Chronology 6 — Religion Clarity Campaign

• What Jews (and Christians too) Should Know About the New Testament. 

What Jews (and Christians too) Should Know About the
New Testament

   Biblical Archaeology Review, <http://­www.­>, published by Biblical Archaeology Society, by Amy-Jill Levine, pp 59-61 and 64, Vol. 38 No. 2, March-April 2012
   MOST JEWS DO NOT GROW UP WITH New Testament stories. While the term "Prodigal son" may be familiar, Jewish readers may not know that this very Jewish parable, which begins "There was a man who had two sons" (Luke 15:11), evokes the Hebrew Bible stories of Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob. Jews who attended U.S. public schools prior to 1962 likely [probably] recited the "Lord's prayer" every morning, but not a few believed the words included "Harold be your name" and "Lead us not into Penn Station."
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   Most Jewish readers approach the New Testament, if they approach it at all, with at best a certain unfamiliarity. This is unfortunate, for much if not all of the New Testament is Jewish literature. Jesus himself was a Jew; he is, in terms of dates of documents, the first person in history to be called "Rabbi" (John 1:38,49, 3:2, 6:25). Paul is a Jew; he describes himself as "circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee" (Philippians 3:5). Indeed, Paul is the only undisputed first-century Pharisee from whom we have written records (a case can also be made for Josephus). Most Biblical scholars think that the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and John were Jews. (The earliest manuscripts as well as references to them do not attach the names "Matthew" and "John"; the original Gospel texts were anonymous.) The author of the Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse of John) thinks in Jewish terms, as does the author of the Epistle of James.
   Jews, especially those who come to the New Testament unaware of how its interpretation has been used to denigrate Judaism, will find much to appreciate. Some will be pleased to find that the opening line, Matthew 1:1, connects Jesus to Abraham and to David. Some will celebrate the morality of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7); others will find in the parables of the "Good Samaritan" (Luke 10:30-37) and the "Sheep and the Goats" (Matthew 25:31-46) timeless, universal messages or deem 1 Corinthians 13 a perfect description of love (see box on p. 60).
  [Picture] ABOVE: RABBI JESUS teaches his disciples in the 15th-century painting of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) by Fra Angelico.  
   But for most Jews, especially those aware of the difficult history of Christian-Jewish relations, the dominant first impression may well be one of dismay, if not worse. Some will conclude the text is a message of hatred for Jews and Judaism. Others will find blasphemous the announcement of Jesus' divinity. Still others will find illegitimate the assertions that Jesus fulfills Jewish prophecy.
   For these dismayed readers, a second look is advisable. When the New Testament is understood within its own historical contexts, not only can Jews recover part of Jewish history, but also the polemics, the assertions of Jesus' divinity and the claims of fulfilled prophecy become comprehensible.
Children of the Devil
   Paul describes the Jews (the Greek term is Ioudaioi) as those "who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets … they displease God and oppose everyone" (1 Thessalonians 2:15).  The Gospel of Matthew has "all the people" clamor for Jesus' crucifixion; when Pontius Pilate literally washes his hands of the matter, the people shout, "His blood be on our heads and on our children" (Matthew 27:25). In John's gospel, Jesus tells the Jews (Ioudaioi), "You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father's desires" (John 8:44).
   History cannot excuse these and similar passages, but it can help to explain them. First, the language of polemic is not unique to the New Testament. Amos and Jeremiah, Nahum and Ezekiel, are hardly models of civility when it comes to criticizing neighboring countries, the government or the priestly establishment. The New Testament's polemic is comparable to passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls, where the objects of excoriation are fellow Jews. 1QS, the "Community Rule," describes the "sons of darkness" (not a positive designation), as full of "wickedness and lies, haughtiness and pride, falseness and deceit, cruelty and abundant evil, ill-temper and much folly" (1QS 4.9-14).

