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November 16, 2007

Flying With the Spaghetti Monster
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:50 PM * 182 comments

The FSM has hit the mainstream. According to CNN today: Religious scholars mull Flying Spaghetti Monster

(AP) — When some of the world’s leading religious scholars gather in San Diego this weekend, pasta will be on the intellectual menu. They’ll be talking about a satirical pseudo-deity called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose growing pop culture fame gets laughs but also raises serious questions about the essence of religion.

The appearance of the Flying Spaghetti Monster on the agenda of the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting gives a kind of scholarly imprimatur to a phenomenon that first emerged in 2005, during the debate in Kansas over whether intelligent design should be taught in public school sciences classes.

Supporters of intelligent design hold that the order and complexity of the universe is so great that science alone cannot explain it. The concept’s critics see it as faith masquerading as science.

An Oregon State physics graduate named Bobby Henderson stepped into the debate by sending a letter to the Kansas School Board. With tongue in cheek, he purported to speak for 10 million followers of a being called the Flying Spaghetti Monster — and demanded equal time for their views.

Henderson did not respond to a request for comment. His Web site tracks meetings of FSM clubs (members dress up as pirates) and sells trinkets and bumper stickers. “Pastafarians” — as followers call themselves — can also download computer screen-savers and wallpaper (one says: “WWFSMD?”) and can sample photographs that show “visions” of the divinity himself. In one, the image of the carbohydrate creator is seen in a gnarl of dug-up tree roots.

It was the emergence of this community that attracted the attention of three young scholars at the University of Florida who study religion in popular culture. They got to talking, and eventually managed to get a panel on FSM-ism on the agenda at one of the field’s most prestigious gatherings.

The title: “Evolutionary Controversy and a Side of Pasta: The Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Subversive Function of Religious Parody.”

“For a lot of people they’re just sort of fun responses to religion, or fun responses to organized religion. But I think it raises real questions about how people approach religion in their lives,” said Samuel Snyder, one of the three Florida graduate students who will give talks at the meeting next Monday along with Alyssa Beall of Syracuse University.

The presenters’ titles seem almost a parody themselves of academic jargon. Snyder will speak about “Holy Pasta and Authentic Sauce: The Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Messy Implications for Theorizing Religion,” while Gavin Van Horn’s presentation is titled “Noodling around with Religion: Carnival Play, Monstrous Humor, and the Noodly Master.”

Using a framework developed by literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin, Van Horn promises in his abstract to explore how, “in a carnivalesque fashion, the Flying Spaghetti Monster elevates the low (the bodily, the material, the inorganic) to bring down the high (the sacred, the religiously dogmatic, the culturally authoritative).”

Folks who can’t make it to the American Academy of Religion’s meeting can still download, print out, and make a paper-model Flying Spaghetti Monster at home.

Comments on Flying With the Spaghetti Monster:
#1 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 12:58 PM:

It was only a matter of time before something like this happened. I love it.

#2 ::: -dsr- ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 01:18 PM:

Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Spaghetti.

#3 ::: Susan Kitchens ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 01:19 PM:

And once you get a little whiff of the academic deconstructionist stuff (don't know if it goes in AAR circles; I think I hovered at a convention once 'cause a friend was presenting), but I can see it now... if FSM takes on, there'll be Derrida-ites who'll talk concept shop countering the prevailing pastarchial constructs, and employ many other words ending in -ist.

#4 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 01:20 PM:

DSR @ #2: Thanks, I was about to say the same thing.

*chuckle*

#5 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Odd timing on this. I was at lunch the other day with a bunch of guys from the new job. Somebody started talked about a Nova special on (IIRC) evolution that they'd watched the night before. By way of sounding out my new colleague's geek credentials, I countered with a brief introduction to pastafarianism.

Nobody had ever heard of it; most laughed. One guy, however, took deep offense. "That's just designed to be insulting," etc., etc. (Well, yeah.) He then treated us to a 20 minute description of his "deeply held religious beliefs" and concluded with the assertion that he should get a refund on his taxes because he was home-schooling his kids to protect them from secular humanism.

See also this boing-boing entry..

#6 ::: Dave ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 01:31 PM:

The FSM is just an upstart, and his followers are blaspheming heretics!

Everyone knows that the true atheist deity is the Invisible Pink Unicorn (pbuh)!

#7 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 01:38 PM:

Scott @ 5: "That's just designed to be insulting"--and nobody replied, "Yeah, but intelligently"--?

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 01:39 PM:

I remember a Far Side cartoon showing the aliens zipping aroung space in their flying saucer, on the side of which one could see the alien version of a fish. That was years before the FSM. I wonder...

#9 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 01:56 PM:

Re: Dave @ #6:

Infidel defiler.

Russel @ #7:

Sadly, no. The new job is shaping up to be tolerable but almost entirely without humor.

#10 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 01:56 PM:

Sadly Pastafarianism is riddled with falsehoods; their piracy/global warming data are clearly refuted by the data from the International Maritime Bureau. At least they admit that modern piracy is sordid, violent organised crime, although their views on "the fun-loving buccaneers from history" are distinctly revisionary.

#11 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 01:59 PM:

The FSM's "hand" in creating the universe is shown by the existence of alfredo sauce. Surely such a divine substance could not have come into existence by mere chance

#12 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 02:01 PM:

Neil @ #10:

Heretic.

#13 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 02:10 PM:

This is most excellent. I wonder if anyone will have their nose out of joint because of it like Scott @ 5's co-worker did.

#14 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 02:23 PM:

Kayjayoh @ #13: Would I be a horrible person if I said, "I hope so, just because it's so damned entertaining"?

#15 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 02:30 PM:

My father's going to be at that conference. I wonder if he'll attend the FSM panel (and what he'll think if he does).

#16 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 02:42 PM:

The FSM rocks, but I'm also a Frisbeetarian - I believe that when I die, my soul lands on the roof.

#17 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 02:45 PM:

Off topic: Has anyone else noticed that the counters showing on the front page here appear to be frozen?

#18 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 02:46 PM:

Summer Storms (17): Yes, just now. The recent comments list doesn't seem to be updating, either.

#19 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 02:51 PM:

Re #13:

Yes; I also dislike Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, for pretty much the same reasons.

That being--I don't like mockery as a tool to reinforce power and privilege.

#20 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 03:06 PM:

Sam @ #19: Whose power and privilege are reinforced by the FSM?

And, in unrelated news: Okay, who broke the blog?

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 03:11 PM:

Yes, the front page's update of posts appears to be broken. All right, who is it that reversed the polarity in the plasma conduit?

#22 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 03:23 PM:

Scott 5: That guy sounds like just the sort who ought to be made angry as often as possible, until he either gets over himself (and that type are generally hubristic in the extreme) or pops a blood vessel, improving the world either way.

Summer 14: You and I can be horrible people together.

Sam 19: Um...I second Summer's question. The FSM attacks the most privileged thing in America, which is conservative Christianity.

#23 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 03:24 PM:

Serge @#21: I swear I didn't get anywhere near the conduit with the new portable superelectromagnet... Really.

I am also glad that FSM has seemed to attract "professional" interest, though.

#24 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Actually it mainly attacks Intelligent Design, and points out that ID was being unfairly privileged. It's just and proper to make ridiculous things seem as ridiculous as they really are.

#25 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 03:47 PM:

OK. I'll state, but not argue, my opinion. This blog is good-tempered and I'm not good at arguing about this good-temperedly.

I think that traditionalist religion is very under-privileged in the US; it is very rare among the elite, and their preferences dominate public life.

#26 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 03:51 PM:

SamChevre @ 25: Do you consider "traditionalist" different from "fundamentalist", then?

#27 ::: retterson ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 03:52 PM:

#24 -- Precisely.

And the Church of the FSM been around for some time now (years). (I know that I've been a practicing Pastafarian on Mondays for at least two years now.)

When you have a chance -- read the hate mail on the website. Henderson publishes the hate mail he receives so everyone can get a sense of what kinds of people are among those who most fervently support ID.

The Nova special on ID was excellent, and I marvelled at Nova's restraint and their graciousness in presenting the ID side.

#28 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 03:56 PM:

zeynep... What about the dilithium crystals? Did you take one out of the flow's grid just because Elaan thought it'd make a reallyreallyreally nice necklace?

#29 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 03:59 PM:

Dave @ 6

No, you heretic, the only true unfaith is the Invisible Punk Unicorn

#30 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:05 PM:

Yes, the blog seems to be broken.

There's also some planned service down-time this evening.

I don't know if these two events are related.

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:07 PM:

Sam 25: I'll just say that I strongly disagree with your assessment.

#32 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Bruce @29--Be careful not to base your creed on a scribal error (one confusion of digits and you've generated a schism).

#33 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Shadowsong @ #26; Traditionalist is a big group; fundamentalist a small group, and not really clearly meaningful outside Christianity. An orthodox Jew, a Wahabi Muslim, a devout Catholic, an OPC Presbyterian, and Jerry Falwell are all traditionalist religious; only Jerry Falwell is fundamentalist.

#34 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:22 PM:

I've always been a big fan of Fundies Say The Darndest Thing

One great comment from there, spectacular in its cluelessness: "One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn't possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it."

