Sunday, October 24, 2010

So Many Articles, So Little Time

It's terribly difficult in keeping up with all of the bloggers I follow on the internets through my feed reader, but then again there are a lot of good reads out there. Here are a few postings which caught my eye recently.

Andrew Hackman (Happy Belated Birthday!) shares a video from RSA Animate and his thoughts on reforming the public education system. And if you're unfamiliar with the videos by RSA Animate I encourage you to visit their Youtube channel. It's definitely worth your time.

John Shore has quickly become one of my favorite bloggers: passionate, witty, a down right rascal. Here's a recent posting entitled What Non-Christians Want Christians to Hear. (It's not about how much they LOVE to sin. It's quite the opposite.)

Scotteriology shares a video of a Bible Defenders video game. No foolin'! You can play as creation science evangelists Carl Baugh and Kent Hovind along with author Gail Riplinger and Pastor Peter Ruckman in this Mario-esque parody game. This reminds me of a video game made for the original Nintendo Entertainment System I used to play called Exodus: Journey to the Promised Land. Ahh, nostalgia.

And last but not at all least, Sabio at Triangulations recently wrote on Religious Prescriptionists found in faiths other than Christianity. Gasp!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Religious Venn Diagram (According to Google)

Google, what would we do without you.
Praise be Google. Google Almighty knows best!
(HT Blame It On the Voices)

I guess Christians and Muslims have more in common than they thought.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

THAT'S in the Constitution?

O Internets, how I love thee.

Although Bill Maher has been releasing politically embarrassing videos of Hogwarts graduate, Christine O'Donnell, I think it's safe to say that O'Donnell can embarrass herself without Maher twisting statements she made years ago.
Christine O'Donnell:" Let me just clarify. You're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the first amendment?"
Chris Coons: "Government shall make no establishment of religion.”
Christine O'Donnell: "THAT'S in the first amendment?"
ARE YOU SERIOUS! If you're running for public office you should, at the very least, know the Constitution. I admit I don't know it myself but I'm not running to represent the People. Would you want a doctor operating on you if he/she didn't have a basic understanding of anatomy?

I know there are those who would love to interpret (maybe even rewrite) the Constitution as fully supporting the concept that America has always been (and always will be) a Christian Nation. If they truly realized how a theocracy would obliterate our cherished freedoms they might not be so gun hoe in dissolving the wall between Church and State.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hell House: The Guilty Effect

Trinity Church in Cedar Hills, Texas is entering its 20th year of Hell House. If you are unfamiliar with Hell House it's worth going to at least once to get the full effect. Hell House began in Texas in the early 90's (although it's origins and variations date back to the 70's with Jerry Falwell)  as a fire and brimstone Christian haunted House. Variations of this phenomenon have sprung up across the country and have become a common fixture during Halloween. Click here for a list of Judgement Houses (they claim they are different from Hell House) near you.

Last year I wrote about my experience at a local Hell House in Murfreesboro, TN which was strikingly similar to the 2001 documentary on the Trinity Church spook house in Texas entitled Hell House. As they enter into their 20th year, this year's theme entitled The Twenty Effect, one can only imagine the horrific scenes presented by a surprisingly talented cast and crew. But after watching this year's trailer it seems like more of the same: sex, drugs, and violence.

The production value gets better every year, and their formula of replacing serial killers and ghosts with real life situations makes the fear all the more realistic. The scenes are so close to home that many in the audience may have personally experienced  the scenes they witness in a hell house. It may help to give an empathic perspective for the potential abusers and attackers in the crowd, but from what I've seen the Hell and Judgement Houses, which are presented by (and in) a church, are completely devoid of redemption and compassion for the unrepentant. The bad people continue to suffer and the good will either ascend to heaven or live a happy life. But life isn't as black and white as the producers of Hell House portray it to be, the world is indifferent and full of gray areas. The bad don't always get what they deserve, and the good don't escape from suffering. And the moral standards presented are those of the church community which doesn't come across as universal among the visiting public. This is the disconnect people experience when they walk through a hell house. And to top it all off at the end of the tour you're brought into a room and asked THE question: if you were to die today, where would you go? More often then not many are so shaken and overwhelmed by guilt that they are willing to do and say anything to secure their place in heaven. (The Hell Houses may boast about the number of converts won but I wonder how many actually stick around?)

What the church failed to do is what they were meant to do in the first place: reach out to the broken with love and understanding. To love people for who they are and not condemn them for what they've done is what Christianity is all about (or in my opinion SHOULD be about). There are many reasons why people succumb to drug use, abuse their loved ones, or commit acts of violence. It's not because they love the sin, in fact most born again tales include a heart wrenching description of how painful their previous lives were. The "sins" portrayed in Hell house are not committed from a burning desire to inflict pain on others, but an outcry of suffering on the individual AND universal level. Parading crowds in front of violent and painful scenes while delivering the message that the pain will simply stop if we trust in God is grossly neglecting the pain of the sufferers while denying their basic humanity. Victims of abuse as well as the abusers (who were probably victims themselves in childhood) need compassion, love, and understanding. The only thing hell house is good for is entertainment, except there's nothing really entertaining about watching people suffer nor subjugating the audience to relive similar experiences. I wonder if the congregants of the churches participating this year are aware how well the title Hell House fits them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What's On Your Bookshelf?

