Archive for September, 2012

Salem witch2I blogged some time ago about Germany addressing its witch-hunting past. A similar effort has been underway here in my home state of Connecticut, which had a couple surges of witch-hunts several decades prior to the now-much-more-famous witch-hunts in Salem, MA (WebCite cached version). One would think that, in the 21st century and in a “blue state,” the powers-that-be would at least be willing to entertain the idea that the witches killed by the Connecticut colony in the 17th century just might have been the victimes of an injustice.

Efforts to rehabilitate Connecticut’s witches started back in ’05 or ’06. An early result was this research report by legislative staff (cached). Such efforts were generally resisted by the General Assembly and the state bureaucracy. Nevertheless, advocates for making things right continue to plug away, as Hartford FAVS reports (cached):

At 82, Bernice Mable Graham Telian doubts she’ll live long enough to see the name of her seventh grandmother and ten others hanged in Colonial Connecticut for witchcraft cleared. …

In 2008, Telian wrote to Connecticut lawmakers when a resolution was introduced in the General Assembly to acknowledge the witch trials. Lawmakers heard testimony from descendants of executed witches and historians, but the measure died. There was even an earlier effort to get the victims pardoned, but the state board of Pardons and Parole said it doesn’t grant posthumous pardons.

Now members of the Connecticut Wiccan & Pagan Network are pushing Gov. Dannel Malloy to sign a proclamation to clear the names of the victims. Supporters are asked to send Malloy a postcard that reads: I am a Pagan/Witch and I vote. Clear the names of Connecticut’s eleven accused and executed witches.

Connecticut lawmakers and bureaucrats have had many excuses for why they refused to act on this over the last 6 or 7 years. Chief among them is the belief that it will set a precedent that would somehow bring on hundreds of lawsuits by people trying to posthumously clear their ancestors. The request for a proclamation rather than a pardon, though, gets around that:

Anthony Griego, who is heading the effort, said the proclamation is non-binding and doesn’t open up the door for lawsuits.

I expect even this namby-pamby, nowhere-near-a-real-exoneration of Connecticut’s witches to meet continued resistance by state government. It’s not viewed as a priority, and it’s thought of as something from the deep dark past with no importance. The state’s Right wing is particularly resistant to doing anything, as seen — for example — in this 2008 editorial in the New Haven Register:

Connecticut does not grant posthumous pardons for those convicted of crimes. That includes those hanged as witches in the 17th century. Instead, the legislature’s Judiciary Committee is considering a resolution denouncing the state’s witch trials as shocking. Of course, they are shocking to a modern sensibility. Equally telling, however, is the 21st century urge to find current victims of ancient miscarriages of justice. …

The legislature’s venture into the state’s earliest history suggests some of the foolishness of our passing judgment on a far different time. In the 17th century, evil and the devil were considered real.

This editorial, then, pans the idea of pardoning Connecticut’s witches as a (presumably Lefist) effort to “find more victims” to help, and it excuses Connecticut’s witch trials as normal and acceptable for the time in which they occurred. Unfortunately, they were not “normal”; witch trials in the American colonies were actually not very common at all — this is why they’re so remarkable and seem so egregious (at the time they occurred, and even more since). Furthermore, it was immoral then and it remains immoral now, even though Christian witch-hunts continue to happen in other parts of the world. The Register editorial also smacks a little bit of the Tea Partiers in Tennessee who demand that schools there not teach that some of the Founding Fathers owned slaves because, quite simply, they don’t want to hear about it any more. Sheesh!

The real point, here, as far as I’m concerned, is: How can Americans dare tell people in other parts of the world to stop their witch-hunts, if they aren’t also willing to go on the record and state, clearly and unequivocally, that the witch-hunts in our own past were reprehensible and wrong? What’s more, an injustice is still an injustice, even if it happened in the past and everyone involved is long dead. Admitting past injustices is a way of preventing them in the future. And what, exactly, is the point of refusing to admit that injustices happened, when everyone fucking well knows they did? Mature adults can handle such an admission. So let’s just get it done already, fercryinoutloud!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Photograph by Karen L. King, via the New York Times (see URL http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/us/historian-says-piece-of-papyrus-refers-to-jesus-wife.html?pagewanted=all)The Vatican has decided enough is enough, when it comes to the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” that I blogged about back when it was released. They just aren’t having any part of it. Not only are they rejecting its content, as Reuters reports, they took to their house organ, L’Osservatore Romano, to declare the thing a “fake” (WebCite cached article):

An ancient papyrus fragment which a Harvard scholar says contains the first recorded mention that Jesus may have had a wife is a fake, the Vatican said on Friday.