1 Corinthians 13

   If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
   Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
   Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
   When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

   Nor are first-century Jewish writers such as Josephus and Philo complimentary to fellow Jews with whom they disagree. Josephus calls the Sicarii, the "dagger men" who promoted the Revolt against Rome in 66-70, "slaves, the scum, and the spurious and abortive offspring of our nation" (Jewish War 5.443) who "left no words of reproach unsaid, and no works of perdition untried, in order to destroy those whom their contrivances affected" (Jewish War 7.262). Speaking of his fellow exegetes in Alexandria who do not read Scripture as he does, and so unfortunately anticipating some of today's exegetical battles, Philo inveighs against "impious ones" who "use these and similar passages as stepping stones as it were for their godlessness" (Confusion of Tongues 2). Their comments about certain gentiles are even nastier.
   When this harsh language in the New Testament was written, such language was conventional rhetoric. Today it is no longer recognized as such. Moreover, words spoken by Jesus to Jews are now read as words spoken by the Church against Jews. Words spoken by Paul (or perhaps attributed to him; scholars debate whether 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 is from Paul or was added by a later scribe) to encourage his gentile congregation are part of the process of the Church's self-definition over and against the more established Jewish community.
   It is also good for Jews to know that most modern churches, recognizing the tragic effects of how this language has been interpreted, reject anti-Jewish teachings. For Jews to understand the New Testament, two types of knowledge are therefore essential: the first is to understand the text in its own historical context; the second is to ask how the text has been read over time.
The Divine Jesus
   The New Testament's descriptions of Jesus – what Biblical scholars call "Christology" – may also prompt negative reactions from Jewish readers. Some will reject John's claim that Jesus was involved with the act of creation, as John's gospel puts it, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). This is the Word that "became flesh" (John 1:14). Others will find ludicrous the idea that Jesus was "in the form of God," let alone that "And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:6, 11).
   Again, the texts make sense in their own historical context. Early Jewish sources speak of Wisdom (Greek: Sophia; Hebrew: Chochmah) or the Shekinah as manifestations of God on earth. Even more striking, these manifestations are feminine. For example, Proverbs 8:22-31 depicts Wisdom as created at the beginning of God's work and as "beside him, like a master worker"; Wisdom's hymn in Sirach 24:1-34 reads like a paean to a goddess; Wisdom of Solomon 7:22 - 10:21 follows suit, as does Philo of Alexandria's On the Creation. The Targums, early Aramaic translations of the Jewish Scriptures, sound very much like John 1:1 in referring to the Word (the Aramaic term is Memre) as a divine agent of creation.
   Claims of Jesus' messianic status also make sense in historical context On the one hand, there was no single Jewish classification of who the messiah would be or of the signs that would prove his identity. Josephus records several figures who were taken to be God's agents, prophets of eschatological deliverance or what we might today call "messiahs" (the term derives from the Hebrew mashiach, meaning one who is "anointed"), including three mentioned in the New Testament: John the Baptist, Theudas and a fellow called "the Egyptian" (for the latter two, see Acts 5:36, 21:38).
   Over the next several centuries, as Rabbinic Judaism and the followers of Jesus parted company, both refined their views of the Divine: The Rabbis increasingly stressed monotheism, while the Church increasingly recognized the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In other words, the idea of Jesus as a special "son of God" who combined both humanity and divinity made sense to some Jews in the first century, and those Jews who held this belief were still recognized as part of the Jewish community. By the fifth century, the ways had parted.
"To fulfill what was said by the prophet … "
   Some Jewish readers will reject Christian claims that the Scriptures of Israel (the Church's "Old Testament") predict the life of Jesus. Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 as stating that "the virgin will conceive and bear a son," but Jewish readers may respond: "Isaiah doesn't mention a 'virgin' but a "young woman,' and he's not talking about something to take place centuries later, but about a current political issue."  The problem here is one of translation. Isaiah, writing in Hebrew around 700 B.C.E., uses a pregnant young woman as a visual illustration for King Ahaz. To paraphrase Isaiah's comment: "Look at that pregnant young woman. By the time her baby is old enough for solid food, your international problems will dissipate."
   When Isaiah's prophecies were translated into Greek (the Septuagint), probably in the second century B.C.E., [B.C.] the Hebrew for "young woman," almah, was rendered as parthenos, which we know today from the Parthenon in Athens (or the replica in Nashville!), the temple of the goddess Athena. At the time, parthenos meant "young woman," but it could mean virgin also. In the Greek translation of Genesis 34:3, the prince Shechem, after having sexual relations with Jacob's daughter Dinah, uses the term parthenos to describe her.
   When, 200 years later, the author of Matthew's gospel read Isaiah 7:14 in Greek, he saw a prediction of a virginal conception. That is a legitimate reading. Jews, however, reading their Scriptures in Hebrew, see no virginal conception.
   By applying Isaiah's prophecy to his own time, Matthew is reading his Scripture in good first-century Jewish fashion. Contemporaneous Jews also took verses out of context and applied them to their own situations. For example, the well-known Rabbi Akiva, a Jewish teacher executed by the Romans about 135 C.E., is reputed to have said that Bar Kokhba, the leader of the second revolt against Rome (132-135 C.E.), was the fulfillment of Numbers 24:17, "a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel" (see the Jerusalem Talmud, Ta'anit 4.8).
   Similarly, the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls see the Prophetic volumes from the Scriptures of Israel as speaking directly to their own time and situation. This form of interpretation, known as pesher (Hebrew for "interpretation"), quotes a Biblical text and then shows its fulfillment. For example, 1QpHab, the Habakkuk commentary from Qumran ("1" stands for the cave where the scroll was found, "Q" is Qumran; "p" is pesher, and "Hab" is the abbreviation for Habakkuk), states that "God commanded Habakkuk to write the things that were coming on the last generation, but the fulfillment of the era He did not make known to him … Their interpretation (pesher) concerns the Teacher of Righteousness {the leader of the Qumran group}, to whom God made known all the mysteries of the words of His servant the prophets."
   The early followers of Jesus, Jews immersed in the Scriptures of Israel, searched in those Scriptures for teachings that would help them understand the man they believed to be the Messiah. At the same time, they used those Scriptures to help them tell the story of his life. In both cases, they were being thoroughly Jewish.
A Jew Reading the New Testament
   Jews would do well – indeed, Christians would do well – to read the New Testament, and to do so with attention to how it fits into its historical context. The text is not simply the source of numerous images found in classical art, music and literature. For better or worse (usually worse), it is a text that has shaped Jewish-Christian relations. In looking at the New Testament in context, readers can see what Jews and Christians hold in common and how we came to separate. The point is not to erase differences, get everyone to agree, and sing "kumbaya." It is to learn about our roots, explain our differences, and see what was lost and gained in the process of separation.
   For me, personally, the more I study the New Testament, the better informed Jew I become. I can fill in the gaps in Jewish history that I never learned in Hebrew School; I can see the options open to early Jews and better understand the paths they chose; I can hear in many of the teachings of Jesus a helpful restatement of the Scriptures of Israel. I do not worship the messenger, but I often find compelling his image of the Kingdom of Heaven.
   Perhaps the day will come when Jesus the Jew may provide a bridge between church and synagogue rather than the wedge that he has been. Perhaps the day will come when Jews and Christians can practice what the great Lutheran theologian and Biblical scholar Krister Stendahl called "holy envy," the ability to be inspired by the tradition of our neighbors. Perhaps the day will come when we can both better respect our neighbor's tradition and find deeper appreciation of what our own tradition teaches. #

