the only reason they were willing to get their feet wet. May as well make sure you’re doing good in the last days before Judgment Day…

Sarcastic much? Yeah, maybe a little.

“Don’t blame God for world’s heartaches”

May 7, 2011

Rev. Jeff Barnes of Newsong Fellowship Church has a piece in his local paper with the same title and it’s worth some comments from this peanut gallery.

The question that inevitably surfaces is, “Why doesn’t God keep all these bad things from happening?” Fair question. The answers is connected to human choice.

From the beginning, God gave humans the ability to make choices. However, He made it clear that our choices would have consequences. Ever since Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God, there have been negative consequences. Just read the first three chapters of Genesis. There you will discover that a “curse” fell upon this world and upon the human race.

Sigh. This is one of the sadder concepts we’ve lived under thanks to the existence of Genesis and those who continue to believe it’s a true history of how humans came to be.

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

Let me compare this (Gen 2:16-17) with Gen 1:29:

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”

Every plant and every tree will be yours for food. Every one of them.

Here’s a question that comes to mind: if this was the first version of this creation story, when did it get superseded by the second? Gen 1 just has God making everything, then a couple people in his image. And then he simply tells them that they have command over everything on earth and they should go forth and multiply.

By Gen 2, God’s suddenly being very specific about where Adam can live and what he can and can’t do there. God even makes the new tree rule before he makes Eve. It’s that important to Him. If this was meant to be an object lesson for humanity, what had humanity done by this point that compelled storytellers to alter and elaborate on the story?

The serpent slithers its way into the story at the start of Gen 3 and asks Eve if she’s familiar with the “Eat what you want unless you want THAT one” rule. Eve quotes the rule:

The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'”

We’ll ignore the fact that this presupposes Eve already has a familiarity with the concept of death (how?) and would be actively trying to avoid it. The serpent pooh-poohs that notion and says (3:5)

“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Whether you want to argue rebellion on her part (as the Rev. claims), or deception on the serpent’s part, Eve’s “sin” was wanting to be wise (3:6).

Unrelated, but I wonder if it’s ever been argued that Eve cheated, that real knowledge should come from the effort put in to get it and if she and Adam had worked to learn instead of taking the fast track, this mess could have been avoided. Maybe knowledge isn’t what needs to be avoided; impatience (rather than temptation) is where the problem lies.

Back to the Rev., who perpetuates the myth that Eve’s desire to learn cursed the planet.

It is this general curse that causes the earth to produce tornados, hurricanes, drought, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters. They are called “acts of God,” but they should be called “consequences of man.” The Bible reminds in Romans 8 that the whole earth is groaning, waiting to be delivered from the effects of the curse.

Right, because God created the world 6000 years ago and it was fault-free. Blame Eve for every earthquake and volcano ever since. Nice. Isn’t that some of the most ridiculous tripe ever to be published?

The truth, as anyone with sense and awareness of geology knows, the earth is way old and the whole reason we have mountains and volcanoes is because the tectonic plates that float on top of the magma have been rubbing up against each other for aeons. There were droughts, tsunamis and other natural disasters long before the first hominids roamed and no doubt the dinosaurs that preceded humanity found them to be problematic, too. Are we still debating what caused their end? Was it an asteroid or volcanoes or a combination of both?

In the same way, this curse has fallen upon humanity as well. Things like cancer, viruses, birth defects, unnatural sexual urges, mental disorders and the like can be traced back to the distorting effects of the curse.

I would love to see how.

I think this is long enough as is, so I’m going to stop here. I shall disassemble that bit of lunacy in a second post later today.

Rapture came early to the Bible belt in the shape of 110 tornadoes

April 28, 2011

An Australian journalist and her husband were in Birmingham, Alabama to cover a couple stories. Jennifer Cooke called the experience “surreal” and wound up huddled in her hotel bathtub as the tornado spun its way through town. “It was thrilling in a scary sort of way,” she said.

“To my surprise, they were tracking not one, not two, not three, but four major tornadoes coming from Mississippi to the west of Alabama and sweeping across in a north-easterly direction – and Birmingham is the north of Alabama.

“There was devastation all over the place. There were live web cams coming in from storm chasers. …

“The broadcasters were saying on television that they haven’t seen such extreme weather and such a lot of it in the last 30 years and they were saying, ‘this was really bad, this is life-threatening’.”

The end result was 83 deaths and more than 60 of those in Alabama alone. The tornado was reportedly a mile wide in diameter.

The article also notes 47 deaths from a series of storms a couple weeks ago, between Oklahoma and North Carolina.

I begin to see why the South can be so belligerently religious and prone to claiming the end is nigh. Twisters are a violent yearly threat to everybody there. If belief in God gives them solace while they huddle in culverts or storm cellars or whatever scant shelter they find in time.. I guess I can say I don’t blame them for wanting to pray for their survival.

Edit 4:45 pm — I tend to write two or three posts before work every morning that I can schedule to drop over the course of the day, hence the fact that stats reported in this article are horribly inaccurate now. Associated Press’s most recent report at the time of this update lists the death toll at 280, counting all the tornadoes that have hit the South this past week.

