Sunday, November 30, 2008

3 Kislew 5769: Computer Security Day/Stay at Home Because You’re Well Day/1st Advent


Worthy cause of the day: “Stop Canada's 2009 Commercial Seal Hunt”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Married‚ and the mob” and “More than mischief: Are recent acts of church vandalism tied to bigotry?”: Let us be clear on what freedom of religion means: everyone is free to believe whatever they think is correct, even if no one else agrees. This is an eminently practical political right, as it keeps the government away from the business of deciding what is truth (something governments are ill-equipped to decide) and helps create a society in which people do not try to kill each other over doctrinal issues. These two articles discuss a perversion of the notion of tolerance, namely the misconception that everyone is entitled to automatic acceptance. Automatic acceptance actually works against tolerance because it ignores that not everyone agrees on what is right and wrong. It is therefore to be expected that different groups will have moral disagreements and will be opposed to each other’s activities, thus negating the possibility of true acceptance. Keep in mind that in order for one person to get acceptance from another, the former has to justify his/her actions or beliefs to the latter in the latter’s belief system. Anything other than this is an attempt to force one’s beliefs on others—the opposite of tolerance. What has happened in the Proposition 8 controversy that some of those against defining marriage in exclusively heterosexual terms seem to have gone overboard in their quest for acceptance and have become intolerant, sometimes to criminal extents. This is a very disturbing and ironic idea which I hope does not become a trend.
  2. “China sentences Falungong follower to three years in jail: lawyer”: What struck me is that the atheistic government of China charges that Falun Gong is “heretical”. This is logic without reason. The logic is the logic of politics. The Chinese government tries to control and regulate everything within its borders, and since wiping out religion is impractical, said government tries to control the religions practiced in China, regardless of whether or not its dictates are rational or not and persecutes anyone practicing religion outside of its control. Since Falun Gong is not controlled by the government, the government logically tries to dictate that Falun Gong is heresy, even though it makes no sense for atheists to try to dictate what is heresy for religions they do not believe it.
  3. “KAZAKHSTAN: Restrictive amendments on religion go to president”: Yet another country completely misses the notion of freedom of religion and that governments have no business dictating truth.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Yes! It's the Darth Vader breakfast toaster”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Friday, November 28, 2008

1 Kislew 5769: Ro’sh Ḥodhesh/Black Friday


Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Mumbai Attacks: Terrorism has no Religion”: The second clause of that title alone is a misconception, which the author of this article quotes Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh, a Sikh, as promoting twice in the aftermath of terrorist activity in England. Then prime minister Tony Blair also seems to support this view that terrorism is completely against all religions. The problem is that they are trying to redefine other people’s religions; rather than trying to understand other religions, they prefer to project upon them a beautiful idea that all religions are peaceful. Unfortunately, this view is not correct. Faith Freedom International frequently publishes articles critical of Islam, many of which do not merely condemn that religion, but also give references demonstrating that violent intolerance runs deep in Islam all the way back to Muḥammad, e.g., “I am an Ex-Muslim Convert from Belgium”. No matter how much we want to divorce terrorism from religion, the connection between terrorism and Islam is there, already established. Muslim terrorists themselves do not deny their Islamic motivations. Denying the connection means that one does not understand terrorists, and if one does not understand the enemy, it makes fighting them all the more difficult.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

28 Marḥeshwan 5769: Birthday of Charles Schulz


Worthy causes of the day: “Make the Ban on Ivory Sales Permanent”, “Don't Gut the "Organic" Label for Fish!”, and “Tell EPA to protect our health and climate”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Nail bomber blames 'war on Islam”: As it is written:
    A failed suicide nail bomber left a note blaming the "disgusting" behaviour of Britons and the "war on Islam" for his attack, a court has heard.

    Nicky Reilly, 22, from Plymouth, last month admitted attempted murder and preparing an act of terrorism at Exeter's Giraffe restaurant in May.
    Mr. Reilly’s rationale for attempting to bomb a restaurant (thwarted by his bomb exploding while he was holding it, thank YHWH), is problematic:
    "In the name of God most gracious, most merciful: why I did it.

    "Everywhere Muslims are suffering at the hands of Britain, Israel and America. We are sick of taking all the brutality from you.

    "You torture and destroy Muslim lives by taking a father or a son or a brother, even you torture Muslim women.

    "In Britain it's OK for a girl to have sex without marriage and if she gets pregnant she can get an abortion so easily.

    "When you are getting drunk on Friday and Saturday night your behaviour is worse than animals.

    "You have sex in nightclub toilets. You urinate in shop doorways. You shout your foul and disgusting mouth off in the street.

