August 12, 2020

Saturday Ramblings, March 15, 2014

Welcome to the weekend, fellow imonkers.  It is now about two months that I have had the privilege of writing the ramblings, and I think Pope Francis made the cut every week.  But since Martha had two wonderful posts on Francis of Monday and Tuesday of this week, I will refrain from all pope-talk.  If you haven’t read Martha’s posts, please do.  She is an incredible writer.

Since March Madness is not mad enough, Warren Buffet has announced he will give a billion (yes, with a “b”) dollars to anyone who completes a perfect bracket for the tourney.  So our first discussion question of the post is this: what would you do with the billion if you defied the odds?  And don’t say “give it to charity” you little do-gooder, unless you specify which charities and why you picked them.

bkvcjyiceaiqlofQuick, what’s wrong with this ad for a sniper rifle, at right? If you said, “It desecrates and trivializes one of the greatest treasures of western culture in order to make a quick buck”, then congratulations: you have more sense than the entire marketing department at ArmaLite.  The ad is creating quite a stir in Italy, with the Culture Minister calling it “offensive” (which seems like rather of an understatement).  And exactly which magazines host full-page adds for $3,300 sniper rifles, anyway?

In related news, ArmaLite has cancelled it’s “Mona Lisa with a sniper bullet through her forehead” print campaign.

Bernice King this week turned over the personal Bible and the Noble Peace Price which belonged to her father, Martin Luther King, Jr.  Her brothers desire to sell these, a move Bernice called,  “spiritually violent, unconscionable, historically negligent, and outright morally reprehensible.”  I would normally find that type of language over-the-top.  Not this time.

Best long read of the week goes to the New Yorker, for the first interview with the father of Adam Lanza, the Newtown killer.  Peter Lanza comes across as mourning and remorseful, while warning that anyone could have missed the signs of his son’s inner struggles.  He also talks about whether his son’s Asperger’s diagnosis actually helped or whether it simply masked much deeper problems.  In the end he concludes with this  heart-wrenching verdict: “I wish he had never been born”.

Did you know that 2016 will host something not seen in 1,200 years?  What is it? An ecumenical council of the Orthodox churches.

Ashutosh Maharaj led the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (Divine Light Awakening Mission) which claims more than 30 million followers. He was recently declared dead by Indian authorities in Punjab.  His followers aren’t buying the death verdict.  And so confident are they that he is merely in a state of deep meditation, they froze his corpse. “He is not dead. Medical science does not understand things like yogic science. We will wait and watch. We are confident that he will come back,” his spokesman Swami Vishalanand told the BBC.

Christianity is estimated to be growing 10 times faster in Asia than in Europe, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.  Many attribute this growth to the wide-spread adoption of the mega-church model, combined with Pentecostal prosperity teaching.  Megachurches began in the United States,  but many of the largest are in Asia (South Korea’s Yoido Full Gospel Church claims 1 million members).  “Whatever method that can most effectively convey the message to our generation, we will do it,” said one pastor.

Meanwhile, the pastor of a Swedish Pentecostal mega-church stunned his congregation with the announcement (during Sunday morning worship) that he and his wife were converting to Catholicism.

This week marked the third year evangelical leaders have gathered in Bethlehem for a “Christ at the Check-point” conference.  The theme this year draws from the Lord’s Prayer to ask how Jesus Christ would approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not a fan: “The attempt to use religious motifs in order to mobilize political propaganda and agitate the feelings of the faithful through the manipulation of religion and politics is an unacceptable and shameful act. Using religion for the purpose of incitement in the service of political interests stains the person who does it with a stain of indelible infamy.”  Gary M. Burge, a speaker (and Wheaton professor)  answered, “The statement by the MFA concerning the checkpoint conference is tragic on so many levels: it is ill-informed — “political propaganda” is an absurd comment — and the statement itself is an incitement. This is simply the only gathering of Palestinian Christians in the world who are trying to have their voices heard by their brothers and sisters in Christ….I think that the Israeli government is worried about this gathering because every year evangelicals are growing in their understanding of this conflict and questioning the standard Israeli narrative of things.”

Having a bad day?  Wish you were 26 and drove a Mercedes convertible?  Would some warm schadenfreude make you feel better?

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan wants  President Obama to open up Area 51. This will apparently help avert the coming of the Mother Wheel, a “heavily armed spaceship the size of a city that will rain destruction upon white America, but save those who embrace the Nation of Islam.”

Last week ramblings mentioned that Mark Driscoll’s church paid $210,000 to a promotional company to get his book on the New York Times Bestseller list.  The book made the list for a week (long enough for Driscoll to be marketed as a “New York Times Bestselling Author”).  The contract is here, for those interested.  This week the church put out a statement regarding the controversy: “In 2011, outside counsel advised our marketing team to use Result Source to market the Real Marriage book and attain placement on the New York Times Bestseller list. While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again.”  The statement also claims that Driscoll did not profit from the scheme, but one website analyzed the sales trend and concluded, “The $210,000 that the church spent had the immediate and direct effect of boosting Mark Driscoll’s earnings by $330,000, with an indirect effect of earning $180,000 more based on the buzz that led to the media interviews, for a total of just over a half million dollars.”

By the way, that same website has an interesting take on how and why celebrity pastors care so deeply about having best-selling books (and its not just ego): “We know from NewSpring that megachurches are very concerned about being perceived by the IRS as overpaying their pastors, who lead putatively nonprofit organizations, after all…If the church can help the pastor earn a large proportion of his income through selling books, both sides win–the church gets to construct a massive compensation package where the base salary isn’t appalling, and the preacher gets to spend the money freely because it comes from books rather than the collection plate.”

Did you watch the reboot of Cosmos?  The visuals are gorgeous, of course, and I normally like the new host, Neil deGrasse Tyson.  But it seemed targeted to a very young audience. And I was puzzled by the script.  Why did the most prestigious science show in the country spend nearly one fourth of its debut on an intellectually dishonest shot at the Catholic Church? And one done in a cartoon format with all the classiness and subtlety of a Chick Track?

Pictured: Subtlety

Pictured: Subtlety

The show decided the first thinker to showcase would be 16th-century Italian mystic Giordano Bruno.  Bruno was not a scientist, but is portrayed as a martyr in the “religion versus science wars” since he was executed by the inquisition. But he was a poor choice (he was condemned for his theology, not science) and the show manages to get almost everything about Bruno wrong.  How wrong?  Well, after watching the show and then reading this analysis of its factuality, it’s pretty hard to argue with the conclusion about Tyson: “He may in fact be very gifted at explaining science, but weaponizing poorly-understood, incorrectly told history isn’t something an honest intellectual does.”