#35 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:25 PM:

Steve, that's always been one of my all-time favorites from that site.

Some of those fundies really need to put down the Kool-Aid and look up at the sky a little more often.

#36 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:28 PM:

Sam @ #25: OK. I'll state, but not argue, my opinion. This blog is good-tempered and I'm not good at arguing about this good-temperedly.

I think that traditionalist religion is very under-privileged in the US; it is very rare among the elite, and their preferences dominate public life.

And likewise, I will good-temperedly respond with my own opinion, gleaned from years of observation:

Traditionalist religion (if by that you mean mainstream churches in the typical Protestant and Catholic mold, varying flavors of mainstream Judaism, etc.) is by no means "underprivileged". The beauty of the U.S. model has long been the understanding that no religion is to be given privilege over any other. Our Founders built that right into the Constitution, and for good reason. Now, of course, that's governmental. From the societal angle, I can't see any way in which traditionalist religions have any less privilege than any other. Freedom of religion in this country means that individuals get to choose their faith, and if fewer of them are choosing the traditionalist route, so be it. If any particular religion is losing numbers, etc. then that faith needs to examine itself as to why, and seek to attract more followers. But that isn't a matter of privilege, it's more like the workings of a free market.

As for this so-called "elite" you mention, I'm not exactly sure who you are referring to, but it doesn't really matter whose "preferences" are best reflected in pop culture (assuming your elite are the Hollywood or jet-set because when it comes to individuals choosing the spiritual path that resonates best with them, that's a pretty personal decision and no one worth having in the pew next to you is going to join a religion because some movie star or pop idol recommended it.

I've lived my life primarily in that grey area where the Northeast meets the Midwest, both in small towns and in big cities. I've met plenty of traditionally religious people, and in fact they've tended to be among the more-privileged classes in some of those places. I grew up in a mainstream Lutheran church, which I'd place unhesitatingly into the "traditionalist" category (I remember there being an unholy uproar in the ranks just over the introduction of a new Book of Worship when I was about fourteen, for crying out loud). Well, where I lived at the time, if you weren't either Lutheran or Catholic, you weren't even on the radar half the time, culturally or otherwise. I've since left both Lutheranism and Christianity for Unitarian Universalism, but if where I live now doesn't qualify as Catholic Central, I don't know what does. And here's a hint: the elite* here often send their kids to Catholic schools, even if the families themselves aren't Catholic. Why? Because of the educational quality.

Seems to me that traditional religion has plenty of privilege, from where I sit watching.

* In this instance, I am referring to the wealthy, the business moguls, and those who themselves are highly educated and want an education of the same caliber for their children.

#37 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:34 PM:

Ubizmo is the elder god. The FSM is an upstart.

#38 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:38 PM:

What would Cthulhu do?

#39 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:40 PM:

Between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit.

Obey it.

#40 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:41 PM:

Most definitions of fundamentalist I've seen describe it as including a belief that religious scripture is to be interpreted literally. Legalistic interpretations of scripture are also common (see: sharia law, for example), but literalism is really the key.

A quick Google search of newspaper articles turns up multiple descriptions of Wahhabism as fundamentalist. I grew up Presbyterian but I've never heard of OPC - I'm guessing they're even more conservative than PCA, by the looks of it. I would consider PCA, due to their literal tendencies, to be on the verge of fundamentalism. Orthodox Jews also tend towards literal interpretation, at least for certain scholars.
So I would consider 3 (2 and two halves) out of your four as fundamentalist, and that's only because I don't know enough about OPC to come to a conclusive verdict.

"Fundamentalist" versus "traditionalist" seems like a bit of a disingenuous distinction, in my opinion. Especially considering that many people who hold with literal fundamentalist interpretations of their particular scriptures would say that their interpretation is a return to the "traditional" interpretation.

#41 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:44 PM:

SamChevre #33: One problem with your comment is that some of those "traditionalist" movements you're talking about aren't all that traditional. The Wahabi movement, for example, was founded in the 18th century. A "devout" Catholic might invest his devotion in orthodoxy or reformism or outright heresy. Some Orthodox Jews, the Hassidim for example, are also following young movements.

What all these movements have in common is that one group within a religion is declaring itself the One True Heir to that religion's history, and thereby portraying the remaining believers in that religion as somehow not real believers. The common use of "devout" for politically retrograde Catholics is probably the most blatant example, especially since some of these so-called traditionalists advocate newfangled doctrines like Marionism Mariolatry.

#42 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:44 PM:

Using "fundamentalist" outside its technical sense is tendentious, because what it means then is "takes a stricter interpretation than I accept."

#43 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:44 PM:

As long as I'm felling good-tempered, I'll keep talking--just don't be annoyed if I disappear.

I think we mean the same thing by elite--well-educated, wealthy, passing on their advantages to their children.

But traditionalist is still causing confusion. I DON'T mean "mainstream Protestant;" I mean "groups whose positions haven't changed much in the last 100 years." Mostly in the Protestant world this is the breakaway groups (LCMS, PCA, OPC, SBC) and the old independent churches, NOT the "mainstream" Protestants (ELCA, PCUSA, ABC).

My observation is that the proportion of religious traditionalists in the elite is much much lower than that in the country as a whole; that the government reflects the positions of the elite, in general; and that the result is that religion in general, and traditional religion in particular, is much less influential than it would be in a pure democracy.

Saying you are UU makes me think--are you familiar with Doug Muder's writing? I am a considerable fan--"Red Family, Blue Family" is a brain-changing piece. Also, "Flies vs Hammers", and the sermon on "Right and Left Together".

#44 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:47 PM:

#33 SamChevre --

"Fundamentalist", in a Christian sense, refers to the followers of "The Fundamentals", a series of pamphlets from the Niagara Bible Conferences, which ran from 1878-1897. These pamphlets attempted to set out "the fundamentals" of Christianity -- things that everybody (every Protestant, at least!) could agree on despite any other doctrinal differences.

From what I've seen of them, they aren't particularly bad. Unfortunately, there is no particular agreement on what "the fundamentals" are, or even how many of them there are. Fourteen seems to be the best guess. The pamphlets are available online, but life's too short for fuzzy PDFs.

The right wing nutcases, I call "Fundies". It gets confused with "fundamentalist", but it's easier than "premillennial dispensationalists" or "dominionists", which are technical terms for subsets of Fundies, anyway.

I have no beef with Fundamentalists (some of my best friends, etc). Don't get me started on Fundies.

#45 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:51 PM:

Shadowsong--you guessed right; OPC is somewhat more conservative than the PCA, on some questions. Basic difference is history, not doctrine--OPC broke off from "northern" Presbyterian church (UPCUSA), PCA broke off from the "southern" Presbyterian church (PCUS), PCUS and UPCUSA merged to form today's PCUSA.

#46 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 04:58 PM:

I have been touched by his Noodly Appendage, I am proud to say.

FSM was at DragonCon, mingling with the masses.

And I felt truly blessed.

#47 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 05:05 PM:

Hmm. I thought the FSM was a response to the main premise of Intelligent Design, which was that "somebody/something" intervened in evolution at various times*. The idea is that "somebody/something" was not necessarily a "god" in the usual sense, so it's not "really" Creationism.**

To the Pastafarians, the FSM is the "somebody/something". When religious types get offended, it shows where ID really is going -- "somebody/something" will be identified with their God.

And the FSM doesn't care if you donate money to their church or not.

* Which times? Nobody knows.

** Note that it denies "young Earth" creationism, at least.

#48 ::: novalis ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 05:08 PM:

Eric, that's just a Utah Teapot which was used to stand in for the FSM during test renders. Unfortunately, the wrong version of the render was imported into our universe, so we're stuck with it for now.

#49 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 05:37 PM:

SamChevre, it may be true (or it may not, I don't have enough information to say either way) that "traditionalist religion" as you define it is an "under-privileged" group in the US. What I fail to understand is in what way you think the FSM uses, as you say at #25, "mockery as a tool to reinforce power and privilege," seeing as what the FSM is mocking is not traditionalist religion as you define it, but religion in general and creationist ID in particular.

I mean, sure, traditionalist religion as you define it is a subset of the much wider set (of all religion) that the FSM mocks, but so are a heck of a lot of other things, some of which have a great deal of power and influence indeed. It seems odd to single out a particular thread of religion that may or may not be underprivileged and say that FSM is mocking it in order to keep that specific kind of religion that way.

#50 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 05:39 PM:

Sam @ #43: Nope, I haven't read much of Muder's work, but since you've provided a link, I will. Just skimming through the main page piques my interest.

As for the proportion of religious traditionalists among the elite, I still don't see how that translates into them being underprivileged in any way. After all, there's no external mechanism that I can see actually keeping them out of that group. Can you honestly point to one?

(And by the way, this shouldn't be the sort of discussion that can't be conducted in a good-tempered manner. We're all adults here, we appear to have all learned the fine art of polite discourse, and how to disagree without being disagreeable, so that ought to stand us in good stead on any topic. Or perhaps I'm more naive than I thought.)

