Category Archives: Religion


I was rather surprised to bump into this blog about what is happening at the moment in Mali a huge North African nation that is witness to the latest depredations of Al Quaeda.

Much like the video We are the world which was taped with dozens of Western music artists this one shows the following video of Mali’s famous musicians singing against the incursions of the Islamists.

The thing I found interesting is the fact that the verse is being sung in at least four of Mali’s indigenous languages. This unity despite ethnicity reminded me of the message in the book I’ve been reading “Black Sea.” That message is that muti-culutural life can be so easily stamped out. Continue reading

One aspect of Creationism has actually enhanced our scientific understanding…

…of geology.


You have this great phrase, you say that creationists are “one of the most recently evolved species” of Christian. What do you mean by this?


Well the creationists have chosen to go back to a literal interpretation of the flood story, using arguments that were recognized and rejected in the 1780s. Throughout that time, there was a whole other tradition of faith in the world around us, a belief that God didn’t create an incomprehensible universe. And they’ve just walked away from that. It’s bad theology dressed as science.

Today’s Random thought

If the Jews are God’s “Chosen People” does that mean Christians are his self selected people? If so that leads to a second thought. Which self selected ones? (are God’s people)

This thought was prompted by a very interesting seven minute interview with the author of The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture on NPR. My twelve recently ordered books are already arriving at my door according to my house sitters so I won’t be ordering this but Claudia thought it would be a good one for her Sunday School study group.

An agnostic thinks about John 20:19-23

The Choir sang “Were you there” …when they crucified our Lord? yesterday. As always I sat behind the pulpit and listened to the sermon which was proceeded by the reading of a portion of John 20 which was the text upon which the Sermon was based.

I paid particular attention as this was about the Apostle Thomas who is the one I most identify with.

I’ve always put myself in Thomas’s sandals. Until he could place his fingers in the wounds of Jesus he could not believe in the resurrection. As I was not there to do the same I lack the faith to become a member of any traditional church although that hasn’t stopped me from singing in our Presbyterian choir and attending Adult Bible classes for two decades.

Our pastor noted that John says that Thomas wasn’t with the rest of the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. He was with them a week later when Jesus returned and persuaded the doubting disciple of his “rebirth” (shades of the Gettysburg Address).

Until I find a way to time travel to that room with Jesus and Thomas I will remain a pre-finger poking Thomas.

What I found interesting about this chapter of John was the assertion by our Pastor, which seems borne out by the NIV version of John 20, that when Jesus returned a week later he found the disciples “locked” in the same room he had first appeared to them a week earlier. Her contention was that despite his first appearance they spent a week holed up, “locked” in the room too paralyzed to follow his command to go out and preach.

Since the other disciples were in hiding it doesn’t surprise me that Thomas had a hard time believing that they had seen Jesus. Their’s was a pathetic display of conviction. That didn’t change until a week later when Jesus reappeared and let Thomas put his fingers in his wounds. Apparently the other disciples, who had spent a week in hiding, needed Thomas’s poking around because they didn’t follow the command to go out and preach until after the doubt of Thomas had been laid aside.

Since we have a Republican Party today that has become a quasi-religious organization and whose politicians shamelessly appeal to “conservative” Christians for votes it sort of impels the rest of us to read through the scriptures to see if those appeals really measure up to the scriptures. Does God really command small government?

I think that’s heresy although a simpler description would be “crap.” Today’s NPR story on this subject is worth considering.

I’m only an agnostic, a “Doubting Thomas” if you will, but it seems to me that Republican Christians have preformed cosmetic surgery on Jesus to patch up those ugly crucifiction wounds that Thomas had to examine. Jesus didn’t die for our sins so much as to give them free reign unencumbered by government regulation.

Maunday Thursday 9 PM – Pt. 1

This old agnostic went to our church’s Maundy Thursday service tonight and broke bread. Our pastor mentioned a detail about the Last Supper I’d not thought about before.

