I cannot better this headline, so here's a link to a story in Bartholomew's Notes on Religion: US Wingnuts Accuse UK Daily Mail of Being
In Bed with Islamic Supremicists.
From Failblog, and entitled
Good News Fail:
Ben Goldacre has just recommended that old classic, How to lie with statistics, while analysing a newspaper "survey". But what amused me was the "sponsored link" I saw when I clicked on the Amazon link—it's a book I've been meaning to read since it was a set text at university.
A New World Order: Coming Soon
www.worldslastchance.com USA & Papacy Behind it: Are you Ready? Learn Bible Prophecy.
No, I haven't checked it, despite its probable relevance to this year's Annual End-of-the world Post.
Author NancyKay Shapiro spotted an interesting suggestion for Chanukah in her local deli.
United States: A most unusual lawsuit is taking place in New York, in which a man is suing an estate agency over a rather odd incident which allegedly took place as he was trying to sell his flat:
Daniel Farash said he returned home to his three-bedroom apartment on West 79th Street after a weekend away to discover many of his mattresses had been urinated on, his belongings broken and laid out in strange patterns - and his broker naked and chanting in a closet.
I was ambushed. She came out of that closet like a lunatic. She was naked holding my mother's vase in one hand and a towel in another and screaming all this nonsense,Farash, 44, told The Post.
Portions of my house were turned into . . . a satanic temple . . . like some sort of witchcraft. I was in shock. You're talking about your home - you're talking about your real-estate broker.
He claims that the incident caused him to sell his flat for $500,000 less than the $1.2 million market value of the property (for a three bedroom flat? I thought the Edinburgh housing market was over-inflated!) and left him with post-traumatic stress.
THE DEVIL'S APT. BROKER—New York Post, 25th September 2006.
England: The Church of England is so desparate to attract people to their imaginary friend that they have resorted to bribing the public with chocolate.
The fairtrade chocolate will be given out as part of 'Back to Church Sunday' - the latest attempt by the Church of England to halt the long-term decline in its numbers.
Hundreds of churches across the Dioceses of Derby, Ripon and Leeds, Manchester, Wakefield, Oxford, Guildford and individual churches around the country have already taken delivery of their 'Back to Church Box'.
I'm afraid that most of us who like the stuff already have plenty in stock, and can sing to ourselves in the shower, without having to get up on a Sunday morning.
C of E to lure lapsed worshippers with free chocolate—Ekklesia News, 19th September 2006.
Scotland: A Dundee service was made considerably more entertaining when the minister popped out to powder his nose, and forgot to remove his clip on microphone first.
The Rev John Hawdon was standing in for Elizabeth Kay at Longforgan Parish Church in Perthshire.
But when nature called during a break in proceedings, he forgot to switch off his microphone, which broadcast his every splash and sigh to the congregation.
Speaking at his home in Dundee last night, Mr Hawdon said:I actually had a walk during the service, as I often do. But the congregation must have heard everything. I wasn't aware that I still had my microphone on.
A parishioner said:It was mortifying. Every sound boomed and echoed around the church. We all sat there looking at each other, totally embarrassed. One or two folk managed a wee giggle.
Minister's microphone causes a wee splash at church—The Scotsman, 19th May 2006 (thanks Roy!).
Ireland: A number of churches illegally broadcasting services have caused problems at Dublin Airport, with bursts of static interfering with air traffic control radio. The priests concerned were broadcasting as a service to housebound parishoners, and the relevant authority is now working on a way to let them do so legally, and without causing problems.
On a wing and a prayer: radio sermons risk flights—The Guardian, 11th May 2006.
United States: New research suggests that the classic near-death experience, involving bright lights, or staring down on oneself on an operating table, has a biological basis. Study leader Professor Kevin Nelson of the University of Kentucky said that the experiences appear to be related to dreams.
Study author Professor Kevin Nelson of the University of Kentucky, Lexington, who led the study, said the findings suggests that REM state intrusion contributed to near-death experiences.
He told the Daily Telegraph:I see it as an activation of certain brain regions that are also active during the dream state.he added.
“However, I hesitate to call it dreaming or dreaming while awake. This is the first testable hypothesis of a biological basis for these experiences.”
“People who have near death experiences may have an arousal system that predisposes them to REM intrusion,
Although Nelson is reluctant to rule out a supernatural explanation, this research provides a testable hypothesis, which interpretations involving imaginary friends cannot do.
'Near death' has biological basis—BBC News, 11th April 2005.
A small purple bunny has alerted me to the fact that Google Local has a most interesting idea of both where Prattle Towers is located, and what it is.
England: Renowned artists Gilbert and George's new exhibition has upset one or two philistines, even though it hasn't opened yet. The exhibition uses imagery from a range of religious traditions, both formal and popular.
