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Blog Archive/June 2007

June 29, 2007

Dawkins/Krauss Debate

Oh, if you're tired of sitting around and watching the paint dry, check out this debate between Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss on how scientists ought to approach religion--you know, the kind of mindless religion that attacks science, not the kind that accepts that the universe began before the Stone Age. It's in the July issue of Scientific American.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 29, 2007

Seth MacFarlane Update

Well, I never did hear from "The Family Guy" guy about reading from Christopher Hitchens for us in the voice of Stewie. But while I was waiting for the phone to ring, I found these fun "Family Guy" clips that all deal with religion. Teaser: Jesus turns water into funk and performs fake finger magic tricks.

Yes--it has been a slow week, hasn't it? 

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 25, 2007

Farewell, Mr. Wizard

If you're somewhere between 45 and 60, chances are you remember Mr. Wizard. Right, that friendly guy on TV who, from 1951 to 1965, revealed the mysteries of science to enthralled children, in the simplest, most down-to-earth terms.

Mr. Wizard was affectionately known to millions as "America's Science Teacher," but he could also have been dubbed "America's Babysitter." Every Saturday morning, parents could sleep in late, secure in the knowledge that their kids were safe in the fatherly, if busy, hands of the world's most engaging experimenter.

Continue reading Mr. Wizard: In Memoriam.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 21, 2007

Meet the New Chastity. Same as the Old Chastity?

The first day of the week isn't usually the best bar night in New York, so I was surprised to walk into Midtown's Metro 53 one Monday in April to find it packed to the rafters. Even more surprising, everyone was there to discuss... chastity.

Continue reading Astrid Storm's Not Your Father's Chastity. Or Is It?

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 21, 2007

Dawn Eden Interview: "The Thrill of the Chaste"

"The interesting thing is that ['Sex in the City'] really simply recycled ideas that were 25 years old, or older. The Germaine Greer and Helen Gurly Brown idea that true liberation is being able to 'have sex like a man.' I've come to believe more and more, since I wrote the book and have been speaking to men about chastity, that it's not possible for even a man to have sex like a man."

Continue reading Sexless in the City.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 20, 2007

An Open Letter to Seth MacFarlane, Creator of "Family Guy"

Dear Seth,

I'm writing to offer you a unique voice-over opportunity. You may be aware of the NYT bestselling book, "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," by Christopher Hitchens. And you're probably familiar with Hitch--the always controversial, always entertaining Anglo-American man of letters. He's the only regular on the cable news talk show circuit who sounds like he got loaded and fell out of an Evelyn Waugh novel.

Anyway, I read "God Is Not Great" recently, and in every line I heard a familiar voice--Stewie Griffin's....

Continue reading An Open Letter to Seth MacFarlane.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 19, 2007

The Vatican's "Ten Commandments" for Drivers

The Vatican's office for migrants and itinerant people issued an unusual document today--a set of "Ten Commandments" for drivers, countering everything from road rage to drunk driving. Amen. And some say the Church never does anything constructive.

Of particular interest: the document warns that cars can be "an occasion of sin," which immediately reminded of the SUVs and minivans covered with strident political bumper stickers that always hog all the parking spaces at my kids' progressive school. But the Vatican had something else in mind entirely--like when automobiles are used as a place to have sex with prostitutes.

Their list of "Thou Shalts" for the road.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 18, 2007

Newton on the Apocalypse

Seems Isaac Newton plumbed the Book of Daniel to calculate la fin du monde: 2060--at the earliest.

"It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner," he wrote in the early 1700s, adding, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 17, 2007

Ruth Graham: Lived Slow, Died Old... But Still Left a Beautiful Corpse

"I wish you could look in that casket because she's so beautiful," said Billy Graham, of his wife, Ruth, at her funeral yesterday. "She was a wonderful woman."

Graham also reported that his wife "had a great reception in heaven."

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 15, 2007

Hitch, in His Own Words

"You can't cure mental illness by driving devils into pigs. I'm sorry; it's primitive and revolting. Nor, by the way, would I be impressed if a virgin gave birth. Not in the smallest degree. I imagine that freak parthenogenesis is just possible. There are, in fact, species that reproduce partly that way. If someone said, 'The thing about me that you don't have in common with me is that my mother was a virgin when I was born,' I would say, 'Well, so what? It certainly doesn't prove the truth of everything you say.'"

Read Lauren Sheahen's interview, Christopher Hitchens: Why "Religion Poisons Everything"

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 15, 2007

Hitchens' "God Is Not Great"

Whether you admire Hitchens, as I do, or spend much of your time disagreeing with him, as I also do, "God Is Not Great" is a disappointing read, because its argument is littered with second-grade level ironies about religion...

Read Paul O'Donnell's review, How Great Thou Aren't

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 12, 2007

Taxi Cab Sermons

"You're a Christian, a journalist, and you're going to the Holy Land? Can you believe what the Jews are doing to the land of Jesus?"

So began the rant of my cabbie, Rashid, en route to JFK, where I was scheduled to board a flight for Jordan. "They reject every prophet who comes to them!" Rashid went on. "Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and now they have this Jesus for Jews, Jews for Jesus? They think that is going to work?"