   [RECAPITULATION: When this harsh language in the New Testament was written, such language was conventional rhetoric. ENDS.]
   [COMMENT: But, some major Churches teach that the Bible is "the word of God," written under inspiration from God, or holy spirit, or the Holy Spirit (treated as a person).  Surely exaggeration in criticising certain Judaists alive during Christ's lifetime is inappropriate for the God of the Universe, yes ?  And surely the All-Knowing God ought to have known the terrible harm such intemperate language would do to people whose predecessors' writings claimed they were Yehovah's Chosen People, no ? COMMENT ENDS.]
   [2nd RECAPITULATION: The early followers of Jesus, Jews immersed in the Scriptures of Israel, searched in those Scriptures for teachings that would help them understand the man they believed to be the Messiah. At the same time, they used those Scriptures to help them tell the story of his life. ENDS.]
   [2nd COMMENT: The Religion Clarity Campaign is forming the view that some of the early writers and forgers of the Christian Greek Scriptures (the New Testament) did not have access to written Hebrew Scriptures, hence the "schoolboy howlers" that appear in the N.T. – some showing serious ignorance.  ENDS.]
   [3rd COMMENT: "To fulfill what was said by the prophet …" exposes the errors in the passages trying this "proof."  Elsewhere on this website the errors involved in Judas, the 30 pieces of silver, the error and mixup in trying to tie it to prophecy, the purchase of the field, and the two variant accounts of his sudden death, are exposed.  The two contradictory accounts suggest that the writers were unlettered folk, with no real knowledge of the events they wrote about, and little or no access to written scripture, and may even have been non-Judaists, pretending to be Jews.
[To this webpage 08 May 2012; publication Mar-Apr 2012]

