Saturday, September 20, 2008

Jesus Appears in Ceiling Tile

OK, I never tire of these stories. This one has Jesus appearing in a ceiling tile at a workout and tanning salon. Mysteriously, this appeared after a heavy rain. The link is a video that will certainly frighten you. I have my usual questions.

1. Why in the hell to TV people think they have to cover this kind of crap?
2. Please tell me that most people get that this is a water stain and that's the end of it. (Ok that wasn't a question.)
3. Remember, nobody actually knows what Jesus really looked like. All we have are artists who apparently all copied each other. So, if Jesus really did appear he might look like Henny Youngman* for all we know (which would be really funny). Not a question either. . .
4. Why do these stories always depress me?

Here are some other stories that TV did not cover. . .
  • Little Johnny Miller saw a cloud today that looked like a raccoon
  • A man bought a potato that looked just like Al Gore (actually they all do)
  • In Long Island bird poop on a squad car looked just like a map of Long Island!
  • A woman in South Bend sees Knute Rockne in her salad.
If you really dig this stuff here's a whole list of miraculous statues. Enjoy

I could go on and on but you get the idea. Sometimes things look like other things.

They're not though.

* If you like Henny Youngman, here's a collection of his one liners.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Money, Power and 14 year old girl

The pope arrived in the southwestern town of Lourdes on the second day of his visit to France after earlier celebrating an outdoor mass for more than 250,000 people in Paris, telling them the modern world had made idols of money and power.

Yes! The top man in the church famous for its vow of poverty flew in his own plane to Paris and later via his private limousine drove to Lourdes where dressed in white, red and gold vestments (and that crazy big pope hat) spoke to the unwashed masses about the evils of money and power.


How about just plain balls? Here’s one of the most powerful men on the planet. He controls the money and the thoughts of millions of catholics all over the world. He lives in his own COUNTRY for crying out loud. The value of the paintings alone in the Vatican is valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. People are required to bow and kiss his freaking ring just to talk to him. This guy then has the enormous spheres to give a speech saying that we value money and power too much.

How about this guy? I mean if he really believed what he was saying he’d demonstrate it not just talk about it. How about he reads his own vow of poverty and drops all the golden vestments and just goes with the good old black shirt and dog collar. Sell the vatican. Work out of a more modern (and energy efficient) office building. Put the money to good use educating the poor (I mean REAL education like the Jesuits do just not more ways to pray), feed the hungry, help the infirm (didn’t some guy around year 1 do this kind of stuff?)

FALSE IDOLS At mass on Saturday morning in Paris, the pope told more than a quarter of a million people that the modern world had turned money, possessions and power into idols as false as the gold and silver statues worshipped by the pagans of antiquity. "Has not our modern world created its own idols?" he said.

Next time you get a chance go to a big catholic church and see how many statues there are of jesus and the virgin mary. THESE statues are ok I guess. Also see how much gold and silver there is lying about on the alter and in the vestments of the priest. THIS gold and silver is ok. When the church owns huge tracts of property it’s ok. When the church owns art and paintings in the millions THAT’s ok but individuals shouldn’t get all wrapped up in that sort of thing. Individuals should stick with the more spiritual things like putting money in the collection plate! What? Is the Catholic church afraid that someone will buy up too much of the stuff that THEY haven’t bought yet?

At Lourdes, Benedict prayed in the grotto where Saint Bernadette Soubirous said she had seen the Madonna 18 times in 1858, and drank water from a spring that believers say has healing powers.

In the past 150 years, the Church has recognised as "miracles" 67 medically inexplicable healings of sick pilgrims who visited Lourdes

Bernadette ‘said’ she saw the virgin 18 times. Anybody can SAY anything. If someone sees something and no one else sees it that’s either a miracle or someone is nuts. Three finger Mordecai Brown appeared to me and told me that this was the Cubs year. Am I nuts or a saint? As to the 67 inexplicable healings I’ll have to do more research, but my first question is 67 out of how many attempts? I know people go there in droves looking for a miracle cure. If only 67 of them got the cure, how miraculous is this place? Doesn’t it seem a little mean if the creator uses this place to occasionally cure someone. What about the others? The miracle is that with a batting average like that that people would still go. I bet it aint’ free either! Of the 67, how many had diseases that had the chance of clearing up by themselves anyway? When the church says ‘inexplicable’ how hard did they try to research what happened. OK, more research by me and we’ll see if there are any answers to the above.

Now for some ‘facts’ from the internet. Low batting average? I guess. Lourdes has been getting about 6 million visitors a year since the 1960’s. Up to 8 million this year as this is the 150th anniversary of Bernadette’s visions. Bernadette was 14 by the way and anyone who has worked with 14 year old females knows that they are never hysterical.
I’m sure that they weren’t getting 6 million people a year 150 years ago so let’s see. . . 6 million a year since 1960 is about 250 million. Let’s allow Lourdes another 250 million for all the years before that and put it at about 500 million visitors total looking for a miracle cure. There have been 67 ‘miracles’ out of 500 million! That’s a batting average of 0.000000134. Wow!

