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kottke.org posts about religion

Superstorm Francis descends on the US

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 24, 2015

It’s the Pope’s first time in America and we sent him straight to Congress. That doesn’t exactly seem like we’re putting our best foot forward. In his historic speech to a joint session of Congress, Pope Francis addressed climate change, capitalism, the death penalty and immigration. MoJo pulled out the ten most important lines from the speech.

“This Pope often operates through symbolism and gestures that convey his intentions in ways that words never could.” The New Yorker on Pope Francis and his little Fiat.

Oliver Sacks, human treasure, 1933-2015

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 31, 2015

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks was a champion of one of humankind’s most admirable qualities: Curiosity. The neurologist and writer died on Monday. He wrote beautifully about his impending death in a piece published a couple weeks ago:

And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life…

Longform has a collection of links to some of Sacks’ most popular essays.

What is the meaning of life for an atheist?

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2015

BuzzFeed’s Tom Chivers asked several atheists How They Find Meaning In A Purposeless Universe.

The way I find meaning is the way that most people find meaning, even religious ones, which is to get pleasure and significance from your job, from your loved ones, from your avocation, art, literature, music. People like me don’t worry about what it’s all about in a cosmic sense, because we know it isn’t about anything. It’s what we make of this transitory existence that matters.

These kinds of questions always make me think of Richard Feynman on beauty, science, and belief.

Nine dead in Charleston shooting

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2015

From the NY Times, Nine Are Killed in Charleston Church Shooting; Gunman Is Sought.

An intense manhunt was underway Thursday for a white gunman who opened fire on Wednesday night at a historic black church in this city’s downtown, killing nine people before fleeing.

The police chief, Greg Mullen, called the shooting a hate crime.

Chief Mullen said that law enforcement officials, including the F.B.I. and other federal agencies, were assisting in the investigation of a shooting that left six women and three men dead.

Chief Mullen said the gunman walked into the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and attended the meeting for about an hour before open firing. Among the dead, according to reports, was the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator.

A timeline of human history, from 4004 BC to 1881

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2015

From the David Rumsey Map Collection, a remarkable timeline/history of the world from 4004 BC to 1881 called Adams’ Synchronological Chart. This is just a small bit of it:

Adams Synchronological Chart

According to Rumsey’s site, the full timeline is more than 22 feet long. (via @john_overholt)

Update: A replica of this chart is available on Amazon in a few different iterations…I’m going to give this one a try. Apparently the charts are popular in Sunday schools and such because the timeline uses the Ussher chronology where the Earth is only 6000 years old.

The glass is already broken

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 24, 2015

“You see this goblet?” asks Achaan Chaa, the Thai meditation master. “For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”

From Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective by Mark Epstein.

Teaching evolution to religious students

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2015

James Krupa teaches a mandatory biology class at the University of Kentucky and some students have a difficult time because Krupa refuses to shy away from evolution.

Rarely do I have a Kentucky student who learned about human evolution in high school biology. Those who did usually attended high schools in large urban centers like Louisville or Lexington. Given how easily it can provoke parents, the teaching of human evolution is a rarity in high school, so much so in Kentucky that it startled me when I first arrived.

The story of our evolutionary history captivates many of my students, while infuriating some. During one lecture, a student stood up in the back row and shouted the length of the auditorium that Darwin denounced evolution on his deathbed — a myth intentionally spread by creationists. The student then made it known that everything I was teaching was a lie and stomped out of the auditorium, slamming the door behind him. A few years later during the same lecture, another student also shouted out from the back row that I was lying. She said that no transitional fossil forms had ever been found — despite my having shared images of many transitional forms during the semester. Many of her fellow students were shocked by her combativeness, particularly when she stormed out, also slamming the door behind her. Most semesters, a significant number of students abruptly leave as soon as they realize the topic is human evolution.

I personally don’t understand the compatibility of evolutionary biology and Christianity Krupa emphasizes in his class, but I guess it helps to meet people halfway?

Behold ROBOPRIEST!

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 17, 2015

robopriest.jpg

I, for one, welcome our new ROBOPRIEST overlords. I found ROBOPRIEST on artist Josh Ellingson’s website. The robot costume-for-two was intended to perform wedding ceremonies and is the brainchild of Ellingson and Selene Luna, a 3’10” performance artist. It speaks in a robot voice, has flashing eyes, and the interior of its hatch is decorated with dirty pictures.