• Hickey revives row on crying statue.  [Mr Ron Jakeman, Ms Patty Powell]       

Hickey revives row on crying statue

   The Sunday Times (Perth, W. Australia), by Joe Spagnolo, p 29, Sunday, April 22, 2012
   PERTH'S former Catholic archbishop, Barry Hickey, has reignited the controversy over Rockingham's so-called weeping Madonna statue, saying it would be "legitimate" for authorities to reopen their investigations.
   "My investigation (in 2002) was to see whether what was happening could have been caused by somebody, and 1 discovered that it could be," he said.  "That was the extent of my investigation and I said (at that time), 'We cannot claim that this is a miracle because it could have been done by human beings'.
   "I did not have a full investigation to find out whether a fraud had been committed.
   "But I think it is legitimate for other people to follow this issue through and find the person or persons responsible – if indeed it was the work of human intervention."
   Rockingham woman Patty Powell bought the statue in Bangkok in 1994.  It started "weeping" in 2002, gaining international notoriety.
   But an investigation by Murdoch University scientists that year identified the tears as a mixture of vegetable oils – probably olive and rose oils.
   The statue has since been housed in Ms Powell's home, converted into the Holy Family House of Prayer.
  [Picture] Pious image: Rockingham's Weeping Madonna, pictured in 2005, apparently ceased weeping in 2007. Tests revealed the tears were a mixture of vegetable oils.  
   A website, The Weeping Madonna of Rockingham, says the statue stopped weeping in February 2007. Attempts by The Sunday Times to interview Ms Powell about the statue have been unsuccessful. The weeping statue was further embroiled in controversy in 2007 when it was revealed by The Sunday Times that a close friend of Ms Powell's, Ron Jakeman, claimed to get messages from Our Lady.
   Mr Jakeman also claimed to be experiencing the phenomenon of the stigmata, displaying wounds similar to those inflicted upon Jesus when he was crucified.
   But he was told to leave Rockingham in April 2007 by then Catholic priest Finbarr Walsh.
   The former archbishop said Mr Jakeman was told to leave Rockingham because Fr Finbarr had not been happy with his behaviour.
   "It was not to do with the statue," Mr Hickey said. ["Rev." or "Most Rev." would be usual for an ex-archbishop.]
   "(But) I'd be surprised if he was back."
   It's understood Mr Jakeman returned to his home state of Queensland.
   The former archbishop said Ms Powell and her sister Eileen were now doing some "admirable" work in the community, including running a soup kitchen.
   He said it was not church business to try to control private websites. #