As for some of your choices as to who deserves the label of "traditionalist", I have the same problem as many here with the inclusion of, frex, the Wahhabists. I also disagree with your inclusion of the LCMS, as their position on a number of things is certainly different from the standard Lutheran position of a century ago. The Missouri Synod were and are more along the lines of wannabe Baptists than anything resembling traditional German- or Scandinavian-American Lutheranism ca. 1900. (Disclosure: I'm descended from a long line of Swedes.) The ELCA has moved less from 19th century Lutheranism than has the LCMS, and in fact they were the breakaway group. All this was happening at the same time as the Book of Worship brouhaha I alluded to earlier, and as I was a 3rd year confirmation student in a pretty intense program run by our pastor, this had been a hot topic even in class, and made even moreso by the fact that some of us had extended families that were being split along theological lines by the schism - Mom, Pop and kids in a church that was remaining ELCA, Aunt, Uncle and cousins in one that was opting to go with the LCMS, all that sort of thing (fortunately, my family wasn't one of them, but I had classmates in that position). Add in the fact that I belonged to one of the more rigorously traditional among ELCA congregations at the time, and, well, there's nothing like being squeezed from both sides, is there?

I must admit that I find this statement of yours both puzzling and troubling:

My observation is that the proportion of religious traditionalists in the elite is much much lower than that in the country as a whole; that the government reflects the positions of the elite, in general; and that the result is that religion in general, and traditional religion in particular, is much less influential than it would be in a pure democracy.

First off, our government isn't anything to do with religion, or at least, it certainly isn't supposed to be in the business of promoting a religion or religious POV. See the First Amendment and the commentary of Jefferson et al regarding the relationship between church and state.

Secondly, this nation was never intended to be a pure democracy. Again, read up on the views of Jefferson and his collegues with regard to democracy and the pitfalls they perceived it to entail. Quite simply, we do not have a "majority rule" democracy, and for very good reason: when the majority rules, the minority tends rather quickly to lose rights and become oppressed. Also, there is often very little to distinguish a majority from a mob, and mob rule is both ugly and brutish (and tends to make short the lives or at least the freedom of minorities).

What we do have, or at least what the Founders intended us to have, is a Republic in which everyone's rights and freedoms are protected equally, regardless of religion or opinion, and where no majority, no matter how overwhelming, is in a position to abrogate them.

#51 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 05:43 PM:

D'oh! My line above, "The ELCA has moved less from 19th century Lutheranism than has the LCMS, and in fact they were the breakaway group" should be amended to read, "The ELCA has moved less from 19th century Lutheranism than has the LCMS, and in fact the LCMS were the breakaway group."

If I'm going to post something that long and involved, the least I can do is attempt to be as clear as possible.

#52 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 05:59 PM:

The FSM, along with the hoarier (but less hairy) celestial teapot, was honorably featured at last year's Beyond Belief conference. I listened to all 20-odd hours online, with an eye towards writing a summary article, but the quantity of good stuff was overwhelming so I had ten cups of coffee and reviewed some CDs instead.

Were any ML readers at Beyond Belief 2008? It just happened and the sessions aren't up at the website yet.

#53 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 06:00 PM:

Heh. I meant, were any at Beyond Belief 2007.

#54 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 06:01 PM:

In #48, Novalis writes:

Eric, that's just a Utah Teapot which was used to stand in for the FSM during test renders. Unfortunately, the wrong version of the render was imported into our universe, so we're stuck with it for now.

For the theologically curious, Steve Baker gives an account of Martin Newell's Teapot.

If you or your library have access to IEEE journals, Frank Crow's history of the teapot is here (PDF here).

#55 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Jon @ #52 & #53: Damn, and here for a moment I thought you were suggesting that this crew had invented time travel and were making such regular use of it as to render it mundane enough to mention in the same manner as one might casually suggest popping over to the white sale at Target. (Nothing would surprise me, heheh.)

#56 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 06:08 PM:

Scott H @12 - actually I'm spaghnostic.

#57 ::: Kristen ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 06:28 PM:

Sam @ #43, I'm a huge fan of Doug Muder's writing, too. "Red Family, Blue Family" was a watershed brain-changing article for me to read, too.

And yet I come to exactly the opposite conclusion that you do with respect to the influence of what you label "traditionalist" and I would label "fundamentalist" religion in the U.S. Traditionalists/Fundamentalists (red family type folk) have had the Republican Party by the short and curlies for the past 25 years or so. Because of that, our Supreme Court has people on it who will most likely overturn Roe v Wade. Precisely because of the control exercised over our government by traditionalists/fundamentalists/red family type folks.

And intelligent design in schools (which the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a response to) is attributable to nothing other than t/f/rftf exercising power over government.

Limousine liberal elites are so 40 years ago. Welcome to government brought to us by The Heritage Foundation.

#58 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 06:31 PM:

This discussion certainly CAN be conducted in a good-tempered manner; that I can't always manage it is my problem, not anyone else's.

I absolutely agree that the government we have isn't, and wasn't intended to be, a pure democracy; I'm in favor of liberty, and view the connection between liberty and democracy as small.

Points of agreement covered, on to the points of disagreement.

As to "what mechanisms keep religious traditionalists out of the elite"--that's why mockery gets under my skin so fast; it's a very very effective tool for marginalization. That's why mocking traditionally disfavored groups arouses such hostility by those working to change traditional power structures. (For example, jokes reinforcing traditional stereotypes about women are ferociously opposed by most feminists; those about blacks, by anti-racist groups; and so forth.)

Mark Kleiman has a couple great pieces on religion and politics/status/etc. Here's the argument with P Z Myers , and here's The Christian Closet (make sure to click on "oh, wait".)

With "traditionalist", I'm trying to capture something important, that I'm having a hard time articulating. (And I'm from the anabaptist tradition, so Lutheranism is not my area of expertise; I thought it was the LCMS that didn't ordain women.) There's a whole group of related-but-not-identical theological issues that I'm trying to group together, because sociologically, they go together. Gender roles; view of scripture; view of the importance of the faith community and its traditional practices; and on and on, but those are the usual hot-buttons.

And "our government ... isn't supposed to be in the business of promoting a religion." I agree, except I don't mean the same thing by the words.

I don't recognize or consider legitimate the religion/ethics distinction. All law--all government policy--is based on some idea of right and wrong, which isn't and can't be proven. Thus, the government ALWAYS favors some points-of-view; to define mine as "religious" and so not to be promoted by government, while yours (generic you) are "ethical" and so it's perfectly OK for the government to promote them, is not neutral.

This non-neutrality is problematic. One answer is to limit the government's sphere of influence. With the government controlling something like 80% of the economy, that's not an option we've taken. (80%--direct government spending + entities with government contracts + entities that rely on government spending--is a total guess.)

So the result is that the government is neutral among organized religious groups, but actively favors the non-religious over the religious. That's not what "no establishing a national church" means in my view.

I must go--have a good evening.

#59 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 06:39 PM:

Real quick response to Kristen @ 57.

I don't like "fundamentalist" because it has a very specific theological meaning, as pointed out by lightning @ 44, that includes anti-Catholicism. I think Richard John Neuhaus is a pretty key figure, and calling him a fundamentalist is like calling Hezbollah a Wahabhi group.

#60 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 07:02 PM:

Summer Storms #1: This isn't even the first "joke religion" that's gotten "out of hand"; in recent times we've had the Discordians and the Church of the Sub-Genius, and I suspect there were prior examples.

#61 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 07:25 PM:

Sam @ #58: As to "what mechanisms keep religious traditionalists out of the elite"--that's why mockery gets under my skin so fast; it's a very very effective tool for marginalization. That's why mocking traditionally disfavored groups arouses such hostility by those working to change traditional power structures. (For example, jokes reinforcing traditional stereotypes about women are ferociously opposed by most feminists; those about blacks, by anti-racist groups; and so forth.)

The FSM doesn't mock traditional religion specifically. It mocks the sort of specific religious thinking that insists on inserting doctrinal teachings into places where they don't belong; namely, secular public schooling, scientific discussion, etc.

Nothing about the FSM says that religionists of whatever stripe should not follow the dictates of their consciences or religious doctrine when it comes to exercising personal beliefs. It merely points out - and rightly so - how ridiculous it is for Person A or Group A to insist that anyone else should be required to recognize whatever A regards as a deity and give deference to that entity.

With "traditionalist", I'm trying to capture something important, that I'm having a hard time articulating. (And I'm from the anabaptist tradition, so Lutheranism is not my area of expertise; I thought it was the LCMS that didn't ordain women.)

It is the LCMS that doesn't ordain women. Are you seriously defining "traditional" on the basis of the ordination of women? Believe me, there is a LOT more to Lutheran theology (and that of most other Christian denominations) than the positions women may hold in their congregations.

There's a whole group of related-but-not-identical theological issues that I'm trying to group together, because sociologically, they go together. Gender roles; view of scripture; view of the importance of the faith community and its traditional practices; and on and on, but those are the usual hot-buttons.

Ahem. Plenty of what you might not term "traditional" religious denominations place a high value on the faith community. UU's are pretty non-traditional, at least (I would imagine) on your spectrum, but our congregations and communities are very important to us.