The idea of ROBOPRIEST started as a joke on Twitter between me and Selene Luna, an actress friend of mine in Los Angeles. We were trying to come up with funny ideas to collaborate on wedding services.The joke then turned into reality when Selene asked me to build ROBOPRIEST for her one woman show, “Sweating the Small Stuff” in San Francisco. The costume consisted mostly of cardboard and foam rubber with a skeleton of plastic hula hoops. The “eyes” are speakers equipped with voice-activated electro-luminescent wire. The audio for ROBOTPRIEST’s voice and various sound-effects were created by sound designer, Jim Coursey.

Its components include children’s toy claws, silver lame, ductwork, an iPod, and a harness that enables Luna to operate the costume from inside while riding piggyback on Ellingson.

Selene pilots ROBOPRIEST from a harness attached to my back. The harness is called The Piggyback Rider and is really just a backpack strap with a bar that runs along the bottom. This allowed Selene to comfortably stand on my back and easily hop off if needed. The top of ROBOPRIEST is equipped with a hatch from which Selene can address her minions. The inside of the hatch is decorated with a collage of nudie magazine clippings (NSFW), something that I thought appropriate for the insides of a repressed robot’s head at the time, although it may just have been all the hot-glue fumes getting to me.

Ellingson’s site has sound clips and a video of ROBOPRIEST announcing himself, and there are lots of photos on Flickr showing the build process.

Severed goat heads are haunting Brooklyn

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 16, 2015

park-slope-goat-heads.jpg

“Severed goat heads keep turning up in nearby Prospect Park,” reports Adrien Chen. Was it religious sacrifice? A prank? Something else?

A mysterious flood of goat heads is the only interesting thing that has happened in Park Slope since I moved to the neighborhood three years ago. Yes, the rush to blame a little-understood religion practiced largely by immigrants smacked a bit of lazy xenophobia, but the idea of Park Slope as a hotbed of animal sacrifice, in addition to child-friendly bars, was undeniably intriguing. In a city where everyday occurrences are casually weighed against the events of September 11, 2001, it was shocking to find that so many of my neighbors and I were actually shocked. The goat heads seemed to rear out of some shadow New York City that was even gnarlier than the pre-Guiliani version I’d seen in the movies, and at the edge of Brooklyn’s most thoroughly gentrified neighborhood, to boot. When New York asked me to investigate the goat heads, I leapt at the chance. I wanted to see if the world they hinted at lived up to the hype.”

His investigation includes a Freedom of Information Law request (“‘I’VE SEEN AS MUCH AS SEVEN SQUIRRELS DEAD IN THE PARK,’ went one report. ‘I’VE SEEN ONE THAT’S DECAPITATED’”), a Vodou priest, and multiple trips to the butcher.

The Book of Mormon Missionary Positions

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2015

Sometimes religion and a bit of wordplay come together to make something clever. So it is with Neil DaCosta’s project, The Book of Mormon Missionary Positions, a collection of photos depicting two fully clothed Mormon Missionaries in various sexual positions, as in the Kama Sutra.

Mormon Missionary Position

NSFW, I guess…I felt a bit sheepish scrolling through that page at the office even though everyone is fully clothed. (via a photo editor)

The tl;dr version of the Bible

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 21, 2014

At Reddit, a user called Cabbagetroll posted a very short summary of the Bible.

GENESIS
God: All right, you two, don’t do the one thing. Other than that, have fun.
Adam & Eve: Okay.
Satan: You should do the thing.
Adam & Eve: Okay.
God: What happened!?
Adam & Eve: We did the thing.
God: Guys

THE REST OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
God: You are my people, and you should not do the things.
People: We won’t do the things.
God: Good.
People: We did the things.
God: Guys

(via @mkonnikova)

God, Darwin, and biology class

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 01, 2014

Every year, evolutionary biologist and professor David Barash gives his students The Talk about how evolution and religion do and do not get along.

It’s irresponsible to teach biology without evolution, and yet many students worry about reconciling their beliefs with evolutionary science. Just as many Americans don’t grasp the fact that evolution is not merely a “theory,” but the underpinning of all biological science, a substantial minority of my students are troubled to discover that their beliefs conflict with the course material.

Until recently, I had pretty much ignored such discomfort, assuming that it was their problem, not mine. Teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching chemistry without molecules, or physics without mass and energy. But instead of students’ growing more comfortable with the tension between evolution and religion over time, the opposite seems to have happened. Thus, The Talk.

This is the sort of thing Barash talks about:

The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.

