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Status: Strange News
image Earlier this month the Secret Service raided the offices of the Great News Network (a Texas ministry) and seized 8300 inspirational tracts. The problem with the tracts? They were printed on million-dollar bills. I would say fake million-dollar bills, but since there's no such thing as real million-dollar bills, there can't exactly be fake ones either. However, the Secret Service felt they looked a little bit too much like real currency for comfort. Reportedly someone had tried to deposit one at a bank. Meanwhile, the Great News Network isn't happy and is threatening to sue the government. But they should realize the government has an extremely low tolerance for any kind of fake currency. Witness the case of J.S.G. Boggs (whom I write about in Hippo Eats Dwarf). He's an artist who creates counterfeit currency as art, though his bills are single-sided, so they're not likely to be mistaken for actual money. Nevertheless, the Secret Service raided his studio back in 1992 and seized thousands of his works, and haven't returned them to this day.

Incidentally, here's the tract that was written on the million-dollar bills. (You can try to purchase the bills here):
The million dollar question: Will you go to Heaven? Here's a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God's name in vain? Jesus said, "Whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already with her in his heart." Have you looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgment Day? If you have done those things God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that if you are guilty you will end up in Hell. That's not God's will. He sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for you. Jesus took your punishment upon Himself -"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Then He rose from the dead and defeated death. Please, repent (turn from sin) today and trust in Jesus, and God will grant you everlasting life. Then read your Bible daily and obey it.
(Thanks to Joe for the link)
Categories: Business/Finance, Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 13, 2006
Comments (114)
Status: Strange but true
Poor Prince Philip never seems to get that much attention, overshadowed as he is by his famous wife, the Queen. But he can console himself with the knowledge that the residents of Tanna, a volcanic island in the Pacific, worship him as a god. UPI reports:
Members of the Yaohahnen tribe have developed their own form of cargo cult, belief systems dating to World War II, when U.S. military planes dropped boxes of supplies by parachute that some Pacific islanders believed had come from the gods. The tribe, who live on one of the islands in the archipelago country of Vanuatu, decided that Prince Philip, consort of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, brings prosperity. The islanders realize that the prince, who celebrated his 85th birthday Saturday, is not immortal.
"We want him to spend the last years of his life here, because we believe that when he returns as our god, his powers will make our wrinkles disappear and we will have many wives to attend to our every need," Jack Naiva, the Yaohahnen chief, told the Daily Mail. "He won't have to hunt for pigs or anything. He can just sit in the sun and have a nice time."
Philip has sent the tribe pictures of himself. But Buckingham Palace said the prince is not planning to move to Tanna -- or even to visit.
It's the line about wrinkle removal that gets me. Are the Yaohahnen especially concerned about their wrinkles? And why would they think Prince Philip would be able to remove them, given that he's not exactly the smoothest-faced person in the world?

On the subject of cargo cults, Smithsonian Magazine ran an interesting article a few months back about them, specifically a group of South Pacific islanders who worship an American named John Frum.
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 06, 2006
Comments (12)
Status: Undetermined
image Do you believe God belongs in government? Do you believe President Bush is doing The Lord's Work? If so, then step up and buy a BushFish car magnet. There's been speculation that this is some kind of parody, along the lines of BushIsLord.com. It does seem a little over the top. But I'm guessing that the creator of these things doesn't care whether people interpret them as a parody, or as a serious statement, as long as they buy plenty of them. (And yes, as far as I can tell, purchases really can be made via the site... though I wasn't about to actually buy one to make sure.)

On Daily Kos there's been speculation that BushFish is a satire based on the fact that some of the photos of BushFish on car bumpers seem to have been photoshopped. I'm not seeing this. In fact, it seems to me that it would be more work to photoshop a BushFish onto a bumper than it would be to simply slap one onto a bumper in real life and take a picture of it.

