An academic paper: Which saint is best to pray to if you’ve got Covid?

August 28, 2021 • 10:45 am

Inquiring minds want to know, and three Europeans (perhaps in cahoots with the divine) have answered:

When a reader sent me this article, and I read the online condensed version (it takes two minutes), I thought it as a joke. But no, it’s for real. You can see the journal site here, and a response to the article is the first one listed on the contents page of the latest issue. I’d love to see the response, or the full original paper (you can see a precis by clicking on the screenshot below).  I’ve archived the article’s precis here in case that for some reason they ditch the article.

 

Okay, I’m going to show you the whole “snippet” of the paper as presented by the journal:

Short report

Which Saint to pray for fighting against a Covid infection? A short survey

Summary

Background

In the absence of a treatment still considered universally effective, and of a vaccine validated by the health authorities, we wanted to know which Catholic saint the European Christian community turned to in the event of infection with Covid-19 to request a miraculous healing.

Methodology

An online survey was carried out on a sample of 1158 adults using social media tools.

Results

All results are presented in this research, with a few saints in the majority, and some dictated by the symptomatology of the Covid-19 infection or the personalities of certain « doctor guru ».

Conclusion

This medico-anthropological study is revealing the psychology of Western patients vis-à-vis the magic-religious means used in the fight against diseases, particularly in the epidemic/pandemic context.

Section snippets

Background

The relationship between religion and medicine is well known in human communities since antiquity. Medieval medicine was based on Hippocratic and Galenic doctrines, but it was also characterized by spiritual and divine influences. So, in European countries, in Middle Ages, Saints’ invocation for the curing of diseases was an usual practice.

Despite, the spiritual and religious dimensions have deviated from medicine after the Renaissance and the Late Enlightenment, the intercession to the Saints. . .

Methodology

We conducted a survey on two of the most used social networks: Twitter and Facebook. The survey was conducted between August 21 and 25, 2020. Each author posted on his Twitter and Facebook page, the following question: “Which saint you would pray for fighting against a Covid infection?”. The total number of followers targeted by the question was 15,840 people (92% from Europe).

Results

A total of 1158 adult anonymous participants (mainly from France and Italy) answered to our question. For obvious ethical reason, no sex, age or cultural background are available. All results are summarized in Table 1.

Discussion

Analyzing the results in more detail, from the survey it emerges that the majority saint is St. Rita (Fig. 1). From a young age, Rita of Cascia (Italy, 1381-1457) dreamed of consecrating herself to God, but she was destined to marry a violent man. Rita’s patience and love changed her husband’s character. After the violent death of her husband and two children from illness, Rita decided to follow the youthful desire by entering the monastery of the Order of Sant’Agostino in Cascia (Italy) [4].

Conclusions

This short medico-anthropological study is revealing the psychology of Western patients vis-à-vis the magic-religious means used in the fight against diseases, particularly in an epidemic/pandemic context. The survey confirms that Catholic people continue to entrust their sorrows, their anxieties and their hopes to the divinity, especially in time of global stress, mainly if it is a suddenly-presented difficulty that have changed the people’s lifestyle. Moreover, the choice of the Saints to. . .

Authors’ contributions

AP had the initial idea of the search and contributed to the survey. AC contributed to the survey. PC wrote the first draft of the manuscript, with significant critical input from all other coauthors. All authors have read and approve the final article. PC is the manuscript guarantor.

Disclosure of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interest.

So if you don’t get vaccinated, you better start praying to Saint Rita.

This is unbelievably stupid. And their research used subjects garnered from Twitter and Facebook!

Note that this isn’t just a survey of opinion, but is somewhat prescriptive: “In the absence of a treatment still considered universally effective, and of a vaccine validated by the health authorities, we wanted to know which Catholic saint the European Christian community turned to in the event of infection with Covid-19 to request a miraculous healing.”

Elsevier should be ashamed of itself. If anybody has access to the letter of response, I’d love to see it.

h/t: Ginger K

Andrew Sullivan really does believe in the truth of Catholicsm

April 3, 2021 • 10:30 am

Andrew Sullivan is a semi-pious Catholic who has been reluctant to specify exactly what tenets of Catholicism he embraces. It’s certain that he’s not a Biblical creationist, as he insisted when we famously crossed swords ten years ago. When I maintained that the creation stories of Genesis 1 and 2 were taken literally by the early Catholic theologians, and are still embraced by many Catholics today, he resorted to invective and obscenity in attacking my claim:

There’s no evidence that the Garden of Eden was always regarded as figurative? Really? Has Coyne read the fucking thing? I defy anyone with a brain (or who hasn’t had his brain turned off by fundamentalism) to think it’s meant literally. It’s obviously meant metaphorically. It screams parable. Ross [Douthat] sees the exchange as saying something significant about the atheist mindset – and I largely agree with everything he says, except his definition of “fundamentalist” doesn’t seem to extend much past Pat Robertson. It certainly makes me want to take Jerry Coyne’s arguments less seriously. Someone this opposed to religion ought to have a modicum of education about it. The Dish, if you recall, had a long thread on this subject in August. No one was as dumb as Coyne.

Well, it was Sullivan who put his foot in his mouth, for all the early Church Fathers, including Aquinas and Augustine, believed that the Genesis creation story was literally true, and about 40% of Americans continue to do so today. Even among Catholics creationism is widespread. Although the Vatican formally has no objections to evolution, many Catholics do. As I wrote in a 2012 paper in Evolution:

27% of American Catholics think that modern species were created instantaneously by God and have remained unchanged ever since, while 8% do not know or refuse to answer (Masci 2009)

Since then I’ve queried Sullivan about what he really believes as a Catholic. Was Jesus the Son of God? Did Jesus perform miracles? Was he resurrected? Sullivan has never, as far as I know, laid out what he believes, which is very odd for a believer, especially an intellectual one.  But we can be sure he doesn’t think that homosexual acts are a “grave sin” that doom one to hell if unconfessed, for Sullivan is gay.

In this week’s column, Sullivan is back to osculating religion again, and repeating his belief that America would fall apart without Abrahamic religion. Click on the screenshot to read the osculation.

After a year of missing Mass because of the pandemic, Sullivan forced himself out of bed of a Sunday and went to Washington’s National Cathedral. Given his animus towards the Catholic Church’s attitude towards gays, and his hatred of its pervasive sex abuse of children, one wonders why Sullivan goes to Mass at all.

