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‘Christianity is Stupid’: Negativland takes on religion in ‘It’s All In Your Head’
08.20.2014
02:20 pm

Topics:
Belief
Music

Tags:
Negativland


 
The other day I was pondering how I would explain the whole “Why are we here?” / “Is there a God?” concept to my (hypothetical at this point) child and discussing this with my wife who is about as religious as I am (i.e: not at all). When I was a kid, raised in a very Christian home in West Virginia, it was a pretty straight line between reading Thor comics, then Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes before I was already having my doubts about “church.” If the Norse gods, like the Greek gods, were all just myths, wasn’t the whole Judeo-Christian thang on a similarly shaky epistemological foundation? What’s the difference? I couldn’t see one. From a very young age, religion had no credibility with me, but I was lucky. Christianity ultimately had very little effect on me.

How to discourage an irrational belief in the bearded sky god without being too heavy-handed about it and causing the hypothetical kid to go in the other direction to rebel will be an interesting road to navigate. Then again maybe not. As everyone knows millennials have left their parents’ religion in droves. Nearly two-thirds of under 30s subscribe to no organized religion. At the current rate of attrition, by mid-century Christians may no longer even constitute the majority in America.

For all kinds of reasons, the movement away from religion has picked up some serious speed in the past few decades, with this in mind, I laughed out loud reading the press release for Negativland’s new album, It’s All In Your Head which describes the double CD set (packaged in an actual Holy Bible repurposed into a “found” art object, modified by hand) as being “millennia-in-development.”

It’s true if you think about it. They wouldn’t have been able to get away with something this cheeky in previous decades. In 2014, it’ll be a sought after collectible, of course. They wouldn’t have had the source material to work with, either. It’s All In Your Head provokes and entertains listeners with Negativland’s signature mix of found music, sounds, radio dialogue and original electronic noises, bleeps and boops fashioned into a musical essay that looks at “monotheism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, neuroscience, suicide bombers, 9/11, colas, war, shaved chimps, and the all-important role played by the human brain in our beliefs.”

It’s monotheism, but it’s in stereo, putting me in mind of the Firesign Theatre crossed with Richard Dawkins crossed with Madlib. If that sentence is even halfway intelligible to you, the “trailer” for It’s All in Your Head, below, is required viewing, freak.

It’s All In Your Head comes out on October 28th, but if you preorder it, you’ll get it two weeks before that (I have one already and highly recommend it).
 

 
Bonus: “The Mashin’ of The Christ” music video:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Behold the miraculous Aphex Twin jerk sauce stain (available on eBay)
08.18.2014
06:34 am

Topics:
Amusing
Belief
Music

Tags:
Aphex Twin
barbecue chicken
miracles


 
I’m an avowed atheist, but I have to admit, the recent discovery of a nearly perfect Aphex Twin logo in Jamaican jerk sauce on a plate in a London restaurant has me reconsidering my entire belief system.

The holy plate has popped up on eBay.uk and is available for £2.20 (as of this writing; about $3.67) from user “2014ukhines” (100% positive feedback in the last 12 months). There are five bids on the plate already.

Here is the description:
 

Mysterious and miraculous jerk sauce apparition.

I have no explanation.

Jerk chicken was from Yum Yum in Clapton, London.

 
Here is a picture of Yum Yum, the restaurant from which the sanctified jerk sauce emanated:
 

 
The infamous “Windowlicker” video, directed by Chris Cunningham:

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Get your luxurious goth on with the skeleton sculptures of Rome
08.07.2014
06:34 am

Topics:
Art
Belief

Tags:
sculpture
Catholicism
Rome
skeleton
skulls


Sant’Agostino, memorial to Cardinal Giuseppe Ranato Imperiali, by Paolo Posi (design) and Pietro Bracci (statuary), 1741
 
There’s a romance to Catholicism that I envied growing up—services attended with Protestant grandparents provided none of the splashy aesthetics Catholicism is so famous for. We certainly weren’t graced with sculptures of super-vigorous skeletons—specifically, skeletons that aren’t letting their lack of skin and organs prevent them from leading active, productive afterlives. Skeletons with joie de décès, if you will.

These Roman skeleton sculptures (documented by Catholic death ritual hobbyist, Elizabeth Harper) exhibit an expressiveness not expected from bones of stone. Harper’s subjects hoist the doors to their own tombs, brandish banners and portraits, and even genuflect before the dead. Congregants are reminded of their own mortality, but the morbid stigma of the skeleton is eclipsed by the dynamic, lush beauty of the sculptures.
 

