Mud, skulls, and dead fish a chapel makes

The Guardian reports:

Gothic architecture and contemporary art have become unlikely bedfellows [at the Seo cathedral in Palma, on the island of Majorca] after the artist Miquel Barceló was commissioned to cover one of its chapels with a vast ceramic tableau of cracked mud, dead fish and human crania. The result ... "is a mysterious cave, full of skulls and monsters".

An intelligent approach to intelligent design?

The International Heralrd Tribune opines:

In January, Britain's Qualifications and Curriculum Authority issued new guidelines for teaching about science and religion. They include [encouraging] teachers to stage historical debates between science and religion, with students taking the roles of Charles Darwin, Galileo and even Richard Dawkins, the Oxford University scientist and outspoken atheist ... These suggestions, which are designed for 14-year- old students, are intended only for religion classes, and not the science curriculum.


Lost your keys? Or the Spear that pierced Jesus?

The Catalog of Missing Objects:

The Catalog of Missing Objects (COMO) database should be live before the end of February 2007 and will eventually list thousands of objects and pieces of information sought by scholars all over the world. Come back and follow the stories of these searches as discoveries are made and history is uncovered!

Current objects include Benjamin Franklin's 'chess' table, the Ark of the Covenant, William Bartram's Observations Manuscript and Hats Off Starring Laurel and Hardy. It shouldn't be long before the Spear of Longinus or the real life Daily Show God Machine becomes part of its scrutiny:

October 1853, on a hilltop in Lynn, Massachusetts, a group assembled to create the New Messiah. They had not come to pray or to praise God: they were actually going to build Him out of metal and wood under the supervision of spirits. When the body was complete, they believed it would be infused with life to revolutionise the world and raise mankind to an exalted level of spiritual development.

9/11 predicted by numerology, June 2000

Predictions are not exactly rocket science: given any event of remote importance, you will inevitably find ruminations that predicted it long prior to its occurance. The simplest way to reproduce this is to pick a number, then pay close attention to appearances of that number in your day to day life. Given enough scrutiny, you'll find that self-selected number everywhere: when you pay attention, you pay paranoia too. Fortune cookies, horoscopes, palm readings, all similar: predict a blonde haired gentlemen and suddenly the world is all Aryan all the time. More via self-fulfilling prophecy or observer-expectancy effect.

Most predictions base themselves on impossibly obtuse correlations: Nostradamus' "two brothers torn apart by Chaos" represent the Twin Towers, or that something bad will happen between November 11th, 1995 and January 26, 2008. It's rare that someone gets the date exactly, along with reasonings, in an archive whose dates you can trust.

From Steve Gray's post on, June 29 2000:

Obviously we start with the number of the beast, 666. Now, because the Great Event will turn the world upside down, change 666 into 999. Next, because Jesus is both Man and God, therefore having two identities, multiply 2 by 999, giving 1998. (Hold it! We're not done!). Since God is Triune, add 3, giving 2001 !!! Now for the day: When the Great Event occurs, everyone who's not saved will desperately dial 911, which has immense symbolic significance. So the BIG DATE is, without question, based on the inerrant Bible, is SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 !!! God has not yet revealed to me exactly what will happen on that day, but it will be BIG BAD NEWS. Be ready or be sorry !!!

More important, however, is the fact that Mr. Gray was kidding, responding in jest to the thread starter who consigned a followthrough prophecy of detailed proportions that presumes so much as to be laughable ("God has led me to a web site". Literally!). Convincing yourself is enough proof for others, certainly. I tried to contact Steve Gray for further comments, but received no response at the latest email I could stalk out of Google. I did find his feelings on Moore's FAHRENHEIT 9/11:

Jensen criticizes the film for not doing something it did not try to do. He criticizes it for not being calm and reasoned. A calm and reasoned film would get very little attention. Voters are political idiots; they vote for personalities and need to be hit o­n the head. He thinks the movie's goals should be much broader, when there is virtually no chance of achieving those broad goals. The film's purpose, a highly worthy o­ne, is to get rid of the liar, crook, failure, and imbecile in the White House. That goal at this time is more important than anything else the voters could possibly do.

