Category Archives: Religion/Spirituality

Mysterious markings in Secret Chamber discovered at Great Pyramid of Giza


London, England (CNN) — A robot explorer has revealed ancient markings inside a secret chamber at Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza.

Marks found in tiny chamber at the end of a passage date from 4,500 years ago
The painted hieroglyphs and stone markings were filmed using a robot camera
Scholars hope they will explain why the mysterious shafts were built

The markings, which have lain unseen for 4,500 years, were filmed using a bendy camera small enough to fit through a hole in a stone door at the end of a narrow tunnel.

It is hoped they could shed light on why the tiny chamber and the tunnel — one of several mysterious passages leading from the larger King’s and Queen’s chambers — were originally built.

The markings take the form of hieroglyphic symbols in red paint as well as lines in the stone that may have been made by masons when the chamber was being built.

According to Peter Der Manuelian, Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology at Harvard University, similar lines have been found elsewhere in Giza. “Sometimes they identify the work gang (who built the room), sometimes they give a date and sometimes they give guidelines to mark cuttings or directional symbols about the beginning or end of a block,” he said.

CNN Money video: How much would the Great Pyramid cost to build today?

“The big question is the purpose of these tunnels,” he added. “There are architectural explanations, symbolic explanations, religious explanations — even ones relating to the alignment of the stars — but the final word on them is yet to be written. The challenge is that no human can fit inside these channels so the only way to do this exploration is with robots.”

Pictures of the markings have been published in the Annales du Service Des Antiquities de l’Egypte, the official publication of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, following an international mission led by the Minister for Antiquities.

The robot explorer that took the images is named Djedi, after the magician whom Pharaoh Khufu consulted when planning the layout of the Great Pyramid. It was designed and built by engineers at the University of Leeds, in collaboration with Scoutek UK and Dassault Systemes, France.

Although robots have previously sent back pictures from within the pyramid’s tunnels, Djedi’s creators say it is the first to be able to explore the walls and floors in detail, rather than just take pictures looking straight ahead, thanks to a “micro snake” camera.

The camera also scrutinized two copper pins embedded in the door to the chamber at the end of the tunnel. In a statement, Shaun Whitehead, of Scoutek UK, said: “People have been wondering about the purpose of these pins for over 20 years. It had been suggested that they were handles, keys or even parts of an electrical power plant, but our new pictures from behind the pins cast doubt on these theories.

“We now know that these pins end in small, beautifully made loops, indicating that they were more likely ornamental rather than electrical connections or structural features. Also, the back of the door is polished so it must have been important. It doesn’t look like it was a rough piece of stone used to stop debris getting into the shaft.”

The team’s next task is to look at the chamber’s far wall to check whether it is a solid block of stone or another door.

“We are keeping an open mind and will carry out whatever investigations are needed to work out what these shafts and doors are for,” said Whitehead. “It is like a detective story, we are using the Djedi robot and its tools to piece the evidence together.”


70 metal books found in Jordan cave could change our view of Biblical history


For scholars of faith and history, it is a treasure trove too precious for price.

This ancient collection of 70 tiny books, their lead pages bound with wire, could unlock some of the secrets of the earliest days of Christianity.

Academics are divided as to their authenticity but say that if verified, they could prove as pivotal as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.

On pages not much bigger than a credit card, are images, symbols and words that appear to refer to the Messiah and, possibly even, to the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Adding to the intrigue, many of the books are sealed, prompting academics to speculate they are actually the lost collection of codices mentioned in the Bible’s Book Of Revelation.

The books were discovered five years ago in a cave in a remote part of Jordan to which Christian refugees are known to have fled after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD. Important documents from the same period have previously been found there.

Initial metallurgical tests indicate that some of the books could date from the first century AD.

This estimate is based on the form of corrosion which has taken place, which experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially.

If the dating is verified, the books would be among the earliest Christian documents, predating the writings of St Paul.

The prospect that they could contain contemporary accounts of the final years of Jesus’s life has excited scholars – although their enthusiasm is tempered by the fact that experts have previously been fooled by sophisticated fakes.

David Elkington, a British scholar of ancient religious history and archeology, and one of the few to have examined the books, says they could be ‘the major discovery of Christian history’.

‘It is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church,’ he said.

But the mysteries between their ancient pages are not the books’ only riddle. Today, their whereabouts are also something of a mystery. After their discovery by a Jordanian Bedouin, the hoard was subsequently acquired by an Israeli Bedouin, who is said to have illegally smuggled them across the border into Israel, where they remain.