My first guess was that he liked the ceremonies, songs, and sermons, which satisfies some need for ritual and spirituality. And indeed, that’s a big part of it:

. . . The one thing Catholicism teaches the bored and distracted church-goer is that your own mood doesn’t really matter. The consecration will happen regardless. Your inspiration is not the point. And what makes this all cohere somehow is physical, communal ritual — and that, I realize, is what I really miss.

I miss the silent genuflection; the chanting in unison with others; the simple standing up and kneeling down and standing up again. I miss the messy democracy of the communion line, and the faces I recognize from decades in my parish, and the faces I don’t. I miss enacting something ineffable with my body, using words I never chose myself, and using them uniquely in this space. I miss the irrational, collective order of it all. I miss the liberation of submission to something far larger than myself.

Well I won’t denigrate the man for wanting some kind of ritual, though he does admit it’s “irrational”. Why irrational, though? Because the significance of the ritual lies in submitting himself “to something far larger than myself.” And by “larger,” you can bet he doesn’t mean “a big crowd of people.” No, he means God. And since there’s no evidence for a God, he’s submitting himself to a phantom.

I’m always baffled when a smart person, especially a journalist, believes not just in a god, but in the dictates of a particular Church. And, indeed, Sullivan finally admits that he believes some of the tenets of Catholicism:

And, beneath all this, only poking above ground every now and again, I miss the weekly reminder of what I deeply believe within the folds of my consciousness: the command of universal love; the fact of life after death; the radical truth of experiential mystery; and the centrality of the Gospels to eternity. Many atheist or agnostic friends sometimes ask me how they too can have a leap of faith. And the truth is I have no idea. I have never leapt anywhere. I have trudged, stumbled, meandered, persisted, and resisted all my life. But to have one part of my existence directed to the timeless and the mysterious just once a week all my life has given me something priceless.

Here he sets himself apart from Jews and Hindus, and many other believers, by affirming that he does belief in life hereafter and the importance of the Gospels. Further, he has no idea at all why he believes what he does. There was apparently something about Catholicism that resonated with him. (I suspect, but don’t know for sure, that he was brought up Catholic.)

Well, I’m not going to tell Sullivan that he’s basing his priceless feelings on a delusion, but I can say it here.  Is it wrong to condition your beliefs and actions on a religion whose tenets have no empirical support? Yes, of course. Would Sullivan still go to Mass if he didn’t think there was a god or an afterlife? Indeed, the Bayesian analysis of a theistic god surely militates strongly against one, so he’s worshiping something that probably doesn’t exist. Nevertheless he feels it exists, and therefore predicates his life on it—a very odd attitude for a journalist who relies on facts.

Well, maybe I’m being too hard on the man, trying to argue that what brings him solace is fictional. After all, it does bring him solace:

I couldn’t say exactly how this counter-rational aspect of my life affects the rest of me, but it definitely stabilizes things. It gives perspective. It makes the awfulness of the world less intolerable, it momentarily breaks what Michael Oakeshott called “the deadliness of doing”.

and

It is good to get out of the addled brain for a while, to live in the soul and the body alone. And I wish I were better able to convey how life-giving this is.

and

I see the calm it gives others too: the repetition of little acts, the recitation of the same words, the unity that such rituals can give a life over the decades. I saw it in my Irish grandmother — rattling through the Rosary like a freight train.

It’s not our brief to tell Sullivan to stop believing in a lie, but it’s perfectly fine to write it here.

As his article winds down, Sullivan argues that one of the benefits of “true” religion—presumably his brand of religion—is that the need for meaning isn’t co-opted into other forms that are harmful. He specifically mentions the fusion of Republicanism with Evangelical Christianity, as well as “wokeness”, which he—and John McWhorter—consider a distortion of religion. Unfortunately, Sullivan characterizes wokeness this way:

. . . .a profoundly atheist view of the world as merely the arrangement of power structures.

I’m not sure how he sees atheism as essential to wokeness, and it’s certain that many of the Woke are religious. But showing the supposed problems with alternatives to religion is the way Sullivan finds reassurance in his belief.

But what I can’t cut him slack for is what he says at the end of his piece: that America would be the worse if it gave up “humble” faith:

These pseudo-religions will fail. They are too worldly, too rooted in contemporary culture wars, too baldly tribal, and too shallow in their understanding of the world to have much staying power. But they can do immense damage to souls and our society in the meantime. They lack the one thing that endures in religious practice: something transcendent that makes the failure in our lives redemptive, and sees politics merely as the necessary art of attending to the imperfect.

It took centuries for Christianity to begin to model that kind of humility and conviction, and to reject earthly power as a distraction from what really matters, what really lasts. And it would be a terrible shame if America threw that glorious inheritance away.

I’d ask him, as I did in an email for his “dissents” section (a comment he never published), how the atheistic countries of Scandinavia and Northern Europe manage to thrive having abandoned their “glorious inheritance of religion”. How do those nonbelievers manage to find solace? And not just that—they’ve constructed governments and societies that in many ways are more humane and moral than America’s.

And that’s my Easter homily.

A Vatican astronomer writes to me

December 14, 2020 • 1:30 pm

I was just in the middle of writing about something more interesting than religion when a new email, highlighted here, arrived. And so I stopped writing to take care of this latest “flea”, as Richard Dawkins calls his captious critics. I’ll get back to the other stuff tomorrow.

Presumably because my Conversation essay on the incompatibility of science and religion was reprinted this morning on Yahoo! News, I have been getting a fair number of emails today from offended believers who reject my thesis that science and religion are incompatible. In that essay, but especially in my book Faith Versus Fact, I contend that while that both science and religion make claims about what’s true in the Universe (religion of course does other things besides assert facts), only science has a way of testing those claims.

To me this is the heart of the incompatibility, and its existence seems indisputable to me. There are a gazillion religions, all making different factual claims about the world and its history, and there’s no way to resolve them. That’s why so many religions remain on the planet, many of them hating those who adhere to other faiths. In contrast, there’s only one science (though the guy below disagrees), and Hindu scientists aren’t at odds with Muslim scientists or atheist scientists about the tenets of physics and chemistry.

If you’re a Catholic, like the writer of the email below, your theology and morality must to some degree rest on acceptance of certain central factual claims of the Church: the existence of a divine Jesus as the son/alter ego of a divine God, Jesus’s Resurrection, which expiates us of sin, and so on. If those facts be wrong, on what is your faith grounded? After all, as Scriptures say (1 Corinthians 15:12-14, King James Version):

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen. And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

So if Jesus didn’t come back to life—this of course assumes that Jesus not only existed, but was divine, claims supported by no evidence outside scripture—your Christian faith is useless. All three Abrahamic religions, like many other faiths, make factual claims that undergird their whole system of worship and morality.

