Friday, October 31, 2008

2 Marḥeshwan 5769: Halloween/Frankenstein Friday


Worthy cause of the day: “Support Responsible Energy Corridor Development!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Archaeologists report finding oldest Hebrew text”: (Submitted by Barry.) Summary: Archaeologists have found a 3,000-year-old Hebrew inscription 20 km away from Jerusalem. In case anyone (<COUGH> Arabs <COUGH>) wants to forget the fact, Jews have a very long history in Israel.
  2. “Why Children Like to Share”: Maybe human nature is not as bad as people often make it out to be.
  3. “Mills and Boon is more embarrassing than the Bible”: Not quite sure what to make of this.
  4. “To Ethiopia, in search of The Ark”: The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church claims that they have the Ark of the Covenant, only they refuse to show it to anyone. The excuse that anyone who actually sees it will “burst into flames” is not attested anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. The fact that they refuse to substantiate that they have the Ark in any way, shape, or form should be a warning sign that the claim is probably false.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, considering one of today’s (quasi-)holidays, is a bunch of masterfully carved pumpkins. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

1 Marḥeshwan 5769: Ro’sh Ḥodhesh/Haunted Refrigerator Night


Worthy cause of the day: “United Against Nuclear Iran » Sign the petition” (I fully expect the next president of the United States, be it Obama or McCain, to do nothing of substance against Iran and that Israel will have to level Tehran on their own) and “Tell the FCC: Open White Spaces for Everyone”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Israeli court clears way for Jerusalem museum”: Submitted by Barry. Basically, part of a 300-400 year old Muslim cemetery has been designated to be used to build “The Museum of Tolerance”. Muslims cried fowl over this, despite the fact that they had previously let other parts be turned into a parking lot and a hotel without objection. I hope this is not an unwitting comment on Muslim attitudes towards tolerance.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is Virtual Magic Polyhedra. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and happy new month.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Request for help: ’ethrogh recipes


Before I forget about this:  I have a few ’ethroghim (citrons) around the house, grown on the trees out front.  I prefer to eat the ’ethroghim rather than let them shrivel up, so if anyone has any good ’ethrogh recipes, please let me know.  Thanks in advance.


30 Tishri 5769: Ro’sh Ḥodhesh/Internet Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Change military policy about animals”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Atheists read religious texts for charity”: Not quite sure what to make of this. At the very least, this means at least a few atheists are not totally ignorant of what their opponents believe.
  2. “Are You Evil? Profiling That Which Is Truly Wicked”: Summary: Someone is trying to deliberately make an evil computer program, called “E”. The problem with the concept is that evil (and its opposite, good) are essentially matters of opinion.  To quote:
    To be truly evil, someone must have sought to do harm by planning to commit some morally wrong action with no prompting from others (whether this person successfully executes his or her plan is beside the point). The evil person must have tried to carry out this plan with the hope of "causing considerable harm to others," Bringsjord says. Finally, "and most importantly," he adds, if this evil person were willing to analyze his or her reasons for wanting to commit this morally wrong action, these reasons would either prove to be incoherent, or they would reveal that the evil person knew he or she was doing something wrong and regarded the harm caused as a good thing.
    It is correct to define evil in terms of morality, but “morally wrong” can only be defined in terms of a moral system.  Morality, however, is not an intrinsic property of our reality, but is essentially an opinion.  In religions, normally it is the opinion of a deity or other important being which counts.  Atheists and many philosophers prefer their own opinions on which to base their moral systems.  What “morally wrong” means in the context of E is not stated in the article, though considering that multiple philosophers are specifically drawn upon for the definition of evil, I suspect that “morally wrong” is also defined in philosophical and not religious terms.  Considering that there is great variability in what people consider morally wrong (e.g., see the works of Anton Szandor LaVey for truly unusual moral views), no matter how evil appears to its creator, it is bound to be viewed by some as a dismal failure.

    Also, there is the question of whether E can truly be evil.  Since E is designed to act in an evil manner, E’s evil behavior is arguably the fault of its programmer and not its own, thus making E the innocent victim of its programming.  Also, “evil” as a label is usually applied only to sentient beings, such as humans, e.g., we do not usually label non-sentient beings, such as dumb animals, as evil, even if we would typically consider a human who acted the same way as evil.
  3. “Causes of the Collapse”
  4. “Journalism Today”
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Robotic Sculpture”, the purpose of which I do not understand. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and happy new month.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

29 Tishri 5769: Make a Difference Day/Statue of Liberty Day/Diwali


Worthy cause of the day: “PROTECT ICE SEALS FROM GLOBAL WARMING” and “Tell Mukasey: Don't use the Department of Justice to suppress Ohio voters.”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Five questions for Sarah Palin”: This is a nice summary of many of the religious problems with Sarah Palin which have cropped up before. Probably the most worrying thing about her religious beliefs is that she has not discussed the details of what she believes. “Bible-believing Christian” is a large category leaves much room for interpretation. What hints we have of her belief system are worrying, e.g., she seems to believe that God wants an oil pipeline, but has not explicated why she believes this. Rather than try to tease out what she believes from the meagre sources available, after this post is finished, I intend to E-mail her via her office in Alaska and her and John McCain’s campaign site and ask her to directly answer the questions in this article. I encourage everyone else to do so as well.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is something silly someone created for Halloween: “Dalek Halloween Pumpkin”.

Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, October 27, 2008

28 Tishri 5769: Navy Day/Cranky Co-Workers Day


Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Saudi king to attend November UN interfaith dialogue”: I sincerely believe that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia really does support “interfaith dialog”—as a means of cover for the gross lack of religious freedom in his country. His last interfaith effort was in Spain. This next one will be in New York City. If he were actually serious about religious tolerance, he would not bother with such conferences but instead guarantee the religious freedom of all people in Saudi Arabia, including non-Muslims. Saudi Arabia is infamous for lack of religious freedom.
  2. “Former-Iranian president urges Christians and Muslims to work together”: Mohammad Khatami may be trying a similar stunt.
  3. “Asia, world leader in religious freedom violations”: Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are offenders.
  4. “Why McCain's 'Judeo-Christian values' should worry the Jews”: There has never ever been a “Judeo-Christian tradition”. What Jews and Christians share is the Hebrew Bible, which they do not even call by the same name, Jews preferring “Tanakh” and Christians preferring “the Old Testament”. They do not even agree even on the same version of the Hebrew Bible, the number of books in the Hebrew Bible, which books are in the Hebrew Bible, or the ordering of the books in the Hebrew Bible. Jewish and Christian styles of interpretation of the Hebrew Bible are also radically different. Jewish exegesis puts the simple meaning of the text first and foremost. The New Testament, however, in its efforts to argue for the Messiahship of Jesus, tends to cite the Hebrew Bible out of context, sometimes even getting the very text of the Hebrew Bible wrong; as such, Christians are forced into an interpretation of the Hebrew Bible that deviates considerably from the Jewish interpretation and the plain meaning of the text. The two religions cannot agree on what the Hebrew Bible means, with each religion’s interpretation fundamentally unacceptable to the other. And with different interpretations naturally come different values. To Jews, all the commandments given in the Torah are binding, even ones that in contemporary America seem downright weird. Christians, on the other hand, have relied on the New Testament to gerrymander what is and is not binding. Even what Jews and Christians agree on being binding (e.g., prohibitions on polytheism and idolatry, the Sabbath, prohibitions on murder and adultery, the concepts of usury and the bastard) are inevitably interpreted differently. Given the differences, the “Judeo-Christian tradition” is a completely ahistorical concept. Expect anyone invoking it to be up to something dishonest.

    For the record, there is no such thing as the “Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition” either.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “The anatomy of the first video game”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

27 Tishri 5769: International Dadaism Month/Mother-in-Law Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Protect Patient Privacy” and “Leaders of WOZA at risk of torture and ill treatment”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “For Nonbelievers, Reassurance on Wheels”: Thus is written:
    British atheists announced Tuesday a high-profile advertising campaign to put posters on London buses that say: "There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
    An advertising poster is not much room to put up a decent and readable theological argument, and so the argument made is entirely emotional. This ad seems to imply a malevolent view of whatever god might exist, that any god that might exist wants to make our lives miserable or behaves in such a way as to cause us to worry. Naturally such an implication falls on deaf ears among people who believe in a loving god. Furthermore, if there is probably no god, there is plenty of reason to worry. No god means no one looking out for us, no safety net whatsoever against human stupidity and insanity. Crazy governments or terrorists could launch a nuclear war or plague of smallpox and succeed without any higher power to stop them. We might succeed in letting global warming wrecking civilization. We might succeed in turning the planet into a toxic wasteland. No god means our fate is totally in our own hands, and if there is no free will either, not even that. And no god also means probably no afterlife, which means that death is really the end and we get to drive ourselves crazy with the irrational obsession of trying to imagine what nonexistence is like. In short, no god means plenty to worry about. Thank you, militant atheists, for your efforts to ruin everyone’s day.
  2. “Afghan student gets 20 years instead of death for blasphemy”: General rule: Suppression of criticism is not an effective way to prove one is correct.
  3. “Palin hair big with partygoers, NY's Orthodox Jews”: I have no clue what to make of this.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is a horoscope according to this blog’s fictional characters, Rupert Hippo and company, included below. It is about as accurate as anyone else’s horoscope. Enjoy and share the hippopotamus-themed weirdness.


Aries: You will be eaten by a gang of hungry crocodiles.

Taurus: All of your parasite-eating birds will abandon you.

Gemini: A gang of evil rhinoceroses will kick you out of your territory.

Cancer: A gang of elephants will get the water in your territory all muddy.

Leo: You will be eaten by a pride of hungry lions.

Virgo: You will stay out on the beach too long and wrinkle up like a prune.

Libra: You will run out of underwater vegetation and have to go to the supermarket for more.

Scorpio: You will meet someone with bigger tusks than yours who will kick you out of your territory.

Ophiuchus: All day the astronomically ignorant will insist that there’s no constellation of Ophiuchus in the Zodiac.

Sagittarius: An idiot will mistake your pink-hued sweat for blood and call 911.

Capricornus: An idiot will mistake your blood for for pink-hued sweat and fail to call 911.

