The Surge is working [tm] -- but for gay Iraqis who face a murderous new spate of violence by theocrats and militiamen, notsomuch. "More than 430 gay men have been murdered in Iraq since 2003... [but] many officials say they feel that in a country at war, there are more pressing concerns than gay rights."
Are nuns keeping up with the times and are they having fun? From blogs to running, to the arts and union disputes, nuns are busy. Even a beauty contest is being planned. But, the old ways persist. [more inside]
At the risk of heresy, let it be said that setting up the two presidential candidates for religious interrogation by an evangelical minister -- no matter how beloved -- is supremely wrong. [more inside]
Long before people called themselves Muslims or Hindus, long before they fought and died over these or any labels... water dripped and froze inside the Amarnath Cave at the heart of Kashmir. Amarnath Cave official site. Amarnath Cave pilgrimage. Amarnath virtual tour. Wikipedia's page on the Amarnath land transfer.
In response to the 2005 lawsuit, ACSI v. Stearns, a federal court has upheld the decision of the University of California to deny college credit for science courses that utilize texts with a religious slant. Official statement from the UCOP (PDF).
Tilman Riemenschneider (1460-1531) was one of the great late medieval sculptors. Riemenschneider worked in both wood and stone, although his specialty was limewood sculpture. (Not surprisingly, he had imitators.) His greatest achievements, however, are his exquisitely carved and spectacular altars, of which the most famous is the Altar of the Holy Blood (Heilig-Blut-Altar). [more inside]
"We replicate what the perfect girl is." (SLYTP) No nudity, but may be NSFW.
Christian Sex Retailing. Christian Sex Toy Retailing There's a new sexual revolution happening, and the people driving it are not exactly a bunch of free-love libertines. Many people probably think of evangelical Christians as being more preoccupied with denying the pleasures of the flesh. Christianity has always had a lot to say about sexuality. But attitudes are changing and new approaches to Christian sex are emerging. Dagmar Herzog was interviewed today on CBC's The Current (second segment, requires Flash Player), and, who says in a recent interview with Salon: For liberals, sex has become the problem that has no name; one simply does not hear liberals articulate a defense of sexual rights. Instead, what we have witnessed is a coalescing of conservative evangelical and mainstream secular perspectives on sex. The conversation on sex in America -- when sex is discussed in a serious and earnest way at all -- tends largely to adopt the parameters set by the Religious Right. Herzog's new book. A collection of print interviews with Herzog can be found here. [more inside]
Rasa von Werder is the current name of one Kellie Everts [NSFW], stripper for God, bodybuilder, and church-founder. During the 70's she toured the nation on the novel concept that a stripper could save souls, and during the same time helped establish female bodybuilding as a legitimate sport. Nowadays she tends the followers of her female empowerment doctrines via the University of MotherGod Church, Woman Thou Art God! [NSFW] website and her Matriarchy RAMANA MAHARSHI Mother God Worship Femdom YouTube channel. [more inside]
Who are Muslims? Gallup has conducted a poll "in 40 predominantly Muslim nations and among significant Muslim populations in the West. It is the first set of unified and scientifically representative views from 1.3 billion Muslims globally." They'll be parsing and interpreting this data for years, but for the time being, they've offered some of their key results online and in print. See also, the Muslim-West Facts Initiative. (via) [more inside]
Prvi svetski rat - Gritty and poignant Serbian postcards from the First World War. Just one of the seriously interesting (e.g. check out the collection of 78s) holdings at the Digital National Library of Serbia.
As the gay marriage fight unfolds in California, some gays (and others) are fighting back: one gourp is boycotting a rich hotel owner, others are standing apart and one is suing the Bible (who gets subpoenaed for that one?). Meanwhile, a key opponent to gay marriage keeps its doors open (and its ballot committee going) despite being suspended. They say they're working on it, but no changes yet.
