Stephen Colbert explains Jesus' position on ripping children from their parents to Jeff Sessions

Jeff Sessions says that the Bible commands him to cruelly separate thousands of children from their parents, but Colbert -- a devout Catholic -- begs to differ. (Thanks, Rutherford B Hayes!) Read the rest

Behold the face of God

...as imagined and averaged out by 511 American Christians surveyed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

When the researchers averaged out the features on the more commonly-selected pictures, they found that the average view of God is significantly different than how Michelangelo portrayed the Almighty. Instead of a large, old man with a flowing white beard, the averaging image showed a beardless, younger face.

God is a Pittsburgh bus driver. Read the rest

Towards a theory of theomorphic religious robots

Gabriele Trovato is an Italian human-computer interaction researcher at Tokyo's Waseda University; along with colleagues from Peru's Pontificia Universidad Católica, he presented Design Strategies for Representing the Divine in Robots (Sci-Hub mirror) at March's ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction. Read the rest

Tax-funded charter schools textbooks deny evolution, teach human-dinosaur cohabitation, endorse slavery and indigenous genocide

2,000 US schools use textbooks from Abeka, BJU Press and Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), including tax-funded charter schools across America; students who learn from these texts are taught that God wanted Protestantism to flourish in North America and that Catholocism is not a true faith; that it was better Africans to be enslaved and come to "know Christ" than to be free but not Christian; that evolution is untrue; that humans and dinosaurs lived together (and that Noah brought baby dinosaurs on the ark); that the Loch Ness monster is real; that "abortion, gay rights and the Endangered Species Act" are part of a "radical social agenda"; that nonwhites are inferior (60% of the tax-funded scholarship students at charter schools come from racialized minorities and are thus taught that they are racially inferior to their white schoolmates). Read the rest

Interview: Dr. Karl E H Seigfried talks Ásatrú, Heathenry and beards

A few weeks back, we pushed out a post about the fact that Heathens serving in the U.S. Army are now allowed to sport a beard as part of their faith. In the story, I mentioned that a group that stands for heathens serving in the military stated that the growing of a beard wasn’t a tenet of Heathenry. Given that Ásatrú, Heathenry and Paganism have been used to describe a wide number of belief systems and religions, I wasn’t sure if making a basket statement like this was factually correct. Fortunately, I know someone who does.

Dr. Karl E.H. Seigfried was the first Ásatrú to earn a graduate degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School. While at the university, he was President of Interfaith Dialogue and served on the Spiritual Life Council, the advisory board for the Spiritual Life Office. He holds degrees in literature and music from University of California at San Diego, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and University of Texas at Austin. He studied literature and art history at Loyola University Chicago, Rome Center, in Italy and took Icelandic language courses through University of Iceland's distance learning program.

Dr. Seigfried currently works at the Illinois Institute of Technology as an Adjunct Professor in Humanities and as a Pagan Chaplain. He’s Goði (priest) of Thor’s Oak Kindred—a Chicago-based organization, dedicated to the practice of the Ásatrú faith and a member of the Troth Clergy Program. Previously, Dr. Seigfried taught Norse mythology and religion at Loyola University Chicago, Carthage College, and the Newberry Library Seminars Program. Read the rest

Ireland's referendum results: legalised abortion projected to win "by a landslide"

Ireland's no-exceptions-made abortion ban was one of the cruelest and most inhumane in the world, and after years of struggle, the country has finally held a referendum to amend its constitution and strike down the abortion ban in Article 8; the official count isn't out, but the Irish Times has called it for the reformers, in a "landslide," with a projected 68%-32% margin. Read the rest

The Vatican dunks on the finance industry and its "amoral culture"

The Vatican has published “‘Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones’. Considerations for an ethical discernment regarding some aspects of the present economic-financial system” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, 17.05.2018, a lengthy report on the wickedness of Wall Street, in which the finance industry is condemned in the strongest and most specific terms, accused of creating an "amoral culture" dedicated to the "profit of the strongest" instead of the "authentic good." Read the rest

Catholic Nuns in Colombia accused of torturing 60 children in their care

Stasi, the secret police of East Germany, used Orwell's 1984 as a training manual for torture and degradation. Some Catholic nuns in Colombia apparently looked to psychopathic torturer Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid's Tale for child rearing lessons. Read the rest

Project leveraging AI to scan and translate Vatican texts dating back to the 8th century

The Vatican Secret Archives sound like a joint that'd give Illuminati conspiracy junkies feverish wet dreams. The site, which sits kitty corner to the Vatican's Apostolic Library, is a treasure trove of Catholic Church documents: over 50 linear miles of that letters, books and papal bulls, some of which date back to the eighth century, to be exact. 

Too bad that you could jam the number of scholastically accessible information in the VSA could be jammed up a gnat's ass and it'd look like a BB in a boxcar.

Y'see, most of what's there is priceless. You'd be a nut to allow folks in to view it on a regular basis, for fear of it being damaged. Those responsible for the VSA have, in the past, made half-assed attempts to scan and translate a small number of the Archive's documents. But remember, we're talking OVER 50 MILES of shelves chockablock with missives, notes and tomes. It'd take a fortune (which the Vatican totally has, I suppose) and an unknowable amount of time to collate, translate and scan everything into a usable format.

