Archive for the 'god' Category

Virgin Mary Appears in Chicago Water Stain

Thursday, May 12th, 2005

So, if exposure to TV makes you smart, it would have to follow that avoidance of TV makes you dumb. Proof of which is given by the fact that I, who shun most TV programming, only heard recently about the image of the Virgin Mary that has appeared in a water stain beneath a bridge in Chicago: ‘Mary’ image still drawing crowds.

Blessed mother of the water stain

That people actually go out of their way to visit such sites, praying and leaving offerings, is a challenge to my view of the world. These are functioning adults, not children. And yet their childlike faith in divine magic forces me to realize that one of two things must be true: Either they are profoundly different than me (in which case I inhabit a world filled with large numbers of pod people who appear outwardly human but actually constitute a silent army that might as well be a different species), or (and this is the more likely explanation, I think) they are not profoundly different than me, and their ludicrous belief in the magical significance of a random water stain is no different than any number of sincere, but equally ludicrous, beliefs of my own. I just lack the perspective to see how ludicrous those beliefs of mine are.

Either way, scary.

Thanks to subversive pope-domain-registering Rogers Cadenhead of Workbench for bringing the story to my belated attention.

Cruise, Spielberg, and L. Ron Hubbard: The Spiegel Interview

Monday, May 9th, 2005

Here’s a brief Q and A from the German magazine Spiegel, in which they interview Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg about the upcoming remake of War of the Worlds. Things take a turn for the interesting when the interviewer starts grilling Cruise about his religious advocacy on-set: Actor Tom Cruise opens up about his beliefs in the Church of Scientology.

SPIEGEL: Do you see it as your job to recruit new followers for Scientology?

Cruise: I’m a helper. For instance, I myself have helped hundreds of people get off drugs. In Scientology, we have the only successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. It’s called Narconon.

SPIEGEL: That’s not correct. Yours is never mentioned among the recognized detox programs. Independent experts warn against it because it is rooted in pseudo science.

Cruise: You don’t understand what I am saying. It’s a statistically proven fact that there is only one successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. Period.

SPIEGEL: With all due respect, we doubt that. Mr. Cruise, you made studio executives, for example from Paramount, tour Scientology’s “Celebrity Center” in Hollywood. Are you trying to extend Scientology’s influence in Hollywood?

Cruise: I just want to help people. I want everyone to do well.

Spielberg: I often get asked similar questions about my Shoa Foundation. I get asked why I am trying to disseminate my deep belief in creating more tolerance through my foundation’s teaching the history of the Holocaust in public schools. I believe that you shouldn’t be allowed to attend college without having taken a course in tolerance education. That should be an important part of the social studies curriculum.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Spielberg, are you comparing the educational work of the Shoa Foundation with what Scientology does?

Spielberg: No, I’m not. Tom told you what he believes in, and after that I told you what I believe in. This is not a comparison between the Church of Scientology, the Shoa Foundation and the Holocaust. I was only showing you that some of us in Hollywood have set out to do more than just be actors or directors. Some of us have very personal missions. In Tom’s case, it’s his church, and in my case, it’s the Shoa Foundation, where I’m trying to help other people learn about the mortal dangers of pure hatred.

SPIEGEL: How do you set about doing that?

Spielberg: I think that the only way we’re going to teach young people not to kill each other is by showing them the reports by the survivors of the Holocaust — so that they can tell them in their own words man’s inhumanity to man. How they were hated. How they were displaced from their homes. How their families were wiped out and how by some miracle they themselves survived all that.

Cruise: How did the Holocaust start? People are not born to be intolerant of others. People are not born bigots and racists. It is educated into them.

Spiegel: Mr. Cruise, as you know, Scientology has been under federal surveillance in Germany. Scientology is not considered a religion there, but rather an exploitative cult with totalitarian tendencies.

Cruise: The surveillance is nothing like as strict anymore. And you know why? Because the intelligence authorities never found anything. Because there was nothing to find. We’ve won over 50 court cases in Germany. And it’s not true that everyone in Germany supports that line against us. Whenever I go to Germany, I have incredible experiences. I always meet very generous and extraordinary people. A minority wants to hate — okay.

SPIEGEL: There is a difference between hate and having a critical perspective.

Cruise: For me, it’s connected with intolerance.

SPIEGEL: In the past, for example when “Mission: Impossible” (1996) came out, German politicians called for a boycott of your movies. Are you worried that your support for Scientology could hurt your career?