Just before the part where Jesus asks two of his disciples to secretly find him a place to break bread the Gospel tells about the decision Judas made to betray Jesus. The Son of God is, of course, omniscient and knows that he must plan the supper secretly to prevent Judas from turning him in prematurely. Jesus has serious business to attend to before he is put to death. He must steel his weak kneed disciples for the task of facing death themselves while humbling and abasing themselves just as Jesus will do when he washes their feet. It will fall to this pathetic group to spread God’s new gospel and Jesus can’t let Judas’s treachery interfere.

This and the next three posts, which I have arranged to read in order, (backwards) are all about the Christian and Republican gospels. Its the 4th Maunday Thursday post that really prompted me to post again after a week’s rest.

Its almost midnight. I guess I had a lot to get off my chest.

Maunday Thursday 9 PM – Pt. 2

I’ve followed fundamental thinking with great interest since Ronald Reagan and the Moral Majority did a Vulcan Mind Meld in 1980. In those early years of “big tent” precinct caucuses I came up with a metaphor for what was happening to the GOP. It reminded my of the cult sci fi movie classic “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” I imagined finding pods at every GOP meeting I attended that were essentially fundamentalists taking over the formerly sentient moderates of the GOP.

In time it wasn’t enough to take over the GOP. It became necessary for the pod people to remove the moderates. By redefining what a Republican was it became possible to treat formerly legitimate Republicans the same way Stalinists treated the followers of Lenin. Such Republicans were no longer Republicans they were RINO’s. “Republicans in Name Only.”

The crusade against these Republicans continues unabated. It is a religious crusade. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint has made sure that a half a million bucks has been funneled to a Super Pac that means to remove Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar one of the Party’s last remaining moderates in Congress.

Maunday Thursday 9 PM – Pt. 3

What puts pitchforks and torches into the hands of Republicans is Christian fundamentalism. It teaches that the Bible is inerrant. That means it makes no mistakes. When you read it you are reading the words of GOD! No exceptions.

I’ve always found that thinking primitive, foolish and wrong. Jesus himself second guessed the messages of what we call the “Old Testament” all the time driving the rabbi’s of his time crazy. According to the inerrant Bible they got the Romans to crucify him for it.

As a Presbyterian I learned early about the New Revised Standard Bible I was given back in third grade. That was 1958. I still have it. Scholars had been pouring over it for decades (centuries really) and the NRSV scholars footnoted the Bible like crazy pointing out how the often poorly educated monks of the early church often made mistakes in the translations of older Bibles they were hand copying thus passing all sorts of eccentricities on to future generations as later copyists kept the mistakes and made new ones for later scholars to puzzle over.

The current crop of evangelists in the “conservative” church don’t like to admit that our Bibles today are somewhat tatty remnants of ancient manuscripts that preserve ancient eccentricities. The Bible is God’s word. (Anyone who picks up a half dozen different versions of the Bible will find that most passages in all these Bibles differ from one another.)

But today I learned that apparently that there has come to be one exception to this for the fundementalists: John 7:53-8:11

I did a very cursory Google Search on the John Passage and found, sure enough a fundamentalist explanation that describes this passage as a “rare” example of something dubious. This would mean that Jesus’s mercy towards the fallen women who was about to be stoned to death is not to be taken very seriously by good Christians.

I find this exception remarkable. This is not merely a parable teaching like the Prodigal Son but an example of Jesus living his teachings. And yet to the othewise inerrantist Christians this story is a humbug.

From a heavily footnoted website I found this scholar who says the inerrantists claims are threadbare. He has a lot of evidence to back up this claim:

The Westcott-Hort based NIV has this misleading statement concerning the authenticity of John 7:53-8:11: “[The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11].” What are these so called “earliest” and “most reliable” manuscripts which do not have the pericope de adultera? They are Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, both 4th century manuscripts. Those who reject the pericope de adultera do so on a presuppositional bias that these 2 codices which omit it are superior manuscripts.

Are the above codices really reliable? According to Dean Burgon, a godly and renowned Bible defender of the last century, the codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are among “the most corrupt copies in existence.” Burgon wrote, “I am able to demonstrate that every one of them singly is in a high degree corrupt, and is condemned upon evidence older than itself” (for a full discussion, refer to John William Burgon’s The Revision Revised [Collingswood NJ: The Bible For Today, 1981 reprint], 548 pp). Although the above two codices may be “earliest” they are by no means “most reliable.”