However, the Jordanian Government is now working at the highest levels to repatriate and safeguard the collection. Philip Davies, emeritus professor of biblical studies at Sheffield University, said there was powerful evidence that the books have a Christian origin in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem.

‘As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck,’ he said. ‘That struck me as so obviously a Christian image. There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city.

‘There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem. It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls.’

The British team leading the work on the discovery fears that the present Israeli ‘keeper’ may be looking to sell some of the books on to the black market, or worse – destroy them.

But the man who holds the books denies the charge and claims they have been in his family for 100 years.

Dr Margaret Barker, a former president of the Society for Old Testament Study, said: ‘The Book of Revelation tells of a sealed book that was opened only by the Messiah.

‘Other texts from the period tell of sealed books of wisdom and of a secret tradition passed on by Jesus to his closest disciples. That is the context for this discovery.’

Professor Davies said: ‘The possibility of a Hebrew-Christian origin is certainly suggested by the imagery and, if so, these codices are likely to bring dramatic new light to our understanding of a very significant but so far little understood period of history.’

Mr Elkington, who is leading British efforts to have the books returned to Jordan, said: ‘It is vital that the collection can be recovered intact and secured in the best possible circumstances, both for the benefit of its owners and for a potentially fascinated international audience.’

*British scientists have uncovered up to eight million mummified dogs, thought to have been sacrificed to Anubis, the god of the dead, 2500 years ago after excavating tunnels in the ancient Eygptian city of Saqqara


Anne Naylor: The Law of Empathy for Health and Well-Being

Last week, I started reading”Living the Spiritual Principles of Health and Well-Being” by Drs. John-Roger and Paul Kaye soon to be released with book signings in Europe.

The book offers practical wisdom presented in several sections. One section that particularly fascinated me is “Causes and Cures of Disease.” Many illnesses have an underlying emotional disturbance causing them, and in my own experience, that has certainly been the case. I hasten to add that blaming an emotional response for an illness does not further health and well-being. Quite the reverse.

In the book, one of the causes attributed to disease is fear. Its cure is empathy. What if there were no real source of fear, although the feeling of fear is real enough? Your mind and emotions create the feeling of fear through imagining, for example, the worst possible outcome. You may be drawn to news items which focus on negative scenarios. News agencies make their profit through our attraction to drama and what a friend calls “awful-ization.” It is your thoughts about a situation that produce feelings of fear.

One of my most memorable experiences of fear was the first time I was in an earthquake, in Carpenteria, California. I was on my own in a fairly large house which we had rented for a few months. When the earthquake was happening and the house was rolling around (well constructed for earthquake conditions) I enjoyed the movement. I was in bed around 4:30 a.m. When the movement stopped and my mind started imagining what might have happened if … the walls had come down, glass had fallen all over me, I ripped in to my feet with broken glass and so forth, I felt really scared. I was more shaken by my thoughts about it than by the event itself.

The Law of Empathy is the fifth spiritual law. The first is Acceptance, followed by Cooperation, then Understanding and Enthusiasm. Spiritual laws, unlike the laws of the land, are those which guide and direct our loving. Spiritually, we are not punished for our sins or shortcomings. We are punished by them. That is to say, it is when we go off track, or are separated, from our loving nature that we tend to experience imbalance and dis-ease.

More often than not, we simply do not know what good might be right around the corner of any crisis. There are many who are viewing the current global disturbances as creative opportunities to effect solutions to the issues we are facing. This could well turn out to be the most creative and productive era of all human existence. No one person, or even inspired leader, is in direct control of what the future holds. Lack of control for many is scary.

I have noticed those who make gloomy pronouncements about the future want to seem right about their predictions, and in control somehow. It is tempting to buy into the awful-ization. Personal concerns such as: What if I fail? What if I lose all my friends? What if I never find another job? What if my husband/wife rejects me? Those feelings of fear can hold you back from engaging in life, and deriving fulfillment from getting on with what is right in front of you.

So where does empathy come in? Empathy is a form of understanding. Fear cannot abide in an environment where there is understanding. Understanding is being aware of the thoughts that have produced the feelings, and literally standing under or in support of the greater, loving spirit that is present. Empathy and compassion offer you the opportunity to be with those feelings as they are, without any criticism, shame or blame.