“Substantial reasons would lead one to conclude that the papyrus is indeed a clumsy forgery,” the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial by its editor, Gian Maria Vian. “In any case, it’s a fake.”

Joining a highly charged academic debate over the authenticity of the text, written in ancient Egyptian Coptic, the newspaper published a lengthy analysis by expert Alberto Camplani of Rome’s La Sapienza university, outlining doubts about the manuscript and urging extreme caution.

I looked at L’Osservatore Romano online and was unable to find the editorial. I did, however, find Camplani’s piece, which is essentially an anti-media whine (cached). It doesn’t say very much about the manuscript fragment itself; it just says that the insolent worldwide mass media ought never to have mentioned it to anyone. Other than the complaint about the media — which is nothing new for the R.C. Church, they’ve been spewing paranoid rhetoric about how the media are trying to destroy them for years now — I don’t see anything substantive here, explaining how they know the fragment to be “fake.” No Vatican officials have examined it (again, that I’m aware of) so I don’t see how they can be this sure of it.

What it looks like they’ve done, is to react to a phantom, that being the idea that this scrap somehow proves Jesus was married, which of course would totally contradict centuries of Catholic doctrine … and especially would fly in the face of priestly celibacy.

Unfortunately for the Church, no one has seriously made such a claim, nor anything like it … not Prof Karen King who first revealed it, and not any of the reporters who’ve turned in stories about it. If anything, like this Reuters report, they go to great lengths to point out that this is not what the fragment tells us and that King never said so:

During the conference King stressed that the fragment did not give “any evidence that Jesus was married, or not married” but that early Christians were talking about the possibility.

Why the Vatican would react to this phantom notion, I have no idea. Except that, perhaps, it fits into the prevailing sense they have that the media are trying to destroy them. Even if the media were trying to do so, reporting on this fragment doesn’t help them in that regard.

Few facts are really known with any certainty about the document known as “the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” As I posted earlier, this means skepticism is in order. It may well turn out to be a modern fake. Questions abound, and conclusions are hard to reach. But even if it’s determined that the fragment is precisely what it appears to be … i.e. a classical-era Coptic text … that still does not tell us the slightest thing about Jesus. All it would tell us is that one 4th century Coptic Christian wrote down a text which contained those words … and because of that, one might reasonably assume, s/he believed that Jesus had a wife. Still, it’s clear that such a belief — assuming anyone held it, back then — must have been a minority view in classical Christendom (since there are no other documents that mention Jesus having been married).

Really, people need to stop going off the deep end over this manuscript fragment. Campliani’s statement that the media shouldn’t have reported it, is especially asinine. The Vatican is boxing shadows here. It really needs to move on and stop whining about things that aren’t relevant to it.

Photo credit: Karen L. King, via the New York Times.

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Iran (as the Soup Nazi) says, "No YouTube for you!"The Muslim world continues to show us just how childish and irrational it can be, in its reaction to the movie “Innocence of Muslims” — despite the fact that none of them have even seen it. The latest example of this is that of the Iranian government (which still hasn’t gotten over the existence of Israel either). CNN reports that they’ve blocked access to Youtube and Google over it (WebCite cached article):

Iran blocked YouTube and its owner Google over the weekend because of an inflammatory movie trailer about the Prophet Mohammed that has infuriated Muslims in many countries around the world.

The sites were blocked “because of public demand,” Iran’s semiofficial Mehr news agency said Monday.

“Google and YouTube continued to carry the film clip that insulted our people’s sacred beliefs,” the agency said, citing an unnamed source in Iran’s Internet Authority.