There is abundant evidence in support of the authenticity of the pericope de adultera. John 7:53-8:11 is found (1) in many Greek uncials and minuscules mainly of the Majority or Byzantine text-type, (2) in the ancient versions or translations: Old Latin, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Ethiopic, and (3) in the writings of the Church Fathers: Didascalia, Ambrosiaster, Apostolic Constitutions, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine.

Jerome (AD 340-420), the translator of the Latin Bible called the Vulgate, said this about the pericope de adultera: “. . . in the Gospel according to John in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, is found the story of the adulterous woman who was accused before the Lord.” Jerome considered the pericope genuine, and included it in his Vulgate.

Self-styled textual critics who arrogantly say: “This text has no place in Scripture; I will never preach from it!,” should rather heed these wise words of Calvin: “it has always been received by the Latin Churches, and is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to apply it to our advantage.”

My political question to God’s Own Party is this: If the crowd that took over and redefined what it is to be a Republican believes that the thousands of different versions of Biblical passages are no big deal except the one that shows the mercy of Jesus how can I believe you when you tell me what it means to be a “Republican?”

Call this Christian exceptionalism. It teaches the “prosperity gospel.” This is the perfect gospel for the GOP’s “1 percent.” If you earned it, it is God’s will and Grover Norquist will defend to your nation’s death your right not to have it taxed.

As a youngster I was an agnostic but I took the principal messages of Jesus pretty seriously including the story about the rich young man who asked Jesus how to get into heaven. Jesus told him to give all his riches to the poor and added for emphasis that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich man to enter God’s Kingdom.

In one of my first encounters with a Republican in Duluth who railed against taxes and the poor I mentioned this teaching. I was shocked when she told me that I had completely misunderstood the teaching. It seems that there was a famous doorway in Jerusalem that was very low and required a camel rider to dismount before getting through it. I was told this was what Jesus was referring to. One had simply to humble oneself not give away their treasure to get to heaven. Being a good Christian was no more difficult than dismounting from a camel.

I can’t claim to be a Christian. I’m fairly confident that the practitioners of the “prosperity gospel” don’t have much of a claim on the Church either. They’re just nouveau Republicans.

Maunday Thursday 9 PM – Pt. 4

Having just accused the new Republicans of not being Christians I’ll make an easier claim. They are lousy defenders of democracy.

I think I watched the Rachel Maddow show about two years ago. I’ve seen a few youtube clips of her but that’s about it. I was just doing some uncharacteristic channel surfing when I happened upon this story. She was saying something about the worst example of GOP excess since the 2010 election. I held on to watch.

What she reported about the Republicans of the Michigan legislature is truly vomit inducing. Its worse than a mandated transvaginal ultrasound. If I were a concealed and carry gun owner and a Democratic Michigan legislator I’d be tempted to use the “stand your ground” defense and shoot Michigan’s GOP legislators.

See for yourself. If you don’t agree that these bozos are acting like little fascists you are probably embarassed by Jesus and his defense of the poor and humiliated. (Sorry about the ad at the beginning)

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This is one of the Reasons the RINOs were hounded out of the GOP

To prevent them, our Senator David Durenberger and a host of others included, from introducing a law like the one President Obama got passed.

They will pass laws forcing a woman to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound scan but they’ll let her child die without insurance after it is born. I guess that’s their idea of God’s will.

How the Catholic church that Rick Santorum venerates…

dealt with a few rape victims back when I was a child.

The NRC Handelsblad newspaper identified Henk Heithuis who was castrated in 1956, while a minor, after reporting priests to the police for abusing him in a Catholic boarding home.

Joep Dohmen, the investigative journalist who uncovered the Heithuis case, also found evidence of at least nine other castrations. “These cases are anonymous and can no longer be traced,” he said. “There will be many more. But the question is whether those boys, now old men, will want to tell their story.”

Mr Heithuis died in a car crash in 1958, two years after being castrated at the age of 20, while under the age of majority, which was then 21. In 1956 he had accused Catholic clergy of sexually abusing him in his Church run care home.