    "It is unacceptable to Allah and the true religion Islam."
    First of all, there is the question of how much of this is actually correct. Mr. Reilly blames the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom for Muslim suffering, and it is correct that there is a lot of Muslim suffering on Earth. On the other hand, Islam is involved in and responsible for a large fraction of violent conflicts on this planet, and it is only to be expected that those who engage in war will suffer because of it. Secondly, Mr. Reilly treats every single individual of groups other than his as personally responsible for the actions of their country. This ignores that individuals frequently disagree with their own governments and seldom are able to singlehandedly influence their actions. Mr. Reilly therefore shows no regard for whether he might kill anyone sympathetic to his own cause. Thirdly, Mr. Reilly takes his group-level characterization past the Western-Islamic conflict to moral and social matters, making claims about people in the United Kingdom which are difficult to believe are the norm for most people living there. Again, he holds individuals responsible for the alleged sins of the group, ignoring that an individual cannot force everyone else to behave in a specific manner. (One should probably ask whether Mr. Reilly thinks we should hold every Muslim personally responsible for Mr. Reilly’s actions.) Fourthly, Mr. Reilly is not a government or the duly appointed officer of a government (e.g., a police officer), so he is not entitled to act as judge, jury, or executioner, no matter what crime anyone has done. The United Kingdom is also not a Muslim state, so he has no business trying to enforce shari‘a. All in all, he is a very sloppy thinker.
  2. “Child sex abuse claims divide Orthodox community”: Unfortunately, we Jews have our own scandals. I applaud those who have the moral courage to confront such abominations and try to make sure they do not recur rather than paper them over and pretend they never happen. Denying the existence of problems is merely wishful thinking, and wishful thinking does not work.
Today’s news and commentary:Recently YouTube had an event called “YouTube Live”. I did not watch it or feel particularly inclined to do so. However, today’s weird things are the rather strange “YouTube Live Promo: Charlie the Unicorn”:

and the likewise strange “YouTube Live: Charlie the Unicorn”:

If anyone understands them, please let me know.

Recap for anyone needs it:
“Charlie the Unicorn”:

“Charlie the Unicorn 2”:

Enjoy (or be puzzled or something) and share the weirdness.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

27 Marḥeshwan 5769: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women/Shopping Reminder Day


Worthy causes of the day: “TELL EPA TO REGULATE GREENHOUSE GASES UNDER THE CLEAN AIR ACT” and “Stop Unfair Practices by Credit Card Companies”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Secret Santa strikes again on NJ parkway”: Curious twist on decorating for Christmas.
  2. “Outcry as songs are re-written for anti-Israel carol concert at famous church”: As it is written:
    Organisers of a Christmas carol concert being held in a famous church have been condemned for rewriting traditional verses to attack Israel.

    Far from bringing tidings of comfort and joy, the participants will instead sing about ‘war crimes’, ‘assassinations’ and the ‘oppression’ of Palestinians.
    Not only do many Christians find this detestable for rather missing the whole point of “good will on earth” and “peace towards men”, being highly inaccurate, and not helping in the least towards bringing an actual peace to the Middle East, but the real irony is that when Jesus was born, Israel was actually occupied—by the Romans. This ought to be blatantly obvious to anyone who has read the Gospels. The Gospels testify to Judea being a Jewish area, whether anti-Semites want to admit it or not. No “Palestinian” people is ever mentioned in the Gospels or the rest of the New Testament, which is rather embarrassing to modern “Palestinian” claims of having any rights to the area. I therefore question the religious and historical literacy of everyone, both Christians and secular Jews, participating in and supporting this concert.
  3. “The family that dines together”
  4. I know that Google AdSense is going to react evilly to this, but I cannot resist posting this criticism of The Secret, particularly its “law of attraction”: “The Secret - I Got Your Secret Right Here - Vinny Verelli”:

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “How the Death Star Works”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, November 24, 2008

26 Marḥeshwan 5769: Use Even If Seal Is Broken Day/Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day


Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Humanity's good neighour”. The premise of this article is essentially that Westerners can be grossly inconsistent in its moral views and behaviors, with indications that Jews and Israel often get the short end of the stick due to this.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is an attempt by me (with some constructive criticism by Barry) to bridge two different genres of humor:

Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

25 Marḥeshwan 5769: Cashews Day


Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Government, leader deaths reshape apocalyptic sect in Mexico”: Never trust anyone who insists the world will end on a specific date and it fails to happen. It pays to verify the validity of visions.
  2. “Prophet cartoon row in Indonesia”: Here we go again...
  3. “Sex offender law faces ‘religious freedom’ challenge”: As it is written:
    A provision of Georgia’s sex-offender law that prohibits offenders from volunteering at places of worship should be struck down because it criminalizes religious conduct, a lawyer argued Thursday.

    Because of the provision, offenders cannot sing in adult choirs, play the piano during services, attend adult Bible study classes, serve as a pallbearer at a friend’s funeral or give their testimonies to congregations, Atlanta lawyer Gerry Weber told a federal judge.

    During the last session, the General Assembly amended the sex-offender law, which already made it a crime for an offender to be employed at a church. The new provision makes it a crime to “volunteer.”