Even before going on display today at London's White Cube gallery, the 21 new artworks - collectively titled Sonofagod Pictures: Was Jesus Heterosexual? - have aroused the fury of the Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, who has called themblasphemous in the extreme, as [Gilbert and George] will find out when finally they stand before the Son of God
In contrast, some religious people are more appreciative:
But the Bishop of Stepney, according to George, has beenvery polite and very nice, and requested a studio visit.
The artists told The Guardian that the work was inoffensive compared to Christianity itself:
Gilbert:Artists arouse MP's fury—The Guardian, 20th January 2005.Christians are abusive to humans - to women, to queers. They threaten us with hell.George:That's offensive, not us.
England: An annual pumpkin growing competition between two villages has been scrapped after allegations of cheating.
he row broke out after the manager of a plant nursery in Milford-on-Sea, in Hampshire, led his village to victory by growing an 819lb (317kg) pumpkin in a greenhouse. Competitors from neighbouring Everton questioned the integrity of Ian Paton's win, arguing that all entered pumpkins should be grown without cover, on allotments and in gardens.
Milford fired back with counter claims of rule bending by Everton.
After members of Everton and Lymore Social Club retaliated with the claim that every entry should be grown from seeds of theHundredweightvariety - Milford gardeners traditionally favourAtlantic Giantseeds - the social club at Milford organised a meeting to thrash out the rules of the competition, to which no one turned up.
Row over pumpkin circumstance —The Grauniad, 31st October 2005.
Scotland: A fire which gutted three flats in the Marchmont area of Edinburgh is thought to have been started by a crystal ball:
Firefighters believe the blaze was started by a crystal ball which focused sunlight on to a pile of old clothes setting them alight.
The fire quickly took hold and spread through the three flats on the fifth floor. Neighbours downstairs called the fire brigade as those living upstairs tried in vain to put it out.
A 24-year-old man living in the flat where the fire is thought to have broken out was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for treatment.
Dozens of residents were evacuated from the tenement block at Marchmont Crescent as the fire spread across the top floor and smoke filled up the narrow stairwell. Fire fighters using breathing apparatus had to haul a hose up to the top floor of the building in order to start battling the fire.
The entire building has been left uninhabitable because of the extensive smoke damage as well as water damage and a lack of gas and electricity both of which were cut off after the fire started.
Three flats at the top of the building have been completely gutted with electrics fused, windows shattered and everything affected by smoke damage.
The flat where the fire started has been left a burnt out shell with soot covering plants, bed clothes and what little furniture remains. The roof is partially collapsed. Most of the windows were blown out by the heat and shards of glass were littering the back garden.
A Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade warned householders to think about where they placed glass ornaments, goldfish bowls and mirrors on sunny days.
Fire ball guts flats—Edinburgh Evening News, 11th August 2005.
United Kingdom: 20 years too late, Midge Ure finally gets a gong. Ure was awarded the OBE for services to music and charity in the Queen's Birthday Honours. As well as his work with Band Aid, he has worked with the Princes Trust and a music therapy charity. No, there is no religious connection to this story, though being brought up in sectarian Glasgow has left him with a dim view of the whole matter.
Del Boy knighted in Queen's list - BBC News, 11th June 2005.
England: Plans to reform the Roman Catholic diocese of Westminster include some very interesting propositions for attracting new recruits to the priesthood. In particular, the Church plans to target men whose judgement is impaired thanks to alcohol:
The Church is launching a recruitment campaign that will use beermats in pubs and posters on the London Underground to promote the priesthood.
Beer mat ads to recruit priests - BBC News, 29th May 2005.
Denmark: Ninety master bakers are involved in a challenge to produce a new recipe for communion wafers.
We have never tried anything like this before,Svendborg baker Gerner Pedersen said.It's very exciting. I think I will go for a baguette made out of a mixture of wheat and rye flour. That would give a good, strong taste of bread.
Clergy are less impressed with the efforts to improve Jesus' flavour:
Copenhagen deacon Finn Laugesen said he wished the bakers all the best.But for as long as I have been responsible for the communion wafers, I've gone for the most neutral taste I could find,he said.After all, the bread should symbolize the body of Jesus, and the wafer shouldn't be getting all the attention. Just imagine if the pastor at the altar would say 'This is the body of Jesus Christ. Would you like that with chocolate, vanilla or strawberry taste?'
Body of Christ gets new improved flavour: Funen bakers have taken up the challenge to find a new recipe for communion wafers - Copenhagen Post, 3rd March 2005 (thanks to Sister Edith Myflesh S.P.I.).
Going to church could seriously damage your health, according to researchers at Maastricht University. The air inside a church contains high levels of carcinogens and up to 20 times the European limit of PM10s.
The researchers analysed the particulate matter concentration found in the air of a small chapel and a large basilica in Maastricht following lengthy use of candles or a simulated service in which incense was burned.
Fine particulate matter is a major ingredient in air pollution. Consisting of solid particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less, it contains different types of toxic chemicals, including soot, metals and various carcinogenic molecules.
The particles can penetrate very deep into the lungs and trigger various lung and heart conditions.
