Archive for May, 2007

“Taking elements of” older religions and “warping them into something else”

May 26, 2007

On both the blogs To slam a revolving door and A Blog of 2 Witches, there is an entry titled “10 Things Everyone Should Know About Witches, containing the following:

4) We are NOT Satanists (a Satanist actually takes elements from Christianity and pagan traditions and warps them into something else. Satan is a Christian myth, so it is NOT something associated with witches)

Well, this is a little better than the commonly-heard claim that all forms of Satanism are “just upside down Christianity.” At least there’s an acknowledgment here that most Satanists draw ideas from other sources besides just Christianity.

However, the intended point here seems to be that modern Pagan Witchcraft, supposedly unlike Satanism in this regard, is supposedly a pure and pristene ancient pagan tradition – which it most definitely is not.
Read the rest of this entry »

Tidying up long posts

May 18, 2007

In the WordPress.com support forum today, I asked how to display only the first part of a long post on one’s front page, with a link that people can click to see the rest of the post. Here is my post there, and the replies I got.

On changing the text of a “more” link: But wait, there’s more

Jerry Falwell has died, but the religious right wing hasn’t – far from it

May 18, 2007

After posting my recent blog entries on same-sex marriage and religious right wing groups here in New York, I clicked on the tags “gay rights” and “same-sex marriage” to see what, if anything, other people on WordPress.com were writing about these topics. Among other things, I came across a few different blogs in which there was some agonizing over whether it was okay to feel good about the death of Jerry Falwell.

I agree with those who say it’s fine to feel good about the death of someone who has caused so much misery for so many people, especially if you yourself happen to be one of those people.

But I do think we should refrain from expressing any such happy feelings in a truly tasteless manner, such as by picketing Falwell’s funeral a la Fred Phelps and his clan.

Guess what? The Phelps clan will be picketing Falwell’s funeral, or so says this news story on 365Gay.com. Apparently Falwell wasn’t homophobic enough for Fred Phelps, who, according to the 354Gay.com article, complains that Falwell “spent his entire life prophesying lies and false doctrines like ‘God loves everyone.'” (P.S.: I’ve subsequently confirned this story. The front page of the Phelps clan’s website God Hates America now proclaims their intent to “preach” at Falwell’s funeral.)

Anyhow, I also suspect that some folks may be rejoicing out of a mistaken belief that the death of Falwell was a crippling blow to the religious right wing. That it most definitiely wasn’t. Although he was a kingmaker in the early 1980’s, Falwell has not played nearly as significant role in the religious right wing since then. His “Moral Majority” was soon eclipsed by Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition as the leading religious right wing organization. More recently, the most powerful leader of the religious right wing now seems to be James Dobson.

The necessary roles of both innovation and conservativism – Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson

May 17, 2007

On a blog called “Todd’s Hammer” here on WordPress.com, Todd wrote:

There are a couple professors at UC Davis who have done a series of mathematical studies and have shown that human cultures have a balance of conservative and innovative thinkers within them. If the culture is too conservative, its members will fail to adapt to a changing environment; if a culture is too innovative, its members will adopt possibly maladaptive meanings in the wrong times and places. Cognitive scientists are finding that individuals tend to lean to one side or the other, and that both sides are necessary for survival.

Makes perfect sense, and the idea that both conservativism and innovation play essential roles in a society’s survival is relevant to the Church of Azazel paradigm, so I asked for more info and sources. Todd’s reply:

Actually, now that I look at it, one is at UC Davis, the other at UCLA. They are basically doing statistical analyses of the evolution of culture/cognition; that is, the role of culture/cognition in survivability/adaptation.

Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson, _The Origin and Evolution of Cultures_ (Oxford University Press, 2005).

The statistical analysis I was referencing is described in the first chapter of that book; but I recommend the whole thing.

Todd is a gay ex-Mormon, now apparently an atheist. I discovered his blog by clicking on one of the tags (either “gay rights” or “same-sex marriage,” I forget which) at the bottom of one of my own recent posts.

