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This category contains 38 posts

A Testimony of Serpent Handling

Photographer Hunter Barnes spent a month in West Virginia documenting a congregation of Serpent Handlers, an old-time religion that is dying out – only 15 members are left. They express their faith through a mixture of serpent handling, healing and drinking poison. Barnes is raising money via Kickstarter to turn his photos into a book. […]

Dirty Girls

Here’s an article from Christwire that analyzes the trend towards a hipster-offshoot: the dirty girl. Author Stephenson Billings has clearly thought a lot about the phenomenon of girls who: “…will mimic the deadbeat celebrities she sees on programs such as Entertainment Tonight and Entourage, mocking hardworking people behind her gold sunglasses as she high heels […]

The Sheikh’s Batmobile

The Sheikh’s Batmobile by Richard Poplak takes readers on a tour of 17 Muslim countries in an exploration of how American pop culture has been embraced and reinterpreted – for example plastic surgery in Beirut, and a video game classified as a terrorist training tool. Read a review on More Intelligent Life.

Google Tracks Your Health

Google gets even deeper under your skin… its developed an online health tracker  – cleverly called Google Health – that allows you to gather, store, track and share your health records and fitness goals, from blood pressure and medication to how many cups of coffee you drink a day. All the information can be accessed […]

Top Ten Christian Relics

David Farley produced a handy list of ten Christian relics you should see before you die (if so inclined). The top five are: The Holy Foreskin (but you already knew that, didn’t you?) Holy Breast Milk The Holy Teardrop The Holy Umbilical Cord The Holy Moly Actually, one of those is fake. Take a look […]

Cross-Cultural Wedding Planning

A new type of wedding planner is emerging – one who is able to blend the wedding traditions of two different cultures into one ceremony that pleases the bride and doesn’t upset the relatives. Iconoculture reports that a Chinese American / Indian American couple had a wedding that involved five changes of costume, two ceremonies, […]

The Creation Museum

More Intelligent Life , a quarterly magazine from the Economist, has an article on the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Since it opened in 2007, more than 1 million visitors have admired Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden planted with plastic plants and part of Noah’s ark  and quailed at an apocalyptic corridor done […]

It’s a Miracle!

ABC News reports that the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 79% of Americans believe in miracles, such as divine intervention.  Read the numerous comments in response to the (very short) article for an insight into people’s beliefs.

The Uncensored Bible

The Uncensored Bible: The Bawdy and Naughty Bits of the Good Book by John Kaltner, Steven McKenzie and Joel Kilpatrick is a rather rude interpretation of the good book (and one that might make for more interesting reading in hotel bedrooms than the real thing). The authors, two Bible scholars and a journalist ask, and […]

Last Supper Portions

A Cornell University professor and his brother, a religious studies professor, studied paintings of the Last Supper and discovered that artist’s through the centuries have gradually been increasing the amount of food being eaten by Jesus and his disciples, which they say mirrors socio-cultural changes through the ages. Read the full article on Reuters.

Book Fair Clothing Controversy

Who knew book fairs could be so controversial?  Iran’s clerics are urging the country’s cultural secretary to hand over the running of the Tehran book fair to them as they have been heartbroken on seeing that some women did not strictly observe the hijab, turning the event into ‘fashion salons’.  Read more in the Literary […]

Hip Hop Monk

ITN News reports that a Japanese Buddhist monk has become MC Happiness in an attempt to engage young people in religion via rapping. Watch him in action (via Three Billion):

Gay is the New Black

Dangerous Breed is home to political T-Shirts that make you think: the slogan that is provoking  most comment at the moment is “Gay is the New Black”, which refers to the denial of gay marriage rights in the USA. Others include “Ski Iraq” (as seen on Six Feet Under), “Gaza Strip Club” and “Petrosexual”. Get […]

Genesis Illustrated

Satirical cartoonist R. Crumb has turned his talents to the bible in The Book of Genesis Illustrated, which is essentially a graphic novel (“with nothing left out”). Read more in the Washington Post.

