Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

by Ed Mazza

The new Ark Encounter tourist attraction in Kentucky wants you to think that dinosaurs were practically pets just a few thousand years ago.

While scientists agree that dinosaurs died out some 65 million years ago during the K-T mass extinction, Ark Encounter creator Ken Ham believes the planet is only around 6,000 years old. Thus, man and dinosaurs lived together… maybe like in the Flintstones.

The Noah’s Ark he built in Williamstown features exhibits showing dinosaurs peacefully living in cages aboard the ship.

Ham, a “young Earth” creationist, explained in a 2000 blog post exactly how massive dinosaurs could fit on the ship:

“Although there are about 668 names of dinosaurs, there are perhaps only 55 different ‘kinds’ of dinosaurs. Furthermore, not all dinosaurs were huge like the brachiosaurus, and even those dinosaurs on the Ark were probably ‘teenagers’ or young adults.”

Ham said the ark had 8,000 “animal genera” or about 16,000 in total, including some that are now extinct, like those dinosaurs.

“Without getting into all the math, the 16,000-plus animals would have occupied much less than half the space in the Ark (even allowing them some moving-around space),” he wrote.

Along with dinosaurs, NPR reported that there were other eyebrow-raising “animals” on display, including unicorns.

The fact that the displays were completely at odds with science hasn’t kept guests from enjoying them.

Rachael Cross, who visited with her five children, told CBS News that the Ark shows actual history.

“The truth. The absolute truth,” Cross told the network. “God’s word is the Bible and it’s the absolute truth. I totally believe that.”

Critics said the Ark was a threat to kids.

“Basically, this boat is a church raising scientifically illiterate children and lying to them about science,” local resident Jim Helton told The Associated Press.

The massive attraction has been the subject of controversy, not only because it stands as a giant monument to creationism, but also for its hiring practices and tax breaks.

Ark Encounter employees are required to sign a statement saying they are Christians and that Jesus Christ is their savior, the Christian Post reported. In addition, the site has been given $18 million in state tax incentives, something critics said shouldn’t have been allowed, given its religious nature.

Ark Encounter formally opens today.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/noahs-ark-dinosaurs_us_577d9ff8e4b0344d514dea93?

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Members of a satanic group will give the opening prayer at an upcoming Phoenix City Council meeting.

Some council members have objected, but city attorney Brad Holm says the government cannot exclude a religion from praying under such circumstances.

Satanic Temple member Stu de Haan says the group doesn’t intend to do anything offensive. He says the Satanic Temple doesn’t believe in a literal Satan but see the biblical Satan as a metaphor for rebellion against tyranny.

The Arizona Republic reports (http://bit.ly/1PEUycc ) that the temple will perform the invocation on Feb. 17.

The city’s invocation has been delivered by Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and people of other faiths. The temple submitted a request in December to give the prayer.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

By Dante D’Orazio

A Satanist statue cast in bronze is just months away from completion, and activists hope that it will find a home on the lawn of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Ultimately, the statue — which features the seven-foot tall, horned figure of Baphomet fawned upon by two exultant children — is intended to stand directly next to a highly controversial monument of the ten commandments that was donated by a state legislator in 2012 and subsequently placed on the grounds of the Capitol.

The Baphomet figure, complete with a goat head, angel wings, and a beard, comes from a recently-formed New York group identifying as The Satanic Temple, which raised over $28,000 on Indiegogo earlier this year to commission a sculptor and create the piece. Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucian Greaves tells ABC News that the statue is a symbol to “celebrate our progress as a pluralistic nation founded on secular law.”

We’re just now getting our first look at the what the statue will look like, thanks to images of the mold released by The Satanic Temple this week. Unfortunately for the group’s activist aims, there hasn’t been much progress on securing a spot for the statue at the Capitol in Oklahoma, one of the most Christian states in the US. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently challenging the ten commandments statue in court on grounds that it violates the Constitution’s “establishment clause” against a national religion, and Oklahoma has prohibited applications for additional statues pending the completion of that case.