(via @TomJunod)

Heaven’s Gate still open for business

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2014

Heavens Gate

In late March 1997, 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate group were found dead in a mansion in California, having committed mass suicide in anticipation of being picked up by a spacecraft following the Hale-Bopp comet. When police discovered the bodies and word began to spread via national news, mailing lists, and online forums, a major point of focus was the extensive amount of information left on the group’s website.

Whether Hale-Bopp has a “companion” or not is irrelevant from our perspective. However, its arrival is joyously very significant to us at “Heaven’s Gate.” The joy is that our Older Member in the Evolutionary Level Above Human (the “Kingdom of Heaven”) has made it clear to us that Hale-Bopp’s approach is the “marker” we’ve been waiting for — the time for the arrival of the spacecraft from the Level Above Human to take us home to “Their World” — in the literal Heavens. Our 22 years of classroom here on planet Earth is finally coming to conclusion — “graduation” from the Human Evolutionary Level. We are happily prepared to leave “this world” and go with Ti’s crew.

If you study the material on this website you will hopefully understand our joy and what our purpose here on Earth has been. You may even find your “boarding pass” to leave with us during this brief “window.”

Which website, as Gizmodo’s Ashley Feinberg reports, is still very much operational, thanks to the efforts of a pair of Heaven’s Gate members who chose to remain in their fleshy “vehicles” on Earth.

Every month, the bills get paid on time. The emails get answered, and any orders filled. Which, for HeavensGate.com, is positively extraordinary. Because as far as the public is aware, every last member of the suicide cult died 17 years ago from a cocktail of arsenic and apple sauce. A few stayed behind, though. Someone had to keep the homepage going.

The site is still up, in part, because the group supported themselves financially by running a web design business.

As far as early 90s web design firms go, Higher Source did it all. And looking back at the archived site for the group’s occupational design firm, while they never directly mention their affiliation with the Heaven’s Gate cult, subtle references to the company’s origins abound. With Higher Source, you were getting “a crew-minded effort” from people who have worked “closely” together for 20 years. Of course, close in this case meant literal bunkmates.

You were getting a lot more than that, though. UFO and suicide cult connotations of hindsight aside, this is one of the most pristine testaments to early internet web design around. Not only could Higher Source program in Java, C++, and Visual Basic as well as use Shockwave, QuickTime, and AVI, they could gradient the hell out of your word art, too.

In 1997, I was working as a web designer for a small web development firm in Minneapolis. Our homepage and services offered were not all that different than Higher Source’s. I remember vividly being in the office when the news of the suicide hit and a bunch of us gathered around a computer, browsing through the site before the TV news mentions finally crashed it. It was the first time an internet meme was a major aspect of a national news story. Like, holy shit, they are talking about web design on CNN!

What I don’t remember clearly is if Heaven’s Gate / Higher Source was being discussed online before the suicides happened. It seems like a UFO cult that also did web design would have been a prime topic for conversation in web development circles. Does anyone recall either way?

Update: Meant to add, watching the videotaped statements of each Heaven’s Gate Member before they killed themselves is weird and chilling. They’re almost giddy!

Clickbaiting the 10 Commandments

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2014

Over at McSweeney’s, David Tate imagines more engaging copy for the Ten Commandments, aka you won’t believe what God said to this man…

At the Beginning He Had Me Confused, But by Minute Two I Knew That I Shouldn’t Have Other Gods.

37 Things in Your Bedroom That You Need to Get Rid of Right Now, Like Adulteresses.

Creation clip from Noah

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2014

This was one of my favorite scenes the film…Russell Crowe’s Noah telling his children the creation story, which ends up being half supernatural and half evolution.

Worth watching for the special effects alone.

The new Ten Commandments

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2014

From God’s Twitter account, a new set of ten commandments:

1 Laugh.
2 Read.
3 Say please.
4 Floss.
5 Doubt.
6 Exercise.
7 Learn.
8 Don’t hate.
9 Cut the bullshit.
10 Chill.

Amen.

The Prayer of Saint Francis

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2014

I am not a religious person, but Reverend Smith spoke a few lines of the Prayer of Saint Francis on an episode of Deadwood I watched recently and I can’t stop thinking about it. The prayer in full:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The Reverend put it slightly differently:

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted, to understand, than to be understood, to love, than to be loved…

Believer in eternal life or not, that’s a way of living life I can get behind.

The Bible’s anachronistic camel problem

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2014

There are too many camels in the Bible. Evidence suggests they were domesticated in Israel centuries after the events in Genesis took place.

Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac.

These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history. These camel stories “do not encapsulate memories from the second millennium,” said Noam Mizrahi, an Israeli biblical scholar, “but should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period.”

Dr. Mizrahi likened the practice to a historical account of medieval events that veers off to a description of “how people in the Middle Ages used semitrailers in order to transport goods from one European kingdom to another.”

Update: Added “in Israel” to clarify the camel domestication timeline…they were domesticated much earlier in the Arabian Peninsula.

Archaeologists have established that camels were probably domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula for use as pack animals sometime towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE. In the southern Levant, where Israel is located, the oldest known domesticated camel bones are from the Aravah Valley, which runs along the Israeli-Jordanian border from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea and was an ancient center of copper production. At a 2009 dig, Dr. Ben-Yosef dated an Aravah Valley copper smelting camp where the domesticated camel bones were found to the 11th to 9th century BCE.

(via @arbesman)

Scientific answers for creationists

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2014

The other day, Bill Nye debated Ken Ham about evolution and creationism. At the event, Matt Stopera asked self-identifying creationists to write question/notes to those who “believe” in evolution. Here’s one:

Creation is amazing

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy responded to each of the 22 notes/questions from the creationists. Here’s his answer to the comment above:

I agree; it is amazing! I’ve written about this many times. But we know that complexity can arise naturally through the laws of physics. It doesn’t take very complex rules to create huge diversity. Look at poker; a simple set of rules creates a game that has so many combinations it’s essentially infinite to human experience. We can figure out the rules of nature by studying the way processes follow them, and deduce what’s going on behind the scenes. And whenever we do, we see science.

This makes me think of Richard Feynman’s ode to the scientific beauty of a flower:

I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

Snowden and not Pope is Person of the Year

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2013

This morning, Time magazine named Pope Francis their Person of the Year.

He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing. The first non-European pope in 1,200 years is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.

On Monday, The New Yorker’s John Cassidy argued that Edward Snowden deserved the honor.

According to Time, its award, which will be bestowed on Wednesday, goes to the person who, in the opinion of the magazine’s editors, had the most influence on the news. By this metric, it’s no contest. In downloading thousands of files from the computers of the electronic spying agency and handing them over to journalists like Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Barton Gellman, Snowden unleashed a torrent of news stories that began in May, when the Guardian and the Washington Post published a series of articles about the N.S.A.’s surveillance activities. Seven months later, the gusher is still open. Just last week, we learned that the agency is tracking the whereabouts of hundreds of millions of cell phones, gathering nearly five billion records a day.

Agreed.

Trailer for Noah

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2013

Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan) has made a movie called Noah, about Noah’s ark. It stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins. Here’s the trailer:

Spoiler: Noah survives and lives to the age of 950. More spoilers in Genesis Chapter 6. (via devour)

The Jewish prisoner

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2013

In a piece published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, David Arenberg describes his experience as one of the very few Jews in the state prison in which he’s currently incarcerated.

I am always the last person to eat. It’s part of a compromise I worked out with the skinheads who run the western state prison complex where I am incarcerated. Under this compromise, I’m allowed to sit at the whites’ tables, but only after the “heads,” and then the “woods,” and then the “lames” have eaten. I am lower on the totem pole than all of them, the untouchable. I should feel lucky I’m allowed to eat at the whites’ tables at all.

Not that there’s anywhere else I could eat. The prison yard is broken down into five distinct racial categories and segregation is strictly enforced. There are the “woods” (short for peckerwoods) that encompass the whites, the “kinfolk” (blacks), the “Raza” (American-born people of Mexican descent), the “paisas” (Mexico-born Mexicans), and the “chiefs” (American Indians). Under the strict rules that govern interracial relations, different races are allowed to play on the same sports teams but not play individual games (e.g., chess) together; they may be in each others’ cubicles together if the situation warrants but not sit on each others’ beds or watch each others’ televisions. They may go to the same church services but not pray together. But if you accidentally break one of these rules, the consequences are usually pretty mild: you might get a talking to by one of the heads (who, of course, claims exemption from this rule himself), or at worst, a “chin check.”

Eating with another race, however, is a different story. It is an inviolate rule that different races may not break bread together under any circumstances. Violating this rule leads to harsh consequences. If you eat at the same table as another race, you’ll get beaten down. If you eat from the same tray as another race, you’ll be put in the hospital. And if you eat from the same food item as another race, that is, after another race has already taken a bite of it, you can get killed. This is one area where even the heads don’t have any play.