    If convicted, an offender faces at least 10 years and no more than 30 years in prison.
    Considering the Constitutional right to freedom of religion and that religion can have therapeutic benefits, yeah, this law makes no sense. One might want to have houses of worship be careful about whom the offenders are around, but this wholesale interference is overkill.
  4. “Malaysian Islamic body bans yoga for Muslims”: (Submitted by Barry.) An Islamic ban on yoga makes more sense than one might initially suspect. Yoga is not just a form of exercise where one twists one’s body into unusual positions. It is actually a set of multiple Hindu disciplines geared towards liberating one from the cycle of reincarnation. The yoga Americans (and apparently Malaysians) are familiar with is actually a secularized form of hatha yoga. Given this highly un-Islamic origin, it should not be surprising that Muslims regard it with suspicion.
  5. “ACLU sues W.Pa. borough on behalf of church”: As it is written:
    The state American Civil Liberties Union said in a lawsuit that a western Pennsylvania borough violated a church's religious freedom by refusing to allow the house of worship to shelter homeless people.
    Other than the obvious assault on freedom of religion, what the gezornenblat is the government trying to do, making the lives of people worse in this time of economic distress?
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Longest word typed with only the left hand”. Enjoy (or be puzzled over why anyone figured this out) and share the weirdness.


Friday, November 21, 2008

23 Marḥeshwan 5769: World Television Day/World Hello Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Tell Congress to Ban BPA From Baby Bottles and Other Products”, “Ask Obama to support the World’s poorest people”, “Support a Strong International Affairs Budget”, and “A hand up, not a hand-out”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable” (with a tip of the hat to Crummy Church Signs):

    This video is a bit of Christian introspection on what not to do when marketing a church, namely that one should avoid freaking people out.  It is very nice to see self-criticism like this.
  2. “Candid criminal: undercover psychologists find bad behavior may be contagious”: Another reason not to be evil. Never forget that humans are imitative.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “History's greatest conspiracy theories”. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

22 Marḥeshwan 5769: Name Your PC Day/Africa Industrialization Day/Universal Children’s Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Repower, Refuel, and Rebuild America”, “Stop Bush's Dangerous Changes to Endangered Species Act!”, “Insist on Environmental Review Before Utah Drilling Lease Auction”, and “DELAYS ARE KILLING DARFUR”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. I am feeling very annoyed. It seems that whenever there is a successful religious work, especially something purporting to be scripture, there will inevitably be something that will claim to be that work’s successor. One consequence of this is just as the New Testament claims to be a successor of the Hebrew Bible, there are works which claim to be the successor to the New Testament. Some of these, such as the Qur’an and Book of Mormon, are well popularized and distinctively named. However, there are at least 19 works out there purporting in some way or another to be the Third Testament:
    1. A Third Testament: A Modern Pilgrim Explores the Spiritual Wanderings of Augustine, Blake, Pascal, Tolstoy, Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard, and Dostoevsky by Malcolm Muggeridge (does not appear to be a true Third Testament)
    2. Awake: The Third Testament by Russell Hamner
    3. The Third Testament by Curtis J. Scott (may be fiction)
    4. The Third Testament by Julian North
    5. The Third Testament-Spirit of Truth: The Forerunner, The Guardian, The Book of True Life, Message from Mary by T. R. Ross
    6. The Third Testament, Volume 1 by X. Dorison and A. Alice (fiction)
      The writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, also known as The Writings or The Third Testament
    7. Third Testament by Thomas A. Rees
    8. The Third Testament by Scribe
    9. The Third Testament by Martinus (multiple volumes)
    10. The Prophet and the Maid: The Third Testament by Allen F. Whitener (seems to be fiction)
    11. The Third Testament by Faye Wolff Allen
    12. Man’s place in the universe: The third testament by Isaac Harris
    13. The Third Testament: Three Gospels of Peace by Ron Whitehead
    14. The Third Testament: A Story of Regeneration by Dr. Catherine Macklin Thomas
    15. The third testament: A message of power, goodness and conquest for the people of today by N. Ellsworth Escott
    16. The Third Testament the Ilect Verses of Jah Rastafari by Haile Sellassie I
    17. The Third Testament, or the Apocalypse: a Brief Exposition by Geo Burnett
    18. The third testament of the Holy Bible by S. Joseph Iannarelli
    19. Divine Looking Glass or The Third and Last Testament of Our Lord Jesus Christ by John Reeve
    Yes, a few of these are fiction. But many seem to be serious religious works. Please do not ask me about the basis for any of these works claiming to be the Third Testament. I know that Swedenborg and Martinus were mystics and that Halle Sellassie I was emperor of Ethiopia, but I know very little about any of the authors or their religious lives. What I am disturbed about is that they all chose the same name for their works, as if none of them could do a little research to see if the name “Third Testament” had already been used. (I am under the impression that Swedenborg may have the rights to the name, but I am far from certain.) This is just asking for confusion, not to mention indicating a severe lack of creativity. In an expression of my disapproval, I hereby preemptively lay claim to all names of the form “The nth Testament” for every n which does not equal 1, 2, or 3. On top of this, I have a bad feeling that the first book of Divine Misconceptions will end up being titled The Zeroth Testament, as being able to think is such a basic skill that revelation is practically worthless without it. (My other “bad feeling” titles are The Orange Catholic Bible and Not Another Bible.)
  2. “Hollywood out of step with American morals: poll”: The people of the United States apparently do not blindly accept the moral values portrayed in the media. This is very comforting.
  3. “Court rules non-virgin bride, spouse wed”: Here we go again. A Muslim couple went to court a while back in France to divorce over the fact that the wife had lied about being a virgin when they were married, thus violating a condition the marriage was made on. Both husband and wife wanted the divorce so they could get on with their lives, but other people protested, assuming they had a right to determine on what basis other people get married or divorced on. This is what the court in France has done now:
    Overturning an April decision that determined the woman breached the wedding contract by lying about "an essential quality," the court in Douai ruled Monday virginity could not be given such weight because "its absence has no repercussion on matrimonial life," The Guardian reported Tuesday.
    Thus the court is trying to impose on people what they find important in a mate, which is obviously ridiculous, not to mention annulling the annulment is a violation of the wishes of both parties involved. This is a breach of freedom of religion and personal freedom. But given France’s government was nutty enough to think that banning religious clothing from the public schools is a great way to fight terrorists and not a violation of freedom of religion, I may be expecting too much from them.
Today’s news and commentary:In honor of one of today’s quasi-holidays, I would like to note that my current computer is named ’Iyyov (= Job).