Aquarius: Wildebeest will sue you over alleged water access rights violations.

Pisces: Human tourists will not leave you alone and insist you smile for their photographs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

24 Tishri 5769: Talk Show Host Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Protect Your Right to Vote” and “Protect Otero Mesa's Wild Beauty, Wildlife”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Unholy row threatens Holy Sepulchre”: I seriously have to ask: what would Jesus think of all this bickering?
  2. “The Bible Reincarnated: Visually Arresting”: Interesting technique, but how good a job does it do of getting people to actually read the contents?
  3. “Mandaeans - a threatened religion”: Yet another group endangered by Muslims in Iraq. Please compare them with the Zoroastrians, followers of another ancient religion, also persecuted in their homeland (Iran), and also facing the threat of extinction.
  4. “Malaysians warned not to question Islam”: It is a pathetic ideology which justifies itself through threats. Other religions at least try to explain what is better about them.
Today’s news and commentary:As everyone here in the US knows, October 31 will be Halloween, a secularized pagan holiday which has degenerated into parties, wearing silly costumes, practical jokes, and children going from house to house demanding unhealthy snacks that rot teeth. I do not celebrate Halloween, but I find the antics of those who do rather amusing. In that spirit, today’s weird thing (submitted by Barry) is “The 10 Most Disappointing Treats for Trick-or-Treaters”. I would like to note one item was left out of this list which should be obvious, that Peanuts classic, rocks. WARNING: Those seeking to give out disappointing treats on Halloween, please do not give out rocks, as these may end up being thrown through your windows. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Other worthy cause of the day: Tell the U.S. Navy to Protect Marine Mammals from Deadly Sonar!


Today’s other worthy cause is “Tell the U.S. Navy to Protect Marine Mammals from Deadly Sonar!”. Please sign and tell the US Navy to stop ignoring the needs of endangered whales. Thank you.


The Divine Misconceptions FAQ

The Divine Misconceptions FAQ

© 2008 Aaron Solomon Adelman (“Friendly Pharisee”)

What is Divine Misconceptions?

A few years ago, I became disgusted with widespread religious illiteracy in our society. One aspect of this lack of understanding is ignorance of religion; people often know little about the religion they claim to believe, much less other people’s religions. Another, arguably more dangerous aspect is that many support their religious ideas with poor reasoning or none at all; indeed, for many religion has become synonymous with unreason, through which people can believe and do whatever is right in their own eyes in complete disregard of evidence and sense. At first my disgust led me to merely list misinformation and bad logic claimed in the name of religion. However, the list has grown not merely in length, extent, and organization, but it is evolving into a book or (more likely) series of books (tentatively titled Divine Misconceptions: An Orange Catholic Necronomicon of Religious Fallacies and Misinformation) on why religious misinformation and poor thinking are wrong.

The goal of the Divine Misconceptions project is to produce a book or series of books covering all the common religious fallacies and misinformation in contemporary society. The hope is that this project will help people to think more about what they believe and why they believe it, because the stakes are high. Religion is not a game or a mere social activity. What are at risk rank among the most important things known to humanity: truth, morality, salvation, and even life itself, with major questions of what is obligatory or unconditionally prohibited dependent on the truth of beliefs. People are regularly harmed or killed by religious irrationality of various kinds, including refusal of vaccination or blood transfusions; use of “complementary” and “alternative” medicines; slander; exploitation by cults and people with alleged divinatory powers; and oppression, violence, homicide and war with an alleged prophetic basis. Given that contemporary society is extremely tolerant and even accepting of religious illiteracy and poor reasoning, and Hillel says in Pirqe ’Avoth 2:6 “And in a place that there are no men, make efforts to be a man”, I am stepping forward to do something, anything to change the situation for the better.

What is the meaning of the project’s name?

Divine refers specifically to deities (a subject frequently misunderstood) and to religion in general.

Misconceptions refers to the bad ideas.

Orange Catholic is an allusion to the Orange Catholic Bible of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. In this series, the Orange Catholic Bible is a scriptural text produced by a 121-member ecumenical council for the express purpose of removing conflict between rival religions. The result is a condensed and harmonized version of the scriptures of all the major religions of the day. Orange Catholic has been utilized because the project is relevant to all religions (including ideologies such as atheism and communism on the borderline of religion) and as a reference to some disturbing trends in religion these days.

Necronomicon is an allusion to the Necronomicon of H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. In this series, the Necronomicon is a grimoire containing occult secrets that many would prefer were kept secrets. Necronomicon has been utilized since this project aims to bring into public discussion of religion such ideas as truth, reason, and objectivity that many would rather be hidden away and forgotten completely.

What is the current state of the project?

I already have what may best be described as a skeleton of a book, stretching over about 150 pages, waiting for me to fill in a lot of details. Current work on the book is comprised mostly of 1) trying to write basic, introductory material and 2) reading/watching relevant material, analyzing it, and reviewing it; some such material has already appeared on my blog).

