Archive for Immaterial Witness

Straining the argument

Last month, we found out that Oklahoma apparently does not have a problem with a driver’s-license photo featuring the traditional headgear of the Pastafarians. British Columbia, by contrast, has a problem:

Here in one of the most religiously diverse communities in Canada, it is possible to obtain a driver’s license wearing a kipa, hijab, habit, turban or Amish cap — really, any piece of religious headgear that does not obscure the face.

But lifelong Surreyite Obi Canuel is currently unable to drive because he has refused to remove a spaghetti colander from his head for his driver’s license photo. He does it, he claims, because he believes the world was created by an intoxicated Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The FSM soused? Perish the thought.

Last November, Mr. Canuel posed for his driver’s license photo while wearing a blue toga and plastic spaghetti colander.

The unusual photo was deemed fit for Mr. Canuel’s provincial I.D. card, but after lengthy review by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia — the province’s official licensing agency — it was ultimately deemed insufficient for his driver’s license.

This may be a mission-creep issue: the ICBC was originally created as a Crown Corporation to provide auto insurance, and only later was handed the responsibility for licensing drivers. And drivers don’t think much of their insurance these days.

Still, British Columbia could legitimately be seen as a laggard:

U.S. soldiers have had “FSM” listed as a religion on their dog tags, a town councilmember in Pomfret, N.Y., was recently sworn in while solemnly wearing a plastic pasta colander, and colander-wearing pastafarians have been able to obtain driver’s licenses in Austria, the Czech Republic, California, Texas, Oklahoma and New Zealand.

And I suspect Victoria won’t stand for that for long.

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Choosing your battles poorly

Not that their track record is good, exactly, but this seemed a bit more quixotic than usual:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) first shot at religious activism — a call to Muslims to observe a vegetarian Eid this October — has misfired. It met with violent protests [in Bhopal] on Monday.

“Misfired” may be a trifle generous:

PRTA woman volunteer Benazir Suraiya attempted to make an appeal to Muslims to go vegetarian at the legendary Taj-ul-Masajid, said to be one of Asia’s largest mosques.

Camouflaged in a green hijab, to highlight the importance of vegetarianism, she walked towards the mosque gates with a couple of PETA volunteers holding a placard in Urdu and English which read: “Make Eid Happy for All. Try Vegan.”

With less than a dozen policemen deployed, locals took the opportunity and shouted slogans asking her to turn back. She was forced to take cover along with another PETA volunteer in the market outside the mosque.

Besides, there are vegetable products that fail to qualify as halal:

[M]ost observant Muslims refrain from consuming food products that contain pure vanilla extract or soy sauce if these food products contain alcohol; there is some debate about whether the prohibition extends to dishes in which the alcohol would be cooked off or if it would be practically impossible to consume enough of the food to become intoxicated.

Tim Blair described the scene as “a clash of civilisations involving no actual civilisations.”

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You can’t spell “crisis” without ISIS

The Pergelator response to last week’s coverage of an anti-ISIS demonstration in Oklahoma City:

This is very nice, but it’s not what we’re really looking for. Being blood-thirsty American Imperialist running-dogs (to use our full third world title), we want to hear something more like “DEATH TO ISIS” or “KILL ALL THE JIHADISTS”. Oh wait, that’s kind of what being a Jihadist is all about isn’t it? How do you tell the good Jihadists from the bad Jihadists? Especially when the only good Jihadist is a dead one? So I can sort of see why they went with their milder slogan.

Wasn’t “imperialist running dogs” more of a Maoist sort of denunciation? Although I can see why jihadi might like it, given their avowed dislike of canines, running or otherwise.

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Filling in the blanks

While I’m Clark Kenting around here doing the bloggy stuff, my (not all that) secret identity is churning out pony stories. (They’re on the sidebar, in case you’d somehow missed them.) Turns out, there is historical — and religious — precedent for this sort of thing.

(A tip of the tiara to Fillyjonk, who sent me this idea four days ago and probably wondered if I was going to do anything with it.)

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And they said it couldn’t be done

“Have you noticed,” the pundits point out, “that you’ll never see workaday Muslims denouncing the atrocities routinely committed in the name of Allah?”