What brings “altruism” to mind

My eclectic Buddy doesn’t only goad me by sending links like this one today showing that Mitt Romney is ahead of Obama. He recently sent me the email with some serious evidence undermining the human causation of global warming – not mind you global warming itself.

I didn’t read it for a week. I’ve been busy. When he sent it again, presumably because I didn’t reply with a biting critique I promised to give it a look. That resulted in a couple emails. My Buddy has also been fencing with others and he mentioned E.O.Wilson the eminent scientist who pioneered the once heretical science of “sociobiology.”

I wrote my Buddy back explaining that I was aware of Wilson and mentioned that he had studied ants. I also mentioned that he had founded sociobiology much to the “consternation” of other scientists and then recently abandoned much of his thinking. That was a surprise and my Buddy asked about it. I looked at a Wikipedia page which did not seem to mention Wilson’s change of heart then did a more general google search. That brought me to this old Discover Magazine article.

I’m too preoccupied enjoying Florida’s mild weather and the Republican backbiting to give this much thought at the moment but here’s a bit of a toss off on the subject. Continue reading


And my Buddy gets upset with me when he thinks I’m getting hyperbolic:

“Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel’s existence. Think about it. If I have thought of this Tom Clancy-type scenario, don’t you think that this almost unfathomable idea has been discussed in Israel’s most inner circles? Another way of putting “three” in perspective goes something like this: How far would you go to save a nation comprised of seven million lives … Jews, Christians and Arabs alike? You have got to believe, like I do, that all options are on the table,”

Andrew Adler, publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times. He has now apologized.

When this ass talks about murdering Obama it doesn’t sound to me like he thinks its so “unfathomable.” Maybe I shouldn’t take his apology too seriously either.

My Buddy is after me again

After months of ignoring my Buddy so that I can spend my time on something useful I’ve started emailing back and fourth with him again. That has led to new emails twitting “liberalism” of one sort or another. No. Its not my Buddy twitting liberals. Its the posts of Righty pundits and bloggers. I suppose I deserve it because I love beating up the Grand Old Party that threw me over for flat Earth types but really. I need something better than Powerline’s snit over John Maynard Kenyes

Here’s what my Buddy sent me:

On Sat, Dec 31, 2011 at 8:19 AM, Victor D. Ulmer wrote:
Beware the authorities that you cite for your arguments?

If I’m going to use up half an hour writing my Buddy a riposte then I’ll go back to offering it to my blog readers as well. This was my reply to my Buddy:

[Buddy], Can you give me any evidence that this statement of Powerline’s is correct?

“…anti-Semitism has become almost wholly the province of the Left today.”

Keynes was arrogant. From what I’ve read of him he was an elitest. During his time there were lots of British upper crust types who disdained the Jews. It seems to be much more a condition of their milieu than partisanship. Some like Keynes were lefties. Many of them gravitated toward Lord Haw Haw. If, as I suspect, Powerline wants to discredit something persuasive like Keynes’ economic theories by pointing out that his racism was crude Powerline might also consider panning Democracy because Thomas Jefferson was a slave owning hypocrite. Do you think Jefferson’s lefty fans of Democracy have tried to sweep Sally Hemmings under the rug of history? Maybe I should be grateful that Powerline didn’t try discrediting Kenysian economic policies because John Maynard was a homosexual.

I think that economic truths lie midway between Hayak and Kenyes. How about you? Do you think that everyone should give up the Keynes part because of John Maynard’s 100 year old racial views? I’m not sure he even meant that as anything other than the kind of snide put down you hear from dishy high school girls.

Powerline is treating this historical tidbit like a great gotcha proving that liberals are all dipshits. Other than his economic theories what does Keynes mean today? I’d suggest that anything other than his economic theories are only footnotes, interesting though they may be.