Empathy respects your inner strength or innate essence, to know and do what is true for you. In her recent article, Judith Johnson writes about The Power of Bearing Witness. It speaks to empathy in action.

The action may be as simple as holding a hand, listening, smiling, being at one with what is taking place without having to fix it. It takes a certain strength and love to do so. You are not in control. You are cooperating with the love present, in yourself and the other person. This love heals on many levels. You may look beyond what you see on the face of things to recognize something deeper going on, more real, more connected, more intimate, more safe. This vibrant safety I view as the human spirit.

In stressful times, you can extend empathy towards yourself with care, understanding and getting to know how your thoughts are disturbing you. Instead of being critical and condemning towards yourself with blame and judgments about how you think you should be, do or feel differently, you can accept yourself as you are, in that moment. The feelings will change.

Where fear isolates, empathy connects. When you have understanding, you can then use the energy of fear to get active, to do what needs to be completed, to see friends, write a letter, make a phone call, do something for the joy of it.

Instead of fear holding you back, you may find that fear translates into awe and inspiration. The essence of fear is love, awaiting awakening.

?We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.

Do you know someone who is skilled at offering empathy? How do you think empathy can assist the healing process? What are the most effective ways you know to express or receive empathy?

Clay Farris Naff: Is Religion Good for Us? Former Dawkins Acolyte Now Says Yes!

Maybe religion is beneficial, after all. That’s the natural inference to draw from psychologist Susan Blackmore’s sudden reversal of her long-held position that religion is a parasite on human existence. She now declares that while religions have their dark side, the evidence shows they make believers more generous, cooperative, and honest than non-believers — and, most importantly, more reproductive.

[I]t seems I was wrong and the idea of religions as “viruses of the mind” may have had its day. … [U]nless we twist the concept of a “virus” to include something helpful and adaptive to its host as well as something harmful, it simply does not apply. … This is how science (unlike religion) works: in the end it’s the data that counts. Being shown you are wrong is horrid, but this has happened to me often enough before (yes, you may make jokes if you like) and one gets used to it. This shock may not be as bad as when I discovered I was wrong about the paranormal, but it’s still a shock.

Poor Blackmore. Despite her attempt at intellectual honesty, she’s going to be raked over coals by atheists, misappropriated by apologists, and at the end of the day, I fear she’ll find that she’s right in everything but one crucial point: the tense of her verbs.

I, for one, have long been convinced of religion’s adaptive role — in our past. The crucial question is whether it has become maladaptive, even toxic, in today’s world. I will come to that in a moment. First, a little background.

A decade before the 9/11 attacks, zoologist Richard Dawkins infuriated some and inspired others by declaring religion to be “a virus of the mind“:

Like computer viruses, successful mind viruses will tend to be hard for their victims to detect. If you are the victim of one, the chances are that you won’t know it, and may even vigorously deny it. Accepting that a virus might be difficult to detect in your own mind, what tell-tale signs might you look out for? I shall answer by [imagining] how a medical textbook might describe the typical symptoms of a sufferer (arbitrarily assumed to be male).

1. The patient typically finds himself impelled by some deep, inner conviction that something is true, or right, or virtuous: a conviction that doesn’t seem to owe anything to evidence or reason, but which, nevertheless, he feels as totally compelling and convincing. We doctors refer to such a belief as “faith.”

2. Patients typically make a positive virtue of faith’s being strong and unshakable, in spite of not being based upon evidence. Indeed, they may feel that the less evidence there is, the more virtuous the belief. …

3. A related symptom, which a faith-sufferer may also present, is the conviction that “mystery,” per se, is a good thing. It is not a virtue to solve mysteries. Rather we should enjoy them, even revel in their insolubility.

One of those most readily inclined to accept the idea was Susan Blackmore. Having recently abandoned belief in ESP, the subject of her doctoral thesis, she was primed to go hyper-empirical. And so she did, becoming the foremost popular champion of memes. The “virus of the mind” label for religion seemed a perfect fit. She gave it big play in her 1999 book about the mind,>The Meme Machine.

Please don’t get the idea that I am mocking her. I met Blackmore at a conference in Atlanta back in 1999 and found her smart, insouciant, and, with an oft-evolving splash of dye in her hair, just that little bit needful of attention and approval. Her willingness to shift on so emotive an issue as religion commands respect.