I don't recognize or consider legitimate the religion/ethics distinction. All law--all government policy--is based on some idea of right and wrong, which isn't and can't be proven.

Doesn't make it a religion. It's still ethics.

Thus, the government ALWAYS favors some points-of-view; to define mine as "religious" and so not to be promoted by government, while yours (generic you) are "ethical" and so it's perfectly OK for the government to promote them, is not neutral.

What, exactly, about the idea that a deity created the universe is NOT religious? Forgive me, but I don't think you realize what the purpose of the whole FSM satire even is. It's got nothing to do with governmental promotion of ethics through laws. It's about the idea of not indoctrinating public school children with religious beliefs using the taxpayers' money and eating up time that should be spent on academic pursuits. Teaching religion to kids is the job of parents and clergy, not the job of government and public schools.

So the result is that the government is neutral among organized religious groups, but actively favors the non-religious over the religious. That's not what "no establishing a national church" means in my view.

Since when does the U.S. government actively favor the non-religious over the religious? In this universe, I mean?

And no, treating things from a religiously-neutral (i.e. not involving religion at all) is NOT "favoring" anyone. It merely leaves religion completely out of the governmental equation and up to the conscience of the individual.

You also might want to note that lately, the government has,in fact, been abandoning this neutral stance and leaning more in favor of religion over secular points of view in the public sphere. This is precisely what has led to the topic of this discussion in the first place.

#62 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 07:26 PM:

David Harmon @ #60: You've got a problem with the Discordians and the Church of the SubGenius? ;-)

#63 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 07:58 PM:

xopher @ #22: you mean like this guy?

#64 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 10:09 PM:

Lila 63: Yeah, that guy needs his meds adjusted.

#65 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 10:13 PM:

Or maybe he just needs to get drunk, stoned, and or laid.

He sure as hell needs something, though.

#66 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 10:14 PM:

I like the Herbangelists, but they aren't particularly exclusive of other denominations: I could be a Pastafarian at the same time. This is according to the word of Pope Elst.

#67 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 11:18 PM:

re 50: In fact the LCMS dates back to 1840, so it is hardly plausible to say that they are a "breakaway" group. What one finds with all of Protestant groups in the USA except the Anglicans and the various Anabaptist and millenialist sects is that they started out fragmented and gradually sorted themselves out into one large group and some smaller groups, generally with the big group being the "mainline" flavor and some of the smaller being traditionalist/"fundamentalist"/conservative. What this meant in the case of the Lutherans is that the pre-existing theological tensions in the 19th century were reflected in where the various bodies ended up at the end of the 20th. Putting ELCA together took a long time, and both the LCMS and WELS ended up outside it because they never joined it along the way. (Neither did a fourth group which ended up in the UCC.) There's a weak sense in which LCMS could be partially attributed to some conflicts back in Saxony even further back, but it just isn't the case that they broke away from ELCA or its predecessors.

#68 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 11:20 PM:

#33: 'fundamentalist a small group, and not really clearly meaningful outside Christianity'

The Battle for God, by Karen Armstrong, goes into Jewish, Muslim, and Christian fundamentalists, and how they resemble each other. There are also fundamentalist Hindus (remember when some Hindus destroyed a Mosque at Ayodhya in 1992?), Buddhists, etc.

#41: 'One problem with your comment is that some of those "traditionalist" movements you're talking about aren't all that traditional.'

Fundamentalism as we know it today is a recent phenomenon; a reaction to modernism. It asserts the literal truth of its holy texts or traditions over science; it nonetheless reinterprets those texts or traditions; and it often involves charismatic leaders and obedient followers.

#42: 'Using "fundamentalist" outside its technical sense is tendentious, because what it means then is "takes a stricter interpretation than I accept."'

Not really. Fundamentalists typically insist that a literal interpretation is correct, and that they know what that literal interpretation is. There's a big difference between that and just about every other kind of interpretation. For one scholar's personal experience of going from literal to nonliteral, see:

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, by Bart D. Ehrman
http://www.amazon.com/Misquoting-Jesus-Story-Behind-Changed/dp/0060738170

For several related ways to characterize religious movements to tell which ones are likely to actually be of much use to their followers, not to mention which ones are likely to be dangerous to them and other people, see:

Spiritual Choices: The Problems of Recognizing Authentic Paths to Inner Transformation
http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Choices-Recognizing-Authentic-Transformation/dp/0913729140

#44: '"Fundamentalist", in a Christian sense, refers to the followers of "The Fundamentals", a series of pamphlets from the Niagara Bible Conferences, which ran from 1878-1897. These pamphlets attempted to set out "the fundamentals" of Christianity -- things that everybody (every Protestant, at least!) could agree on despite any other doctrinal differences.'

Oh, really? Every Protestant agreed even at that time that every word in the Bible is literally true? Even the parables that Jesus says are stories that represent something else?

#59: 'I don't like "fundamentalist" because it has a very specific theological meaning, as pointed out by lightning @ 44, that includes anti-Catholicism.'

It was around the same time as the Niagara list of Protestant fundamentals was being written that Pope Pius IX declared himself infallible....

#43: 'My observation is that the proportion of religious traditionalists in the elite is much much lower than that in the country as a whole; that the government reflects the positions of the elite, in general; and that the result is that religion in general, and traditional religion in particular, is much less influential than it would be in a pure democracy.'

You may want to look into how the current U.S. administration has packed every agency and department with what you call religious traditionalists.

#69 ::: C. WIngate ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 12:55 AM:

re 68: Bart Ehrman has rather seriously gone off the rails, and Misquoting Jesus is seriously distorted. The variability he talks about is not news to the scholarly community. The thing is, it isn't important. A lot of the variation isn't even grammatically meaningful.

#70 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:08 AM:

Like all words, "fundamentalism" has drifted in core meaning. It did originally mean the belief in "The Fundamentals" as the tenets of the Faith set out in the pamphlets of that name. They asserted, among other things, the authority and inerrancy of the Scriptures, as Paul did in 2 Timothy 3:16.

But authority and inerrancy is not the same as literality. "Fundamentalism" became associated with a belief that all of Scripture as received was literally true wherever it spoke of actual events.

But fundamentalists differ among themselves as to what events described in Scripture are to be interpreted as metaphor, and what are not. The parables of Jesus are clearly metaphorical. He wasn't quoting some kind of Judean police blotter when he tells the story of the Good Samaritan; the Parable of the Talents would require the merchant to have more gold than was in circulation in the whole of Palestine at the time. But what else in the Scriptures is also to be interpreted as fictive narrative, metaphor, myth or legend?

#71 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:50 AM:

On Pharyngula recently, there was a point or reference to a post (I am lazy and apologize for not digging it up) which brought up the attacking-religion thing; the point made was that indifference is not a battle plan. Not promoting something is not the same as attacking it. It's a distinction a couple religious friends of mine have failed to see, and I was glad to have a concise way to describe it.

#72 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:57 AM:

C. Wingate @ #67: re 50: In fact the LCMS dates back to 1840, so it is hardly plausible to say that they are a "breakaway" group.

They did break away from a larger Lutheran church that had existed prior to 1840 - in Europe. You are right in correcting me on the date, however - some historical checking reminds me that the schism I recall from my teens was more localized and involved a small Lutheran congregation in my own area which for whatever reason had decided to part company with the others (most Lutheran churches there were ELCA or ALC then) and merge into the LCMS fold. It was traumatic for those who had family and friends across congregational boundaries, I recall, because some of the churches involved took the unfortunate route of pressuring certain members to more or less disassociate themselves from those who belonged to the other group, and the result was several strained and fractured relationships within families and among friends. Recall that this was done by the adults and my knowledge of it came via discussions in confirmation class and overheard conversations between various adults in church and across the dinner table in the case of my relatives. I do recall quite clearl that my own church the following year stopped sending its youth group (of which I was a member) to Luther League activities, in part because of strained relations that had developed in the dust-up. Suffice it to say that it was an ugly situation, and things in your immediate vicinity seem larger when you are young and haven't been far from home, as was certainly the case with me three decades ago.

Actually, the fact that things like this happen at all is probably part of what drove me away from organized religion for a significant portion of my adult life, despite having been quite devout while growing up. The idea of religion as a force for dividing people from one another and causing them to become exclusionary runs counter to my conviction that any truly loving deity in existence would prefer to see people set aside their differences and join together in positive purposes. It was only when I discovered UUism that I felt completely comfortable again with a religious organization.

So that's where I'm coming from, for what it's worth.

#73 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 02:05 AM:

David Harmon @ 60

There's always the First Church of Christ, Astronaut.

#74 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 02:35 AM:

I prefer Jediism, although even that is not without... difficulties. There's a schism that purports that the Way of the Sith can be practiced altruistically (aka Jacenism).

#75 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:25 AM:

Looking over at the Particles in the sidebar we find Xtreme Jesus. While it is mostly whacked-out (Jesus Christ, Soccer Player), the one showing Christ holding a cardboard "Will Work 4 Food" sign is on-message. "Least of these" and all that.

#76 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:36 PM:

The FSM is beyond deconstruction, but with a modicum of grated cheese becomes highly palatable.