   [LOOK BACK: "Mystery of Australia's weeping Madonna."  BBC News, <http://­­2/hi/as­ia-pacific/­2255713.stm>.  Scientists in Australia have failed to find the source of tears flowing from the eyes of a statue of the Virgin Mary.  12:17 GMT 13:17 UK, Friday, 13 September, 2002.
   "Enough to Make a Statue Weep: But not genuine tears," From , Australia.  <http://­­I-e nou.htm>, By Dr John Happs, President of WA Skeptics, an education consultant.  The article originally appeared in the Skeptic 22(4), 43-45, Summer 2002, and has been updated.  (An excellent article covering many aspects, 2200 words, no graphic.)  Originally Summer 2002
   "Claims of Private Revelation: True or False? An Evaluation of the messages of the Weeping Madonna of Rockingham (, Australia."  <http://­www.­­apparit­ions/fa­lse29.­htm>.  The messages are false, wrote Ronald L. Conte Jr., October 26, 2005.  [The e-mail address given on that website did not work on Sep 05, 2012.]
   "Weeping Women."  <http://­www.­­program­sales/s­1974939­.htm> Year of Production: 2006; Duration: 52mins; © CM Film Productions.
   Madonna statues have been known to weep all around the world.
   Their tears do not discriminate, falling as often in busy cities as sparsely populated villages such as Medjugorje, Herzegovina, once known as Yugoslavia and Civitavecchia just north of Rome.
   We talk to an Archbishop, Pilgrims, Sceptic, Scientists, Journalist, Vatican Officials and Statue owners.
   Examines the bizarre and unexplained cases of crying statues - the weeping Madonna of Rockingham, Australia, Our Lady of Tears in Syracuse,Sicily, Our Lady of Revelation Grotto in Tre Fontane, Medjugorje, Herzegovina, Civitavecchia just north of Rome.  As seen on SBS TV.  2006. 
   "Weeping Mary man expelled," The Sunday Times (Perth, W. Australia), by Joe Spagnolo, April 8, 2007.  Rockingham parish priest Finbarr Walsh gave Ron Jakeman, a Queensland divorcee with three children, his marching orders.  Mr Jakeman also said he had wounds on his hands and feet, similar to those on the body of the crucified Christ.  Father Walsh said last year: "I have seen the wounds.  They are not fake."
   Archbishop Hickey yesterday distanced himself from the Rockingham scandal and said he doubted the miracles were real.  "It's a matter between (Father Walsh) and Ron," he said.  "It's not about his visions or stigmata or anything like that.  "It is nothing that involved me. There is no reason whatsoever why I should be involved at all." April 8, 2007
   "Medjugorje seers to reveal 'secrets' to Vatican: report," The Record (W. Australia), July 21, 2010.  ENDS.]
   [RESPONSE to April 22, 2012 newsitem: Letter e-mailed to The Editor of The Sunday Times (Western Australia), and others, on April 22, 2012:-
   Sensible Christians and others will strongly object to the attempt by retired Catholic Archbishop of Perth, Barry Hickey, to resurrect the discredited Weeping Madonna of Rockingham hoax. (reported 22/4)
   The vegetable oil coming out of the whole statue surely cannot be equated with human, or heavenly, tears from the eyes.
   This hoax is not as impudent as the Medjugorje "revelations" in former Yugoslavia.  Even the discovery that one of the guiding clergy has had an illegitimate son with a Franciscan nun, and another similar revelation, has not stopped the pilgrims, nor the nagging hope in Vatican hearts that the alleged apparitions might, after all, be true.  ENDS.]
   [PUBLICATION of the first sentence of the above letter was in the The Sunday Times, page 47, April 29, 2012.
[Apr 22, 2012]

• Is Obama the US's most anti-Christian president?  Opinion.   

Is Obama the US’s most anti-Christian president?