Continue reading Jason Byassee's Checkered Theology.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 12, 2007

"The Sopranos" Season Finale: A Big Fat Cop-Out

"I can't believe it," my cousin moaned about 'The Sopranos' finale. "I waited so long for...THIS?"

I could only guess how many people were saying the exact same thing. How many people were ready to hire a hit man to blow off David Chase. Unfortunately, he hadn't done anything illegal. He'd just done something downright mean. Like getting us right to the brink of the orgasm and then rolling over and falling asleep. We had no recourse. We were doomed to eternal frustration. That's what you get for becoming hooked on a TV series.

The trouble is, "The Sopranos" wasn't just any old TV series. It was one of the most brilliant character studies ever to grace the old tube. It was complex, edgy, hilarious, terrifying. There seemed no territory it was afraid to explore. With all the power and creativity it had exhibited for six glorious seasons, it could have left us with a finale that would have raised the bar to new heights.

Instead, it turned its back on its loyal audience, bent over, and ended its nine-year reign with one big fart in our faces.

Read more Mary Beth Crain's So Long, Tony Phony Baloney

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email
Tags:    The Sopranos HBO Finale

June 12, 2007

P.S.: More Byassee

Jason recently wrote an in-depth Christian Century cover story about Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Barack Obama's congregation. Hoping to bring Obama down, right-wing critics have targeted Trinity, characterizing its Africentric Christianity as separatist and racist. Here, Byassee offers a defense of Obama's church, explaining it's historical and theological significance in the civil rights movement and the black church's struggle to communicate the gospel's relevance to the black community.

Wait a minute, Jason. Are you suggesting Jesus wasn't an upper-middle-class white American?

For more of Jason's heresies, read Africentric Church.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 11, 2007

Richard Rorty, RIP

Today's NYT confirms it--Richard Rorty died Friday in Palo Alto, Calif., at 75.

Rorty challenged the widespread notion that philosophy's main job was to figure out what we can and cannot know, writes Patricia Cohen in the Times. Philosophy should focus on what we need to do to cope with daily life, Rorty argued, and not on what we can discover by theorizing.

To accomplish this, Rorty relied on the works of American pragmatists John Dewey, Charles Peirce, William James and others. "There is no basis for deciding what counts as knowledge and truth other than what one's peers will let one get away with in the open exchange of claims, counterclaims and reasons," Rorty wrote. Thus, "'truth is not out there,' separate from our own beliefs and language. And those beliefs and words evolved, just as opposable thumbs evolved, to help human beings 'cope with the environment' and 'enable them to enjoy more pleasure and less pain.'"

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 11, 2007

Adam--Kicked Out of Creation Museum's Eden

The guy who played Adam in videos featured at the recently opened Creation Museum "has led a different life outside the Garden of Eden, flaunting his sexual exploits online and modeling for a clothing line that promotes free love," the AP reported Thursday.

Actor Eric Linden owned a website called "Bedroom Acrobat," where he has been pictured posing with a transvestite, "in a T-shirt brandishing the site's sexually suggestive logo."

After learning about "Bedroom Acrobat," the Creation Museum pulled the clips of Linden as Adam, in which the actor helps tell the creationists' Bible-based, six-day account of how the Earth came to be.

Imagine that: Adam, expelled from the Garden of Eden for sinning. It's biblical, but probably not what the museum had in mind when they set out to be faithful to the Genesis story.

Linden told the AP he's no longer affiliated with "Bedroom Acrobat," and is baffled by the museum's cut. "Just because I'm Adam on the screen, that doesn't mean I'm Adam off the screen," he said. "What I do shouldn't have anything to do with who they think Adam is."

At his website, Linden has asked readers to petition the museum to put him back in  their video. Yet he does seem to understand the museum's concern about the "paradox" he's created: "Adam was the one who brought sin into the world, and apparently I have brought it into the Creation Museum," he writes, "and for that I sincerely apologize."

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 10, 2007

Richard Rorty, 1931-2007?

Has America's leading philosopher passed away? Telos Press announces that Richard Rorty died on Friday, June 8, but as of this moment, 10:23 AM, EST, no major news source has reported it. Wikipedia says he died at home of pancreatic cancer.

A correction to the June 6 Harvard Crimson states that Rorty was unable to travel to Cambridge to receive an honorary doctorate.

I know, I know. It's sort of odd to be questioning the reality of the passing of a great philosopher who questioned established notions of truth, knowledge, and objectivity. (Of course, whether a person is alive or not isn't the kind of truth claim Rorty would have questioned.) Well, he was an ironist.

In April, the American Philosophical Society awarded him the Thomas Jefferson Medal, Telos says. The prize citation read: "In recognition of his influential and distinctively American contribution to philosophy and, more widely, to humanistic studies. His work redefined knowledge 'as a matter of conversation and of social practice, rather than as an attempt to mirror nature' and thus redefined philosophy itself as an unending, democratically disciplined, social and cultural activity of inquiry, reflection, and exchange, rather than an activity governed and validated by the concept of objective, extramental truth."