There is also effort being expended to decide on the correct scope, both in terms of religions covered and the works about them used; restricting the scope is vital, because religion such a large topic that no single human could hope to cover everything possibly relevant in a single lifetime. Definitely to be investigated are current major world religions, historically important religions, well-publicized new religious movements, and various ideologies and disciplines on the borders of religion. A more extensive list of topics is found below. Also needing to be taken into account are depictions of religion in popular culture; though not authoritative, they frequently reflect people’s views of religion, especially views that might not be expressed in authoritative sources.

Also in need of work is determining how to bring this project properly to fruition. Some of the topics to be covered range far beyond my own experience, and I will probably need the help of experts to wade through the sea of material available to find the information I need. Even in subjects with which I am familiar, there is a need to find people who are qualified and willing to do peer review so that mistakes are corrected before publication. There are also questions about how to go about getting the work published, in how many installments, and whether it would be possible to get funding for the work.

What topics will be covered in Divine Misconceptions?

Note: This list is unlikely to be exhaustive.

Section 1 (likely to become a separate book): “The Book of Seductive Interest in Logic” (as it is written in Frank Herbert’s Dune, “It was said that its pages were filled with a seductive interest in logic.”):

  • Contradiction
  • Formal fallacies (bad logic)
  • Informal fallacies (rhetorical dirty tricks)
  • Extreme relativism
  • Epistemology (including theism versus atheism)
  • Bad terminology
  • Mediocracy
  • The nature of religion and syncretism
  • Abusing the boundaries between religions
  • Hermeneutics and scripture
  • Deities
  • Prophecy
  • Miracles
  • Science
  • Things claimed to be what really matters to the exclusion of anything else
  • Trust in one’s deity
  • Morality, judgement, commandments, and transgressions
  • Natural rights
  • The human condition
  • Categorization of beings as superior or inferior
  • Groups alleged to be involved in nefarious, religion-related plots
  • Prayer
  • Sexuality
  • Abortion and embryonic stem cell research
  • Miscellaneous

Section 2: “The Azhar Book of the Dead” (likely to contain a separate book in the form of a commentary on the Hebrew Bible and New Testament):

  • The Hebrew Bible
  • Judaism (including the Qabbalah and Ḥasidhuth) and Pseudo-Judaism (“Reform Judaism” and its descendant ideologies)
  • Christianity and Pseudo-Christianity (including Mormonism)
  • Islam (including the Jihad and Islam’s relations with other religions) and Pseudo-Islam (including Ahmadiyya and the Nation of Islam)
  • Druze religion
  • Vaishnavism, Smartism, Shaivism, and Shaktism (“Hinduism”)
  • Sikhism
  • Jainism
  • Buddhism and Pseudo-Buddhism (including Falun Gong)
  • Confucianism
  • Taoism
  • Zoroastrianism
  • Ancient Greek and Roman religion, ancient Egyptian religion, and other ancient paganisms
  • Baha’i religion
  • Yoruba religion (including Voodoo and Santería)
  • Assorted “native” religions
  • Ceremonial/ritual magic and occultism
  • Theosophy
  • Spiritualism
  • Neopaganism (including Wicca, Discordianism, polytheistic reconstructionism, and the relationship of such ideologies to historical witchcraft and paganisms)
  • LaVeyan Satanism (including its relation to the Christian paranoid fantasy of Satanism) and other Left-Hand Path religions
  • Scientology (including Free Zone)
  • New Age religions
  • Quasi-religious atheistic ideologies
  • Obsolete hypotheses and assorted problematic claims assumed to be true

How can I help?

This project is bigger than any one person, so help is always appreciated.

Also: My current topic of writing focus is truth. If you have questions about the nature of truth, please, let me know!

21 Tishir 5769: Hosha‘na’ Rabba’


Worthy cause of the day: “Don't Repeal the Stream Buffer Zone Rule”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Link between child porn and Muslim terrorists discovered in police raids” and “Dangerous and depraved: paedophiles unite with terrorists online”: I cannot make something like this up. I am not clear why such a connection exists or even if there really is a true association. The data in these arguments could be “cherry-picked” and most Islamic terrorists completely uninvolved with and abominating child pornography. So far as the terrorists discussed in the article are concerned, I would like to note that humans are frequently inconsistent in their behavior, so one may be both a jihadist and commit serious transgressions to Islam. In fact, it is possible that Muslims that enjoy child pornography might engage in jihad in an effort to compensate for their sins.
  2. “Woman to lead UK Muslim prayers” Wherein a woman leading prayers is thusly justified:
    "We believe Islam is a gender-equal religion," he said.

    "There is a record that the Prophet Mohammed allowed a woman to lead a mixed-gender congregation, but this precedent has been ignored.

    "Women have led prayers in South Africa, Canada and the US and this is a first time here - it is a celebration."
    And I really dislike the fact that this article does not reference a specific tradition, which would be very interesting, considering how misogynistic the Qur’an is.
  3. “Kyrgyzstan to restrict religious freedom”: Isn’t this illegal under international law?
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Search for Spock”.

Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

20 Tishri 5769: Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth/Electricity Day/Evaluate Your Life Day

Greetings, everyone.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  Friday I wrapped up my yearly reading cycle for the Torah. I do a standard Jewish regimen for the yearly study the Torah: one parashah (weekly portion) every week, twice in the Hebrew Masoretic text (Aleppo Codex version), once in ’Onqelos’s Aramaic translation, and one commentary (this past year, that of Seforno). This past year I read through the Samaritan version of the Torah, too. I must note the Samaritan Torah is surprisingly like the Jewish version. The only substantive difference in meaning was in the Decalogue, where there was added a commandment that the Temple be on Mount Gerizim. There is also a little filling out of the Exodus story. Other than that, practically every other difference is typographical and more of a curiosity than anything else. This would mean the Torah has changed little if at all in substantive meaning since the unambiguous Jewish-Samaritan split at the time of ‘Ezra’, which (without looking the date up) would be around 400-500 BCE.

This time through the cycle (which I started on yesterday afternoon) I have chosen to study for commentary that of Rashbam. I have also begun to read the most historically important Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint. I have been working on Ancient Greek for a while, and (thank YHWH) this proved enough for me last night to be able to grammatically analyze the first creation story in Genesis. I am expecting this coming year to be very painful linguistically, as Ancient Greek is a grammatically complex language which delights in irregularities. The points of this exercise are 1) to read the Septuagint, since it is so historically important and 2) to pick up enough Ancient Greek so as be able to read in the original language other important Ancient Greek literature relevant to the Divine Misconceptions project, e.g., the New Testament, Philo, Josephus, Plato, and Aristotle. The fact that I have a set portion to work on each day is a boon, since that makes it harder to get lazy about studying Ancient Greek, as well as providing regular reinforcement of vocabulary and grammar. If this exercise works as well as I hope, in a year or two I may be working my way through the Vulgate or an Arabic translation of the Torah.

Note 1: If anyone knows if Sa‘adhyah Ga’on’s Arabic translation of the Torah is still extant, please let me know.

Note 2: I suspect that knowing Ancient Greek will prove very useful for scaring Christian missionaries. So far, none I have encountered knew Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. For someone who cannot read his/her own scriptures in the original language, meeting a nonbeliever who can read half of them in the original has to be imposing. Meeting a nonbeliever who can read all of them has to be even worse.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird things are two Sarah Palin sketches from last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live.

And for the record, I think Palin is more of a “Barracuda Barbie” or a “Bushite Barbie” than a “Caribou Barbie”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Friday, October 17, 2008

18 Tishri 5769: Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth/National Mammography Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Tell the Bahamas to Stop Killing Sea Turtles”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Some hear doll's burbling as a clear endorsement of Islam”: No, I am not making this up. It is probably a fluke and unintentional.
  2. “Conservative Christians lead push for Prop. 8”: Proposition 8 would eliminate any legal right to homosexual marriage in California. Unlike most articles on subject of homosexuality in Christianity, this one actual takes the trouble to list a few relevant verses, so let us go through them one by one:
    1. Genesis 19:4-6: An incident of attempted homosexual rape in Sedhom (Sodom). This is not legal material, plus the incident happened before the giving of the Torah, so it is not a good basis for deriving law. Clearly the attitude towards homosexual rape is negative, though the context does not make clear whether the homosexuality part or the rape part or both are what is abominated. Note that nowhere in the Hebrew Bible is there any positive depiction of homosexuality of any kind.
    2. Leviticus 20:13 (“And a man that will lie with a male like having sexual intercourse with a woman, the two of them did an abomination; they shall die; their blood is upon them.”: This is an unambiguous prohibition of male homosexuality. The justification given for why this does not apply today is nonsense: “Times have changed, and the verses applied to those times only. The chapter also mandates death for adulterers.” One of the major problems Christianity has is justifying gerrymandering what parts of the Law still hold and which do not. There is no mention of an expiration date or any condition for expiration of any commandment, which is why Orthodox Judaism holds they all still apply, even ones Christians tend to look on as downright weird. Even Jesus never claimed any end to Torah prohibitions. Therefore the prohibition of homosexuality still holds.
    3. Romans 1:27: This is a very negative depiction of homosexuality. The justification “St. Paul criticizes a range of behaviors.” is nonsense since everything else depicted negatively in this section is something traditionally considered bad.
    4. 1 Corinthians 6:9: I am not competent enough in Koine Greek yet to judge whether or not homosexuality is being discussed among other vices. Sorry. This, of course, does not cancel out the verse in Romans.
    Let us face it: there is no ground to stand upon to claim that homosexuality (or male homosexuality, at any rate) is an acceptable practice in Christianity. And I would like to emphasize practice. None of these verses say anything about having homosexual feelings, which is quite a different matter.
  3. “Baltimore archbishop tells Virgin Mary 'visionary' to stop activities”: Kudos to the Catholic Church for their skepticism of questionable visions.
  4. “Good Taste”: Yes, people are weird like that. Palin still sucks as a vice-presidential candidate.
  5. “Earliest Reference Describes Christ as 'Magician'”: Or maybe it is something else. Let us let the archaeologists work this out.
  6. “Peaceful Demostrator Punched by Scientologist at Los Angeles Event”: This is a new tactic. Usually Scientologists file lawsuits. Maybe the fact that Anonymous protesters tend to be masked and therefore unidentifiable, hence difficult to sue, has something to do with it.
  7. “World Dignitaries Open International Conference On Religion”: The fact that no religious leaders are mentioned as attending this conference does not bode well, though holding it in Tehran is an interesting tactic.
  8. “Palestinian man in Jordan kills daughter to cleanse family honor”: And the real shame is that “Forensic doctors said an autopsy showed the girl was still a virgin.” Obviously the father failed to find out if his daughter had actually done anything dishonorable before killing her. It should therefore also be obvious why moral judgement in the absence of evidence is a very, very bad idea.
  9. “False claims exposed of Kenyan pastor who protected Sarah Palin from witches”: Apparently Thomas Muthee lied about his struggle against “witchcraft”. Mama Jane, the alleged witch he claims to have run out of Kiambu, Kenya, never left town.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is the International Earth-Destruction Advisory Board. Enjoy, share the weirdness, Shabbath shalom, and ḥagh sameaḥ.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