Gesù e Maria, memorial to Camillo del Corno by Domenico Guidi, 1682
 

San Francesco d’Assisi a Ripa Grande, memorial to Maria Camilla and Giovanni Battista Rospigliosi, skeleton by Michele Garofolino, 1713
 

San Pietro in Montorio: Detail of the relief carved on the tomb of Girolamo Raimondi by Niccolo Sale, chapel designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1640
 

San Pietro in Vincoli, memorial to Cardinal Cinzio Aldobrandini by Carlo Bizzaccheri, died 1610
 

San Pietro in Vincoli, memorial to Cardinal Mariano Pietro Vecchiarelli, died 1639
 

Sant’Eustachio, memorial to Silvio Cavallieri, 1717
 

Santa Maria del Popolo, tomb of Giovanni Battista Gisleni, made for himself prior to his death in 1672
 

Santa Maria del Popolo, tomb of Princess Maria Eleonora Boncompagni Ludovisi, died 1745
 

Detail of the façade of Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte, designed by Ferdinando Fuga, 1738. The inscription on the scroll reads, “Today me, tomorrow you.”
 

Façade of Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte, designed by Ferdinando Fuga, 1738
 

Santa Maria sopra Minerva, memorial to Carlo Emanuele Vizzani, by Domenico Guidi, 1661
 
Via Atlas Obscura

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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The Outsider: Colin Wilson’s Glass Cage
08.06.2014
02:01 pm

Topics:
Belief
Books
Thinkers

Tags:
Colin Wilson

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Colin Wilson, who died last December, produced a phenomenal number books during his lifetime. He wrote on such diverse subjects as criminality, the occult, philosophy, religion, the supernatural, biography and psychology. He also produced an impressive array of fiction ranging from the “Metaphysical Murder Mystery” to works of science fiction. In total over 150 books over almost sixty years of writing.

Yet, throughout all of this prolific output, Wilson developed his own unifying system of beliefs where (as understood by the central character in The Glass Cage):

...everything that happens is connected with everything else, so you have to try to get to the root of things to understand them, not just concentrate on minute particulars…

Colin Wilson was born in Leicester, England, in 1931. He left school at sixteen, taking up a variety of jobs, before marrying his first wife, becoming a father, separating, and then traveling around Europe. On return he developed the tentative idea for his first book The Outsider:

It struck me that I was in the position of so many of my favourite characters in fiction: Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov, Rilke’s Malte Laurids Brigge, the young writer in Hamsun’s Hunger: alone in my room, feeling totally cut off from the rest of society. It was not a position I relished… Yet an inner compulsion had forced me into this position of isolation. I began writing about it in my journal, trying to pin it down. And then, quite suddenly, I saw that I had the makings of a book. I turned to the back of my journal and wrote at the head of the page: ‘Notes for a book The Outsider in Literature’...

Wilson famously slept outside on Hampstead Heath while writing this book during the day at the British Library. When The Outsider was published in 1956, it launched the 24-year-old Wilson to international fame. However, his follow-up books were less well-recieved, and Wilson began to disseminate his ideas through a series of fictional crime novels starting with Ritual in the Dark in 1960.

In this mind-trip of interview with Jeffrey Mishlove for the program Thinking Allowed, Wilson explains how he has written on the same theme throughout his career. He cites an essay by Isaiah Berlin that explained how writers can be divided into two groups—foxes and hedgehogs:

The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows just one thing. So, Shakespeare is a typical fox; Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are typical hedgehogs. I am a typical hedgehog—I know just one thing, and I repeat it over and over again. I’ve tried to approach it from different angles to make it look different but it is the same thing.

The “same thing” Wilson alludes to here is his world view of our inter-connectedness, which he expounded in his favorite novel The Glass Cage, which told the story of a William Blake-quoting serial killer to explain “the abuse of human potential.” This is part of the theme Wilson develops in this interview, where he suggests humans are 51% robot, and 49% essence, and it is only in moments of extremity that the essence takes over, allowing individuals to experience their potential.

Wilson’s books offer a greater understanding of the positive human existence. He was averse to the “negative” view of life promoted by such writers as Samuel Beckett or Jean-Paul Sartre and believed in a philosophy that would actively promote a positive engagement with life.

More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Shut Up, Devil!’ smartphone app: The power to silence Satan ... in your pocket!
08.04.2014
02:21 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Belief

Tags:
SATAN


 
Inspired by his own book Silence Satan, ministry leader Kyle Winkler of Kyle Winkler Ministries (catchy name) developed an app to help get those damned demons out of yer pretty little head. The app is called “Shut Up, Devil!” As Winkler explains, it’s a “weapon for spiritual warfare.”

He even touts that, “Soon, you realize that you’re no longer under attack, but you’re on the attack. And over time, issues you once dealt with will no longer plague you. And the lies the Devil launches at you, will no longer influence you.”

Seriously, just buy this man’s app and all will be right in your world! Get thee behind me, Satan!