Cruise: Not at all. I’ve always been very outspoken. I’ve been a Scientologist for 20 years. If someone is so intolerant that he doesn’t want to see a Scientologist in a movie, then he shouldn’t go to the movie theater. I don’t care. Here in the United States, Scientology is a religion. If some of the politicians in your country don’t agree with that, I couldn’t care less.

Troy and Josh’s Excellent Adventure

Wednesday, May 4th, 2005

I boggled the other day when I read in the LA Times about 15-year-old Troy Driscoll and 17-year-old Josh Long’s six days adrift in a 15-foot sailboat off the coast of South Carolina. At first I thought these two kids were just incredibly stupid (though also incredibly lucky). After reading more about their story, though, I’ve begun to suspect that they’ve just been really horribly educated at the private Christian school they attend. I confess I’ve let my snooty blue-state side run away with me, imagining the Medievel educational system that prepared them for their ordeal by giving them a thorough grounding in hymns, prayer, creationism, and doing what you’re told, but overlooked teaching them anything about biology or geography, and failed to foster the slightest degree of common sense, critical judgement, or initiative.

Of course I don’t really know Troy and Josh, don’t know the forces that have shaped their lives. And at least in the Darwinian sense, their abundant good luck appears to have entirely made up for their educational shortcomings. Their DNA is still very much in contention for being passed on to future generations, as frightening as that is. But in the same way that right-wing webloggers feel free to construct grand morality plays about news items that illustrate, to their minds, the failures of secularism and tolerance, I see this as a frightening parable about the dangers of religious conservatives’ attempts to overhaul the education system.

Here are a bevy of links, in hopes one or more of them will continue to work as the news sites rotate their content into the great bit bucket:

Some favorite snippets:

LA Times:

Troy couldn’t stop asking questions. Dude, he asked Josh, what will you do with me if I die? If I die, will you eat me? Do you think that’s Africa in the distance? If we land in Africa, should we become missionaries?

Note that when the boys were picked up, they were drifting about seven miles off Cape Fear. They had covered about 100 miles during the six and a half days they drifted, trending mostly north by northeast, parallelling the coast. Which they never bothered trying to reach, apparently, being content merely to drift, sing hymns, and pray for divine intervention.

Supposedly they started out with a single paddle. Assuming they didn’t throw it overboard as “useless” (which they did with their fishing gear on day two, at least according to one account, though most of the articles generously refer to the fishing gear only as having been “lost”), they should have been able to make a knot or two of headway, taking turns paddling. Assuming they were bright enough to figure out the general direction of land (doubtful, I realize, given their apparent degree of navigational clue), they would have been able to reach shore on day one, or day two at the latest.

Of course, then there’d have been no “miracle.”

ABC News 4 Charleston:

Troy Driscol was the last to leave the hospital. He was picked up Tuesday afternoon in a limo and then stopped at Cathedral of Praise Private School. Troy saw his classmates for the first time in almost two weeks. Later, his fellow castaway Josh Long joined him at his mother’s home. The two told their story again to friends and family crammed inside.

“I’ve had boating classes, I’ve been around it my whole life. It was just an accident. It happened. It wasn’t like we were trying to go out in the ocean. We were just trying to get in between the sandbar and beach”, says Josh Long.

Um, no. I’ve had boating classes, Josh. I’ve been around the ocean my whole life. You, on the other hand, are a poster child for nautical ignorance.

ABC News 4 Charleston (continued):

As a joke, a friend gave the two the book “Sailing for Dummies”.

Photographers from the Post and Courier took the families’ picture for People Magazine. The boys have been contacted by the Oprah Winfrey Show, Montell Williams, Time Magazine, and many others. The boys say they’re interested in writing a book.

Oh, no doubt. I’m sure congregations from one end of Red America to the other will snap that book up, eager to learn how faith can bring about miracles in these doubting times.


Washington Post:

“What they did was incredibly stupid,” said L.J. Wallace, who hosts a radio marine show in Charleston, S.C.

Amen to that.

Chris Clarke on the Execution of Stephen Peter Morin

Wednesday, May 4th, 2005

Janus/Onan pointed this out to me. It’s a blog entry on the death of a serial killer, and the mixed feelings it inspired in the person blogging about it, one Chris Clarke of Creek Running North: Life and death. Be sure to skim the comments that follow for some really interesting interaction between the author and various fundamentalist Christians seeking to challenge his questioning of the killer’s deathbed conversion.

