Keep The Faith
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Is Everyone Taking Stupid Pills This Week? If You Say 'No' Then You Are Also Taking Stupid Pills.

"The Vatican cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi told press in Italy Wednesday that, essentially, Jesus was the 'world's first tweeter,' according to The Telegraph. No, history's most famous carpenter didn't have a BlackBerry or a Twitter avatar over 2000 years ago. What Ravasi meant was that Jesus's messages were short, but often powerful, much like the way many people communicate on Twitter today. '[Christ] used tweets before everyone else, with elementary phrases made up of fewer than 45 characters like "Love one another," said Ravasi.' —Let's just assume this is one of those things that [...]

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Homophobic British Cardinal Skipping Papal Election Due To Being Outed

"Cardinal O'Brien has been accused of committing 'inappropriate acts' in his relations with three priests and one former priest from the diocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, British newspaper The Observer reported Sunday. O'Brien has been an outspoken opponent of gay rights." —Britain's top Catholic cardinal is skipping the papal election because of new revelations that he tried to bone four different priests. I wonder if reporters laugh when typing this stuff the way I laugh when reading it.

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In California, the Winners Aren't Apologizing To God For Being Liberal

While Barack Obama celebrated his re-election with a wooden victory speech that was more about Christian American God than the human beings who stood in lines to keep him in the White House, in California nobody is apologizing for big liberal wins. Governor Jerry Brown worked his Proposition 30 tax increase hard, constantly flying up and down the state on Southwest, speaking Latin and Greek to the delight and confusion of media people, and making it very clear (in English) that the rival Proposition 38 was a scam funded by a multimillionaire wingnut. Brown's tax on the very rich won, by eight points, and Brown claimed victory with [...]

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Eat, Pray, Judge: Bean Pie With The Nation Of Islam

I’ve seen them for years. On the way from my old home in West Philadelphia to the airport or the stadiums. Changing subway lines underneath City Hall. In front of the Lowe’s on the way to a past job. I’m talking about the well-dressed representatives of the Nation of Islam, who hawk neatly packaged bean pies (along with copies of the nation’s newspaper The Final Call) to commuters passing through these high-traffic locations. But only recently did it occur to me that I should be sampling their offerings as part of my halting, unsystematic inquiry into foodstuffs inexpensively proffered by various religious organizations.

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Eat, Pray, Judge: Lunch With The Sikhs

In the month since I’d dined with the Episcopalians for Shrove Tuesday, I’d been spending too much money going out to eat. It was time to take advantage of the generosity of another religious group and avail myself of a free meal, so I headed to the closest Sikh temple.

The trip from my South Philadelphia home took me to the tiny town of Millbourne, just outside the city limits, but serviced by the El train. Of Millbourne’s slightly more than 1,000 residents, the 2010 census found that over half are of Asian descent—and almost all of these are South Asian: Indians, but also Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.

From [...]

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A View From Outside the Temple

Mormons don’t let outsiders into their temples, and they themselves must be deemed in good standing to enter. That means submitting to a lengthy interview process that includes testimony to the Gospel, a declaration of pure bodily condition and evidence that they are keeping up with their tithing. If they pass, they enter wearing all white-suits or full-length white dresses, focused on interacting as directly as possible with God.

Despite the strict rules for entrance, the church still wants curious outsiders to get a sense of what they’re missing. At the Salt Lake Temple, which I attempted to visit on a recent Sunday evening, one can enter a [...]

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Waste Of Time Will Save You From Other Waste Of Time

"Vatican offers 'time off purgatory' to followers of Pope Francis tweets"

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After 650,000 Page Views, CNN Decides Atheist Mom Is Okay After All

An atheist mom's blog post on CNN.com was so controversial—imagine being a mother and not teaching your child to worship Jesus—that editors nearly removed the offending material. But the Texas mom's reasons for raising her Texan child without religion "struck a chord," meaning it went viral on the Internet. Some 650,000 page views later, there was a change of heart at CNN.com. Maybe an atheist mom should be allowed to keep her child, after all.

This week, she gained a whole new audience and the reassurance that she's not alone. Her essay on CNN iReport, “Why I Raise My Children Without God,” drew 650,000 page views, the [...]