Jesuits, of course, are more liberal than other Catholics, and perhaps more willing to interpret Scripture as metaphorical, but I’m willing to bet that this Catholic, a Jesuit, who’s Vice Director of the Vatican Observatory (I squelch my urge to make a Catholic pun) adheres to the myths about Jesus that undergird his faith. (He is, after all, a member of the Society of Jesus!) Presumably Fr. Mueller goes to Mass at least once a week and noms the wafer and quaffs the wine, accepting that some kind of physical but undetectable transformation occurs during that process. Presumably he goes to confession, thinking that if he tells his sins to another priest, God will expiate them. Well, I don’t know Fr. Mueller’s own beliefs save that he’s co-authored a book about why religion and science are compatible, and no, I haven’t read it, as it came out several years after my own. In fact, according to Fr. Mueller, I haven’t read anything substantive about the relationship between science and religion.

It’s the smarmy faux-niceness pervading this email—its sugary passive-aggressiveness—that made me decide to post it, which I don’t often do. Mueller’s note even ends with an invitation to visit the Vatican Observatory.

But it’s not just that tone that angered me. More galling was Mueller’s accusation that I haven’t read widely about the relationship between science and faith (he’s employing the Courtier’s Reply here), which is of course untrue. Apparently Fr. Mueller isn’t aware that I wrote an entire book on my thesis (with pages and pages of references), a book that of course he hasn’t read, since he’s responding only to my short article. Ergo, Fr. Mueller is even more guilty of the Courtier’s accusation.  Had he read my book—and it’s just one book, not the dozens he’d foist on me—he’d know that I already dealt with the first three points of his critique, including giving a very careful exposition of what I mean by “incompatibility” between science and religion.

Hiding yet another brickbat in his bouquet, Fr. Mueller assures me that he’s concerned to uphold my university’s standards of inquiry, as he himself has two degrees at the University of Chicago. Yes, I’m apparently guilty of shoddy scholarship. Even if that were true, though, at least I’m not guilty of believing in fairy tales.

I had drafted a reply to Mueller about the “standards of inquiry” that undergird his own beliefs, but of course I don’t know for sure what his beliefs are. But one thing is true: we know a lot more about our solar system than we know about the Catholic God or His purported sidekicks: Jesus and the Holy Ghost.

I decided not to provide Fr. Mueller with a list of all the reading I did about theology and its relationship to science, extending from Augustine and Aquinas down to Haught (does Mueller know I debated Catholic theologian Haught, who then tried to censor the video of our debate because he didn’t come off very well?), to Alvin Plantinga, Karen Armstrong, Ronald Numbers, the BioLogos Crew including Francis Collins, Ken Miller, David Bentley Hart, Richard Swinburne, John Polkinghorne, and many others—yes, the whole schmegegge of accommodationism.

I missed Rabbi Sacks’s book, but I did read the Dalai Lama’s. And I’m here to tell you that none of these people wrote anything that undermines my thesis about incompatibility. They really couldn’t, for they have factual beliefs based not on empiricism but on faith, Scripture, and wish-thinking, methods guaranteed to pull you into the rabbit hole of confirmation bias. At some point, one realizes that after reading 315 books on science and religion, you’re not going to find a new, world-shaking thesis in book #316.

I guess this will constitute my reply to Fr. Mueller, and I’ll call his attention to this post. But if you wish to chime in, please do so below. Remember, he’s trying hard to be nice (at least, that’s how it looks), so don’t bruise the man. Still, I find this kind of letter to be far more annoying that emails from straight-up creationists who say I’m going to hell and don’t claim that I’m their “colleague.”

Here you go:

Dear Mr. Coyne,

I recently read your article “Yes there is a war between science and religion” on the web site “The Conversation”.  If I may respond:

First: There is indeed a conflict between (on one hand) theism co-joined with a literal interpretation of scripture and (on the other hand) science co-joined with philosophical materialism. If you had limited yourself to that narrow domain, your claims would be true, if unremarkable. However:

  • “Religion” is not reducible to theism co-joined with a literal interpretation of scripture. That represents only a small part of world-wide religion — most notably, noisy Christian fundamentalists in the USA and sometimes-violent Islamic fundamentalists elsewhere.
  • “Science” does not necessarily include philosophical materialism. It is only in the English-speaking world that the notion is widespread that science entails philosophical materialism; in the rest of the world, that is decidedly a minority position.

Second: In modern scholarship, it is commonly understood that it is not possible to speak meaningfully about the relationship between science and religion. There are many sciences, and there are many religions. Serious and meaningful discussion is possible only in reference to particular sciences and particular religions.

Third: If you’re going to take Daniel Dennett (a “God-denier”) as your guide in defining religion, then shouldn’t you take take a science-denier, or an evolution-denier, or a climate-change denier as your guide in defining science? To express the point more soberly: Shouldn’t the conceptions of “religion” which you engage be intrinsic to religion (i.e. furnished from within religious traditions) rather than extrinsic (i.e. imposed on religion from without)?

Finally, I am surprised that you would make such sweeping claims about science-faith without showing evidence of having entered more deeply into the vast scholarly literature in that area. It doesn’t seem possible that you would be innocent of serious engagement with such scholarship, but if so a suitable first step could be John Haught’s God and the New Atheism. A fuller and more nuanced entree could be Jonathan Sacks’ The Great Partnership. For historically sensitive exploration of the peculiarly American conflict between biblical fundamentalism and scientific materialism, there’s the excellent scholarly work of Ronald Numbers — for example, The Creationists (2006) and The Warfare Between Science and Religion: The Idea That Wouldn’t Die (2018).

I write this message to you not only as a University of Chicago alumnus who is concerned to uphold the University’s standards of inquiry, but also in the spirit of the words of Pope John Paul II in a 1988 letter to George Coyne, who was then the director of the Vatican astronomical observatory: “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”*

Thank you for your kind attention. If you should find yourself at Rome and you would like to visit the Vatican astronomical observatory at Castel Gandolfo, please feel free to contact me.

Collegially yours,

Paul Mueller

     MS Physics, 1996, University of Chicago
     PhD Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, 2006, University of Chicago
——————————————–
  Paul Mueller
  Vice Director
  Vatican Observatory

____________

* JAC note: No, religion can’t.

