For a nation that allegedly separates church and state, Americans sure love to splash religion all over everything, their elections especially. So this week, Donald Trump made headlines by accusing the frontrunner, Joe Biden of being “against god.” Cue the angels with trumpets. Americans make big oompah sounds about their politicians having religion — Christian religion specifically and preferably protestant — although curiously, as Trump has proven, the voters don’t seem to give a rat’s ass whether that same politician … click below for more!
An acerbic piece in Maclean’s Magazine from June had the title “America’s mass delusion.” The subtitle read, “Surprisingly, the strategy of praying to God is not stopping the mass shootings in the U.S.” That piece was recirculated when the news of the latest and largest mass shooting in the USA broke. Fifty nine (so far) people were killed and more than 500 wounded by one homegrown American terrorist with an assault rifle. A terrorist who, police found later, had more … click below for more!
I suppose it all began with Benjamin Hoff. Hoff was one of the first contemporary writers to attempt to distill Taoism in a lighthearted form for Westerners when he wrote The Tao of Pooh in 1981, a very successful book still in print. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for 49 weeks. A decade later, he followed with The Te of Piglet, less successful (its message somewhat diluted by Hoff’s extraneous political and social commentary) but also … click below for more!
He was a murderer, a sorcerer, a slave owner. He betrayed his adopted family and led a rebellion against them. He was a charismatic firebrand, an oracle, and a misfit. He fluctuated between fits of rage and periods of meekness. He led his forces to commit what today we’d call war crimes and acts of genocide. He gave out laws and yet he ruled autocratically. He was disfigured and wore a mask to cover his face for the latter part … click below for more!
Long before Darth Vader, long before Lord Voldemort, long before Stephen Harper, Judas Iscariot reigned as the supreme icon of evil in Western mythology. Judas betrayed God. How much worse can you get?* For 2,000 years we’ve used the term Judas to refer to anyone who betrayed anything, any cause, any belief, any friendship. Yet, like all the icons of evil that came before, and who have followed, Judas holds a fascination for us that transcends his actions. Dante consigns him to … click below for more!
It’s got treachery, betrayal, politics, violence, skullduggery, sex, war, philosophy, politics, religion, an empire teetering on the brink of collapse, mystical visions, rebellion, emperors and slaves, angry priests accusing other priests, unrepentant martyrs going to their deaths in the arena, and the end of the world looming over it all. What more could you want? It’s all in Elaine Pagels’ book, Revelations: Visions, Prophecy & Politics in the Book of Revelation. Reading it has been quite an entertaining experience, as she takes … click below for more!
A new Angus Reid poll underscores the changing, ambivalent nature of Canadian attitudes towards religion, but there are many things about the poll that concern me and make me question its methodology and whether an inherent bias influenced the results. First of all, what is “religion”? That may seem obvious, but there are conflicting definitions, and often religion is used interchangeably with the terms faith and belief, although that is incorrect usage and they are, in fact, different. I think … click below for more!
I had forgotten about this book until recently when I came across a reprint. I read it originally in the late 1970s when I was reading a lot more sci-fi than I do today. (Many years ago, I ran a Toronto computer convention where I invited the authors to be the keynote speakers. I got to spend many hours and a memorable dinner with them.) I finished the reprint only a few days ago and started the sequel, Escape From Hell, … click below for more!
A new Harris poll released this month shows that Americans apparently are losing their belief in miracles and gaining it in science. The recent poll showed that American belief in evolution had risen to 47% from its previous poll level of 42%, in 2005. True, it’s not an overwhelming increase, and it’s still less than half the population, but it is an improvement. Belief in creationism dropped 3% during that time, to 36%. Good news, of course, but don’t break out … click below for more!
Pastor Marc Grizzard, of Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, NC is back in the news this week, but I’m not really sure if it’s because of something he did or something that was dredged up online from a few years back and has just been regurgitated. This week, a story in The Telegraph about Grizzard resurfaced on Facebook. But it’s from 2009, not dated 2013. I’m unable to find a contemporary reference that doesn’t refer back to the 2009 story. Mayhap … click below for more!
I left you in my exploration of the Encyclopedia of Hell pondering which version of the Faustus story was better: with or without his final redemption. Personally, I prefer without, because it offers greater dramatic opportunities. I also don’t like the notion of redemption: it seems like a “get out of Hell free” card. Christianity is the only religion I know of that offers this particular way out of your bad deeds: accept Jesus as your personal saviour and you’ll … click below for more!
I left you last time after finishing the letter D, in Miriam Van Scott’s Encyclopedia of Hell. I’m back in book form to take you through a few more entries in her exploration of the afterlife. But first a couple of additions to your reading material. First on the list is Alice Turner’s 275-page The History of Hell. It’s an illustrated guide to how Westerners have come to think of Hell, It starts with the ancient influences – Egypt, Greece, … click below for more!
We watched Life of Pi last night, a film that has garnered much critical acclaim and won four coveted Oscar awards (although it has not been without controversies). I had struggled somewhat with the book (for reasons given below), but the lavish praise for the film made me decide to try again. I had read about the movie’s stunning camera work and CGI graphics, and these do not disappoint. It’s a beautiful film, and the CGI is amazingly lifelike. I … click below for more!
[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=beYYZRN1sEs] Great visualization of the now-famous response from evolutionary biologist, author, and well-known atheist, Richard Dawkins, when asked in 2006 about his argument that there is no god, “What if you’re wrong?” “Anybody could be wrong, ” he replies. “We could all be wrong about the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Pink Unicorn and the Flying Teapot.” All of these refer to various arguments used to illustrate the weakness in faith-based statements and arguments. The Flying Spaghetti Monster (aka Pastafarianism) was, according … click below for more!