Saturday, October 20, 2012

The 20 Weirdest Religious Beliefs: Test your knowledge of which strange belief belongs to which religion

                   Good Day World!

 We find it easy to dismiss the fantastical beliefs of people in other times and places, but those that we’ve been exposed to since childhood seem not so far out.

 Virgin birth? Water turning into wine? A fig tree shriveling on the spot? Dead people getting up out of their graves and walking around?

 All of the following beliefs are found in respected religions today. They have been long taught by religions that either are considered part of the American mainstream or are home grown, made in the U.S.A., produced here and exported. Some of these beliefs are ensconced in sacred texts. Others are simply traditional. All, at one time or another, have had the sanction of the highest church authorities, and many still do.

How many of them can you match up with a familiar religious tradition? (The answers are at the bottom.)

1.      The foreskin of [a holy one] may lie safeguarded in reliquaries made of gold and crystal and inlayed with gems--or it may have ascended into the heavens all by itself. ( 2)

2.      A race of giants once roamed the earth, the result of women and demi-gods interbreeding. (1, 6). They lived at the same time as fire breathing dragons. ( 1)

3.      Evil spirits can take control of pigs. ( 1)

4.      A talking donkey scolded a prophet. ( 1, 3 )

5.      A righteous man can control his wife’s access to eternal paradise. ( 6)

6.      Brown skin is a punishment for disobeying God. ( 6)

7.      A prophet once traveled between two cities on a miniature flying horse with the face of a woman and the tail of a peacock. ( 4)

8.      [The Holy One] forbids a cat or dog receiving a blood transfusion and forbids blood meal being used as garden fertilizer. ( 7)

9.      Sacred underwear protects believers from spiritual contamination and, according to some adherents, from fire and speeding bullets ( 6)

10.  When certain rites are performed beforehand, bread turns into human flesh after it is chewed and swallowed. ( 2)

11.  Invisible supernatural beings reveal themselves in mundane objects like oozing paint or cooking food. ( 2)

12.  In the end times, [the Holy One’s] chosen people will be gathered together in Jackson County, Missouri. ( 6)

13.  Believers can drink poison or get bit by snakes without being harmed. ( 1)

14.  Sprinkling water on a newborn, if done correctly, can keep the baby from eons of suffering should he or she die prematurely. ( 2)

15.  Waving a chicken over your head can take away your sins. ( 3)

16.  [A holy one] climbed a mountain and could see the whole earth from the mountain peak. ( 1, 2 )

17.  Putting a dirty milk glass and a plate from a roast beef sandwich in the same dishwasher can contaminate your soul. ( 3)

18.  There will be an afterlife in which exactly 144,000 people get to live eternally in Paradise. ( 8)

19.  Each human being contains many alien spirits that were trapped in volcanos by hydrogen bombs. ( 5)

20.  [A supernatural being] cares tremendously what you do with your penis. 1,2,3,4,6,7,8.

Key:  1-Evangelical or “Bible Believing” Christianity, 2-Catholic Christianity, 3-Judaism, 4-Islam, 5-Scientology, 6-Mormonism 7-Christian Science 8-Jehovah’s Witness

Each of these beliefs is remarkable in its own way. But the composite goes beyond remarkable to revealing. What it reveals is an underlying belief that is something like this:

The process that produced this world and human life is best unveiled not by the scientific method but by the musings of iron age herdsmen (1,2,3,4,7,8) or science fiction writers (5), or con artists (6) whose theories are best judged by examining only assertions that cannot be falsified.

Underlying that belief is a sort of rational swiss cheese that is going to keep cognitive scientists investigating and  arguing for decades.

We humans are astoundingly  susceptible to handed down nonsense. Human children are dependent on their parents for a decade or even two, which is why nature made children credulous. When parents say,  eat your peas, they’re good for you,  kids may argue about the  eat your peas part but they don’t usually question the factual assertion about nutrition. When parents say Noah put all of the animals into the ark,  it is the rare child who asks,  Why didn’t the lion eat the guinea pigs?

Even as adults, we simply can’t afford to research everything we hear and read, and so, unless something isn’t working for us, we tend to accept what we are told by trusted authority figures. We go with the flow. Religion exploits this tendency by, among other things, establishing hierarchy and by ensuring that believers are in a certain mindset when they encounter religious ideas. A friend once gave me a button that said,  Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church . I didn’t really want to wear a button that said “I’m an arrogant jerk,” but the reality is that even the best of churches aren’t optimized for critical thinking. Quite the opposite. The pacing, the music, the lighting—all are designed for assent and emotion, for a right brain aesthetic experience, for the dominance of what Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman  has called System 1 thinking, meaning intuition and gut feel rather than rational, slow, linear analysis.