Penn Jillette: Let’s end religion

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2013

In response to “Is Atheism a Religion”, Penn Jillette answers with a resounding NO.

Religion is faith. Faith is belief without evidence. Belief without evidence cannot be shared. Faith is a feeling. Love is also a feeling, but love makes no universal claims. Love is pure. The lover reports on his or her feelings and needs nothing more. Faith claims knowledge of a world we share but without evidence we can share. Feeling love is beautiful. Feeling the earth is 6,000 years old is stupid.

Religion is often just tribalism: pride in a group one was born into, a group that is often believed to have “God” on its side. We don’t need to replace tribalism with anything other than love for all humanity. Let’s do that, okay?

(via @dens)

Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlap this year…and then almost never again

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 17, 2013

This year, the first day of Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving Day. Amazingly, this is the first second time it’s happened since President Lincoln established Thanksgiving in 1863 and it is also the last time it’ll happen until the year 79,811. I’ll say that again: after this year, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving Day won’t overlap for another 77,798 years.

The reason is because the Jewish calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1000 years (not bad for a many centuries old calendar!) This means that while presently Hanukkah can be as early as 11/28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Hanukkah can be is 11/29. The last time Hanukkah falls on 11/28 is 2146 (which happens to be a Monday).

(via @hchamp)

Update: As noted above, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlapped once before, in 1888, because Thanksgiving used to fall on the last Thursday in November and not the fourth Thursday.

Lawrence Wright’s Scientology book

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2013

Here’s just one of the many odd revelations from Lawrence Wright’s book on Scientology that’s coming out this week:

John Travolta began taking Scientology courses before his audition for the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter, and fellow students pointed in the direction of ABC Studios to telepathically communicate: ‘We want John Travolta for the part.’ (He got the part.)

Thankfully, Horshack got the part the old-fashioned way. He raised his hand and said, oooooohhhhh! oooooohhhhh! oooooohhhhh!

We’re sacrificing America’s children to “our great god Gun”

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2012

When God said in the Bible “you shall have no other gods before me”, one of the gods he was referring to was Moloch, an Ammonite god worshipped by the Phoenicians and Canaanites who was associated with the sacrifice of children by his followers. In a short essay for The New York Review of Books, Gary Wills singles out the gun as America’s Moloch.

Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains-“besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily-sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

Jehovah’s Witnesses to the deaf: no masturbation in da club

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 06, 2012

Some genius paired 50 Cent’s In Da Club with a video put out by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to encourage deaf people not to masturbate. This is probably inappropriate or deafist or whatever, but it also provided me with a much-needed tears-rolling-down face laugh the other day.

(via stellar)

Mrs. Jesus Christ

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2012

A small piece of papyrus with 4th-century writing has turned up recently and the text on it refers to Jesus’ wife.

A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’”

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The article says the papyrus is “probably genuine” but I wouldn’t rule out a forgery financed by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code fortune. (via @Rebeccamead_NYC)

Rushdie: what it’s like to live under threat of death

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 12, 2012

In the New Yorker, Salman Rushdie describes how quickly his entire life changed after Iran’s Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s “execution”.

He unlocked the front door, went outside, got into the car, and was driven away. Although he did not know it then — so the moment of leaving his home did not feel unusually freighted with meaning — he would not return to that house, at 41 St. Peter’s Street, which had been his home for half a decade, until three years later, by which time it would no longer be his.

The article is excerpted from Rushdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton, which comes out next week. Joseph Anton was the name Rushdie adopted in hiding and, now that I think about it, explains why the NYer piece was written in the third person.

The view of Scientology from the inside

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 07, 2012

Tony Ortega has a long interview in the Village Voice with John Brousseau, who was a 32-year member of the Church of Scientology until he left in 2010.

In some ways, Brousseau’s tale is one of the most remarkable to come out of the secretive organization, and one that parallels so much of Scientology’s own development and controversies.

He and [Scientology leader David] Miscavige were brothers in law. They were both young cameramen working for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard during his movie-making phase. Brousseau was Hubbard’s personal chauffeur and helped maintain the cloak of secrecy when Hubbard vanished for good. He watched Miscavige transform Scientology and turn its base into a prison camp. He worked for Tom Cruise, which included serving in the household with Cruise and Katie Holmes. And having worked closely with both Cruise and Miscavige, he has choice things to say about the nature of their relationship.

Here’s part two of the interview.