Today’s weird thing is “Telescopic Text”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

21 Marḥeshwan 5769: “Have a Bad Day” Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Help Sexually Assaulted Women in the Military Find Justice”, “President-Elect Obama - NOW is the time to remedy 8 years of failed women's health policies” (I am not crazy about abortion, but it is unfortunately sometimes necessary, and the government should not be interfering with it when it is), and “Stop the Bush/Cheney 11th-Hour Assault on Wolves in Greater Yellowstone and the Northern Rockies!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions (sort of):  I would like to note that a week ago I went to K-Mart to fill a prescription for a bacterial respiratory infection.  While I was waiting half an hour for my prescription, I went to the book section, where I spent most of my time there reading a New Thought book which I will not name here because Google AdSense will show bad sense and give a bunch of advertisements related to it, which I do not want, given the work’s abysmal quality.  But I digress.  Besides the New Thought travesty and a variety of other sorts of books, there were a number of books which intuition insisted were Amish romance novels, which struck me as very odd since “Amish” and “romance” are two words which one rarely hears in the same sentence.  Being a guy, I did not bother to examine the books there.  (Guys do not read romance novels, especially in public!)  However, some digging by Barry revealed the identities of two of them, The Parting and The Bishop’s Daughter, with enough information to confirm my intuition was correct.  Further reflection suggests that romance probably occurs among the Amish in real life, especially these days when the concept has spread among a large fraction (if not most) of humanity, only the matter is not much discussed.  After all, even the most paranoid factions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are wrestling with modern ideas about relationships, whether they are accepting of them or rejecting them; it seems hardly likely that the Amish are any different.  As to how accurate these books are, I have no idea, and being a guy, I am not inclined to try to find out—remember:  guys do not read romance novels—unless it somehow becomes critical to my project.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing (if the idea of Amish romance novels was not weird enough for you) is “German Steampunk Keyboard”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

20 Marḥeshwan 5769: Married to a Scorpio Support Day


Worthy causes of the day: “KEEP REFUGE SAFE FOR CONDORS, NOT CATTLE”, “Prevent pollution at Colorado's Little Snake!”, and “Tell the Department of Energy: Prioritize Energy Efficiency!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Gays as the new religious bogeymen”: R. Boteach is right. Homosexuality may be religiously prohibited, but fighting against homosexuals having a legal right to marriage does absolutely nothing to bolster heterosexual marriage or make the world a better place.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Endor Holocaust”. Enjoy (or be scared over the specifics of what happened when the second Death Star exploded) and share the weirdness.


Monday, November 17, 2008

19 Marḥeshwan 5769: Homemade Bread Day/International Students’ Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Join Kyra Sedgwick -- Urge Congress to Stop Global Warming”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. I am pleased to have discovered that the entire run of Battlestar Galactica (original series) is now on-line. This is relevant to Divine Misconceptions because the show borrows some of its basic ideas from Mormonism. See “Battlestar Galactica Frequently Asked Questions” and “Battlestar Galactica and Mormonism” for details. At some point, perhaps while reading through Pearl of Great Price or Doctrine and Covenants, I hope to go through the episodes one by one and point out the Mormon ideas and how some of these ideas conflict with Judaism and Christianity, on the backs of which Mormonism tries to found itself.
  2. “Student bloopers provide historic perspective”: This article (suggested by Mom) lists many religious (and other historical) mistakes made by schoolchildren, all of them humorous. “Student Bloopers” casts some doubt on all of them being genuine. Nevertheless, it makes for great reading if you understand the references.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “The World’s Top 10 Ugliest Buildings”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

18 Marḥeshwan 5769: International Day for Tolerance/Button Day



Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. I am annoyed over one of the groups promoted in one the ads which Google Ads produced recently for my blog, and so I would like to promote that group’s archenemy, Jews for Judaism.