Below, Winkler gives a handy tutorial on how to use his app. I think that Satan is already onto him and causing mischief. See how Kyle is about a half second out of sync? It’s the debbil!

 
via Christian Nightmares

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Christian televangelists listen to ‘Stairway to Heaven’ *forwards* hilarity ensues!
07.30.2014
10:14 am

Topics:
Amusing
Belief
Hysteria
Kooks
Music

Tags:
Led Zeppelin
SATAN


 
Oh, this is too funny. Evil genius YouTuber Clemtinite took old footage from the Trinity Broadcasting Network with televangelists Paul and Jan Crouch—the Christian duo are trying to find satanic messages by playing the Led Zeppelin classic “Stairway to Heaven” in reverse—and then reversed the whole video. “Turn me on dead, man!”

The longer it goes on, the funnier it gets.

 
via Laughing Squid

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Stanley Kubrick faked the Apollo 11 Moon landing?

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So, did Stanley Kubrick fake the Moon landing?

Well, that’s the proposition of William Kare’s documentary (mockumentary?) Dark Side of the Moon, which originally aired on French TV channel Arte in 2002 as Opération Lune.

According to Karel’s (fictional?) film, Kubrick was hired to fake the Apollo 11 mission by the U.S. government. The evidence? Well, secret documents alluding to Kubrick’s involvement in the “fraud” were discovered among the director’s papers after his death in March 1999.

Moreover, Kubrick apparently left clues to his involvement into the scam: firstly, his being loaned lenses by NASA to recreate the candle-lit scenes in his film Barry Lyndon—how else could have got hold of these unless NASA owed him a BIG favor?; secondly, Kubrick allegedly made a confession of his involvement in the conspiracy that is contained in his film version of Stephen King’s The Shining.

Adding substance to these alleged facts, Karel wheels out a highly convincing array of contributors: Henry Kissinger, Buzz Aldrin, Jan Harlan, Richard Helms, Vernon Walters (who is claimed to have mysteriously died after filming) and Christiane Kubrick.

It’s a great romp, and for those who are tempted to believe, watch the bloopers reel at the end.
 

 
Via Open Culture

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Have you ever wondered how many Scientologists there REALLY are?
07.17.2014
11:31 am

Topics:
Belief

Tags:
Scientology


 
The Church of Scientology has often asserted that it has approximately ten million members worldwide. Ten million, you say? TEN MILLION???

For crying out loud. Think about it: Jews worldwide number north of 13.5 million, or just about .02% of the population. No way are there nearly as many Scientologists.

How many Scientologists do you personally know? Well, I live in Los Angeles and I am not acquainted with even one single solitary Scientologist (at least not that I am aware of). If I didn’t know better, I’d say that they were about as scarce as Republicans are here!

That we are meant to believe that there are ten million adherents to the sci-fi religion founded by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard is, of course, ludicrous. In 2011, former editor (and longtime Scientology foe) Tony Ortega wrote at The Village Voice:

According to the latest [ARIS or American Religious Identification Survey] survey, the total number of people who identify as Scientologists is just 25,000 in this country of more than 300 million human beings.

That’s one Scientologist for about every 12,000 Americans.

In other words, the total number of active U.S. Scientologists is about the size of your run-of-the-mill local credit union.

But there’s more. As paltry as that number is, the news is even worse for Scientology, because previous surveys by the same researchers show a steep drop in membership in recent years, reflecting anecdotal evidence that there’s been a “mass exodus” (as Reitman calls it) under the leadership of David Miscavige.

In 1990, ARIS had found about 45,000 Scientologists. In 2001, it found 55,000, and in 2008, it found 25,000.

Yikes, that is some steep seven year drop-off in Scientologists, ain’t it? As Ortega goes on to point out, there are more people who self-identify as Rastafarians than as Scientologists.

Nevertheless, revenues from the Church’s large business network—corporations, non-profits and other legal entities—are estimated at half a billion dollars annually.
 

 
Jeff Hawkins, once Scientology’s head of public relations, now an anti-Scientology blogger, activist and author, estimates that there are no more than 40,000 Scientologists worldwide, at the high end. England and Canada both have fewer than two thousand adherents to the gospel of L. Ron Hubbard. Most Scientologists live right here in Los Angeles. The Church’s celebrity elite and its real estate holdings are highly visible, the rank and file membership considerably less so.

Nevertheless, revenues from the Church’s large business network—corporations, non-profits and other legal entities—are estimated at half a billion dollars annually! Additionally, author Lawrence Wright has revealed that the Church has over $1 billion in liquid assets.

As Hubbard once said:

“To keep a person on the Scientology path, feed him a mystery sandwich.”

A $25,000 mystery sandwich, that’s doled out a bite at a time promising the mark that when the sandwich is finished they will be able to “control or operate thought, life, matter, energy, space, and time” whether or not he or she even still has a body! That’s some sandwich and yes, pretty mysterious, I reckon.

