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STIGMATA, an opinion

My Mom saw a stigmatist, a lady who came to her church and bled from the forehead and wrists when the host was consecrated. The stigmatist sold a tape too, that told about what happens to her at Easter. She locks herself in her room and God or the Devil beat the crap out of her just like she was Christ suffering the whole ordeal of being beaten up and crucified. Then she unlocks the door to her room and tumbles out, and gets taken to some hospital or something. She also loses so much blood, bleeding at every Mass, that she is always weak and some Catholic priests look after her.


I told my Mom that if God was gonna perform miracles, He sure could be performing more kindly and helpful miracles, like stitching up people on the battle field rather than beating the crap out of his own followers (or allowing the devil to beat the crap out of them).


Best, Ed


Rachel: Thanks Ed!
You're right. I should hope god has better things to do than to beat up his followers, or allow them to be beaten up. Then again, what's with all the craziness in the world? But, isn't it interesting that folks who seem to desire a "relationship" with God are so willing to undergo such levels of pain and torture? Is that what life is meant to be about, if one follows God? What is the point? Why must one desire to suffer horrible wounds, pick up snakes, give up total self-control in the midst of a crowd, and debase one's very dignity? Is it to prove devotion, or to prove a point to themselves? These are just some of the questions that bother me about such devotees, whether they bleed the wounds of the crucifixion or fall to the floor under the influence of the holy ghost.
Thanks again
Rachel

Ed: You made some great points. And there's even added craziness once you look outside of Christianity (and outside of it's flip side, Satanism).


Hinduism has festivals where people stick metal things through their flesh and parade around (without bleeding!). Santeria is a part Christian, part voodooish, hybrid that also has speaking in tongues, and falling to the ground. Ancient Greek and Roman religions had temples where healings and oracle "prophecies" supposedly took place. There's Jewish mysticism like the Kabala. And Islamic mysticism like the Sufis and whirling dervishes. Hinduism and Taoism even has sacred sex as part of their faith. Buddhism has monks who set themselves on fire to protest war, and who make intricate designs with colored sand, which are then simply swept away, and of course, there's the infamous book, Zen and the Art of Farting, and the Zen practice of contemplating the enjoyment of a bowel movement. I doubt if I've exhausted all the weirdness of religion. (But I must admit I like Zen and Taoism. There's no sycophantic spirit in either of them, no fear, just being here now.)


Best, Ed


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Christians Debunk Resurrection of Buddhist Monk in Myanmar (Burma)

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The following two articles debunk the Christian monk NDE hoax


A SPECIAL CCG Ministries Report:

THE TALE OF THE RESURRECTED MONK

Since at least early 2000, emails have been circulating on the Internet passing on the dramatic story: ‘BACK FROM THE DEAD The Remarkable Testimony of a Buddhist monk in Myanmar (Burma) who came back to life a changed man!’

With CCG Ministries’ involvement in Asia, including Myanmar, we have been very interested in this story and its authenticity.

It appears that it gained ‘life’ on the Internet through the promotion of a Christian missionary organisation, Asian Minorities Outreach, now apparently called: Asia Harvest, headquartered in Texas, USA. This group has a website hosted in Singapore.

[Please read the concluding statement regarding Asia Harvest’s position as a result of receiving a copy of this report. The statement is at the end of this page.]

For quite some time this story appeared on the front page of the organisation’s website. Then the actual story was removed from their website, but a remaining reference to it encouraged people to request a copy of the story by email. The following explanation was given by the group for the change:

‘A Quick Note: We have been asked by many people why this testimony is no longer available on our website. We were ordered to remove the story by the government of Singapore, who had apparently received complaints from Buddhists. As our website is housed in Singapore at the moment, we didn’t have much choice.’

AMO/Asia Harvest introduced the story with the following introduction:

‘The story that follows is simply a translation of a taped testimony from a man with a life-changing story. It is not an interview or a biography, but simply the words from the man himself. Different people react in different ways when they hear this story. Some are inspired, some skeptical, a few will mock and ridicule, while some others have even been filled with rage and anger, convinced these words are the ravings of a mad man or an elaborate deception. Some Christians have opposed the story simply because the radical and miraculous events described herein do not fit their feeble image of an Almighty God.’

It is interesting to note the approach they take in the introduction. Anyone who questions the story is immediately labelled as a sceptic, a mocker or ridiculer, someone filled with rage and anger, or worse a Christian whose concept of God is feeble and who does not believe that an Almighty God can be radical and perform miracles.

This could be seen by some as a form of bullying and intimidation to dismiss any form of thought and questioning of the story. It is not a healthy or biblical approach to dealing with questions about such a dramatic story, nor does it encourage people to use their minds.

Interestingly, when we asked AMO/Asia Harvest to send us a copy (one of several copies we have, but this one directly from them) we also asked some questions: ‘How did you first get to hear of the story; how have you checked it out for authenticity; what effect has this story had on Christians/churches in Burma and also on the Buddhist community and government there etc. What sort of response has there been to this account from Christians and Christian leaders around the world?’

We received no direct or specific answers to these, and other, questions. In the introduction to the story we are told:

‘We were first made aware of this story from several Burmese church leaders who shared it with us. These leaders had looked into the story and had not found any suggestion of it being a hoax. It was with this in mind that we decided to step out and circulate the story. We do not do so for any monetary gain, or with a motivation of self-promotion. We just want to let the story speak for itself, and invite Christian believers to judge it according to Scripture. If God wants any part of it to be intended for His glory or to encourage His people, then we pray His Spirit will work in the hearts of the readers in those ways.

Some people have told us they think the monk in this story never actually died, but that he just lapsed into unconsciousness, and the things he saw and heard were part of a fever-driven hallucination. Whatever you think, the simple fact remains that the events of this story so radically transformed this man that his life took on a complete 180-degree shift after the events described below. He has fearlessly and boldly told his story at great personal cost, including imprisonment. He has been scorned by his relatives, friends and colleagues, and faced death threats for his unwillingness to compromise his message. What motivated this man to be willing to risk everything? Whether we believe him or not, his story is surely worth listening to and considering. In the cynical West many people demand hard evidence of such things, evidence that would stand up in a court of law. Can we absolutely guarantee, beyond doubt, that all of these things happened? No, we cannot. But we feel it is worth repeating this man’s story in his own words so that readers can judge for themselves.’

[...]

Read the story in its entirety


On Sunday 19th November 2000, CCG Ministries’ Director, Adrian van Leen, interviewed and spoke with the ‘resurrected’ Paul in a hotel function room in Yangon in the company of four Myanmar Christian leaders.

That interview raised serious questions as to the authenticity of the story under consideration.

As our Director wanted to ensure accuracy and fairness, and also because he had to work through translators (three of the Christian leaders understood and spoke English), questions and answers were double checked and confirmed before being noted.