For those who don’t want to read the above link, here is a pretty good excerpt: [Bruno] was a hermeticist and cabalist, and viewed heliocentrism not as some verifiable scientific truth, but as a sign of the return to the true, superior religion of ancient Egypt. He saw his work as a corrective to Copernicus, who failed to understand the religious significance of heliocentrism….His work had little to do with science…Bruno makes for good propaganda, and continues the Church versus Science lie so dear to the hearts of reactionary atheists. Never mind that it’s not true and that we have only one scientist really punished by the Church at least in part for his science, and that was 400 years ago.Why do we revisit these things? The Church that funded and advanced scientific progress for centuries becomes a cartoon villain every time the issue comes up. Mike Flynn has thoroughly, conclusively smashed this lie in a long, detailed, heavily annotated series. No respectable historian of science buys it any more. Yet here’s Tyson and his remake of “Comos” doing it all over again. If you want to depict Bruno as a martyr for pantheistic cabalistic hermetic occultism, be my guest. But he was not a martyr for science.

This is the best obituary I have ever read.

I knew multi-site churches were growing.  I had no idea that almost one in ten protestants in the U. S. attends one.

Someone stole the weekend offering from Joel Osteen’s Church last week. The online giving was not affected, so the thieves only got $600,000.

From the sounds like a Hawthorne novel department comes the story of a well-regarded and long-tenured pastor who confessed in church to a long-past infidelity.  And then died.

The Learning Channel, continuing it’s competition with the History Channel to be the most ironically named network, begins another show Sunday about a polygamous marriage.  It chronicles the life of Brady Williams, his five wives and their 24 children.  Brady said it was “liberating” to “come out of the closet”.

Speaking of polygamy, I missed that a federal judge in Utah struck down key parts of the state’s polygamy laws in December. The ruling decriminalizes polygamy, making only bigamy —  holding marriage licenses with multiple partners  — illegal. I have no idea how this would play out. But what do you think, imonkers?  Should the redefinition of marriage include polygamy?  Group marriages?  Why or why not?

Monday is St. Patrick’s Day, of course, when we celebrate the patron Saint of green beer. In his honor, we conclude with the following video:




  1. ““Whatever method that can most effectively convey the message to our generation, we will do it,” said one pastor.”

    What message is being conveyed…besides the end justifies the means? It seems the means IS the end (build big buildings with big shows, big popularity, and big salaries). Seven deadly sins, anyone?

    • To me, the Armalite ad is a visual depiction of what megachurches do to the church: disgrace and exploit the ancient faith in the name of corporate profits.

      It’s also a bit humorous, considering a recent Saturday Night Live skit about the statue. Guns are the modern penile implant for insecure males. Given the behavior of certain pastors mentioned here, perhaps mega-churches serve the same function.

      • “Guns are the modern penile implant for insecure males.” And thus, gun control is castration, the modern effort to destroy a man’s ability to protect his family. Seems not all women will take government checks to have babies, so SOMETHING has to be done to undermine men who still presume to care for their own families.

        Actually, the utter nonsense about guns as phallic symbols must be confronted wherever it appears. Anything that makes a frail 90-pound woman the equal of a 350-pound psychopath is a GOOD thing. And I think the ad’s cute!

        • Well, the David is famously under-endowed…!

          • That was the point of the SNL skit. Someone in marketing needs to be fired, if the gun wasn’t supposed to be portrayed as a phallic symbol in this ad. Epic fail, to say the least.

        • “Actually, the utter nonsense about guns as phallic symbols must be confronted wherever it appears. Anything that makes a frail 90-pound woman the equal of a 350-pound psychopath is a GOOD thing. ”

          You’re so right, Clark. In fact, I heard that the original concept was to use the Venus de Milo instead of David, but, you know, she couldn’t hold the weapon…

    • It should be a warning flag that the pastors of both Yoido Full Gospel Church and the Singapore church have been arrested due to financial impropriety. This stuff may be spreading, but pragmatism seems to be the main gospel here….and if the recent stories about Driscoll’s payola mean anything, Pragmatism is a powerful deity.

      Also, Kong Hee apparently spent church money to market his wife as a pop star. Here’s a video (warning, it ain’t exactly Rebecca St. James):

  2. There will be no viewing since his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand so he would appear natural to visitors.

    She’s quite vindictive for not getting the mink ….

  3. I loved the obituary. Walt obviously had fun writing it himself.

    I expect the successful thieves of Joel Osteen’s offering were just looking for their best life now — and since they’ve found it, evidently, there’s proof that God is on their side. They should start a church and write a book that outlines their theological success.

    • Love it!

      • Joseph (the original) says

        “Well gosh-darn Ralph, lookee here what I found just sitting on a table in that room over there. I happened to be prayin’ for my expected cash windfall from the Good Lawd as I made my way to the bathroom and I felt this sudden urge to go thru this unmarked door on the right! Eehah! Gloree! My eyes got as big as the plates the treasure was in and then Pastor Osteen’s words rang clear in my ears, ‘Be expecting a Big Blessing from God!’ Yessiree Ralph, God sure has blessed me today to overflowin’!”

        [conversation with his good friend Earl on their way to Dunkin’ Donuts for a post-financial increase bacchanalia at their favorite eatery…]

        “Thank you Jeezus for this tastee treat!” 🙂

  4. Richard Hershberger says

    “I knew multi-site churches were growing. I had no idea that almost one in ten Christians in the U. S. attends one.”

    The linked article says one in ten “Protestants,” not “Christians.” I trust we can agree the two words are not synonymous.

    The multi-site church is, in retrospect, a natural progression of the megachurch. The megachurch model is limited by the distance potential participants are willing to drive. With the realization that many people are just as happy to watch a TV show of a sermon as live sermon, this limitation falls away.

    The interesting question is where they are getting these participants from. The article includes a vaguely sourced vague claim about some vague atypically higher percentage of them being previously unchurched. I suspect this is BS. It may (or may not) be true that startups attract more unchurched than to established churches, it is hard to see why the unchurched would be peculiarly attracted to satellite campuses. My guess is that this growth comes from the same source as traditional megachurch growth: smaller churches. The difference is that now the smaller churches start to be single-site megachurches. After all, they are by definition trying to attract people who like attending a megachurch, and it seems likely that such persons might be even more attracted to a super-megachurch.

