Archive for the ‘religion’ Category
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 8, 2013
In the “truth is stranger than fiction” category, there’s this bit of news that I just read: the Satanic Temple plans to put up their own display on the grounds of the Oklahoma Statehouse (which is public property) right next to a display of the Ten Commandments. And it’s all due to a law pushed through the OK legislature in 2009 by the religious right… message to all the right-wing fundamentalist Christians who wish to force their religious displays on public land: be careful what you wish for… LOL
Remember the Satanic Temple, which performed a ritual to turn Fred Phelps’ dead mother gay? They are still at it, now in Oklahoma. The Satanic Temple has filed the papers to put up a memorial on statehouse grounds, next to the state’s display of the 10 Commandments. They are doing this by citing Okla.’s religious displays legislation, signed into law in 2009. And they are absolutely serious about it. …
… Okla., thanks to its argument for religious monuments on public display, now must accept the Satanic Temple and their memorial. The law allows them to put it right next to the 10 Commandments, if they so desire. Next week, who knows, perhaps the Satanic Temple will get the opportunity to name a new public school. It’s not like the state would be hypocrites who would only accept their own narrow religious views in direct violation of the US Constitution after all. Wouldn’t that be something to witness?
Incidentally, my skeptical colleague Hemant Mehta at The Friendly Atheist interviewed Lucien Greaves, the Satanic Temple’s spokesman for this issue. Check out the interview if you’re interested.
I, for one, will be watching this situation with a great deal of interest. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Oklahoma legislature and governor decided that all of this business about putting religious displays on public land is just too much trouble and banned them all? It’d be nice if they, you know, actually respected the separation of church and state.
Until such a time as that day comes, however, I shall have quite a lot of fun watching the goings on in OK.
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: 10 Commandments, 2009, Bible, Christian, Christianity, Devil, freedom of religion, Friendly Atheist, fundamentalist, God, government, Hemant Mehta, Jesus, law, legislature, Lucien Greaves, Lucifer, memorial, OK, Oklahoma, pentagram, religion, religious displays, right wing, Satan, Satanic Temple, separation of church and state, statehouse, Ten Commandments | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 29, 2013
In light of the upcoming Holiday Season, I wanted to do a quick post regarding an interesting bit of news out of the Vatican recently; apparently, the Vatican is putting the supposed bones of St. Peter on public display for the very first time. However, these may not be the bones true-believers are looking for…
It would be a real boner if the remains turned out to not be those of Saint Peter, wouldn’t it?(image source)
As far as St. Peter’s bones go, many Catholic’s will no doubt be planning a pilgrimage to the Holy See, to view the bones purported to belong to St. Peter. The remains were revealed Sunday at St. Peter’s square, and the revelation was performed at St. Peter’s Square at the conclusion of the Catholic church’s “Year of Faith.”
This also happens to the first time St. Peter’s bones have ever been put on display since being discovered in 1939. But there is no DNA sample with which to make a comparison and no way of proving who the skeletal remains actually belong to. But the Vatican is declaring their “verification” regardless.
Pilgrims 8.5 million strong have journeyed to see the Vatican’s relics collection over the last year, but many are questioning whether or not the bones really belong to St. Peter. Peter was believed to have been martyred in Rome in 64 C.E. by being crucified upside down, and then buried in the city. Pope Paul VI said of St. Peter’s bones:
“[They had been identified] in a manner which we believe convincing.”
… Despite the lack of verification, and the fact that archeologists have disputed that they actually found St. Peter’s bones, the Vatican has found the identification “convincing” and has officially declared the bones to belong to St. Peter.
Pardon me if I’m just a bit skeptical of these claims, especially since there has been no independent verification that the remains are indeed those of St. Peter. Sadly, the history of the Catholic Church is full of examples of pious frauds (such as the much-lauded Shroud of Turin) passed off on the faithful as the real thing when, at best, their authenticity is highly dubious.
Of course, in a time when the Church is struggling to keep asses in pews and money coming into the coffers, I suppose they’ll grab onto anything – no matter how questionable or tenuous – that they can.