[...]

Read the story in its entirety


Apart from the contradictions made by Paul in front of witnesses, there are
still serious questions about the content of his supposed visions or visit
to hell and heaven, as well as questions about editorial comments made by
Asian Minorities Outreach/Asia Harvest.

AMO/Asia Harvest has stated that the story was first told them by several Burmese church leaders, and that since being initially told they ‘have attempted to verify this report which reached us from a number of sources, and are now convinced that it is accurate.’ IMPACT Magazine reported that a spokesman for AMO/Asia Harvest stated: ‘We believe it to be true as there are many witnesses to these events.’

CCG Ministries’ Director, Adrian van Leen, before, especially during, and after his visit to Myanmar in November 2000, has spoken to a number of Myanmar Christian leaders - including a number who are involved in inter-church/inter-denominational work, as well as leaders of several denominations (and had the interview/discussion with the central character in this story, Paul, himself). He spoke with leaders from Yangon and across Myanmar who attended a conference in Bago, and also Christian leaders in Mandalay and a regional township. Many of these leaders from across varying denominations had contact with other Christian leaders across the country.

No one was able to give ANY form of authentication to the story. A number of leaders, including those who had been in Christian leadership in Mandalay, knew of no evidence to confirm any part of the story. Some of the Myanmar Christian leaders would very much like to know who the ‘several Burmese church leaders’ are that AMO/Asia Harvest refers to as their sources for this story.

In fact, it was pointed out very clearly that, had the story been true, especially had there been a number of Buddhist monks converted to Christianity - especially as many as 300 and very much so if there were as many as 7,000 - the news would have spread rapidly. While the government controlled media might have tried to suppress such news - the Christians and churches (particularly in the Mandalay area) would not have been able - nor have wanted to - suppress such news. It would have spread rapidly and widely through the churches. The Buddhist community would also have spread the story - though for different reasons.

The claim that ’there are many witnesses to these events’ is also disputed by Myanmar Christian leaders, who have stated that they had never met anyone who had been a direct primary witness - nor anyone who had personally met a direct witness to these events. And when asked, Paul himself was totally unable to produce any witnesses whatever, not even his father or mother. The Christian leaders present at the interview would have gladly talked to any converted monks (or asked friends in different parts of the country to do so) who may have been witnesses, but not one name was given as a possible witness. The reality is that in Myanmar itself no one has been able to find any witnesses or any evidence whatever, to support the story of the resurrected Paul. It is even questionable that there is evidence that Paul was actually a Buddhist monk.

AMO/Asia Harvest has invited ‘Christian believers to judge it [Paul’s resurrection story] according to Scripture.’

As one senior Myanmar pastor pointed out, the story and description of hell given by Paul, is itself contrary to Scripture. Paul’s story is also in conflict with the story Jesus told in the account of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). When carefully examined it is also in conflict with the comments of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 - in particular where that Paul was able to name eye witnesses to the resurrection of Christ - and acknowledged at the time that some were still living - in other words, he was able to produce witnesses who could testify to the authenticity of his claims. Myanmar’s Paul was totally unable to name, point to, or produce ANY witnesses at all to his claimed resurrection, or who had been converted by his story.

The story of the ‘resurrected Paul’ is known throughout much of Myanmar - and his tape has circulated (in several versions). Hardly anyone in Myanmar - especially amongst Christian leaders - has accepted or believed the story. There is just nothing to back it up. Paul is known of in Myanmar, and regarded by most - as a troublesome and troubled person. He has caused problems and difficulty for Myanmar Christians, and has even been responsible for bringing fear into parts of the Christian community. A number of people in Myanmar who personally know him, or have met him, believe he is in need of medical help and counselling. Sadly, in Myanmar, he is certainly not known as a fearless and faithful witness to Jesus Christ, whose testimony is converting Buddhists, strengthening the church or bringing glory to God’s name.

Further complications have arisen with this whole saga. According to the beliefs of some people in Myanmar (or some with friends and/or relatives in Myanmar), several different people supposedly, or apparently, are claiming to be the resurrected Buddhist monk - at least an older man and a not-so-balanced younger man.

Whatever the truth behind this sad saga, most Christians, and most pastors and church leaders in Myanmar, are not taking this story seriously and see little value in it for the growth of the Christian community in that country.

We believe that if this story had been adequately examined and checked out in Myanmar before transcripts were made of his tape, it would probably never have been published.

[After Asia Harvest received a copy of this report they removed all references to the story from their website and stopped sending out email transcripts of the claimed resurrection account. They will be making some statement regarding their initial endorsement of the story. When this is available we will gladly append it to this report.]

[...]

Read the story in its entirety


Resurrected Burmese Monk Story Revisited

During the year 2000, numerous emails circulated on the Internet passing on the dramatic story: ‘BACK FROM THE DEAD The Remarkable Testimony of a Buddhist monk in Myanmar (Burma) who came back to life a changed man!’

With CCG Ministries’ involvement in Asia, including Myanmar, we were very interested in this story and its authenticity.

It was brought to ‘life’ on the Internet through the promotion of a Christian missionary organization then called, Asian Minorities Outreach, later changing its name to: Asia Harvest, headquartered in Texas, USA, and operating from Thailand. Its Director, Paul Hatthaway, has written several books, including ‘The Heavenly Man’.

For quite some time the ‘resurrected Buddhist monk’ story appeared on the front page of the organisation’s website. Then the actual story was removed from their website, but a remaining reference to it encouraged people to request a copy of the story by email. The following explanation for the change, was given by the group at the time:

‘A Quick Note: We have been asked by many people why this testimony is no longer available on our website. We were ordered to remove the story by the government of Singapore, who had apparently received complaints from Buddhists. As our website is housed in Singapore at the moment, we didn’t have much choice.’

AMO/Asia Harvest introduced the story with the following introduction:

‘The story that follows is simply a translation of a taped testimony from a man with a life-changing story. It is not an interview or a biography, but simply the words from the man himself. Different people react in different ways when they hear this story. Some are inspired, some skeptical, a few will mock and ridicule, while some others have even been filled with rage and anger, convinced these words are the ravings of a mad man or an elaborate deception. Some Christians have opposed the story simply because the radical and miraculous events described herein do not fit their feeble image of an Almighty God.’

We were concerned with the above wording and commented in our 2001 report that it was interesting to note the approach they took in the introduction. Anyone who questioned the story would immediately be labelled as a sceptic, a mocker or ridiculer, someone filled with rage and anger, or worse a Christian whose concept of God is feeble and who does not believe that an Almighty God can be radical and perform miracles.

This could be seen by some as a form of bullying and intimidation to dismiss any form of thought and questioning of the story. It is not a healthy or biblical approach to dealing with questions about such a dramatic story, nor does it encourage people to use their minds.