Yet many will question her claim. It’s much easier to see its validity if we put it in the past tense: How could religion have been adaptive? There are several ways. First, as Blackmore hints, the most successful religions are those that promote maximal reproduction. It should be noted, of course, that this is not a necessary feature of religion. Some have done the opposite:the Shakers had a no-sex doctrine. As any evolutionist could have predicted, they quickly went extinct.

So, there must be more to the claim that religion is adaptive. How about the other features Blackmore cites: cooperativeness, generosity, and honesty? These are all traits that figure only in group selection. To assert that group selection takes place is a heresy in most contemporary Darwinian circles, but having broken with Dawkins this far on religion, Blackmore might as well go the whole hog.

If she’s seeking a guru for group selection and religion, she can’t do better than David Sloan Wilson. In his 2002 book Darwin’s Cathedral, Wilson lays out a persuasive (though not conclusive) case for religion as an adaptive mechanism allowing groups to cultivate the very traits Blackmore listed: cooperation, generosity, and honesty.

Wilson’s thesis is, to indulge in a little evo-speak, that in-group altruism allows one society to outcompete another. It’s not hard to believe this when you compare an every-man-for-himself country like Somalia with, say, Japan, which takes in-group cooperation to an extreme yet has been brilliantly successful. Peering into our past, it appears plausible that in various ways religion has acted to compel people to make the necessary self-sacrifices for a society to succeed. A common feature of religions, Wilson finds, is that they promote, and often enforce, altruism.

But, as they say in a stock prospectus, past performance is no guarantee of future return. Whatever religion’s virtues during our long evolutionary history, the balance has clearly tipped. If you accept that our survival now depends on a transition to a peaceful, sustainable global civilization, and right soon, then it becomes clear that religion is the single biggest obstacle blocking that transition. Not all religion and not only religion, but chiefly religion. To be specific, the fastest-growing versions of religion promote a militant hatred of other religions, a rejection of science and its findings, an absolute belief in the authority of doctrine, and a catastrophic reproduction rate.

In a very narrow, technical sense, it is still possible to argue that religion is adaptive today. However, it’s a bit like saying that in a hundred-yard dash whose finish line is a clifftop, the runner who is speeding ahead will be the winner. Personally, I’d rather be the panting and perspiring guy who slows down, looks ahead, and turns back.

Deepak Chopra: Spiritual Solutions #6: Are You Trapped by Beliefs and Advertising?

By Deepak Chopra and Annie Bond.

Are You Trapped by a Belief System?
Examine your possible motives for wanting to suffer. Do you deny that there’s anything wrong? Do you think it makes you a better person not to show others that you hurt? Do you enjoy the attention you get when you are sick or in distress? Do you feel safe being alone and not having to make tough choices? Belief systems are complex–they hold together the self we want to present to the world.

It is much simpler not to have beliefs, which means being open to life as it comes your way, going with your own inner intelligence instead of with stored judgments.

If you find yourself blocked by your suffering, returning to the same old thoughts again and again, a belief system has trapped you.
–Adapted from The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra(Three Rivers Press, 2004).

Are You Trapped by Advertising?
The harm of many synthetic chemicals on health and the Earth is backed up by science. Yet, a few years ago I read in Scientific American the article “Doubt is Their Product,” about a 3-decade-long disinformation campaign by industry groups to cast doubt and vilify scientific studies when they implicate their products as being harmful to humans, pets, and the environment. What do you believe about the topic? Can you be open to change about your opinion? The process that transforms your home to a sanctuary of health and well-being can begin at any age. The rewards of having a home with clean air are bountiful beyond words.
Adapted from Home Enlightenment, by Annie Bond (Rodale, 2007).

Read more: Beliefs, Ecological, Healthy Living, Green Living, Pollution, Spirituality, Deepak Chopra, Living News

Meredith Fineman: Fifty First (J)Dates: A High Holy Days Bromance

Yes, I wrote about how to get some shmearing done during the High Holy days. However, one category I didn’t delve into was bromances.

For those three people living under a rock, a bromance is a platonic romance between two heterosexual males. Why there needs to be a word for that, instead of just friendship, I think is unnecessary, but I don’t make the rules. I wanted to bring to light a special Rosh Hashanah bromance, whose anniversary is one year ago this week.

Thank you to the FFJD fan who contributed this, I am retelling it in my own words.