#77 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:37 PM:

Dave Weingart #11: You're right. On the other hand, marinara sauce provides clear evidence of evolution.

#78 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 01:45 PM:

Carrie V #46: I saw the FSM at Dragon*Con, but didn't think to ask to be touched by His Noodly Appendage. Maybe next year....

#79 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 02:13 PM:

Summer Storm @ #62: Hardly! In fact <reach>, I've got the Principia Discordia right here -- the yellow 4th/5th edition, from Loompanics. [RIP]. I can't seem to find my two (different) Books of the Sub-Genius, but those may still be in boxes from my recent move.

Hmmm, given the hallucinatory character of current events, maybe it's time for me to reread the I! trilogy....

#80 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 03:56 PM:

I seem to respect and even to some degree subscribe to (mostly somewhat heretical sects of) various of the Old Fannish Religions, centered on such Deities as Ghu, Foo, Roscoe, The Great Spider, and Herbie (Herbangelism), with some additives from The Church of The Brotherhood of The Way, the Church of Vegetology, and such less-purely-fannish Religions as Discordianism, Frisbeetarism, and The Church of The Sub-Genius. But, though an Ordained Minister of the Universal Life Church, I find that I'm now a regular communicant of only The International(1) Church of Pan-Ethnic Cuisine. (I'd seriously consider also becoming a Theobromist, but have been unable to discover the proper Officials to make it Formal.)

(1) I'm not certain that "International" is formally part of the name, but if memory serves there have been Members in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Germany.

#81 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:09 PM:

re #72: If one goes back into Saxony and Prussia one sees that the LCMS founding in the USA traces back to political attempts to suppress church dissent in Germany. In the Prussian case it stems from a forced unification of Lutheran and Reformed churches in that state.

#82 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:23 PM:

The spurned but not-forgotten scriptures at sacred-texts.com:

Principia Discordia

The Subgenius Manifesto

And from the original tentacular religion of the past century:

The Necronomicon

There should be protests over the neglect, protests I say, at the AAR meeting.

Give us those (other) Old-Time Religions!

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Don Fitch @ 80... Herbie? As in Disney's The Love Bug? Buddy Hackett rules!

#84 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 05:36 PM:

Serge @ 83

No, praise Herbie and pass the buck!
I'm sure we can arrange for you to be boptized, sometime.

(It's based on a relatively obscure old comic strip. I heard someone testify at a Herbangelist meeting, one Worldcon, that it's a good way to keep chaplains out of your hospital room. Explaining it to the door-to-door missionaries is fun, too.)

#85 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 06:10 PM:

PJ @ 84... Drat. I was getting ready to rebuild my Altar to Buddy & Dean & Michelle.

#86 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 06:26 PM:

SamChevre #58: I don't recognize or consider legitimate the religion/ethics distinction. All law--all government policy--is based on some idea of right and wrong, which isn't and can't be proven. Thus, the government ALWAYS favors some points-of-view; to define mine as "religious" and so not to be promoted by government, while yours (generic you) are "ethical" and so it's perfectly OK for the government to promote them, is not neutral.

I don't know that I've ever read that particular argument before. It raises several questions. First, though, I consider the terms "right and wrong" to imply a religious viewpoint, so I'm going to use the terms "generally beneficial" and "generally deleterious". Unwieldy, yes, but for my purposes they have a tighter meaning.

I initially read your statement to mean "there is no difference between religion and ethics, it is all religion". This got under my skin as I have heard the argument that one must be religious to be moral and/or ethical - there is no other legitimate source. I disagree with that position, given that organized religion (and much of spirituality, though in that case mostly due to lack of spending much brain-time on the topic) has largely fallen out of favor for me, and I consider myself to have a pretty good set of ethics and/or morals. (For now, I'm going to leave the morals vs. ethics question alone - it gets me tangled up a lot...)

After discussing with my wife (who was brought up in a non-religious household, and I consider her to have a pretty good set of ethics and/or morals), she read it to mean "there's no difference between religion and ethics as to where one gets one's ideas as to what is (generally beneficial) and what is (generally deleterious). It doesn't matter where you got the ideas - we try to promote that which is (generally beneficial) and discourage that which is (generally deleterious)." (She used right and wrong, but I indicated above that I wanted to use different terms.)

Your rejection of the difference between religious and ethical bugs me because I use those terms to mean different things. I use "religious" to describe those POV's that take as first principles some established theological doctrine, be it Christian or Wiccan or Druidic or Islamic or Judaic or any other theistic or pantheistic group. I use "ethical" to describe those POV's that take as first principles the sum of recorded or observable effects of human behaviour. (Yes, I'm ignoring the generally spiritualistic - I haven't got a good definition in mind for it yet.) Note that I am not one to describe atheism or agnosticism as a theological doctrine, so to me they are not religious.

To me, gov't should promote that which is generally beneficial, and discourage that which is generally deleterious, for varying levels of "general" and "gov't". Furthermore, I want my gov't to use the largest possible set of first principles to determine what is generally beneficial and what is generally deleterious. Since I consider any given theological doctrine to be a smaller subset of all recorded or observable effects of human behaviour - as well as containing dictates that may or may not be relevant when considered against new data - I prefer my gov't to promote that which is "ethical".

Given what I've described here, and my preference for increased liberty and freedom for everyone regardless of their religious or other affinities, I firmly believe that religious reasoning does not belong in our laws. I do accept that many existing laws were likely originally based on religious reasoning. I also believe that most of the surviving ones have been re-interpreted without relying on religious reasoning as their sole supports.

That said, I thus consider a gov't that favors "ethical" POV's "neutral", or at least more "neutral" than one that favors "religious" POV's.

@Summer Storms #61: Don't forget that SamChevre is arguing that there's no legitimate distinction between "religious" and "ethical" - Though I generally agree with your statements vis-a-vis the FSM, they rely on their being a distinction made. If SamChevre won't make that distinction, SamChevre's not even going to begin to accept your arguments. Or, possibly, even be able to parse them.

To take a slight tangent, this denial of a legitimate difference between "ethical" and "religious" seems eerily similar to those arguments that attempt to put religion and science on an equal footing. The phrase "same starting points, different results" comes to mind.

@Don Fitch #80: I'll have to look some of those up, they sound interesting/vaguely familiar.

@Pyre #82: Thanks for the links, I'll add them to my backlog of "That Which Is Probably Interesting To Read", a category that is distinct from "That Which Is Probably Entertaining To Read" but has lots of overlap. Neither are guaranteed to fall into the category of "That Which I Liked" or "That Which I Found Valuable", which are again neither mutually exclusive nor inclusive.

Later,
-cajun

#87 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 07:07 PM:

Diatryma, #71: Time to dig out my favorite hoary old quotation about religious persecution:

"You don't like the Goths?"
"No! Not with the persecution we have to put up with!"
"Persecution?" Padway raised his eyebrows.
"Religious persecution. We won't stand for it forever."
"But I thought the Goths let everybody worship as they pleased."
"That's just it! We Orthodox are forced to stand around and watch Arians and Monophysites and Nestorians and Jews going about their business unmolested, as if they owned the country! If that isn't persecution, I'd like to know what is!"

- L. Sprague deCamp (Lest Darkness Fall)

#88 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 07:55 PM:

SamChevre #58, cajun #86 I think Lee @ #87 has stumbled upon the key distinction between religion and ethics: "Ethics" are about behavior and relations, whereas "religion" is fundamentally linked to membership in a group. (And the third would be "spirituality", which is about the pursuit of ecstatic experience.) Note that mythology and narrative are deeply important to all three of these, in different ways....

#89 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 07:57 PM:

I have found the Flying Spaghetti Monster

And I et him.

num num num...

#90 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:08 PM:

A friend of mine wanted to found the Disciples of Digital Awareness by forming a schism off of one of the mail order ministry certification companies, in order to establish a video game parlor with religious tax-exempt status. Unfortunately, nothing came of it.

#91 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:10 PM:

It's been said by some that the old gods died when people stopped believing in them.

For the class of gods represented by FSM, the dynamic would presumably be different. Perhaps as Pyre@82's note implies for the scriptures of some other gods in this class, they die when people stop finding them funny?

#92 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:14 PM:

Greg London #89: I have found the Flying Spaghetti Monster
And I et him.
num num num...

You know, that casts the dinner scene from Lady and the Tramp in a whole new light.

#93 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:44 PM:

#69: Sure, much of the variation is not even grammatically meaningful, and Bart Erhman says so in his book. Care to specify where he's "gone off the rails"? Or are you really saying because some, even most, variation is not meaningful, therefore no variation is meaningful? Or perhaps that because the text is literally true therefore there can be no meaningful variation?

It's amusing, by the way, that Fundamentalists have difficulty with anyone not of Their Brand of Fundamentalist being called fundamentalist. Abstraction is anathema to the literal-minded.

#94 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:48 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom: ...they die when people stop finding them funny?

The Trickster is Dead! Uh, just ignore that snickering from the coffin.... ;-)

Seriously, the FSM was intentionally constructed to be a "ridiculous god". In mythological terms, I'd say it's not itself a trickster, but the creation of one -- a prop, similar to a Tar Baby or False Bride. That trick's one of the classics, a sure draw. And as always, the joke is on those who take it too seriously....