The operation was a success, but the patient is now a mere mortal. When she was born, her neighbors considered her a gift from God and lined up to receive her blessing. However, her parents, who wanted her to have a normal life (and refusing an offer to sell her to a circus) , found a doctor and a hospital who would operate on Lakshmi for free. [more inside]
Birthright Israel, funded by the Israeli government and Jewish philanthropists, provides free all-inclusive 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish young adults. The program's goal is to promote Israel along with general Jewish unity and engagement. The blog Jewlicious has a category about these trips. (Scroll down past many promotional entries for the interesting stuff.) Some question its efficacy and results, while some Jews subvert the program. The trips end with a "Mega Rally" featuring entertainment, giant inflatable Stars of David, and speeches by dignitaries including PM Ehud Olmert. Here is video coverage (FLV) of the most recent rally. There is also a satirical Something Awful report.
Here is a handy guide to the various attitudes towards gay marriage from religious denominations. (previously)
Via The Friendly Atheist and the New York Times, this blog post and this article explain two instances of a very, very unsettling new phenomenon. [more inside]
Like it or not, religion is at the forefront of the 2008 US Presidential elections. The Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life previously cited in MeFi threads examines many of the current intersections of religion and politics, domestic and abroad.
Is Barack Obama the Messiah? After all, it may explain the logo. Maybe he's just a light-worker, "who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet." This could just be all hootenany from the press, like Chris Matthews, who called BO the "New Testament." But, as always, there are unbelievers.
The Prague Bible (1489) is a splendid three-volume MS of the Tanakh, once in the possession of Enlightenment luminary Moses Mendelssohn. There are several other beautiful examples of medieval and early modern Hebrew MSS online, including the Illuminated Hebrew Manuscripts collection (New York Public Library), the Illuminated Haggadah Exhibit (Klau University), selections from Moses Maimonides' Moreh Nevukim (Leiden University), and the Prato Haggadah (Jewish Theological Seminary). See also the introduction to the Hebraic Collections at the Library of Congress.
Liberalisation's children. The Financial Times interviews seven 24-year-old Indians, all of the average age but of very different circumstances.
We all know The Rapture is coming soon (although "no one knows the day or hour"), and many of us will want to send out appropriate taunting messages from our heavenly perch to our loser buddies that didn't get chosen. At last, a service provider has arisen to serve this need. At You've Been Left Behind, you can store up to 250 MB of documents to be sent to up to 62 separate emails addresses in the event of the Rapture. Rapture is determined to have occurred when 3 of the 5 team members fail to log in to the site over a 3 day period.
Peculiar corpses: "Incorruptibles remaining free of decomposition have baffled scientists to this day. These bodies are discovered in many different environments, including environments that would typically cause an accidental or deliberately preserved corpse to decompose rapidly." The photographed examples seem to all be associated with Christian faith. Hmm. "[At Oratorio di San Lorenzo] in Palermo, however, corpses are treated as characters in a play": The Museum of the Dead, reassuringly less preserved.
The Stupidity of Dignity: Conservative bioethics' latest, most dangerous ploy. Steven Pinker reviews Human Dignity and Bioethics, the latest report from the President's Council on Bioethics. [more inside]
The Rebellion Within: An Al Qaeda mastermind questions terrorism.
A 15-year-old in London is being prosecuted for holding a sign calling Scientology a "cult", during a peaceful demonstration (0:55-1:40). The teenager refused to back down, quoting a 1984 high court ruling from Mr Justice Latey, in which he described the Church of Scientology as a "cult" ... The City of London police came under fire two years ago when it emerged that more than 20 officers, ranging from constable to chief superintendent, had accepted gifts worth thousands of pounds from the Church of Scientology. The City of London Chief Superintendent, Kevin Hurley, praised Scientology for "raising the spiritual wealth of society" during the opening of its headquarters in 2006. Last year a video praising Scientology emerged featuring Ken Stewart, another of the City of London's chief superintendents via
16% of US science teachers believe human beings have been created by God within the last 10,000 years. 25% of science teachers spend some time teaching about creationism or intelligent design. 12.5% teach it as a "valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species". 2% say they do not cover evolution at all. Teachers who have taken more science courses themselves devote more time to evolution - "This may be because better-prepared teachers are more confident in dealing with students' questions about a sensitive subject."