    Here is my prediction: It is an unoriginal observation that once we start having multi-site churches, they are difficult to distinguish from denominations. I think we are going to see the rise of such quasi-denominations, eventually sorting out along rough geographical lines, and at the expense of the independent megas. These denominations, however, will be peculiarly top-down, each with its mini-pope holding absolute financial and spiritual power within the church. Being personality-driven, the problems when the pope retires or dies or grows obviously senile will grow proportionally. Even apart from this, the accompanying scandals and general buffoonery will be spectacular, and generally detrimental to the place of religion in American society.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > The linked article says one in ten “Protestants,” not “Christians.” I trust we can agree the two
      > words are not synonymous.

      +1000. I would like to see [but know I will never see] a simple moratorium on the word “Christian”. The use of the term “Christian” is almost as meaningless as the word “American”. Lets take a fractured diverse collection of hundreds of millions of people, lump them together into a big blob… and then let’s refer to that blog as a cohesive thing. Doing so rarely illuminates anything.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Because “Christian” without any modifiers has been hijacked and redefined to mean Fundagelical Protestantism, complete with YEC, Altar Call Salvation, and Dispy Secret Rapture as core dogmas. Just as “Intelligent Design” has been hijacked and redefined to mean YEC Uber Alles instead of a philosophical underpinning of science in general (“Natural Philosopy”).

        Useful semantics, eh, My Dear Wormwood?

        • Donalbain says

          Once again (because you have been told this in the past, but are ignoring it):
          The phrase “intelligent design” was not hijacked. It was created out of whole cloth by creationists when their previous attempts to teach “creation science” in public schools were defeated in courts as an inappropriate endorsement of religion.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > The megachurch model is limited by the distance potential participants are willing to drive.

      Maybe, maybe not. They can also be fed by some locations simply having more people in a certain radius, population is not uniformally distributed across geography. I would be interested to see if a correlation exists between mega-churches and proximity to universities or types of universities [for example my city has a couple of mega-churches – and a half-dozed `christian` [shudders…] colleges]. At least during my Evangelical involvement [which I acknowledge is now over a (happy) decade ago] there was certainly a power feedback loop between those colleges and the megas.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Anyway – if anyone knows of a GIS repository or available WMS endpoint which contains religious demographic information PLEASE let me now.

    • Daniel Jepsen says

      fixed. thanks

    • If by “prediction” you mean “what is already happening,” then yes. That’s no the future, that’s how it is NOW!

      • Richard Hershberger says

        Well, as Yogi Berra may or may not have observed, it is hard to make predictions, especially about the future. So there is something to be said for sticking to predicting the present.

        But seriously, I would be surprised if the “stealing members from independent megachurches” part isn’t already happening. The more interesting development, which so far as I know hasn’t yet occurred, is the carving out of territories. What happens when two super-megas meet? Do they each build satellite campuses across the street from one another and compete for warm bodies? That would be expensive. So they might negotiate a treaty, dividing territory for the sake of maintaining a more profitable peace. This is what the Mafia bosses did back in the 30s. It worked well for them for about a half century (and even then it was the outside forces of improved FBI tools that brought them down). There is also the question of what happens when the mini-pope dies/retires/gets caught with a male prostitute. We have seen this play out with independent megachurches, but how will it play out with a super-mega?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          What happens when two super-megas meet? Do they each build satellite campuses across the street from one another and compete for warm bodies?

          Just like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

          And then there’s Wal-Mart, which is almost at the point of putting Wal-Marts across the street from each other. This animated graphic looks like either a saturation artillery barrage (complete with a couple ranging shots before “fire for effect”) or a tumor metastasizing:

          There is also the question of what happens when the mini-pope dies/retires/gets caught with a male prostitute. We have seen this play out with independent megachurches, but how will it play out with a super-mega?

          I’m sure we’ll hear all about it in the news.

          Gigachurch: When Megachurch becomes too small.

    • Well, my rather large church has gone multi-site in the past few years. They started the new sites based on which surrounding towns people were driving from. One thing that led to this decision was the discovery that people who drove a ways did not participate in church that much during the week (small groups, youth, etc) and there are hopes that the additional sites will help people get plugged in.

      As for succession (almost wrote secession 😉 ) I’ve noticed that our not-so-young pastor has started preaching fewer Sundays and has rotated other pastoral staff into that role. I think it is a way of building them up so the church has firm leadership for when he retires.

      Of course, I like this church so I’m a bit biased. I’ve read sites like this one and The Wartburg Watch with some concern, worried that I’ll learn something that’s been going on under my nose. So far, my church has avoided what has been reported elsewhere.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        What do you like about it? This is an honest question. I personally find the attraction of very large churches to be very mysterious, and multi-site church even more so. What made you choose this church over other, closer possibilities? Do you find the experience of seeing a sermon on a screen as satisfying as seeing it live?

        As for the succession issue, much of this comes down to how the individual church is organized and how much its identity is tied in with the senior pastor. it is a truism among the mainlines that when a long-serving and beloved pastor retires, the next guy is set up for a fall. What everyone will immediately notice about him is that he isn’t the previous guy, and they will dislike him for this. It is common that guys in this situation don’t last a year. The guy after him has a better chance, as people will have internalized that the long-serving beloved guy really is gone and isn’t coming back. This sucks for the guy in the rebound relationship role, but one thing mainlines tend to be good at is having an institutional identity distinct from the pastor, with a leadership structure built into their DNA.

        With megachurches this often isn’t the case. Even if it is an older church, it went mega under the leadership of one guy, and many of the congregants were attracted by him. In extreme cases, there is essentially no leadership structure apart from the senior pastor. There likely is one on paper, but the positions can be filled by persons hand picked by the senior pastor on the basis of personal loyalty rather than ability to run the organization in his absence.

        It it to be expected that some megachurches are going to handle succession better than others. It sounds like your senior pastor is trying to transition gracefully into semi-retirement. The question then is to what degree the attendees are attracted to this church by the senior pastor, and how much by other aspects of the church, particularly aspects not easily available elsewhere. If the people are there for the senior pastor, they will be apt to drift away as he gradually steps down, unless he is replaced by someone equally attractive, and even absent a spectacular blowup.

        • No problem Richard.