   News Weekly <http://­www.­>, (issued fortnightly, Melbourne, Vic., Australia), <nw § newsweekly com au>, by Patrick J. Gethin, pp 17-18 & 23, Issue No. 2875, May 12, 2012
   The headline to Dr Hal Colebatch’s article, “America: Russia’s Afghan cats­paw” (News Weekly, March 31, 2012), beggars belief. It is unsupported by any fact.
   In particular, there is nothing in the article to support the implied claims that American and Western intelligence services have been duped into going into Afghanistan.
   News Weekly describes one of its aims as “fostering Judeo-Christian values”. Let it look to where those values are today.
   Babette Francis’s article, “Russia and the West reverse roles on Christianity” (News Weekly, March 17, 2012), shows that it is the United States and NATO countries which pose an increasing threat to Christianity.
   If space was permitted I would list the anti-Christian policies of the EU countries.
   However, I will show that in President Obama, the United States has the most anti-Christian president in its history.
   (The items below are the research work of David Barton, an internationally award-winning Christian historian and evangelical minister from Texas. His points have been taken up in many Christian (including Catholic) publications in the United States.)
   1. Acts of hostility toward people of Biblical faith
   • April 2008 – Obama speaks disrespectfully of Christians, saying they “cling to guns or religion” and have an “antipathy to people who aren’t like them”.
   • February 2009 – Obama announces plans to revoke conscience protection for health workers who refuse to participate in medical activities that go against their beliefs, and fully implements the plan in February 2011.
   • April 2009 – When speaking at Georgetown University, Obama orders that a monogram symbolising Jesus’ name be covered when he is making his speech.
   • May 2009 – Obama declines to host services for the National Prayer Day (a day established by federal law) at the White House.
   • April 2009 – In a deliberate act of disrespect, Obama nominated three pro-abortion ambassadors to the Vatican; of course, the pro-life Vatican rejected all three.
   • October 19, 2010 – Obama begins deliberately omitting the phrase about “the Creator” when quoting the Declaration of Independence – an omission he has made on no fewer than seven occasions.
   • November 2010 – Obama misquotes the National Motto, saying it is E pluribus unum {“Out of many, one”} rather than “In God We Trust”, as established by federal law.
   • January 2011 – After a federal law was passed to transfer a WWI Memorial in the Mojave Desert to private ownership, the US Supreme Court ruled that the cross in the memorial could continue to stand; but the Obama administration refused to allow the land to be transferred as required by law, and refused to allow the cross to be re-erected as ordered by the Court.
   • February 2011 – Although he filled posts in the State Department, for more than two years Obama did not fill the post of religious freedom ambassador, an official that works against religious persecution across the world. He filled it only after heavy pressure from the public and from Congress.
   • April 2011 – For the first time in American history, Obama urges passage of a non-discrimination law that does not contain hiring protections for religious groups, forcing religious organisations to hire according to federal mandates without regard to the dictates of their own faith, thus eliminating conscience protection in hiring.
   • August 2011 – The Obama administration releases its new health care rules that override religious conscience protections for medical workers in the areas of abortion and contraception.
   • November 2011 – Obama opposes inclusion of President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous D-Day Prayer in the WWII Memorial.

   • November 2011 – Unlike previous presidents, Obama studiously avoids any religious references in his Thanksgiving speech.
   • December 2011 – The Obama administration denigrates other countries’ religious beliefs as an obstacle to radical homosexual rights.
   • January 2012 – The Obama administration argues that the First Amendment provides no protection for churches and synagogues in hiring their pastors and rabbis.
   • February 2012 – The Obama administration forgives student loans in exchange for public service, but announces it will no longer forgive student loans if the public service is related to religion.

   2. Acts of hostility from the Obama-led military toward people of Biblical faith
   • June 2011 – The Department of Veterans Affairs forbids references to God and Jesus during burial ceremonies at Houston National Cemetery.
   • August 2011 – The Air Force stops teaching the Just War theory to officers in California because the course is taught by chaplains and is based on a philosophy introduced by St Augustine in the third century AD – a theory long taught by civilised nations across the world (except America).
   • September 2011 – Air Force Chief of Staff prohibits commanders from notifying airmen of programs and services available to them from chaplains.
   • September 2011 – The Army issues guidelines for Walter Reed Medical Center stipulating that “No religious items (i.e., Bibles, reading materials and/or facts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit”.
   • November 2011 – The Air Force Academy rescinds support for Operation Christmas Child, a program to send holiday gifts to impoverished children across the world, because the program is run by a Christian charity.
   • November 2011 – The Air Force Academy pays $80,000 to add a Stonehenge-like worship centre for pagans, druids, witches and Wiccans.
   • February 2012 – The US Military Academy at West Point disinvites three-star Army general and decorated war hero Lieutenant General William G. (“Jerry”) Boykin (retired) from speaking at an event because he is an outspoken Christian.
   • February 2012 – The Air Force removes “God” from the patch of Rapid Capabilities Office (the word on the patch was in Latin: Dei).  [Doesn't it mean "of God"?]
   • February 2012 – The Army orders Catholic chaplains not to read a letter to parishioners that their archbishop asked them to read.

