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Blog Archive/March 2005

March 28, 2005

Believing that Evolution Is "Just a Theory" Isn't for the Weak. Think You've Got What It Takes? Think Again.

When people ask me, “John, what’s the hardest part about your new Bedouin lifestyle?” they’re surprised I don’t complain about the cold. Our goatskin tent is a lot warmer than you’d think. Nor is the hardest part sleeping on mats, raising toddlers without the benefit of medicine, or even the constant ridicule—after all, there aren’t many families leading primitive lives by choice in this part of Connecticut.

No, the hardest part is the constant moving. You just can’t squat anywhere in the suburbs for long before a homeowner spots you in his or her backyard. The camels give us away every time.

But such is my life now that I’ve rejected evolution science. Once I said no to Darwinism and yes to Christian creationism, it was just a few logical steps before I was living in the woods and milking my own sheep.

It all started when the Cobb County school board in suburban Atlanta started placing stickers on science textbooks warning high school students, “Evolution is a theory, not a fact.” That’s when it hit me. Do I really want to conceptualize the origins of life based on a notion that is just a theory—riddled with holes and supported with all sorts of flimsy scientific hemming and hawing? Uh, no—especially not when Genesis offers a simple, unambiguous account of how God created a three-tiered universe in six days. [Read more.]

(A word of thanks to distinguished science writer and SoMA friend Carl Zimmer, who kindly tweaked this essay for accuracy. Carl's latest book, Soul Made Flesh, due out in paperback in June, was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year in 2004.)

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 24, 2005

Grady Closes Shop

Tom Grady, my literary agent, has accepted the position as publisher of Ave Maria Press, a Catholic publishing house. (Congratulations, Tom!)

Ave Maria is lucky. Tom’s been in the business more than 25 years—many of them at HarperSanFrancisco, where he was an editor, then editorial director and finally publisher—and he’s one smart, classy guy.

Bad news: I and his other authors are sans agent.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 21, 2005

Satan’s Face on a Turtle's Shell

Lucifer doesn’t typically leave a calling card at the scenes of his crimes, but he may have made an exception when he destroyed an Indiana pet store with fire last October. Bryan Dora, owner of Dora’s A-Dora-ble Pet Shop, says he sees the image of the Prince of Darkness on the shell of a turtle that was the only animal to survive the fire.

Dora says he can discern Satan’s pointy horns, eyes, lips, and goatee on the shell of the turtle, named Lucky. He says the image was not visible before the fire, the cause of which hasn’t been determined.

“The marking on the shell was like the devil wanted us to know he was down there,” Dora told the Associated Press. “To me, it’s too coincidental that the only thing to come out unscathed would have this image on it.”

The fire destroyed eight other businesses in an office building in downtown Frankfort, Ind., about 40 miles outside Indianapolis.

It would be interesting to know why Satan chose to claim responsibility for the fire but not the many other acts of evil he continually commits all over the world. Perhaps he’s especially proud of torching the pet store. Or maybe it’s a sign that, like many criminals who deliberately leave clues, he wants to get caught. Either way, the devil’s days are obviously numbered and we should expect an arrest soon.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 16, 2005

Village Idiots

“Superstition sets the whole world in flames; philosophy quenches them,” wrote Voltaire, who’d no doubt find today’s world a raging furnace. And although we Americans certainly have plenty of fires at home that need to be extinguished with common sense and reason, it was a recent Indo-Asian News Service story that reminded me of the Voltaire quote.  

It seems that a poor Indian villager named Sibon Soren had suffered more than his share of bum luck lately. His first wife died, and his second ran off with another man. A few years ago, his only son died mysteriously. And most recently his grandson died from an undetermined illness.

The elders in Soren’s village—Dolberia, some 150 miles west of Calcutta—grew concerned about the man’s misfortunes; specifically, that they might spread to other families.

Last week, the elders held a village council meeting to assess the “strange happenings” in Soren’s family. A local shaman identified the problem—Soren lived in a “ghost-infested home.” If the house was not exorcised, the shaman said, the village was doomed.

The elders ordered Soren to evict his disembodied tenants. They also fined him 2,500 rupees for having ignored the spirits’ presence in his home all these years.

The fine amounts to about $58, a lot of money in an impoverished Indian village. Soren got a loan to cover the fine, and he fears he will have to sell his only property to pay off the debt.

A village elder explained their decision: "Everyone has to abide by social rules."

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 15, 2005

The Zany Zen of Parenting

"Kids change everything," the saying goes, and every parent says it. My father spouted this chestnut to me just before my identical twin boys were born, and I’ve now been their SAHD, or stay-at-home dad, for almost two years. These kids certainly have changed me in ways my father—who never made a bottle or changed a diaper in his life, and who was gone for weeks at a time before he finally moved out when I was thirteen—couldn’t begin to understand.