  2. “Priest: Obama Voters Must Do Penance”: Thus is it written:
    A priest at a South Carolina Roman Catholic church says his parishioners shouldn't take Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama because of the Democrat's stance on abortion.
    Fair enough. The Catholic Church is entitled to decide what is offensive to Catholicism and requiring serious penance. But this is the paragraph which is truly problematic:
    But, reports CBS affiliate WSPA, [Father] Newman said his congregants shouldn't take communion until they do penance for supporting the man he called the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president.
    Note the term “pro-abortion”. I have previously attacked the term on August 13, 2008 and February 12, 2008, noting that, unless I am very wrong, no politician has ever come out being actually for abortions, only for government noninterference in women obtaining abortions. I find it very disturbing that people keep making this major mistake in terminology which reflects paranoia and not anyone’s actual views.

  3. “Tomboy protests a security threat?”: Thus is it written:
    Malaysia's police, who have recently cracked down on dissident bloggers and broken up anti-government demonstrations, say that protests over an edict against Muslim women wearing trousers are a security threat.
    Mainly Muslim Malaysia's National Fatwa Council recently issued a religious ruling that wearing trousers was un-Islamic.
    It said that, by wearing trousers, young girls risked becoming "tomboys" who became sexually active.
    That move triggered small protests later from two non-Muslim non-government organizations -- Katagender and Food-not-Bombs.
    I will leave it to Islamic scholars to determine if it is un-Islamic for women to wear pants. A protest being a security threat is frankly rather strange; unless the protest is unusually violent and threatens to spread and completely destabilize the country, this is hard to imagine. “Security threat” smells of an inappropriate government response. The idea that girls wearing pants leads to them becoming sexually active is probably the most far-fetched notion in the article; if there were actual empirical evidence of it, people in the West would probably be pushing for girls not to wear pants so as to avoid teen pregnancy. Anyone who knows of a study showing such a thing (or the opposite, for that matter), please let me know.

  4. I have contributed two crummy church signs towards the latest issue of Crummy Church Signs. Come and bask in the utter crumminess of bad church advertising!
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is “12 Oddly Specific Museums Preserving Our History ”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Friday, November 14, 2008

16 Marḥeshwan 5769: National American Teddy Bear Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Encourage President-Elect Obama to Make Child Survival a Higher Priority”, “STAND WITH THE PEOPLE OF CONGO”, “The Missing Link for Lynx”, and “Say NO to Last-Minute Logging!”

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “The Best Fictional Doomsday Devices”.  On the down side, it now means I have to watch those stupid Planet of the Apes movies for my Divine Misconceptions project.  Exactly what were the writers thinking when they created a cult which worships a nuclear weapon?  Enjoy (or be scared or something), share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

15 Marḥeshwan 5769: Yarov‘am ben Nevaṭ Day/World Kindness Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Protect Civilians in DRC” and “Pledge to Higher Quality, Lower Cost Health Care”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Neither flour nor Torah”: The author makes a good case that relying on donations for long-term Torah study is not merely economically unsustainable, but also against Jewish tradition. It is indeed correct that many of our greatest scholars have had actual jobs. I would also like to add the principle אין סומכים על הנס (“[We] do not rely on a miracle”).
  2. “Amazon UK pulls Scientology exposé for 'legal reasons'”: Translation: The Church of Scientology is using the law to threaten from distributing The Complex: An Insider Exposes the Covert World of the Church of Scientology by John Duignan and Nicola Tallant. This would not be the first time the Church of Scientology tried to play dirty with the law.
  3. “From Tiny Sect, Weighty Issue for Justices”: Summary: Summum, a pseudo-Gnostic/Egyptian new religious movement, is caught up in a legal battle. Pleasant Grove, Utah, has a monument of the Decalogue (often incorrectly called “the Ten Commandments”) in a public park, and the Summumists want to put up a monument of their own Seven Aphorisms next to it. City Hall is against it.

    I am not reporting on this case to make a legal commentary. Rather, one of the comments in the article struck me as particularly odd. To quote:
    Su Menu, the church’s president, agreed. “If you look at them side by side,” Ms. Menu said of the two monuments, “they really are saying similar things.”