   3. Acts of hostility toward Biblical values
   • January 2009 – Obama lifts restrictions on US government funding for groups that provide abortion services or counselling abroad, forcing taxpayers to fund pro-abortion groups that either promote or perform abortions in other nations.
   • January 2009 – President Obama’s nominee for deputy secretary of state asserts that American taxpayers are required to pay for abortions and that limits on abortion funding are unconstitutional.
   • March 2009 – The Obama administration shut out pro-life groups from attending a White House-sponsored health care summit.
   • March 2009 – Obama orders taxpayer funding of embryonic stem-cell research.
   • March 2009 – Obama gave $50 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN population agency that promotes abortion and works closely with Chinese population-control officials who use forced abortions and involuntary sterilisations.
   • May 2009 – The White House budget eliminates all funding for abstinence-only education and replaces it with “comprehensive” sexual education, repeatedly proven to increase teen pregnancies and abortions. Obama continues the deletion in subsequent budgets.
   • May 2009 – Obama officials assemble a terrorism dictionary calling pro-life advocates violent and charging that they use racism in their “criminal” activities.
   • July 2009 – The Obama administration illegally extends federal benefits to same-sex partners of Foreign Service and Executive Branch employees, in direct violation of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
   • September 16, 2009 – The Obama administration appoints as Commissioner for the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chai Feldblum, who asserts that society should “not tolerate” any “private beliefs”, including religious beliefs, if they may negatively affect homosexual “equality”.
   • July 2010 – The Obama administration uses federal funds in violation of federal law to get Kenya to change its constitution to include abortion.
   • August 2010 – The Obama administration cuts funding for 176 abstinence education programs.
   • September 2010 – The Obama administration tells researchers to ignore a judge’s decision striking down federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
   • February 2011 – Obama directs the Justice Department to stop defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
   • March 2011 – The Obama administration refuses to investigate videos showing Planned Parenthood helping alleged sex-traffickers get abortions for victimised underage girls.
   • July 2011 – Obama allows homosexuals to serve openly in the military, reversing a policy originally instituted by George Washington in March 1778.
   • September 2011 – The Pentagon directs that military chaplains may perform same-sex marriages at military facilities in violation of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
   • October 2011 – The Obama administration eliminates federal grants to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for their extensive programs that aid victims of human-trafficking because the Catholic Church is anti-abortion.

   4. Acts of preferentialism for Islam
   • May 2009 – While Obama does not host any National Day of Prayer event at the White House, he does host White House Iftar dinners in honour of Ramadan. {Iftar is the meal eaten after sunset during Sawm, the fasting which occurs during the month of Ramadan in Muslim tradition}.
   • April 2010 – Christian leader Franklin Graham is disinvited from the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer Event because of complaints from the Muslim community.
   • April 2010 – The Obama administration requires rewriting of government documents and a change in administration vocabulary to remove terms that are deemed offensive to Muslims, including jihad, jihadists, terrorists, radical Islamic, etc.
   • August 2010 – Obama speaks with great praise of Islam and condescendingly of Christianity.
   • August 2010 – Obama went to great lengths to speak out on multiple occasions on behalf of building an Islamic mosque at Ground Zero, while at the same time he was silent about a Christian church being denied permission to rebuild at that location.
   • 2010 – While every White House traditionally issues hundreds of official proclamations and statements on numerous occasions, this White House avoids traditional Biblical holidays and events but regularly recognises major Muslim holidays, as evidenced by its 2010 statements on Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha.
   • October 2011 – Obama’s Muslim advisers block Middle Eastern Christians’ access to the White House.
   • February 2012 – The Obama administration makes effulgent apologies for Korans being burned by the US military; but when Bibles were burned by the military, numerous reasons were offered why it was the right thing to do.