Posted in religion | Tagged: archaeology, bones, Catholic Church, crucifixion, faith, fraud, God, holy relic, Holy See, Italy, Jesus Christ, miracle, pious fraud, religion, remains, Saint Peter, Shroud of Turin, Shroudie, skeptic, skepticism, St. Peter, True Cross, Vatican, Year of Faith | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 30, 2013
In the spirit of both Halloween and skepticism, I wanted to pass along to you this very well done talk on demonic possession and exorcism from Karen Stollznow. Enjoy! :)
Posted in ghosts & paranormal, religion | Tagged: All Hallows Eve, demonic, demons, Devil, entity, evil, exorcism, exorcist, God, good, Halloween, Karen Stollznow, lecture, Lucifer, Medieval, Middle Ages, occult, October 31, possession, presentation, religion, Satan, talk, TAM, The Amazing Meeting, voodoo | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on September 6, 2013
The second panel in which I participated this past Labor Day weekend at DragonCon was a Skeptrack panel titled “Limits of Skepticism”. I served as the moderator of the panel, which included philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci, astronomer Pamela Gay, president of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) DJ Grothe, Center For Inquiry activist Debbie Goddard, freethought activist Margaret Downey, and author of “What’s the Harm?” website Tim Farley. In this discussion we ranged far and wide on the question of what is skepticism, what are the tools of skepticism, what are the limits of skepticism, and how skepticism can apply beyond the so-called “traditional” topics (UFOs, Bigfoot, creationism, etc). I recorded the audio of the panel and share it with you below – enjoy!
Posted in philosophy, religion, scientific method, skeptical community | Tagged: belief, DC, Debbie Goddard, discussion, DJ Grothe, Dragon*Con, evidence, faith, God, limits, Margaret Downey, Massimo Pigliucci, method, methodological naturalism, methodology, Pamela Gay, panel, philosophy, philosophy of science, religion, science, skepticism, Skeptrack, Tim Farley | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 27, 2013
Many times we think of vaccine deniers and picture Jenny McCarthy as the spokesperson for the anti-vaccine movement. She goes on and on about how her “mommy instinct” trumps all of modern medicine and insists it’s acceptable to prevent them from getting vaccinated; this despite the fact that kids can die without their vaccines.
Well, there is a disturbing new trend in the anti-vaccine movement: some parts of it have gotten religion… literally. Apparently there is now a confluence of faith-healing with anti-vaccine sentiment, and it has gotten popular enough in some circles that it is – surprise – causing the outbreak of diseases such as the measles which were once thought to be practically wiped out.
Read on for more information:
For several days now, state health officials have been sounding the alarm about a nascent measles outbreak in North Texas. As of Friday, there had been nine confirmed cases, a number that will grow as new reports from local health agencies filter up to the state.
The epicenter of the outbreak is Tarrant County, which has now confirmed 10 cases, and the epicenter of cases in Tarrant County seems to be at Eagle Mountain International Church.
Pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons delivered the news in a sermon last Wednesday:
“There has been a … confirmed case of the measles from the Tarrant County Public Health Department. And that is a really big deal in that America, the United States has been essentially measles free for I think it’s 10 years. And so when measles pops up anywhere else in the United States, the health department — well, you know, it excites them. You know what I mean I don’t mean. I don’t mean they’re happy about it, but they get very excited and respond to it because it doesn’t take much for things like that to spread.”
The sermon was awkward, to say the least. Pearsons is the eldest daughter of megapastor Kenneth Copeland, and her church is one of the cornerstones of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, his sprawling evangelical empire. He’s far from the most vocal proponent of the discredited theory that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine causes autism, but, between his advocacy of faith healing and his promotion of the vaccine-autism link on his online talk show, he’s not exactly urging his flock to get their recommended shots. …
Hmm… a plague has struck these supposed chosen people. The way I see it, you can have all the faith you want, but the infectious diseases out there don’t give a crap how devoted you are to your particular religion and/or god; it’s that simple.