Anti-ISIS demonstrators in Oklahoma City“Never” is a long time. And yes, yes, I know: taqiyya. But once in a while I feel like I ought to be giving someone the benefit of the doubt, so this smallish demonstration yesterday at one of the busier intersections in town — on the northeast corner of Pennsylvania at Northwest Distressway, putting it squarely on my route home — was ever so slightly heartening, especially in a town where mosques are occasionally defaced by persons unknown.

From Red Dirt Report:

[T]he majority of signs held by the pro-peace crowd at Northwest Expressway and Pennsylvania Avenue by Penn Square Mall, were to drive the point home that terrorist group ISIS is not a representation of Islam, as some held the sign saying “ISIS DOES NOT REPRESENT ME!”

The rally was largely led by CAIR-OK and their executive director Adam Soltani and Imam Imad Enchassi. Both have spoken out against Republican legislator John Bennett of Sallisaw, who recently made very bigoted and inflammatory remarks against Muslim Americans and has since refused to back down or apologize for his hurtful, hateful statements.

“Hurtful” and “hateful,” verbally anyway, are turning into this century’s Frick and Frack.

I admittedly didn’t get really good looks at most of the crowd, but I didn’t see anyone giving off an aura of “Kill!” Our old friend Jennifer James took photos for RDR, and they look similarly benign. And the planners were astute enough to bunch everyone together, unlike the usual approach for demonstrations at this intersection, which is to take over two, even three, corners; this creates a sense of unity.

Update, 23 September: A response from Charles Pergiel.

Update, 26 September: Then again, civilized people do not engage in beheadings.

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Added to the colander of saints

“Lose the glasses,” they told me when they took the picture for my driver’s license. “Too much glare.” Good thing they didn’t shoot the top of my head.

Then again, I’m not a Pastafarian:

It may sound like a joke but an Enid woman says her Oklahoma driver’s license features a unique symbol of her religious freedom.

It may even prompt a giggle, but for Shawna Hammond, the spaghetti strainer is a symbol of freedom.

“It doesn’t cover my face. I mean you can still see my face. We have to take off our glasses, so I took off my glasses,” Hammond said.

Letter of the law, doncha know. And this is the law:

According to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety’s rules, religious headpieces cannot cause shadows on your face and the photograph must present a clear view of your face.

Hammond declares herself to be an atheist, her manifest devotion to the Flying Spaghetti Monster notwithstanding.

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Pascal updated

Joe Sherlock’s version of the Wager:

An agnostic friend once asked me, “How can you be sure there’s an afterlife?” I replied, “I’m not sure. But, there’s no downside to being a Believer. I mean, if it turns out that I’m wrong and there’s Nothing — if everything just Fades to Black, it’s not like a ghostly Nelson Muntz is going to appear and mockingly guffaw, “Haw Haw.”

Not precisely the same thought, but with much the same spirit.

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Let the stars of Twilight thereof be dark

It has never been any particular secret that you can sing “Amazing Grace” over the theme from Gilligan’s Island. (Or, for that matter, the other way around.) As the phrase goes, four chords, no waiting.

Presumably, though, a line must be drawn somewhere:

In February, I asked if anyone else was uncomfortable with Dan Schutte’s Mass of Christ the Savior (2010) — which appears to be written in a secular style.

Some other Dan should be mentioned: Daniel Ingram, who’s responsible for the theme song to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which a passage in Schutte’s Mass resembles more than slightly.

No, seriously. Listen for yourself.

We have to assume that this was unintentional. Still, it clearly has the power to unsettle.

(Roger Green sent me this. The title is from Job 3:9.)

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New morning at Dawn

Dawn Eden and I go back many years, and by “many years” I mean a duration long enough for us to have gotten out of touch for several, somewhere in the midst of it. I can tell you, based on personal experience, that she’s an inveterate punster and a wonderful dinner companion. But for the rest of what she’s been up to, you’re going to have to read this piece at GetReligion, which explains not only how she got it but what she did with it.

And this, she says, is the bottom line:

[H]aving put in years in New York City newsrooms, not to mention decades as a rock music historian, I know the value of a free press, and I want to see mainstream journalists produce accurate, fair, balanced reporting on faith issues. That’s why I am here at GetReligion.

Her blog continues at The Dawn Patrol.