The researchers found that, after nine hours of candle-burning, the church air had PM10 levels of 600 to 1000 micrograms per cubic metre - more than four times higher than before the start of the first morning mass.
This represents 12 to 20 times the European allowed average concentration over 24 hours.
The study also found very high concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, also known to be carcinogenic.
Will the Irish government use EU legislation to ban incense in churches (which are, after all, a workplace) the same way it's banned smoking in pubs? Will wayside pulpits be replaced with health warnings, and will churches which advertised without mentioning the dangers be liable for damages?
Church air is 'threat to health' - BBC News, 20th November 2004 (thanks to Novice Nun the Wiser).
Italy: A woman has died after a large metal crucifix fell from a monument undergoing restoration in preparation for a religious festival. The 210cm Jesus landed on Maddalena Camillo's head as she walked in Sant'Onofrio's main square.
United States: There are some people who believe that freedom of speech gives them the right to loudly harass people, threaten them, call them names and stop them getting on with their work. Faced with evangelists on the New York subway, 'Nugget' eventually snapped:
If you all don't lower your voices and cease calling me Satan, I will have to sing show tunes.
The other straphangers look at me with stony faces.
I begin to sing.
Its very clear, our love is here to stay. Not for a year, but forever and a day...
Preacher lady and the Jesus police start mumbling and beseeching G_d to strike me down and boil me in molten tar. (I look better in silver.)
The train reaches Wall Street. Confused subway riders check out the scene. I begin swaying and feeling the music.
The slamming Bible man looks like he is going to pop a blood vessel.I cast ye out, Satan.
I go into jazz dance crouch and then spring up to belt out,THAAAAAAT OLD BLACK MAGIC, HAS ME IN A SPELL...
Bible man has to get off the train as I wriggle and shimmy.That same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine!
Bible man exits. SHOW TUNES 1, FUNDAMENTALISTS 0.
I wish someone who can sing had dealt similarly with the character I saw in Trafalgar Square last Saturday - some lunatic with a PA was threatening passers-by that his imaginary friend was going to get them if they didn't do as he said.
Crazy Train or Emotional Subway Attack - Ladies Village Improvement Society, 17th September 2004.
United Kingdom: The Reverend Nigel is worried about dwindling numbers of regular churchgoers and plans to bribe recalcitrant attendees with chocolate to get more bums on pews.
A Church of England bishop has adopted a non-traditional approach to tempt his disappearing flock to return to the fold: chocolate.
Some consider it a sin to indulge but the Church of England is holding up chocolate as a potential saviour for its diocese in Manchester, which has been threatened by falling attendances.Continue reading "Bribing the Lost Sheep"
Cornwall: The Museum of Witchcraft has been badly damaged by the flash floods in Boscastle.
On the 16th August this year, severe weather and flash floods hit Boscastle with devastating results. The Museum of Witchcraft has been severely damaged, leaving much of the building destroyed. During this awful event Graham King, the owner of the Museum, bravely assisted in the rescue operations using his coast guarding skills to help others. The Museum will take time to recover but rest assured it will be back, restored to its previous splendour.
For further information, enquiries, offers of help or donations please contact:
Helpline: 01749 674712
All donations and offers of help will be greatly received.
More detail comes via LiveJournal:
The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscatle has suffered extensive damage in the floods and all the downstairs exhibits have been ruined. The front window has been blown out. The upstairs, including the library seems to have escaped the worst of the damage.
No-one is allowed entry to Boscastle until all buildings have been declared safe to enter. This could take some days and the whole village is cut off as part of the road has been washed away.
In a fortean touch, the flooding occurred on the anniversary of the Lynton and Lynmouth floods.
Notice on the Museum of Witchcraft home page, 17th August 2004; The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscatle has suffered extensive damage in the floods... - DMWCarol's LiveJournal, 17th August 2004; MORE THAN 1,000 TRAPPED AS FLOODS DEVASTATE VILLAGE - Western Morning News, 17th August 2004.
United Kingdom: The worst Number One hit ever is Cliff Richard's Millennium Prayer according to VH1 viewers.
Millennium Prayer, which put the Lord's Prayer to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, reached number one despite many radio stations refusing to playlist it. At the time, George Michael said the publicity surrounding it was exploiting people's faith, and called the trackvileand aheinous piece of music.
Perhaps as some indication of Sir Cliff's achievement at pipping Mr Blobby to the worst-ever number one title, here are some lyrics from the Blobby song:
Blobby, oh Mr Blobby, if humanity's a question of degree
Blobby, Mr Blobby, stay loyal to your Blobby pedigree
Blobby, blobby, blobby!.
Lennon and MacCartney it 'ain't.
Surprisingly, Joe Dolce's Shaddup You Face only managed 13th place.
Cliff hit voted worst ever number one - The Guardian, 13th August 2004.
This image and caption appear on the BBC News web site illustrating a story about French Jews emigrating to an allegedly safer Israel.
