This Is Just Wrong

As it is, I am not sure how I feel about keeping the ashes of your departed loved ones in an urn on the fireplace mantel but I am sure that keeping them in this particular type of vessel anywhere is just plain creepy.

Personal urns are a new and exciting way to memorialize your loved one. Now we can create a custom urn in the image of your loved one or favorite Celebrity.New advances in facial reconstruction and 3D printing have made it possible to have an urn made in the image of anyone from just a photograph.Never forget a face. Personal Urns combine art and technology to create a family heirloom that will be cherished for generations.

(Gizmodo via The Daily What)

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Texas Fundies At It Again

It is said that because of the sheer volume of text books bought by Texas schools, what they want put into those text books often ends up in the books used by the rest of the country. With that in mind the fact that the religious right has all but taken control of their school boards and state house should be sending shivers down the spines of those wishing to keep religion out of our public schools.

Just a few months ago a Texas legislator tried to pass a bill that would have effectively made teaching science a thing of the past by making telling teachers they must give out A’s to students based on their beliefs, not on the curriculum.

Don’t believe in the theory of relativity?

Students wouldn’t have to and could not be penalized for it in school under proposed legislation filed Friday.

Teachers could not be penalized, either, if they reject plate tectonics or the kinetic theory of gases.

The bill says that neither student nor teacher could be penalized for subscribing to any particular position on any scientific theories or hypotheses.

“Students could claim they believe anything they wanted in anything in science and if that’s what they say, the teacher would be forced to give that student an A,” said Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science. “That’s how bad this bill is written.”

But Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, who filed the bill, said it is not an out for students, because they must still be evaluated on course materials taught.

“They can be lazy if they want to .?.?. but teachers are still in charge of the grading system,” Christian said.

The bill does not address evolution specifically, but that seems to be its target. Its goal is to reintroduce the ability to teach “weaknesses” of scientific theories. After two days of heated debate, the State Board of Education narrowly voted this winter to remove a requirement that Texas public schools teach weaknesses in the theory of evolution.

Apparently not satisfied with an all out assault on science, the fundies on the state board of education fed by a panel of “experts” including a fundamentalist preacher are now trying to rewrite history.

The Christian right is making a fresh push to force religion onto the school curriculum in Texas with the state’s education board about to consider recommendations that children be taught that there would be no United States if it had not been for God.

Members of a panel of experts appointed by the board to revise the state’s history curriculum, who include a Christian fundamentalist preacher who says he is fighting a war for America’s moral soul, want lessons to emphasise the part played by Christianity in the founding of the US and that religion is a civic virtue.

Maybe the Texas fundies should quit beating around the bush and just get on with their real agenda of getting rid of all text books and just teaching the bible instead? They are giving them out in some schools already anyways

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Justifying A "Lie" With A Lie?

Putting religious messages on billboards has been around probably as long as billboards have been and recently even Atheist’s have gotten into the mix with some of their own so on the surface the latest campaign by a group in Florida is hardly news. The group, will be placing ads on 10 different billboards in several Florida counties forwarding their belief that the Constitutional separation between church and state is a lie.

The Judeo-Christian foundation that the Founding Fathers established when America began is the reason that this country has prospered for 200-plus years,” said [Terry] Kemple, president and sole employee of the local Community Issues Council, which paid for the Web site.

So what messages does Kemple use to make his claim?

The billboards showcase quotes from early American leaders like John Adams, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin. Most of the quotes portray a national need for Christian governance.

Others carry the same message but with fictional attribution, as with one billboard citing George Washington for the quote, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

That’s right a fictional quote attributed to George Washington that Kemple justifies by saying that based on Washington’s other writings, could have been said by our first President.

Of course being someone that was unsure of Washington’s actual religious leanings and not quick to take a wingnut at his word in these situations, I did some quick research and found this that might give us some insight on Washington and his actual beliefs.