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St. Jeff the Heretic

The following notice appeared on the back cover of Gilbert Magazine on behalf of its publisher, the American Chesterton Society:

AMAZON IS NOT AN APOSTOLATE

“With Amazon Prime, I get free shipping” is what we sometimes hear from friends of G. K. Chesterton. Amazon.com can certainly get you that book or DVD you’ve wanted for less. But free shipping, believe it or not, is expensive. It’s expensive because Amazon never has, and never will, run an apostolate dedicated to the greatest mind of the 20th century.

Amazon’s lower prices cannot replace an apostolate that cares about the mind and soul of your family. Neither will Amazon pretend it has any stake in the restoration of sanity, common sense and education as investments for a society desperately in need of the love of Christ or the profound commitment society owes to family life.

I may as well mention here that I have ordered material from ACS, and that I didn’t price-check it with the Great Bezos Machine beforehand. (Turns out they didn’t actually have it.)

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Meanwhile beyond the sky

Tim Blair quotes a writer on the environmental beat:

“The Anglican Church has told the Abbott government to change its approach to climate change, urging it to respect and base its policy on scientific evidence.”

The comic power in that paragraph is equal to several kilotons of the finest plutonium. Here we have an organisation founded on belief and faith now demanding that selected scientific opinions inform government policy. These same people think they can talk to the planet’s inventor just by putting their hands together.

I demur somewhat on that last sentence — apparently there are Anglicans of a sort who don’t even believe in God — but one thing I have learned is that false prophets are generally trying to generate profits. (See, for instance, Saint Albert the Gaseous.)

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Up from wherever

Tony Woodlief on the Littlest Immigrants:

I don’t think they love their children any less than I love my own, which tells me something about what their lives must be like, to send their babies away. Their children stream northward in droves — as many as 60,000 this year — and we don’t want them. We don’t want their skin lesions and their hungry bellies, we don’t want their parents and aunts and uncles likely to follow, we don’t want them taking our jobs and clogging our classrooms and driving without insurance on our roads. We have no place for them in our country and certainly not in our hearts.

And yet:

What if, instead of greeting the federal agents with protest signs, we greeted them with petitions? Give us these children. We will feed them, we will clothe them, we will give them shelter. We will teach them and we will pray over them. Their parents, God help them, sent them away, and now here we stand to make good on the faith or hope or desperation in which those mothers and fathers sent them forth. Give us these children, and we will find a way. We will show mercy, because while we can scarcely agree between ourselves on anything else, we agree that the kingdom of heaven includes a hand stretched out in love.

It’s utterly impractical, I know. But how have we done so far, Christians, with practicality? For Christ’s sake, let’s not be known for our practicality.

Yeah, I know, I know: we’re being played for chumps by our wicked (no other word applies) government. Think in terms of a Higher Authority.

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Hindmost being taken

Tickets for a Civic Center Music Hall presentation of a Black Mass go on sale today, and, well, the event is not going unnoticed:

A group called Dakhma of Angra Mainyu is holding a Black Mass at the Oklahoma City Civic Center on September 21. The permittee for the event is Adam Daniels, a registered sex offender. The Civic Center is owned by the city and funded by a foundation that includes a city government official and the head of a Catholic hospital on its board. The event has been condemned by the Archbishop of Oklahoma City. (I first read about this on Fr. Z’s Blog.)

The group itself seems to be sort of anti-Zoroastrian:

Dakhma of Angra Mainyu is about freedom from any religion that chooses to bind you to some type of dogma the forces you to restrain your natural animal instincts. They say desire and “sin” move you away from the ultimate consumer of souls through fire. Ahura Mazda is the slave driver that forces laws onto mankind that completely against man’s nature. Only through spiritual and chaotic destruction of this enslavement, will one become spiritually free from not only mortal/ethical enslavement, include freedom from Atar which is the Holy Fire that will consume your soul to recharge Ahura Mazda. The truest form of freedom is brought about by evil speech (blaspheme). 3 ways define the human existence: thought, speech, and action. Knowing that mankind is judge off this paradigm, does it make sense to inhibit your animal desires because some “God” said they were evil? No, the inhibition is to build internal pressure, like a teapot without a valve. Upon death this gives the Ahuras (angels) that much more energy to consume as they live off of pain and blood. Thus requiring sacrifice and becoming a mayrter.

Which I suppose is being (accidentally?) like a martyr, only with bells on.

I note here for record that I do follow the BaphometOKC Twitter account, though this is mostly for amusement purposes.