Baby Got Bible

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2005

Words fail me: Baby got Bible.

Gods, Mounstrous and Fetching

Monday, February 21st, 2005

Some loosely coupled links for your morning:

An African lion (maybe?) is loose near the Reagan Presidential Library: Lion or tiger, not bear, oh my! And this is an interesting time for me to read that story, because I am just now in the midst of David Quammen’s excellent Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind.

In the book, Quammen speculates about what it means to be a large hominid near, but not quite at, the top of the food chain, contemplating the existence of various alpha predators (lions, tigers, leopards, crocodiles, grizzly and polar bears, a few sharks), all of whom share the tendency to occasionally have one of us for lunch.

Quammen is the author of the even-more-excellent The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions, so you can bet Monster of God deals with the consequences of our making it so those alpha predators disappear, and the tension between those who think such predators should be exterminated, and those who think they should be preserved.

But speaking of God and gods reminds me of a site I came across the other day by following the back link from a cherished commenter. You’ll recall that I previously linked to Jason Salavon, a digital artist who created averaged versions of each of four decades’ Playboy playmates. Now reader Larry Holdaway has done something similar with the faces of 295 porn stars and nude models, to produce Clotho, Lachesis & Atropos, that is, the three Fates. It’s pretty cool.

While checking that out, I noticed another interesting item from the God- (or gods-) obsessed Holdaway: God and the tool making apes, which links to a 1998 Douglas Adams speech, in which the late author said the following:

…early man has a moment to reflect and he thinks to himself, ‘well, this is an interesting world that I find myself in’ and then he asks himself a very treacherous question, a question which is totally meaningless and fallacious, but only comes about because of the nature of the sort of person he is, the sort of person he has evolved into and the sort of person who has thrived because he thinks this particular way.  Man the maker looks at his world and says ‘So who made this then?’  Who made this? — you can see why it’s a treacherous question.  Early man thinks, ‘Well, because there’s only one sort of being I know about who makes things, whoever made all this must therefore be a much bigger, much more powerful and necessarily invisible, one of me and because I tend to be the strong one who does all the stuff, he’s probably male’.  And so we have the idea of a god.  Then, because when we make things we do it with the intention of doing something with them, early man asks himself , ‘If he made it, what did he make it for?’  Now the real trap springs, because early man is thinking, ‘This world fits me very well.  Here are all these things that support me and feed me and look after me; yes, this world fits me nicely’ and he reaches the inescapable conclusion that whoever made it, made it for him.

Okay. Enough rambling for one morning.

WaPo Calls Bullshit on Rumsfeld, Bush; I Wax Religious

Friday, December 24th, 2004

The editorial writers at the Washington Post are not happy: War crimes.

This isn’t my country acting this way. These people do not govern in my name. They are fucking Nazis who have seized power for their own sick, twisted purposes and are destroying everything noble and true about America.

You people who voted for them have exactly two excuses: You were ignorant, or you were immoral. Way to go, guys.

I don’t know how, or when. But there will be a reckoning for this. Sadly, that reckoning will fall upon the just and the unjust alike; my children will inherit the same fucked-up country and fucked-up world that the religious right (among others) are creating for their own kids. And no, there will be no Rapture that will save your virtuous asses from the upfuckery.

The people you are following are Pharisees. If Christ were here, he’d expose them as such. He’d direct your attention to the poor, the weak, the innocent victims of their violent schemes of domination. If you read the Gospels you’d see that. But no; you listen to televangelists and Bible-thumping con men who focus almost exclusively on the writings of Saul of Tarsus, since his words make it so easy to justify all manner of sins.

Sigh. You people are really thick, you know?

Let’s stipulate, for the sake of discussion, that Christ was infallible. He was the Way and the Light. But his followers were not infallible. They were human. They erred. They erred even when they had Christ around to admonish and correct them. And those errors compounded once Christ left the scene.

Let’s put this in terms you can understand. Let’s talk about Satan.

Satan is a deceiver. He’s a nasty, clever adversary. Sure, he lost a round against Jesus. But he didn’t go away. He bided his time. Soon enough, Jesus left the earth, leaving his followers to do their best to carry on His work.

And Satan deceived them. He turned them into the wrong path. He twisted Jesus’ teachings. Steadily, he perverted the message. And Saul of Tarsus was the perfect instrument for that.