French Jews emigrate to Israel - BBC News, 28th July 2004.
Thailand: A Buddhist temple is to withdraw ceremonial fans emblazoned with the logo of a fast food chain after an outcry from worshippers.
Buddhist monks hold the fans while chanting and one mourner told a newspaper that whenever she looked up expecting spiritual comfort during a funeral, she saw a sign urging her to eat at MK.
The fans, normally embroidered with images of temples or religious symbols, have been emblazoned with the MK logo - akin to putting the McDonalds's arches on Bibles in Westminster Abbey - since the chain's owners paid for four pavilions to be built at the Samian Naree temple.
We might even see the logo of a massage parlour if they donate,said one senator, Kamphol Phumanee.
Sponsored fans cause unholy row in temple - Daily Telegraph, 26th June 2004.
Vatican: Maybe it's just me, but I find the idea of the Pope getting access to The Vicar of Dibley, Absolutely Fabulous and Tipping the Velvet hilarious.
The Pope will be able to watch EastEnders and The Vicar of Dibley after the BBC signed a deal to broadcast in the Vatican.
BBC Prime will also screen the racy lesbian drama Tipping the Velvet, the makeover show What Not To Wear, Fawlty Towers and the Teletubbies.Continue reading "Pope To See Vicar Of Dibley"
United States: A conference of health workers is examining a very interesting problem. It seems that there are health and safely issues unique to the Amish, and similar groups.
The conference topics ranged from the best way to mark and light a horse-drawn buggy to food sanitation, screening for hereditary diseases and manure management. The centerpiece was the release of a federally funded study of 1,200 injuries in 2002 to Old Order Amish and Mennonites -- who refer to themselves asPlainpeople.
Like other aspects of Amish life, many of the things that can hurt them are, to most Americans, unfamiliar remnants of an agrarian past -- kicking horses, tubs of boiling water and buggy crashes.
Conference focuses on Amish health problems - Centre Daily Times, 3rd June 2004.
New Humanist carries an interesting piece on the social and religious history of the beard, but with good humour:
And it is this deep prejudice that can lead to discrimination, according to the flamboyantly bearded Keith Flett, organiser of the Beard Liberation Front. This informal network of beard-wearers defends the rights of those who choose not to shave and collates evidence of their unfair treatment. This month they are urging a boycott of The Passion of the Christ:Mel Gibson's film is a very unsympathetic treatment of beards and we feel fully justified in boycotting it.
They see the invasion of Iraq as an attack on men with beards -- a view echoed by beard-wearing MP Jeremy Corbyn, who specifically denounced in Parliament the racism as well as the general injustice of the war.
Take it on the chin - New Humanist, 4th May 2004.
Star Trek's Klingons are a warrior race, not known for their design skills, as Klingons for Christ amply demonstrates.
Klingons for Christ is a place to discover the teachings of Christ in a new light. No disrespect to any faith, race, aliens, or fans is intended. But the way of the Klingon Warrior can, and should, include the teachings of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
I was going to file it under 'Intentional Humour', but then I read the Statement of Purpose:
Klingons for Christ is a website designed by John DeVera as a personal witness to the divinity and Lordship of Jesus Christ. Christianity and Christians, though, are not isolated in warm and comfortable cocoons waiting for the return of Christ in glory. Rather, we are to be IN the world, but not OF the world. This presents an incredible challenge, and a wonderful opportunity...
...It occurred to me that, in many ways, the Christian is much like a Klingon. Of course, unlike our alien counterparts, we do not go after our enemies with batlh'etlh, and our enemies do not normally use phasers, photon torpedoes or disruptors. No, the Christian's battle is against the forces of darkness, a far more noble and serious battle than taking out a Romulan listening post.
And so I have attempted to present an idea to engage your minds and pummel your hearts. I hope that there is much within this electronic epistle to engage you. If much of the site appears to be a light and spiritual-free zone, I hope that you will forgive me for indulging my hobbies. If the site appears too preachy, I hope you will forgive me for being too blunt and graceless in my presentation of the Gospel: the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I'm not sure the comparison is one Christians would want to encourage.
Canada: The former religious editor of the Toronto Star has published a book, and I think we can safely say that fundies won't like it. Its basic thesis is that Christ is a mythological character, and should be understood as such, and that Christianity built on what had gone before, then tried to deny it violently.
The Church of the 3rd and 4th centuries, when challenged by its Pagan critics as to the real sources of its gospels, dogmas, and rites, reacted with fierce hostility, systematically hunting down and eliminating all traces of its Pagan past. It hounded anyone, whether Christian or not, who bore witness to the old truths. It closed down the traditional,Continue reading "Thought for the day"Paganphilosophical schools, persecuted those involved in the various popular Greco-Roman Mystery Religions, burned hundreds of thousands of books, and hurled the charge of heresy -- with its penalty of excommunication -- at any who threatened to question the orthodox party line. Many were put to death. The Pagan inheritance was everywhere hotly denied. This was the beginning of a violent process that was to recur over the centuries and eventuate in a Christianity that Frye once bluntly described asa ghost with the chains of a foul historical record of cruelty clanking behind it.Studying this attempt to squelch the truth in detail for the first time was a profound shock for me.