Personally I think that if anyone feels a burning need to buy a Bush Fish, they should buy one of the aquatic kind instead.
Categories: Politics, Religion
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 01, 2006
Comments (16)
Status: Unlikely
An article has begun to circulate around the internet warning of a secret government plan to enlist pastors in an evil plan to create a submissive populace:
A Pastor has come forward to blow the whistle on a nationwide FEMA program which is training Pastors and other religious representatives to become secret police enforcers who teach their congregations to "obey the government" in preparation for a declaration of martial law, property and firearm seizures, and forced relocation. In March of this year the Pastor, who we shall refer to as Pastor Revere, was invited to attend a meeting of his local FEMA chapter which circulated around preparedness for a potential bio-terrorist attack, any natural disaster or a nationally declared emergency. The FEMA directors told the Pastors that attended that it was their job to help implement FEMA and Homeland Security directives in anticipation of any of these eventualities. The first directive was for Pastors to preach to their congregations Romans 13, the often taken out of context bible passage that was used by Hitler to hoodwink Christians into supporting him, in order to teach them to "obey the government" when martial law is declared.
And it goes on and on in this style. The article originally comes from prisonplanet.com, which is a conspiracy-theory site. Tellingly, the article doesn't provide any verifiable source for its claims. The story relies solely upon the word of "Pastor Revere". Of course, as Marx said, religion is the opium of the masses, so such a plan wouldn't be all that farfetched, but it seems a bit unnecessary. After all, isn't pacifying and brainwashing the populace what Fox News is for?
Categories: Conspiracy Theories, Religion
Posted by Alex on Wed May 31, 2006
Comments (24)
Status: Not an official ad
An amusing monster-truck-style radio commercial for St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Birmingham is doing the rounds. "This Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! It's a sacramental showdown at St. Andrew's Episcopal..." It's not a real ad, in the sense that it's never been aired. Nor was it created by the church. As Church Marketing Sucks reports, it was created by Mike McKenzie, who's a St. Andrew's parishioner:

"It wasn't with the intention of making a commercial--I was just goofying around," says McKenzie. "The idea hit me right after 10:30 mass--it's high mass, very formal liturgy. What would happen if you took formal liturgy and combined it with a monster truck rally?"

McKenzie then shared his creation with the church leaders, and from there it started doing the rounds. But it sounds like St. Andrews likes the ad, and may actually use it sometime in the future. At which point it would become a real ad. (via Julie's News from New York)
Categories: Advertising, Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue May 02, 2006
Comments (3)
Status: Malarkey
If you live in Cincinnati, watch out. Sometime during the next month you may feel a calm sensation wash over you. And that sensation may be caused by the "Maharishi Effect." At least, it might be if you believe tai chi teacher Vince Lasorso. Lasorso is hoping to convince 3000 residents of Cincinnati to pray or meditate for 30 days, starting on April 29th, in order to create a "peaceful field of consciousness" in the city and hopefully reduce its murder rate. As the Cincinnati Enquirer reports:

He says studies have shown that if 1 percent of a community practices meditation and other inner peace techniques, the crime rate can dip more than 20 percent. In transcendental meditation circles, that's known as the Maharishi effect, named for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a mystic who became famous in the 1960s after teaching the Beatles to meditate.

Check out Lasorso's website, movementsofpeace.org, where he states that "Research conducted at Princeton University demonstrates that human consciousness creates a field around the Earth as real and measurable as gravity. Experiments in over forty U.S. cities reduced crime rates as much as 24 percent when one percent of the population meditated on loving peace." I'd like to know what this research at Princeton is that he's citing. Or he is just making it up? (I can't find any references on his site.)

This kind of thing (praying for peace) seems to be a bit of a trend right now. I posted about Global Spell Casting day a few weeks ago. And Katy Kurione emailed me about a dial-a-prayer outfit called PrayLive.com that has a slightly different spin on the idea. On April 27 they gathered "clergy from around the Washington, DC and MD area... to pray for the lowering of gas prices." Forget about peace... just lower the price of gas!
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Mon May 01, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Hoax
image Jesus Pets points out a serious problem that born-again Christians must face if they own a pet: Many Christians believe that animals do not go to heaven. So when Jesus comes back and you return with him to heaven, will there be somebody to take care of your dog or cat?

Happily, they offer a solution: We are assembling a community of heathen pet-lovers to care for pets that are “left-behind.” We are coordinating with feed mills and kennels in preparation for your post-apocalyptic pet care needs.

Clearly this is tongue-in-cheek, though it's a clever idea. (I'd happily agree to look after someone's animal for a fee in case of rapture, since I anticipate being left behind.)

If you poke around the JesusPets site a bit more (follow the Jesus Links link), you'll find hundreds of pages full of links to religious sites. Each of these link pages runs google ads. So what I think is going on is that someone created the JesusPets page as a ploy to get lots of people (like me) to link to it, thereby increasing its pagerank. This, in turn, will increase the pagerank of all those link pages running the ads and, in theory, generate plenty of ad revenue. Whoever dreamed up this scheme is definitely going to be around post-rapture. (via J-Walk)
Categories: Animals, Religion, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 08, 2006
Comments (21)
Status: Undetermined
A news service called AKI (Adnkronos International) is reporting that Iran has decided to rename Danish pastries "Mohammedan" pastries. It notes that "The name change recalls when some Americans started calling French fries, 'Freedom fries' to protest France's opposition to the United States-led invasion of Iraq."