I’ve happily endured endless days and sleepless nights of feeding, changing, bathing, and rocking, and I’ve learned to live with the fact that virtually any plan or commitment I make is subject to last-minute cancellation by an ill or ill-tempered child. The effect childcare has had on me is similar to the state Buddhists strive for: a total annihilation of the self. In fact, parenthood, I’ve found, is like a Zen koan—an absurd riddle that breaks down rational thought; sloughs off the old self; and reveals life to be an empty circle, a nothingness that’s complete in itself. Buddhists can spend their whole lives trying to achieve what they call “satori.” With the arrival of my twins, I experienced it after about, oh, six weeks. [Read more.]

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 11, 2005

Evangelicals Are Turning Green

Laurie Goodstein reported in yesterday’s New York Times that more than 100 evangelical leaders, including Ted Haggard and Rich Cizik, leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals, met this week to discuss issuing a statement on global warming. The statement apparently will not dismiss climate change as a bogus theory. In fact, it sounds as if it will argue that global warming is an urgent threat these evangelical honchos want to fight.

Well, maybe there is a God after all!

Cizik told the Times, “I don’t think God is going to ask us how he created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he created.”

In recent years some evangelicals have begun to address environmental concerns. In 2002, the Evangelical Environmental Network’s Jim Ball launched “What Would Jesus Drive?,” an anti-SUV campaign, and last October the NAE included an article on “creation care” in their “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility” platform. Last September, Christianity Today ran an editorial endorsing a bill that would encourage companies to reduce heat-trapping emissions.

Otherwise, global warming has hardly been a burning issue on the evangelical agenda.

Given the ungodly power evangelicals wield in Washington these days, the NAE’s concern for creation could sway people in Congress, and perhaps even our Evangelical in Chief, who baled on the Kyoto treaty and opposes mandatory emission controls.

One evangelical bigwig who is not behind the NAE’s environmental stand, I discovered, is James Dobson. Focus on the Family posted a statement on their site in response to the NAE’s position, calling global warming “an environmental theory yet to be adequately substantiated.”

“Any issue that seems to put plants and animals above humans is one that we cannot support,” reads the statement, which emphasizes that Focus on the Family is a ministry devoted to the family—not to “very controversial” subjects like global warming.

In other words, the SpongeBob video is a grave threat to families, but melting polar caps are not.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 8, 2005

Hear L. Ron Hubbard Sing!

Do yourself a favor and check out The Church of Critical Thinking’s review of “The Road to Freedom,” a “Craptacular Star-Studded Musical Album” featuring songs written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard before his death in 1986. Hubbard intended the album to be a “musical statement of what Scientology is really all about!”

John Travolta, Leif Garrett, Frank Stallone, and Lee Purcell sing the title song, which includes these lyrics: "You are not mind or chemicals, you don't even have a form. You're in a trap of senseless lies, it's time to be reborn. Get on the road to freedom, help us free all mankind. The pain and all your sorrow are only in your mind."

The CCT’s review itself is a treat, plus you can listen to samples of each song. Don’t miss L. Ron Hubbard singing the final number, “L’Envoi—Thank You for Listening.” The CCT says Hubbard "sounds like Boris Karloff singing in ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas.’” Spot on.

Ah, the Wisdom of HST

At Hunter S. Thompson’s private memorial in Aspen Saturday night, actor and neighbor Don Johnson recalled once asking Thompson, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Thompson responded by slapping the “Nash Bridges” star across the face.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 7, 2005

Housekeeping Notes

We have a problem here at SoMA, and if you’ve recently visited our homepage, read a blog entry and tried to print it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The blog is now more than 15,000 words long, going back to November, when we launched. Ridiculous, I know. We are working to correct the problem.

Very soon we will have the blog archived by month and year.

You, our readers, have offered many good suggestions as to how we can improve the site, and we appreciate them greatly (please, keep ‘em coming!). Recommendations we are implementing include:

• An RSS feed, so you can more easily access our latest blogs and features.
• An articles archive.
• A “comments” feature, which will allow you to back us up when we’re right, enlighten us when we’re wrong, and chew us out when you’ve had a really bad day and can’t find anything to kick.

I can’t promise an ETA on all this, but I assure you, it will be soon. Before the Rapture, I suspect—if not tomorrow, then the day after that, or the day after that….

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 4, 2005

Of Troop Ribbons and Bumper Stickers

The Bush administration whipped us up to back the war in Iraq by scaring us with the “imminent threat” Saddam posed with his weapons of mass destruction. The hard evidence for which was, well, there wasn’t any. “We cannot wait for the final proof,” Bush warned us, “the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” End of discussion.

And since we invaded Iraq, all critical questions have been quashed with three words—Support Our Troops. We've gotta support our men and women on the ground, and the best way to do that is, oddly, not to question why they’re there. Somehow the administration got us to support a foreign occupancy we don’t understand by making the issue whether or not we support the 20-year-olds they’d decided long ago to put in harm's way.

