Past Horizons: 6,500 Ur skeleton re-discovered in museum collection.
“Reaching below sea level, Woolley determined that the original site of Ur had been a small island in a surrounding marsh. Then a great flood covered the land. People continued to live and flourish at Ur, but the disaster may have inspired legends. The first known recorded story of an epic flood comes from Sumer, now southern Iraq, and it is generally believed to be the historic precursor of the Biblical flood story written millennia later.”
The New Yorker: Last Call.
Buddhist monk vs. suicide culture: “Sometimes Nemoto tells his attendees to put a white cloth over their face, as is customary with corpses in Japan, while he conducts a funeral ceremony. Afterward, he tells each to carry a lighted candle up a hill behind the temple and imagine that he is entering the world of the dead. This exercise, for reasons he doesn’t understand, tends to produce not tears but a strange kind of exhilaration, as though the person were experiencing rebirth.”
Guardian.UK: Mecca’s changing face matches the needs of its Muslim pilgrims.
“While Mecca is a site of great historical religious significance, it cannot be preserved in the familiar sense, as its history has not ended. You might not appreciate what it looks like – but it matches the tastes and requirements of the present, as every place of pilgrimage has done in its heyday. ”
National Post: Student finds something that sets the archaeology world abuzz.
“We have found other religious objects in Ferryland but none from the 1620s, not from that time period when Calvert had cemented his vision of a colony of religious toleration. [snip] And then here we have it, the physical manifestation of his belief.”
NCBI/PubMed: Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children, Religious and Secular.
“Secular children were more likely than religious children to judge the protagonist in such fantastical stories to be fictional. The results suggest that exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children’s differentiation between reality and fiction, not just for religious stories but also for fantastical stories.”
Metafilter: Evolution is wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.
Learn of creationism, and how far people can rationalize belief. I think back to my own childhood, in which I got both versions ground into my brain. I have to say I rationalized the Biblical story as a nice narrative that was more archetypal than literal - symbolic, in other words. Had no words for that perception as a child, but I clearly remember that was the flavor of my unspoken thoughts. I preferred evolution because, at the time, it gave me dinosaurs. And I loved dinosaurs. Genesis, Adam and Eve didn’t stand a chance against Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex. Especially when I could walk over to Guyot Hall on the Princeton campus and see a real Tyrannosaurus skull (larger than I was, black as the hinges of Hades, teeth longer than my child’s hand).
NPR: Founders Claimed A Subversive Right To ‘Nature’s God’.
“… Jefferson, like all of America’s founders, appreciated the tremendous value and richness of the Christian tradition and of other religious traditions. The important point, though, is that he understood that value to lie in the morality, and this morality was ultimately based on reason.” Once upon a time, young folks would learn about deism in the course of attending grade school, and noone saw it as a threat to morality.
Youtube: Exodus - Gods and Kings.
WASPs in Egypt. Gimme a break.
Pacific Standard: The ‘Greening’ of Christianity Is Not Actually Happening.
“Over the past two decades, much has been written about the “greening” of Christianity. [snip] Unfortunately, new research suggests this message has not filtered down to the rank and file.”
Denver Post: Colorado claims contraceptive program caused big drop in teen birth rates.
“A state health initiative to reduce teen birth rates by providing more than 30,000 contraceptive devices at low or no cost has led to a 40 percent drop in five years, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday.”
The Daily Beast: ISIS Is About to Destroy Biblical History in Iraq.
The Atlantic: Corporations, Still Not People.
The Art Newspaper: Sistine Chapel to get even more crowded.
“While it will be almost invisible to visitors, the switch to more energy-efficient and powerful heating, ventilation and air conditioning technology in October is expected to have a major impact on attendance.” You would think they’d be more concerned about quality of experience, rather than quantity of visitors. From today’s 700 at a time, to 2,000. Note, I see online it costs 14 Euros to access St Peters and the Sistine Chapel. You do the math.
Jewish Daily/Forward: How We Know the Bible Was Written by Human(s) Hand.
“Satlow, Baden, Lim, and hundreds of scholars like them are, in the end, only pursuing the truth. And however one elaborates the meaning of God or religion, surely they must have something to do with truth. This, in itself, is a religious value, since whatever God or religion can be said to be, surely they must have something to do with truth. If that cardinal principle is to be maintained, the insights of these textual experts must be welcomed, even if they shake the foundations of religious dogma.”
Archaeology News Network: Mystery of the blinking child mummy solved,
The Order of the Good Death: The (Not Really So Very) Incorrupt Corpses.
“After a drink or two, some nice, normal person will pull me aside and ask me about an incorrupt saint they saw on vacation. Usually they were touring some gorgeous old church in Europe when they noticed a musty old corpse on display in between the Caravaggios and gilded putti. The guidebook said it was an incorrupt saint whose body never decomposed, but it sure looked a little … off.” In which the author’s prose suffers no putrefaction.
Archaeology News Network: A medieval treasure in the tomb of Enrico VII.
“The element which makes this relic [silk] singular, if not unique, is the selvedge edge along the length of the fabric and the checked bands at the shorter ends delimiting the beginning and end of the piece: this effectively defines the size of the shroud and can supply important information about its precise function.”
BBC: Priest bought Van Dyck art worth £500,000 ‘for the frame’.
“A priest, who snapped up an original Van Dyck portrait for £400 in an antiques shop, says he bought the painting ‘for the frame.’” The frame is still a piece of art, isn’t it? That’s a legit reason.
Byzantine Blog: Days that live in Infamy - The Fall of Constantinople.
“Late in the afternoon the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmet, entered the city and ordered the looting to stop. He headed straight for St Sophia, placed a handful of earth on his turban as a gesture of humility and entered the great church. [snip] The city was his at the age of just twenty one. The Empire of the Romans was finished.” May 29, 1453.
The Art Newspaper: The Kingdom to spend $1.7bn on building 230 museums.
“... if we only research the history of Saudi Arabia post 610AD [the year in which Mohammed had his vision and began to preach] and say nothing about our history before then, we are belittling Islam. We believe our people were Bedouins and the caravans that went to Mecca 400 years before Islam led into the rituals of going on Hajj that still prevail today.”
NPR: Debate - Is Death Final?
MessyNessyChic: The Lost Desert Libraries of Chinguetti.
Wow. I’d like to visit. Craig (Booklabs), you need to check this out.
Pew: The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States.
“Most Hispanics in the United States continue to belong to the Roman Catholic Church. But the Catholic share of the Hispanic population is declining, while rising numbers of Hispanics are Protestant or unaffiliated with any religion.” Getting into election season again, when I have to remind everyone (as I’ve done since 2000) not to treat the Hispanic vote as an ideological entity. They don’t vote in a group, as other minorities do … yet the media continues to talk about them, treat them as such.
New Scientist: God not-botherers - Religious apathy reigns.
“As the prime minister said in his next breath: ‘faith is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality’ – a position many biologists would agree with. Morality arises from the workings of our social brains. And our exploration of the world around us helps us frame moral codes that reflect the world as it is, not as we imagine it to be.” Again, my italic emphasis.
NY Times: What Does Buddhism Require?
“The first is that life is fundamentally unsatisfactory, permeated by suffering of various types, including pain, aging and death and the inability to control one’s own destiny. The second is that this suffering is caused by attraction and aversion — attraction to things one can’t have, and aversion to things one can’t avoid, and that this attraction and aversion is in turn caused by primal confusion about the fundamental nature of reality and a consequent egocentric orientation to the world.” Facebook has much to teach, then.