Archive for February 2009

The Historocity of Jesus

February 28, 2009

Bart Ehrman on the Historicity of Jesus

Holy Recession?

February 27, 2009

The economy isn’t the only thing in the toilet, church attendance is taking a dump as well. In the 2006 to 2007 calendar year, the Catholic Church lost 398,000 members in the United States (0.59%). Out of the 25 top churches in the US, 21 are either stagnant or decreasing in membership.

But it’s not all “good news”, the Church of JC of LDS increased by 1.6%.

According to this article, Wicca is the fastest growing religion in America but, as with their religion, the details seem to be rather fuzzy.

Footprints, part 2

February 26, 2009

27foot1901.5 million year old footprints have been uncovered in Lake Turkana, Kenya (what a country, not only do they have good coffee, but great human origin finds). The footprints have been described as “Essentially modern human like foot anatomy”. How cool is that?

These footprints were probably left by a Homo erectus (hee hee … erectus …). The last really cool proto-human footprints found were Australopithecus afarensis footprints that were dated to 3.7 million years and, while still bi-pedal, were more apelike in their gate.

Some really cool laser scanning technique was used to measure the footprints.

The lead author of the journal report is Matthew R. Bennett, a dean at Bournemouth University in England, who analyzed the prints with a new laser technology for digitizing their precise depths and contours.

Science is so cool! Or, just made up (if you’re Christian).

Supreme Court Rules Against Summum Monument

February 25, 2009

The US Supreme Court has ruled against the Summum religion’s request to place a monument in a public park. It may sound all apropos, except that there’s already another religious monument in the park, a Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments that the city did approve. That, is not so cool (favoring an establishment of religion).

The court ruled the when a city chooses to place a privately donated monument on public land, it is a demonstration of their (the city’s) free speech and they need not accommodate other messages.

Why is this important? Because, it is allowing local government
the right to discriminate base on religion. It would be up to the city to decide that one particular monument is appropriate for their community and another is not.

The decision is raising concern among some analysts that it might encourage government officials to approve religious displays on public land. ”

“Government has no business erecting, maintaining, or promoting religious symbols or codes,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “The answer in this case is to remove the Ten Commandments from the public park, not compound the problem by adding more sectarian material,” he said in statement.

As I noted in an earlier blog, this case was odd because it was not tried under the establishment clause, it was tried over free speech. Because of this, the religious aspect of the 10 Commandments monuments were downplayed during the trial. Instead, the defense claimed that the 10 Commandments were of an historical significance to the US (how? did Moses get lost coming down from Sinai?).

And you may ask yourself, who are the Summums?
They are a religion based on “sightings” by Summum Bonum Amon Ra, aka Claude “Corky” Nowell. “Corky” saw the “Summa Individuals” in 1975 and … they told him some things, I guess. And people believed him. Similar to Paul the Apostle in the Christian myths.

They Monument they wanted to display was a list of “Seven Aphorisms” that they claim Moses brought down along with the 10 C’s from Sinai (hey, why not. Prove them wrong, folks, prove them wrong)

They are big into mummification and provide the service (you don’t have to be a member of their religion).

Questions for Creationists

February 24, 2009

Biblical Morals Are Diametrically Oppossed to Real Morals

February 24, 2009

Found this on Pharyngula, but it’s funny enough to be worth re-posting!

Your morality is 0% in line with that of the bible.

Damn you heathen! Your book learnin’ has done warped your mind. You shall not be invited next time I sacrifice a goat.

Do You Have Biblical Morals?
Take More Quizzes

Book Review: Atheism Advanced

February 22, 2009

atheism-advanced1David Eller’s Atheism Advanced is not your run of the mill atheist tome, rehashing the old logical arguments against holding a god belief. It reads, instead, as an anthropological study, and it closely scrutinizes this thing that we call religion. I learned the answer to questions I never even thought of asking before; such as “Are there atheistic religions?” (yes) and “What makes a religion a world religion?”  (the view point that they are the “one true faith”). You will definitely feel more educated about the world’s belief systems and how we fit into them after reading this. Packed with information, it could easily have been broken down into two of more volumes, if needed.

Being written to a Western audience, Atheism Advanced does still focus on the Christian religions, but it is careful not to get bogged down arguing against basic Christian rhetoric or dogma. What it does do is bring Christianity down to where it belongs, as just another belief system out of thousands of belief systems around the world. Eller points out that, even though there are some aspects that make Christianity unique, it is for the most part no different than any other set of superstitious beliefs.