If you object to this sort of thing, Dawn Eden suggests some ways to make your objections heard. Attendance will not be high regardless, simply because the event is booked for the downstairs City Space Theatre, which is geared to Equity Waiver/Showcase Code-sized audiences: fewer than 100. Last time, apparently, they drew zero.

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Quote of the week

Relatively few QOTWs come with footnotes, but this particular version does have one, and it deserves inclusion:

While the Margaret Atwoods of the world worry about the Baptists enacting some horrible draconian theocracy here in the US*, it’s actually happening in other corners of the world. I guess over there it’s charming and ethnic and we shouldn’t judge them by our imperialistic Western standards. Why, one person’s flogging for an unapproved marriage is no different from another person’s $15 ticket for jaywalking!

* Both atheists and believers want to feel oppressed here, because oppression is the coin of the realm in 21st century America and can be traded for valuable cash and prizes.

Yep. Don’t even think about writing a memoir unless you can cite examples where you were victimized by The Man, or at the very least by The System.

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Speaking of trees

Tony Woodlief, on ice storms and their impact:

There is no predicting which trees will break, nor how they will falter. Some shed limbs as a rebirthing, others lose not a one. Some are sundered to their roots, as if a rotten core had crept up through the center of them, or had been birthed within them, had been inside them from the beginning, only to be revealed in the testing hour.

A pin oak behind my house cast down a dozen widow-makers, a proud magnolia fell into itself grotesquely. A pear tree shed half itself across my driveway. Branches speared the earth, some of them a foot deep, because when you stretch to heaven you have much further to fall, and your breaking is perilous to all around you.

To sum it up:

Sometimes the ones we thought strong topple, while the stoop-shouldered endure. They endure because they bend beneath the weight, they shoulder it as beasts of burden and within them is something like faith that it will pass.

Sometimes they get by with a little help from their friends, but they survive.

Two years of unrelenting drought killed off three of my trees, and surely weakened the others; yet the others are still standing, still green (or other color as appropriate), still keeping watch. It’s hard not to feel somewhat comforted by that, even as I mourn the departed.

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Give or take a cubit

We’re not saying that they’d all fit, but we’re saying that they’d all float:

[R]esearch by physics students suggests that a structure on the scale of Noah’s ark as described in the ancient text could have been built.

And what’s more, they say it would have been buoyant even with two of every animal on Earth on board.

Okay, you’ve gotten my attention. How does this work?

  • The dimensions for the ark were provided in cubits in the Bible, an archaic measure based on the distance between the elbow and the tip of the middle finger.
  • Noah was commanded to make the boat out of ‘gopher wood’ and in order to calculate the weight of the empty ark they needed to know the density of the material the boat was constructed out of, but there is no modern-day equivalent of gopher wood.
  • English translations of the Bible refer to cypress wood instead, so this was the material that the students used.
  • In order to calculate the overall downward force of the ark, the students needed to know the mass of the animals on board; previous research has suggested that the average mass of an animal is approximately equal to that of one sheep, 23.47kg, which was the figure used.
  • “Our conclusions were that the ark would support the weight of 2.15 million sheep without sinking and that should be enough to support all of the species that were around at the time.”

Still unexplained: why Noah didn’t swat those frickin’ mosquitoes when he had the chance; and dammit, you expect unicorns to be smarter than that. Or at least I do.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Ark of the Clumsiest

After sampling several reviews, Chris Johnson concludes:

So why make Noah in the first place? I can think of only two possible explanations. The first is to sabotage the idea that Biblical movies can make money. “See?! We made Noah and nobody cared! So stop bugging us to film more of this fundie crap!”

Although he prefers his second explanation, and so do I.

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Freddie’s still dead

Last week’s QOTW speculated that Fred Phelps might have had something of a change of heart before shuffling off this mortal coil.

In possible support of this premise:

Last week, Fred Phelps’ son posted on Facebook that his father, the longtime head of the notoriously venomous Westboro Baptist Church — famous for protesting military and other high-profile funerals and events with neon “God Hates Fags” signs — was “now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka.” Despite Drain’s attempts to downplay the severity of Phelps’s condition, it was reported Tuesday that the 84-year-old Phelps had passed away.