Andrew Sullivan implies that the Resurrection probably didn’t happen, and then describes “Christianism” as a big threat to America

December 12, 2020 • 11:30 am

Andrew Sullivan is a practicing Catholic, but doesn’t like to discuss his own beliefs.  I’ve had two interactions with him about this issue, though the latest wasn’t really an “interaction.”

In 2011, Sullivan pounced on me in his column in the Daily Dish for assuming that people take the Bible literally when it comes to the creation of Earth and its inhabitants. His piece can be found at the archived website, and I also posted about it, saying this and quoting Sullivan:

At any rate, Sullivan makes this accusation:  I am one of many deluded fools who thinks that the account of Genesis was meant to be taken seriously.  From the outset it was an obvious metaphor, and intended to be seen as such!

“There’s no evidence that the Garden of Eden was always regarded as figurative? Really? Has Coyne read the fucking thing? I defy anyone with a brain (or who hasn’t had his brain turned off by fundamentalism) to think it’s meant literally. It’s obviously meant metaphorically. It screams parable. Ross sees the exchange as saying something significant about the atheist mindset – and I largely agree with everything he says, except his definition of “fundamentalist” doesn’t seem to extend much past Pat Robertson. It certainly makes me want to take Jerry Coyne’s arguments less seriously. Someone this opposed to religion ought to have a modicum of education about it. The Dish, if you recall, had a long thread on this subject in August. No one was as dumb as Coyne.”

I responded by quoting a number of theologians, including Aquinas and Augustine, who took the Genesis story literally, even though some church fathers noted that it had a metaphorical interpretation as well as a literal one. And of course about 40% of all Americans are Genesis adherents. In response to Sullivan’s insults about my dumbness, and his assumption that I hadn’t read Genesis, I called him a “mush-brained metaphorizer.”

My anger at Sullivan, inflamed by his insults, has since cooled. We’re on the same side on many issues, particularly “wokeness”, and his columns are very often rational and perspicacious. Still, he occasionally drags his faith into his column (now The Weekly Dish, a subscriber-only site to which I do subscribe). And when he mentions faith in a positive way, it now conflicts all the more jarringly with his avowed adherence to rationality and science.

That led to my second interaction, when he wrote this:

. . . I don’t know whether liberalism can survive without some general faith in an objective reality and a transcendent divinity. That’s why I suspect a reinvention and reboot for Christianity is an urgent task.

Well, I couldn’t let that stand, so I wrote what I thought was a good “reader’s dissent”, pointing out that the happiest, most well-off, and liberal democracies of the world were the least religious. Sadly, he didn’t publish my gem, so I put it on this site. So be it.

But I always wonder what the man really believes about his faith, and I’d love to debate him on the dissonance between his Catholicism and his constant banging on about the need to be rational and adhere to the facts. In his column this week, he makes a telling statement in the midst of criticizing Trumpian Christianists (more on them in a second) for their refusal to face facts about the election. He indicts not only the Right, embodied by the unhinged Eric Metaxas, but also the Woke Left, represented by Ibram X. Kendi, as ignoring evidence. If you’re a member, click on the screenshot below:

Toward the end of what is a readable and incisive essay, Sullivan makes the statements below below while discussing the refusal of “Christianists” to accept the election results, claiming instead that Biden’s victory is the result of a widespread conspiracy. (The emphasis below is mine.)

The right is not unique in conspiratorial delusion, of course. The refusal of many on the left to accept Tump’s legitimate victory in 2016 was real and widespread. Both Hillary Clinton and John Lewis declared Trump an illegitimate president. Remember the Diebold machines of 2004? Not far from the Dominion stuff today. And the intensity of the belief on the left in an unfalsifiable “white supremacist” America has a pseudo-religious fervor to it. The refusal of Metaxas to allow any Republican to remain neutral or skeptical is mirrored by Ibram X. Kendi’s Manichean fanaticism on the far left.

But the long-established network of evangelical churches and pastors, and the unique power of an actual religion to overwhelm reason, gives the right an edge when it comes to total suspension of disbelief. Christianists are not empiricists or skeptics. They’re believers. This time around, it’s belief in a “multi-layered, multi-dimensional” conspiracy involving hundreds of people in several states, rejected by almost every court. You can fact-check that as easily as you can fact-check the Resurrection.

But what else does that mean except that there’s as little evidence for the Resurrection as there is for Republicans’ election conspiracy theories? In other words, no evidence! I’m forced to conclude, then, that Sullivan, as a Catholic, rejects Jesus’s literal Resurrection. Maybe he thinks it’s some kind of metaphor. My conclusion is strengthened in the next bit when he once again touts empiricism (my emphasis):

To survive, liberal democracy must have some level of moderation, some acceptance of the legitimacy of the other side, and room for compromise. It has to be based in empiricism, shared truth, deliberation and doubt. Fundamentalist religion has none of those qualities. It’s all or nothing.

One can conclude that Sullivan indeed equates belief in the Resurrection with fundamentalism, but of course that’s not the case: if anything, Jesus’s revival is a critical tenet of mainstream Catholic (or other Christian) faith, fundamentalist or not. It’s a linchpin of the Christian story of sin and salvation. Note also that he avers here that liberal democracy must be based on empiricism and shared truth, while earlier he said that liberal democracy, to survive, also has to have some faith in a “transcendent divinity”, and requires a “rebooted Christianity.” I’m here to tell Sullivan that basing democracy on empiricism automatically rules out basing it on any Abrahamic religion, including a “transcendent divinity” theistic or not.

Enough. The rest of the article is good, describing a group of hardcore Republican Christians, whom he calls “Christianists” to parallel “Islamists”, as both groups see no distinction between their faith and politics. Trumpian Christianists apparently see Trump, with all his flaws, as God’s own second saviour to redeem both ourselves and our country.

To Sullivan, the existence of Christianists explains the plethora of Republican loons who still won’t accept the election results. But I’m not as sure as he that this group will pose a real threat to America after Biden is sworn in.

Two quotes:

In a manner very hard to understand from the outside, American evangelical Christianity has both deepened its fusion of church and state in the last few years, and incorporated Donald Trump into its sacred schematic. Christianists now believe that Trump has been selected by God to save them from persecution and the republic from collapse. They are not in denial about Trump’s personal iniquities, but they see them as perfectly consistent with God’s use of terribly flawed human beings, throughout the Old Testament and the New, to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven.