The resurrected monk’s story was quite a dramatic tale and it has impressed many people. It was even reported in the well-known Christian Singaporean magazine: IMPACT (June/July 2000, p.45). It continued to be circulated and passed on through emails for some time.

But was it true? If it was, it SHOULD be circulated - whatever the consequences. But what if it was NOT true? Should it then continue to be circulated never-the-less? We believe not!

It should be noted that there have been several versions of the story circulating.

On Sunday 19th November 2000, CCG Ministries’ Director, Adrian van Leen, interviewed and spoke with a man who claimed to be the ‘resurrected’ Paul in a hotel function room in Yangon in the company of four Myanmar Christian leaders.

That interview raised serious questions as to the authenticity of the story under consideration.

AMO/Asia Harvest has invited ‘Christian believers to judge it [Paul’s resurrection story] according to Scripture.’

As one senior Myanmar pastor pointed out, the story and description of hell given by Paul, is itself contrary to Scripture. Paul's story is also in conflict with the story Jesus told in the account of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). When carefully examined it is also in conflict with the comments of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 - in particular where that Paul was able to name eye witnesses to the resurrection of Christ - and acknowledged at the time that some were still living - in other words, he was able to produce witnesses who could testify to the authenticity of his claims.

Pastors in Myanmar are still asking for real evidence and living witnesses to the claimed miracle with whom they can discuss and verify the story. So far, the story's authenticity remains with the claims made by Asia Harvest.

The story of the 'resurrected Paul' is known throughout much of Myanmar - and his tape has circulated (in several versions). Hardly anyone in Myanmar - especially amongst Christian leaders - has accepted or believed the story.
There is just nothing to back it up.

Far from the 'resurrected monk' story providing a 'fearless and faithful witness to Jesus Christ, whose testimony is converting Buddhists, strengthening the church or bringing glory to God's name', Myanmar pastor have told our Director that it has brought fear and suspicion to many Christians in the country. We concluded our 2001 report with the comment: Whatever the truth behind this sad saga, most Christians, and most pastors and church leaders in Myanmar, are not taking this story seriously and see little value in it for the growth of the Christian community in that country.

From the evidence we have been able to examine, including the claims and content of the story itself, and all the discussions with Pastors and others in Myanmar, we believe it would have been wiser for the story not to have been published and circulated.

We believe that 'miracle stories' which cannot be adequately substantiated ought to be treated with caution - especially if those stories, or significant parts of those stories, do not conform to Scripture. Lives continue to be changed by the resurrected and living Jesus Christ - sometimes dramatically, sometimes quietly - the substance of those changed lives are quiet miracles that are often clear and undisputed. They continue to honour Christ and encourage others.


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Universalism, Near Death Experiences and the Afterlife

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Universalism and NDEs / Near Death Experiences with Steve Locks and Daniel White and Ed Babinski


ED: Thanks Steve, glad I was included and could add something to the discussion. NDEs as well as visions in general remain fascinating to me, though I admit not much in the way of solid rational knowledge appears to be gained from any of them since they are all so varied and found in all religious traditions. But then, maybe that IS the lesson to be learned from them, namely that either the phenomenon is real and universal and God is many things to many people (maybe so as not to frighten those who have recently passed on?) Or it's a mentally fabricated realm and one's cultural identity plays a major role in what is "seen" during the NDE and it's an illusion. Interestingly, from what I have read, the percentages of folks who "meet" "religious figures" is very small, i.e., far more NDEs involve seeing a bright light, meeting beings of light, or even meeting other "people" -- all of which happen with more frequency than meeting "religious figures."


DANIEL:


Hi Steve,


Thanks for your reply!


STEVE: Oh yeah - hell! There are so many absurdities, but the phenomenal sheer cruelty of it is what really bugs me, and to think that human beings promote it as a "just" end to people is truly disturbing. However, as I say at times throughout my site, I think this is from the same psychological root as the abused spouse making excuses for her husband, or even worse the spouse who looses her rag with the children when they confront about the father's abuse! Such things really happen and are a part of the human psyche. However they are a travesty of a real relationship and it takes repeated strenuous self-convincing for Christians to remain believers in what they have with their god is a good relationship!


As for hell being binary - of course Catholics believe in purgatory which is something like the semi-hell state one can progress out of. Likewise Dante envisaged many circles of hell, from the shadowy limbo, which isn't an abode of pain, just devoid of the divine radiance (virtuous pagans go there) down to Satan devouring Judas and Brutus (if memory serves correctly) at the centre. This structured hell was very popular in the middle ages.


DANIEL: Yeah, even this sort of 'compromise' is very disconcerting. It would be far better to rehabilitate people in a nice environment (like you sort of say on your site somewhere).


The only time some kind of 'punishment' would be acceptable is if it was the only means to make that person better. But I assume that there are far more efficient and kinder methods.


STEVE: The whole idea of the "sin of disbelief" is truly absurd to me. I have asked many Christians how anyone can honestly "choose" what they believe, or how it is psychologically possible to believe something you don't. Not one has ever answered or even acknowledged the question. So I have no idea how not believing something is true is meant to be deserving of a punishment - it is an absurdity surely!


DANIEL: Absolutely, I couldn't agree more here.


STEVE: Not to mention the fact that people from other religions are sometimes banned from even reading the Christian bible. How unfair on those people to go to hell.


Some Christians claim that those who haven't had the chance to "hear the word" will not be sent to hell. When one told me that recently I told him that he had better stop evangelising then, or else people might hear about Jesus and make the "wrong choice!" They are safe until someone tells them about Jesus - better nobody knew!!


DANIEL: Lol!! That's classic - how did he reply? Put it on your site somewhere ;)


STEVE: My favourite argument of all though is the way people in Heaven (particularly close family relatives) would forever be mourning the ones who didn't 'make it' (unless we all become like the borg from Star Trek ;)


Christians tell us that we would become like the Borg. The Catholic Truth Society pamphlet of the late 1960's had as part of it's Catechism: "What will it be like for a mother in heaven who sees her son burning in hell? She will glorify the justice of God."


It is that disturbing!


DANIEL: Very sad...


ED: Can you verify the above info futher? I'd like to know more to include it in my collection of quotations!




STEVE: NDE's
If you want an estimate, then I would guess (but I don't know how to estimate, so it is just a pure guess) about 10%. But that may just be wishful thinking, as I would be very interested to find that there really was something after life. However I am dubious, even of blind people "seeing" during NDE's. Here's why:


As it mentions at the URL you gave, blind people given sight have great difficulty understanding what they are looking at. So blind people's sighted NDEs are evidence against what they have being "sight."


DANIEL: Unless they were given some kind of knowledge pertaining to seeing. There aren't necessarily the same brain/mind limitations in a possible afterlife. For example, people report how their whole life is flashed before them in a 'life review'.