Who do you think really appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus? It wasn’t Jesus. It was Satan. And here you are, blindly following his teachings, so smug in your righteousness, so superior.

Like I said; way to go, guys.

Williams on Homo Sapiens

Saturday, November 20th, 2004

Continuing the topic of human origins (and continuing my recent obsession with Michael Williams), I have to wonder: why do arguments like this bother me? Key human characteristics.

Waldman on Gallup Survey of Human-Origins Views

Saturday, November 20th, 2004

Interesting discussion by Paul Waldman of a recent Gallup survey on Americans’ attitudes re: evolution and Biblical infallibility: Meanwhile, back in the reality-based community.

Lambuel Shares the Love

Thursday, November 18th, 2004

I’ve got a thing for really well-done parody, which sometimes leaves me foolishly admiring something that wasn’t actually meant to be funny, but just seems like it ought to be. I previously provoked quite a few comments for and against the theory of evolution by linking to an essay by Richard Paley, and it turns out Dr. Paley is just one of the fine people doing God’s work as part of Objective: Christian ministries.

Anyway, here’s another fun one for you to chew on. Is it real, or is it parody? Objective: 4 Kidz (with Lambuel).

Hello! My name is Lambuel and I hope that we can be friends. I would like to share with you my love for Jesus. Did you know that Jesus loves each and every one of us? It’s true! In the Bible, He says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”… Isn’t that COOL?!

Publius, Aja on Dealing with Christian Conservatism

Monday, November 8th, 2004

Here are a couple of interesting items to help us blue-America heathens try to get inside the heads of red America: First, from Publius of Legal Fiction: Fight Jesus with Jesus. And, from former Southern Baptist and reformed Christian conservative Aja: This is post #2.

George Bush: Not a Real Christian

Thursday, October 21st, 2004

I know Yian loves to read detailed analyses of Bush’s Christianity, so here you go, Yian (assuming you haven’t already seen it, which you probably have). From The American Prospect’s Ayelish McGarvey: As God is his witness.

Bush the Unchurched

Friday, October 1st, 2004

Here’s an eye-opener that crossed my browser today: Why W. Doesn’t Go to Church.

Now as some of you may remember, I was once asked that, George Bush calls himself a Christian, what do you make of that? And I’d replied, I knew he went to church but didn’t want to make any judgments – your religion and relationship is between yourself and God.

But, as this article reports, one my central assumptions about George Bush seems to be wrong. He doesn’t belong to a congregation – Bush is unchurched. And as a Christian, that raises a lot of alarm bells.

First, I still don’t question if he’s a Christian or not. That’s everyone’s personal decision. But I do believe that despite all the platitudes you hear about the United States being a Christian nation, founded by fathers who believed in God and wanted to escape religious persecution, and everyone holding generally Christian values – I believe that most people who call themselves religious or Christian aren’t really “believers.”

I find that most people believe in a worldview that generally aligns with Christian morals. And I don’t think that you’d find anyone who would strenuously disagree with the Ten Commandments. But in the Christian community there are, as they’re commonly known, “CE Christians.” These are your Christians who profess faith in God but show up to church only on Christmas and Easter – the biggie Christian holy days. Most other Sundays out of the year, you won’t find them sitting in the pew next to you.

Yes, a Christian can take private time and introspection with God away from others. And yes, it’s actually encouraged that you have quiet, personal time of your own. But no Christian is ever told to “go it alone” in their walk with God. Being with other believers and being a part of the body of the church is essential.

I quote from the Bible:

  • Hebrew 5:12 “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!”
  • Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you…'”
  • 1 John 1:6-7 “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
  • Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
  • Bottom line, being a part of the body of the church – a part of a congregation – isn’t just a nice to have. It’s an essential part of Christian growth. You need to be a part of the church for your own growth, for fellowship, and for worship. And it’s pretty clear in the Bible that not everyone who merely professes to be a Christian will be recognized as one, and that you can tell Christians apart by their acts and attitude.

    So what kind of a Christian is Bush, a true Christian who walks with God and is recognizable by the fruit of the Spirit? Or an unchurched, CE Christian? I think the religious right who have flocked to Bush’s side should have a good long think.

    Jeanne on Faith and Politics

    Friday, July 30th, 2004

    Jeanne of Body and Soul has some wise words for politicians who would casually throw a few coded buzzwords into their speeches to appeal to people of faith: You who build the altars now.