The book starts out with a chapter that most atheist books oddly forget, the definition of theism and atheism, and makes it quite clear that being an atheist is simply not being skeptical enough. In following chapters, Eller defines “religion” in general, he analyzes the growth and evolution of religions and NRMs, explains why science is inherently atheistic, displays how Western tradition has shaped religion, and ponders on what we can do to keep religion in check.

Eller certainly made me realize how much religion, and Christianity in specific, has permeated our lives and affected how we act and speak whether we are religious or not. Instead of focusing on the minutia of theistic dogma, Atheism Advanced paints huge broad strokes that will help clarify exactly what this phenomena known as “religion” is and allow us to take a step back a bit and examine it in a much more scholarly and scientific fashion.

Highly Recommended

The Vatican: All For Censorship

February 20, 2009
The game of religion

The game of religion

Apparently, we’re not allowed to come to your own conclusions about the Christian myths, church member or not.

The Vatican is upset about a TV show that aired in Israel that dared to mock a few goofy Christian stories (they should listen in on an atheist get together once).

In the program, the host farcically denied Christian traditions—that Mary was a virgin and that Jesus walked on water—saying he would do so as a “lesson” to Christians who deny the Holocaust.

The host is, of course, referring to a recent incident in which the Vatican lifted the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson, a well known Holocaust denier. I do admit, this action from the Catholic Church did seem to be condone the denier position, though after the fact they did tell ask him to publicly apologize. Williamson is withholding his apology until he has a change to check some KKK web sites review the data. Keep in mind, Williamson wasn’t excommunicated for his holocaust denial, he was excommunicated for allowing himself to be ordained without pontifical mandate (shock and horror!).

But I digress. Back to the story at hand: The Vatican wants the Israeli government to censor the TV station for them.

The statement said the government quickly assured the Holy See that it would intervene to interrupt the transmission and get the broadcaster to publicly apologize. But it wasn’t immediately clear how the government could do so since Channel 10 is a private station and is not subject to government censorship, except in matters of security.

What they said in the show was actually quite funny, though. I wish I would have said it.

In the show, hosted by well-known Israeli comedian Lior Shlein, Mary is said to have become pregnant at 15, thanks to a schoolmate. It said Jesus could never have walked on water because “he was so fat he was ashamed to leave the house, let alone go to the Sea of Galilee with a bathing suit.”

To be fair, Pope Benedict XVI has been a bit snarky with the Jews since he took the papal position. I don’t think he’s standing on too high a moral ground. He can say the Jews are burning in hell but thaty can’t say Jesus was fat? Come on.

Priest Fired For Being a Good Guy

February 20, 2009

Notice the dirty knees on Jesus. I guess he was in jail for awhile.

Father Peter Kennedy of St Mary’s in South Brisbane, Australia had the audacity to allow women to preach, to bless gay couples, and deny the Virgin birth of Jesus.

“In his decree, the archbishop said Father Kennedy had “caused harm to ecclesiastical communion in spite of frequent requests from me to do otherwise”. And in a statement he said: “This decision brings me no satisfaction as division within the Church is contrary to all that Christ taught.”

I can’t see anything he’s doing as going against any of the words attributed to Jesus. That Paul guy seemed to be a bit of a homophobe, though. And I’m not sure how anyone can “harm” communion. Perhaps he served Ritz crackers instead of the wafers.

“The church establishment has tired of Father Kennedy’s questioning of the “single truths” of Catholicism. He airs conundrums of the faith that many followers wrestle with in private, describes the Virgin birth as “nonsense” and believes there should be a Vatican III to address doctrine for the 21st century.”

Well, good for him. I, of course, think they should leave the whole thing all together, but this is a good step. I do not respect people that condone bigotry in their church simply because a man in a dress told you to. It took the Haulocaust for the Vatican to take a stand against Jewish bigotry, though, so I’m not so sure they’ll come around on gender and GLBT equality.

Richard Dawkins Coming to MN March 4

February 19, 2009

The Purpose of Purpose: A Lecture by Richard Dawkins
Wednesday, March 04 2009, 7:00pm – 9:30pm

Northrop Auditorium, University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN USA

Sponsored by CASH

Contact CASH or the Northrop Box Office for details