Today there is no longer any excuse for any hierarchy to ignore the truth of what has actually transpired. The record is now plain for all to see. Not only did the early Christians take over almost completely the myths and teachings of their Egyptian masters, mediated in many cases by the Mystery Religions and by Judaism in its many forms, but they did everything in their power, through forgery and other fraud, book burning, character assassination, and murder itself, to destroy the crucial evidence of what had happened.
United States: Dealing with a derailment isn't necessarily a simple operation.
THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. -- The rabbi walked along a side track of the Canadian Pacific Railway in this northwestern Minnesota city of 8,000, making sure things were kosher.
Rabbi Yosef Grossbaum of St. Paul was hired by CPR to oversee the transfer Thursday of kosher canola oil from one big tanker car to another.
The Rabbi was not needed for any special rituals, but to make sure the rules were followed:
How have you used that hose?Grossbaum asked Jon Kumlin of Hulcher Services, CPR's car-moving contractor, about the 4-inch plastic hose that was hooked between the two tankers. Assured it was steam cleaned between uses, Grossbaum moved to a 55-gallon drum of water heated by a propane burner. He instructed Kumlin on how to dip a heavy elbow-shaped fitting into the water to cleanse it for use in pumping the oil out of the damaged tanker.
The water needed to be boiling, to follow biblical rules on kosher liquids dating to Moses' time, Grossbaum said.
United States: The reason Redwolf appears to have taken over is that I am posting this from a hotel room in Boston, where I am attending a science fiction convention. As well as Boskone, the hotel is filled with delegates to a different sort of convention - the Vision New England (
Uniting Christians for Evangelism, Discipleship and Celebration) Congress 2004 asks
Do you and your church know their purpose?.
Just Imagine the excitement in your church if everyone was functioning under the same set of life-changing purposes. This weekend will encourage you to look at your life in a new way - through the lens of God's eternal purposes.
To help you acheive this, you have a choice of workshops on topics such as
Alienating your neighbours
Targeting Your Community for Evangelism & Attracting a Crowd to Worship and the intriguing
Empowering Your Core for Ministry. Unfortuantely, as I have just discovered that there was no session on
Increasing your understanding of elevators by reading the instructions.
By the way, should anyone be dropping in from Making Light, Teresa says
February 12th marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Gerald Gardner - the man who invented Wicca with Doreen Valiente. To mark the occasion, his local paper the Liverpool Echo has printed an article about the man and his claim that witches turned back Hitler's invasion forces. Was Hitler defeated by witchcraft? - Liverpool Echo, 26th January 2004.
Canada: Animals with neophobia — fear of new things — die younger, suggesting that a lifetime of fearful stress can take an accumulated toll on health.
While the research has so far been confined to animals, it does beg the question;
If fundies are innately scared of homosexuals, original thought, fundies from the opposition party or cornflakes, will they be popping their cogs sooner than people who approach life with an open mind?
United States: The records of the Louisiana Secretary of State make interesting reading:
Charter/Organization ID: 03804630N
Name: BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SANCTUARY
Prior Name: THE FOUNDATION FAITH OF GOD ( 8/12/1993)
Prior Name: THE FOUNDATION FAITH OF THE MILLENNIUM ( 2/27/1978)
Prior Name: THE FOUNDATION - CHURCH OF THE MILLENNIUM ( 3/01/1976)
Prior Name: THE PROCESS, CHURCH OF THE FINAL JUDGEMENT ( 5/21/1974)
Type Entity: Non-Profit Corporation
Hopefully, some fundies will be upset by Joe Perez's assertions that God is Gay.
God made some men gay, because He made them in His image. God made gay men to love in gay ways, because God loves in gay ways. The beauty of gay men reflects the beauty of God. The beauty of gay ways of loving reflects the beauty of God's gay ways of loving. When someone fears and hates a gay man, he or she fears and hates God. When someone denegrates, despises, loathes, and harms a gay man, he or she denegrates, despises, loathes, and harms God.
Women are invited to take part in a most unusual protest this week, to coincide with George W. Bush's visit to the UK. The Scrap-Bush Women's Collective invites us to protest by
Shaving their bushes and sending the trimmings to the Queen. Put them in an envelope with a note saying,We've got rid of our bush, you get rid of yours!When you have done this please send us an e-mail at: God_shave_the_queenemail@example.com. You don't have to put your name if you don't want to, we would just like an idea of the number of women who have taken part in the action.
Among the reasons given for the protest is the observation that
Women's liberation has been used as justification for the wars pursued by the Bush administration, yet women have been left exposed to high levels of violence in the countries the Bush administration has targeted and there has been no significant increase in women's rights. Call for Women's actions against Bush's visit - Indymedia UK, 4th November 2003.