          What do I like? I like the preaching – it is pretty solid. I like how the pastor seems pretty humble and doesn’t push people away. (I’ll see him in the auditorium after a service talking to people there.) I like how the guest preachers are usually very good as well. (Sometimes they are just ok – in those cases it is usually one of the staff that developing those preaching skills.) I like that the people I’ve met there seem normal. I like it because it seems so less… repressive culturally than the church I went to before it (although maybe ‘repressive’ is a bit strong). I like how I don’t have to be on my guard there. I like that occasionally a woman will preach. I like how the staff appears to be aware of the weaknesses of large churches and attempts to overcome them (constantly encouraging people to be in small groups and not just be quick-in-quick-out on Sunday). I like how there I’ve never had to pay attention to Calvinism vs. Arminianism or Pre-Trib vs those obvious heathens. I like how there is a big focus on serving the local community. I like how the people have enough dignity to never do something stupid like setting up a bed on the roof of the church.

          What I don’t like? I’m not terribly fond of the music worship. There is a band and they are loud (and they ARE good) and I cognitively don’t handle that well when trying to ‘worship’. The more and more worship seems like a concert I wish they would play a song like “humble thyself” instead of “how he loves”. (Of course all this might just be because I really don’t like CCM and the worship band often plays songs from that genre.) I also wished they served communion more often.

          Choosing the church: I had visited the church a few years before I started attending there to support a friend who went there (and who was also fleeing the church I was going to at the time). I then moved to the town it is in a few years later and started attending. It is the main church, not a satellite. At the time I started attending there, there were no satellites yet. The satellites came later when the church kept growing.

          • I like how the pastor seems pretty humble and doesn’t push people away. (I’ll see him in the auditorium after a service talking to people there.)

            This is different from many (most?) megas. In them the leaders seem to live lives surrounded by Secret Service types and rarely mingle with the masses.

  5. “Bruno makes for good propaganda, and continues the Church versus Science lie so dear to the hearts of reactionary atheists. Never mind that it’s not true and that we have only one scientist really punished by the Church at least in part for his science, and that was 400 years ago.Why do we revisit these things?”

    The Church(es) have made themselves vulnerable to propaganda of all kinds by having a history of putting to death all kinds of people whose beliefs were at odds with orthodoxy. That history is manipulated by some, or many, to make this propaganda does not blunt the fact that the behavior of the church(es) in taking the lives, or handing over to the state to their lives, the heterodox or heretical was inexcusable and evil.

    When we as Christians point out misleading reconstructions of history like the one on Cosmos, we appear to non-believers and secularists to be pussyfooting and obfuscating around the one thing of significance: the Church(es) of Jesus Christ killed people for thinking and teaching things in disagreement with its (their) beliefs. That is the ethically significant thing to them, the rest is merely more-or-less unimportant detail.

    And they have a point. That shadow of evil is part of our inheritance as Christians, it’s in our history, our forbears in the faith did these evil things. Christians still do evil things under cover of Christianity. Non-believers have little to no trust that, if given the same opportunity today, we wouldn’t do the same kinds of things our forbears did, and they distrust us all the more when some of us try to polish up our history even by giving the historically accurate readings.

    It’s a difficult position to be in, but not nearly so difficult as being immolated for saying the wrong things.

    • “If you want to depict Bruno as a martyr for pantheistic cabalistic hermetic occultism, be my guest. But he was not a martyr for science.”

      Bruno was a victim of the Church. That’s all that counts to most non-believers. Anything else they consider a distraction from the mains point.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        +1 Of course you could bring up all the ugly persecution by secular and atheist groups, parties, and governments in counter-point. But please do not. These historical grudge matches are pointless and serve no purpose other than rhetoric – everyone from those periods of history is *dead*. Those are not the people we are dealing with today.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Adam, we’ve still got commenters fighting the Reformation Wars (“NO POPERY!”) and those ended in 1648. World War One (and its fallout to this day) traces back to a Serbian historical revenge grudge match from the 13th Century. And then there’s Shia vs Sunni in Islam, an inheritance blood feud/historical grudge match dating back to before Mohammed’s body was cold.

          Any fact is a weapon against The Other, even if you have to make it up yourself.

      • Robert F, respectfully disagree. Not sure if you saw the program, but it was – for lack of more charitable terms – a lie. You can’t get on national TV and pretend to have a science show and then spread historical inaccuracies as if they are fact. Well, you can, actually, which is sort of the point.

        • Dr., I did not see it, but my comments are not about the show. They are about the self-defeating defensive way that Christians have of responding to these things, which completely miss the way the non-believing public reacts to them. We miss the forest for the trees.

      • “If you want to depict Bruno as a martyr for pantheistic cabalistic hermetic occultism, be my guest. But he was not a martyr for science.”

        To borrow the language of Rumania novelist Petru Dumitriu: any prisoner judicially executed by religious authorities in the name of protecting orthodoxy “is Jesus Christ on his cross. My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?”

        • Robert – a most apt quote. Besides, the number of literate people engaged in astrology, alchemy, “kabbalistic” whatever was rather high, especially given the fact that very few people in Bruno’s day were literate.

          I think that it’s wise to consider how/why *anyone* would consider such a brutal, hideous death to be somehow less onerous if it was *only* for heresy. (Not suggesting that anyone said that, but…)

    • kerokline says

      That’s how I feel. Yeah, they may have gotten Bruno wrong, but at the end of the day? The church still executed someone for disagreeing with them. And yes, the Inquisition was cartoonishly evil. I mean, that kind of evil depiction is usually reserved for people like Hitler and slave traders… and is still kind of deserved.

      The church has wronged so many people. And yes, for their science. To get Bruno wrong was bad research, not bad history. And it made for good television, to start with a mystic and (I assume) move forward to a hard-fact researcher like Mendel.

      • And the passage of the Uganda Anti-homosexuality Act 2014, no doubt partly supported by the scientific ignorance of much of the Christian community, underscores how right non-believers are to fear what would happen if Christians were in the drivers seat of government again.

        • Ugandan law – agreed. Russia’s close to that now, too. Google Jeff Sharlet’s piece “Inside the Iron Closet” – *very* frightening.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > To get Bruno wrong was bad research, not bad history

        I fail to see the distinction.

      • I don’t object to the depiction. of the church’s condemnation of Bruno, primarily because he was burned at the stake. Robert F has beaten me to the punch on that, and other, topics today.

        As for the portrayal of Bruno being less nuanced than it might have been, well, yes. But in the end, it doesn’t take away from the fact that he was condemned and burned alive.

    • Daniel Jepsen says

      Obviously what the church did to Bruno was wrong. Yet surely you are not suggesting that what the Catholic church did four centuries ago now gives everyone permission to distort history to make their point??? The muslims did many nasty things in history. Do we now have permission to distort that history? The same question could be asked about almost any ethnic group.