Below, four former-Scientologists who reached the upper levels of Thetandom speak out about their experiences in Scientology. How could someone believe that they were a master of “energy, space and time” wearing a Hawaiian shirt and short pants?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Epic End of the World Christian Film Festival: The ‘Rapture series,’ the original ‘Left Behind’
07.14.2014
02:06 pm

Topics:
Belief
Movies

Tags:
Christianity


 
Although it was once a notion with widespread cultural currency among the more superstitious American evangelicals of the 1970s and early 80s, the “credit cards = ‘the Mark of the Beast’” belief has largely died off, no doubt a casualty of the fact that nearly everyone has one, and so far at least no devilish Antichrist has shown up to lay claim to our immortal souls.

In fact, searching for “credit cards” and “Mark of the Beast” on Google today brings up just 35,000 results, belying just how wildly popular that belief once was, mostly fuelled by best-selling books like Hal Lindsey’s paranoiac blockbuster The Late, Great Planet Earth (which sold nearly 30 million copies to a nation that then numbered just over 200 million) and its sequels, Satan is Alive and Well and Living on Planet Earth and The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon. Dog-eared copies of all three books could be easily found in practically any Christian church of the era, and every garage sale.

Among Lindsey’s readers were future US president Ronald Reagan, and my parents, who used only cash and checks, and refused to get a credit card due to Lindsey’s assertion that they were the first step to “The Beast” taking over. (When they shockingly got one in the 1990s, I reminded my mother that she used to believe credit cards were the “Mark of the Beast” and she brushed me off as if there was no truth to the matter whatsoever. That’s not the way I remember it…). The Hal Lindsey books, Chick tracts and other assorted “end of the world” literature was basically all there was to read in church and I became quite an expert in the genre, although not intending to become one. What I want to impress upon readers who weren’t born yet, or who lived outside of the Bible belt, is that these kinds of premillennialist beliefs were a part of many, I’d say most, evangelical Christian churches in America at that time. These books could be found pretty much everywhere. (The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown has sold but a fraction of the books Hal Lindsey has sold, to put it into perspective.)

After a certain point probably when I would have been a high school sophomore, my beleaguered mother and father finally tired of arguing with me about going to church with them, but one of the final things I have any memory of that I experienced there was a pot luck dinner event held in the church basement where these people came and showed three movies, one that I immediately recognized when I saw it linked on the Christian Nightmares blog yesterday.
 

 
A Thief in the Night, A Distant Thunder and Image of the Beast were shown in one marathon Saturday late morning to late afternoon screening that featured a lot of scalloped potatoes, green bean casseroles, fried dumplings, rump roast, Swedish meatballs, cakes, brownies, cookies and stuff like that. Although, these films (and one more titled The Prodigal Planet) known together as either the “Rapture” (or sometimes the “Thief”) series, seem rife with goofy fashions, stiff acting, a lot of preaching and anachronistic beliefs, not to mention being the victim of low, low budgets, they are not entirely unwatchable. I remember being entertained by them with their elements of supernatural horror, paranoia, conspiracy theories and silly plotlines. Bear in mind that the series could be seen as a parallel version of Hollywood’s Omen films, which, after all feature a “Biblical” character, so there several levels on which to appreciate these movies (“Christian camp” being the biggest by quite some margin. They’re lame and fascinating at the same time. Try watching the films through the eyes of someone in the 70s, a decade where a clever horror film like The Exorcist was taken very, very seriously by religious persons.)

The “Rapture” films, directed by Donald W. Thompson and produced by Russell S. Doughten Jr. were hugely influential on the Left Behind book series, indeed they served as the primary influence, as acknowledged by authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. It’s claimed that the films have been seen by some 300 million people around the world, many who were deeply affected by the thought that they themselves might be “left behind” when the Rapture occurs. I’m sure they gave a lot of gullible people and children many a terrible nightmare.

Which was, of course, the entire point to begin with: Scare ‘em straight! Pascal’s wager on a $60,000 budget!
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Eating lunch with the dead
07.03.2014
09:21 am

Topics:
Belief
Food

Tags:
Cemetery
lunch

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For two days each year, one week after Orthodox Easter, families gather in cemeteries across Moldova to eat lunch over the graves of departed loved ones.

Often wearing their best clothes, the families bring food, drink and favorite treats to share together as they celebrate the life of their dead relative. Prayers are said, candles are lit, a glass of wine poured for the deceased and placed on their tombstone, symbolically keeping the dead part of living family life.

Italian photographer Carlo Gianferro documented this “lively” and spiritual Moldovan tradition in 2010, where “The dead do not speak but watch from above, participate and thank.”
 
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More lunch a la cemetery, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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