    The Third Commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

    The Third Aphorism: “Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.”
    I find it incredible that Ms. Menu can claim any real similarity between the Decalogue (Exodus 20:1-13 and Deuteronomy 5:6-17) and the Seven Aphorisms. The Decalogue is a proclamation to the Jewish people that YHWH is their god and how they are to behave. The Seven Aphorisms deal with physics and metaphysics. A casual reading is more than enough to realize that they are not saying similar things. Why Ms. Menu bothered to lie so flagrantly, I have no idea.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Prank NY Times: `All the news we hope to print'” and the on-line version of the prank. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

14 Marḥeshwan 5769: Take a Model Train to Work Day/Birth of Baha’u’llah



Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Dalek Workout”.

(NOTE: Non-Whovians may find this totally incomprehensible.) Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

13 Marḥeshwan 5769: Veterans Day (US)/Air Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Shape Yellowstone's Rules on Snowmobiles” and “Fend off the Bush Administration's 11th Hour Attacks”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Jewish group wants Mormons to stop proxy baptisms”: (Submitted by Dad.) To quote:
    Holocaust survivors said Monday they were abandoning negotiations with the Mormon church over its posthumous baptisms of Jews who were killed in Nazi death camps.

    Survivors claim elders of the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have refused to systemically search for and remove the names of Holocaust victims from their master genealogical database and have failed to prevent "zealots" from adding thousands of new Jewish names to the list in recent years - including thousands lifted from Yizkor books of Jews massacred at Berdichev in Ukraine.
    Unfortunately, we can only expect the problem to persist indefinitely, and here is why: Baptism for the dead is a long-standing practice of the Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) movement by which they claim the dead are enabled to “enter the Kingdom of God”. Since Mormons are a religious people, and as religions usually demand that people help each other, naturally Mormons are inclined to perform proxy baptisms.  After all, deliberately withholding from the dead the means to a better afterlife would be a nasty, cruel thing to do, no matter what the living think.

    Unfortunately the Mormons are running up against Jewish attitudes towards apostasy, especially forced apostasy, and they are not positive. Throughout history, Jews have been periodically subject to forced conversion to Christianity and Islam, with the forced converts having no choice but to practice Judaism secretly if at all. Those living under such circumstances must live a life of constant deception, coupled with spiritual agony over what they do to stay alive. The sheer horror of the situation is cited repeatedly in Sabbatai Ṣevi: The Mystical Messiah, 1626-1676 by Gershom Scholem, including the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 (resulting in the apostasy of those who did not leave Spain) and how apostasy-guilt fed into the twisted messianic movements of Shabbethai Ṣevi and Jacob Frank.  The Mormon claim that proxy baptism is of no effect without its acceptance by the deceased falls on deaf ears; it still comes off as trying to turn those who died as Jews retroactively into Mormons and merely as another variation on forced conversion.

    The result of this situation:  The Mormons are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.  Given the choice, it is no wonder that agreements to stop proxy baptism keep getting broken.  Do not expect them to stop baptizing the dead ever.
  2. “Will Obama inspire Jewish pride?”: Yes, you can visibly be a minority and still succeed in America.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is Nandor's Exhaustive Chemical Words Pages. Enjoy (or be puzzled why anyone did this) and share the weirdness.


Monday, November 10, 2008

12 Marḥeshwan 5769: Marine Corps Day/Sesame Street Anniversary


Worthy cause of the day: “Impeach Bush and Cheney Now”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Monks brawl at Christian holy site in Jerusalem”: Yes, this petty fight is still going on. Someone please tell all the popes and patriarchs to get together and draw up an agreement to make the Church of the Holy Sepulcher a hostility-free zone. Fighting monks is probably not what Jesus wanted and it is definitely an embarrassment to Christianity as a whole. If this keeps up, people may start betting on the monk fights.

Today’s news and commentary, much of which Barry is responsible for:Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is the Antarctica Overseas Exchange Office. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


PS: If I were a betting man, my money would be on the Greek Orthodox.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