Some of our ancestors were doing the best they could to understand the world around them but had a very limited set of tools at their disposal. It would appear that others were simply making stuff up. Mormonism and Scientology appear to fall in the latter camp.  But when it comes to religious credulity, the difference matters surprisingly little. For example, Mormonism is more easily debunked than most other religions, both because of its recency and because it makes so many historically or  scientifically wild claims , and yet it is also one of the fastest growing religions in the world proportional to its membership. Wild claims matter less than whether a religion has  certain viral characteristics .  (Story source)

- Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of "Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light" and "Deas and Other Imaginings." Her articles can be found at

Friday, October 19, 2012

Meet the Eleven Main Enemies of Marijuana Legalization

In 1990, Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates told a Senate committee that people who smoked pot occasionally “ought to be taken out and shot.” That kind of fanaticism, which dominated the debate on drugs 20 years ago, seems to have faded. Today’s politicians are more likely to dismiss cannabis concerns as “not serious” than to rail against the demons of dope—but the powers that be are still bent on keeping pot illegal. U.S. cops bust an average of almost 100 people every hour for pot, and an array of think tanks and nonprofit groups continues to pump out prohibitionist propaganda.

Here are 11 of the worst—the most powerful and the most vehement.

                     1. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart

A holdover from the Bush administration, Leonhart was formally appointed to head the Drug Enforcement Administration by Barack Obama in 2010. The antiprohibitionist movement strongly opposed her, citing the DEA’s raids on medical-marijuana growers in California—including one on a 69-year-old woman who had been the first grower to register with the Mendocino County Sheriff. 

As the DEA’s acting director in January 2009, she overruled a DEA administrative-law judge’s recommendation and denied the University of Massachusetts a license to cultivate marijuana for FDA-approved research. “This single act has blocked privately funded medical marijuana research in this country,” NORML head Allen St. Pierre said in July 2010.

Leonhart often carries hardline views to absurd extremes. In 2011, asked about the drug-cartel carnage in Mexico, she told the Washington Post that “It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs,” because the cartels were fighting each other “like caged animals.” In June 2012, asked by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) if crack, heroin and methamphetamine were worse for your health than marijuana, she repeatedly answered, “I believe all illegal drugs are bad.” Asked if opioid painkillers like OxyContin were more addictive than marijuana, she answered, “All illegal drugs in Schedule I are addictive.” GO HERE TO READ THE REST

Ocelots, pro baseball pitcher and pipeline builder tangled up in lawsuit

       Good Day Humboldt County!

How did a pro baseball pitcher (Josh Beckett of the L.A. Dodgers), ocelots and a natural gas pipeline builder make it into the same news headline?

They’re all part of a lawsuit filed by Beckett after the company used eminent domain to clear land on his 7,000-acre hunting ranch in south Texas.

Beckett alleges the company, Eagle Ford Midstream, violated the Endangered Species Act by clearing land that was habitat for the ocelot, of which only 100 are thought to be left in the wild in the U.S.On Wednesday, two Beckett companies filed a restraining order against Eagle Ford from continuing work inside the ranch. That followed a lawsuit filed Tuesday that states "multiple big cat tracks" were photographed there as recently as June and that Beckett saw ocelots as recently as last November, reported.

Eagle Ford engaged in "willful destruction" by clearing land after a notice of intent to sue was filed in August, according to the lawsuit by Beckett Ventures Inc and Hall of Fame Land Ventures LP. Beckett also claimed Eagle Ford was urged to choose a shorter, direct path rather than the diagonal swath that was cleared. Ocelots are protected in Texas and at the federal level. A company found to have destroyed habitat could face fines and be forced to do mitigation work.

Eagle Ford did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment, but it filed a response with the court Wednesday, arguing that hunting on the ranch posed a greater threat than their pipeline. Beckett owns the Herradura Ranch in LaSalle County and runs a hunting lodge out of the premises. "The Herradura has offered superb dove, quail and trophy whitetail (deer) for over a decade," its website states.

Eagle Ford, in its court response, alleged that "the protection of the ocelot was merely a sham to leverage additional money from (Eagle Ford) in exchange for an easement." A state court earlier this month denied Beckett's similar request to halt the project, the company added.

It also noted that e-mails it received from Beckett's lawyers in April made no mention of ocelots and instead requested an alternative route because of the impact on an irrigation system and the ranch's hunting business.

Eagle Ford's environmental consultant earlier determined the land "does not exhibit the necessary density, coverage or structure generally described for potential ocelot habitat," adding that the nearest known population of ocelots was 120 miles away in Kennedy County.

Based on that information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined no further action was required. Nocturnal wild cats that can weigh up to 30 pounds, ocelots prefer dense shrub habitat. While abundant in Central and South America, ocelots in the U.S. have been reduced to an estimated 100 in Texas and Arizona.