My brother, Scott, is in the military, an enlisted soldier. He was in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne in ’90-’91 for nine months, doing fun stuff like flushing Saddam's Republican Guard out of bunkers and crawl tunnels beneath the desert with a .45-caliber pistol and a flashlight. After 9/11, he was in Afghanistan for four months. He may have to return to Iraq soon. To say I “support” Scott is an understatement. But “Support Our Troops” ribbons don’t stir my patriotism; they remind me of how we’ve been duped. I’d rather stick “We Are Idiots” on my car.

Fortunately, designer Debby Reelitz has come up with a more constructive alternative. A parishioner at priest (and SoMA friend and contributor) Puck Purnell’s church, Reelitz has created a bumper sticker that reads “God Bless Everyone.” In these trying times of tyranny at home and war abroad, it’s tempting to think just of ourselves, to pray only for “us.” We all want God on our side; hence the popularity of the “God Bless America” bumper sticker. Instead, Debby Reelitz’s sticker reflects Jesus’ daring message of inclusivity and universality: God bless everyone—regardless of nationality, race, status, gender, or sexual orientation.

You can order one of these bumper stickers from Reelitz’s site, Better yet, buy a couple dozen and put them on the back of Hummers and monster SUVs all over town. The drivers of these vehicles would thank you. In my experience, most of them are eager to spread the message that all are equal in God’s sight; they’re just a little timid. A nudge from you is all they need to help get the word out.

An Onion Must-Read

This week’s Onion (Feb. 24-March 2) has one of the funniest pieces on the Iraq war I’ve read yet. It’s a commentary entitled, “I Support the Occupation of Iraq, But I Don’t Support Our Troops.” It begins:

“The U.S. went to war in Iraq to remove an evil and dangerous political adversary from power. Now that we have done that, the American troops must remain in Iraq until the country is a fully functioning democracy, able to spark change throughout the entire Middle East. While I find this obvious, there are still a lot of people in our country who fail to grasp it. I support Bush-administration foreign-policy goals, but I stand firmly against the individual men and women on the ground in the Persian Gulf.” [Click here to read more.]

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 3, 2005

Dateline's Benny Hinn Update to Air Sunday

Two years ago, Ole Anthony and his merry muckrakers at The Door and Trinity Foundation helped Dateline NBC examine the self-described miracles of television's most popular televangelist and faith healer, Benny Hinn. This Sunday, March 6, at 7pm EST, in a “revealing one-hour, follow-up investigation,” reads Ole's announcement, “Bob McKeown examines the fate of the millions of dollars sent to Hinn by his devoted followers. We've put two years of overtime in on this baby,” Ole continues, “and YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS IT!”

Dateline is two hours long, and the Benny Hinn follow-up is scheduled to run the entire second hour.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 2, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson—Road Man for the Lords of Karma

It’s been 10 days since the Good Doctor ended his life, and the tribute I intend to write will just have to wait till the shock (though not disbelief) that he’s gone wears off.

Meanwhile, Charlie Rose re-aired last night an “appreciation” of Thompson—clips from three interviews he gave at Rose’s round oak table. In a June ’97 interview, Thompson described his vision of the Great Beyond. Rose broached the subject by asking Thompson how he thought the gods would judge him. This morning I got the transcript. Here’s their exchange, edited slightly for length, not clarity. My mother would call it "crazy talk." Yes and no. It's Hunter talk.

Rose: All right. You know, at the final day of reckoning, he says or she says, “Hunter, have you done everything and the best with what I gave you?” Have you?

HST: Did I hide my candle under a bushel?

Rose: Yes.

HST: Probably. Yeah.

Rose: He says or she says, “I gave you this talent. Did you throw it away? And what's your best evidence… that you used it well?”

HST: Well, but… you know, I'm on trial?

Rose: No, you're trying to get in! I got the keys.

HST: No, you don't. No. And “the voice” is not going to have it, either. I know who has the keys.

Rose: Who has the keys?

HST: Well, I'll just tell you now, just between us.

Rose: Okay.

HST: I'm sure— [crosstalk] Yeah. Right— that I am a road man.

Rose: A what?

HST: A road man… For the Lords of Karma … For the Great Hall… I know what happens to you, me and everyone else when they supposedly die. It's this passage around the great loop.

Rose: Yeah?

HST: And they come eventually to be judged or just, you know, assessed. I don't know… You go before the Lords of Karma and their— their lives— the decision's already been made.

And as a road man, I'm a cog in the wheel. I know I'm going to have to go back around way too often, frankly. And other people go back around in the form that they deserve and you can come back as a three-legged dog in Bangladesh in a hurricane if that was the judgment of the Great Hall. But it's based entirely on how— what you do now and in the oriental Buddhist scheme of things, karma takes a long time. You know, like, your son's got it. You come back around and have to be the slave of your son. But now I think karma's sped up so I believe you get your karma now.

I don't have to believe. I'm a road man.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 1, 2005

More Jefferson on Religion

A reader sent me a link to more quotes on religion by Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers. It’s a page at the Ayn Rand Institute and it includes a Jefferson doozy I’ve quoted before but couldn’t find in full yesterday:

"I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth."

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

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