17 Tishri 5769: Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth/Dictionary Day/World Food Day/Reptile Awareness Day/Bosses’ Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Tell John McCain and Sarah Palin to Reject the Politics of Division” and “Keep Our Commitments”.

It is Sukkoth, and I am sitting outside in my sukkah putting this posting together.  (Thank YHWH for wireless networking!)

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Shift the focus from synagogue to home”: Rav Boteach is correct that the true focus of Judaism is not the synagogue. Serious religions (not just Judaism) tend to cover every aspect of human life. As such, they are not limited to a one-time-per-week activity.
  2. “3,000 Christians flee Mosul 'killing campaign'”: Just in case any of you thought Islam was merely anti-Jewish. Non-Muslims living under Muslim tend to bear the brunt of Muslim anger, whether they have done anything to deserve it or not.
  3. “Man accused of assaulting 'witch' at Taft”: Please do not ask me what this student was thinking. I have no idea.
  4. “Suit Against God Thrown Out Over Lack Of Address”: Thus is it written:
    A judge has thrown out a Nebraska legislator's lawsuit against God, saying the Almighty wasn't properly served due to his unlisted home address. State Sen. Ernie Chambers filed the lawsuit last year seeking a permanent injunction against God.

    He said God has made terroristic threats against the senator and his constituents in Omaha, inspired fear and caused "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants."

    Chambers has said he filed the lawsuit to make the point that everyone should have access to the courts regardless of whether they are rich or poor.

    On Tuesday, however, Douglas County District Court Judge Marlon Polk ruled that under state law a plaintiff must have access to the defendant for a lawsuit to move forward.
    This lawsuit involves some serious problems.  First, the alleged reason for the lawsuit, access to the courts, does not seem to have much to do with suing God.  Second, it is difficult to imagine holding deities who are not part of our universe subject to our laws; enforcement is probably impossible.  Turning around the matter of jurisdiction, (assuming an Abrahamic worldview) God created this universe and it is therefore His.  Being His creatures living in His universe, we are subject to live by His rules, including matters of reward and punishment, whether or not we think they are fair.  Thirdly, Mr. Chambers forgets that humans bear much responsibility for human suffering, with politics, stupidity, greed, blame-shifting, ignorance, and senseless hatred doing so much to kill and injure people as well as simply make their lives miserable that even an outright human-hating deity would probably just sit back and watch rather than try to improve on our work.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “The Top 20 Satirical Candidates Of All Time”. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and vote for Nobody.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

13 Tishri 5769: International Moment of Frustration Scream Day


Worthy cause of the day:

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “The Certainty Bias: A Potentially Dangerous Mental Flaw”: Those who are dead certain about their beliefs can be dead wrong. It pays to never forget this in religion because irrational uncertainty can easily lead to heresy and sinful behavior. This sort of thing is dealt with a lot in Ḥafeṣ Ḥayyim (One Who Desires Life), a classic Jewish work on the laws of impermissible kinds of speech; in it is discussed how misinterpretation of other people’s actions and speech can lead to bad feelings, slander, and improper action against said people.
  2. “Nicaragua's Ortega says crisis is God punishing U.S.”: Thus is it written:
    Nicaragua's leftist President Daniel Ortega, a U.S. foe since the Cold War, said God was punishing the United States with the financial crisis for trying to impose its economic principles on poor countries.
    And how does Daniel Ortega know this? Is it written in some prophetic text? Is Ortega himself a prophet? What makes him think he knows the Will of God?
  3. “Holy war strikes in India: 35 Christians killed and 50,000 forced from their homes”: Not all the religious violence happening these days involves Islam. This unfolding story deals with Hindu-Christian conflict in India.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Hip Hop Violin - Paul Dateh and inka one”, which you can blame Barry for.

Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Friday, October 10, 2008

11 Tishri 5769: Sukkah-Building Day/National Cake Decorating Day/World Mental Health Day/National Angel Food Cake Day


I am pleased to report that I have survived the Yom Kippur fast, and I have put up my sukkah. Unfortunately, my blood sugar was a bit low when I did it, so the tarps ended up tied on in a rather irregular fashion.  Decorations should go up Sunday (YHWH willing).