Grand Canyon: Noah's Flood; Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan


... Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). “In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”


Park officials have defended the decision to approve the sale of Grand Canyon: A Different View, claiming that park bookstores are like libraries, where the broadest range of views are displayed. In fact, however, both law and park policies make it clear that the park bookstores are more like schoolrooms rather than libraries. As such, materials are only to reflect the highest quality science and are supposed to closely support approved interpretive themes. Moreover, unlike a library the approval process is very selective. Records released to PEER show that during 2003, Grand Canyon officials rejected 22 books and other products for bookstore placement while approving only one new sale item — the creationist book.


“As one park geologist said, this is equivalent of Yellowstone National Park selling a book entitled Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan,” Ruch added, pointing to the fact that previous NPS leadership ignored strong protests from both its own scientists and leading geological societies against the agency approval of the creationist book. “We sincerely hope that the new Director of the Park Service now has the autonomy to do her job.”

Atheist Quotes

A large collection of atheist quotes. Some of my favorites:

  • "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." --Stephen Roberts
  • "When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me." --Emo Philips
  • "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" --Epicurus
  • "We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes." --Gene Roddenberry
  • "We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart." --H. L. Mencken
  • "Jesus' last words on the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" hardly seem like the words of a man who planned it that way. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure there is something wrong here." --Donald Morgan
  • "Everything is more or less organized matter. To think so is against religion, but I think so just the same. When did I realize I was God? Well, I was praying and I suddenly realized I was talking to myself." --Peter O'Toole
  • "Why should I allow that same God to tell me how to raise my kids, who had to drown His own?" --Robert G. Ingersoll
  • "The essence of Christianity is told us in the Garden of Eden history. The fruit that was forbidden was on the tree of knowledge. The subtext is, All the suffering you have is because you wanted to find out what was going on." --Frank Zappa
  • Eskimo: "If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?" Priest: "No, not if you did not know." Eskimo: "Then why did you tell me?" --Annie Dillard, 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek'


The City on the Edge of the Catholic Church

As I prepare to move (into my first home, ours the morning of October 16th), I've been catching up on my reading (cuddling up with a magazine or book when most everything else, like games, is packed away) and movie watching (this fall started my "watch every Star Trek ever made" marathon, the sequel to my "watch every X-Files ever made" of a year back). Along the way, I've happenstanced on two things of interest.

Whilst I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, it was many moons ago when I was a wee lad of less than 15, easily. And though I recall seeing "The City on the Edge of Forever" many times then, it was only after rewatching it now, with the seasoned interest of a Wizened Old Man With A Goal instead of merely Childlike Wonder And Love Of Sci-Fi, that I grasped the significance and importance of one conversation:

Edith Keeler (ED): Did you do something wrong? Are you afraid of something? Whatever it is, let me help. Kirk (K): "Let me help." A hundred years or so from now, a novelist will write a classic using that theme. He'll recommend those three words even over "I love you."

In giving that phrase, "Let me help", some thought, I think I definitely agree. Harlan Ellison wrote this episode, though he "was dismayed with the changes Gene Roddenberry and D.C. Fontana made to his story." More information about the episode is available over at Memory Alpha and Ellison eventually told his side of things, prefaced by "a delightful, 72-page, no-holds-barred rant", in Harlan Ellison's the City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay That Became the Classic Star Trek Episode, which I plan to pick up soon.

The other thing of interest showed up in Fortean Times #215, where Alan Donnelly responds to an earlier article regarding "flying saucers [as] demonic manifestations". He mentions A Case of Conscience by James Blish, where Blish had been "assured that the Catholic Church had worked out a position on 'the plurality of worlds' and any inhabitants" - i.e., that the Catholic Church had already devised a religious response should aliens, or other non-Earth life, actually exist. Blish's introduction quotes (as transcribed from Donnelly):

"...[E]ach of such planets (solar or non-solar) must fall into one of three categories: (a) inhabited by sentient creatures, but without souls; so to be treated with compassion but extra-evangelically. (b) Inhabited by sentient creatures with fallen souls, through an original but not inevitably ancestral sin; so to be evangelised with urgent missionary charity. (c) Inhabited by sentient soul-endowed creatures that have not fallen, who therefore (1) inhabit an unfallen, sinless paradisal world; (2) who therefore we must contact not to propagandize [sic] but in order that we may learn from them the conditions (about which we can only speculate) of creatures living in perpetual grace, endowed with all the virtues of perfection, and both immortal and in complete happiness for always possessed of and with the knowledge of God."

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