Greaves has made it clear that the group would no longer petition to have the statue installed should the ten commandments monument be removed, but he isn’t concerned about finding somewhere else to place the statue should they fail to get permission in Oklahoma. “There are no shortage of public locations across the US where religious monuments await a contrasting voice,” he tells Vice, which first published photos of the statue. And they’re prepared should demonstrators destroy the statue: they’re holding onto the cast and plan to take out an insurance policy on the statue.

http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/3/5678782/satanic-group-reveals-crowdfunded-monument-for-oklahoma-state-capitol

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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The Columbian Mammoth is about to become an official state symbol of South Carolina, but its path to the limelight was long and fraught with controversy.

Here's the text of the bill that made it official:

Section 1-1-712A. The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina and must be officially referred to as the ‘Columbian Mammoth’, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field.

This is actually the watered-down version of the bill; one version, proposed earlier, made even more explicit references to the role of a divine creator in the mammoth’s history.

This all started when an 8-year-old suggested that the Columbian mammoth become South Carolina’s state fossil. Olivia McConnell had some good reasoning behind her suggestion: Mammoth teeth found in a South Carolina swamp in 1725 were the first vertebrate fossils identified in North America.

Her submission became a bill. The original draft was simple enough: “Section 1-1-691. The Wooly Mammoth is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina.” But almost immediately the proposal ran into trouble. On a practical level: Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler objected strenuously to having any new state symbols enacted in a state that already has a state spider, state beverage and a state hospitality beverage among many others. On a philosophical level: proclaiming a state fossil in a state where there is still intense debate over teaching evolution as fact creates some problems.

From USA Today:

State Sen. Mike Fair, a Greenville Republican who serves on the panel that will decide the science standards, said that natural selection should be taught as theory rather than as scientific fact. He argues that natural selection can make biological changes within species but it can’t explain the whole progression from microbes to humans.

“This whole subject should be taught as a pro and con,” he said.

Last week, Fair had raised his own objection that temporarily killed Olivia’s bill but withdrew it after another senator told him the story of the Lake City girl’s campaign to get an official state fossil.

Fair wasn’t the only one who had objections. Another State Senator, Kevin Bryant started a pushing a change that would add some biblical flair to the otherwise direct language. The New York Times:

But then Senator Kevin Bryant proposed an amendment rooted in the Book of Genesis, imputing God as the creator of the woolly mammoth: “And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, the cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
Bryant’s version was struck down, but the final version of the bill did include that language about the Mammoth being created on the sixth day.

There was one other addition, too. Frustrated by the amount of time spent discussing state symbols instead of governing, legislators also added an amendment to the bill prohibiting the General Assembly from enacting any new state symbols “until such time as the General Assembly directly by legislative enactment removes this moratorium.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/south-carolinas-state-fossil-creation-controversy-180950474/#4mOTlJmLsprzxrmM.99

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

The Earth may not be flat nor is it the center of the universe, but that doesn’t mean old-world intellectuals got everything wrong. In fact, in recent years, modern science has validated a number of teachings and beliefs rooted in ancient wisdom that, up until now, had been trusted but unproven empirically.

A full 55 pages of Arianna Huffington’s new book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, are dedicated to these scientific breakthroughs that often confirm the power of ancient psychology and contemplative practices. On an intuitive level, we’ve known for centuries that these lifestyle practices can help us lead happy, healthy and balanced lives. But now, with the support of hard science, we can embrace these pieces of ancient wisdom and start really living them.

Here are eight ancient beliefs and practices that have been confirmed by modern science.

1. Helping others can make you healthier.

In their never-ending search for the best way to live, Greek philosophers argued over the relative benefits of hedonic and eudaimonic happiness. Hedonic well-being sees happiness as a factor of increased pleasure and decreased pain, while eudaimonic (“human flourishing”) happiness has more to do with having a larger purpose or meaning in life. A recent study from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill psychologist Barbara Fredrickson may reveal which form of happiness is more beneficial for health and well-being.

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year, found that while both types of happiness can make you feel good, the latter could promote physical health and longevity as well. Using phone interviews, questionnaires and blood samples, the study explored how the two forms of happiness affected individuals on a genetic level. Participants with more hedonic and less eudaimonic well-being were found to have a lower production of virus-attacking antibodies, while those with more eudaimonic well-being experienced an increase in antibody production.