Worthy causes of the day: “BUY-IN NOT BAILOUT - GLOBAL PUBLIC RESCUE” and “Keep Colorado's Roadless Area Protected!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Counting Islamists”: Very scary statistics and the methodology behind them.
  2. “The latest make-out spot: Al Aqsa Mosque!”: This is a a great example of a major violation of the unwritten rules of religion: Sheikh Raed Salah of the Islamic Movement in Israel made up baseless accusations about Jews doing various things offensive to Islam on and under the Temple Mount.  It should go without saying that lying is unacceptable because lies are not the truth; people may believe the lies and act on them, thus harming innocent people.  Even if one claims those targeted are actually guilty of crimes anyway, then let the accuser lay out the actual crimes.  If an accuser has to invent the accused’s crimes, that is tantamount to admitting the accused is innocent and thus unworthy of attack.  Raed Salah does not even have the sense to lie well; one would think someone would have snapped a few pictures of Israel police drinking or committing adultery in the Dome of the Rock.   The reality is quite the contrary, with the Israeli government doing everything it can to reign in Jewish hopes for rebuilding the Temple, including not letting Jews even pray on the Temple Mount and letting the waqf commit archaeological sabotage with impunity.   Frankly, if it makes no difference whether the Israeli government sucks up to the Muslims or not, there is no point at all letting Muslims desecrate the Temple Mount, period.  May it be YHWH’s will that the next Israeli government dissolve the waqf, ban all Islamic activity on and inside the Temple Mount, unceremoniously destroy the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain, rebuild the Temple, and restore the sacrificial service, if for no other reason than to drive the message home that Islamic anti-Semitism will be neither tolerated or rewarded!
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is Project Dalek, which is about homemade Daleks. (For those of you who are not Doctor Who fans, think cyborgs shaped like salt-shakers with authoritarian attitudes.) Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

9 Tishri 5769: ‘Erev Yom Kippur/National Bring Teddy Bear to Work & School Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Keep Our Commitments”.

NOTE: Tomorrow is Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). Those of you who will be fasting, please make sure to get plenty of fluids before Sundown so as to avoid dehydration! (Fainting is not a virtue.) Also, there will be no post tomorrow in observance of the holiday.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Still Adrift” and “Our World: The convenient war against the Jews”: The article correctly notes that the West’s tactic of appeasing Islamic jihadists by selling out Jews and Israel is not going to work; people set on universal domination are not going to be satisfied with anything less than the entire Universe. It is also pointed out that the West expects Israel to be the one country to fight Iran, thus saving the West, despite the West constantly pushing Israel to commit suicide. (The cartoon illustrates the suicidal tendencies common among Israeli leaders trying to score points with the West.) I would like to add that I predict that Israel will indeed be the country to bomb Iran into submission, and that there will be planetwide condemnation of this action, only to be followed years later by quiet admission that it was the right thing to do.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is “Magic Cube 2D Applet”. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and have an easy and productive fast.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

8 Tishri 5769: Ten Days of Repentance/Bathtub Day


Worthy cause of the day:

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Feds bringing evangelist Alamo back to Arkansas”: This is a story which has been unfolding for a while. Tony Alamo (born Bernie Hoffman), founder of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, is in trouble with the law for alleged sexual activity with minors. (This seems to have been a problem with insane religious leaders since at least Muḥammad.) It has been repeatedly reported:
    Alamo has said the age of consent to marry is puberty and there's a mandate in the Bible for girls marrying young, but has denied the federal allegations.
    The problem is there is no specific age of consent or mandate for girls to marry young given in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament, so far as I can tell.  I will grant that probably the normal age of marriage was lower than it is today in Western countries, but 1) the contemporary Western world is rather unusual historically and 2) just because something used to be the usual practice does not automatically make it a mandate or the best way to do things. E.g., just because it used to be the usual practice for parents to spank their children does not mean it is the best form of punishment; nonviolent forms of discipline may be just as effective.  If anyone has any data on what Alamo is thinking, please let me know.
  2. “Wall Street’s Collapse Means that Jews Can be Known for Values Rather than Money”: Stereotypes often die hard, and even harder when those stereotyped buy into them.
  3. “Another remarkable archaeological find”: New material from the Second Temple Period!
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is Josiah S. Carberry. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, October 6, 2008

7 Tishri 5768: Ten Days of Repentance/Child Health Day/World Hospice and Palliative Care Day/World Habitat Day/National Storytelling Festival


Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Maybe We Should Blame God for the Subprime Mess”: This article suggests part of the current financial crisis is due to prosperity theology, a Christian belief that correct religious belief or practice leads to material wealth. While God may well favor followers with material benefits, assuming that one will receive said benefits is a dangerous one. Humans are always imperfect, at the very least making mistakes. Frequently it goes deeper, with people can blind to at least some of their own faults, so they may not even realize that some of what they believe or do is wrong. As such, one cannot automatically assume one is worthy. And even if one is worthy, people do not always get what they deserve, e.g., the Book of Job teaches us that bad things can happen even to the most righteous people. As such, making assumptions that one will receive material benefits one for being religious is not justified.
  2. “Faith-healing parents arrested”: To quote:
    The mother and father of a teenager who died in June turned themselves in Thursday to face charges of criminally negligent homicide.