Washington was not anti-religion. Washington was not uninterested in religion. He was a military commander who struggled to motivate raw troops in the French and Indian War. He recognized that recruiting the militia in the western part of Virginia required accommodating the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, Baptists, and Dutch Reformed members in officially-Anglican Virginia. He was aware that religious beliefs were a fundamental part of the lives of his peers and of his soldiers. He knew that a moral basis for the American Revolution and the creation of a new society would motivate Americans to support his initiatives – and he knew that he would receive more support if he avoided discriminating against specific religious beliefs.

In the Revolutionary War, Washington supported troops selecting their own chaplains (such as the Universalist John Murray) while trying to avoid the development of factions within the army. Religion offered him moral leverage to instill discipline, reduce theft, deter desertion, and minimize other rambunctious behaviors that upset local residents. It was logical for Washington to invoke the name of the Divine, but it may have been motivated more by a desire for improving life on earth rather than dealing with life after death.

Washington understood the distinction between morality and religion, and between toleration of differences and full religious liberty. Washington’s replies to messages from Jews and Swedenborgians showed he was not merely accepting the differences of religion, tolerating those who had not chosen the correct path. Instead, he endorsed what Jefferson would later define as a “wall of separation between church and state.”

Washington used generic terms with his public requests for divine assistance, to the extent that his personal denomination must be classified as “unknown.” That vagueness has not stopped Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Unitarian Universalists from claiming him as a member, and has invited others to identity him as a Deist. Washington was a man dedicated to creating national unity, not an exclusionist seeking to identify and select those with correct beliefs for reward in this life or the next. It would have been inconsistent for him to seek to blend the westerners and the Tidewater residents, the Yankees from the north and the slave-owning planters from the South, into one national union – while at the same time supporting narrow religious tests for officeholders, or advocating the superiority of one religious sect over another.

It might just be me but it sounds like Kemple might be stretching the truth a bit on Washington’s perceived beliefs on religion but I guess stretching the truth (ok, outright lying) just works better when you don’t have reality on your side. It is ironic though that the same 1st Amendment that Kemple has such issues with is the same one that allows him to forward his fictional quotes from our founders on those Florida billboards…

Oh and speaking of our founding fathers and their beliefs on the subject, one founder I noticed was missing from the group’s campaign, namely Thomas Jefferson.

Why would they not use this quote as proof of our founding father’s thoughts on this subject?

The rights [to religious freedom] are of the natural rights of mankind, and… if any act shall be… passed to repeal [an act granting those rights] or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.” –Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. (*) ME 2:303, Papers 2:546

Or this one?

Among the most inestimable of our blessings, also, is that… of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.” –Thomas Jefferson: Reply to John Thomas et al., 1807. ME 16:291

Maybe they are saving them for their next billboard campaign…

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Funniest Places

I am sure we have all seen and heard of people claiming to see the image of Jesus in all sorts of items. Grilled cheese, mirrors, tree stumps, etc but brings us probably the weirdest yet.

In November 2006, photographer and artist Jessica White’s dog, called Angus MacDougall, had Jesus appearing on his… well, bottom. The dog is a very cute three-year-old terrier mix. The image of Jesus can be “clearly” seen in the fur surrounding his anus. (Source 1 | Source 2)

I guess this would fit right in with the Christian belief that Jesus is everywhere…

Thanks to Tim via email for the link

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Why Does It Matter?

My post yesterday on the perception vs belief of many scientific theories might have been a bit hard on the those that choose to split with science when it comes to certain subjects. I mean why does it matter if someone has different views that don’t necessarily jive with science even if they are then able get those views taught to the masses? After all the science is often admittedly just currently unproven theories right?

A book by Charles Pierce called Idiot America that among other things describes a tour of Ken Ham’s Creation Museum might help explain why it does often matter.

Pierce opens with a tour of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where dinosaurs are depicted, living Flintstone style (some of them have saddles!) in Eden, and being taken on Noah’s Ark, two by two, T-Rex and Raptor and the rest, with the other animals and Noah’s family.

Dinosaurs with Saddles? Bananas as proof of a creator? If you choose to completely ignore science then you end up getting the Ken Ham’s and Ray Comfort’s of the world getting picked to head agencies like the Texas state Board of Education or oilmen like George W Bush and Dick Cheney determining environmental policy.

Science is far from perfect but it certainly beats wingnuttery. That is why it matters.

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