Most intriguing about Nate Phelps’s Facebook post was not the news that an octogenarian’s health was failing, but that Fred Phelps Sr., who founded the hatemongering church in 1955 and turned his progeny into some of the loudest and most despised people in America, had been excommunicated last summer.

“Drain” is Steve Drain, who may have orchestrated that excommunication and installed himself in Westboro’s seat of power.

Still, this might be the single most salient thing said about the demise of Mr Phelps:

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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Quote of the week

Tony Woodlief, on the recent departure of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps:

In truth, people like me need someone like Fred Phelps. He made me feel better about myself. I am as the Pharisee who gave thanks he was not the tax collector — a comparison to which some might object, on the grounds that in that story, the tax collector was a humbled man, aware of his sins and begging mercy.

But none of us knows what transpires in the heart’s final beating. We can never know until it is we who lay waiting for judgment, our hearts softened or hardened or indifferent. Perhaps Fred Phelps saw, in his final seconds, the cost of his life, the dreadful bloody stink of it, rising up to heaven. Perhaps he saw and he begged forgiveness. And perhaps — how scandalous to think it — he was forgiven.

And while the state of his heart is now a settled and secreted thing, perhaps mine turns, as well as yours, on whether we are willing to pray that it was so, that the likes of Fred Phelps could be saved from the sickness that consumed him. Perhaps such a merciful heart is, in the end, all that saves any of us from his sickness.

Which reminds us that justice, the legal concept, and Justice, the operation of the cosmos under divine guidance, share little more than a word.

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For those who need a patron

A saint for our times, perhaps?

Since February 2004 San Precario, patron saint of precarious, casualised, sessional, intermittent, temporary, flexible, project, freelance and fractional workers, has appeared in various Italian cities. The saint appears in public spaces on occasions of rallies, marches, interventions, demonstrations, film festivals, fashion parades, and, being a saint, processions. Often he performs miracles. Although the first appearances are recorded on 29 February 2004, San Precario has multiplied and materialised in different disguises. Equitable in his choices, San Precario does not privilege one category of precarious worker over another, and he can appear in supermarkets in urban peripheries, in bookstores or, glammed up, at the Venice Film Festival. San Precario is also transgender, and it has appeared also as a female saint. A “cult” has spread rapidly and has led to the development of a distinct and colorful iconography, hagiography and rituals. Appropriating the Italian Catholic tradition of carrying saint statues in processions in urban spaces, the cult of San Precario functions at the same time as étournement, as a Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), as carnival. It is also a tactic to make visible issues arising from the increasing casualisation of the work force. At a different level it can be considered a site of mythopoetic production.

I do like that word “mythopoetic”: with twice the latitude of either myth or poem, it conceivably could pack four times the punch — a useful attribute for a saint whose feast day occurs only once every four years.

(Via this Nancy Friedman tweet.)

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Only the fuse is burned out

Mars, said Bernie Taupin, ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids; what’s more, it’s cold as hell. But if this bothers the Rocket Man, it positively repels official Islam:

A Fatwa has been issued against living on Mars by clerics who say that trying to set up home there would be un-Islamic.

The fatwa — or ruling — was issued by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (GAIAE) in the UAE after the Mars One organisation announced that it would try and establish a permanent human settlement on Mars.

The committee argued that an attempt to dwell on the planet would be so hazardous as to be suicidal and killing oneself is not permitted by Islam.

Unless, presumably, one self-identifies as a heretic.

I suspect, though, that this declaration is a tad less portentous than advertised:

The GAIAE has issued around two million Fatwas through its Official Fatwa Centre since its inception in 2008.

This is a fatwa every 90 seconds. And you thought official Washington had its thumbs in too many places.

(Via Francis W. Porretto.)

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The order of stone-casting

A Shreveport Councilman gets his world rocked, so to speak:

A City Council member in Shreveport, La., has abandoned his effort to repeal an LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination ordinance, following outcry from the public, including a transgender woman who dared him to stone her to death.

The council passed the ordinance in December by a vote of 6-1, following a successful campaign by a pro-LGBT coaltion known as Be Fair Shreveport. The ordinance, which bans discrimination in housing and employment within city limits on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, received its lone “no” vote from Councilman Ron Webb. During the council’s debate last December, Webb voiced his opposition, saying, “The Bible tells you homosexuals are an abomination,” adding that he does not socialize with LGBT people, according to TV station KSLA.