So I was at the DC JCC for Rosh Hashanah services, scouting out some chicks. Two rows ahead was a girl I went to high school with, who has long since forgotten about my dorky phase, that incident at Prom, and had four years at Syracuse where she morphed into a hot girl with a mild substance abuse problem. About a row behind is an ex-hookup, who isn’t looking so bad in her ugly long skirt and cardigan. I can’t tell if she’s sitting with her new hookup, (the friend of Rachel’s who was controversial because he and Rachel used to shmear) her brother, or a boy who she’s sort of dating but is still hunting around.

Either way, I’m glad I have options.

Sitting next to me is another dude, scanning the crowd equally fervently for girls whose faces say “I’m hot but I don’t want any commitment because I’m a little kooky but that can be reinterpreted as sexy.” Their outfits say, “My skirt suit only sort of fits because I normally dress like a floozy.” Bingo.

My Shalom Safari mate and I begin talking. I notice his icy blue eyes and loud laugh. As we sit through the next two hours on our Shofar Sojourn we get to know each other – what kind of game console each of us owns, our favorite female asset – mine breasts, his bottoms – our favorite sandwich that we’re craving when freed from the iron grip of synagogue. We oggle at the girl in the next row over, whose third button has come undone. Purple bra.

I call dibbs.

As the service comes to a close, he asks me for my number. Sure man, I say. He says he’s new in town. He has picked the right shmoozer to show him the ropes.

The following week he texts me to continue in our Butts Falling Asleep Because These Benches are Uncomfortable Jewish Extravaganza. I am excited. I’ve missed those baby blues and sexual innuendos involving Sara Rosen.

We walk in together, scouting out the best potential spot to quietly discuss our failed attempts over the weekend – mine with Purple Bra, and his with Liz Who Has A Mental Balance Issue.

We comiserate in our hunger and dream of corned beef. As we walk out into the cool September air, I am struck by two men I saw years ago, with the same combination of raw talent and sheer beauty as we do. Just like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, I think to myself. And we can take on the world.

One year, many bagels, boobs, and brunches later, we did.

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Read more: Relationships, Judaism, Humor, Dating, Online Dating, Rosh Hashanah, Fifty First (J)Dates, Bromance, Love, Style News

Jonathan Weiler: On Marty Peretz’ Bigotry. And Elitism. And Incoherence.

It’s been widely noted that in his blog entry last Saturday, Peretz made the latest in a long string of bigoted statements about Muslims (for copious previous documentation of some of his utterings, see Greenwald here and here).

Of course, Peretz is entitled to his opinion, but then again, so are people who disagree with him. And that fact, it is clear, Peretz finds truly dismaying. Peretz’ latest outburst was prompted by a New York Times editorial expressing dismay about anti-Muslim sentiments. Apparently, expressing anti-Muslim hatred is legitimate, but characterizing such sentiments negatively, using words like “bias,” is just elitist, or an example of unwarranted “high dudgeon.”

While Peretz derides the Times for its supposed snobbery and mocks its “Olympian wisdom,” he certainly seems to think that he knows better than they do about all manner of topics. For example, Peretz questions polling data that shows a lower percentage of New Yorkers are hostile to Islam than Peretz believes there to be (and believes, clearly, than there ought to be). Why? Not because of any contradictory data or any valid concerns about the polling methodology? No, the reason Peretz doesn’t trust the Times‘ data is that, well, he just knows better, because unless people are being cowed into silence or are otherwise ignorant, how could it be otherwise?

Peretz’ entry, aside from the lines that have garnered all the attention, is really a fevered swamp of incoherence. He actually asserts that there have been no “serious” demonstrations against Islam in the United States. How he distinguishes serious demonstrations from the presumably humorous efforts around the country is never made clear. But more noteworthy than this dubious assertion is Peretz’ seeming lament that there is much more open hostility to Muslims in Europe than there is here. In Peretz’ understanding, the lack of anti-Muslim agitation here, compared with Europe, is a consequence of the fact that “Americans are so fearful of being accused of bias, however the injustice of the charge might be.” It follows that, absent that unfair and menacing charge of bias, we’d be heaping scorn and vituperation on Muslims as openly as Europeans do. Which, one can infer, Peretz thinks would be a good thing.

