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

Particle accelerator reveals ancient medical manuscript replaced with religious text

The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California recently found a 6th century manuscript by Greek physician Galen, which had been scraped from its pages 500 years later and replaced with religious text. Who needs science when there are religious texts that need copying? Read the rest

Popehat's new First Amendment law-podcast is great!

Make No Law is a just-launched podcast hosted by Ken "Popehat" White (previously), a former Federal prosecutor who writes some of the best, most incisive legal commentary on the web; the first episode deals with the oft-cited, badly misunderstood "fighting words" doctrine and its weird history in the religious prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses (my sole complaint is that he didn't work in E. Gary Gygax). Read the rest

Baptist News: Evangelicals have killed Christianity in America

Writing in the Baptist News, Miguel De La Torre -- a progressive professor at Denver's Iliff School of Theology -- denounces evangelicals who "forgive" Trump for his myriad sins and support child-molesters like Roy Moore, saying that they embrace a faith that "fuses and confuses white supremacy with salvation." Read the rest

God told judge to tell jury that defendant should not be convicted, so he did

In New Braunfels, Texas, State District Judge Jack Robison walked into the jury room, twice, during deliberation in a teen sex trafficking case and told the jurors that the defendant shouldn't be convicted. Why? Because God told him to.

"He said he had thought it over and prayed on it and that God told him that he had to say this," said Mark A. House, jury foreman in the weeklong trial of Gloria Romero Perez that concluded Jan. 12.

Robison, a veteran jurist who presides in the 207th district that covers Comal and Hays counties, quickly informed the state and defense counsel of his conduct and recused himself from the punishment phase of the trial.

"It's probably the most unusual thing I've experienced in 20 years as an attorney," said Sylvia A. Cavazos, who represented Perez. "Judge Robison apologized in open court to the jury, saying something to the effect that 'I apologize but, if God tells me to do something, I have to do it...'"

Cavazos contends Perez should receive a new trial because of Robison's actions, but she noted, "The DA's position was (no retrial should occur because) he encouraged them to find her not guilty, and the jury had already reached their verdict, and he didn't change their minds."

House has filed a complaint against Robison with the state judicial authorities.

"Judge facing complaints over trying to sway jury" (San Antonio Express-News) Read the rest

Incredible! Face of Christ in a spiral

Claude Mellan's copper engraving "Face of Christ" (1649) consists of a single line starting at the tip of the nose and spiraling out with varying thickness to create the image. The copper plate is approximately 17" x 12.5". From ArtGallery.nsw:

Starting with the tip of his burin in the centre of the plate, Mellan pushed the tool forward while simultaneously rotating the copper plate with his free hand in an anti- clockwise direction to create a near perfect spiral. Today, the original copper plate for Mellan’s print is in the collection of the Bibliothèque royale in Brussels.

(via @pickover)

Read the rest

Evangelical congregation gives pastor standing ovation for admitting he raped a high-schooler

Andy Savage is one of the powerful, wealthy evangelical clerics implicated in the #churchtoo movement, in which congregants are disclosing the sexual assaults and harassment they experienced at the hands of faith leaders. Read the rest

Iran's mass protests were triggered by publication of a budget that revealed the costs of Shia evangelism

For more than a month, Iran has been rocked by mass demonstrations in its major and outlying cities, but the origin of these protests has been obscure. Read the rest

What's the story behind airport chapels?

Over the years, I've peeked into airport chapels and never seen a single person inside. Yet 16 of the country's 20 biggest airports have them. Above is the first example of such a space in the US, Our Lady of the Airways Chapel in Boston's Logan Airport, built in 1951 for airport employees. Wendy Cadge, a sociologist of religion at Brandeis University, has studied these sacred spaces. "Often, it is local, historical and demographic factors, including the religious composition of the region, that influence decisions" about why they're created and how they're used, she writes. From Smithsonian:

By the 1990s and 2000s, single faith chapels had become a “dying breed.” Most started to welcome people from all religions. And many were transformed into spaces for reflection, or meditation for weary travelers.

The chapel at San Francisco International Airport, for example, known as the Berman Reflection Room for Jewish philanthropist Henry Berman who was a former president of the San Francisco Airport Commission, looks like a quiet waiting room filled with plants and lines of connected chairs. A small enclosed space without any religious symbols or obvious connections to things religious or spiritual is available for services...

Certain airports such as Chicago’s O’Hare have strict rules regarding impromptu religious gatherings whether inside the chapel or out. Some use their public address systems to announce religious services. Others prohibit such announcements and do not even allow airport chaplains to put out any signs that could indicate a religious space.

"A Brief History of Airport Chapels" (Smithsonian)

(image: Randall Armor, CC BY-NC-ND) Read the rest

Woman who accused Roy Moore is homeless after her house burned down, fire investigated as arson

Tina Johnson accused Roy Moore of sexually assualting her in 1991, when she was 28, making her a rare adult to be preyed upon by the delusional pedophile mall-crawler. Read the rest

Tehran's police tell women that violations of religious dress codes will henceforth be treated as civil offenses, not criminal offenses

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani campaigned for re-election last year on a reform platform, and in the wake of his successful campaign, the police in the Iranian capital of Tehran have notified women that failures to adhere to the country's brutal religious dress-code will be treated as civil offenses and punished with fines, not jail sentences. Read the rest

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