I wouldn't put it past the Iranian government to do this, but what I'm not sure about is whether Danish pastries are actually referred to as Danish pastries in Farsi. Perhaps they use the English term. Also, it seems odd that AFI is the only news source reporting this. A search on lexis-nexis and Google news pulls up nothing else. However, the London Evening Standard is reporting that "Danish pastries and butter were being cleared off supermarket shelves in Saudi Arabia." So if people are willing to clear Danish pastries from supermarkets, why not rename them also? I'm leaning towards believing it's true.
Categories: Food, Politics, Religion
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 08, 2006
Comments (30)
Status: Pareidolia
image Oscar, who's a fish, lives in a tank in Waterfoot, England. He's attracting quite a bit of attention because markings on one side of his body seem to spell out the name Allah in arabic script, while markings on his other side seem to spell out Muhammad. Since I don't know arabic, I'm not in a position to judge how much the markings look like these words. But at least saying that markings spell a word is a bit more cut-and-dry than saying that markings look like Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or someone else whose appearance is unknown. (And now that I think about it, I suppose the Muslim ban on images of Muhammad means that the world will never get to see pieces of toast or frying pans bearing the image of Muhammad.) People who have examined Oscar are quite confident that the markings haven't been painted on in any way. I'm sure Oscar's new-found status as a miracle fish won't hurt the price the pet shop owner can fetch for him. (Thanks to Paul Farrington for the link.)
Categories: Animals, Pareidolia, Religion
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 03, 2006
Comments (45)
Status: Pseudoscience
Last night ABC News had a segment about a study being funded by the National Institutes of Health to determine if prayer can help cancer patients heal faster. Or more specifically, whether a stranger's prayers can help a patient heal faster. (The people running the study have invented the bs term 'distant healing' to make what they're studying sound more legitimate.) My jaw was on the floor as I was watching this. I couldn't believe the government had been suckered into paying for it. I suppose the NIH will next be funding studies of voodoo dolls. But unfortunately, ABC didn't spend a lot of time debunking the study. In fact, if you didn't know better, you might have got the impression from their segment that this was a perfectly scientific study, although they did give a critic a few seconds to make a quick point.

The woman running the study, Marilyn Schlitz, sounds like a real piece of work. She's head of something called the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Since she's a firm believer in the power of prayer, it's a good bet that her study will find that prayer does, indeed, have an effect. Never mind that a study conducted by Duke University has already determined that patients show no improvement in their condition when people pray for them. In an interview with SFGate.com, Schlitz desperately tries to duck this inconvenient fact, suggesting that "One study cannot prove or disprove a particular hypothesis." Oh, really? (Unless the study produces results she likes. Then, I'm sure, she would feel it was definitive.) Plus, in an effort to make what she's doing sound more secular, she suggests that she's not studying prayer, per se, but whether one person's "compassionate intention" towards another person, even if those two people are separated by thousands of miles and don't know each other, can have positive medical benefits. But it seems to me like we already have sufficient evidence to answer this. When celebrities (like George Harrison, for instance) are hospitalized, hundreds of thousands of people around the world pray for them. These prayers don't seem to do squat. Shouldn't that be proof enough that prayer has no therapeutic value?
Categories: Religion, Science
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 09, 2006
Comments (30)
Status: Prank
image I'm about five days late posting this, but better late than never. An advertisement for an "Extra Virgin Mary Statue" slipped by the editors of the conservative Catholic magazine, America. The advertisement offered "a stunning ... statue of the Virgin Mary standing atop a serpent wearing a delicate veil of latex." The "delicate veil of latex" was a blue condom. America's editors didn't examine the accompanying photo closely enough to realize this. And so the ad ran in the December 5 edition. People who contacted the seller were told the ad was meant "as an assault on Catholic faith and devotion." I don't know who the artist was who created the ad. Maybe it was Banksy.
Categories: Advertising, Art, Religion
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 28, 2005
Comments (11)
Status: Pareidolia
image Shortly before Christmas workers at a Florida restaurant noticed that mineral deposits had created a face-like image on the bottom of one of the warming trays they were using. They knew right away that this had to be the face of Christ. (Who else would appear on a warming tray?) According to this MSNBC article "A spokesman for the Stadium Club says they will not continue to use the pan." In other words, Jesus has ruined a perfectly good warming tray. Thanks a lot, Jesus. I assume the next stop for the holy warming tray is eBay.
Categories: Pareidolia, Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 27, 2005
Comments (28)
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