This belief is now held with the same, unwavering fundamentalist certainty as a Biblical text. And white evangelical Christianists are the most critical constituency in Republican politics. If you ask yourself how on earth so many people have become convinced that the 2020 election was rigged, with no solid evidence, and are now prepared to tear the country apart to overturn an election result, you’ve got to take this into account. This faction, fused with Trump, is the heart and soul of the GOP. You have no future in Republican politics if you cross them. That’s why 19 Republican attorneys general, Ted Cruz, and now 106 Congressional Republicans have backed a bonkers lawsuit to try to get the Supreme Court to overturn the result.

Biden’s victory was not God’s will. Therefore it couldn’t have happened.

Below: Sullivan’s fears, which may well be exaggerated. I certainly hope they are:

And Trump is at the center of [Christianists’] belief system now, which includes all his lies. The relationship of many with him is that of evangelicals and their pastor: a male, patriarchal figure who cannot be questioned and must be obeyed. Trump’s political genius has been in sniffing out this need to believe, and filling it, all the time, tweet by tweet, lie by lie, con by con. No wonder Trump Trutherism is now a litmus test for the Christianist faith. . .

. . . Not only is it all or nothing, but the mandate to believe it, and act on it, is from God himself. When this psychological formation encounters politics, it cannot relent, it cannot change its mind, it cannot simply move on. And a core element of our politics right now — and part of the unprecedented resilience of Trump’s support — is this total suspension of judgment by a quarter of all Americans. When that certainty of faith met a malignant narcissist who cannot admit error, a force was created that continues to cut a ferocious swathe through our culture and our democratic institutions.

And if God Almighty calls for the overturning of a democratic election by force or violence? Then let the walls of Jericho come tumbling down.

I still predict little or no right-wing violence after January 20, but I’m not going to bet on it. The GOP, with 100+ of its Congresspeople joining the crazy Texas lawsuit trying to overturn the election, has become a swarming beehive of of truthers, conspiracy theorists, and, of course, gun nuts.

The execrable behavior of the Catholic Church during World War II

September 2, 2020 • 11:30 am

I won’t dwell on this for long, but though I’d call to your attention this new article in The Atlantic about the behavior of the Catholic Church during World War II. It concentrates, though, on the story of how two Jewish children whose parents died in Auschwitz were forcibly baptized by the Church, which, under canon law, then refused to return the children to their Jewish relatives. Click on the screenshot to read.


The story of the complicity of the Vatican and Pope Pius XII (“Hitler’s Pope”) with the Nazi regime is well known; I believe Hitchens referred to it often. If you don’t know about it, there’s a 1999 article in The Atlantic that gives the sordid details, and many other places to read about it on the Internet (here’s another).  The Church did very little to help the Jews during the war, and deliberately refrained from denouncing the Hitler regime and the Holocaust, even when Jews were being ferried to the camps from right outside the Vatican.

The article above, though, is more about a specific incident: a pair of Jewish boys who were in effect kidnapped by the church after their parents were taken to Auschwitz, baptized as Catholics, and then kept and hidden by the Church despite the boys’ relatives demanding, after the war, that they be returned to their relatives.

In short, Anni and Fritz Finaly, Austrian Jews, fled to Vichy France during the war, hoping to leave Europe but not making it out. Knowing that their family would likely be rounded up by the Gestapo, the Finalys put their two boys, Robert and Gérald, in the hands of a friend, who promised to look out for them. In 1944 the parents were taken to Auschwitz and disappeared. The friend then put the two boys, aged 3 and 4, in a convent in Grenoble, asking the nuns to hide them. Instead, the nuns put them in a municipal nursery school under the guardianship of the school’s director, Antoinette Brun.

The trouble then began. Brun had the children baptized as Catholics in 1948, meaning that, under canon law, the children were considered Catholics and could not be given back to their Jewish relatives. By then the relatives were doing everything they could to get the boys back, and the Church did everything it could to prevent that. The local authorities cooperated with the Church, though turning the boys over was simply the right thing to do.

The article goes on at length about the Church’s machinations, in cooperation with priests and nuns, to hide the boys. The only possible reason is that ridiculous church law arguing that Jewish kids baptized as Catholics, even though they didn’t assent to baptism, couldn’t be returned to the family.  After all, you can’t let good baptized Catholics back into the hands of Christ-killers. (This policy, says the article, is still in force—see Canon 868: “An infant of Catholic parents or even of non-Catholic parents is baptized licitly in danger of death even against the will of the parents.”)

The Pope and his minions fought for years against the boys’ relatives, finally giving up in 1953 when the boys were surrendered to their aunt and flew to Tel Aviv.

What shocked me about all this was the Catholic law, as well as the ruthlessness with which the Church fought against common decency just to keep two Jewish boys out of the hands of their relatives so they could be counted as prizes for the Church. It’s inhumane; but of course when has the Church been humane towards children?

And the canon law allowing that is still in force, though it couldn’t be used today without a huge outcry. This, of course, is only one small part of the anti-Semitism of the Vatican, which didn’t absolve Jews of killing Jesus until 1965. (You’d think that they’d go easier on the Jews since the death of Jesus was a vital part of God’s plan!)

 

Andrew Sullivan: Sustainable liberalism requires God

August 29, 2020 • 1:45 pm

I want to add one comment to today’s earlier post on Andrew Sullivan. It gets its own space here because it’s is unrelated to the issue of violent vs. nonviolent protests.

One good feature of The Weekly Dish is that thoughtful readers write in offering criticisms of what Sullivan wrote earlier.  Sullivan then responds, and, to his credit, sometimes he admits error. But this time he touts God. Here’s a bit of one critical email and Sullivan’s answer (my emphasis):

Part of reader’s comment:

Parting question for you: Do you think a resurgence of small “L” liberalism is possible in an increasingly atheistic West? If so, by what mechanism would it be brought about?

Sullivan’s response:

I’m glad you’re making this essential point about right-wing postmodernism as well. I agree largely, and should devote more attention to it — as I have done in the past. But the honest answer is: I don’t know whether liberalism can survive without some general faith in an objective reality and a transcendent divinity. That’s why I suspect a reinvention and reboot for Christianity is an urgent task.

Well, yes, you have to have faith in an objective reality if you’re trying to do any effective politics, but liberalism depends heavily not only on the concept of objective truth, but on ascertaining what it is. But as for “general faith in a transcendent divinity”, well, that’s totally bogus. Why do we need belief in God to advocate liberal politics? It would seem the opposite to me: many right-wing tenets, like anti-pro-choice and anti-gay positions, seem to depend on adhering to the will of a god or a faith.