As for Right wingers being champions of the Jews isn’t there a distinction between being unhappy with Israel and Jew baiting? I know the Right would like to conflate the two. But its worth remembering that the backbone of the GOP today are the Christian right which believes Jews must control all of King David’s Biblical lands to make the prophesy of the rapture come about. Unrepentant Jews would all die and go to hell when that happens. With friends like that …


Panic Attack

I’ve had a couple people send me emails asking me what the heck is happening in the Duluth Schools relative to Dr. Foster’s being frozen out of his office. I’ve had to tell them I have no idea. I’ve never met Foster. I’ve had plenty of food for thought for him should he bother to read my blog but I’ll bet he’s been warned that reading it will contaminate him should he choose to consume any of it. I’ve read the Trib’s story and the Trib’s Editorial and lately I was pointed to the short squib in the Reader Weekly. I’ll have more thoughts on this as time goes by but I’ll hazzard a couple ill informed observations.

First, only a fool would blame Foster for the problems that Dixon left behind. Unfortunately we have some on the School Board.

Second, I suspect Foster came into town blithely unaware how quickly the District would start spiraling out of control.

Third, I’ll bet those minions of Dr. Dixon who have been left behind have bent over backward to cover their arses so that Foster wouldn’t realized their complicity in the Red Plan’s growing debacle.

Fourth, I’ll bet those minions would much rather have Dr. Gronseth as their go-to guy because he was Dixon’s hand picked successor and he’d probably shield them if for no other reason than his own survival in perilous times. They are a team. It probably came as an unpleasant surprise to them that Mary Cameron would tip the balance away from Gronseth when a suitable minority candidate would surface.

Fifth, This is not a big surprise. Mary did the same thing to her old allies when the Hispanic Dr. Almanza became a candidate and voted for him over the white male candidate her allies preferred and with her rivals on the Board.

Sixth, Mary has a Doctorate and a lot of experience in Human Resources. If this is a putsch to get rid of Foster the mutineers better make sure they have dotted all their i’s and crossed all their t’s or it will get very ugly. He could easily force the District to pay the rest of his three years’s salary if they don’t have cause to fire him. That would cost the District another half million dollars.

Seventh, Dixon’s old minions have friends on the Board. Just after Foster was closed to being selected Ann Wasson desperately tried to get Gronseth the job.

Eighth, If Foster is removed, and even if he isn’t, look for a loud series of accusations to pin the blame for the District’s mess on him and to obfuscate Dr. Dixon’s role.

Ninth, A whisper campaign has been started to undermine Foster. I was told from a source that began with one of the Board members who hired Dixon that Foster had not been to work about 35 days in his first sixth months. If true that would be troubling without a very good explanation. I’ll bet its greatly exaggerated. Furthermore the person who told me this wondered if Foster might be an alcoholic. I don’t know if this is also part of the rumor mongering or just a happy addition to an initial smear.

Tenth. Two of Foster’s early critics have been in effect Dr. Dixon’s dupes.They are Chamber of Commerce CEO David Ross and Union Prez. Frank Wanner. Neither have seemed to have the remotest interest in the District’s unsustainable finances relative to the Red Plan.

Eleventh, I have no idea why the Mayor who is belatedly commenting on the destruction of the central schools has weighed in against Foster. That was Dixon’s doing. Foster is simply picking up the pieces. Besides, Don Ness never says anything critical about anyone. Why is he starting to choose sides now? I haven’t the foggiest reason why.

Twelfth, Apparently the “investigation” of Foster began in secret, like so many Dixon inspired actions of the past. All the better to make an end run on those board members being kept in the dark.

Thirteenth, Judy Seliga-Punyko who began the witch hunt is no doubt a little inflated with her success in the recent election. This is not the first time she has ridden such a high horse. Just after she was elected to the PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association) presidency, she circulated a list of administrative jobs to be eliminated in the face of that era’s financial difficulties. She did not clear them with the rest of the PTSA council.

Fortheenth, The success or failure of making Foster a scapegoat for the mistakes of Dr. Dixon and his minions will not in any way resolve the Death Spiral that will occur when we spend another six million dollars we can’t raise in taxes.

Fiftheenth, I often say that voters get the representation they deserve. I don’t really believe that. They do however choose their elected officials.

Sixteenth, There isn’t an obviously good excuse for Foster taking his time to get a Minnesota Superintendent’s licence. On the other hand, other than the delay, its not that big a deal.