NY Times: The Puritan War on Christmas.
“The Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony went one step further and actually outlawed the celebration of Christmas. From 1659 to 1681, anyone caught celebrating Christmas in the colony would be fined five shillings. Well into the 18th century, those who attempted to keep the tradition of wassailing alive in New England often found themselves arrested and fined. Indeed, the Puritan War on Christmas lasted up to 1870, when Christmas became a legally recognized federal holiday.” Well, after all, the Puritans were saturnine about their Bible history …
Religion News Service: ~4 in 10 Americans see signs of end times in extreme weather.
“More than a third of Americans believe the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence that we are in the ‘end times’ described in the New Testament—a period of turmoil preceding Jesus’ Second Coming and the end of the world.” Which means they can sit back, wring their hands, thump their Bibles, and do nothing about it because it’s “God’s will”.
FastCo: Brutal Baroque - An Ode To Midcentury Modern Churches.
Boy, if you never understood Brutalism, check this church out. You’ll understand it in a split second.
LiveScience: Science vs. God - Does Progress Moot Faith?
“In the last 10,000 years, about 10,000 different religions have featured 1,000 different gods, said Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, adding that D’Souza and Hutchinson reject all but one of those gods, bringing them almost in line with atheists, who reject all of them. ‘What I am asking you to do is go one god further with us.’” A bit of a leading pullquote, but do read the article.
ThinkProgress: Marco Rubio Clarifies The Earth’s Age: It’s ‘At Least 4.5 Billion Years Old’.
“I just think in America we should have the freedom to teach our children whatever it is we believe. And that means teaching them science, they have to know the science, but also parents have the right to teach them the theology and to reconcile the two things.” And we know politicians use this same technique—freely tossing out truths and falsehoods, reconciling the two with rhetoric in order to get elected. You don’t “teach the controversy”. That’s ridiculous. You teach the best science available, and let parents deal with the interpretative fiction at home.
ArtDaily: A dozen church painters from European countries seek to revamp ancient practice.
“Tradition died in the 16th or 17th century, now we are resurrecting it, we are learning what its limits are.” Nice to see the old techniques respected. However—you know someone’s going to mash this up with ‘Surfing Jesus’ and the like.
NPR: The First Book Ever Printed In North America And A Church’s Decision To Sell It.
“With an overwhelming 271 to 34 vote, the church decided to give its board the power to sell one copy of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book ever printed in North America.” The Quakers would never do such a thing; “Thee shall not touch thy principal.”
Science and Religion Today: Is Morality Flexible and Why Does It Matter?
“Across a series of studies, we found that when people were asked to judge actions in moral terms, they did so more quickly and more extremely than when they judged the same actions in pragmatic or hedonic terms.”
FT: Morsi has left Egypt on the brink.
“Mohamed Morsi’s power now exceeds that of Hosni Mubarak at his dictatorial peak. Meanwhile the Brotherhood had packed the constituent assembly, which is charged with drafting a new constitution, with Islamists.”
SciAm: The Death of “Near Death” - Even If Heaven Is Real, You Aren’t Seeing It.
Then again, NDE may be our brain’s technique of ‘softening the blow’ …? The brain remains active for a few minutes after the cessation of breath. We’d be foolish to not think there might be a biological process of shutdown (thanks to natural selection) designed to cushion our demise. Instead of black, a fade to white?
ArtDaily: Mayas barred by authorities from performing rituals at their ancestral temples.
“Many of the groups that want to hold ceremonies bring braziers and want to burn incense, and that simply isn’t allowed.” Yup, large stone temples are likely to catch fire. Uh-huh. Have a liability waiver, and let them do their rituals.
NPR: Astrotheology - Do Gods Need To Be Supernatural?
“One of our big dilemmas is, perhaps, the angst that comes from our ability to contemplate the nature of the divine while knowing that we will never become divine. We can easily imagine perfection, the absence of pain, immortality. But excluding musings in fiction and expectations in faith, we can’t transcend our material reality, our spatial and time boundaries. Or can we?” By the end, it sounds like we should be ready to worship cyborgs.
CNN: Pat Robertson challenges creationism.
“If you fight science, you are going to lose your children, and I believe in telling them the way it was …” Color me shocked. Makes the pandering non-answers of politicians look even more obsequious.
Guardian.UK: Babylonian relic to visit US with historic message of tolerance.
“What appealed to the founding fathers about Cyrus was the notion of a secular state that was not on the French model. In other words, a model of a state that was equidistant from all religions, rather than either adopting a state religion, or else being anticlerical. The relic asks the question: can a state be equidistant from all religion?”
HuffPo Religion: 5 Common Misconceptions About the Bible.
“ Just as an attempt to impose harmony and consistency on the short stories collected in the Norton Anthology of English Literature would do great violence to those stories, any attempt to impose harmony and consistency on the diverse books collected in the Bible—to extract a single message or truth—does great violence to those books.” Best short explanation I’ve seen in print.
NY Times: Pakistan Court Orders Blasphemy Charges Against Christian Girl Dropped.
Vindicated in court, I suspect her local community will remain deadly.
NY Times: Marco Rubio Calls Age of Earth a ‘Great Mystery’.
A singularly gutless response, Romneyesque in vagueness. Note the immediate avalanche of criticism—can’t let the GOP simply shove an Hispanic forward with their Same Old Platform [GOP + SOP = Progress].
Dazed Digital: Turkey’s anti-evolutionist showgirls.
Oh. My. Flying Spaghetti Monster. It’s just … crass.
Paris Review: Secret Doctrines.
Whenever, in rare conversation, I hear someone mention Madame Blavatsky … I fasten my mental seatbelt.
ArtDaily: The Book of Kells by Bernard Meehan published by Thames & Hudson.
I could spend a few hours just admiring this one plate.
Discover Mag: Our Ancestors, the Acoustical Engineers.
Go to a historical location, remember to whistle. Our narrow perceptions of the ancients continue to hamper our understanding of them. Ever heard of the Mosque in Isfahan? Acoustics can be numinous, too.
BBC: Vegetative patient Scott Routley says ‘I’m not in pain.’
“Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind. We have scanned him several times and his pattern of brain activity shows he is clearly choosing to answer our questions. We believe he knows who and where he is.” Question that weighs heavily over this: “Do you want to remain this way, or would you like assisted suicide?”
Guardian.UK: Sienna Miller nude: pregnancy is now a fig leaf for artists painting nakedness.
“In previous centuries, the art nude was daring and dangerous because it challenged Christian convention. Religious anxieties have long since faded in the west, to be replaced by political ones.” Pregnant nude actresses … overdone anyway. At least this is a non-Demi pose. And a different medium. One still has to ask: Why bother?
Rany on the Royals: The GOP And Me.
“In the 2000 election, approximately 70% of Muslims in America voted for Bush; among non-African-American Muslims, the ratio was over 80%. Four years later, Bush’s share of the vote among Muslims was 4%. What happened? Well, a lot.” The same can be said for many other minorities. Nothing like taking a flamethrower to your former bases of support. Via MeFi
SciAm: Support for Massachusetts Death with Dignity: what 14 years of data show us.
“The data from Oregon show that the most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were: losing autonomy (90.9%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (88.3%), and loss of dignity (82.7%). It is for these reasons that the terminally ill wish for a dignified death, and for these reasons that supporters of PAS wish to enable caregivers to provide it.” I will bet that #1 and #3 are related to what end-of-life scenario one can afford. When you can’t visit a doctor for a sprained wrist for less than $1k, how can families afford the extensive care that is required as the Grim Reaper slowly approaches a loved one?