And Peretz asserts bizarrely that “Liberal political theory has virtually ignored the philosophical, legal and ethical questions posed by the threatening demographics of Europe. Is not western society, imperfect as it may be but immensely more liberal than the domains of Islam, obliged to defend its own…and their future.” I don’t know who it is that he imagines has not taken up this question, but he certainly cannot be referring to any college level modern political theory class offered in the past several decades, or any work on immigration, or any of the thousands of articles on the anti-immigrant right in Europe or the French banning of Islamic head scarves or really any of countless public discussions and debates on these issues in the past generation. Perhaps Peretz thinks that, if these debates don’t assume the straightforwardly bigoted stance that he clearly believes is the correct one, they may as well not have existed.

As I observed in discussing Dr. Laura’s recent rant, it’s become a staple of an increasingly openly bigoted movement in America to insist on their right to bigotry while simultaneously expressing outrage at anyone who actually calls them on it. Their thin-skinnedness is of a piece with their blindness to their own hypocritical invocations of political correctness as an epithet directed at their opponents. They can say whatever they want, however obnoxious, insensitive and hateful, but God forbid someone uses harsh language to describe their attitudes. What an affront that is!

And speaking of projecting onto your opponents that which you yourself are guilty of, how about the constant howling from bigots like Peretz about “elitists?” Peretz – so ready to take umbrage, to snivel about elitism when someone simply names his views what they so plainly are – has apparently missed the elitism that is at the core of his own worldview. People don’t express to pollsters a level of animosity toward Muslims that the wise Marty Peretz deems appropriate? They’re either lying, because they’re afraid to tell the truth, or they’re misguided in their benighted liberalism.

But Peretz’ elitist snobbery exists at a more fundamental level than that. If you describe a large group of people (in this case, over a billion strong), in toto, as inferior to you- well, isn’t that about as direct an assertion of elitism as there is? If you really believe that an entire ethnic or religious group (or whatever combination thereof you find disagreeable) is, in some fundamental way, inferior to you, you may think your beliefs are justified. But please stop whining about how elitist it is for people to call you on your assertions about that group’s rank inferiority.

Jonathan Weiler’s most recent book, Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics, co-authored with Marc Hetherington, was published last year by Cambridge University Press.

Read more: Marty Peretz, Islam, Elitism, Bigotry, Islamophobia, Anti-Muslim, Free Speech, Public Opinion, New York Times, Muslim, Europe Muslims, Politics News

Dan Persons: Cinefantastique Podcast: 2010 Summer Wrap-Up of Sci-Fi, Horror, & Fantasy Film

It’s a special Labor Day edition of the Cinefantastique Podcast. Eschewing the usual round-up of news and reviews, Dan Persons, Lawrence French, and Steve Biodrowski provide their assessment on the best and worst that this summer had to offer. What tops the list: Splice, Inception, Predators, or Iron Man 2? And what lies at the bottom of the barrel: Jonah Hex, Piranha 3D, The Last Airbender, or Furry Vengeance? Also explored are such riveting questions as: What film is most likely to forget its own title? Which actor took on the most challenging script? What was the worst pro-ecology movie? Was this the season of the ultimate 3D burn-out? And the perennial: Is it possible for one film season to blow and suck at the same time?

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Check out previous episodes of the CFQ Podcast

v1n29 – The Last Exorcism
v1n28 – Piranha 3D
v1n27 – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

For the latest news on horror, fantasy, and science fiction film and television, visit Cinefantastique online.

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Lamar Vest: Burning the Quran Does Not Illuminate the Bible

I have to admit, when I heard news reports of Pastor Terry Jones planning to burn the Quran on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I was both puzzled and disappointed.

To burn another religion’s scriptures is disrespectful to all who adhere to that faith. Further, it is counterproductive. If this act is intended, as Pastor Terry Jones stated, to “send a message to the moderate [Muslim] to stay peaceful and moderate,” how will burning their holiest book accomplish that? Clearly, it will only offend and incense Muslims across the political spectrum — not just to those to whom he is trying to “send a message.”

As the president of the world’s largest national Bible society, I was also bothered for very practical reasons. I have met wonderful men and women who are working around the world — many in countries hostile to Christianity — to make the Bible accessible to all people. Terry Jones’ proposed act of hatred has the very real potential to endanger the lives of those working in Muslim countries. Members of the U.S. military are also potential targets for those who would retaliate against Jones’ planned actions. It is one thing for a person to risk his own life for something he believes in — but it is a very different thing to risk someone else’s life.

Even as it was announced that Jones decided — at least for now — to delay his plans to burn copies of the Quran, I was left with a disturbing question: what if people think that Jones speaks for most Christians? What if they think he speaks for me?