STEVE: Rather it is likely to be a perception that is perceived as sight. What after all do we know of what a blind person "sees?" How can we or they know if it is the same experience that we have?


DANIEL: Good points. Though, I seem to recall reading that this kind of analysis has taken place, and that they have described their 'sensation' as a sighted person would have. Here's a quote.


"As you will see, apart from the fact that Vicki was not able to discern color during her experience, the account of her NDE is absolutely indistinguishable from those with intact visual systems."


Out of interest, was that paragraph indented on your screen? I'm testing out the HTML 'ul' command...


...and...


"Such reports, replete with visual imagery, were the rule, not the exception, among Ring and Cooper's blind respondents. Altogether, 80% of their entire sample claimed some visual perception during their near-death or out-of-body encounters. Although Vicki's was unusual with respect to the degree of detail, it was hardly unique in their sample.


Sometimes the initial onset of visual perception of the physical world is disorienting and even disturbing to the blind. This was true for Vicki, for example, who said:


I had a hard time relating to it (i.e., seeing). I had a real difficult time relating to it because I've never experienced it. And it was something very foreign to me ... Let's see, how can I put it into words? It was like hearing words and not being able to understand them, but knowing that they were words. And before you'd never heard anything. But it was something new, something you'd not been able to previously attach any meaning to.


Actually, it often goes further. NDER's (blind and normal-sighted) often describe being able to see from every focal depth at once (and even new primary colours!).


STEVE: However your examples were blind since birth, so it is intriguing, but who knows what the brain is doing under such extreme circumstances, or what is really being "seen" i.e. is it what we would see if we were positioned where the NDE-er was claimed to be? It is a shame that the URL does not give specifics if they are as convincing as they say. That sort of leaving out the crucial evidence always makes me feel a little suspicious since if it is so convincing why is the important evidence left out?


DANIEL: If you're interested in reading further, then there's a whole book dedicated to the born-blind NDE phenomenon by Kenneth Ring, Ph.D., (Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Connecticut).


STEVE: Likewise colour blind people usually do not know they are colour blind until they are given a test. They just assume that they see like we do. I would like to see the specifics of what blind people see - something they could not have known without true vision. It is not too surprising to "see" your own rings - it would already have been known that one was wearing them. Likewise I doubt the other patient was unaware that it had been snowing, or what a furrowed field was. I saw a documentary about someone, blind since birth, who had his sight restored. He could describe landscapes and animals whilst blind in much the same way that a sighted person would describe them but was quite surprised to see what they really looked like (particularly an elephant!) when he was given his sight. So what did the NDE-ers see? It is intriguing, but still an open question, and given the lack of the convincing crucial detail, leaves me suspicious!


DANIEL: Fair enough...


By the way, there was one case shown on TV which took place in almost ideal scientific laboratory conditions. The patient was completely 'flatline', and yet described much of the operation procedure in great detail. This was confirmed by the surgeons present at the time who were astonished to hear what she said afterwards. Yes, true, this doesn't prove the afterlife as such, but it does strongly hint at a transcendental soul - itself hinting at an afterlife. By the way, she also experienced a 'typical' NDE when she wasn't 'observing' the surgery.


STEVE: However there is a very important argument against NDE's. Not only do people have similar experiences during the taking of drugs,


DANIEL: NDEs are usually described as being much more vivid though.... I think.... Actually, I may be wrong. The 'worst nightmare' for the NDE phenomenon as far as drugs are concerned is the 'ketamine' drug. (The second best might be the LSD drug, but this usually makes the experience more 'psychadelic'). Apparently, the ketamine drug produces effects which are suspiciously similar to the NDE experience. You might want to take a look here.


However, he does say: Unfortunately, the study in which persons who have had NDE's are given ketamine and asked to compare the two experiences has yet to be carried out.


In particular, it would be interesting to see if the feelings of 'profound joy' and other senses (such as multi-focal 360 degree vision and telepathy) can be replicated in ketamine 'trips'. But for me, the crunch test remains in the 'seeing' experiment with the born blind - I wonder if ketamine could trigger something like 'seeing' in these people. In fact, I've emailed the person who wrote that site to see if he has any more information about this.


Hmmm... let's see what near-death.com says about ketamine. I'll just quote a couple of paragraphs from the beginning of the page


Ketamine is a drug which several researchers feel creates effects which are similar to NDEs. However, they have not published controlled studies to substantiate their point of view. Scott Rogo describes similarities between NDEs and ketamine induced visions, but ultimately feels that ketamine often causes bizarre, paranoid visions not seen in NDEs.


It is interesting to note that Dr. Karl Jansen, a ketamine researcher, not only felt that NDEs and ketamine induced visions were the same, but became convinced that BOTH induced real visions of a real god. He has become very spiritual as a result of his ketamine research.


STEVE: childbirth and during frightening circumstances when the heart kept beating and brainwaves kept going, but even worse, children too young to have a sophisticated view of death have reported seeing relatives in heaven who have not died yet. This surely falsifies NDEs?


DANIEL: Perhaps this was done to comfort them? Yes, I know, it seems a little deceptive to pretend to be someone else. But as long as the NDEr knows the truth eventually, perhaps the benefits are justified. Another possibility is that the whole thing is taking place in another time (future perhaps). I would be interested to know the mind state of these people. Were they 'clinically dead'? If this isn't the case, then perhaps they did 'imagine' it, but that this itself is also paranormal.


Okay, I have to admit, slightly unsettling for me was the sentence which said: "Likewise, some NDEs experienced by born again Christians reveal a firey hell and huge talking Bibles in the next life".


"Huge talking Bibles" (!?) Ermmm... ;-)


From the same site, also awkward was the paragraph:


Of course Medieval Christians had it the worst and their visions of the next life contains horrors of both purgatory and hell and were almost always negative, while today's NDEs are overwhelmingly pleasant and remove people's fears of death no matter what their faith.


ED: The guy who saw the "huge talking Bible" was (Ron?) Ebby or Eby, a Pentecostal who fell out of a window and whose skull cracked open. He wrote a book about it. He said that time he went to heaven. Then years later while visiting Jesus' alleged tomb in Jerusalem, and without dying or even getting ill, he was granted an equally stirring and realistic visit to hell. Eby also prophesied that God had told him the final judgment day would occur sometime in the 1970s. I used to own a copy of his book back when I was a fundie. Also saw a book written by a fundie female at Barnes and Noble, titled, MY VISION OF HELL, which was followed by another book by her titled, MY VISION OF HEAVEN. Like Eby that female's heaven and hell book was filled with quotations from the Bible. Apparently everyone over "there" speaks in "Bible speak" just like Eby and that lady.




DANIEL: One could argue that a 'hellish' NDE type experience is useful for character 'building' purposes, but to be honest I haven't a clue. At first glance at least, it does seem like the product of an imagination.