#95 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:47 PM:

Discordianism is hardly spurned! My sister runs discordian.com and Kallisticon, a small but dedicated associated yearly conference. She also holds one of a few different public Discordian rituals at Pantheacon.

The FSM's noodly appendage has no hold on me merely because Eris got there first. I have done religious mosaic in her honor and keep it on my altar. I wanted her image to look somewhere between a medieval saint and a pulp novel cover, so I picked this (the woman in the middle) for an image source to copy.

#96 ::: Shannon ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:49 PM:

I remember a Far Side cartoon showing the aliens zipping aroung space in their flying saucer, on the side of which one could see the alien version of a fish. That was years before the FSM. I wonder...

Well, there's that great Ray Bradbury story (The Man) about a pair of astronauts that come to a planet that a Jesus-like figure has just visited. I always maintained that belief in aliens and Christianity were compatable just as long as you weren't a literalist. I've always taken the idea that God created man in His/Her image to mean that it was in the image of the Son, as God the Father doesn't have a bodily form (at least not the Christian God). So if different versions of the Son visited planets in their form, would they not be too in God's image? I think the most respectful image of God that a Christian can have is the one with the most room for imagination! Heck, maybe there's even a planet of spagetti-monsters... (Although that could cause problems if we ever met them.)

#97 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:21 PM:

I've always taken the idea that God created man in His/Her image to mean that it was in the image of the Son, as God the Father doesn't have a bodily form (at least not the Christian God).

Except that the quote about God creating Man in His image is from Genesis, and the folks who wrote Genesis had no knowledge of the Son. I suggest -- respectfully -- that you are being a tad more literal here than the folks who wrote the words meant you to be. The authors of the book of Genesis knew very well that The Lord has no physical, material body, and that "image" is not meant to describe a material state, but a spiritual reality of some sort.

#98 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:40 PM:

A.J. Luxton @ 95: "Discordianism is hardly spurned!"

By "spurned" I was referring to the AAR's neglect of these earlier f/a/d/s/ faiths in favor of the New Kidder on the Block....

Not exactly "whoring after false gods", more "hungering for r/a/w/ al-dente sensationalism" -- and why not stick with C/a/l/a/m/a/r/i/ Cthulhu if you're going to have to depict so many tentacles in your icons, anyway?

#99 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:46 PM:

Besides, "Flying Spaghetti Monster" is such a bother to type every time, it ends up having to be abbreviated "FSM".

So why not the far shorter ("Bob"), simpler ("Eris"), and easier to spell ("Cthulhu")?

#100 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 06:06 AM:

Greg @ 89: If you meet the Flying Spaghetti Monster upon the road...

#101 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 08:34 AM:

what is the sound of one meatball clapping?

#102 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 09:32 AM:

Shannon @ 96... I always maintained that belief in aliens and Christianity were compatable just as long as you weren't a literalist.

That's exactly it. Unfortunately, literalists leave themselves no room for flexibility. Heck, people from different religions based on the same Son of God being born on this here Earth went to war with each other over differences in interpretation. I can imagine how well they'd handle an alien's conception of a Messiah when there is no room in their worldview for the very existence of the alien. I've often wondered how literalists would deal with the Last Son of Krypton if he were real. The latter's stories have dealt with religion, by the way, as you can see from the recent exchange (which I've quoted before) between Clark Kent and his human mother:

"Did it bother you when I stopped going to services with you?"

"Clark, you were fourteen. Old enough to make your own decisions in that regard."

"I know, but... Did I disappoint you -- or offend you?"

"No. Not one bit. Clark, you could never disappoint me --"

"Except for melting that vase from Paris. And crashing thru the weather vane."

"And you would bend all the utensils in the house every time I made liver... Clark, my faith was my own. I brought it into your life so that you could have a foundation for making your own choices... I certainly think you've made good ones..."

Meanwhile, in the movie version of The King and I, wasn't there a discussion of the Bible? In answer to the King's doubts, I think that Anna says that the story is not to be taken literally. That was in a movie of the 1950s. Sigh. We keep revisiting the same battles.

#103 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Shannon @#96:

On the flip side, there was C.S. Lewis' take in the Silent Planet trilogy: He had it that the "Big Problem" was specific to our own planet (our planetary "archangel" withdrew from the Universal Concert), but "God" (Lewis has some SFnal descriptor) was nice enough to incarnate himself on Earth to provide an escape hatch.

But there's a side effect... while prior worlds had a variety of sentients, all worlds "seeded" after the Incarnation (notably Venus -- he has a "creationist cosmology") will be inhabited by humans, because having honored our own form with divinity, he would not saddle sentience with any form less honored. (Thus squelching any "Earth uber alles" implications of our
specialness.)

PS: Something that struck me about the discussions of Lewis's work: All over the thread, there were people getting offended about Christian allusions, none of whom seemed to recognize that in these fictional worlds, the presence and working of such a God is also part of the world-mechanics -- just as the Elder and Old gods were for Lovecraft et seq, or the Arisians and Eddorians were for E.E. Smith.

#104 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 02:18 PM:

I think one of the potentially most deadly supreme beings has got to be Santa Claus. If he were to decide that the world isn't worth saving because too many people are naughty instead of nice, he could inundate the world's oceans with Bratz Kidz Sleep-Over Adventure Super Secret Lotion-Making Bathroom with Phoebe playsets. That would be bad.

#105 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 03:20 PM:

Can somebody tell me what Philip José Farmer's stories of Father Carmody were about? From the bits and pieces I've gleaned here and there over the years, he was a missionary going around the Galaxy bringing the Word of God to non-humans. But were the stories about that, or was his being a missionary a cute thing thrown in that could have been excised without affecting the plots?

#106 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 07:25 PM:

I'd like to suggest to Sam Chevre, who feels that the Flying Spaghetti Monster routine is all about attacking and mocking "traditional religion," that "traditional religion" isn't incommensurate with supporting a vigorous division between church and state. One can believe that a piece of bread becomes the Body of Christ and appreciate the point made by "His Noodly Appendage," namely, that no one should enjoy special civic privileges because of what they decide to have religious faith in.

Another point made by the FSM is that all religions look crack-brained to those outside of them--including yours. Anyone who finds this observation "insulting" probably needs to rethink.

#107 ::: Earl Cooley IIi ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 08:03 PM:

...or receive a cult deprogramming intervention.

#108 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 04:08 AM:

Sadly, I have in fact seen a very serious fundamentalist pamphlet stating with great finality that there could not possibly be extraterrestrial life, and quoting some scripture or other to support this. I'm a sci-fi geek and fond of CS Lewis's idea (from one of his essays) that if aliens do exist, then God would arrange it so they could get in touch with him themselves (Christ would incarnate for them in a form compatible with their own if they needed him to, for example)--no need to pretend we know whether aliens exist or not, since under this theory it doesn't hurt Christianity at all if aliens do exist. So I spluttered incoherently at the pamphlet for a few minutes, and finally gave up, tossed it in the trash bin, and hoped the relatives watching me didn't think I was nuts for being so put out at it. I'd really LIKE for there to be aliens! And the writers were very, very sure that if there were, their religion would utterly crumble...sad.

#109 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 04:09 AM:

(Also, regarding the opening post: Ramen!)

#110 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 09:32 AM:

Now I keep imagining some zealot nailing a handful of cooked pasta to a church door....

#111 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 10:35 AM:

Cajun, Summer,

It's obvious (to me) that I didn't make myself entirely clear. Cajun's mapping of "right" and "wrong" to "generally beneficial" and "generally deleterious" helps.

Here's the problem: to decide on whether something is "generally beneficial" requires answering 2 questions.

First, who counts? Look at the list below.

The state/ethnic group
Property-owning men
Poor white men
Women
Blacks
Children
Infants
Foreigners
Chimpanzees
Dogs
Cows
Chickens

I'm going to say, all the humans count; the animals and the state don't. Aristotle's answer would be that the state and the property-owning men count. Peter Singer's answer would be that all the sentient beings count. But those three answers lead to different definitions of "generally beneficial." Laws cannot be neutral among those definitions, and I am not aware of a generally-agreed-on first principle for deciding among them.

Second, what counts as benefit?

Health?
Wealth?
Virtue?
Freedom?

Again, there's no universally-agreed-to answer here.

That's what I mean when I say that religion and ethics aren't distinguishable in law-making. Given that they aren't in this context distinguishable, I don't see why "man, being made in the image of God, must be treated as an end and not a means, and be loved and cared for from conception until natural death" is an illegitimate basis for law-making, but "all the arguments to prove man's superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals" is not.

And Patrick, I am very very aware that "separation of church and state" is not incompatible with (some forms of) traditional religion. My own (anabaptist) tradition has held that Christians can't hold political office rightly since the 1500's.

#112 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 10:54 AM:

Serge @ 105

It's been quite awhile since I read any of them, but I'm certain that Carmody's priesthood was important to many of the plots. At least two of the longer ones involve his becoming entangled with transcendence in some form or other. In one, "Night of Light", it's a force that makes you what you believe you want to be, causing immense chaos as you might imagine. In another, whose title I don't just now recall, he meets the oldest being in the Universe, jub unf fheivirq Thaahatntnc, gur nolff orgjrra guvf Havirefr naq gur cerivbhf bar, orpnhfr ur fb srnerq qrngu.