American Bible Society works to make the Bible accessible to people of all faiths, no faiths, and across the Christian faith so that people can engage with God’s Word. We strongly believe that we don’t have to denigrate another religion to elevate our own. That’s why American Bible Society placed a full-page ad in The New York Times that carries the message that “Burning the Qur’an does not illuminate the Bible.” That’s why we reached out to Christian leaders across the spectrum to stand united in this belief.

The intent of this ad is to communicate that we are in favor of respect and civility in religious discussions, disagreements and debates. Acts of hatred in the name of Christianity are antithetical to the good news of the Gospel.

At the end of the day, my hope and prayer is that Muslims and people of all faiths will understand that those who denigrate, defame or destroy the Quran do not represent a biblical worldview and do not speak for all Christians.

Read more: Florida Church Quran Burning, American Bible Society, Florida Church Koran Burning, Koran Burning, Burn a Koran Day, Pastor Terry Jones, Christianity, Quran Burning Church, Burn a Quran Day, Terry Jones Pastor, Dove World Outreach Center, Quran Burning, Religion News

Alan Singer: An Atheist Celebrates Rosh Hashanah

In my family we are secular Jews to the extreme. While we wanted our children to identify as ethnic Jews, my wife and I consider ourselves “evangelical atheists,” which means we recruit to our non-belief.

When our children were young we celebrated the historical holidays of Hanukah and Passover as celebrations of struggles against oppression and the desire for freedom. On Hanukah (Struggle) we lighted candles with the wish for global peace. At our Passover (Freedom) Seder we sang Civil Rights songs. By the way, we also had a Christmas tree and celebrated that holiday along with our non-Jewish neighbors in East New York, Brooklyn.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have always been problems for us because their meaning is overwhelmingly religious. These holy days are about the supposed origin of the universe a brief 5,771 years ago, recognizing a mythical connection between the Jewish people and their God, and asking a somewhat unforgiving supreme being to relent and wash away a year’s worth of sinning. Nothing historical really happened on these days in the past for us to commemorate as secular Jews (except maybe the start of one of the Arab-Israeli Wars).

Usually we turned Rosh Hashanah into our harvest festivity, with new fall fruits such as apples and my favorite, concord grapes. I also baked round challah bread (the Jewish brioche), shaped that way to recognize the cycle of life and we dipped pieces into honey in hopes for a sweet year.

This year my wife wanted to add more content for our almost six-year-old twin grandchildren and their friends who were coming to dinner. Because of the latest round of Arab-Israeli peace talks, the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and because of the controversy in New York City over the proposed Islamic culture center in lower Manhattan, we decided to focus on the importance of peace and brotherhood.

My wife Judith is a retired day care director and early childhood and elementary school professor, so we centered the dinner activities around children’s books. She selected “The Peace Book” by Todd Parr, “Peace Begins with You” by Katherine Scholes, “Peace Crane” by Sheila Hamanaka, ” and “Can You Say Peace?” by Karen Katz.

“The Peace Book” (Little, Brown, 2004) is for younger children. Each page defines peace with a simple phrase such as “peace is making new friends” and a picture. “Peace Begins With You” (Little, Brown, 1989) teaches slightly older children how to be peacemakers based on concern for other people.

In “Peace Crane” (Morrow Junior Books, 1995), a young African American girl appeals to the Peace Crane to help stop the violence in her crime-ridden neighborhood. She imagines “a world without borders, a world without guns, a world that loves its children.” A particularly compelling feature of this book is the way the author depicts a common bond between an African American child needing hope and a Japanese child who died as a result of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Their differences of race, generation, class, and culture are supplanted by a common desire for peace.

In “Can You Say Peace? (Holt, 2006), pictures show children in traditional dress and scenes from their homelands. Every child recites “peace” in their native language. In the Hindi language of India children say “shanti.” In the Buli language of Ghana children say “goom-jigi.” In Japan, children who oppose war say “heiwa.” Aboriginal children in Australia say “kurtuku.” Children who speak Spanish say “paz” and children who speak French say “paix.” Iranian children say “sohl,” Russians say “mir,” and Chinese say “he ping.”

In Israel, the Hebrew word for peace is “Shalom.” In the Arab world the word for peace is “Salaam.” In our family, Rosh Hashanah now means peace.

Happy New Year.

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