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 7, 2007

God Warriors

In response to Stephanie Hunt's piece on Christian yoga, reader Erica commented: "Can someone explain why certain Christians get so spooked out over Hinuduism and New Age practices? Aren't they like songs on the radio--if you don't like the tune, just change the station?" Excellent question, Erica.

We discussed it at SoMA's morning editorial meeting, and we concluded that, though we have some religion degrees among us, we're probably not best suited to give you an answer. Even me and Steph, who grew up in conservative Protestant churches, shouldn't try to explain the hullabaloo over Hinduism and New Age stuff because we went mainline, which means we're tainted. All we can tell you is that it's got to do with paganism and dark-sided things.

Instead, meet born-again Christian and expert-on-the-perils-of-paganism, Marguerite Perrin. She appeared on the reality show "Trading Spouses" last year, swapping kin with a laid-back family that celebrates the summer solstice and keeps a statue of the Buddha in their backyard. In the following clip, Marguerite returns home, reporting on her harrowing brush with evil:

Need another Marguerite fix? Here she is, in an earlier episode, contending with the pagan family's demonic clothes dryer:

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 4, 2007

Dinosaurs in the Bible?

Last night I was reading Zondervan's "Beginner's Bible: Timeless Children's Stories" to my four-year-old twins when I came to a disturbing realization. Though the children's Bible includes hundreds of illustrations depicting all sorts of animals--snakes, camels, sheep, fish, doves, lions, donkeys, whales--I couldn't find a single dinosaur anywhere. I hoped to spot at least a brachiosaurus grazing on treetops in the Garden of Eden, or perhaps a ravenous velociraptor chasing a shepherd across the Judean wilderness. But no.

Until last week, I was unaware that the biblical world was full of dinosaurs. On Monday, the $27 million Creation Museum opened in Petersburg, Kentucky, and the curtain went up on the wondrous revelation that triceratops and T-rexes were as common in Abraham's day as cats and dogs are in ours.

Continuing reading my essay "Daniel in the Dino's Den" at The Revealer.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 3, 2007

Deb in Newsweek

My wife doesn't want me to write about her recent academic achievement--she insists it's no big deal--but that didn't stop her from telling Newsweek all about it when they called last week. So, to honor my wife's wishes, I won't comment on her new milestone. Instead, I'll write a blog about the Newsweek article, which appears in the June 11 issue, on newsstands tomorrow.

In "Going Green at Work," correspondent Anna Kuchment reports that a certain Wall Street executive named Deborah Spalding, 41, is among a growing number of Americans who are "torn between their careers and their inclinations toward public service." To bridge the gap, they're tapping into their "savvy about helping the environment" to shape careers that make a difference. A full-time hedge-fund manager with an office in Manhattan, Spalding recently earned a masters in forestry from Yale University. "While Spalding, who graduated last month, hasn't switched careers," Newsweek reports, "she's incorporating her degree into her everyday work, trying to prove that companies can turn a profit from responsible environmental practices."

Good for you, lady. And congrats on your Yale masters, which looks great next to your MTS from Harvard, your MBA from Berkeley, your CFA, and your PhD (ABD) in Japanese history and religion from U.C. Santa Barbara... Oops. Newsweek didn't mention those accomplishments, did they?

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

June 2, 2007

Christian Yoga

Could there really be such a thing as Christian yoga? C'mon, now. Do you really need to ask? Everything in mainstream culture eventually gets copied by Christians and Jesusified--given a Christian patina that assures believers of their sanctity whether they're listening to pop music, reading trashy novels, or hunting animals. Why would yoga be any different?

In Christian alternaculture, the faith element is often superfluous, and Christian yoga is a case in point. Take PraiseMoves, which their website helpfully clarifies is "not Christian yoga," but "the Christian alternative to yoga." PraiseMoves promises that "deep stretching, gentle movement and strong [their emphasis] Scripture combine for weight loss, stress relief, flexibility, and strength." Of course, Scripture has nothing to do with getting in shape. We've all known people who've reached the pinnacle of fitness without reading the Bible--e.g., many practitioners of non-Christian yoga. Similarly, we've all known 300-pound believers who read the Word of God three times a day but can't hoist themselves out of a chair without getting winded. Let's face it, unless your Bible is made of cast iron and you regularly bench press it, the Good Book won't give you sculpted pecs.

So why a Christian alternative to yoga? Because, as PraiseMoves explains, yoga evolved out of--children, cover your ears--Hinduism. And because yoga has been linked to--earmuffs again, kids--the New Age movement. Yoga, it seems, is a deceptive and seductive dark art that has many ways of luring unsuspecting Christians into the spiritually dangerous world of cobra poses and half-moon postures. In a letter to Christianity Today, one yoga survivor explained how she landed on a yoga mat after a long flirtation with New Age practices that all started with a Ouija board in college.

But what is like to hold a shooting bow pose for Jesus? Recently, contributing editor Stephanie Hunt attended a "Yo-God!" class to find out.

Read her essay "Now That's a Stretch" here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

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