In closing, if you’ll permit me a snarky comment directed towards the faith-healing crowd: perhaps this plague a sign from God, people… that you should vaccinate yourselves and your children!!!
Posted in medical woo, religion | Tagged: anti-vaccination movement, anti-vaccine, anti-vax, autism, AVM, bacteria, congregation, Copeland Ministries, evangelical, faith, faith healing, God, infection, Jenny McCarthy, Jesus, Kenneth Copeland, measles, medical, medicine, outbreak, religion, sermon, Texas, thimerisol, vaccine, vaccines, virus | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 26, 2013
Well, if you haven’t heard the news, here it is: today the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) struck down the discriminatory Prop 8 law in California outlawing gay marriage and aspects of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which denied federal benefits to married same-sex couples.
I applaud because, at it’s heart, these discriminatory laws are purely religiously based; that is, they have been pushed by those who wish to impose their particular religious belief upon the rest of us. The religious right whack-a-loons want to use their narrow view of religion as the law of the land; in short, they wish to impose a theocracy here in the U.S.
If you have any doubt that the motivations behind these anti-gay laws are not rooted in fundamentalist religion, just look at the reaction of one of the biggest religious right-wing groups out there, the American Family Association, wherein they claim that this decision will lead to God’s judgement/wrath:
And everywhere I’ve looked so far, pretty much every religious right outlet is having the same reaction…
Of course, now that the religious bigots have lost in the courts, watch them start to get even crazier in the states. Expect to see different laws proposed placing more restrictions on gay couples getting married, “pro-family” laws, and similar nonsense. In short, the religious right is going to head into meltdown mode over this, but then they will only hasten their own collective demise because as they get ever more extreme and crazy, they will increasingly marginalize themselves from civilized society.
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: AFA, American Family Association, bigot, bigotry, California, civil rights, civil union, court, Defense of Marriage Act, discrimination, DOMA, fundamentalist, gay, God, homosexual, law, lesbian, marriage, politics, Prop 8, religion, religious right, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, United States | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 3, 2013
I’m quite pleased to pass along to you a hilarious, and quite informative, YouTube video on the importance of church-state separation. It features Jane Lynch (of “Glee” fame) and Jordan Peele (of “Key & Peele” fame), and it was put together by Americans United for the Separation of Church & State. If you agree with the message of the video, “like” it, pass it along, and please consider signing AU’s petition!
Posted in humor, politics, religion | Tagged: Americans United, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, AU, church, church state separation, Establishment Clause, First Amendment, Glee, government, Jane Lynch, Jordan Peele, Key and Peele, petition, politics, religion, state, Thomas Jefferson, United States, video, wall, youtube | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 8, 2013
Every now and then, just when you think things cannot get too silly, they do. Case in point: the fact that the news media is actually giving some attention to a woman’s claim that her goldfish cracket is a “sign from God”…
It’s a fishy story, but the woman telling it believes it’s pure gold. The Florida resident says the markings she found on a Goldfish cracker are a direct message affirming her Christian faith.
“I believe that it’s a sign, a sign from God,” Patti Burke told Florida Today. “He is still in our life every day, and he wants to show that to his people.”
It’s not quite manna, but in Burke’s eyes it’s a manifestation of her faith.
The cracker in question has two markings, or imperfections, on its surface. Burke says the first marking is of a cross with a circle around it. The second marking, near the head of the fish, represents a golden crown.
“When I picked this one up, I knew he was special,” she said. “Something I’ve never seen before out of all the Goldfish I’ve eaten.”
Burke admittedly has been working from a large sample size, consuming between two and three pounds of the crackers per week. She says she eats the small crackers individually, examining each one for the optimal amount of savory coating. … [emphasis added]
Umm… yeah. Pardon me, but… IT’S A CRACKER!!! Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system. Come on folks, is it really any surprise that the person making this “miraculous discovery” (which has all the markings of a modern-day “religious relic” such as the infamous Virgin Mary Grill Cheese Sandwich) is a devout Christian? That is the classic marker of pareidolia – our evolution-wired brains are developed for pattern recognition, and one of the most recognized patterns for a Christian is the cross. Throw into the mix a bit of religious fervor (i.e. in this case, devout Christianity) and viola! you have a “miracle” appearance of the cross on a cracker.