The demonic St. Matthew has conducted a quick, not-very-scientific poll of some neighbourhood kids to find out what they think Hallowe'en is about. The answers he got mostly concerned sweeties. Then he goes and falls for a spoof while looking for Christian anti-hallowe'en sites to take the mick out of. Fundamentalist Christianity and Halloween! - morons.org, 28th October 2003.
Texas, United States: A group of high school students who stopped to pray on a highway before going on a cross country-run were hit by a car, killing one of them and injuring three others. The driver of the vehicle was not charged. Car strikes praying high school runners, killing 1 - CNN, 12th October 2003.
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United States: 46 people were injured when their bus rolled over as a result of their over-enthusiastic hymn-singing.
According to police, the passengers on the bus from Hyles-Anderson College -- a baptist school in Hammond, Ind. -- were singing and swaying on board the bus. Their swaying caused the bus to sway and tip over.
Sorry about the erratic updates. I am now back from Toronto, where one of the major news stories concerned what many Canadians consider to be an excessive mixing of religion and politics: Ontario premier Ernie Eves mentioned that he considered same-sex marriage to be wrong, because of his religion, though he emphasised that that was his personal opinion, adding:
I don't think that I have the right to impose my values on other individuals. That's just a personal belief of mine.
A year ago he told reporters
Everybody has their own personal point of view on this issue. My point of view on this issue is that if two people decide they want to be in a union, why would I interfere with that? and mentioning religion as the reason for his shift in opinion seems to have reflected negatively on the Progressive Conservative politician.
Around Toronto, I was surprised by the sheer number of evangelists about town, though most people just smiled sweetly at them and went on their way. I'm not sure how Jews For Jesus thought they would attract any of their target audience on a Saturday afternoon though. Murray Campbell - The Globe and Mail, 27th August 2003; Premier now against same-sex marriage - Toronto Star, 26th August 2003.
Canada: The Hugo award for best fan artist went to well-known pagan craftswoman Sue Mason. The award was accepted on her behalf by Mary Kay Kare at a ceremony in Toronto last night. Hugo Award Winners - Locus, 30th August 2003.
Gary Younge has an interesting article in today's Grauniad discussing the role of religion in US politics, the contradictions between the constitution and the beliefs of the fundamentalists and the problems it has caused in international relations:
America's religiosity is not something it shares with even its few western allies, let alone the many countries that oppose its current path. Yet another poll shows that among countries where people believe religion to be very important, America's views are closer to Pakistan's and Nigeria's than to France's or Germany's.
Bush speaks in the name of the founding fathers but believes he is doing the work of the holy father. He cannot do both and condemn fundamentalism. But if he feels he must try, he might start with the sixth commandment:Thou shalt not kill.
God help America - The Guardian, 25th August 2003.
Ireland: Altar boys and girls are being exposed to danger, according to an Irish government minister, and it isn't the usual problem.
Jim McDade, who is a former family doctor, said the children were at risk because they inhaled the carcinogenic smoke produced when incense is burnt close by.
Here you have quite a thick billowing type of smoke. Sometimes you see the children with this instrument which is down normally around their ankles, and the smoke just keeps coming up,Dr McDade said.
And sometimes I cringe when I see them literally inhaling this, because sometimes there is an aroma of it and all I was trying to do was making people aware.
Which should worry Wiccans, and other incense-prone groups too. Irish minister links incense to cancer - BBC News, 22nd August 2003.
Japan: Last week, a student at Kwansei Gakuin University allegedly burned 14,000 paper cranes destined for the memorial to those killed in the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima 58 years ago. As an apology, staff, graduates and students at the university have made and donated 91,000 cranes. Univ. in Hiroshima crane-burning vandalism sends replacements - Japan Today, 6th August 2003.
Here are a few interesting items that have caught my attention lately:
Om: Wallybrane discovers Zen Judaism.
David Aaronovitch has a go at the Reverend Angela Tilby in today's Grauniad who, he feels, abused her spot on Thought For The Day to
launch an unprovoked attack on paganism:
You can say what you like about pagans, but just try bad-mouthing one of the monotheisms in this way, and see what happens. This is partly because most of us unthinkingly subscribe to the Whig Theory of Religious Development, in which (to quote the Catholic Encyclopaedia) religionsdeveloped upwardsfrom totemism, animism, solar or astral myth, and nature worship, via zoolatry and polytheism, eventually to reach the enlightened and civilised state of monotheism. So we begin with millions of spirits, sprites and demons and advance, inexorably, whittling as we go, until we have just one omnipotent deity. Then along comes Richard Dawkins and tries to reduce that figure still further.
But actually the informal beatification of Diana is no more pagan than, say, the beatification of Padre Pio (the stigmata'ed priest made St Pio of Pietralcina just last year), or any of the other canonisations of the Catholic church. Catholics try, rather unconvincingly, to show how conferring sainthood is different in principle to the pagan apotheosis (the process that made Claudius, for instance, into a God), but the distinction doesn't quite wash. Yet Tilby did not use Catholicism as her point of criticism.