Also it looks like the healing water is free but along the road leading to the grotto are hundreds of shops selling every kind of virgin mary trinket you can imagine. Glow in the dark virgin (my favorite), Virgin on a plate, Chocolate Virgins, etc. So it’s ‘free’ but nearly everyone buys something. Lourdes is also great for the hotel and tour industry. The hotels in and around Lourdes are filled to the max every summer.

So, what about those 67 cures? Well, in a strange twist, the church tries to use extensive scientific research on claims before they are accepted as a miracle cure. For example there can be no reoccurrence of the ailment which is why it takes about 10 years for a claim to be verified. Also, you have to be off your meds before and after! Who quits taking their medicine and how can you be sure that the meds didn’t finally kick in? I guess I find it a little ironic that the church can’t figure out what a miracle is without using the power of science. That same science that many faithful would claim is not even a road to truth. So what of those 67 then?

Of course a real scientific test would be to do a double blind experiment where some people get regular water and some get Lourdes water and no one knows who is getting what. But that’s another story.

I don’t have documents on each of the 67 individually but one popular cure at Lourdes is for people suffering from cancer. On the other hand remember the batting average. Doctors have confirmed that in about 1% of cases cancer will spontaneously go away and stay away without Lourdes. That would be batting 0.010. Better to stay home maybe? On the other other hand consider this…

Two independent studies into spontaneous remission of cancer found psychological changes, occurring just before the physical disease began to improve dramatically, could be significant. Both found that resolving an existential crisis in the person's life, a dramatic change in life outlook and a reduction in anxiety and depression, seemed to occur just before the cancer started to resolve by itself.

So, if a visit to Lourdes can bring about this drop in anxiety this could in turn bring about the evaporation of the cancer. Nice, but it’s still a long shot and just so we’re clear this would mean that there is no god or virgin involved in magically curing anything. But a person’s belief that such things exist triggers the cure. But what the hell, the cured person is happy and so are the hotel owners!

Finally, Lourdes may be running out of juice. There have only been 4 confirmed cases since 1978. That may have prompted Jacques Perrier the senior cleric at the shrine to invent three classes of cures: These will include: 'unexpected healings', 'confirmed healings' and 'exceptional healings'. This is like reducing the size of the strike zone to pump up batting averages. That should help the old Lourdes batting average a little and keep them buses rolling in.

Hey get your rosary here! Ice cold rosary. . .who’s ready?

Finally, in a somewhat related story (and this might be dated) a half eaten grilled cheese sandwich bearing the likness of, you guess it, the Virgin Mary sold on e-Bay for $28,000. I have nothing to say.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Spiritual Side

This is a phrase I always wonder about. It is said so freely and so often I think people all assume that everyone more or less knows what is meant - ‘your spiritual side’. Or, the spiritual side of life in general. What does this mean? The dictionary tends toward two areas of definition. 1. True spirits, ghosts, the holy spirit and perhaps the belief in them as in religion etc. 2. Alluding to emotions, desires, true self, in the spirit of things.

Does nature itself have a spiritual side? It has a real side - a natural occurring and evolving side to be sure. The side that we can touch and detect and agree on our results afterward. If I go to a wonderful place for me like Quetico in Canada or a beautiful anchorage like where I am right now, do these places themselves have a spiritual side? If so, can it be detected? If it can be detected by two or more independent observers would they agree on their results? If so it would seem to put this spiritual side back in the area of the natural occurring. That would seem to indicate that people may have a spiritual side but external nature itself does not.

Let’s come at this from another way. Why do we as people value beauty? To what end? How did evolution pick beauty value-ers over others? It is right here where the theist gets a grip. He would say that beauty HAS no intrinsic value to our survival and only by allowing god to exist can we explain why we are more if you will than our monkey cousins.

Consider this. . . It happened that as we evolved we were first nomadic. No gardening. A place with a cool stream and plenty of game would also have wild flowers, trees, and options for shelter perhaps. This place would make a good layover place for the tribe. Barren places with dry ground, nothing growing, and no shade would be avoided. What we would now call beautiful places were originally useful places! We still have that in us. As our brains developed in crazy ways our ‘beauty’ lobe if you will was already in place and ready to expand to more intellectual and abstract ideas of beauty such as painting, music, etc. No god needed again!

So, when I go to Quetico the placid waters, shade, cool streams all click for me at a very fundamental level. Maybe I do have a ‘spiritual’ side then and maybe we all do but it has nothing to do with invisible beings or gods. Maybe it has to do with tapping into some of our most deeply embedded hard wiring. Things we would be hard pressed to put into words because they hearken back to a time before language itself.