      Nicholas of Cusa taught almost the exact ideas of cosmology that Bruno did, yet died a Cardinal. He preceded Bruno by more than a century, and was a clearer thinker and writer. If Cosmos wanted to talk about the history of ideas of the cosmos, he was a better choice in every way. By choosing Bruno and distorting his life the producers have shown very clearly that their agenda is not pure science.

      Of course they should be called out on this.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says


        Having heard enough of Tyson I avoided the “Cosmos”. “You didn’t see that coming?” is all I can think in relation to someone irritated with his choice to wrangling history.

      • Daniel,

        “Obviously what the church did to Bruno was wrong. Yet surely you are not suggesting that what the Catholic church did four centuries ago now gives everyone permission to distort history to make their point???”

        No, what the church did four centuries ago doesn’t excuse lying or distorting the facts. But we should be aware that when we seek to throw better light on the subject when addressing non-believers, we may find ourselves in quicksand, appearing to soft-pedal what they consider far more ethically significant, and focusing on what they consider minor points of history.

        And, after all, isn’t a world in which a heretic can be executed in the grip of a dominant view that makes the free exchange of ideas a very dangerous enterprise? And isn’t that antithetical to the spirit of free inquiry necessary to the scientific project?

        • Yes, but my dad has been in academia for quite a while – teaching science and math at the high school and university level. He is quick to tell you that “academic freedom” is a myth. The power brokers, the money people, and the social justice crowd control academia as much today as they did in the dark ages. All that to say that pretending that religion is the root of bigotry in the human condition (Christian or otherwise) has the cart before the horse. It is a manifestation of our psychology and values, not vice versa. The evolution of thought, authority, and religious affiliation (or lack thereof) hasn’t really changed our basic instinct.

          • When was the last time the in-crowd at your dad’s educational institution had someone executed or imprisoned for heterodoxy? And, no, loss of a job or career is not the same thing as execution by burning at the stake or confession under torture. And, from what I know of it, the world of hard sciences is completely different from the world of humanities in academia. Scientific method, over the long haul, has a way of excreting liars and lying results in a far more efficient and rapid way than religion ever has.

          • Which, imho, has more to do with distribution of power and democratic principles than any other forces. And while stake-burning may be passé, the in-group still has the power to inhibit “the spirit of free inquiry”.

    • Robert, don’t you think that you need to slightly modify your statement to “when the Christian church melds itself to secular government”, or “when the Christian Church partners with secular government”?

      Most of the damage done in the name of Christianity (but not ALL) has come from these pairings of government and Church. The message is more of an admonition to the Church that Jesus was serious when He said “My kingdom is not of this world” and that Christians should stop trying to legislate, or enforce, “righteousness” by means of governmental power.

      This includes large Church organizations, such as the Catholic hierarchy from medieval times to the present. Certainly there have been some small groups, or even some individuals, who have killed “in the name of Christ” but, by and large, the whole body of Christianity cannot be blamed for the actions of outliers, much as is the case with some Muslim believers.

      But subtle differences are usually victims to easy generalizations when it comes to some reporting. We have no control over that.

      • I accept your correction. I don’t think it changes my main point. Non-believers distrust us partly because of our history, and when they see contemporary Christians using Christianity to cover evil, they feel confirmed in their distrust of us, and convinced that, given the chance, we would revert back to the ways of our forbears. And it doesn’t help when we sound defensive in speaking about our history, and focus on things they consider less important.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          And David Barton history and cries to Outbreed the Heathen and Take Back America/Re-establish a Christian(TM) Nation sure don’t help.

    • I didn’t watch the rebooted “Cosmos”, and now I’m divided between should I or should I have not – but had I done so, obviously I should have lashed on the Heretic Burning Mascara (since that appears to be the eye décor of choice; I laughed at the depiction of St Robert Bellarmine because really, could they have made him look any more sinister if they had put horns and cloven hooves on?)

      It’s ironic, in that Bruno was an exponent of exactly the type of woo that rationalists love to decry. I expect a future episode to inform us of the persecution of Uri Geller by The Establishment because his discovery of how to manipulate electromagnetic forces in “action at a distance” contravenes their head-in-the-sand theories of how the universe works, that’s the level we’re talking about.

      As for the ArmaLite, I had no idea that’s how it was spelled: I always thought it was “Armalite”, as in the slogan “The ballot box in one hand and the Armalite in the other” for the political strategy pursued by Sinn Féin in the 80s.

      • If anyone wants a sample of Bruno’s writings, I refer them to this site.

        Sample title:

        •Magia Mathematica (Latin)
        By “mathematical magic” Bruno means magical practices that use characters, seals, and figures.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I laughed at the depiction of St Robert Bellarmine because really, could they have made him look any more sinister if they had put horns and cloven hooves on?)

        Just out of curiosity, did they show him molesting an altarboy before going forth to burn Bruno?

  6. A little more on the system Driscoll used to get on the Bestseller list; Forbes reported on it over a year ago. Amazon thinks this is so shady they refuse to do business with ResultSource.

    (Forgive the overlays and hoops they make you jump through to get to the actual story.)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Yeah, it’s called “juicing the book” and the firm Driscoll cut the check to(Result Source) is one of the leaders in the field. Wartburg Watch has been on top of this since it broke, including receiving threats.

      For 200 grand (2000 Benjamins), Result Source will buy 10,000+ copies of the book to make the best-seller lists, spaced out into small purchases to avoid tripping the NYT bulk-buy alarms. Apparently they require a huge list of shill addresses and accompanying credit card numbers distributed over several states, again to avoid tripping the alarms. Both individual and small-bulk purchases (like bookstore orders) are simulated.

      From comments at Wartburg Watch, the shills received what they thought was a free complementary copy; the “bookstore orders” apparently ended up in a warehouse at the Gigachurch for “resale” at the Giga’s telescreen services. For $200 grand in Other People’s Money (“TITHE! TITHE! TITHE!”), Bee Jay cleared $600 grand — that’s 200% ROI, $400 grand pure profit, all tax-free because it’s a Church. KEEP TITHING, SUCKERS!

      But the REAL master of juicing a book remains L Ron Hubbard. Went like this:
      1) Elron’s latest work (ghosted or not; Elron wrote best-sellers even after he was dead) is published by Bridge Publications, Scientology’s in-house publisher.
      2) Command Intention LRH from Flag to all Orgs: All Scientologists (Pre-Clears, Clears, and Operating Thetans) are to Buy The Book. Multiple copies if possible (just not too many at a time).
      3) These books are then turned in to the Orgs, who ship them back to Bridge Publications. (Again, owned by Scientology.)
      4) After an inspection at Bridge (and possible dust jacket replacement), they are re-shipped back to the bookstores.
      5) Repeat (2) through (4) until sales figures put Elron on the Best-Seller List once more.
      Now THAT’s juicing a book!