STEVE: If children have NDE's frequently reporting the presence of living, rather than dead, relatives then this is pretty unlikely if they really were glimpsing heaven. Adults, who are more sophisticated, see only dead friends and relatives. Add to this that people have similar experiences during childbirth and when drugged and it seems that these are href="http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/immortality.html" target="_blank">natural brain states rather than external experiences.


There was also a recent experiment where a Dr. placed a sign in his operating room where only a NDE-er could see it. I read about it recently, and nobody managed to see it as far as I remember. I'll hunt for the URL again if you like.


DANIEL: Perhaps they didn't even know there was anything to look for... Do you know how many NDEs were experienced in that room during the time that the experiment was taking place?


STEVE: I've also had a bunch of experiences which lend me to think that these are brain states, rather than glimpses of anything otherworldly. For instance I once had a very striking visitation from a ghost! I saw my girlfriend of the time sitting on my bed (no she wasn't really there!) looking very real, but also translucent. She turned round, looked at me, smiled then dissolved. I could even feel the weight of her body on my legs.


DANIEL: That's kinda interesting. Were you tired at the time? I guess it wouldn't have been a lucid dream?


STEVE: I've also seen a glowing orb in my hallway, a hooded figure in my house, and OBE where I saw myself playing the piano from the other side of the room and other hoopy experiences. All struck me as something my brain was doing, but had I been of a supernatural inclination...


DANIEL: It's stuff like this that makes me skeptical of the OBE phenomenon yeah. Though I have heard that OBEs can be a mix between what's real and imagined. From that link you gave, I also read this:


The experimental evidence is weak. Subjects have been asked to view target letters, numbers or pictures, placed in distant rooms... [and] other studies have tried to discover whether subjects seem to be looking from a specific location during OBEs; however, the results have been inconclusive. Generally these studies provide very mixed results and it is not clear that any paranormal process is involved (Blackmore, "Oxford" 572).


I'm sure you know who (Susan) Blackmore is ;-)
It is fairly interesting that she only said "...very mixed results and it is not clear" towards the end.


ED: What does she mean about "mixed" results? Were any of them positive at all?




DANIEL: The thing about NDEs though is that the patient has absolutely no brain activity during the experience. I quote from:
www.near-death.com


ED: Yes, that's interesting, but exactly how "absolute" is "absolutely none?" How sensative are the instruments doing the measuring of the brain activity? Again, I don't know, just curious.


Also, the discussion you guys had of people who were born blind, yet being able to "see" during an NDE, was fascinating. Though I was disheartened to hear that one such lady only "saw" things in "black and white." But then, HOW WOULD SHE KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BLACK AND WHITE AND COLOR IF SHE WAS SEEING THINGS FOR THE FIRST TIME? What questions could you ask to determine to what degrees someone was seeing colors or not if they were seeing them for the very first time? Also, don't even blind people have three dimensional images in their heads of the world around them? They have spatial skills and probably build an image of the world inside their brains, including an image of how they look, their own faces and bodies. Could that be the image that the blind people "saw" during their NDEs? Just wondering.


Also, I recall reading about some Christian kings who locked up children in rooms and commanded no one to speak with such children so the children never learned a language from anyone. The reason was to see if the children would naturally speak a language of their own, all by themselves, perhaps the original language of all mankind that Adam and Eve once spoke. All such experiments however, were utter failures, and only produced children who could not speak at all, just grunted. If such a child had an NDE, could it both speak and understand language when it was over on the other side? But then we wouldn't know, would we, since when it came back to THIS side, it would be dumb again.




DANIEL:


"The difficulty with those theories is that when you create these wonderful states by taking drugs, you're conscious. In the near-death experience, you are unconscious. One of the things we know about brain function in unconsciousness is that you cannot create images and if you do, you cannot remember them ... But, yet, after one of these experiences (an NDE), you come out with clear, lucid memories ... This is a real puzzle for science. I have not yet seen any good scientific explanation which can explain that fact." (6)


ED: Yes, clear lucid memories of meeting and speaking with beings of light, or even lucid memories OF NEAR DEATH MEETINGS WITH SACRED TALKING TURTLES (google: Thailand near death experience)


And what about non-NDE "visions" that appear clear and lucid to people, like the way that Catholics see visions of Mary and speak with her sometimes, Protestants usually only hear God's voice, perhaps because they stress the power of his Word, American Indians meet sacred animal totems in their inner journeys, etc. It would appear that the spiritual world is quite diverse and that the sacred knows almost no boundaries. Maybe God has quite an imagination? Or a blind deaf and dumb cosmos without any sense of humor is yet able to laugh at us? (In the last two mentioned cases, God, or, a blind deaf and dumb cosmos capable of pulling pranks like bipedal apes with brains, is one any more or less fabulous than the other?)




DANIEL: It would be a real shame if there wasn't an afterlife though, as music, art, places, and just about everything could be so much better than it is on Earth now. From a mathematical perspective, maybe I could argue that I've already 'beaten the odds' by existing in the first place. Therefore, it seems 'infinitely' likely that I'll exist again at some point in the future. Whether this'll be in a 'reincarnated' form or otherwise remains to be seen though ;-)


ED: Interesting, though odds don't seem to be the point. Everything that exists, even a wounded worker ant, if it had a brain, would probably feel the same way about it's own "odds" in the cosmic scheme. What about monkeys that cannot tell the differences between their own image in a mirror and another monkey? Yet at some point in evolution such a recognition developed, since primates, like chimps, can tell their own image in a mirror and not confuse it with another chimp. Elephants can paint flower art when instructed by a chinese art teacher (google "elephant art" on the internet). Chimps can draw round circles for faces and add two dots for eyes. At some point consciousness of "self" arose, triggered by the need for social creatures to recognize each other and to try and guess what others are thinking in order to interact with them.




STEVE: wouldn't you say there's a chance there's a greater 'intelligent force'?


Certainly, but why would it be a "god?" Super advanced aliens maybe - even creating universes in their labs (modern physics even says that is


DANIEL: A possibility indeed, but something would have had to 'create' their universe too ;-)


STEVE: possible in principle) but what exactly is a coherent notion of a "god?" That's the trouble with being asked to accept that I can't be sure there is no god. What exactly is a god? I've never heard a coherent definition so I don't even understand the question!


DANIEL: Broadly speaking, one definition could be - "that from which from all else came", or maybe "a single sentient being who 'started' everything".


Interesting what you pasted about the negative and positive mass-energy balancing out. But it still leaves me with this question how there is all this 'stuff' anyway, or what started the first 'quantum fluctuation' (if indeed it did exist). At a tangent to this, science still can't properly explain what it's like to see the colour say... 'red', or hear a minor chord, or the aesthetic effect of the diatonic scale.