At least, he thinks he doesn’t.

Still, he wasn’t about to give up:

Ten days after the council approved the ordinance, Webb drafted a proposal designed to repeal the nondiscrimination policy. On Tuesday, dozens of people registered to testify at the City Council meeting, ready to speak out against Webb’s measure, report Lone Star Q.

But none were quite as bold as Pamela Raintree, a transgender woman. Raintree called out the Bible-quoting councilman, daring him to stone her to death.

“Leviticus 20:13 states, ‘If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, they shall surely put him to death,'” Raintree began. “I brought the first stone, Mr. Webb, in case that your Bible talk isn’t just a smoke screen for personal prejudices.”

By the end of the meeting, Webb had withdrawn his motion to repeal.

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Up from under

The Satanic Temple, which has applied to place a monument of His Devilish Majesty at the Oklahoma State Capitol, has released the design for the proposed statuary:

Proposed statue of Satan

The Capitol Preservation Commission, which receives such applications, has declared a moratorium on such things until a lawsuit over the extant Ten Commandments monument is resolved.

Meanwhile, the Temple, through Indiegogo, hopes to raise $20,000 to cover the costs; at this writing, they’re a little over halfway there.

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Thou shalt pay here

Near the bottom of any conceivable automotive market is the buy-here-pay-here dealer: you know going in, or should know anyway, that the interest rate will be stratospheric, the vehicle’s condition will be questionable, and the terms will be unforgiving.

Now: is BHPH compatible with JHVH? The following flyer was stuck under a wiper while I was grocery-shopping:

If your family is like most, you are struggling between buying the kids some Christmas presents or getting the family that much needed newer car. We are here to help solve that problem. <><

Our cars, trucks, and vans start at $1,000 and go to $7,195 with down payments as low as $500 to $2,000 depending on your stability factors. All it takes is just a few minutes to drop by the lot to look at our selection of second generation cars, trucks, and vans. <><

So saith By Faith Auto Sales, 19th and MacArthur, including the little fish-y brackets. The flyer, it says, doubles as a $250 “gift certificate.” And it does say not to bring it out until they start the paperwork, which strikes me as a good sign, but I’m still a trifle suspicious of the whole thing: it’s like the Godfather suddenly resurfaced as the Archbishop.

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Quote of the week

That whole “separation of church and state” business, if you ask me, has it exactly sideways. Christ spoke of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s; today’s Caesars are keen to have the population rendered, once their ability to mulct us fails for lack of further mulctables.

Francis W. Porretto, having noted this sort of thing before, has pretty much had it up to here with professions of [some sort of] faith as part of political campaigns:

The various Christian denominations differ on a number of things, most notably abortion, divorce, and sexual conduct. However, they are united around the Noachite Commandments:

Then someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and your mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 19:16-19]

Government’s penchants for theft and false witness should make any sincere Christian extremely uneasy about contact with it, approaching absolutely unwilling to be involved with it at any level. Make no mistake: to confiscate from unwilling Peter is theft no matter whether or not any of the proceeds reach Paul. The insertion of government, the supposedly disinterested servant of the “general welfare,” as the confiscator makes no difference whatsoever.

There’s a Catholic doctrine about “occasions of sin,” circumstances which are likely to lure the faithful into transgressions. Getting oneself parked in one of the seats of power, whether for graft or simply grasp, does not augur well for the future of one’s soul.

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If you meet the Buddha on the road, race him

Valerie Roedenbeck Maloof, who raises children and races cars, on the spiritual aspect of track work:

For those of us who have spent a lifetime attempting to espouse the teachings of Buddhism and Yoga, which encourage practitioners to stay in the present moment and not waste time on the past or the future, a race car at speed is the perfect place to live this teaching. You simply cannot be anywhere but right there, driving. The result is nothing short of absolute calm and joy, all while traveling at high speeds. Then, you exit the car and life returns — your shoulders are sore from the HANS pushing down on them, your back and legs are tired from shifting, your arms are tired from turning the wheel without the help of power steering, and your hair smells like exhaust. But the joy stays with you. I believe we drive so we can experience that joy. It is no accident motorsport is a passion. It is no wonder we forget the danger as we pursue that perfect spiritual experience in the car. It is nothing short of prayer.