But that’s not the only way they’ve decided to protest the movie. The AP reports via the Washington Post that Iran is also boycotting the Academy Awards (cached):

Iran’s culture minister said Monday that his country will boycott the 2013 Oscars in the wake of the anti-Islam video made in the United States that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad.

An Iranian film won an Oscar in the foreign film category in February. But Mohammed Hosseini said the Islamic Republic would not field an entry for next year’s awards due to the low-budget video he dubbed “an intolerable insult to the Prophet of Islam,” the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported. Hosseini urged other Islamic countries to also boycott.

As I’ve done Jyllands-Posten Mohammad Cartoon / 'Stop, stop, we ran out of virgins!' / via AINAso many times before, I’ll respond to Iran’s expression of Muslim outrage over “blasphemy,” by posting a couple of the Jyllands-Posten Mohammad cartoons here. Clearly, Muslims need something to be outraged over, and I’m happy to oblige by providing something more for them to rampage and riot about.

Please,Jyllands-Poste'n Mohammad cartoon / 'Hm... jeg kan ikke lige genkende ham' / via AINA guys, by all means, keep stamping and fuming and carrying on about a movie you haven’t seen yet and likely never will see. I can’t tell you how impressive this behavior is!

What’s more, I find I must thank you … for giving the world such a wonderful lesson in how irrational and immature the adherents of faith-based religions can be. For many years I’ve been saying it’s a problem, and here you guys have spent the last couple weeks providing an unmistakable example of how and why this is so.

Photo credit, top: PsiCop original (based on the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld). Others: Assyrian International News Agency.

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Crying… you end up facing a situation that very well might cost millions of lives, and for no discernible, rational reason. The trifecta of Israel, Iran and the Right within the United States is rapidly reaching this point. It would have been hilariously funny, if not for the fact that it might lead to a latter-day holocaust.

First, we have Iran, which is led by a furiously religionistic cast-eyed freak known as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who can’t seem to get over the fact that a Jewish state exists, several hundred miles from his own borders. As the New York Times reports, he’s come to the Big Apple this week to spew yet more of his juvenile anti-Semitic rants (WebCite cached article):

Defying a warning by the United Nations secretary general against inflammatory remarks, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran said Monday that Israelis had no historical roots in the Middle East and that the existence of Israel was just a passing phase in the region’s long history. …

At the breakfast meeting, he said that the Israelis had been around the region for only 60 or 70 years, in contrast to the Iranians, whose civilization has existed for thousands of years.

“They have no roots there in history,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said of the Israelis, according to Reuters.

This is, of course, a lie. DNA studies have shown that modern Jews do, in fact, have Middle Eastern roots. I’m sure Iran’s cast-eyed freak — and pretty much every other anti-Semite on the planet — would dismiss these DNA studies as products of the pervasive and evil “Jewish cabal” that controls the planet … but paranoiac thinking like that is par for the course, for this childish crew, so one can hardly expect otherwise.

So this is hardly the first time he’s unleashed this kind of tantrum and it certainly won’t he the last. However, this little childish antic has been compounded by another episode of juvenile religionism, and that is, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s desire to nuke Iran because it appears they may have a slim chance of someday creating a workable nuclear weapon, as NPR reports (cached):

During a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Netanyahu expressed his frustration with how world powers are handling Iran and its nuclear program.

“The world tells Israel ‘wait, there’s still time’. And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu said.

It doesn’t matter to Bibi, I guess, that Iran’s nuclear program is, in a word, delicate … so delicate that cyberattacks like Stuxnet and Flame have been able to derail it. Oh no. The fact that Iran’s cast-eyed freak has been rattling his saber for the last few years, is all Bibi needs to tell him that his country is only 10 seconds away from nuclear extinction at Iran’s hands. That Bibi is motivated to nuke Iran, by militant religionists within his own country, is something he’d never admit to … even though it’s true.

Now, added to all of this tension — which all by itself is sufficient to ignite a war that no rational person should wish be fought — we have a third party intruding on it, scrapping for a fight at all costs. That would be America’s Right, which is absolutely enraged that President Barack Obama insolently chose not to meet with Bibi, presumably in order to get his blessing for Israel’s nuking of Iran (cached). (Memo to the Religious Right: No, Obama does not have to meet with Bibi just ’cause Bibi asked to meet with him. The leader of the free world gets to choose who he meets with, and when. He is at no one’s beck and call … not even the Israeli Prime Minister’s.)