On your site, you describe a feeling of 'existential shock'. I see where you're coming from here. It seems like one divided by infinity that 'I' could exist at all.


STEVE: To me it's like asking is there a chance there is a "hjkjhroiuyt?" or any other made up incoherent thing (like the famous invisible pink unicorn).


Of course, I may be wrong, and you may be right, but once again, give a number from 0 to 100% to reflect your belief :) Make it 0.1% if you have to, but you can't make it 0% ;)


I don't want to be pedantic about the notion of "belief" but again a "belief" is not something I can choose.


DANIEL: I see what you mean, but otherwise it would've meant saying something like: "give a number from 0 to 100% to reflect the estimated chance that you think [whatever]" :-) In this context, I meant 'belief' as the sum of your scientific (and emotional) knowledge and experience to form an opinion. Maybe there's a better word though...


STEVE: I "believe" that the universe is not designed, and I "feel" certain about that - so it is 100% as far as how I believe.


ED: I have no idea whether the universe as a whole is the product of some greater design. It might be a self-designing system, but even those might have to come from someplace else. So far as the cosmos goes, it appears relatively wasteful, a lot of destruction and potentially destructive forces throughout it, and energy and land just going to waste. Most people agree it's not "heaven." But at least the cosmos is so real that people of all religions, or lack thereof, can study the cosmos together and come to similar scientific theories regarding how bits of it work and agree on the apparent regularity of how things interact in it, interactions repeating themselves over and over again.




DANIEL: But for it to be 100%, every piece of evidence that you have come across would have had to be for a designer-less universe. Surely the few question marks that arise would drop this to about 95%? (with even an approx 50% margin of error ;-)


STEVE: Guth and Weinberg argue convincingly that it is not designed IMO, and theologically speaking I feel what stupid b*stard would have designed it with so much suffering and waste?


DANIEL: Yeah, this is the most disturbing part for me too. Why weren't we put into a nice utopia kinda world to start with? I don't have the ultimate answer for this (surprise ;-), but maybe the fact that it is such a relatively short time (compared to infinity) means that any suffering is relatively unimportant in the big scheme of things. I know what you mean though. It seems bizarre that God wouldn't 'let us know' why we are here to give us some kind of reassurance and knowledge of his existence. Again, all I can say is that 'as long as we know the truth eventually...'.


ED: Maybe "God" lets everybody "know" things in such a variety of ways, a variety of religions, a variety of imaginative personal beliefs, because in the end none of that stuff really matters and because God's own imagination is limitless? On the other hand, if nothing really mattered and the varieties of belief were endless, there must be some distinguishing characteristic perhaps that was essential throughout it all? Compassion perhaps? But if compassion is the most important thing in the cosmos, why is nature so callous? Just look at the way it feasts on itself and stamps out life wholesale in cosmic collisions, volcanoes, etc. Oddly enough, maybe all the pains that flesh is heir to, is yet another way to show us that not even such pains matter, only compassion does. Life feeding on life could be viewed as a form of compassion as well, life giving itself for other living things, and if life simply reproduced and didn't die or feed on each other, then even the tiniest bacterial cell would grow to a colony larger than the earth in a few days.


On the other hand, life does not simply compassionately surrender to other forms of life, it doesn't simply surrender to death either, Living things ENJOY life in and of itself and most animals and people and even plants, do not suffer death gladly. All in all, I find everything a conundrum. Ah, maybe that's it, God is a riddle wrapped in an enigma, seeking to create ever more conundrum-filled objects such as this cosmos? Because the alternative is being omni-BORED? A friend of mine used to say that he was a "god on holiday," he gave up his life on a boring astral plane of godhood to go on "holiday," to "forget himself."


But still, how much forgetting is worth it? Ants have life and brains, as do bees, just a few million neurons in their brains, yet they live lives that a human being would hardly find very comforting or be very happy about.




STEVE: However I accept that I could be wrong. Even if I thought I had proof (which I don't, just arguments that convince me at the moment) it is always possible that I have made a logical error that I haven't spotted.


So is the universe designed? Maybe - somewhere between 0 and 100%, (or maybe something more exotic that I haven't even thought about, like the square root of minus 50%!).


DANIEL: lol! :)


STEVE: Do I believe in design? Not a jot at the moment! Rather I see it as an interesting research project to understand why the universe is the way it is that I expect to lead to ever more deep physics, but I accept I could be wrong. There again, I don't quite understand if it is possible to always be possibly wrong, it's just that I don't know for sure if it is impossible to never know for sure.


DANIEL: A good way of putting it! If not, then the best we can do is form approximate percentages based on past knowledge and experience. Even then, these percentages should themselves have a (guessed) variable margin of error - which itself should /also/ have a guessed margin of error (and so on... ;)


Perhaps mathematical knowledge can be counted as 'certain' though.


STEVE: Certain knowledge is a difficult philosophical question - so I keep it open. What I believe though is easy to state since it is a psychological condition I can report on. I don't believe in the Christian god for many reasons. I am a "strong atheist" as regards Christianity, because of the many severe problems I see with it. Meanwhile, for other deities I think I am technically a "weak atheist" in so far as I am without belief in any deity. I do not claim to prove all deities non-existent, but I do not find I believe in them and also do not know what a deity is meant to be, in the same way I do not know how the divine unicorn is both pink and invisible.


I am technically a "weak atheist"


ED: Eat some spinach! As for myself, I do not know WHAT I am. Heck, I even wonder about an eternal afterlife, what will I become in a trillion years? I don't remember what I was when I was a child, just bare glimpses of memories from back then. Even who I was as a former fundamentalist Christian has vanished to a pretty large degree. I no longer think like that. My brain/mind has changed. In a trillion years from now, if I live eternally will it still be "I" who is doing the living? Or will the present "Ed" be a long forgotten memory of a vanished past? So the question remains, what exactly remains "immortal?" Doesn't everything change?




DANIEL: If I didn't know any better, even that seems more probable to exist than my own consciousness :)


STEVE: Thanks for your interesting points!


Likewise!


Regards,
Daniel


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Near Death Experiences

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In my own studies of NDEs (Near Death Experiences) I've read about people who have had Christian NDEs, New Age NDEs, Mormon NDEs, Native American NDEs, Buddhist NDEs, Hindu NDEs, and most NDEs don't involve a god at all, most are either a bright light and lots of love, or a being of light that remains unidentified. And in most cases the NDE's relieve a person's fear of death, no matter what that person's religion is. I even know of one in which a person went to a dark hellish place and was taunted by dark beings, but was taken up out of that darkness by a being of light, and asked the being which was the best religion, and the being said, "whichever one brings you closest to God."


As for waking dreams and visions from various people and for various cultures, the cultural differences and perceptions and interpretations again are of a wide variety. Heck, there were visions and appearances of ancient Greek miracle workers back in the days of ancient Greece.