President Barack Obama said he would travel to Alabama on Friday to view storm damage and meet Gov. Robert Bentley and affected families. As many as a million homes and businesses there were without power, and Bentley said 2,000 National Guard troops had been activated to help. The governors of Mississippi and Georgia also issued emergency declarations for parts of their states.

Quotable Kwaku Ba

March 17, 2011

That’s not nonsense language in the post title, it’s someone’s name, the author of an article explaining why earthquakes happen and why the Bible is a bad source for a geology lesson.

He gives some examples from the book, like Job:

Job 9:6 (NKJV) He shakes the earth out of its place, And its pillars tremble;

Comment: So according to Job, the earth sits on pillars and God can shake the pillars out of its place. The problem is the earth does not sit on any pillars. Job is wrong. He is assuming that is the case and then goes further to make the claim that these pillars can be shaken (earthquake) by God. This is all false and has zero evidence to back it up. So the question is why does God sit there idle instead of correcting his holy words and letting us get the correct information?

I expect an apologist would argue that God did not sit idle; he gave each and everyone of us our brains and knew we’d later use our curious minds to research the physics and geology of earthquakes and come to correct conclusions, something Job couldn’t do given what was known of the world and its (sorry) design when his story was first told. And the words would never be corrected because 1) believers tend to believe the book is Word of God and can’t be altered and 2) the only books they want to cut up, edit and make “better” are the ones they disapprove of. Everybody loves the story of Job as is because he’s evidence that faith wins in trying times.

Atheists like me, however, marvel over the story and the idea God gets that it’ll be completely okay to kill Job’s entire family to test his loyalty and then reward him with replacements later. Women and children don’t matter as individuals in any way. One set is as good as another, like herds of cows or goldfish. “I don’t see a difference. Do you see a difference?” Thanks God. They’re new and improved!

Another example from the article:

Luke 21:10-11 Then Jesus said to his disciples:
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” Jesus says, “For behold I come quickly

Comment: Nations rising against nations has been going on for thousands of years even before the bible was ever written. What makes it different now? Now that we are becoming more educated and more peaceful a time will come this quotation will be meaningless. The same with earthquakes, the tectonic processes for the next earthquake are already underway, how come God never mentioned that, and are prayers from Christian working to stop those tectonic plate movements?

About as well as prayers work for anything else – as in, not at all.

Currently we are destroying the environment and causing climate change etc yet we are praying to a god for solutions. Are we that silly?

I think we as a species are, otherwise the notion of prayer wouldn’t exist in the first place. I think it’s like the only tool in the box when people feel powerless and right now we are. We sit and we wait as these poor guys risking their lives over those damaged reactors and we can’t see what the future holds and if we have to sit and wait anyway, we may as well occupy ourselves with something.

Of course, that’s assuming we’re capable of finding a moment in our own busy days to care about what’s happening to strangers so far away.

I guess that’s why people like to assume a god will.

What we have here, God, is a failure to communicate

March 15, 2011

I see Glenn Beck’s claiming God might be trying to send us a message using earthquakes instead of something a little less death-inducing like Twitter.

As survivors of Friday’s devastating Japan earthquake try to pick up the pieces of their lives, one Fox television host offered a reason for the disaster.

Speaking on his show today Glenn Beck went off on a bizarre tangent saying the massive 9.0 magnitude quake that has so far killed 1,900 people, might be a ‘message’ from God.

‘We can’t see the connections here,’ he said. ‘I’m not saying God is causing earthquakes – well I’m not not saying that either!

‘What God does is God’s business. But I’ll tell you this…there’s a message being sent.

‘And that is, “Hey you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it.” I’m just saying.’

The article goes on to quote a few other known names and stupid things they’ve said or tweeted about the earthquake and resulting tsunami, but I’ll just stick to the Beck one. The others were just examples of people who don’t think before they speak. Maybe Beck falls into that category, but maybe not.

It’s evident he believes natural disasters are a sign that human beings are sinners to the Nth degree and that God’s angry enough about that to shake the shit out of our planet rather than just deal with each sinner personally. I don’t get that mentality. Why would I make a connection that an earthquake There is punishment for me being a sinner Here? Sorry they’re dead, but I don’t know those people. What difference will it make to me to have them not in the world anymore? It’d be a far better message if the ground had opened up under me, personally, and affected no one else. (Assuming I remained alive long enough to jump to that conclusion.) But that kind of thing rarely happens.

I wonder about the timing of this so-called message, too. Why are so many quakes happening at the beginning of the year, because nobody’s keeping up on their resolutions? New Zealand had a big one on February 22nd, and a 5.8 magnitude quake toppled buildings in a Chinese province on March 10th. Last March I wrote about a cluster of them, too:

It does not seem typical to see so many earthquake stories lumped together. Haiti’s 7.0 magnitude, Chile’s 8.8 devastation, Quebec’s little 3.9 rumbler, and now Taiwan has had a 6.4 magnitude quake. It would be easy to assume God’s giving us a kick around for some reason but that’s just stupid. It doesn’t stop people from wanting to tell people that’s the reason, though. I wonder if Pat Robinson learned anything from his inane remarks back in January.

Robertson was of the opinion that Haitians had put their trust in the Devil at some point and that’s why they got hit so hard by their quake. They weren’t praying to God enough.

Comments like these are why atheists tend to think religion keeps people stupid.