Vatican's chief astronomer states that belief in alien life does not conradict faith in God. Fr. José Gabriel Funes, a Jesuit preist and chief astronomer for the Vatican, stated in an interview in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's official newspaper, that, "Just as we consider earthly creatures as 'a brother,' and 'sister,' why should we not talk about an 'extraterrestrial brother'? It would still be part of creation." [more inside]
Masseiana - Containing the three major works of Gerald Massey and his minor work commonly titled: The Lectures. Published here in their entirety, fully revised and amended, with additional material by the editor.
Bill Moyers interviews the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in his first broadcast interview with a journalist since he became embroiled in a controversy for his remarks and his relationship with Barack Obama [more inside]
The real secret to producing superheroes (bollywood or otherwise) is to start them young, really YOUNG. (Link to single video)
Ancient Buddhist Paintings From Bamiyan Were Made Of Oil, Hundreds Of Years Before Technique Was 'Invented' In Europe. [Via MonkeyFilter.] [more inside]
The Carry On films have been a much-loved part of British life for the last 50 years, and they may even be making a new one. This give a quick feel of what you might of missed (slightly NSFW) And though it does have its knockers, one person liked them so much he made a religion out of them, literally.
After breaking the ice with his video message to all Americans, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Washington, D.C. this afternoon for the initial part of his first Papal visit to the United States of America. Watch it all live. [more inside]
Dear God is a global project for people around the world to share their innermost hopes - and fears - through prayer. Some photos NSFW.
Frank Newsome leads the congregation at the Little David Church in Hayside, Va. Old Regular Baptists, they sing the way people sang when they first came to the American colonies: without instruments or notation, and following their leader line by line. It's called lined-out hymnody, and people outside the southern Appalachian Mountains rarely hear it. One of the songs Newsome sings at services is a hymn about longing for heaven, called "Beulah Land."
“For more than 50 years, the National Prayer Breakfast has been a Washington institution. Every president has attended the breakfast since Eisenhower, elbow-to-elbow with Democrats and Republicans alike.”* The event is sponsored by a secretive Capitol Hill group known as “The Fellowship,” (aka The Family)* “For 15 years, Hillary Clinton has been part of [this] secretive religious group that seeks to bring Jesus back to Capitol Hill.” An exposé of the group 'The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,' by Jeff Sharlet will be published in May. [NBC video]. [more inside]
Thomas Jefferson so wanted to fix what he thought was wrong with religion that he rewrote the Bible. He went through and cut out the parts that he liked most and pasted it to a fifth volume. He cut out Miracles. He cut out the Christmas story. He cut out most of the Easter story. Resurrection is gone. Wikipedia. previously
Biblical Entheogens: a Speculative Hypothesis. Psychology Professor Benny Shannon speculates that Moses may have been tripping when he saw God on Mount Sinai. [Via Mind Hacks.]
God's Pottery is described on their website as "a Christian acoustic duo formed to spread the Word while addressing the issues facing today's Youth and the Spiritual Community at large." But actually, they're one of the funniest new up and coming musical comedy acts, already nominated for an ECNY award in Best Musical Comedy Act. They workshop with the audience to get to know them better and sing songs about Pre-Marital Sex (The Pants Come Off, When The Ring Goes On), Alcoholism (Jesus I Need a Drink!), and they're always playing for Team Jesus. They went to the "Eden-berg" Fringe Festival and even stayed in character when interviewed by ITV2, because they are that good.
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism is a book released last month by Tim Keller. Its faired reasonably well (NYT, login req'd), which is interesting, considering the wide success of books preaching the opposite message, as of late (Dawkins, et. al.). [more inside]
A church in Tampa, FL has issued a 30-day sex challenge: If you're married, have sex every day (PDF of daily workbook). If you're not married, don't have sex at all (PDF of daily workbook). There's a blog, there's a billboard, there's a lot of press. [more inside]
WWJD? Well, he definitely wouldn't let a woman tell him what to do. At least, that's the theological position one institution of Christian learning has taken. And this isn't the first time the perhaps ironically named St. Mary's Academy has taken a "positive stand" on principle. Another take on the story here. (Via Boing Boing.)
I think its time that we joined a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern pluralistic society. Obama on religion and politics. (SLnonYTP)