13 Marḥeshwan 5769: World Freedom Day/World Run Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Tell your Senators to Support the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act!” and “Hold Industry Accountable for the Tax Dollars You've Invested!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Krygyzstan passes restrictive religion law”: Yet another violation of international law which only serves to make the people making the law look like idiots because they are attempting to control other people’s religions. It should be obvious that a government has no legitimate say in what is true for any sort of truth except, of course, what is true in that government’s legal system. Reality has never bent over backwards to accommodate the beliefs of any human or human institution, few (if any) religions these days are so strongly linked to a government so as to blindly assume the claims of the government are actually true, and anyone who defines his/her personal belief system with the assumption that the government is always right probably needs to be in a mental institution. Putting religious education into the hands of a state like this is an obvious recipe for religious miseducation.
  2. “Homophobic GP banned for a year”: Summary: Dr. Muhammad Siddiq, head of the Islamic Medical Association of the United Kingdom, has been suspended from medical practice for a year for an anti-homosexual letter he wrote in the magazine Pulse. Now, everyone is entitled to their own views, so it is a little much to expect Dr. Siddiq to approve of homosexuality or like homosexuals. However, we all share the same reality, and so no one is entitled to their own facts. There is no sense to the claim that homosexuals are “the root cause of many sexually-transmitted diseases” (STDs); even though homosexuals have done a fair share of contributing to STDs, heterosexuals are also guilty of spreading STDs, too. The sex of whom one has intercourse with is nowhere as big a factor in the perpetuation of STDs as the conditions under which intercourse takes place. For example, being in a faithful monogamous relationship, whether heterosexual or homosexual, makes for a very limited opportunity for STD spread, being promiscuous, whether heterosexual or homosexual, on the other hand, is just asking to be part of an epidemic. Dr. Siddiq’s attempts to shift the blame for the letter away from himself are unimpressive.
  3. “Christians On the Run in Iraq”: Unfortunately, this is still going on. Why are we giving aid to a country where the government does nothing to stop this atrocity?
  4. Yes, I am aware that Google AdSense (in this case BadSense) has been calling up ads for a New Thought variation, left unmentioned in the text but made explicit in the labels. It is a side effect of the content of the blog, along with ads claiming that Jesus loves you. (I have to find out where it says that in the New Testament.) Wait a while for the algorithm to realize I have posted on other topics, and the noxious ads will go away on their own, at least until I read the book and write an almost certainly negative review (P > 0.99).
Today’s news and commentary:I was hoping to post today new material from Saturday Night Live depicting prominent Republicans in the aftermath of the election. (Comedians have the great advantage that they can tell the truth about politicians with impunity.) Unfortunately, we got a rerun last night, so we will have to wait a while to see what they come up with. In the meantime, today’s weird thing is THE NEW PAPPA*PHONE. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Friday, November 7, 2008

9 Marḥeshwan 5769: Notary Public Day


Relevant to Divine Misconceptions, ¾ of which Barry is responsible for:
  1. An interesting approach to the Faust legend, one that perhaps makes just as much sense if it is taken rather literally:

  2. A comment on an unrealistic belief about the origin of homosexuality, with an assumption that is perhaps just as unrealistic:
    Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
  3. This is about the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, which has harassed many innocent people in an effort to spread irrational hatred for homosexuals:
    Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
    Note: See Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31.
  4. The reasoning herein is generalizable to a wide range of values:
    Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is yet another picture which Barry found:
Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures

Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

8 Marḥeshwan 5769: Saxophone Day/National Nachos Day/National Men Make Dinner Day


Worthy cause of the day:

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Knesset okays bill to divide assets between couple undergoing divorce”: It is very pleasing to know that the National Union-National Religious Party in Israel is doing their part to prevent abuses in the Jewish divorce courts. There are too many horror stories out there of couples in the middle of divorces trying to blackmail each other, and it is good that people are doing something to stop such indecencies.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, thanks to urging from Barry, is the Saturday Night Live skit “Giraffes!”.

Enjoy (or be scared or something) and share the weirdness.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

7 Marḥeshwan 5769: Obama-Biden Victory Day/Guy Fawkes Day


As you have probably heard by now, Barack Obama has been elected the next president of the United States of America. I am feeling very relieved that things in this country will probably be better over the next four years.

Worthy cause of the day: “Congrats Obama: Let's Do it Together”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “A litany of World War Two saints”: This is an interesting argument that there are Catholics more worthy of being made saints than Pope Pius XII.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Apple I BASIC as a Mac OS X Scripting Language”. (No, I am not making this up.) Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Last minute weird news


This weird news story will become obsolete by this evening: “Japan's Obama town set to party for U.S. namesake”.

Enjoy and share the weirdness.


6 Marḥeshwan 5769: Election Day (US)/Waiting for the Barbarians Day/Melbourne Cup Day



Also: If you have not voted yet, please go out and vote now. We need everyone we can get to save the United States from McCain and Palin!

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “French magazine banned after some say it offends Islam”: This is an immature way to handle being offended.
  2. “Op-Ed: Prop 8 goes against God’s love for every person”: This is some of the lamest exegesis I have ever read. The author, Reform pseudo-rabbi David Ellenson, knows very well that Leviticus 18:22 prohibits male homosexuality. To quote:
    Yet I refuse to allow such negative judgments regarding gays and lesbians to go unchallenged from a religious perspective. As Catholic scholar Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza has maintained in her powerful book “In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins,” the divinity of any passage in Scripture that diminishes the humanity of another—as the one in Leviticus does—surely can be questioned.