A key ocelot habitat in Texas has been the Lower Rio Grande Valley, but "more than 95 percent of the dense thorn scrub habitat (there) ... has been converted to agriculture, rangelands, or urban land uses," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noted in its plan to help the species recover.

Other problems facing the Texas and Arizona population, the service added, include inbreeding, border fences separating the natural range that goes into Mexico, and ocelots becoming roadkill. (source)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wasteful spending of your tax dollars: Martian menus, the “non-profit” NFL, and a $132 million do-nothing Congress

Think Congress does not have much to show for itself this year? Think again. A new report from Senator Tom Coburn's office highlights dozens of examples of government waste in 2012. Included for the first time on this list: Congress. The very people looking into government waste find they themselves are wasteful. Coburn's report estimates $132 million of taxpayers' money was wasted on "the most unproductive and unpopular Congress in modern history."

"The waste is unbelievable," says Coburn. "We're bankrupt, this country is bankrupt, and people just don't want to admit it."

Loopholes are part of the problem. The National Football League, for example, pulled in more than $9 billion last year, yet is technically a "non-profit" organization, costing the federal government tens of millions of dollars every year in lost revenue.

"We have some of the biggest corporations in America paying no taxes whatsoever, you know something is wrong with the code," says the Republican senator. Millions of dollars have also been spent on questionable items, like $325,000 on a squirrel robot, realistic enough to fool a rattlesnake, and developed with a National Science Foundation grant; $40,000 to produce a video game where players can virtually enjoy a pond in Massachusetts; and $516,000 to create a video game called "Prom Week," which simulates the interaction of teenagers surrounding the biggest social night in high school.

The spending approaches intergalactic proportions -- sort of. NASA has no plans for a manned mission to Mars, but is spending nearly a $1 million a year researching what kind of food astronauts could eat if they ever get there. "What was once a great country has been mortgaged and bankrupted by the egos and ethics of career politicians," says Coburn, who adds the only way to change the system is to vote out all the incumbents.

"If you want to change the trajectory of our country, if you want to get rid of the hundreds of billions of dollars of waste every year, you have to change who is there." For more examples of government waste, including another highly-subsidized, yet rarely-used airport, check out this week's Spinners and Winners. (source)

As It Stands presents Stupid Laws in Swing States – today we’ll visit Ohio


      Good Day Humboldt County!

Just for fun, let’s look at some stupid laws in Ohio as it’s in the news a lot this week.

President Obama and Gov. Romney are busy kissing babies and shaking hands in the state right now hoping to get undecided voters to vote for them.

Everyone is talking about how important the Swing States are in this year’s presidential election, but I’m taking the opportunity to share some stupid laws from these states…just because:

In Ohio, if you ignore an orator on Decoration day to such an extent as to publicly play croquet or pitch horseshoes within one mile of the speaker’s stand, you can be fined $25. Full text of the law.

It is illegal for more than five women to live in a house. Full text of the law.

No one may be arrested on Sunday or on the Fourth of July. Full text of the law.

                                                                  CITY LAWS IN OHIO

In Akron - No person shall solicit sex from another of the same gender if it offends the second person. Full text of the law.

In Bexley - Ordinance number 223, of 09/09/19 prohibits the installation and usage of in outhouses.

In Canton - If one loses their pet tiger, they must notify the authorities within one hour.  Full text of the law. and, Power Wheels cars may not be driven down the street. Full text of the law.     

In Cleveland - Women are forbidden from wearing patent leather shoes, lest men see reflections of their underwear and, It’s illegal to catch mice without a hunting license!

There’s more stupid laws in Ohio here

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

'The Simpsons,' make list of 25 most powerful TV shows of the last 25 years

Television fans, there's a great new list out that gives props to the medium for having the power to sway elections, create catchphrases and change the way we think.

Mental Floss' list of "25 Most Powerful TV Shows of the Last 25 Years" makes the claim that more than the Bible or Shakespeare, "The Simpsons" has changed the way we speak. D'oh!

The long-running cartoon takes the No. 3 spot on the list, which cites University of Pennsylvania linguistics professor Mark Liberman, who credited the show in research in 2005 by saying, "'The Simpsons' has apparently taken over from Shakespeare and the Bible as our culture’s greatest source of idioms, catchphrases, and sundry other textual allusions."and sundry other textual allusions." The list gives "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" (No. 11) credit for spawning an entire academic discipline, Buffy Studies; "Sex and the City" (No. 15) boosted the pregnancy rate, according to a RAND Institute study that reported girls between 12 and 17 who watched that and other shows with "high sexual content" were more than twice as likely to become pregnant. And the show that "rewired kids' brains"? That goes to No. 8 on the list, "SpongeBob SquarePants." Rest of the story here

It's Time the Mainstream Media Admits This is not a Normal Election

The mainstream media is sending signals that they don't know what to do about the most corrupt presidential candidate in history. Trump ...