After noting that monotheism is anti-pluralistic, and contributes to intolerance, he concludes:
Actually, it is all about sex. Pagan religions tend to be about a respect for, and a connection with, nature. So, as the Catholic Encyclopaedia notes, it was in the pagan fertility cults associated with thedying and rising godthat theworst perversions existed. Old Ishtar, Cybele (later Artemis, later Diana) and Astarte all had their temple whores, and their lewd rites.
Lewd rites: that's exactly what I'd like more of on Thought For The Day. And less Angela Tilby.
Why Diana is as good a god as any - The Guardian, 15th July 2003.
United States: A house in California, mistakenly believed to be the site of four murders is attracting some strange trespassers:
Cross has seen everything from people holding candles and circling the house in black robes, to a man shooting heroin in the front yard, to gang violence. Her 10-year-old son was physically threatened once after asking visitors to leave.
In the past year they've gotten more destructive. Lately they're more intent on breaking things up,Cross said.They have total disregard for anybody else's privacy.
Cross said 90 percent of the trespassersare just kids that are curious,but said there is no way for her family to know which 90 percent that is.
The tone has changed. The new writing on the walls is more evil,said Tyra Stevens, practice manager of the Equine Hospital.
Urban legend turns vacant house into teen party palace - San Bernadino County Sun, 6th July 2003.
The Celebrity Atheist List is
an offbeat collection of notable individuals who have been public about their lack of belief in deities, and makes interesting reading. The site's Message Board is much more entertaining though, as various superstitious types have moved in to take pot-shots. For example, Joe feels that it is an appropriate forum to announce Christians parents beware. The problem, it seems, is his friend's daughter:
My friend's 16 year old daughter has turned to atheism after this school year. She said that this year in high school her daughter started questioning God after she learned alot about science. And now she's an atheist. Christian parents need to be concerned with this. Satan is now in our schools. I have already been sending my 5 kids to a private Christian school and I advise all saved parents to do the same.
All of which led me to this amusing little site.
God hates fags? No, god hates christians. Jesus was the biggest fag of them all! Jesus was gay. Also, Jesus was black.
United States: A preacher in Forest, Ohio, got exactly what he asked for when he asked God for a sign during a service. Damage estimated at $20,000 was caused when the church was hit by lightning:
[Ronnie] Cheney said the lightning traveled through the microphone, blew out the sound system and enveloped the preacher, who wasn't hurt.
Afterward, services resumed for about 20 minutes until the congregation realized the church was on fire. The building was evacuated.
Lightning Strikes Preacher Who Asked For Sign - Associated Press (via local6.com), 3rd July 2003.
South Africa: Witchcraft has been blamed for the death of a baby whose skull was ripped apart and brain eaten by a baboon. Reports of the incident have been full of fascinating detail about witchcraft beliefs in the area:
Petrus Malgas, who tried to help rescue little Neo, told City Press that when he and other neighbours threw stones at the baboon, it climbed up the telephone pole and ate the child's brain before it fled into the bush.
Saomeng Phalatse of Sekhing said the whole episode boiled down to witchcraft, because it was unheard of that a baboon would eat a human being.
Although some people with western beliefs do not believe it, we know for a fact that African chemistry works in these areas.
A few years ago in Taung an inyanga, through her medicines, caused a young man to find himself with his bed and all on the top of his roof.
The incident was even shown on Bop TV. Why should we not believe Tukane was bewitched?said Gomotseng Badirwang, clutching her two-month-old baby.
Witchcraft, says baby's mom - News24, 8th June 2003.
Want your city to prosper? Well
you should know the economic price of intolerance. Recent research conducted in the United States by Richard Florida, Heinz Professor of Regional Economic Development at Carnegie Mellon University, and Gary Gates, an Urban Institute demographer demonstrates that tolerance of lesbians and gay men, immigrants and other minorities is much more fundamental to sustained economic growth than any amount of tax cuts.
...the big new-ideas and cutting-edge industries that lead to sustained prosperity are more likely to exist where gay people feel welcome. Most centers of tech-based business growth also have the highest concentrations of gay couples. Conversely, major areas with relatively few gay couples tend to be slow- or no-growth places. Pittsburgh and Buffalo, which have low percentages of gay couples, were two of only three major regions to lose population from 1990 to 2000.
Innovation and overall regional economic vitality also are closely associated with the presence of gays and other indicators of tolerance and diversity, such as the percentage of immigrants and the level of racial and ethnic integration.
Why? Creative, innovative and entrepreneurial activities tend to flourish in the same kinds of places that attract gays and others outside the norm. To put it bluntly, a place where it's OK for men to walk down the street holding hands will probably also be a place where Indian engineers, tattooed software geeks and foreign-born entrepreneurs feel at home. When people from varied backgrounds, places and attitudes can collide, economic home runs are likely.