2. Acupuncture can restore balance to your body.

The traditional Chinese medicine technique is believed to address imbalances in a person’s qi (pronounced chi), the circulating energy within every living thing. Whether or not you believe in the existence of this energy flow, a new study published in Archives of Internal Medicine found that the age-old practice may be an effective way to relieve migraines, arthritis and other chronic pains.

Analyzing previous research data from approximately 18,000 subjects, researchers found that acupuncture was more effective than sham acupuncture and standard western care when treating various types of pain, including migraines and chronic back pain.

3. We need the support of a community in order to thrive.

Traditional Buddhist teachings suggest that community is a key component in any happy, fulfilled life. A 2010 study conducted by Brigham Young University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers confirmed this belief, concluding that a healthy social life promotes longevity.

In analyzing the 148 studies — involving more than 300,000 individual participants — available on the subject, the researchers discovered that those with stronger social relationships maintained a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival. The effect of social relationships on mortality risk is even greater than the effect of exercise or obesity.

4. Tai chi can help alleviate a variety of health conditions.

This ancient Chinese martial art is based on the belief that achieving balance with one’s mind and body creates an overall sense of peace and harmony, naturally inspiring a long life. A report in the May 2009 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch summarized several studies confirming that this “moving meditation” practice can help prevent and treat many age-related health problems alongside standard treatment in older adults. A number of studies in the past decade have found tai chi to be helpful for those suffering from arthritis, low bone density and heart disease.

5. Meditation can help you reduce stress and discover inner peace.

Stemming from ancient Eastern origins, the practice of meditation is believed to help still the mind and reach a heightened level of awareness, improving health and well-being as a byproduct. Science is now proving the health benefits of meditation. The latest study from a team of Harvard Medical School scientists reveals how this mind-body practice can affect genes that control stress levels and immune function.

Harvard psychiatrist John Denniger and his team used neuro-imaging and genomics technology to measure potential physiological changes in each subject more accurately. After observing the high-stress individuals as they followed the study’s prescribed yoga and meditation practices, the team noticed an improved mitochondrial energy production, utilization and resiliency, which help to reduce the stress linked to health conditions like hypertension and infertility.


6. Compassion is the key to a meaningful life.

Tibetan Buddhist tradition includes a practice called metta, or loving-kindness. A 2012 study from Emory University found that compassion meditation based on this Tibetan model can effectively boost one’s ability to empathize with others by way of reading their facial expressions.

Another loving-kindness meditation study from 2011 found that, over time, this practice increased participants’ positive emotions that allowed them to find a deeper sense of mindfulness, their purpose in life, the network of support surrounding them, and their health. These components helped increase their overall life satisfaction.

7. Accepting what you can’t change is key to reducing suffering.

According to Buddhist teachings, one must accept the things they cannot change in order to reduce suffering. Now, scientists have found that this belief rings true, especially for older adults who are working through difficult life changes.

Researchers from Deakin University in Australia found that facing the realities of living with assistance and losing a degree of independence helps seniors live longer and feel far happier. Their study, which was published in the Journal of Happiness Studies last year, compared feelings of life satisfaction and perceived control of older adults living with assistance and those living in the community. Their analysis revealed that the ability to accept the inevitable (as well as maintain low-level control) in an assisted living setting was a significant predictor of life satisfaction. The researchers concluded, “In order to protect the well-being of older individuals, adaptation involves both a sense of control and the active acceptance of what cannot be changed.”

8. All you need is love.

If there is one thing that a variety of ancient wisdom traditions can agree on, it’s the value of love in maintaining a happy, meaningful life. And a group of Harvard researchers, on a mission to uncover the true roots of life fulfillment, conducted a 75-year study that reached the same conclusion.

The Harvard Grant Study, led by psychiatrist George Vaillant, followed the life trajectories of 268 male students in order to answer life’s universal questions of growth, development, value and purpose. Vaillant considers the most meaningful finding of the study to be that a happy life revolves around loving relationships. He explained that there are two pillars of happiness: “One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/21/8-ancient-beliefs-now-bac_n_4995877.html

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By Ashley Fantz, CNN

A Kentucky pastor who starred in a reality show about snake-handling in church has died — of a snakebite.