Because of the R.R.’s sanctimonious outrage over this, Mitt Romney, GOP presidential candidate and current commander-in-chief of the Religious Right’s political arm, is also aching to start a war in the Middle East, as CNN reports (cached):

“Tonight on 60 Minutes, President Obama called Israel’s legitimate concern about the impact of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons ‘noise’ and referred to Israel as merely ‘one of our closest allies in the region,’” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

Saul continued in the statement: “This is just the latest evidence of his chronic disregard for the security of our closest ally in the Middle East. Governor Romney’s views stand in sharp contrast to the President’s. Governor Romney strongly believes that Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East and that support for Israel is essential to extending freedom, peace and democracy throughout the region. As president, Governor Romney will restore and protect the close alliance between our nation and the state of Israel.”

It’s not true that a war between Israel and Iran could ever be in the best interest of the U.S., and there’s no valid reason Americans should ever want one, so long as there are alternatives available (cached). But in order to appeal to the evangelical Christians here … who’ve been itching to ignite Armageddon and usher in the return of their precious Jesus … Romney is forced to agitate for a war he knows would be bad for the U.S.

What a fucking joke this all is. And it’s all useless and pointless. It’s only come about because of the militant religionism that comes from the Abrahamic faiths. There’s no rational reason for any of this tension.

Isn’t it time for the world’s leaders to just fucking grow the hell up already and get over their militant religionism? I’ve had enough of your goddamn infantile tantrums, fercryinoutloud.

Photo credit: Clover_1, via Flickr.

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Protesters set a cinema ablaze on Friday in Peshawar, Pakistan. Violence there began early, and two people, including a television station employee, were killed. Mohammad Sajjad/Associated Press,via the NY Times.Apparently the Muslim world hasn’t gotten over the fact that a Neocrusading Coptic Christian crank apparently dared make a movie that dissed their Mohammed. The New York Times reports that mobs of Muslims in (where else?) Pakistan have decided that wanton slaughter is a useful way to deal with that fact (locally-cached article):

Violent crowds furious over an anti-Islamic video made in the United States convulsed Pakistan’s largest cities on Friday, leaving up to 19 people dead and more than 160 injured in a day of government-sanctioned protests.

It was the worst single day of violence in a Muslim country over the video, “Innocence of Muslims,” since protests began nearly two weeks ago in Egypt, before spreading to two dozen countries. Protesters have ignored the United States government’s denunciation of the video.

It all started with good intentions, you see. The Pakistanis had organized this nice, peaceful protest in which everyone was supposed to sing Kum Ba Ya or something, but it seems to have gotten just slightly out of hand:

Peaceful protests had been approved by Pakistan’s government, which declared Friday a national holiday, the Day of Love for the Prophet Muhammad. The move was part of an effort to either control or politically capitalize on rage against the inflammatory video, which depicts Muhammad, the founder of Islam, as a sexually perverted buffoon.

Exactly how the Pakistanis went from having their gentle holiday with a peaceful protest, to slaughtering people all over the place, is a complete mystery.

At least, the Times doesn’t bother to explain it. Unlike them, I can explain it. It’s called “religiously-propagated cultural immaturity.” Time for Pakistanis … and the rest of the world’s Muslims … to fucking grow the hell up for the first time in their sniveling little lives.

Image by Lars Vilks published in Nerkes AllehandaJust in case Muslims need to be goaded into pitching more fits, I’ve added a couple of incendiary cartoons to this post. You guys really need to get hold of yourselves. Remember: I can keep this up just as long as you can. And you know what? Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoon, via Assyrian International News AgencyThere’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop me. Rage and riot all you like … but these, and other pictures that may offend you, aren’t going away. Ever.

Photo credit, top: Mohammad Sajjad / Associated Press, via the New York Times. Lower left: Wikipedia. Lower right: Assyrian International News Agency.

