Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Fatima Challenge

Back in December of last year, I did a two part series contrasting the so-called miracle of the Lady of Fatima in the Portuguese countryside in 1917 with the horrific carnage being wrought hundreds of miles away on the battlefield in Flanders.

Somehow, The Fatima Candle - Part One has generated comments from true believers, including, it would appear, the actual Robert Ritchie of America Needs Fatima. I'm not quite sure how they found my humble little blog. In summary, the Fatimites, as I will call them, believe I am going to hell for blasphemy, and I think they are a bunch of superstitious loons with their minds stuck in the 14th century. Anyone who wishes to click on the link and add their two cents to the debate is welcome to do so.

I told them the only way I would recant and accept their beliefs would be if the Virgin Mary herself appeared to me in person. But that got me to thinking. How would I know if it really was the Virgin Mary? There are of course no photographs or paintings of her from when she was alive. There are plenty of representations by artists that portray her in a reverential fashion, such as here and here. But what would she really have looked like? What was her height? Her eye color? Did she have lots of freckles on her face? What was her bra size? (What Fatimites? We're supposed to pretend that Mary did not have breasts?) If I walked past her on the street in the prime of her youth, would I have found her to be attractive? And what kind of personality did she have? Was she shy or talkative? Was she cheerful or dour? Was she patient or temperamental?

But there is more to it than that. How long did Mary allegedly live? If she lived to be seventy, then what age should she appear in visions? Should I see a seventy year old toothless hag, a twelve year old girl, a fully developed eighteen year old woman, or fifty year old lady mourning the loss of her son? Or, like just about any other woman, would Mary want to be seen at the peak of beauty?

Anyway, last night I called upon the Virgin Mary to appear to me to make me repent for my blasphemous ways. As of this post, I am still waiting.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

On the Use of "Christian" As An Adjective

I had never really read the blog Shakespeare's Sister before, but I clicked on a link to this written by the blog owner in response to a comment by a reader that he objected to describing Ann Coulter as a Christian.

Okay, that's my lazy post for the week just to show that I am still alive and breathing.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Walking Away From Orthodoxy

I came across this article on the BBC web site about young Israelis turning away from Orthodox Judaism.

While atheists and secularists in America tend to focus on Christianity simply by virtue of the fact that we live in a majority Christian nation, personally I have always found Orthodox Judaism to be very frustrating. While fundamentalist Christians take the Bible literally, Orthodox Jews not only believe it, they live it. They strictly adhere to all of the commandments and laws set down in the Torah. To me, it struck me as odd that in the 21st century these people were living in a mental prison constructed by Bronze Age mythology. I was and continue to be absolutely bewildered by it.

At my job, I worked alongside two Orthodox Jews. One of them, named Daniel, was a paralegal, and was about 20 years older than me and had converted to the Lubavitcher sect some time in the Seventies or Eighties. I got the sense that his conversion was for reasons similar to lax Christians who become born again because their lives are in turmoil and they look to religion to give them meaning and guidance in their lives. The other, Jeff, was an attorney and was about sox or seven years younger than me.

Daniel's orthodoxy was stricter than Jeff's. Daniel had a beard, wore his yarmulke at all times, and dressed in a manner similar to others of the Lubavitcher sect. I don't know what stripe of conservatism Jeff adhered to, but he did not have a beard and wore regular clothes. The only time I would see him wear a yarmulke was when he was eating lunch in his office. Daniel was also more forthright in injecting his personal views into a conversation. He believed that the story of Noah's Ark was literally true. One time I was talking with a co-worker who shared an office with him (before that, I shared the office with Daniel for a couple of years) about the ancient extinct shark Megalodon, and what a relief it was that such giant sharks did not exist today. Daniel questioned how they could know that such a creature ever existed, and I mentioned the teeth they found that were much larger than any shark's tooth today. "How do they know it's a shark's tooth?" he asked me with a thinly veiled tone of derision. "Because it resembles a shark's tooth," I replied.

"It resembles a shark's tooth," he said dismissively. I realized that I had erred in my choice of words. I should have said that it had the characteristics of a Great White Shark's tooth, only much larger. His point, of course, was that just because a Meg tooth looked like a shark's tooth does not mean that it was a shark's tooth. I asked him what else it could possibly be but I don't recall that he was inclined to answer. For the sake of civility, I rarely openly challenged him about matters related to his religious beliefs, though I did frequently ask him about the rules of his religion and whether there were ever exceptions. For example, I asked him that if he was stuck in a place where the only food available was non-kosher food, and to not eat it meant starvation, he told me that under such a circumstance it would be permissible to eat the non-kosher food. Regarding Megaladon, I printed out some information from a web site about how it is known that there was such a shark and left it on his desk, though we never spoke of it afterwards.

Sadly, Daniel had a spate of bad luck. A couple of summers ago, he tore a ligament in his right arm trying to open a window in his apartment and was out for five months undergoing therapy. Then several months after his return to the office, he fell off of a step ladder trying to reach a file and injured his back. He had to be taken out in a stretcher. He also had some heart trouble while in the hospital. I suspected he would never be well enough to return, and last summer his employment officially came to an end. While I had my differences with him on certain things, he was a good man and I was very saddened at the bad hand that fate had dealt him.

Jeff, on the other hand, often spoke of his religion, but in a different manner than Daniel. Jeff, unlike Daniel, was born into his religion, and it would probably be more accurate to say that his branch of Judaism was conservative rather than Orthodox. Jeff would talk about the various holidays and what he would be doing during them. He liked to travel abroad a lot and often complained about how difficult it was to find places to eat kosher food, and how his departure and arrival dates had to be worked around the Sabbath. One time when he was bitching (though in a lighthearted tone) about such things, he said how tough it was to follow his religion, and I said, "Well, either you believe there is a God up in the heavens that wants you to live such a way and you suck it up and take it, or you decide that there isn't and do what you want." I admitted to him that I was an atheist, and he seemed surprised, but we never had any tense conversations about the subject. He recently left the firm I work at for another place of employment. Though he could be frustratingly anal at times, he was also basically a good guy at heart and we eventually got used to each other.

For Stardust

As a token of thanks for Stardust for giving me good mention on her blog and at GIFS, here is a link to the song Goodbye Milky Way by Enigma. I came across it while checking out some of the Enigma videos on Youtube. Hope you like it Star and many thanks for your kindness.

P.S. Tomorrow evening there will be a lunar eclipse that is supposed to be visible here in New York. Here's to hoping that the skies will be clear.

UPDATED: Why Is Humanity Worth Saving?

My favorite television series is Battlestar Galactica on the Sci-Fi Channel. Here is a link to a clip from one of my favorite episodes. The first minute and a half is talky, with Commander Adama asking a captured human looking Cylon model why the Cylons hate the human race. Stick with it, because it is followed by one of the most awesome space battles ever. If you have never seen the new Battlestar Galactica, check this out and it might interest you in watching the show. If you are familiar with it, here's a chance to revisit a cool scene.

Incidentally, I don't know if you need a Youtube account, but I haven't figured out yet how to actually have the video appear on my blog instead of providing a link to the video.

Please note that the link above no longer works. Here is a new link containing a truncated version of the battle scene from the episode Resurrection Ship Part 2.