      P.S. If your church can be described as “Just like Scientology, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”, that’s not a good sign.

  7. If you did win Buffet’s billion and you did actually give some to charity, you’d want to spread it around. I’m convinced that a sudden, large injection of capital might do some organizations more harm than good; or you could be perpetuating an institution which should have been shuttered a decade ago.

    Still, it’s fun to dream, and my dream would involve ignoring the “blue chip” charities and finding more recently-created organizations. As a Christian, you’d also want to strike a balance between social concern and proclamation of Christian belief; as well as a balance between how much would stay in North America and how much you’d send overseas.

    Or you could just send it all to me, since obviously I’ve spent some time working through this issue.

  8. Pretty soon anything will go when it comes to marriage.

    Three guys, two gals and a goat.

    Hey…if they all “love” each other…who’s should stop them from being a “marriage”?

    • Richard Hershberger says

      Consent. Non-humans (and minors, if we want to take the discussion in that direction) lack the ability to give consent, which is why talk of goats is irrelevant misdirection.

      • How do you know that those who love the goat cannot say how it feels?

        Let’s not bag on animals just because they don’t speak English.

        • Donalbain says

          But, as a supporter of the right of gay people to marry I say, please keep saying this. Shout loudly and clearly that you oppose gay marriage because you are afraid of people marrying goats. Just keep yelling that as loudly as possible!

          • Can a goat meaningfully consent to being eaten? (Haha, only in Germany!)

            The Utah ruling does NOT mean that polygamy is legally recognized, only that is it not illegal to live as if married to multiple partners and/or conduct the associated ceremonies. And why not? Is the government going to go around prosecuting all the polyfidelity people as well? (Not to speak of garden-variety adulterers etc.)

      • As important as consent is, on what basis does one assert is the ultimate and final criteria for marriage? Many societies and cultures have successfully practiced arranged marriages for which this criteria was not deemed necessary.

        And even if you remove the goat, the argument still stands. Will we define marriage to be any number of people? The overwhelmingly dominant understanding of marriage historically has always been one man and one women. Cases of polygamy are usually limited to the extremely wealthy, powerful, or cults. The idea of two persons of the same gender marrying is a very recent novelty, so at least recognize that overturning what was considered common sense 75 years ago is an innovation, and don’t pin it on consent as if that had always been the criteria for marriage (despite the face that it is a commendable one).

        If it is consent and consent alone that defines marriage, then marriage means nothing. Commitment is no longer a part of the picture. The concept of biological family is no longer part of the picture. Single-hearted devotion is no longer part of the picture. Toughing it out is no longer part of the picture. “For better or worse” becomes “until it gets worse.” Reproduction, though not necessarily essential, becomes completely irrelevant to the equation. It reduces what was once considered sacred to a political gimmick for tax breaks and other governmental perks.

        It was called long ago, and the progressive lobby vehemently denied it: legalize gay marriage, and the polyamorous are next in line. They denied it. It is now happening. You think that’s the end of the line? Get real.

        • Donalbain says

          The “number of people” argument fails because of the inherent difference between agreements between two people and agreements between many people. For instance, how do you ensure that all parties to a marriage consent to the addition of another partner? When it comes to next of kin issues, which of the many parties in a marriage act as the next of kin in hospitals or in cases of inheritance?

          As for single hearted devotion, that has no bearing on the laws of marriage. An open marriage is legally as valid as closed marriage. For better or worse has no meaning in law. Reproduction has ALWAYS been irrelevant to the law of marriage.

    • Donalbain says


  9. I try to resist, truly I do, but I cannot help reporting that there are two glaring errors in this week’s iMonk’s Saturday Ramblings.

    Bernice King most definitely did not turn over to the court her father’s Noble Peace Prize. It was her father’s Nobel Peace Prize.

    The second error is a very common one. It’s in the parenthesized portion of the first sentence in the paragraph about why celebrity pastors care so deeply about having best-selling books. Specifically, (and its not just ego) should have been (and it’s not just ego). A simple apostrophe in the right place would have prevented this pedantic outburst. We pedants out here expect better things of iMonk.

    Having now taken off my proofreader’s hat (Is there no editing at iMonk? Is there no proofreader there?), I am now wondering whether the makers of the film Independence Day had any connection with the Nation of Islam.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Probably not. The alien invasion imagery of giant disc-ships hovering over cities started with V in 1983.

      And NOI has been showing signs of a Saucer Cult since the Nineties, when Calypso Louie first claimed to have been taken aboard The Great Wheel in a variant of the Fifties Contactee Experience. (My introduction to UFOlogy was through the Adamski-ites, the original Contactee Cult, and I used to know someone whose mother was the secretary of the VanTasselites.) Another sign of NOI Weirdness. (But then, their brand of Islam has always been strange, actually descending from one of the “Black Messiah” cults of the 1920s according to Kooks Magazine.)

      • The Mother Wheel/Mothership beliefs date back further than Farrakhan. He was/is more public about it, though. I 1st heard about it via a street vendor’s boom box. He was playing a cassette of Farrakhan speaking about it.

      • Err, there are far better sources on the NOI and its history plus that of similar sects than that magazine! (Not something I’d ever want to cite myself.)

    • We proofread our own posts, and thus fail regularly. You have thus been anointed editor in chief.

  10. Reminds me of a San Francisco radio talker who buys back boxes of his own books and then hands them out for free at book signings and on-air contests. The book goes “best seller!” thus fueling his chest thumping and screaching .

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      That’s why bestseller lists now have bulk-buy detectors to catch that sort of thing. (And companies like the one MH/MD contracted with had to get sneaky.)

    • Didn’t Newt Gingrich or some other high ranking politician get in trouble for something similar? I can’t remember particulars, but was something with a book and bogus profits. Or something like that.

  11. Chip yes my brother's name is Dale says

    Concerning the dead Yogi

    he is not dead he’s just almost dead
    He needs Miracle Max

  12. Well, to be honest, if I won a billion, I’m not sure I would give it to charity. I would pay my taxes. I would give some of it to my church. And I would give some to Kids Against Hunger. I would put the rest in a trust, live modestly off the interest, and pursue a life of reading and writing. Eccelsiastes comes to mind.