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Photograph by Karen L. King, via the New York Times (see URL http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/us/historian-says-piece-of-papyrus-refers-to-jesus-wife.html?pagewanted=all)I’m sure this will throw a lot of Christians into hysterics, but it seems there’s this 4th century papyrus fragment, in the Coptic language, that quotes Jesus as having had a wife. The New York Times reports on a historian’s disclosure of this discovery (WebCite cached article):

A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’”

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The finding is being made public in Rome on Tuesday at an international meeting of Coptic scholars by the historian Karen L. King, who has published several books about new Gospel discoveries and is the first woman to hold the nation’s oldest endowed chair, the Hollis professor of divinity.

There are a lot of caveats that go along with this. Among the foremost of them, is that the document’s nature is shaky:

The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and its owner has asked to remain anonymous.

Skepticism is definitely in order here. Prof King has had the fragment reviewed by papyrologists and they seem to have agreed it’s not a forgery, so it may just be what it seems to be.

Now, it’s possible to take this a bit too far, and I’m sure the media will do so. To be clear, though, this is a fourth-century document. It does not tell us whether or not Jesus had a wife — or that he ever really existed at all. At best, all this fragment does is show that at least one Coptic writer in the 4th century believed Jesus to have had a wife. But I must point out, there’s not enough context here to be sure even of that much. For all we know, Jesus’ mention of having a wife within this text had been intended as metaphorical, allegorical, or suppositional. We really need more of the text, in order to understand what the writer had been doing.

Despite Prof King’s work on it to date, the jury is still out as to the authenticity of this fragment, as well as its meaning. It’s possible that scholars may investigate this document for decades without arriving at any definitive answers. Where the real fireworks will be produced over this, is in the realm of pop culture. This is noted in the final paragraph of the Times article:

The notion that Jesus had a wife was the central conceit of the best seller and movie “The Da Vinci Code.” But Dr. King said she wants nothing to do with the Code or its author: “At least, don’t say this proves Dan Brown was right.”

While Prof King disavows any link to the insipid antihistorical tripe produced by Dan Brown, he’s got a lot of fans, many of whom will no doubt be quick to assert this fragment is “proof” than Brown was correct — even though The Da Vinci Code was demonstrably predicated on a hoax.

Photo credit: Karen L. King, via the New York Times.

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A Muslim protester shouts slogans during a protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia (9/17/2012). Beawiharta / Reuters, via the Washington Post.The steady parade of incredible childishness continues, around the Muslim world. The poor little things just can’t handle the fact that some insolent, Neocrusading Coptic Christian living in California dared make a movie that mocked their precious prophet Muhammad. Things had settled down a bit since the height of the fury late last week, but the Washington Post reports things have kicked up again, including in Beirut, Lebanon (WebCite cached article):

Tens of thousands of people hit the streets of Beirut to protest the controversial video mocking the prophet Muhammad on Monday, a massive rally organized by the Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah that was also an attempt to show the party’s strength.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, made a rare public appearance around 6 p.m. local time and led the crowds in chants pledging martyrdom to the prophet Muhammad.

“The world should know our anger will not be a passing outburst but that this is the start of a serious movement that will continue all over the Muslim world to defend the Prophet of God,” he told the crowd, who roared their approval as he spoke. Nasrallah also warned the U.S. that if the full anti-Islam movie is released, rather than the short clip that has been posted on YouTube, there will be “dangerous consequences.” The video supposedly promotes a full-length film.

The WaPo notes that different Islamic factions are trying to one-up each other in this effort to protest the movie “Innocence of Muslims”:

Sunni leaders, not to be outdone by their Shiite counterparts, also announced more protests on Monday. The controversial Sunni sheikh Ahmad Assir, who is based in the city of Sidon, announced a demonstration for his followers later this week.

Yes, guys, that’s the way to show the world how wonderful your religion is! Get into a pissing contest with your rival sects to show which of you can be more immature and violent. Well done, Muslims! You must be so proud! Why, I am just so impressed by all of you … it makes me want to run right out and start worshipping al-Lah along with you!!!

NOT … !

Photo credit: Beawiharta / Reuters, via the Washington Post.

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