I believe I mentioned in my testimony in Leaving the Fold that I heard a cassette tape testimony of someone who had a life changing NDE, who went to a hellish dark place, was tormented there by other souls and then pulled out by a bright being of light and got to speak to several other beings of light. They answered his questions, including, "which is the best religion?" They said, "Whichever one brings you nearer to God." He left his career as chair of an art department at a major university to study at seminary afterwhich he became a liberal Christian minister. He doesn't believe that Christianity is the best religion, only that it brings him nearer to God since he happened to have been raised in it. His tape was quite moving. Of course, you've probably already heard of Betty Eade and her heavenly explorations during her NDEs. She's a Mormon, and lo and behold her NDE turned out to reveal that Mormonistic teachings were closest to the truth. Likewise, some NDEs experienced by born again Christians reveal a firey hell and huge talking Bibles in the next life. The first fellow I mentioned said that he'd heard about a wide variety of NDE experiences as well, and he attributed them to the ability of those superior beings to show people things they could understand and welcome and not be fearful of. So a country Christian dies and goes to heaven and the first things they see are a little white chapel on a grassy hill, etc. Of course Medieval Christians had it the worst and their visions of the next life contains horrors of both purgatory and hell and were almost always negative, while today's NDEs are overwhelmingly pleasant and remove people's fears of death no matter what their faith. And today most people do not even see or meet religious figures during NDEs, they are more likely just to see a bright light, or to meet a person much like themselves. Of course, in some cases devout Buddhists or Hindus or Native Americans meet, respectively, Buddha, Krishna, or a totem animal. Personally, I don't know what to make of NDEs. Some skeptics think they are biological brain functions on the way out, but people who have them say they are more real than waking reality. All I know is that I do not believe in the Christian explanations of "salvation." If nothing else, NDEs express a far broader range of afterlife experiences, having nothing or little to do with any particular theology or soteriology.


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Skeptics and Mediums Debate on Larry King Live

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I'm skeptical about almost all people who have convinced themselves that they are gifted, even when it is demonstrated to them that their "powers" only work occasionally.


Personally, I find NDEs more fascinating, and still put some stock in Howard Storm's NDE (he never wrote a book, but it changed his life, as NDEs change many people's lives, and I've heard him tell his story on cassette tapes a number of times (no charge, he's not making a cent off it, not even now, he converted from being a class A jerk to quitting his cushy job as chair of the Art Dept. at a university and became a liberal Christian minister). And I put some stock in a few other NDEs. I also admit that part of the reason I do this is because some NDEs make sense to me, like Storms, and the kind of heaven they describe makes sense to me, a skeptic. And I WANT to believe it. By the way, one of the greatest, or at least one of the most prolific skeptical minds of our time, Martin Gardner (who writes a regular column for CSICOP) also happens to believe in an afterlife, though he admits he hasn't found any proof for it yet, still he argues that there is no necessary reason to deny it in his book, THE WHYS OF A PHILOSOPHICAL SCRIVENER.


I also agree that mediumship and "cold readings" strike me as having a lot in common with Pat Robertson's nightly stabs in the dark at the illnesses of his viewing audience, some of whom inevitably call him to say that they are sure he was speaking about THEM, and now they are cured (even when the show is a rerun of a tape Pat made earlier). I think Pat is sincere and he thinks his random naming of illnesses is being given him by God, and many mediums think their random calling out of things that "hit upon" are due to "supernatural" powers or beings making them "hit the nail on the head." But then, maybe a lot of it is just guesswork inserted in and around occasional true visions that happen a lot more rarely than psychics think they happen. I mean once you have one true premonition you start seeing them everywhere, you start to mistake every little coincidence in your life for a miracle and you start to mistake yourself for a great psychic. The same things happen to people say, in public office. Once they get elected they start to mistake themselves for politicians, and start to speak like politicians, walk like politicians, etc. We all wear many masks in life. And we all may have certain things we are very good at, or even may have occasional inexplicable bits of insight of maybe even an occasional supernatural encounter, but that doesn't mean we're good at everything or always being led by spirits, nor does it mean that demons are everywhere, though they might be in a few places (as even the Catholic church admits, true possession is very very rare). I think as human beings we make everything out to be larger than life, even our skepticism. Deep down, the skeptics and the mediums both wanted to be right, they wanted a clear cut across the board vindication of their positions, their ideas, but nothing in nature or the world is that clear cut and both should be humbled. Maybe Edwards occasionally does have or has had a supernatural insight about someone. Maybe most of the time, it is just wishful thinking and coincidence and nobody is truly a "medium." So, maybe there's some truth to both sides, with of course, the majority of the time being fodder for skeptics.


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Lightning and Enlightenment - Ben Franklin and the Lightning Rod

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Benjamin Franklin

Christians used to believe that thunder storms and lightning bolts were directed by God to “discipline his servants and teach us important lessons,” or they were directed by Satan (“the Prince of the Power of the Air”) and his demons, or they were called forth by “witches” to “try and destroy God's holy sanctuaries and ministers.” Such “sacred” explanations were vouched for by leading Christian authorities. For instance, the Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas wrote, “It is a dogma of faith that demons can produce winds, storms, and rains of fire (lightning) from heaven.” While, Pope Gregory XIII advocated “exorcising the demons” who “do stir up the clouds.” The Protestant theologian, Martin Luther supported the superstition even more zealously, asserting at times his belief that the winds themselves are only good or evil spirits, and declaring that a stone thrown into a certain pond in his native region would cause a dreadful storm because of the devils kept prisoners there.

Numerous pious authors also testified how well the old “sacred” remedies succeeded in protecting churches and cathedrals from the ravages of lightning strikes and storms. Such “sacred” remedies included ringing church-bells and reciting special prayers. Hence, when Benjamin Franklin invented his “lightning rod” in 1752, most Christians were far from eager to place a “rod of iron” designed by an “arch-heretic” at the top of their churches near the holy cross of Christ. Neither did they desire to abandon the ancient Christian game of praising God (or blaming the devil), for lightning strikes and storms.

In America the earthquake of 1755 was widely ascribed, especially in Massachusetts, to Franklin's rod. The Rev. Thomas Prince, pastor of the Old South Church, published a sermon on the subject, and in the appendix expressed the opinion that the frequency of earthquakes may be due to the erection of “iron points invented by the sagacious Mr. Franklin.” He goes on to argue that “in Boston are more erected than anywhere else in New England, and Boston seems to be more dreadfully shaken. Oh! There is no getting out of the mighty hand of God.”

