Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pat Robertson Can Raise the Dead!

Or so he claims, at any rate. On The 700 Club he recently explained that he and others possessed the power to resurrect the dead, but complained that this vital skill was being withheld from the world. It seems to me there's a pretty simple solution to that particular problem - he needs to stop talking about it and start using it!

Or is that too obvious?

Today on “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson insisted that he and others have the power to raise the dead, but lamented that people these days are withholding this special skill.

Robertson, who has previously discussed dead-raising abilities, told a viewer, Margaret, that people can raise the dead when they receive and submit to the power of the Holy Spirit.

“That power is there, we just aren’t using it,” Robertson grieved.

If Pat Robertson really could raise the dead he certainly would have done so by now under controlled conditions. It would cement his standing as the greatest Christian leader in modern times, and shut up idiots like Ken Ham who attack Robertson's form of creationism for denying the (deeply silly) Ussher chronology. I swear, the man makes enough ridiculous statements that he deserves his own tag here on Augoeides.

But then again, maybe Pat really has been busy, and that's where all the ebola zombies are coming from. You never know.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alien Contactees Can't Find Jesus

Remember the Raelians? For those who need a refresher, Raelism is a contactee religion founded in 1974 that claims extraterrestrials called the Elohim created life on earth. The Raelians were in the news back in 2002 when a company associated with the movement claimed to have achieved human cloning, which was never verified by scientists outside the group and regarded as dubious by most mainstream biologists.

The latest Raelist project is a lot less ambitious. Using DNA analysis, a group of Raelians have proved that consecrated communion wafers do not contain any of Jesus' DNA. They claim that this proves "Holy Communion is a fraud," even though all it does is put them in agreement with all Protestant and Anglican denominations - which, by the way, still practice Holy Communion.

The Raelian researchers collected consecrated hosts from five different Catholic churches in the United States and Canada, and then tested the samples for human DNA. “But DNA analysis performed on five different hosts collected after the Catholic ritual of consecration showed no DNA change whatsoever in them,” Boisselier explained. “The wheat DNA remained wheat DNA, with no human DNA present other than that resulting from contamination caused by human handling of the hosts. This study clearly falsifies the claim that a religious ritual performed by a priest can actually change the substance of a bread wafer into the substance of a human body.”

The only reason this is an issue at all is because of the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which is not shared by non-Catholics. And, in fact, as I recall tests were done in the 1970's that showed communion wafers did not physically transform. There was no DNA testing back then, but researchers did find that no experimental test could distinguish consecrated wafers from unconsecrated ones. So the Raelians already had a pretty good idea of what they would find, making this more a publicity stunt than a real test.

Had the Raelians actually found human DNA in the wafers, I expect that they would instead be announcing a new initiative to clone Jesus. That's just how they think. They can argue all they want about religious dogma misleading people, but then they start gushing about messages from space aliens. Is that any more believable than transubstantiation? I'll grant that intelligent aliens probably exist somewhere in the universe, but ufologists have never been able to come up with verifiable evidence that they've contacted us - and it's not for lack of trying.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Church of the Latter-Day Dude

I like to cover strange religions here on Augoeides, and recently this one was brought to my attention - The Church of the Latter-Day Dude. That's right, it's a religion based on the Coen brothers film The Big Lebowski. It's certainly weird, but no more so than the Tiger Woods church or the Twilight church, both of which I've covered in the past.

It's also a lot more tongue-in-cheek. I'm still hoping that the Twilight church was a joke, because they sounded serious about believing that the fictional characters in the Twilight universe were real people. The Big Lebowski is also a work of fiction, but there's nothing like that going on here. As far as their beliefs go, anyone familiar with the film will be able to guess the central tenet of Dudism, which is to "abide." You know, just like The Dude.

Show the world that you’ve got what it takes to take it easy. As an ordained Dudeist Priest, you can minister over religious ceremonies in most U.S. States (laws vary, so check with your local County Clerk first), and assorted other countries. Preside over a wedding, funeral, or any kind of celebration with pride and authority.Or just kick back and enjoy the knowledge that you’re an ordained minister at one of the most easygoing religions in the world. There are currently over 220,000 Dudeist Priests world-wide. Help spread the Dude word!