Anti-gay right wing groups here in New York State

May 16, 2007

In my previous post, I mentioned a brief news story about the Coalition to Save Marriage in New York. I just now found that group’s website here. Their links page provides a handy list of major right wing groups here in New York State.

Of course, as I hope will be obvious to nearly everyone who would bother to read my blog, the Coalition’s name is just plain idiotic. Exactly how is the legalization of same-sex marriage going to destroy or in any way harm heterosexual marriages???

Anne F. Downey, co-chairwoman of the Coalition to Save Marriage in New York, is a lawyer practicing in the Town of Boston, according to the brief bio following an op-ed by her in the Buffalow News.

According to a page on the Albany Times-Union site:

The group’s steering committee includes the Rev. Duane Motley of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a frequent face at the Capitol on hot-button issues. Among the advisors is Mike Long, the state Conservative Party chairman. Signing on to a position statement opposing same-sex marriage were such groups as the New York Christian Coalition and New York Family Policy Council.

The Times-Union site also has a PDF copy of a press release by the Coalition to Save Marriage in New York.

The coalition’s site’s links page lists the following:

  • New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) – “The Christian Voice in Albany,” run by Rev. Duane Motley, who claims to be “New York State’s only full time Christian Lobbyist. Lobbying on Religious, Family and Moral issues.” Well, nice to know there’s only one, if indeed that’s the case.
  • Concerned Women for America of New York (CWA of NY) – local chapter of one of the older national religious right wing organizations. The national organization is run by Beverly LaHaye, wife of Tim LaHaye, author of the “Left Behind” series and one of the leading members of Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” back in the 1970’s.
  • New York Family Policy Council – an evangelical Christian-oriented group. Judging by its name, I would have expected this to be an affiliate of James Dobson’s empire, but I find no reference to Dobson or his organizations in any conspicuous part of the site such as the About page. Lots of very scary rhetoric about Christians “occupying” the rest of society.
  • New York State Christian Coalition. Judging by its name, this would seem to be a local branch of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, though the website doesn’t say so, at least not on any page I’ve looked at so far.
  • The Association of Politically Active Christians (APAC) – run by some evangelical Christians.
  • Caucus for America, run by Rabbi Aryeh Spero.
  • New York State Catholic Conference – this site appears to be entirely in Chinese (or some closely related Asian language), at least on the browser where I am working now. I’ll see later if it still is on my computer at home. Seems strange that a New York “Catholic Conference” website would be in Chinese; I didn’t know that there were that many Chinese-American Catholics.
  • The Conservative Party of New York State – site contains a link to What Is Conservativism?, an interesting collection of articles about the Conservative movement in the U.S.A., on the website of the American Conservative Union Foundation
  • .

Same-sex marriage here in New York State

May 16, 2007

This post is a little belated, because it has been at least a few weeks since the last time I paid close attention to the same-sex marriage issue here in New York. But it appears that New York State’s governor Eliot Spitzer has indeed fulfilled his promise to draft and propose a same-sex marriage bill. Here are some relevant news stories:

  • “Spitzer Files Gay Marriage Bill,” April 27, 2007 – 10:00 am ET, 365Gay.com
  • “Spitzer unveils gay marriage bill; Senate leader balks,” by Marc Humbert, Associated Press, April 27, 2007, 3:08 PM EDT, New York Newsday
  • “Spitzer Offers Gay Marriage Bill Today” by Paul Schindler, Friday, April 27, 2007, Gay City News
  • “New York governor proposes legalizing gay marriage,” By Holly McKenna, April 27, 2007, Reuters, Boston Globe

Good for him. More recently the governer sent out a memo reaffirming his support for same-sex marriage:

The following commentary claims that Spitzer could more easily just issue an executive order legalizing same-sex marriage, without needing to go through the legislature:

  • “Governor Eliot Spitzer’s Same-Sex Marriage Hoax'” by Kimberly Wilder & Ian Wilder, OpEdNews.com

But, in 2006, there was a court decision that the issue of same-sex marriage had to be decided by the legislature.