Three Die at Self-Help Retreat

The Huffington Post reports that two people (now three) people died when they took part in a sweat lodge at the end of a self-help retreat in Arizona run by spiritual guru James Ray.  Sixty people had paid $10,000 to attend the  retreat and were confined to a tent for several hours, as the temperature […]

Jewish Elevators

Orthodox Jews in NYC are trying to work out whether they can use special Shabbos elevators that automatically stop at every floor on the Sabbath so its passengers don’t have to perform an action forbidden by the Torah (work, which includes using electrical devices is banned on the Sabbath). Many observant Jews have rejected the […]

Wanted: What the Specialist Factual Commissioners Want in the UK

At the Intelligent Factual conference a couple of weeks ago, specialist factual channel execs talked about which programmes have recently worked well for them and what they are looking for in the future. Click through to see what BBC1, BBC2, BBC4, Ch4, BIO, History UK and Crime & Investigation want in their science, history, art, religion and natural history slots. (Photo by plagel under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Organ Brokers

Interesting – and disturbing – story about organ trafficking in Brooklyn. Brokers (including a rabbi) buy kidneys from people in impoverished circumstances, usually India for $2,000 to $10,000, and sell them on to desperate kidney patients for up to $180,000. Read more: Daily News

Murder Most Foul

US officials who visited a house to evict the tenants in Washington, DC, discovered the decomposing bodies of four children, aged 5-17 years old; their mother had been living with their bodies for months. Benita Jacks said that her daughters had been possessed by demons and that they had died in their sleep one-by-one. Forensics […]

Sarah Palin Memoir

HarperCollins is publishing Sarah Palin’s memoir in the USA in spring 2010. She’s reportedly excited to use her journalism degree to set the record straight about her upbringing, her family and last year’s presidential race.  Palin will work with a collaborator to produce the book, which has yet to be started. She’s going to have […]

Moral Dilemmas

Here are some interesting moral dilemmas to consider over your morning coffee: If a lifeboat is at risk of sinking, is it OK to push some people over the edge to drown in order to save the rest? If  a fat man gets stuck in the entrance to a cave, trapping other people inside, and […]

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Scientific American has an article that argues that post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is being over-diagnosed in soldiers returning from war because its too ill defined, as a syndrome. This can lead to soldiers getting treatment or being pulled in to a culture of long-term disability, when they might have been going through a perfectly […]

Favorite Wife: Escape from Polygamy by Susan Schmidt

In Favorite Wife: Escape from Polygamy, Susan Ray Schmidt tells of how she escaped from her marriage to the leader of a Mormon cult who was 23 years older than she when they married (she was 15), and who had 10 other wives. She suffered arguments, jealousy and death threats before she managed to escape […]

Sikhs Give up Their Turbans

Young Indian Sikhs are throwing away their turbans in favour of short hair that is easier to manage and helps them assimilate. Less than 25% of Sikh under 30 now wear a turban. However, they’re now coming up against an unforeseen prejudice. Last year four Sikhs were refused admission to medical school under a Sikh […]

Hill of Crosses in Lithuania

See these amazing  pictures of the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania, which looks like a crazy, religious version of Steptoe’s yard. The national pilgrimage centre has thousands of crosses of all shapes and sizes crowded onto a small hill. The site is a centuries old symbol of Catholic resistance against repression. The crosses have been […]

Is Religion set for a Revival?

An article in New Scientist suggests that in hard times (such as now) people are more inclined towards religious belief. Some scientists suggest that this might be an evolutionary survival strategy. Others argue that that’s wrong –  what use does the belief in life after death to evolution? Read more…

Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing…..Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible

Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible by Washington Post writer David Plotz, read the bible from cover to cover and found a scandalous melodrama, full of family feuds, violence and plotlines that could keep several soap operas in stories for years. Plotz originally wrote a feature called Blogging the Bible for Slate magazine, in which he set out to find out what would happen when he read the book on which his religion was based, but about which he knew little. The book is framed by a number of provocative questions as he finds out how much the Bible relates to his everyday understanding and observance of his Jewish faith.

A couple of years ago, NYC-based Esquire writer AJ Jacobs wrote a book about his experiences in a similar, but more immersive, project The Year of Living Biblically, in which he was obliged to grow a ZZ Top beard, tell the truth and stone adulterers.