The emphasis on ordination here reveals one of the reasons that "churches" like this exist. In the United States, only an ordained minister or government official can officiate at events like weddings. The Universal Life Church was the first group to offer ordination over the Internet for this purpose, and others have now gotten in on the game.

As an aside, I got myself ordained through ULC to officiate at a friend's wedding this summer. When people question me about it being a fly-by-night organization I make sure to point out that they've reformed - they don't ordain cats any more! On the application form, it now specifies that you must be human, whereas it didn't back in the late 1990's.

It's time that we separated civil and religious marriage. Make civil marriages civil only, and then churches can perform whatever rite they or the families want in accordance with their policies. Not only would this resolve the issues surrounding same-sex marriage, but it would be more in accordance with the constitutional separation of church and state.

With marriages set up that way, if you wanted a friend to officiate your ceremony they could do so as long as the legal paperwork for the marriage itself got filed properly. He or she wouldn't need to find someplace online to obtain ordination - though the Church of the Latter-Day Dude is amusing enough that some might do so anyway.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ten Commandments Monument Attacked

The saga of the Oklahoma City Ten Commandments monument keeps getting weirder. Yesterday a man was taken into custody after crashing his car into the controversial display. The monument, shown above, was knocked over and broken into several pieces. When questioned about the attack, the man explained that Satan told him to destroy it.

U.S. Secret Service Agents say it all started after a man walked into the Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City Friday morning making strange threats against the President and Federal Government.

Agents say he then admitted to them that he crashed his car into the Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol, then left his damaged car and walked to the Federal Building.

The Secret Service says the man told them that Satan made him crash his car into the statue. He also told agents that Satan told him to urinate on the statue.

According to investigators, the man says he is bipolar and had been off his medication for quite some time.

So this leaves Oklahoma lawmakers in an awkward position. With the controversy looming over the monument proposed by The Satanic Temple, the legislature recently passed a resolution that no new displays could be put up. But if they plan on putting up a new Ten Commandments monument that resolution will need to be overturned, which makes their legal footing a lot shakier.

On the other hand, if they keep the resolution in place the courthouse may revert to having no religious displays - but that's really what activist groups like The Satanic Temple have wanted all along.

Friday, October 24, 2014

RIP Peter Paddon

Yesterday I was shocked to learn of the passing of Peter Paddon. Peter was an author, podcaster, and traditional witchcraft practitioner. He was also the founder and owner of Pendraig Publishing, which released Arcana in 2009, Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy in 2011, and Mastering the Great Table earlier this year.

Peter's published works include A Grimoire for Modern Cunning Folk, Visceral Magick: Bridging the Gap Between Magic and Mundane, and Enchantment: The Witches' Art of Manipulation by Gesture, Gaze and Glamour. He was also editor of The Crooked Path Journal and host of the popular Crooked Path Pagan Podcast.

Even though Peter was my publisher I never got to know him very well. I live in Minnesota and he lived in California, and all of our business was conducted online. He was by all accounts a great guy and a good friend to many, and I had hoped that I would someday have the chance to meet him in person. But it seems that was not to be. I will always be grateful to him for taking an interest in my work, and for giving me a start as an author.

Unto Peter Paddon from whose eyes the veil of life hath fallen, may there be granted the accomplishment of his true Will; whether he will absorption in the Infinite, or to be united with his chosen and preferred, or to be in contemplation, or to be at peace, or to achieve the labour and heroism of incarnation on this planet or another, or in any Star, or aught else, unto him may there be granted the accomplishment of his will; yea, the accomplishment of his will.

My condolences go out to Peter's family and friends. He will be missed.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Vatican Library Going Online

For years rumors have been floating around the occult community that the Vatican Library houses all sorts of esoteric texts that are available nowhere else. According to the story I've heard, back in the middle ages the Roman Catholic Church seized all sorts of materials from those charged by the Inquisition, but instead of destroying the texts they sent them to Rome where they have sat in the archives ever since.

