Angel turns out to be inflatable sex doll

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Police in Indonesia investigating reports of an "angel" in a remote village discovered not a supernatural avatar of God's will but a blow-up doll. A fisherman found it floating around after a rare solar eclipse and, well, it's a mistake anyone could make: "The timing of the discovery led some to believe the doll had a divine provenance. They have no internet, they don't know what a sex toy is," the AFP quoted a local police chief as saying. Read the rest

Kennewick Man was Native American

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After years of speculation and wrangling over his remains, Kennewick Man turns out to be closely related to contemporary, local Native Americans after all.

Discovered near Kennewick, Wash., in 1996, the skeleton ended up in a tug of war between tribes in the pacific northwest who wanted to bury the remains, and scientists who wanted to study them.

Five Pacific Northwest tribes pressed the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the bones, to hand them over in accordance with a federal law on the repatriation of remains. However, a group of scientists sued to block the handover, arguing that the skeleton was not associated with a present-day tribe.

Federal judges sided with the scientists, and as a result, the corps retained custody of the skeleton and made it available for study. Now that the studies are finished, the 380 bones and bone fragments are locked away in Seattle at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

Some scientists suggested that Kennewick Man might have been a visitor from the Far North, Siberia or perhaps someplace even more exotic. But when geneticists compared DNA from a hand bone with a wide range of samples, they found that the closest match came from members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

The burial site will be a secret, so we can have this fight all over again in a few thousand years. Read the rest

The real story behind Indiana's celebrated attempt to legislate the value of Pi

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Transhumanist church not much different from any other small town church

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Motherboard's Claire Evans visited The Church of Perpetual Life, a transhumanist house of worship whose adherents await the time technology brings them into eternity—by curing aging. The strangest thing is that it seems much like any other smalltown Protestant church, right down to the bland off-white architecture, the nice pews, the books on tables, the clean-cut religiosity. It is in Florida.

"We are fighting against involuntary death, and view immortality as the ultimate solution to every problem mankind faces,” said Bill Faloon, one of the church’s founders.

His parishioners call themselves “immortalists.” Other monikers include transhumanists, “longevity enthusiasts,” and “people who really are committed to the anti-aging concept.”

Whatever they call themselves, they all share one thing in common: They believe that science and technology will find a way for humans to live forever on Earth.

Lurking behind it appears to be a foundation at odds with the taxman. (PDF) Read the rest

Interview with a designer of the new Dungeons & Dragons

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On the always excellent Expanding Mind podcast, we hear from Jeremy Crawford, one of the designers of the new 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

"We discuss identity, the multicultural multiverse, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the sacred absurdity of terrible dice rolls," says host Erik Davis.

Listen here:

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A look back at the D&D moral panic

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Retro Report did a short feature on the moral panics about D&D in the 1980s. It's a fun, 13 minute look back at the moment when D&D totally changed a bunch of kids' lives, only to be vilified and literally demonized by opportunistic members of the religious right. Read the rest

Southwest Air kicks Muslim woman off plane for switching seats

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A Southwest Air flight attendant ordered the removal of a woman of Somali descent in a headscarf from a Chicago-Seattle flight after the passenger asked her neighbor if she could switch seats with him. The flight attendant said she "did not feel comfortable" with the passenger onboard. Read the rest

Pope invites Bernie Sanders to Vatican to speak about "social, economic, and environmental" issues

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Though Sanders says he disagrees with the pope on rights for women and LGBT people, he lauds the pontiff for "injecting a moral consequence into the economy," and so he will speak at the Vatican next week. Read the rest

CNN celebrates Sanders' six primary victories by airing a "documentary" about Jesus

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Sanders won an unprecedented six out of seven primaries in a streak that culminated with astounding, lopsided victories on Saturday night. MSNBC "covered" it by airing a couple of reality TV shows about life in prison, while CNN preferred to cover some breaking news about Jesus, who has been dead for at least 2,000 years, and who would have felt the Bern anyway. Read the rest

Catholic Church-owned insurer has secret files on paedophile priests

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Catholic Church Insurance, Ltd, owned by the Australian Diocese, assembled thousands of pages of dossiers on rapes committed by paedophile priests in the 1990s when survivors of the assaults started coming forward with compensation claims. Read the rest

King Arthur's grave was a hoax invented by cash-strapped 12th C monks

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Since the 12th century -- and up to this very day -- tourists venture to Somerset's Glastonbury Abbey to see the grave of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, allegedly buried in the churchyard by 12th century monks who discovered their skeletons in an underground tree-trunk. Read the rest

Life inside God's customer service prayer call-centre

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Laurie Penny's latest, sacrelicious short story on Tor.com, "Your Orisons May Be Recorded," is a hilarious thought experiment about the working conditions for the angels who answer customer service prayers from dissatisfied humans. Read the rest

Atheist ad on a bus in Madison, Wisconsin

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The Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics (AHA!) group at the University of Wisconsin at Madison has bought these rather good ads on the local city buses, inviting people for whom "religion has stopped making sense" to come by for a chat. (via Skepchick) Read the rest

Catholic priest 'caught snorting cocaine in Nazi room'

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Here's a report about a Catholic priest said to have been found snorting cocaine in a room adorned with Nazi symbols. In other words, another Monday on the internet.

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Crowdfunding to send Australian sex-abuse survivors to Rome for testimony of notorious cardinal

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Cardinal George Pell presided over decades of horrific abuse of Australian children by his clergy; now the active, vigorous crime-boss says he's too weak to return to Australia from the Vatican to attend a commission on the crimes, meaning that he won't have to confront the survivors of the abuse he abetted. Read the rest

God's trade show

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Religious paraphernalia -- from gilded goblets to huge Jesus statues to "high-tech" electronic rosaries -- is a $5 billion business. The International Exhibition of Church Furnishings, Liturgical Items and Religious Building Components, held in the north east of Italy, is like the CES of religion. Photographer Louis de Belle captured the high weirdness in a beautifully strange series "detaching for a moment all of (religion's) paraphernalia from the notion of faith."

"This trade fair's functional infrastructure, stocked with clergy apparel, liturgical items and cult objects, becomes the backdrop of a "counter–reality" made of bored salesmen, busy nuns and misplaced items," de Belle writes. "A last supper is hanging before a modest refreshment, agonising crucifixes are being quickly deposited, while industrious sisters do their business."

See more of the series: Besides Faith

Buy the "Besides Faith" book.

Read an interview with de Belle in Wired.

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Archbishop of St Louis says Girl Scout Cookies encourage sin

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Robert Carlson, the archbishop of St Louis, MO, has circulated a two-page letter to his flock in which he raises the question, "Can I still buy Girl Scout cookies?" Read the rest

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