Here’s another interesting bit of pareidolia to get you thinking. Years ago a man cut into a melon, and he saw this…
So what, if anything, do you see? If you’re like me, you see some wavy lines which are essentially meaningless. But if you are a devout Muslim who can read Arabic, you will likely see “Allah” (God) written out in Arabic. And, before you roll your eyes, there are people who treat this as seriously as our lady does her cross-marked cracker. So, what this shows you is that the interpretation of these “miracles” is strongly context and culturally specific.
In conclusion, what this all really teaches us about these kinds of “miraculous events” is this: it’s all in your head, folks, and people who believe strongly enough can find amazing ways to validate those beliefs – even if to the rest of us it’s utter gibberish.
It also seems to teach us something about God’s powers, namely that as time goes on the kind of “miracles” that God apparently performs become increasingly mundane, as this graph displays :)
Posted in psychology, religion | Tagged: Allah, Allah melon, Arabic, belief, Catholic, Catholicism, Christian, cracker, cross, God, God's power, gold, goldfish, grill cheese, grilled cheese, iron, Islam, Jesus, miracle, Muslim, pareidolia, pattern recognition, psychology, religion, sandwich, skepticism, Virgin Mary | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 14, 2013
In a bit of unexpected good news, I ran across this recent article from The Atlantic magazine which outlines a new trend within the circles of evangelical Christian homeschooling. If you know anything about the United States homeschooling movement, you know that it tends to be dominated by evangelical or fundamentalist Christians who eschew evolutionary science in favor of teaching some varient of psuedoscientific creationism. However, it seems that this unfortunate trend could be under challenge from a new generation of evangelical homeschoolers who are, quite frankly, tired of all the science-bashing from their fundamentalist brethren. Read on
For homeschooling parents who want to teach their children that the earth is only a few thousand years old, the theory of evolution is a lie, and dinosaurs coexisted with humans, there is no shortage of materials. Kids can start with the Answers in Genesis curriculum, which features books such as Dinosaurs of Eden, written by Creation Museum founder Ken Ham. As the publisher’s description states, “This exciting book for the entire family uses the Bible as a ‘time machine’ to journey through the events of the past and future.”
It’s no secret that the majority of homeschooled children in America belong to evangelical Christian families. What’s less known is that a growing number of their parents are dismayed by these textbooks.
Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.” Instead, Warton has pulled together a curriculum inspired partly by homeschool pioneer Susan Wise Bauer and partly by the Waldorf holistic educational movement. … [emphasis added]
Further on the article goes on to outline the interesting history of the anti-evolution movement…
… Theologically conservative Christians were not always so polarized. “By the late 19th century,” says David R. Montgomery author of The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood, “evangelical theologians generally accepted the compelling geological evidence for the reality of an old earth.” However, Darwin’s idea of natural selection scared away many fundamentalists, who saw “survival of the fittest” as an atheistic concept. Over time, those who insisted on a literal interpretation of the Bible’s account of creation came to reject both geology and evolutionary biology. …
Which was, to say the least, an unfortunate development that has led to a multi-generational effort to dumb down the teaching of evolutionary theory in particular and the teaching of science in general in the United States. But perhaps these new evangelicals can change the movement from within. I think they can have some success, but only with some help from those of us who are the traditional champions of evolution.
Despite my atheism, I think those of us within the skeptical/atheist community should embrace these “evolutionary evangelicals” and consider them allies. Rather than focus on what divides us (i.e. differences on belief or non-belief in God, etc), I think our efforts can be better served by allowing our common desire to see evolutionary science taught properly to unite us.