In any case, Spitzer has issued an executive order requiring the state insurance department to recognize same-sex marriages from out-of-state jurisdictions:

  • “Same-Sex Spouse ‘Open Enrollment’,” by Andy Humm, 05/10/2007, Gay City News
  • “NY Gay Couples Married In Mass. Have Weddings Validated,” May 16, 2007 – 11:00 am ET, 365Gay.com

Here’s an article about a coalition of local conservative groups opposing the same-sex marriage bill:

  • “New York Coalition Opposes Same-Sex Marriage Bill: New Yorkers resisting governor’s proposed bill,” May 14, 2007, EURweb.com

But the member groups in that coalition are not named in the above article. I guess I’ll have to try to dig up that info later.

Below is a summary of the summary of the situation in various states across the U.S.A.:

  • “Civil Unions & Same-Sex Marriage State By State,” May 10, 2007 1:27 pm US/Central, CBS2Chicagolcom

The Catholic Church’s troubles in Brazil

May 9, 2007

I just now came across the following:

This article said some things I expected, such as the following:

Latin America is still predominantly Catholic, but not like it used to be. In Brazil, for example, as evangelical Pentecostalism has spread, the country’s population has gone from being 89 percent Catholic in 1980 to about 64 percent today, according to a survey released this week by the Brazilian polling firm DataFolha.

But there were also some surprises (to me, anyway). In particular:

Young people have shown a greater reluctance to join the clergy, resulting in a priest shortage that is 10 times more severe regionwide than it is in North America or Europe.

“There is a trend here — even among priests — that people should be more free to follow their own conscience, and there’s a growing distance between most Catholics and the church’s hierarchy,” said the Rev. Luiz Roberto Benedetti, a Catholic priest who is a professor of social science at the Catholic University of Campinas, near Sao Paulo. “It’s a trend that goes in the complete opposite direction of the message that the pope wants to send.”

Very interesting, and quite contrary to Philip Jenkins’s characterization of the Catholicism of the southern hemisphere, in general, as a hotbed of Catholic traditionalism and love of hierarchy. (See The Next Christianity by Philip Jenkins, originally published in The Atlantic, Volume 290, No. 3, October, 2002, about the recent explosive growth of the more fanatical forms of Christianity in non-Western countries.)

I would be interested to hear from anyone who can give me solidly sourced information about religious trends in Latin America.

(For more about religious trends in general, see the many articles listed on my page about The growing number of Christians of kinds which inherently fear demons, Satanists, witches, occultists, Pagans, and atheists.)

Witchhunt in India

May 5, 2007

Horrible witchhunt story: Couple burned alive for “black magic”, Reuters, Hyderabad, India, Thu May 3, 2007. Another copy of this story, with a few more details, can be found on the website of Reuters India (Andhra Pradesh couple burnt alive for “black magic”).

More detailed versions of this story can be found on India eNews.com (Couple burnt to death for practicing black magic), on RxPG (Couple burnt to death for practicing black magic), and on the Independent Online site in South Africa (Couple burned alive for ‘witchcraft’).

Even the short version says: “Belief in black magic is common in some parts of rural India, despite the country’s robust economic growth and cutting-edge high-technology industries. Dozens of women are murdered each year after being accused of witchcraft.”

Some of the longer versions add, “In the last decade, about 300 people were killed in the region on the suspicion they were practising black magic. The practice is prevalent in Medak, Nalgonda, Ranga Reddy, Warangal, Karimnagar, Nizamabad and Adilabad districts. The actual number of deaths could be higher as many of the ‘bhanamati’ deaths are treated as deaths caused by illness.”

The short version ends with the following, on the separate issue of human sacrifice: “Last year, a barber in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh killed his four-year-old son by slitting his throat with a razor after the man started seeing visions of the Hindu goddess Kali demanding a sacrifice.”

Trackback testing

May 2, 2007

Trackback works fine with posts here on WordPress.com. Does it work with my other blogs? Hare are links to a post on LiveJournal and a post on Google blogger.