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 11:08 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 112... Thanks. I noticed this morning that Tor Books published collection "Father to the Stars". That was in 1988, but it should still be available.

#114 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Serge @# 28: Oh, those... shiny... things? Erm... um. I should have taken out an even number to keep the polarity the same didn't touch them either I swear.

*shifts out of the room shiftily*

On a more serious note, Patrick at #106:
Another point made by the FSM is that all religions look crack-brained to those outside of them--including yours. Anyone who finds this observation "insulting" probably needs to rethink.

To start with, I completely agree. But that feels like a little bit of a dead-end to me: The people who do get the point that all religions seem a bit cracked to nonbelievers are the same people who will find the FSM incredibly insulting, and work the hardest to ignore/deny that particular lesson of Pastafarianism. What kind of an approach would ensure anyone in that situation could be encouraged to rethink?

#115 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 12:05 AM:

Zeynep, what? Actually, the people who get the point about religions appearing crack-brained are the ones who are NOT offended by the FSM.

#116 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 08:58 AM:

That "appear crack-brained to outsiders" has a parallel in sports. While I thrill to tennis matches, outsiders will just see a couple of people endlessly batting a ball around. And football (which nearly *is* a religion in the US) bores me utterly, looking like a bunch of guys piling up in heaps, interrupted by tons of time-outs.

I guess that's true of all human activities -- with the possible exception of sex, to all but celibates and kids before puberty -- if you're looking at sports, war, the shenanigans of rich people, etc. strictly from outside, you'll be bored, angry, angrily envious, etc., while if you're "initiated" in some rival version of a sport, religion, and so on it will crank up the level of disgust.

(Pardon the early morning musings. Time to go for my second cup of coffee!)

#117 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 09:06 AM:

Ms Miller, do you mind if I approximate that explanation to my wife of why I love cricket? To her, as to most of the Unbelievers, it's as interesting as beige.

#119 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 01:26 PM:

Summer Storms at @#115: Ah. Yes. I proofread my comment, too, truly I did. There is a "not" missing there.

I blame whoever stole the dilithium crystal.

#120 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 01:36 PM:

Zeynep @ 119... I thought it was because somebody had spilled coffee in the Jefferies Tube.

#121 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 02:06 PM:

Faren 116: bores me utterly, looking like a bunch of guys piling up in heaps

I must say that, put that way, it sounds dramatically less boring to me.

#122 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 02:28 PM:

Serge @ #120: It wasn't Janeway's coffee, was it?

#123 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 02:50 PM:

Summer Storms @ 122... No. It was Chicoree's... I mean.. Chakotay's.

#124 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 03:15 PM:

Serge @118: How in the WORLD did you come up with that picture????
Your brain moves in mysterious ways....

#125 ::: Daniel S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Lizzy@97: If I remember correctly (it's been a while, and my Hebrew isn't the best), that entire segment of Genesis uses the word "Elohim" to denote God, a word that functions in the plural. What are we to make of God the Father in light of this?

In the spirit of fairness, a lifetime of inconstant Jewish education leaves me unable to argue the fine points of the New Testament aspect-based God, so forgive me if I'm asking a foolish question.

#126 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 03:52 PM:

Daniel @125: And what about this?

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever

Who is this "US" God's talking about????

#127 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 03:58 PM:

Emma @ 124... Serge (...) Your brain moves in mysterious ways

Darn thing isn't fitting right. Either I need a smaller skull or a bigger brain.

That being said, the photo was quite easy to find: I went to IMDB.com. Some time ago, I had been looking up "The Lion in Winter" (talk about dysfunctional families) and perused the available photos. When Dave Luckett mentionned cricket, it reminded me that some of the movie's photos showed Peter O'Toole playing cricket while in costume.

#128 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Emma @126

I think the 'us' is the Executive suite, like in the Mr. Deity vids.

Serge @127 -

When my wife and I visited England, I bought a cricket ball in Covent Garden. I took it to work with me and the Indian and Pakistani developers were all over it - couldn't keep their hands off of it.

Man, I would hate to be hit by one of those balls after a bowler let fly.

#129 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 04:11 PM:

As for 'Elohim', the party line is that it's an honorific plural. I doubt this, myself.

And the "one of us" bit is in the Yahweh section. Even if you assume YHVH uses the royal 'we', "like one of us" is pretty hard to interpret monotheistically (besides which, who the hezmana could he be TALKING TO?). There's also a bit in the psalms somewhere about Yahweh being "great among the gods."

Much as some Jews and Christians are in denial about it, evidence clearly points to polytheistic historical underpinnings to both religions.

#130 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 04:44 PM:

Much as some Jews and Christians are in denial about it....

Some of us, however, say. "Yeah. And...?"

If you can get past two different, mutually contradictory, creation stories this is nothing.

#131 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 04:47 PM:

Elohim

Biblical Israel - a land without copyeditors ...

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Making Light... The place where a thread, no matter what its original topic, will turn into a discussion of theology. Or of knitting.

#133 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:04 PM:

SamChevre @ 111: That's what I mean when I say that religion and ethics aren't distinguishable in law-making. Given that they aren't in this context distinguishable, I don't see why "man, being made in the image of God, must be treated as an end and not a means, and be loved and cared for from conception until natural death" is an illegitimate basis for law-making, but "all the arguments to prove man's superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals" is not.

The difference is that "being made in the image of God" cannot be made relevant to any ethical question without explicitly assuming what you're trying to prove.

One could just as easily say "man, being less than ten feet tall, must be treated...", and then claim that the English system of measurement and ethics aren't distinguishable in lawmaking.

#134 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:15 PM:

James 130: Yes, exactly. It's a minority who have a problem with this. I've taken to calling them "biblits," because it sounds less respectful than 'biblical literalists'.

Biblits are required to believe that rivers have hands, I was pleased to discover this past weekend ("let the rivers clap their hands").

As for the two creation stories, my personal favorite take on that is that both of them happened: first the Pantheon ('Elohim' in Hebrew) create humans, male and female. Then one of the Elohim (or more likely, the way Yahweh acts in those early books, one of their teenage kids) starts his own little project (perhaps for a science fair at Fertile Crescent Elohigh).

He puts Adam in this little terrarium, but that doesn't work out, so he makes Eve for companionship. After they eat the apple (and all parents know that if you put something within a child's reach and say "you can have anything but this," they of course won't touch it, right?), he turns them out into the world, where they become the ancestors of Semitic peoples. (And, through Cain, of some other random people here and there.) You can tell their descendents by their obsessive body taboos and stuff.

The rest of us aren't descended from Adam and Eve, don't have Original Sin, and don't need salvation.

Hey, it makes more sense than Intelligent Design!

#135 ::: flowery tops ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:19 PM:

Xopher @ 134:
That's like the story Oberon Zell tells (which you probably already know, I think) We Are The Other People. Good story!

#136 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Making Light... The place where a thread, no matter what its original topic, will turn into a discussion of theology. Or of knitting.

Or both. There's GOT to be a pattern for a knitted Jesus somewhere around here.

#137 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:23 PM:

I suspect he and I got it from the same place, a mock-Jack Chick pamphlet called The Other People. Or maybe the pamphlet got it from Oberon.

The bit about Fertile Crescent Elohigh is my own embellishment, though.

#138 ::: flowery tops ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:28 PM:

It's a good embellishment :)

#139 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:28 PM:

The rest of us aren't descended from Adam and Eve, don't have Original Sin, and don't need salvation.

Which sounds like it might be similar to the Yezidi, who believe that they aren't descended from Eve (and thus can stone young ladies to death who might go with Sunni boys, lest they mingle the blood).

#140 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:30 PM:

flowery 135: The pamphlet I spoke of? The text is almost a direct transcription of that story. Or vice versa.

#141 ::: flowery tops ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:33 PM:

Xopher @ 140: Good to know. I hadn't seen that particular tract.

#142 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:33 PM:

Oh, for shame, James. That's like saying that since you don't believe that chocolate comes from Mars, and neither do I, that you must be a Pagan like me.

Actually, of course, we're both wrong. Chocolate does come from Mars—just not the planet Mars.

#143 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:36 PM:

xopher,

The rest of us aren't descended from Adam and Eve, don't have Original Sin, and don't need salvation.

we-ee-lll, i can dig it (it's hard to tell at many points in genesis that god isn't the personal god of the hebrews, who just happens to kick butt), except for that. as far as i can tell, christians weren't significantly semitic after the first hundred years, or earlier. & judaism doesn't have original sin, & i hadn't heard islam has it.

#144 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:41 PM:

miriam, remember that this whole thing is aimed at biblits, who tend to be Christians. And part of the point, though it's never stated, is to put them in doubt about their own OS and need for salvation. It's not a serious textual analysis, it's an attempt at subversion.

Which, of course, is why I like it.

#145 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:43 PM:

#136: Or both. There's GOT to be a pattern for a knitted Jesus somewhere around here.

Like this?