    Wallis on Christianity, Empire

    Friday, July 16th, 2004

    I really like Jim Wallis. From a column in Sojourners magazine: The theology of torture.

    Christian theology is uneasy with empire, and the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison reveal why. More than politics is at stake in this scandal. Moral theology is also involved, and that is worthy of serious public discussion – especially when this war’s commander-in-chief speaks often of his Christian faith.

    The Angry Jesus Talking Action Figure

    Friday, July 2nd, 2004

    You know how the Web is; you’re minding your own business, researching an upcoming weblog posting on some important and serious topic, when suddenly you’re hijacked by a Google text ad, and before you know it you’re sitting slack-jawed before the talking Jesus Christ action figure.

    12″ action figure dressed as shown in image (staff & sandals not included). Talking Jesus Christ action figure recites the 10 commandments.


    Which is fun and all, but why the 10 commandments? Shouldn’t Jesus say something actually, you know, attributed to Jesus?

    When you listen to it (320K mp3 file) it becomes clear, though. This is an angry Jesus, one who has renounced all that “love thy neighbor” stuff and focuses instead on striking fear into the flock with wrathful pronouncements about what they shall and shall not do.

    I dunno; $34.95 is pretty steep, but that thing is cool.

    Just the Facts from

    Sunday, June 27th, 2004

    An extended Web-based sermon for your Sunday: The scientific proof for the existence of God. You might be inclined to think that 84 pages is a bit much, but remember: this is scientific proof.

    Christian Exodus Dot Org

    Saturday, May 29th, 2004

    Only in America:

    The Logic of Occupation: We Are the New Romans, the New Nazis

    Monday, May 24th, 2004

    Here are a couple of items that reveal how some of us in the US, along with some of our increasingly indistinguishable allies the Israelis, are having problems maintaining a morally superior self-image in the face of the latest news.

    First up, from Jeanne at Body and Soul: And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. She meditates on the Abu Ghraib abuses, and the reaction they produce in a thoughtful Christian like herself. Under the recently released image of the naked Iraqi, coated in shit, his arms stretched out to either side while an American soldier leers at him, she quotes from an essay at beliefnet (Jack Miles explains why Christian ethics demand we treat prisoners as we would the Lord):

    Prisoners have a special place in the Christian imagination. It matters that Jesus himself was a prisoner. To speak the language of American law enforcement, his death was a death in custody. His most influential followers, Peter and Paul, were also prisoners. They too died in custody. John the Baptist, who first acclaimed Jesus as Messiah, was beheaded in a Roman prison. Christianity is a religion founded by men in deep trouble with the law, men familiar with the inside of prisons, whose message was “the last shall be first, and the first last.”

    Jeanne continues:

    The images of sexual humiliation and words describing sadistic abuse have been horrifying. But a naked, shackled and filth-splattered prisoner, arms outstretched, speaks to the imagination of someone raised on the stations of the cross in a unique way. It makes demands on the soul that I don’t know how to meet.

    On a related theme, I noticed the following story, about how an Israeli politician has sparked controversy by criticizing home demolitions in Gaza. From Lapid calls for end to Rafah demolitions:

    “The demolition of houses in Rafah must stop. It is not humane, not Jewish and causes us grave damage in the world,” Justice Minister Yosef Lapid told the cabinet yesterday.

    Lapid added that he had seen a picture of an elderly Palestinian woman searching in the debris for her medication, and had been reminded of his grandmother [who perished in the Holocaust].

    His remarks sparked an uproar in the cabinet since Lapid is a Holocaust survivor and his words were interpreted as a comparison between the IDF and the Nazis.


    But Lapid said his comments had been misunderstood.

    “I’m not referring to the Germans. I’m not referring to the Holocaust,” Lapid said. “When you see the harm done and you see a helpless old woman, you think of your grandmother.”

    I don’t know; I think some comparisons are too apt to be easily unspun. We’d all like to think we’re more like Christ than his tormenters, more like the innocent victims of the Holocaust than the men who carried it out. But the seeds of evil are in all of us, just waiting for an opportunity to grow. And those who deny that the loudest are the ones doing the most to bring it about.

    The Salman Rushdie Poll

    Friday, April 23rd, 2004

    From perennial supplier of cool links Bravo comes word of this fun/interesting poll at Salman Rushdie: What would you do if you saw him?