  13. I find it telling that I have found little to no discussion among the pious about, ISTM, the most pointed moment in Tyson’s COSMOS: his story about visiting Sagan as a teenager, and Sagan’s kindness toward him. In contrast with the Bruno story, the conclusion is clear: how we treat others is of primary import, perhaps most important.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      That’s interesting, as other sources claim Sagan could be quite a jerk.

      Guy could write, though. Could coin aphorisms almost like Kipling: “Cosmic Connection”, “Night Freight to the Stars”, “Spaceship of the Imagination”, “Demon-Haunted World”…

      • other sources claim Sagan could be quite a jerk

        Other sources claim the same thing about Jesus, I suppose. But we know better. *wink*

        • Jesus didn’t get into a long running lawsuit because some engineers at a computer company used his name as the internal code name for a project.

          For those not in the field of such projects many times the people working on them assign them odd ball names as the real name isn’t yet known or is a big secret.

          Anyway, Sagan sued then got upset again when the name was changed from his to BHA. (Butt Head Astronomer).

          Anyway here’s a link:

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I used tlyo know someone who actually heard Sagan speak live and was not impressed.

            Apparently Sagan/BHA was one of those types who communicates much better in writing than in person.

            Some anecdotes I remember about the impact of “Cosmos”:
            1) The Sagan phrase “We are all made of star-stuff” got badly overused; it even showed up on Babylon-5.
            2) He got nicknamed “Reverend Sagan”, with his trademark turtleneck and arrangement of the “Spaceship of the Imagination” set (and his expression of “religious” ecstasy) making him look like a preacher behind a pulpit.
            3) For a couple years after “Cosmos” first aired, it spawned a rash of Carl Sagan Impersonators in various SF convention masquerades, to the point that they had a separate category for “Carl Sagan Impersonations”. I personally witnessed the first one: “In Awe of the Cosmos” — a guy dressed like Sagan walked out as if sleepwalking, his face locked in the “religious ecstasy” expression of Sagan in the “Spaceship of the Imagination” segments. Went across the stage, down the runway, then back, all without saying a word, just sleepwalking with that spaced-out expression. They gave the guy a special award for “best impersonation” on the spot.

      • My father and I both watched Sagan’s “Cosmos” when it was first aired and tuned in religiously (hah!) every week to see it; he loved it, I loved it.

        Neither of us went “Zounds! Now that proper Science has enlightened me, all my beliefs as indoctrinated into me by the wicked Church have crumbled!”

        I’m sure it’s very flattering to Mr de Grasse Tyson to think that at any moment, he may be snatched from his bed by wild-eyed Jesuit/Dominican/Opus Dei clerics (in their mitres, I note, which is just one of the bits that made me chortle during the cartoon) and hauled off to be burned at the stake for being an astrophysicist, but I take leave to doubt there’s very high likelihood of that happening.

        • For what it’s worth [name-dropping alert], I happened to run into NdGT at a Manhattan Starbucks several years ago, and he seemed like a thoroughly decent guy who was definitely not looking over his shoulder for Opus Dei postulants gone rogue.

          • I’m familiar with Tyson primarily from his appearances on NOVA, and I’ve also seen a few online interviews and read one of his books. He’s definitely an agnostic, and he doesn’t seem to care much about religious ideas unless he feels it is getting in the way of science education, etc., but he also overtly appreciates much of the cultural contributions of religious people (music, art, etc.). He also has taken heat from strident atheists (no one named in particular) for assimilating cultural religious things (e.g, the word “Godspeed”) and not being more overtly anti-theistic. His big thing is getting people excited about the universe (seems to be his ‘religion,’ so to speak).

            I think he would agree with what Bill Nye was saying in the debate about that being “religious” does not have to mean anti-science.

          • Josh T – +1.

            I wish this discussion of deGrasse Tyson was more in the spirit of your comment. Besides, some of the condemnation of this episode of Cosmos is coming from folks who haven’t seen it.

          • Thanks, numo. I almost get the impression that the press surrounding this issue is the only exposure to Neil deGrasse Tyson that people have had. I have enjoyed all of the programs I’ve seen where he was host, and while I recognize that his beliefs and mine would not jibe at all points, I’m thankful that he is not the anti-religionist that some seem to be making him out to be. I think this is one of those times that we should be criticizing the content of the Cosmos segment without assuming the worst regarding Tyson’s motives.

          • Josh T – very much agreed.

        • Martha, I think your imagination has run a wee bit amok re. DeGrasse Tyson. Apparently, the new series is being broadcast in the UK; maybe even in Eire, for all I know.

      • A Carl Sagan anecdote : My dad worked on the Viking lander missions to Mars back in the late 70’s. Carl Sagan, as one of the chief scientists for the mission, was the ONLY one who did not sign his name to the landing site decision. Why? He didn’t want to risk his reputation if the mission failed. Most people on the team thought it was a jerk move.

        Of course, everyone knows Neil deGrasse Tyson is a jerk for demoting Pluto.

        In fact, a pretty significant reason I chose not to stay in academia after my Ph.D. is that most serious physicists I’ve met (astro or otherwise) are jerks.

        • He helped vote the demotion of Pluto from planetary status? I knew there was a reason I was fed-up of seeing his face plastered everywhere!

          Seriously, he’s all over social media at the moment. I’m sure the new “Cosmos” is great and lovely and wonderful, but if I never again have to see a post featuring chunks of quotation from Neil deGrasse Tyson as a bludgeon in the “science versus religion” dust-up, I’ll be perfectly happy.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            I have no idea if Neil is or is not a “jerk”. But he is certainly, at this point, a polemicist.

            The very best way to deal with a polemicist is to, as much as possible, ignore them. Engaging a polemicist, much like the Bill Nye vs. Ham debate, is almost always, if not always, a BAD IDEA. There is little you can do about a polemicist; even posting about him on a forum just creates fodder for the polemicist to mine and use (“see these people in the end just resort to name calling…”).

            Social Media makes this principle an order of magnitude more difficult to live – but a *very* important aspect of civil discourse is to discern in the other the desire to have a real conversation [vs. those stalking you, hoping for a fight or grabbing a good sound bite]. Ignoring the troll is not uncharitable, doing so supports civility.

          • I don’t think Tyson wants to be used as a bludgeon for science vs. religion, though maybe for real science vs. bad science done in the name of religion. From what I’ve read about it (I have not seen it yet, though I want to) I think the Cosmos segment was actually intended as a bridge of sorts for people of faith to embrace science, though the other issues have clouded that out (it’s like they didn’t quite think it through).