United States Postage Stamp Commemoration to Franklin
1752 Lightning Rod
On June 15, 1752, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) discovers the electrical nature of lightning by flying a kite in a thunderstorm. The kite has a wire conductor, a key at the end of its wet twine kite string, and a silk insulator which Franklin keeps dry by standing in a doorway. He sends his friends in London a paper entitled “Experiments and Observations in Electricity Made at Philadelphia.” In September 1752, he equips his house with a lightning rod, connecting it to bells that ring when the rod is electrified. The lightning rod when placed at the apex of a barn, church steeple, or a house, conducts lightning harmlessly into the ground and prevents fire in electrical storms. In 1752, Franklin also founded the first American fire insurance company. The 1956 postage stamp honors the 250th anniversary of Franklin's birth. It shows an elder Franklin assisted by allegory of youth in his famous kite experiment.

www.wisdomportal.com/Dates/1752Jupiter.html

Three years later, John Adams, speaking of a conversation with a Boston physician, says, “He began to go on about the presumption of erecting iron rods to draw the lightning from the clouds. He talked of presuming upon God, as Peter, attempted to walk upon the water, and of attempting to control the artillery of heaven.”

As late as 1770 many religious Americans still felt that, since thunder and lightning were tokens of the divine displeasure, it was impiety to prevent their doing their full work. It took a few decades for the devout to abandon their religious prejudices regarding the use of the lightning rod, but eventually it was demonstrated to all but the most dense that both the “vengeance of God” and the “Prince of the Power of the Air” were forced to retreat before the lightning-rod of a heretic.

- A. D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology & E.T.B.


Churches in Germany shunned Franklin's new invention for three decades, during which time some 400 church towers were damaged by lightning and 120 bell ringers killed. In one church a bolt of lightning struck the tower and melted the bell, electrocuted the priest, deprived a parishioner of her sensibilities and destroyed a painting of the Savior. Church towers, being the highest structures in a village, are commonly struck by lightning, while brothels and saloons next door escape untouched.
- William Deitz, Creation/Evolution Satiricon


It was long before the churches consented to be protected by the heretical tool. The tower of St. Mark's in Venice had at the time of Franklin's invention been struck again and again by lightning, sometimes with such disastrous effects that it had been almost destroyed. The Almighty, or alternatively the Powers of Darkness, seemed to have singled it out for special punishment, in spite of the angel that adorned its summit, the consecrated bells which were repeatedly rung to drive away the thunder, the holy relics in the cathedral nearby and the processions of the Virgin and the patron saint. The tower was struck again in two successive summers, whereupon the authorities succumbed and a lightning rod was erected. The edifice has never been damaged by lightning since, but God alone has received the thanks of a grateful people. In Austria the church of Rosenberg was struck so frequently and with such loss of life that the peasants feared to attend services. Three times the spire had to be rebuilt, until the devil was exorcised by an iron rod. Such was also the history of St. Bride's and St. Paul's in London, the cathedrals of Sienna and Strasburg and of other churches throughout Europe and America; they were protected only after it was evident that not to do so was to lay them open to repeated injury.
- Homer W. Smith, Man and His Gods (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1952)



Lightning Rod in Action

The case which did the most to convert the Italian theologians to the scientific view of lightning and the use of the lightning rod was that of the church of San Nazaro, at Brescia. The Republic of Venice had stored in the vaults of this church over two hundred thousand pounds of gunpowder. In 1767, seventeen years after Franklin's discovery, no rod having been placed upon it, it was struck by lightning, the powder in the vaults was exploded, one sixth of the entire city destroyed, and over three thousand lives were lost.

Examples like that had their effect. The formulas for conjuring off storms, for consecrating bells to ward off lightning and tempests, and for putting to flight the powers of the air, were still allowed to stand in the liturgies; but the lightning-rod, the barometer, and the thermometer, carried the day.
- A. D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology & E.T.B.


Ben Franklin's life-saving invention, the lightning rod, was condemned by many Christians as an insult to Almighty God, or at least, to his aim. Because the Bible says God “sends forth lightnings...He covers His hands with the lightning. And commands it to strike the mark. Its noise declares His presence?Under the whole heaven He lets it loose, And His lightning to the ends of the earth... Whether for correction, or for His world, Or for loving kindness, He causes it to happen.”
[Job 36:27-33 & 37:1-13 & 38:35]

And Ben Franklin sang, “Nya, nya-nya, nya, nya. Can't hit me!”
- E.T.B.


THE HERETICAL WISDOM OF THE INVENTOR OF THE LIGHTNING ROD

Lighthouses are more helpful than churches. [I later discovered this quotation is spurious, but it’s likely that it came from a letter he wrote to his wife in July 1757, after he narrowly escaped a shipwreck off the British coast: “The bell ringing for church, we went thither immediately, and with hearts full of gratitude [for not having shipwrecked], returned sincere thanks to God for the mercies we had received. Were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint; but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house.”]

Original sin is as ridiculous as imputed righteousness.

As to Jesus, I have some doubt as to his divinity.

- Benjamin Franklin, quoted in Benjamin Franklin: His Wit, Wisdom, and Women by Seymour Stanton Block

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Book Review of Y : The Descent of Men By Steve Jones

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HOUGHTON MIFFLIN; 222 PAGES; $25


In "Y: The Descent of Men," Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College in London and author of the much-admired "Darwin's Ghost" and "The Language of Genes," gives us one of the more arresting openers of this spring's crop of nonfiction.


"Ejaculate," he suggests, "if you are so minded and equipped, into a glass of chilled Perrier. There you will see a formless object, but look hard enough -- or at least so eighteenth-century biologists believed -- and a baby appears: the male gift to the female, whose only job is to incubate the child produced with so much labor by her mate. So central seemed a husband's role that his wife was a mere seedbed, a step below him in society, in the household, and, most of all, in herself." All that turned out to be quite wrong, of course.


Men, biologically speaking, are the true second sex, Jones reminds us...Manhood is nothing all that special, but it's complicated. Everybody starts as female. Then a mix of testosterone and the other powerful sex hormones take over, directing the developing Y-child away from its default destiny. Often the results are more ambiguous than people generally assume.




HERE'S THE PART YOU MIGHT ENJOY MOST
"Males are, in many ways, parasites upon their partners," Jones notes. "Their interests are to persuade the other party to invest in reproduction, while doing as little as they can themselves. Like all vermin, from viruses to tapeworms, they force their reluctant landlady to adapt or to be overwhelmed." his subtitle implies, "Y" is in part an echo of Charles Darwin's 1871 classic, "The Descent of Man." Darwin had in mind, mostly, our origin as a species, and he got much of that right. He erred, though, in assuming that social relations in general, and the male's lordly status in particular, were immutable products of natural selection.


Jones did a good job of checking the latest facts, and concludes: "Gender differences have been consumed by social change. We are in the midst of an ascent of women matched with an equivalent descent of men." So we are invited to lots of baby showers, but the biological relevance of the male in reproduction is questionable -- sperm, for instance, may soon be cranked out from stem cells, cutting men out of the deal altogether. "


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