Here’s a Quick Way to Have 20,000 TV Programme Ideas

TV is a visual medium, so sometimes it’s easier to have ideas for new programmes with a bit visual stimulation, and watching old archive can be a great way to spark ideas for history or science documentaries, or even list shows. Once upon a time, if you wanted to find rare footage you needed to hire an experienced archive researcher. Nowadays, you can find – and sometimes view – all kinds of fascinating archive material online. Here are some excellent resources, which contain more than 20,000 films, to get you started. (Photo by Joshua Davis under Attribution-Share Alike CC)

Teen Sex

Teenagers who take a pledge of chasity are just as likely as their peers to indulge in pre-marital sex, and more likely to do it without taking precautions, according to a report in Pediatrics journal. In 2005, the BBC broadcase Secret of the Sexes, which was groundbreaking in that it conducted a huge online survey […]

A Hospital Ghost Story

Once upon a time, one wintry October, there was a young nurse working nights in a draughty Victorian Hospital. Her ward was at the end of a 2nd floor corridor, the end of which was bricked up. The security guards refused to walk the to the end of the corridor to pick up the nightly ‘bed report’ as they were ‘afraid of the dark’. Inside the long, open ward, 28 men, most missing limbs, slept as quietly as animals in a zoo. One night, the nurses, huddled in their capes around a table in the middle of the ward, tried to stay awake as one of them, the oldest, muttered about God.

The nurse went to visit the staff toilet, which was outside the ward, off the dimly-lit corridor. As she washed her hands (as they did back then in the olden days), she heard the ward telephone ring. And ring. And ring. She wondered why no-one was answering it, fretting that all the patients would be woken. The other nurses denied hearing the telephone.

A young man, a boarder from another ward, still in possession of all his limbs and the most compus mentis, called out in fright. He’d woken to see someone standing at the end of his bed, staring at him, before disappearing into the fetid sluice. It was hard to see who it might have been; all the beds were occupied.

The nurse heard the squeaky wheeled blood-pressure monitor roll towards the nurses’ station, as if someone were holding onto it for support. She turned to see who had got up in search of a cup of tea and reassurance. There was no sign of anyone, except for the stethoscope swinging back and forth from the machine.

Talk turned to ghosts. The senior nurse (in years only as we second-year students were in charge of the ward), spoke of when the old nurses home was bombed in the Blitz. The home was at the end of the corridor, where now there was only a blank wall. Legend had it that on certain nights in October you could could hear running footsteps as ghostly nurses fled the burning building.

Derby City General Hospital is not the only hospital with strange goings-on. There must be many others, if the experiences of that nurse at the Manchester Royal Infirmary is anything to go by. How do I know they happened? Because that nurse was me. Do I think the phantom telephone, strange figure and self-propelling sphygmomanometer were signs of a ghost? No. But nor can I find a rational explanation for them. Where’s Yvette Fielding when you need her?

But seriously… there what was going on? There’s clearly folklore involved – medical folk love a good gory story – mixed with real history and probably some brain-altering tiredness brought on by lack of sleep… Yvette? Horizon? Anyone? Is ANYBODY there???

Faith Equals Fertility

Does religion cause people to have more children or do people with more children turn to God? Discuss. Or at least read more.

Shaking the World for Jesus

In Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture Heather Hendershot explores how evangelical Christians’ rejection of mainstream media has produced a massive industry that spreads their message via videos, films, magazines and religious kitsch, which are sold in their millions through Wal-Mart, websites and mail order catalogues.  This is an objective portrait of a white, middle-class […]

Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities

Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities is a fascinating blog about the world’s largest rare paper, books and manuscripts collection (covering the natural sciences, history, theology and literature), which is housed in Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Visit the blog to see handwritten notebook entries from J.M. Barrie and Ezra Pound, lottery tickets issued to support the Revolutionary War and photographs of 1940s shop window displays, and promotional material for the Sex Pistols.

Graffiti for God

South London church groups are engaging young people by encouraging them to use graffiti to spread the word of God. At a recent youth day, teens were invited paint four panels to hang on the walls of 12th century Lambeth Palace. Supervising artist Susan Hicks previously worked with a group of disaffected kids near Preston, on […]

Joe the Plumber goes to war

Samuel Wurzelbacher, the Ohio man who found himself the poster boy for John McCain in the presidential election, is into his third day of reporting from Israel for conservative website pjtv.com. He covering the fighting from the perspective of of Israel’s Average Joes.

Interrogate This: Psychologists Take on Terror

Filmmaker, and practicing forensic psychologist, Maryanne Galvin has made a feature documentary, Interrogate This that asks: “Should psychologists help the military interrogate national security detainees?”

The School of Life

Improve your life with a visit to The School of Life, where you’ll find quirky courses that offer “intelligent and playful ways to interpret the world”.

Spice Up Your Married Life

Christian Nymphos are dedicated to spicing up their married lives.