Now I know there are some “purists” within the skeptical/atheist community who would likely shudder to see me suggest allying ourselves with evangelical Christians, at least in part because our theological/philosophical differences are so vast. But I take the attitude that, even within the skeptical/atheist community there are deep divisions on a variety of topics, but I don’t find myself turning my back upon it; so if I can find some common ground with an evangelical Christian on a pro-science issue, why not pursue some bridge-building?
Posted in creationism, education, religion, skeptical community | Tagged: academic freedom, atheism, atheist, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, education, evangelical, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, homeschoolers, homeschooling, intelligent design, Jesus, pseudoscience, religion, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, The Atlantic, truth, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 22, 2013
As I’ve written before, it seems that there is a growing secular and non-religious demographic in the United States that is starting to speak up. This topic is the subject of a recent opinion piece that I read on the Washington Post’s Guest Voices blog, and I found the analysis by the author, Jacques Berlinerblau, to be worth noting…
By Jacques Berlinerblau
When it comes to not making optimistic, pie-in-the-sky pronouncements about American secularism I have almost unparalleled street cred. For years I have rued and bemoaned and lamented the fate of this poor mangled –ism.
But in the past few months there have been some positive and unexpected developments both here and abroad as well.The first is far less obvious than it might seem. By far, the best thing that has happened to American secularism in about half a century was that the reactionary 2012 iteration of the Republican party, while not McGovernized, was pretty thoroughly thrashed. To the long list of those in this country who were perplexed and repulsed by this aberrant version of the GOP (e.g., Latinos, African-Americans, gays, women) let us add secular Americans. …
… I want to stress that Republicans, historically, have not been anti-secular nor should the same be said about many of their core convictions. The shift occurred with the synergies that developed between Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the late 1970s. In fits and starts the relation between the Christian Right and the Republicans has grown for three decades. Did it crest in 2012? Will a humbled GOP shuck the divisive God-botherers in its midst? That is the question that secularists are eagerly—nay, gleefully—posing. …
Indeed, I can be counted among those secularists who are hoping quite strongly that the Republican party can finally free itself from the stranglehold of the religious right. Unfortunately, the religious right is dug so deeply into the GOP that they will not go quietly nor easily; methinks the Republican party is in for a long and nasty internal fight.
However, there is a note of caution to be heard…
… I am a pessimist by nature so let me raise a few caveats about the political potency of the nones. The first is that their Election Day turnout was somewhat underwhelming (they were 12 percent of the electorate though they are nearly 20 percent of the population). They actually gave less of their ballot to Obama in 2012 than they did in 2008 (70 percent down from 75 percent).
Most crucially, they are not an organized, disciplined, well-funded political juggernaut like the Christian Right, but a category on a demographer’s clipboard. The Democrats will need to organize and mobilize them (and perhaps this is why Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast gave them a shout out when he referred to “those of no faith that they can name”).
This is why I want to note, buzzkillingly, that 2012 was more a victory for secularism than a victory by secularism. But a victory nonetheless! Moreover, secularists can’t help but wonder if the pope’s recent resignation signals, at the very least, a set back for the global anti-secular platform. …
So, long story short, the “nones” should be happy to celebrate this victory, but we should not be so naive as to think that progress on those secular issues important to us will simply march along all by itself. The moment that we take our eye off the political ball, I think the religious right – which is more well-funded and organized than the secular movement – will swoop in and attempt to drag us all back to the Dark Ages.
Rather than rest on our laurels, this moment should serve to motivate us to become more involved in secular issues. We need to make sure to defend church-state separation, stand up for strong science education, and seek to curb the influence of sectarian religious groups upon our government. My suggestion is that you take some time to learn more about groups like the Secular Coalition for America and consider signing up with them. Get involved, get active, and we can make a more secular nation a reality!
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: 2012, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, conservative, demographics, election, evangelical, God, GOP, Jacques Berlinerblau, no-religious, non-religious, none, Obama, party, politics, poll, Protestant, religion, religious, religious right, Republican, research, right, right wing, SCA, secular, Secular Coalition for America, secularism, survey, unaffiliated, Washington Post, white | 4 Comments »