#146 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:48 PM:

xopher,

sure, i know. but i'm one of those semites with lots of semitic pride, whose hackles* get raised at constructions like "judeo-christian."

which seems like where i always come in to religious discussions around here....

*i said "cockles" & then deleted it. hee. does that mean cockles are the opposite of hackles? i don't know the origin of either, but i picture them like dragon scales. so hackles are your angry scales & cockles are your happy scales. which line the inside of your heart.

#147 ::: flowery tops ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 05:52 PM:

Your cockles are chambers. It's all thanks to the word cochleae which is about snails and sounds like cockles. Nice cosy word, I always think.

#148 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 06:21 PM:

Our monster
Who art in Marinara
Noodles be thy name
Thou boil in water
Thou will be done (when)
Thy texture is al dente.

#149 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 06:25 PM:

The rest of us aren't descended from Adam and Eve, don't have Original Sin, and don't need salvation.

Really? A guy I met in Auckland (who invited me to a meeting of The Church of Christ (New Zealand)) told me that the English* were a tribe of Israel who migrated to Britain, then later on to America, Australia and New Zealand. Sadly I was too jet-lagged and polite to ask him for evidence and details.


* Which English? Well, being descended from Irish, Northern Irish**, Border Scots, English with roots (most likely)in Mercia, Wessex and the Danelaw, and maybe some, um, Dutch as well I have nearly the full set. It seems my ancestors have been having trouble with immigrants since they came to this country.
** Or Scottish

#150 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 06:30 PM:

While researching the Mayan civilization for a novel, my wife found something from the 19th Century that suggested that the Mayans were descendents of the Irish.

#151 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 06:37 PM:

Neil @ 149

That would be less believable if I hadn't seen genealogies - online and in print - that given details. Where they got the details is never explained, although I think most of it is Geoffrey of Monmouth with a large addition of 19th century wishful thinking.

#152 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 06:46 PM:

Serge #150: What, are you implying they aren't? Then how do you explain the pyramids, huh?

#153 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 07:24 PM:

Xopher #134: The rest of us aren't descended from Adam and Eve, don't have Original Sin, and don't need salvation.

Adam and Lilith (sittin' in a tree...) perhaps?

I think of Original Sin as an extortion plot to delude naughty people into thinking they could bribe God to not torture them for eternity after they die; it's an outstanding cash cow for organized religion.

#154 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 07:28 PM:

ethan @ 152... You are right. How could I not see it until now? It looks so obvious now that you've pointed it out,

#155 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 07:32 PM:

Man, I would hate to be hit by one of those balls after a bowler let fly.

The hilarious thing is that in baseball, if the batter is hit by the pitch, they walk a base. In cricket, all that happens is that after you stop rubbing the bruise, you get to face the next one. And they say it's a gentleman's game!

#156 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 08:31 PM:

Serge #150: All those Maya with names like McPech, you mean?

#157 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 09:37 PM:

The necessity for salvation does not come from the existence of Original Sin. Lots of sin still exists, though little of it is original.

Original Sin is the best explanation for the existence of Internet Trolls.

#158 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 09:41 PM:

The season being what it is, perhaps someone would be interested in one of the many knitted Nativity scenes available ready made or as patterns. Those four are just a quick selection from the first page of a search on knitted Nativity across Australian sites.

BTW, how much in the way of padding, helmets, faceguards and *ahem* 'protection' do batters in baseball wear?

#159 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 10:35 PM:

Didn't somebody post a link to a knitted HellBoy not long ago?

#160 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:00 PM:

@148

give us this day our garlic bread
and give us our tortellini

...

#161 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:22 PM:

FSM Nativity Scene

#162 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:22 PM:

Mez @ 158

The batter has a safety helmet. Period.

The catcher and the plate umpire (behind the catcher) have the most protection: a mask and a chest protector. Catchers also have shinguards.

#163 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:28 PM:

PJ @ 162

So, no *ahem* protection at all?

Ouch.

Cricket just got a bit more appealing.

#164 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:29 PM:

P J @ 162... The batter has a safety helmet.

Whoa. Baking classes are more dangerous than I thought.

#165 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:35 PM:

vian

They all wear that one, I think. I forgot about it, it's so standard.

#166 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 02:00 AM:

flowery tops @ 149

Rafael Lafferty used to tell a similar tale*, in which he claimed most of the human race were Homo sapiens sapiens, but some of us, the ones who gave a hoot about things, were really neanderthalensus, and you could generally tell by the eyebrow ridge.

* Best presented in the novel "Past Master", I think.

#167 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 02:02 AM:

Oh sorry, that should have flowery tops @ 135. Numeracy eludes me this late in the evening.

#168 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 02:04 AM:

Neil Wilcox @ 149 (I mean it this time)

English with roots

Potted English?

#169 ::: flowery tops ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 02:06 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 166:
Oh that's a nice tip, I'd like to read that too. I think I have an eyebrow ridge. How do you tell, without manhandling other people's foreheads?

#170 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 03:19 AM:

flowery tops @ 169

Look for deep-set, shadowed eyes and a noticeable horizontal cleft at the top of the nose between the eye sockets. Other indicators are widows' peaks, and ridged skulls* according to Lafferty.

These characteristics are not as pronounced as they were on our Neanderthal ancestors of 40,000 years ago; there's been a lot of interbreeding in that time**.

* One ridge front to back at the top.
** Again, according to Lafferty, who was known to tell a tall tale over a few drinks. If you mention any of this to a physical anthropologist you'd get either a pitying smile or braying laughter.

#171 ::: flowery tops ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:26 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 170:
Ah, not me, then. It's an interesting idea though, reminds me of a guy I emailed with a bit about ten years ago who felt that blood types were a genetic marker for something because honestly I have no idea what his theory was, but it was a bit loopy, and quite fascinating. My ex had a ridged skull, though, like a dinosaur.

#172 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 05:08 AM:

170: good grief, that's my strangely ridged and reinforced skull you're talking about (also with occipital bun, mastoid crest and ungrooved canine). However (massages jaw) I seem to have the mandible of a modern H. sapiens.

I can only conclude that I am a combination of the cranium from one species and the mandible from another; in other words, I am Piltdown Man.

149: you met a real British Israelite? How extraordinary. I didn't know there were any left in the wild.

#173 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 09:15 AM:

Xopher (#121): I must say that, put that way, it sounds dramatically less boring to me.

And there's also the tight pants ("tight ends", anyone?) and the lack of protection Down There.... Alas, in tennis the pants have gotten longer and baggier since the sexy Seventies. But the game still has its hunks.

#174 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 12:37 PM:

In sports, if it's Dreamy Dudes we're looking for, gimme soccer any day of the week. Although most of them desperately need new hairdos.

#175 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 12:46 PM:

ethan @ 174... Today's young men are so superficial.

#176 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 05:33 PM:

Re Baseball/Cricket: How many batters in Cricket have been killed by being hit with a pitch?

The differences in the game are mostly irrelevant (unlike the padding in American football vs. lack in rugby, where the fans of one game say the players of the other are wimps; forgetting the sorts of impact are radically different) because they are different games.

Since a batter only gets so many swings in baseball (and has to run when the ball is put into play) hitting him can put him (and his team) at a grave disadvantage. Put a couple of shots into players, and tighten up the mucsles, and the game changes a lot.

So penalising a team which plays that way makes sense. And, given the quirks of balls hitting the ground, there is some margin for accident in the striking of a cricket batter.

#177 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 07:54 PM:

hrmn... I have no prominent brow ridge, shovel incisors, a ridge (of sorts) fore and aft on my skull, an occipital bun (which I was taught to call a chignon, and otherwise very delicate, decidedly non-neanderthalensis features. I don't know about gooved canines.

I did know a fellow in school whom we were certain was a throwback. Decided eyebrow ridge, protruding lower jaw, stoop shouldered, with large hand on long arms, as well as short legs, on a stout frame.

#178 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 07:57 PM:

Oh, re batters. Some wear shin guards, and/or arm guards (on the side which faces the pitcher). This is a personal choice, not a game mandate.

As for fundies...

[on the subject of a Bible printing company]

Yes, that is a great company. I bought one of their large print version (old eyes... what can I say?).

The only thing I don't like about them is they sell foreign language versions of the KJB. I don't think that's right. We know the only true translation is the 1600's version in English.

It's too risky for anybody to translate that into other languages. Mistakes can creep in... and that can lead to heresy. True Christians should only read English."

leyenda , KJB only 2007-Aug-06

#179 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 08:09 PM:

#s 170-172: It is sorely tempting to imagine a hidden strain of Neanderthal "blood" lurking within humanity, but I'm afraid that fails parsimony. Human developmental variation is plenty loose enough to have us occasionally resemble our brother-species in bits and pieces.

#180 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 06:24 AM:

Xopher @ #134:

What about the Flood, though? The Bible says that only Noah and his family, descendants of Adam and Eve, survived it: all the Other People perished.

#181 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 08:13 AM:

Paul A: We flew away on hippogriffs, dragons, and chimeras.

#182 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 03:59 PM:

@ #180 & #181: Atlantean technology had by that time devised a broom battery with a flight time of several years.

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