According to The Atlantic, computer scientists love challenges like this. A new project called In Codice Ratio is working towards using Artificial Intelligence to understand and translate the Archive's contents using OCR so that the information can be plopped into text documents for humanities scholars to use in their studies. It's tough to do! OCR is notoriously bad at translating handwriting, let alone script which, in some cases, was written in a dead language. Read the rest

Heathens serving in the American military can now sport beards as part of their faith.

Soldiers that consider themselves part of the many religious traditions that make up what we call modern Heathenry have had the option since 2013 to have their military tombstone marked with a Hammer of Thor, instead of the traditional Christian crosses and Stars of David that most often adorn the stone markers. It seems only fitting then, that a soldier who still draws breath should also be able to mark his faith while serving his country. This seems to be the logic that the U.S. Army used when it created a new exception to the Army's uniform and grooming standards.

According to The Army Times, the U.S. Army authorized Sikh soldiers to wear beards – beards are an important tenet of the Sikh faith. As it turns out, the change in military grooming standards now applies to soldiers of all religions: if maintaining facial hair is apart of your God-thing, then you've got a right to rock a beard. That said, in order to do so, you'll have to ask permission to do so.

The latest accommodation granted for a religious group is for those who consider themselves to be heathens – adherents to any number of pagan faiths.

There is, however, some contention over whether or not the wearing of a beard is an important tenet of Heathenry. From The Army Times:

According to the Open Halls Project, an advocacy group for heathens serving in the military, the beard is a beloved tradition, but not a requirement.

Read the rest

Quakers release podcast of silent meeting

A young Quakers group in Nottingham, England released this 30-minute podcast of a silent meeting, complete with the ambient room sounds. John Cage would be proud. From The Guardian:

Quakerism was founded in the 17th century by the dissenter George Fox during the years of Puritan England. The group’s meetings are characterised by silence, which is occasionally broken when someone present feels the urge to speak, say a prayer or offer a reading.

The idea for the silent podcast first came from Tim Gee, a Quaker living in London, who was inspired by the BBC’s season of “slow” radio, which treated audiences to – among other things – the sounds of birds singing, mountain climbing and monks chatting.

Gee said he had wanted to “share a small oasis of calm, and a way to provide a moment of stillness, for people on the move”.

The Young Quaker Podcast: "#4 - Silence Special" Read the rest

Mom rouses sleeping son on Easter morning by tazing him: "Get up! It's Jesus' day!"

Phoenix-area mom Sharron Dobbins felt like her her teenaged son wasn't getting up quickly enough on Easter Sunday, so she tazed him in the leg while shouting "Get up! It's Jesus' day!" Read the rest

Flying Spaghetti Monster pasta strainer

Ototo's Flying Spaghetti Monster pasta strainer is a houseware, a religious artefact and a novelty item, all rolled into one $17 package! (via Geeks Are Sexy) Read the rest

People pissed at parish for drone delivery of eucharist

The congregation of Brazil's São Geraldo Magela church seemed delighted as a drone outfitted with a monstrance containing the eucharist floats up the aisle to their priest at the altar. Once the video was posted to Facebook though, some devout Catholics flipped out, calling it "scandalous" and a "profanation." According to the Catholic Herald, blogger priest John Zuhlsdorf criticized the stunt as "sacrilegious silliness." Read the rest

Parkland student activists drive American right berzerk, supercharge attack on public education

While people around the world were inspired by the resilience, fearlessness and savvy of the students who created a national gun-control movement in the wake of the Parkland shooting, American right-wing leaders looked at these kids and saw evidence of the urgency to destroy public education and replace it with religious private schools and charter schools. Read the rest

Vatican: More trained exorcists needed to fight the demonic

According to the Vatican, demonic possessions are on the uptick. In order to meet the rising demand for assistance by those assailed by the demonic, the Vatican-backed International Association of Exorcists will be holding a training course for Priests interested in fighting the demonic. According to The Guardian, the course will held at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome between 16-21 April.

The announcement of the upcoming Vatican course comes at a time when concerns over whether the rite of exorcism could be seen as a form of spiritual and physical abuse are being raised.

From The Guardian:

Last year, the Christian thinktank Theos reported that exorcisms were a “booming industry” in the UK, particularly among Pentecostal churches.

But some warn that “deliverance ministry” can be a form of spiritual abuse. Critics also say LGBT people and those with mental health issues are targeted for deliverance in the belief that their sexuality or psychiatric problems are the result of demonic possession.

For their part, the Vatican, as well as the Anglican and Orthodox churches, acknowledge that medical care and psychological assessment of anyone asking for exorcism is a must--mistaking a medically treatable condition for spiritual affliction doesn't help anyone. Of equal importance is the fact that, as part of an exorcist's training, it's reinforced that unwanted touching or unrequested exorcisms should not take place.

No matter where your beliefs (or lack thereof) fall on the issue of exorcism, having more trained exorcists rolling around out there will likely be a good thing for those who feel that their only recourse from torment or spiritual danger is through a cleansing rite. Read the rest

Dutch panic over infiltration of an apostate Scientology-alike into education and government

Avatar is a self-actualization "technique" created by an ex-Scientologist named Harry Palmer, who defected from the "church" in 1986 to found a lookalike multi-level-marketing version where he serves as a commission-earning "upline" from practitioners who teach his high-priced "courses" -- his Scientology-alike borrows heavily from the original cult and even used some of its symbols until he lost a trademark suit to Scientology. Read the rest

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