Jamie Coots died Saturday evening after refusing to be treated, Middleborough police said.

On “Snake Salvation,” the ardent Pentecostal believer said that he believed that a passage in the Bible suggests poisonous snakebites will not harm believers as long as they are anointed by God. The practice is illegal in most states, but still goes on, primarily in the rural South.

Coots was a third-generation “serpent handler” and aspired to one day pass the practice and his church, Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name, on to his adult son, Little Cody.

The National Geographic show featured Coots and cast handling all kinds of poisonous snakes — copperheads, rattlers, cottonmouths. The channel’s website shows a picture of Coots, goateed, wearing a fedora. “Even after losing half of his finger to a snake bite and seeing others die from bites during services,” Coots “still believes he must take up serpents and follow the Holiness faith,” the website says.

In February 2013, Coots was given one year of probation for having crossed into Tennessee with venomous snakes. He was previously arrested in 2008 for keeping 74 snakes in his home, according to National Geographic. Tennessee banned snake handling in 1947 after five people were bitten in churches over two years’ time, the channel says on the show site.

On one episode, Coots, who collected snakes, is shown trying to wrest a Western diamondback out of its nook under a rock deep in East Texas. He’s wearing a cowboy hat and a T-shirt that says “The answer to Y2K – JESUS.”

The pastor is helped by his son and a couple of church members.

“He’ll give up, just sooner or later,” one of the members says. “Just be careful. Ease him out.”

The group bags two snakes, which a disappointed Coots says hardly justifies the trip to Texas.

“Catching two snakes the first day, ‘course we’d hoped for more,” Coots says in the video. “We knew that the next day we was gonna have to try to hunt harder and hope for more snakes.”

http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/16/us/snake-salvation-pastor-bite/index.html?c=homepage-t

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD

There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place.

Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac.

These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history. These camel stories “do not encapsulate memories from the second millennium,” said Noam Mizrahi, an Israeli biblical scholar, “but should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period.”

Dr. Mizrahi likened the practice to a historical account of medieval events that veers off to a description of “how people in the Middle Ages used semitrailers in order to transport goods from one European kingdom to another.”

For two archaeologists at Tel Aviv University, the anachronisms were motivation to dig for camel bones at an ancient copper smelting camp in the Aravah Valley in Israel and in Wadi Finan in Jordan. They sought evidence of when domesticated camels were first introduced into the land of Israel and the surrounding region.

The archaeologists, Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen, used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the earliest known domesticated camels in Israel to the last third of the 10th century B.C. — centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the kingdom of David, according to the Bible. Some bones in deeper sediments, they said, probably belonged to wild camels that people hunted for their meat. Dr. Sapir-Hen could identify a domesticated animal by signs in leg bones that it had carried heavy loads.

The findings were published recently in the journal Tel Aviv and in a news release from Tel Aviv University. The archaeologists said that the origin of the domesticated camel was probably in the Arabian Peninsula, which borders the Aravah Valley. Egyptians exploited the copper resources there and probably had a hand in introducing the camels. Earlier, people in the region relied on mules and donkeys as their beasts of burden.

“The introduction of the camel to our region was a very important economic and social development,” Dr. Ben-Yosef said in a telephone interview. “The camel enabled long-distance trade for the first time, all the way to India, and perfume trade with Arabia. It’s unlikely that mules and donkeys could have traversed the distance from one desert oasis to the next.”

Dr. Mizrahi, a professor of Hebrew culture studies at Tel Aviv University who was not directly involved in the research, said that by the seventh century B.C. camels had become widely employed in trade and travel in Israel and through the Middle East, from Africa as far as India. The camel’s influence on biblical research was profound, if confusing, for that happened to be the time that the patriarchal stories were committed to writing and eventually canonized as part of the Hebrew Bible.

“One should be careful not to rush to the conclusion that the new archaeological findings automatically deny any historical value from the biblical stories,” Dr. Mizrahi said in an email. “Rather, they established that these traditions were indeed reformulated in relatively late periods after camels had been integrated into the Near Eastern economic system. But this does not mean that these very traditions cannot capture other details that have an older historical background.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/11/science/camels-had-no-business-in-genesis.html?ref=science&_r=2