            As for the Pluto issue, if you haven’t seen it, the Pluto Files NOVA episode is quite good, and as usual, Tyson’s friendly and funny style shows through:

            As for Adam’s comment on being a Polemicist, I’ve never gotten the impression that Tyson was a polemicist, from all that I’ve seen or read. Maybe others are using quotes from him that way, but however misguided the Cosmos segment was in the way it confused the issues surrounding the actual historical events, I believe it was not at all intended to knock religion per se.

          • DeGrasse Tyson has been a terrific presenter for documentaries on a number of PBS series. I like his sense of humor and enthusiasm, and think he has the ability to make science accessible (and to get people asking their own questions) in a way that very few people do.

            Just don’t get the animosity shown here and elsewhere for him, and the way he’s being painted in many comments here and elsewhere is not only unfair, but bears little resemblance to the man himself.

            As with controversial books, people get in an uproar about things they haven’t read/watched. Please give the guy a chance!

          • My swipe at Tyson was purely tongue in cheek. I think he is a skilled and winsome communicator of science … someone much needed. I am confused by the religiosity of Cosmos, however, and can’t quite tell if it is trying to be antagonistic or inclusive.

    • + 1 for that anecdote – I was very impressed by it.

  14. Isn’t the coming of the Mother Wheel supposed to be a good thing?

  15. Has anyone heard of or seen this? Pastors in Akron, OH “arrested” for preaching the Gospel? All an elaborate hoax that trivializes those of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are truly putting their life on the line in other countries for preaching, as one of the hucksters puts it, “Christ and Him crucified’? Shameless.

  16. Meant to include the link in the above post, sorry about that.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “Stupidity is like hydrogen; it’s the basic building block of the Universe.”
      — Frank Zappa

  17. As I understand the Orthodox patter, a Great and Holy Synod (of which this is one of many held since the 8th c.) only becomes an Ecumenical Council in retrospect, if it is thus hailed by Holy Tradition. (Assisted, perhaps, by Reuters.)

    Anyway, wouldn’t they have to invite the pope too?

  18. There was an Eighth Ecumenical Council during the Photian Schism. The Palamite Councils of the fourteenth century have Ecumenical status. Also, the Tenth Council was held in 1484 to undo the Council of Florence.

    Seven is a cool number, so it gets used a lot. It is the number of uncontested councils by the Eastern and Western Chalcedonian churches. The Protestants rolled back the Seventh, I guess.

  19. The first things I would do with that billion would be to pay off my debts that, as Bruce Springsteen once sang, “ honest man could pay…”. I and my wife would retire. And buy her the house she’s always wanted, picket fence and all. Get the medical procedures done that we both need. Travel around the world. Be more generous than we can afford to be now. Not necessarily in that order

  20. I don’t doubt that the AR 50a1 is a work of art and an engineering marvel. And as far as Michelangelo’s David; it has already been used in ads to sell everything from Levi’s to Viagra. Why complain about desecrating and trivializing now?

  21. I lost count of the bad theology on the video for Driscoll’s new book at the link: Apparently he thinks the church is going to die ’cause Jesus is going to fail at building it. Unless, of course, Driscoll’s clever rhetoric provokes enough anger in people to do something about it. Who is the savior building the church in this scenario? This is just reprehensible rhetoric and indefensible doctrine for a Calvinist, Charismatic, or middle-of-the-road generic church-growth oriented Evangelical, whichever Driscoll is at the moment.

    I especially love how Driscoll demonizes the culture, and then relies exclusively on methods dictated by it. IMO, this is the end game of a church without sacraments. When God does not dictate the means he works through, it is up to us to decide. Whatever method gets the results is spiritualized. This is exactly what is happening with multi-campus churches. Only a church without sacraments can endorse this method. At the end of the day, it’s nothing other than franchising McChurch. I recognize that many churches will have good and utilitarian reasons for pursuing this means, but at the end of the day, it’s an efficient means of moving a product.

  22. I think if the Cosmos people were more attuned to religious issues they could have done better. There’s no shortage of living,breathing anti-science high-profile Christians around today. Just look at the creation wars and the combatants who are certain that anyone who doesn’t hold to a six-day creation is on the slippery slope to heresy and hell. Or those who think modern psychology is not to be trusted. Of course, they don’t generally have the power to mete out capital punishment these days, so maybe it doesn’t play as well on TV as certain slanted tidbits of history.

  23. I think if the Cosmos people were more attuned to religious issues they could have done better.

    Tyson is a firmly committed atheist. He has a disdain for people of any faith. You can find him on YouTube talking about this a lot.

    • “He has a disdain for people of any faith.”

      I have seen various Youtube videos and interviews with Tyson, and I don’t agree with your comment at all. Pushing an overtly atheistic agenda doesn’t seem to be Tyson’s thing (he’s agnostic). He is in no way as vocal about his non-theistic views as many in the New Atheist camp (and he has taken heat from strident atheists for not being more anti-theistic vocally and in his non-rejection of certain religious cultural elements). His big thing is pushing science education and inspiring “awe” in the universe (seems like his religion in the way he talks about it). But he does have a problem when it comes to science issues under fire by religious folks.

      Tyson on conflict between science and religion:

      • I’m not talking about his “public” persona. If they are still up do some youtube searches for him, Hitchens and others talking about religious people and science in a panel discussion setting. Pretty harsh in his comments and opinions.

        I ran across these when chasing rabbits one time about Randi and and homeopathy. Tyson was making comments about how 10% of scientists are Christians (or religious this was 5 or 10 years ago and my memory is fading a bit) and how it was needed to get that number to 0% because there was no way someone could practice good science and be a person of faith. (Also not sure of where that number, 10%, comes from. Or the oft heard 50%.)

        But when in public he plays nice and is very polite. Something a lot of Christians could learn to do.

  24. Beautiful poem. Czeslaw Milosz is one of the best poets and his work, writte in Warsaw in 1943′ called “Campo dei Fiore” is one of my favorites. Quoting….On this square Giordano Bruno was burned.” I first read of this in the book, “The Wall,” by John Hersey. A man joins a group of Jews for an evening of reminisces, poetry readings, etc. in a room in the ghetto packed with people looking for hope. As he decides to read this new poem which segues into martyrs, etc., dear friends they knew who are now gone, the room is filled with sobbing as they see Giordano Bruno in their own lives. I just read it again and I, too, found myself sobbing.