Few scholars have been given access to the collection, and as far as I know nobody with an interest in confirming or denying the rumors has been in a position to do so. But all of that may soon change. The Vatican started a project in 2013 to digitize all of the documents contained in its library, which should include any magical texts the church possesses.

The official library of the Holy See is undertaking a massive digitization project designed to upload hundred of thousands of books and images from its physical archives into an online database.

As Business Insider reports, nonprofit organization Digita Vaticana Oculus was founded in 2013 with the goal digitizing 80,000 manuscripts. That's just a little over half the approximately 180,000 manuscripts, 1.6 million books and 150,000 images that are housed in the library.

The process, as laid out by the project's website, is pretty basic. First, the manuscripts are selected and scanned by special devices designed to preserve the integrity of the original documents. Images are then saved in multiple locations to ensure long-term storage before being made available in the Vatican Library portal. Sounds simple — but imagine doing that for thousands of pages.

The project is currently underway and the first few texts are now online. The documents that have been digitized so far can be found here, with more on the way as they become available. The manual scanning process is slow and the library is vast, so the entire project is expected to take the next fifteen years. I haven't had a chance to go through all of it yet, but the samples look amazing.

I imagine that magical texts are probably low on the church's list of priorities, but as they're historically significant and interest in grimoires seems to be on the upswing I expect that they eventually will be available. Then we'll be able to see whether or not the rumors are true. I hope that they are, since we know that so many texts from medieval magical traditions have been lost over the centuries.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ten Commandments a Publicity Stunt?

With all the controversy surrounding the various Ten Commandments monuments around the country, many have dismissed non-Christian proposals by groups like The Satanic Temple as publicity stunts. The critics do have a point, in that Christianity is by far the majority religion in the United States and many of the groups themselves admit that their reasons for proposing monuments have more to do with bringing attention to the separation of church and state than the statues themselves.

Cracked, which has transitioned from a knock-off of Mad magazine to a site that produces humorous articles with some surprisingly good journalism, has an article up today that points out another side of the Ten Commandments dispute (see #5 on the list). It turns out that many of the monuments that Christians are working so hard to protect were themselves created as publicity for the 1955 film The Ten Commandments.

While Cecil B. DeMille was working on the movie, he learned that a judge from Minnesota had been working with a Christian fraternal organization to send framed copies of the Ten Commandments to schools and public buildings for display. Not in anticipation of a big epic movie coming out, but because he thought America needed reminding of God's laws before those filthy beatniks could corrupt the nation.

Eager for publicity, DeMille contacted the judge and suggested that they replace the framed certificates with bronze tablets, but the judge said no way. Moses' tablets were in granite, so bronze wouldn't do (apparently no one bothered pointing out that framed paper certificates were just fine for the judge before DeMille and Paramount got involved).

So, with DeMille's backing, around 150 granite tablets were made and distributed across the country, with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner dedicating a few of them in person. Having Heston and Brynner on a faux religious tour was great publicity for the film, which grossed around $80 million. When the movie was out of theaters, the monuments stayed, and the group that helped the judge at the beginning of the story kept right on sending them out into the mid-'80s.

In the immortal words of Alan Rickman as the Metatron in Kevin Smith's Dogma, "Say you're the Metatron, people stare at you blankly. Mention something from a Charlton Heston movie and suddenly everyone's a theology scholar!" Or in this case, they're apparently Poor Oppressed Christians angry at the evil Satanists wanting to put up a devil statue next to their favorite movie prop. The horror!

So if you still thinks these promotional items are worthy of special protection, I'm sorry for you. Just because a publicity stunt dates back to 1955 doesn't mean it deserves special rights, and that light there's no real difference between a 60-year-old movie prop and a brand new statue of Baphomet. The law is clear - the government can either allow both on public property or allow neither. There is no in between, no matter how loud the Poor Oppressed crowd whines.