    Neal Beagley, 16, died because of bladder complications nearly four months ago. Authorities said his parents belong to the Followers of Christ Church, a religion relying on prayer in place of medical care.

    After Beagley died, a medical examiner ruled his death could have been prevented had his family taken him to a doctor.
    You can probably hear me sighing at this point.  Major rule:  PRAYER IS ONLY A FORM OF COMMUNICATION.  When one prays, all one does is talk to one’s deity, be it in prose, poetry, or song, be it praise, thanksgiving, or petition; that is all.  Prayer, by itself, does nothing else.  If one is fortunate, the prayer may be granted; it may also not be granted.  Whichever happens is not in our hands, so it pays not to rely on prayer alone when other means of accomplishing worthwhile goals, such as healing the sick, are available.  As empirical evidence that faith-healing can go horribly wrong, I recommend “What's the harm in believing in faith healing?”
  3. “Pope Benedict XVI starts off marathon Bible reading”: This is an interesting way to promote the Hebrew Bible and New Testament.
  4. “US financial crisis causes spike in online anti-Semitism: monitor”: Anti-Semites will blame anything bad on the Jews, whether it makes sense or not.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “'Smoot' measurement reaches new heights at MIT”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

6 Tishri 5769: Ten Days of Repentance/UN World Teacher’s Day/Long Walk Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Help Protect Oregon Wilderness!”

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is a cute picture Emily sent me:

Kosher Cat  can't have cheeseburger

Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Friday, October 3, 2008

4 Tishri 5769: Ten Days of Repentance/National Computing Day/National Diversity Day


Worthy cause of the day: “We need a progressive alternative to the Bush Bailout.”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “'666' road sign thefts bedeviling roadways”: I cannot make this up. You would think people worried about numerology would have something better to do with their time.
  2. “And now for Kol Nidre . . .”: To just quote the whole, short post:
    Meyer called his Rabbi and said, "I know tonight is Kol Nidre, but the Twins start the playoffs. Rabbi. I'm a lifelong fan. I've got to watch the Twins game on TV."

    The Rabbi responds, "Meyer, that's what VCRs are for."

    Meyer is surprised. "You mean I can tape Kol Nidre"?
    Yes, this is a joke, but it is scarily close to how some Christians are reported to behave on Superbowl Sunday.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “The diskette that blew Trixter’s mind ”. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

3 Tishri 5769: Fast of Gedhalyah/National Custodial Workers Day/International Day of Non-Violence


Worthy causes of the day: “Will Our Next Political Leaders Help End Breast Cancer Forever?” and “End discrimination against mental illness!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Bill Maher vs. the "talking snake"”: This article describes Religulous, an antireligious film by Bill Maher. The description smells of bad rhetoric: attacking superficially silly aspects of religion and the nuttiest religious people he can find and being deliberately offensive while avoiding contact with those who might be able to talk with him sensibly about religion. As early as the opening lines of the article, it is clear that Maher is not even getting his subject matter right, failing to understand the difference between an extraterrestrial and a creator deity.  This movie is extremely unpromising.
  2. “US publisher of Muslim book closes office”: The Jewel of Medina is a historical novel about Muḥammad’s favorite wife, ‘A’isha. He married her when she was six or seven and consummated the marriage when she was nine. (I know: “Ew! Gross!”)  Pedophilia on Muḥammad is something Muslims would rather not have popularized, and so there is a major worry about death threats and violence; there has already been an arson.  It should go without saying that thuggish behavior never makes one right; one can beat another into submission with a baseball bat, but whoever is holding the baseball bat is not automatically right.  In order to show the forces of Islam that we will not bow to threats or fear of threats, I recommend that everyone who can afford to do so pre-order a copy of Jewel of Medina. (It has been added to the official Divine Misconceptions wish-list on
  3. “To some evangelicals, Palin's career violates biblical teachings”: This is a highly relevant question to serious Christians. The verse in question is Titus 2:5 (from the Pauline Epistles), which with the previous two verses reads (New American Bible version):
    Similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, so that they may train younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers, under the control of their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.
    In this entire chapter, he promotes what he considers to be good behavior for all adults: older men, older women, younger women, younger men, and slaves. Clearly Paul is not a modern feminist, but the question is how prescriptive of details is Paul’s intention and how obligatory Paul’s advice is. I leave that great experts on Christian practice to decide, but there clearly is a source for Christians to claim Sarah Palin should not be in public office. The other citing of any specific Scriptural reference in the article is:
    Janice Hodgson, who worked in the mortgage business until recently, said Proverbs 31 offers a positive view of working women with servants -- suggesting, she said, that it is fine for Palin to hire nannies to help care for her children.
    This seems to be talking about Proverbs 31:15 (“She rose while it was still night and gave food to her house and rule to her girls”), which may or may not mention maidservants. The word in question, na‘arah, literally means “girl”, by default around 12 years old. It can also mean “maidservant”, but the context is not clear whether the woman being praised is dealing with servants or children. In either case, it never says anything about letting a non-parent raise children, so Ms. Hodgson is stretching the verse.
Today’s news and commentary:There will be no weird thing today due to the fast.