It irks me that a man who is often so rational in other ways still believes, without a shred of evidence, that there is a god. (Sullivan’s a Catholic—a pretty pious one, I gather, though not an adherent to all Church dogma.) If you believe in an objective reality, then you must also believe that there are ways to ascertain what that reality is. But there is no way to ascertain the “reality” of a god, much less of Sullivan’s Christian god. The more urgent task is to weaken all faiths, not buttress them.

Fortunately, we do have a reinvention of Christianity. It isn’t a reboot, but surely suffices as a grounding for liberalism. It’s called secular humanism.

Catholic sacraments erased because priest wasn’t correctly baptized due to use of unpreferred pronoun. Church is contact-tracing to find the doomed.

August 24, 2020 • 10:00 am
This is one of the crazier manifestations of mainstream religion (Catholicism) that I’ve seen lately, and I would have missed it in The Detroit News had it not been sent by reader Steve.  Click on screenshot to read.

I’ll just quote the gist of the article, which almost could have come from The Onion (my emphasis to show the damage caused by not using a preferred pronoun):

A priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit earlier this month learned his baptism, performed 30 years ago, was invalid and that sacraments he has performed for others such as marriage and confession are invalid.

The Rev. Matthew Hood, who since July has served as associate pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Utica and at Divine Child in Dearborn since 2017, learned he was invalidly baptized as an infant by Deacon Mark Springer, who improperly used “We baptize” rather than “I baptize” to confer the sacrament from 1986 to 1999, a statement from the archdiocese said.

An invalid baptism means Hood, a graduate of Sacred Heart Major Seminary who sought ordination to the priesthood 2017, was invalidly ordained to the priesthood and limited in his ability to celebrate valid sacraments during the past three years, the archdiocese said.

“The note from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith alerted the Church throughout the world that baptisms were not valid in which a particular word or words were changed,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

“To say ‘We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ does not convey the sacrament of baptism. Rather, ministers must allow Jesus to speak through them and say, ‘I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

The archdiocese is seeking to contact anyone who may have received invalid sacraments.

“It is the duty of the local Church to ensure that everyone entrusted into her care has the full benefit and certainty that come from the valid reception of the sacraments, which have been given to us to keep us as secure as possible on the path to heaven,” Archbishop Allen Vigneron said.

Contact tracing! At least it’s easier here than for Covid-19 because you need find only the people to whom Father Hood gave sacraments. Still, that’s thirty years worth of Catholics!

I’m curious as to how many people are going to go to hell because they couldn’t be contacted, and thus their own baptisms, confessions, and expiations were invalid—all because Hood was baptized by “we” rather than “I”. More important, how did they find out?

Hood has now been baptized properly, and henceforth his sacraments will be “valid”. But still I wonder whether, if the priest administered “invalid sacraments”, can people really go to hell? I know that homosexuality is a “grave sin” to Catholics, and an unconfessed homosexual act can send you to hell.  Would a gay person who confessed this to the incorrectly baptized Hood still have to fry for eternity? Theologians, please weigh in!

Apropos, Steve sent a video clip with a note:

This is a famous scene from the first Harry Potter movie about the importance of proper pronunciation when spellcasting.

Vatican uses most of “charitable” donations to a major fund for reducing the Church’s debt

December 12, 2019 • 1:30 pm

Direct donations from Catholics to the Holy See —a fund called “Peter’s Pence“—is a practice that’s been going on in one form or another since 1031, but was formalized in 1871 by Pope Pius IX. The money, which is in response to a direct appeal from the Pope, is supposed to be used for philanthropic purposes. Or so the website says. However, The Wall Street Journal, whose article on this “charity” is for some reason not paywalled (click on screenshot below), found that 90% of the donated money goes for non-charitable initiatives, with two-thirds of the total going to reduce the budget deficit of the Holy See—the administration of the Catholic Church and its diplomatic network. Click on the screenshot to read the article or, if you can’t get it, try some judicious inquiry:

The excerpt below is from the Vatican’s explanation of the Peter’s Pence fund:

Peter’s Pence Today

In the first year of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the proper meaning of this offering:

“‘Peter’s Pence’ is the most characteristic expression of the participation of all the faithful in the Bishop of Rome’s charitable initiatives in favour of the universal Church. The gesture has not only a practical value, but also a strong symbolic one, as a sign of communion with the Pope and attention to the needs of one’s brothers; and therefore your service possesses a refined ecclesial character”. (Address to the Members of the St Peter Circle, 25 February 2006).

The ecclesial value of this gesture becomes evident when one considers how charitable initiatives are connatural to the Church, as the Pope stated in his first Encyclical Deus caritas est (25 December 2005):

“The Church can never be exempted from practising charity as an organized activity of believers and, on the other hand, there will never be a situation where the charity of each individual Christian is unnecessary, because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love” (No. 29)

This aid is always animated by that love which comes from God:

“For this reason, it is very important that the Church’s charitable activity maintains all of its splendour and does not become just another form of social assistance” (…) “The Christian’s programme — the programme of the Good Samaritan, the programme of Jesus — is ‘a heart which sees’. This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly” (ibidem, No. 31).

This clearly implies that the major purpose of the “offerings” from the faithful is to fulfill “charitable initiatives”.  But, according to the WSJ, this just ain’t so:

VATICAN CITY—Every year, Catholics around the world donate tens of millions of dollars to the pope. Bishops exhort the faithful to support the weak and suffering through the pope’s main charitable appeal, called Peter’s Pence.

What the church doesn’t advertise is that most of that collection, worth more than €50 million ($55 million) annually, goes toward plugging the hole in the Vatican’s own administrative budget, while as little as 10% is spent on charitable works, according to people familiar with the funds.

The little-publicized breakdown of how the Holy See spends Peter’s Pence, known only among senior Vatican officials, is raising concern among some Catholic Church leaders that the faithful are being misled about the use of their donations, which could further hurt the credibility of the Vatican’s financial management under Pope Francis.

. . . Under church law, Peter’s Pence is available to the pope to use at his discretion in any way that serves his ministry, including the support of his administration. The collection’s website says that, to support the pope’s charitable works, “Peter’s Pence also contributes to the support of the Apostolic See and the activities of the Holy See,” emphasizing activities that help “populations, individuals and families in precarious conditions.”

The assets of Peter’s Pence now total about €600 million, down from about €700 million early in the current pontificate, largely on account of unsuccessful investments, said the people familiar with the funds’ use.

The use of Peter’s Pence donations mostly to plug the budget deficit is particularly sensitive for Pope Francis, who began his pontificate by calling for a “poor church for the poor,” and has continually emphasized the church’s mission to care for and advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable.