Even those of us who never get near a track have gotten this sensation, or something very like it. There are, of course, those who have declared their unalterable opposition to doing interesting things with motor vehicles; but this, too, is a religious experience, a dictum from a less-than-almighty god created by the ego of a timid man, whose first Commandment ends with the phrase “… because something might happen.” The condition in which nothing happens, incidentally, is called “death.”

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They didn’t open with a prayer

The Friendly Atheist at Patheos tells of a campaign event he perhaps didn’t expect:

Dr. Ed Shadid, a current Oklahoma City councilman, is running for mayor and has a bit of an uphill climb ahead of him since he’s running against the incumbent, popular Mayor Mick Cornett‎.

It’s worth noting, though, that Shadid is courting the atheist vote. According to a now-deleted Tweet, Chas Stewart of the Oklahoma Atheists Godcast mentioned that Shadid attended one of his group’s events.

Outreach, y’know. And if this race turns out to be close … well, you can see where this is going. Oklahoma Atheists claims about 1500 members, which is not an inconsiderable number by any means.

It doesn’t mean Shadid is an atheist himself, but so far, his visit doesn’t seem to have hurt him. Progress!

Now if only Shadid would stop talking about how he wants to raise property taxes and taking pictures with children wearing shirts with the words “Penis” and “Vagina” on them, he might have a better chance of winning this thing.

Yeah. At the very least, those words belong on pants.

(Via The McCarville Report.)

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License with the plates

The first book of Nephi, which opens the Book of Mormon, as told by Will Truman:

God tells Lehi to get the heck out of Dodge (Jerusalem) because there is some bad stuff coming. Lehi tries to round up his family, but a couple of his sons (Laman and Lamuel) object. God picks Nephi, the youngest (at the time) son, as his favorite. This causes much trouble and murmuring with the other brothers. Laman and Lamuel are tagged as bad apples, though God (through Lehi and/or Nephi) alternates between telling them that they are bad apples and that they should behave. There is another son, Sam, who seems to be a swing vote between good (Nephi) and evil (the other two). God gives Nephi some shapechanging powers and gives them a magic compass. After some time in the wilderness, Nephi builds a boat and they sail off to America.

That murmuring can get you into a lot of trouble.

As I recall — one of my best buds in the Service was LDS — the descendants of his brothers, Nephi envisioned, would be a “dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.” Mind you, this was written before MTV.

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Governmental overreach

If sometimes it seems as though Barack Obama will stop at nothing to increase governmental power — well, he still hasn’t come up with anything like this yet:

In one of history’s more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which [went into effect in 2007] and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.” But beyond the irony lies China’s true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region’s Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.

A statement by the current Dalai Lama (source):

When I am about ninety I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust. They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath-bound Dharma Protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with past tradition. I shall leave clear written instructions about this. Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China.

Tenzin Gyatso, the current (14th) Dalai Lama, turned 78 this year.

(Via Pejman Yousefzadeh, largely for his post title.)

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Remission control

The Vatican, 1967:

Although indulgences are in fact free gifts, nevertheless they are granted for the living as well as for the dead only on determined conditions. To acquire them, it is indeed required on the one hand that prescribed works be performed, and on the other that the faithful have the necessary dispositions, that is to say, that they love God, detest sin, place their trust in the merits of Christ and believe firmly in the great assistance they derive from the Communion of Saints.

[Pope Paul VI in Indulgentiarum Doctrina.]

The Vatican, 2013:

Indulgences these days are granted to those who carry out certain tasks — such as climbing the Sacred Steps, in Rome (reportedly brought from Pontius Pilate’s house after Jesus scaled them before his crucifixion), a feat that earns believers seven years off purgatory.

But attendance at events such as the Catholic World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro, a week-long event starting on 22 July, can also win an indulgence.

Mindful of the faithful who cannot afford to fly to Brazil, the Vatican’s sacred apostolic penitentiary, a court which handles the forgiveness of sins, has also extended the privilege to those following the “rites and pious exercises” of the event on television, radio and through social media.

“That includes following Twitter,” said a source at the penitentiary, referring to Pope Francis’ Twitter account, which has gathered seven million followers. “But you must be following the events live. It is not as if you can get an indulgence by chatting on the internet.”

This is not, I hasten to add, a Get Out Of Hell Free card.

(Via Pejman Yousefzadeh.)

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