The researchers also noticed a significant number of heterosexual people who looked for a visible gay community as a sign that a city was a vibrant and interesting place to live. Gay-tolerant societies prosper economically - USA Today, 30th April 2003.
Kenya: The death of an MP and two others has acquired interesting overtones with the discovery of a bag containing
suspected witchcraft material near where James Mutiso drowned. There is also much speculation as to why a female traditional healer was in the car with the MP. The three people drowned when the car they were travelling in was swept away as the driver tried to cross a swollen river.
Among superstitious villagers, the discovery of the witchcraft material is being cited as proof that evil spirits had beenunleashedto destroy their MP.
In Ukambani, such things don't just happen. The vehicle stalled mid-stream and now witchcraft tools are found around the scene. There is something fishy here,said Mr Sebastian Mutua from Katangi, firmly dismissing suggestions the incident might be a normal rainy season accident.
Witchcraft riddle in MP's death - Daily Nation, 3rd May 2003.
Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board has called for the return of the Beltane Fire Festival.
Graham Birse, head of marketing at the tourist board, said:It's a great pity the festival was cancelled .
We hope the differences between those involved are temporary, and the organisers can sort out funding and sit down with the authorities to ensure the festival complies with safety procedures, so that residents and visitors can be offered a unique experience in the years to come.
Tourists planning to visit the Scottish capital should note that it has not stopped raining since the Council decided to ban the public from Calton Hill on Beltaine, that the shopping is better in Glasgow and the Highlands are much interesting in terms of scenery and historic monuments. Tourist call to revive fire festival - Edinburgh Evening News, 2nd May 2003.
'sstory' is suspicious:
I think the creationists have initiated a campaign at Amazon to alter the recommendations. I went to my Amazon page, after noticing a book on Bottomquark, and in my personalized section, where I ordinarily get recommendations about scientific or historical books, because it's noticed these trends in my purchasing, there was this pile of recommendations for creationism books...
Now this didn't just happen by accident. Curious, I went to one of the creationism book's pages. There were lots of comments from readers, most with dozens of 'this review was helpful to me' indications.
It's clear from that evidence that they're trying to game the system to increase recommendations of creationism books, and it's successful.
Amazon Recommendations Influenced by Creationists? - Bottomquark science and technology news, 20th April 2003 (via BoingBoing)
This week's New Scientist letters page features a useful note from Brian Myres which explains the difference between a hypothesis and a theory, and observes how fundies take advantage of people not having paid attention when it was explained to them in school. The letter was inspired by the fact that the writer of a recent article hadn't been listening either, and neither had the sub-editors:
He tells us that Adam Heller proposed aradical theory, when all Heller is doing is hypothesising. He has no data. Yet scientific theories must have data to support them. Lawton then goes on to say thatthere's reason to believe this isn't just a clever theory. Now there's grist for Jerry Falwell's mill. Falwell is the minister who travels the US telling everyone thatevolution is just a theory, and Lawton has now validated that stupid statement.
Theories aren't guesses - New Scientist, 19th April 2003.
We propose that Judaism is not simply a religion to be believed in, but one to be considered, discussed, and evolved. Jewish texts and rituals are not closed, but open to commentary, disagreement, and even revision. Judaism was established as a form of inquiry rather than a set of answers - yet, due to many circumstances - this spirit of inquiry has waned over the past several decades, particularly in America.
The site also contains a brief explanation of Passover, which starts at sunset today, and why the rituals associated with it make such a good choice for the project:
Part of what makes Passover unique--and such a terrific place to begin practicing a more participatory and collaborative form of Judaism--is the extent to which our interpretations of this holiday vary. Perhaps because the Seder is performed in the home, around a familiar table, people have felt more comfortable doing it their own way than other, synagogue based rituals. That's what makes it ideal for an "open source" inquiry.
Note: Proof of the Conspiracy! This is the 666th post in the Prattle.
Kanpur, India: Railway workers are being offered regular yoga and meditation sessions as a means of reducing accidents caused by human error.
Taking the lead, the North-Eastern Railway have started yoga camp at the Anwarganj railway station here as the officials reasoned that staff having cool and fresh mind could ensure safe and smooth train movement.The report of medical examinations came as an eye-opener for the Railways. The report declared nearly 35 drivers and guards unfit for their jobs, said S K Suri, superintendent of the Anwarganj railway station.Most of the staff is suffering from diabetes and irregular heart beat.
The running staff suffering from such ailments are prone to commit mistakes leading to accidents, he added.It is first time in the history of N-E Railway when such meditation or yoga camps were being organised at a railway station to make its staff tension and stress freesaid Suri.We have created a complete peaceful atmosphere in the 'dhyan-kaksha' where guards and drivers of different trains will take a complete rest and make themselves fit, he added.
Yoga and meditation for NER staff - Times of India, 7th April 2003.