. . .Peter’s Pence, a special collection from Catholics around the world every June, is billed as a fundraising effort for the needy. The Vatican’s website for the collection, www.peterspence.va, describes it as a “gesture of charity, a way of supporting the activity of the Pope and the universal Church in favoring especially the poorest and Churches in difficulty. It is also an invitation to pay attention and be near to new forms of poverty and fragility.”

A section of the website dedicated to “works realized” describes individual grants, such as €100,000 in relief aid to survivors of last month’s earthquake in Albania or €150,000 for those affected by cyclone Idai in southeastern Africa in March.

. . . Local church leaders echo the Vatican’s line when soliciting contributions. According to the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: “The purpose of the Peter’s Pence Collection is to provide the Holy Father with the financial means to respond to those who are suffering as a result of war, oppression, natural disaster and disease.”

But for at least the past five years, only about 10% of the money collected—more than €50 million was raised in 2018—has gone to the sort of charitable causes featured in advertising for the collection, according to people familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, about two-thirds of the money has been used to help cover the budget deficit at the Holy See, these people said. The Holy See consists of the central administration of the Catholic Church and the papal diplomatic network around the world. In 2018, the budget deficit reached roughly €70 million on total spending of about €300 million, reflecting chronic inefficiencies, rising wage costs and hits to investment income.

This of course is due in part to declining church attendance, as well as the besmirching of the Church’s reputation by the child-rape scandal. And, as the paper reports, donations to the PP fund dropped about 20% from 2017 to 2018, with further declines expected in this year.

In its “Peter’s Pence” article, Wikipedia indicates further abuses (the last reference, #22, is to yesterday’s article in the WSJ):

In 2019, it was revealed that the charity had secretly been used by people within the Vatican to buy luxury property in London[19][20] and to fund movies such as the 2019 Elton John biopic Rocketman.[21] It has also been used to finance the budget deficit of the Holy See.[22]

The upshot is that the Vatican is misleading its flock about where their money goes, and the Pope is complicit in this.  Although none of the Ten Commandments say “Thou shalt not lie,” two are applicable here: “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Although the latter could be construed as forbidding perjury rather than lying, it’s been interpreted as lying. Regardless, if the Vatican isn’t lying here, it’s certainly being duplicitous. How many people would donate to “Peter’s Pence” if they knew that only one tenth of their donation went to help people in need?

CNN, Reuters and other media mainstream a “Jesus relic”, taking it for granted that Jesus lived and was born in Bethlehem

December 1, 2019 • 10:30 am

I’m back with a pile of exigent tasks, all of which are temporarily effacing the memories I had of my fantastic trip to Antarctica.  I see the Roald Amundsen is again crossing the Drake Passage on the way to the Antarctic Peninsula, so the passengers must have replaced much of their luggage that was stolen. But they’ve still lost two days of their voyage.

And so it’s back to the grind for me. First, grocery shopping, which I do early in the morning. When I turned on the radio on the way to the store, the very first thing I heard was Krista Tippett blathering on in her NPR show, “On Being”, in which she regularly emits Deepities whose profundity almost brings her to tears. (She clearly thinks a lot of herself, despite her emphasis on “humility.”) Hearing her whine about spirituality already put me in a bad mood, but when the show ended (yes, I’m a masochist), I thought I heard her say “This show is located on Dakota (or Lakota) land.”

“That can’t be”, I thought to myself. “Even the unctuous Tippett isn’t that woke!”

But sure enough, she is, and I should have known it. For if you go to her “On Being” site, which of course I did, you find this page-long acknowledgment of land theft (click on screenshot):

(It turns out that the Dakota and Lakota were two distinct groups with different languages, both under the umbrella of the Sioux nation.)

But read how “On Being” flagellates its back like a masochistic penitente. If their project in Minnesota is indeed located on Dakota land—it’s 12 miles away from the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers which, according to the site, was considered “the center of the world” to the Dakota people—then why doesn’t Tippett give her headquarters back? After all, she says that “The United States’ land seizures were a project of spiritual destruction that denied the Dakota free and unhindered access to the land that fundamentally shapes their identity and spirituality.” If she’s complicit in destroying Dakota spirituality (and of course “spirituality” is her meat and potatoes), why doesn’t she do something to make up for it?

Well, yes, colonists and settlers quite often treated the Native Americans horribly, but a post facto breast-beating acknowledgment like Tippett’s doesn’t do anything but flaunt her virtue. How does it help the Dakota? If she cared, she could give a lot of her profits to the tribe, but I’m betting that isn’t happening. I find no indication of such contributions on the website—or anywhere else.

Okay, I’ve vented enough, and haven’t yet gotten to the lede.

. . . . well, not quite enough. But here’s the lede: an article from CNN reporting religious news that just appeared in many other places. In this case, a bit of Jesus’s reputed manger, for a long time kept in Rome, is now being permanently returned to Bethlehem.  And in most reports, the media, as CNN does in the headline below, hedges its bets by saying “relics are thought to be” from Jesus’s manger. But in the stories following the headlines, most of these sources take the existence of Jesus—and the Biblical narrative of his life—as being true. Read on (click on the screenshot):

First, the details and the requisite disclaimer (first bit in bold is mine):

Jerusalem (CNN) — A fragment of wood believed to be from Jesus’ manger is back in the Holy Land just in time for Christmas.

The tiny inches long relic was first taken out of the Middle East in the 7th century when St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, donated it to Pope Theodore I. It remained in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore until now.

The wooden relic arrived on Saturday at its permanent home in Bethlehem in time for Advent and the beginning of the Christmas season. Many Christians say it represents the very essence of their faith.

. . . Pope Francis allowed the relic to be returned to the region, according to Father Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land.

He told CNN that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had been asking the Pope to return the stone and wood manger to Bethlehem for at least one Christmas season for years. “It was important, the request of Mr. Abbas, it was very important,” said Fr. Patton.
Okay, so they’re not buying whole hog the story that this is a piece of the manger. But then there’s this (again, my emphasis):
. . . Fr. Patton said the entire crib was considered too fragile to move. Nonetheless, he says the small wooden relic is an important symbol that will now be permanently enshrined inside St. Catherine’s Church, adjacent to the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square in Bethlehem

This implies that what is taken by believers to be Jesus’s manger, as an entire crib, still exists. I had no idea!  The manger exists! And, looking it up, I found that, well, some bits of the crib do exist—at least some some slats. As mdrevelation.org reports, the same church in Rome from whence the fragment came, Santa Maria Maggiore (“St. Mary Majors”), is reputed to have a big piece of Baby Jesus’s bed.