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Eat, Pray, Judge: Buffet With The Students Of Sri Chinmoy

The two restaurants were one borough and worlds apart. The night before I'd been at Peter Luger, the temple to porterhouse excess in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge. The next day I was deep in Queens, navigating the Sunday "international smorgasboard" at Annam Brahma. The small vegetarian restaurant is owned and operated by students of Sri Chinmoy, an Indian-born spiritual guru whose teachings centered on meditation and consciousness-raising—and so qualifies for my survey of inexpensive foodstuffs proffered by religous organizations. At $12.95 for the smorgasbord, this Sunday-only option (an à la carte menu operates for the rest of the week) stretches the meaning [...]

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Ask An Ex-Mormon! A Conversation

My friend Beau and I grew up together in Tucson, Arizona, where he was the quarterback of our high school’s football team. We’ve since traveled around Italy together, sipped wine and talked about music until sunrise, and, one memorable time, got drunkenly chased out of a Vegas casino. Beau and I have a lot in common, our vices included, which is why I always forget one big thing about him: Until very recently, Beau was a Mormon. He never went door-to-door trying to convert people, nor did he ever march against gay rights. But for 18 years he faithfully went to a Mormon temple every Sunday with his parents and [...]

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God's Wife Almost Got Screwed Out Of The Bible

Did you know that God had a wife? You probably did not! Why would you have, when men have tried to keep the truth from you for so long? Mrs. God, also known as Asherah, was worshiped alongside her husband as a symbol of fertility, until a bunch of guys who wanted a single-serving dude-focused deity attempted to write her character out of the Bible. And if it weren't for a bunch of researchers and theologians, they would have gotten away with it.

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Magic Shape-Shifting Jesus Supposedly Arrested On Wrong Night

"Written in the Coptic language, the ancient text tells of Pontius Pilate, the judge who authorized Jesus' crucifixion, having dinner with Jesus before his crucifixion and offering to sacrifice his own son in the place of Jesus. It also explains why Judas used a kiss, specifically, to betray Jesus—because Jesus had the ability to change shape, according to the text—and it puts the day of the arrest of Jesus on Tuesday evening rather than Thursday evening, something that contravenes the Easter timeline." —The shape-shifting Jesus and Pilate offering up his son for substitute crucifixion, that we can handle. But Jesus arrested on Tuesday evening instead of Thursday evening?

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American Religion On Its Death Bed, Going To Hell Soon

Only a decade ago, it seemed horrifyingly certain that the United States was the exclusive realm of screeching old white people who defined themselves by their consumption of guns, gasoline and corn-syrup anusburgers. The president was a blue-blooded Yale (and Harvard!) man who successfully acted like a moronic Texan suburban cowboy who was always either giggling over his ability to execute retarded people or crying about Jesus. A once smart nation seemed to be operated entirely from shoddily constructed stucco megachurches on the exurban fringe of the world's ugliest sunbelt sprawl. It was depressing, but it was also probably the peak of all that awful bullshit. The "Nones"—[...]

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Eat, Pray, Judge: Pastitsio With The Greek Orthodox

I’ve always been under the impression that religious spaces were designed to invoke awe in the power of the divine. I’m thinking of the flying buttresses and soaring ceilings of Gothic cathedral architecture, or the sweeping scale and towering minarets of Delhi’s Jama Masjid—extreme examples, for sure. Yet I also presumed that even neighborhood places of worship aimed for similar aesthetic splendor. And maybe that's the case in their spaces dedicated to prayer. But the spaces where religious groups offer food? Well, as far as I've been able to gather during this project to eat cheaply (and satisfyingly, if possible) from the hands of the believers—not so much. [...]

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Do Not Mess With Tuscan Monks

"A group of Franciscan monks furious at the theft of bibles from their church in Florence have taken the unusual step of praying for the thief to be struck down by diarrhoea…. In a note, pinned up in full view of worshippers, the monks say they hope the thief sees the error of his ways. But in case he does not, they add: 'We pray to God that the thief is struck by a strong bout of the shits.'"

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Eat, Pray, Judge: Pancakes With The Episcopalians

With a rarely seen uncle who’s been involved in Scientology for decades, I’m a sucker for stories about the “church.” Thanks to the New Yorker, I had an informative month of February. But I was most interested to discover that their Celebrity Centre is an excellent, undiscovered destination for a high-quality, cheap lunch when in Hollywood. As a committed eater, I was curious: Do other religions offer equally worthy opportunities for subsidized dining?

A recent dinner conversation with some Episcopalian friends provided an opportunity to begin an investigation. “Our church is doing a pancake supper for Shrove Tuesday,” said Emily, over a meal of eggplant, polenta and fresh-baked [...]