    The thrust of one such passage should not override an overarching biblical ethos that teaches us that God loves and affirms the full humanity of each human being.
    Essentially Mr. Ellenson has missed the point of Scripture.  Rather than base his views of YHWH on what the evidence of Scripture has to say and reconsider his views if he finds any inconsistency, he reserves the right to reject any evidence that suggests that he is wrong.  It makes no sense for him to claim he holds by the “biblical ethos” when he takes a view contrary to the Hebrew Bible.  Furthermore, Mr. Ellenson does not even understand what the passage in question is about.  Leviticus 18 consists almost entirely of prohibitions, mostly of a sexual nature, culminating in descriptions of the consequences of abiding or not abiding by these prohibitions.  The whole passage is about behavior.  Nowhere is it claimed that homosexuals are in any way less than human or are unloved by YHWH.  It should also go without saying that desire, which is often not voluntary, is not prohibited at all, so that anyone with homosexual desires—or the desire to do anything else prohibited, for that matter—is not automatically culpable or incapable of being holy.  I would also like to note that Mr. Ellenson misuses the term “fundamentalist”; as noted by Dr. Stephen Prothero in Religious Literacy (pp. 180-181), fundamentalism is a form of Protestant evangelical anti-modernism, and as such the term cannot be legitimately applied to non-Protestants.
  3. “How to fix Orthodox dating”
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, suggested by Barry, is Atlantropa. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Last minute comic


This comic may go bad by tomorrow: This Modern World 2008-11-03. Enjoy.


Monday, November 3, 2008

5 Marḥeshwan 5769: Cliché Day/Sandwich Day


Note: Tomorrow is Election Day (here in the United States). “Party at the Polls!” gives some useful tips on how to make voting a more comfortable and fun experience for everybody.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. Notes on a few books:
    1. Join Me! by Danny Wallace: This is one of two books relevant to my project I have read recently. Wallace’s great-uncle at one point tried to start a 1,000-person agricultural commune; he got a total of three volunteers. After the great-uncle’s funeral, Mr. Wallace was inspired to start a 1,000-person collective. He therefore placed an advertisement in a paper saying little more than “JOIN ME” and this and other efforts at publicizing created a movement which took on a life of its own. At first Wallace provided no purpose for the Join Me movement, but eventually “the Leader” needed to provide the needed purpose in the form of sending people to do nice things for old men, later expanding it to doing nice thing for practically anyone. Despite that one name of the movement is the “Karma Army”, it never gained any real theology, so at best it was a quasi-religion. This book is perhaps useful for understanding something of how ideological movements can get started. It is also sufficiently humorous for even those who have no interest in the origins of religions to find interesting reading.

      Relevant Web-sites:

    2. Religious Literacy by Stephen Prothero: This is the other of two books relevant to my project which I have recently read. Dr. Prothero notes that in the United States most people, even religious people, know very little about religion, whether their own or those of others. (This includes the misconception that Noaḥ’s wife was Joan of Arc, something I previously thought no one actually believed!) This ignorance makes for severe trouble in understanding and dealing with religiously knowledgeable people, which includes a very sizable fraction of the planet. He also explains how we got into such a sorry state (runaway tolerance compounded with anti-intellectualism, including emotion-emphasizing revivalism). Dr. Prothero therefore advocates basic religious education for everyone. This book ought to be required reading for everyone just so people realize how much they do do not know.

      Relevant Web-sites:

    3. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne: I have not read this book yet, though I have watched the movie it is based on. However, I understand this book is (and certainly the movie is) based on the idea that you get what you think about (“the law of attraction”), which allegedly works through means not demonstrated to be real. Wikipedia presents a good deal of valid criticism of this idea, which will be a nontrivial task to outclass. (Though I think I can probably write about how Secret-esque thinking is subject to confirmation bias.) I would like to note that I obtained the book in exactly the wrong way that Byrne says I should get it. It was something I put on my wish-list and specifically thought I would never get that way since there were a zillion other people wishing for The Secret, too. I thus did not bother thinking about getting it that way. When the book came up on eBay, I fully expected that any time I bid on a copy that I would be outbid. Sum thinking: “I’m not going to get this book any time soon.” According to the law of attraction, this should mean that I should not have gotten a copy of this book. And yet, to my own surprise, my request on for The Secret was fulfilled, and I got a copy, proved by this picture:

      Me:  1, the law of attraction:   0.
  2. What's The Harm? has updated, giving more examples of why irrationality is dangerous.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is a song by weird musical artist Weird Al Yankovic, “Bob”.

Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

4 Marḥeshan 5769: Plan Your Epitaph Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Stop the Bush/Cheney Assault on Endangered Species”, “Hold China's Government Accountable for the Safety of Its People”, and “Tell the EPA: No new rules to benefit dirty power plants.”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Home Depot for the Holidays”: This is a report on a wandering message claiming falsely that Home Depot’s Web-site makes absolutely no mention of Christmas, even for blatant Christmas products. This seems to be part of the ongoing “war on Christmas” paranoia. Major rule: Many accusations are false; be skeptical.
  2. “Dole challenger irate over suggestion she is 'godless'”: Summary: Elizabeth Dole, trying to retain her Senate seat, has claimed that her opponent, Kay Hagan, is “godless”. This is a ridiculous accusation since Hagan is a Presbyterian church elder, regardless of whether she had a political meeting with atheists or not. All politicians have to pay attention to people who might vote for them, whether or not they agree with their religious views. Shame on Elizabeth Dole.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird things are two Saturday Night Live sketches featuring John McCain.

Enjoy and share the weirdness.