I love reading, although I purchase books much quicker than I can consume them. Here's a snapshot of the books I have yet to read. I've read a couple of these but the majority I have yet to crack open.

From left to right:
Some of the following are out of view
  • Sikh Religion [Not in view]
  • Still Here, Ram Dass [Not in view]
  • The Transcendent Unity of Religion, Frithjof Schuon [Not in view]
  • Behold the Spirit, Alan Watts
  • Taoist Tales, edited by Raymond Van Over
  • Cloud-Hidden, Alan Watts
  • The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff
  • Guide to Yoga Meditation, Richard Hittleman 
  • The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, Joseph Chilton Pearce
  • Bhagavad-Gita
  • Who Needs God, Harold Kushner
  • When Bad Things Happen to Good People*, Harold Kushner
  • When Children Ask About God, Harold Kushner
  • When All You Ever Want Is Never Enough, Harold Kushner
  • Religion: A Humanist Interpretation, Raymond Firth
  • Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time*, Marcus Borg
  • Why Christianity Must Change Or Die, John Shelby Spong
  • A New Christianity For A New World, John Shelby Spong
  • Christianity's Dangerous Idea, Alister McGrath
  • Who Killed Jesus, John Dominic Crossan
  • The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade
  • The First and Last Freedom, J. Krishnamurti 
  • The Book**, Alan Watts
  • The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, David Dark
  • Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • The Secret Message of Jesus, Brian Mclaren
  • Stages of Faith, James Fowler
  • Beyond Belief, Elaine Pagels
  • How to Practice The Way to a Meaningful Life, H.H. Dalai Lama
  • The Essential Talmud, Adin Steinsaltz
  • Jesus For the Non-Religious, John Shelby Spong
  • The Person of Christ*, Donald Macleod
  • The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell [Not in view]
  • Unity in Islam, Tallal Alie Turfe [Not in view]
  • God: A Biography, Jack Miles [Not in view]
  • The Bible, Karen Armstrong [Not in view]
* I've read
** I've read but would LOVE to reread.

I'm currently reading How Good Do We Have to Be?, by Harold Kushner and Orphans of the Sky, by Robert Heinlein. Although I should stick to reading one book at a time I enjoy switching between two books consisting of one religion and one sci-fi book. Unless it's a book on religion AND sci-fi, then my attention is focused on just one book. (I'm tempted to start reading Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell or Valis by Phillip K. Dick. They're just sitting there on my bookshelf, haunting me.)

So what's on your bookshelf? If you're a blogger I encourage you to post a picture of your bookshelf on your blog and share what's on your reading list. (I'm looking at you Don R. and Doug B.) Any suggestions what I should read next?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Powers of 10 Day! 10/10/10

Today is a day to sit back and increase our perspective of the world around us. Powers of 10 day is inspired by the 1968 film by Charles and Ray Eames, The Powers of Ten, a magnitude roller-coaster which takes us from the edge of the universe to the guts of a proton by factors of 10. Please excuse the lack of 21st century special effects.

Here's a similar, more modern clip from the Imax film Cosmic Voyage.

Still feel like we're the center of the universe? It would seem like an awful waste of creative energy if the cosmos was created merely for our enjoyment or to show off the glory and power of a monotheistic god. The universe just is, and we are a part of it just as much as it is a part of us.

Friday, October 8, 2010

God in America Airs Next Week

Set your DVRs! Don't miss this new 6 hour documentary airing next week on PBS covering the history and shape of the American religious landscape. Here's the trailer if you haven't already seen it. God in America airs on PBS next week on October 11, 12, and 13. Check your local listings for time and channel.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fun Times with Religious Cartoons

I've stumbled upon this animated segment from the film The God Makers, produced in 1982 by Ed Decker, a former priest and temple Mormon of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Now I'm not certain if the beliefs presented here are what LDS really believe because the God Makers was produced by an ex-communicated Mormon. You can watch a rebuttal to this cartoon here and a beautiful, although unrelated, video tour inside Mormon temples here.

And then there's this Jehovah's Witness Cartoon which emphasizes the human nature of Jesus.

And of course there's this hilarious little live action gem about Elisha and the She Bears. A bit of warning, the video is not as violent as the story told in 2 Kings.

What's the point of posting these videos? Mostly, I get a kick out of them. I don't care much for apologetics since when they literalize concepts and beliefs which should be told in metaphor and myth, it comes across as silly (e.g. God lives near a star called Kolob). But when non-believers literalize the scripture, as seen in the mauling of the 42 youths in 2 Kings, apologetics tend to be appalled and disgusted by the portrayal of the often overlooked gore in their scripture and claim the non-believers are either twisting scripture or they see nothing wrong with 42 youths getting mauled.