Here’s the reliquary, which depicts Baby Jesus lying atop a bed of straw, which in turn is atop a cushion. There’s a manger (or a big hunk of of one) inside!

And some of the site’s description (bolding is theirs):

The reliquary was realised by Giuseppe Valadier in the early 19th century to substitute the previous reliquary from the 1600s that was stolen by Napoleonic troops.  Through the lucid crystal reliquary, you can make out some wooden slats in red maple that are typical of Bethlehem.  The relics date 2000 years to the time that Jesus was born. 

This raises many questions. Is the reliquary large enough to hold the whole bed? How do they know that the manger is 2000 years old? Did someone do carbon dating? And, if the date is right, would it be possible to extract some of Jesus’s DNA from the wood (after all, babies—even baby Jesus—do excrete, and excreta has DNA)? Most important: How did they know to save the manger given that Jesus didn’t fully show himself as the son of God until he was older? And who saved the manger?

Finally, when Napoleon’s troops stole the reliquary, did they really leave the enclosed manger behind? Did they know it was the manger?

Further, it’s not clear whether Jesus—if he lived, and I’m not at all convinced that the Jesus story is based even minimally on a real person—was born in Bethlehem rather than Nazareth. A piece by R*z* *sl*n in the Washington Post explains that most scholars think that Jesus was born in Nazareth, but the myth that he was born in Bethlehem was confected to fulfill a prediction from the prophet Micah.

So be it. I’ll let the religious scholars argue about where Jesus was born. I can finally get to the part where CNN takes for granted that Jesus was real and was born in Bethlehem. Read this (bolding is mine):

Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus, lies in the West Bank, part of the Palestinian territories. For years Abbas has tried to work with the Vatican to encourage Christian pilgrims to make the trip to Bethlehem despite security and political concerns, according to Fr. Patton.

This clearly implies that Jesus lived and was born in Bethlehem; the first sentence is not a declaration by Fr. Patton. And so CNN gives credibility not just to the existence of a Jesus person, but also to the Biblical account of where he was born according to the Gospels of Mark and Luke.

Give me a break! This is like saying that “Paul Bunyan’s birth place lies in Minnesota”. It always bothers me that, despite the fact that there is no extra-Biblical evidence for the existence of someone on whom the Jesus myth is based—even an itinerant apocalyptic preacher—the mainstream media always takes it for granted that there was a Jesus, and that his story conforms pretty much to what the Bible tells us.

Isn’t the media supposed to be more skeptical than that? Shouldn’t the sentence above read: “According to legend, a person named Jesus was born in Bethlehem, now part of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank“? But no, the media simply assumes, and tells us, that Jesus lived. They’ve bought into the Bart Ehrman Fallacy, which is that the Bible must be true in part, at least in the existence of a Jesus Person, even if that Person wasn’t the son of God. (The sub-fallacy is that because most religious scholars think that Jesus was real, a Jesus Person must have lived.)

Reuters, the respected news agency, did the same thing in their article on the manger fragment (click on the screenshot, and note that this report is in the “Lifestyle” section”!)

They show the reliquary with a fragment of the manger. The first thing that needs to be done here is some carbon dating.

But again, while the relic is only “reputed” to be from the manger—the media isn’t that credulous—the existence of Jesus is taken to be true (my bolding in the excerpt below):

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A fragment of wood reputed to be from the manger where Jesus was laid after his humble birth went on display in Jerusalem on Friday, ahead of its transfer to Bethlehem for the official launch of the Christmas season.

. . . The provenance of ancient relics is often questionable. Still, they are revered by the Christian faithful, among them the coachloads of pilgrims who squeeze through a narrow sandstone entrance in the Church of the Nativity all year round to visit the birth grotto that is its centrepiece.

Note that while the bolded bit waffles about whether the wood is really from Jesus’s manger, there’s no doubt in the article that Jesus existed, and that his birth was “humble.” You can find this kind of unquestioning fealty to the Jesus story at other sites, too. National Geographic has dined out on the story for several years.

It’s time for the media to not only hedge on the provenance of these relics, but also on the existence of Jesus. (I note in passing that, according to Wikipedia, there are several places in Europe that claim to have Jesus’s foreskin, and one church that has his umbilical cord. But Jesus had only one foreskin! Like religions itself, these things can’t all be authentic!)

And so, as we swing into the Christmas season, and because I’ve returned from Antarctica, I present another rendition of the Nativity, sent in by reader Christopher Moss. This nativity scene was bought for his wife by her father, who was keen on penguins. Note that there is no manger (Jesus is cosseted under Mary’s belly), and why Joseph has a shepherd’s crook (or has he gone missing?) is obscure. And why is the angel penguin given wings when it already has them?

n.b.: Why Evolution is True comes to you from Algonquin land. 

Vatican launches smart “e-rosary” that connects to an app and tracks your “bead progress”

October 24, 2019 • 1:00 pm

No, this e-rosary is not a joke, but a real item launched by the Vatican, during the Month of the Rosary, clearly in a desperate attempt to keep young people wedded to Catholicism. You can read about this remarkable religious innovation at the two sites below (click on screenshot):

From Fox 35 Orlando:

Verification via the Vatican News:

Here it is!

And how it works (my emphasis):

In an effort to get more young people to pray for world peace, the Vatican has launched a $110 wearable digital rosary, called the “Click To Pray eRosary.

The “Click to Pray” eRosary can be worn as a bracelet and links to a mobile app that becomes activated when the user makes the sign of the cross. The beads of the bracelet are made of black agate and hematite, and the digital device is in the shape of a cross.

. . . Aimed at the peripheral frontiers of the digital world where the young people dwell, the Click To Pray eRosary serves as a technology-based teaching tool to help young people pray the Rosary for peace and to contemplate the Gospel,” the Vatican explained.

The smart rosary links to the official player app of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, called “Click To Pray,” that connects thousands of praying people worldwide daily.

Once the device is activated, users can choose whether they want to pray a standard rosary, a contemplative rosary or one of the thematic rosaries, which are updated annually. The smart rosary keeps track of and displays the user’s progress and tracks when each rosary is completed.

The part that needs fixing here is that apparently users still have to do manual work, moving the beads through their hands. If the Vatican were really savvy, they’d have the e-rosary move itself at preset times, making it even easier to use than the Buddhist prayer wheels that you can twirl in your hands, sending a prayer each which each revolution.