   After listing these points, historian David Barton concludes: “Many of these actions are literally unprecedented – this is the first time they have happened in four centuries of American history. The hostility of President Obama toward Biblical faith and values is without equal from any previous American president.” (David Barton, “America’s most Biblically-hostile US President”, WallBuilders (Aledo, Texas), February 29, 2012.)
   I’m sure that News Weekly readers know that the US Constitution’s First Amendment declares: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” President Obama seems to ignore the second part of it.
   During the days of Communism, I was encouraged by the fact that many members of the National Civic Council (e.g., Peter Westmore) shared my interest in supporting the persecuted Christians in communist lands. I hope that there is support among National Civic Council (NCC) members for Christians facing increasing anti-Christian policies in NATO countries.
   Patrick J. Gethin lives in Western Australia. #

   [SUBSCRIBERS  to the magazine may find the sources for the above points by accessing the Internet version, using their access key.  ENDS.]
   [RECAPITULATION:  In particular, there is nothing in the article to support the implied claims that American and Western intelligence services have been duped into going into Afghanistan. ENDS.]
   [COMMENT:  In a sense the CITIZENS of many countries were duped, and are being duped.  The public was told that Osama bin Laden had planned the attacks on the United States on 9/11, that is, September 11, 2001, destroying the World Trade Centre and part of the Pentagon, and that bin Laden was living in Afghanistan.  The coalition of the willing ordered the Taliban-led government of Afghanistan to hand him over, but it declined, saying that the code of hospitality forbade that.  The United Nations seemed to authorise the attack to find bin Laden.  After a correct delay, the coalition attacked.
   The United States, Britain, and Australia later decided to attack Iraq, on the false basis that its dictator, Saddam Hussein, had weapons of mass destruction.  This was known at the highest levels of government to be untrue.  Iraq has much oil, and the US President George W. Bush and family have been involved in oil and business with the bin Laden family for about two generations.  No other country would join the attack on Iraq at the start.  It was half-heartedly forbidden by a United Nations leader.
   Years went by, with more and more mainly-Muslim civilian casualities in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  The electors replaced the US President, and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the Australian Prime Minister John W. Howard – but the illegal occupations went on.  In reality, the inhabitants had more and more reason to build on their culture's teachings to dislike and reject the occupying troops and the businesses that flooded into their countries.
   Osama bin Laden was murdered or killed, the world was told by the United States, in Pakistan.  But the troops that had been sent to Afghanistan to find him were not immediately withdrawn !   Oh, no !  The troops are to stay to help rebuild and democraticise the country !
   Why not withdraw, if the leaders really believe in racial equality and multiculturalism, and let the Afghans and the other groups in Afghanistan set up a democratic follow-on regime ?  Why not do the same for Iraq ?  Or don't the world's leaders really believe their own multiculturalism dogmas ?  COMMENT ENDS.]
   [KORAN (said to be the same book as on tablets kept by Allah in Heaven): 
   5:14 (or 5:17):- … Christians … forgot a good part of the Message that was sent to them:  so We stirred up enmity and hatred between the one and the other, to the Day of Judgment. …
   33:48 (or 33:47):- And obey not (the behests) of the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and heed not their annoyances, but put thy Trust in Allah.  For enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. SCRIPTURE ENDS.]
   Sahih Bukhari's 4, 53:386:- … Umar sent the Muslims to the great countries to fight the pagans.  When Al-Hurmuzan embraced Islam, Umar said to him. "I would like to consult you regarding these countries which I intend to invade." […]  Our Prophet, the Messenger of our Lord, has ordered us to fight you till you worship Allah Alone or give Jizya (i.e. tribute); and our Prophet has informed us that our Lord says:– "Whoever amongst us is killed (i.e. martyred), shall go to Paradise to lead such a luxurious life as he has never seen, and whoever amongst us remain alive, shall become your master." […]
   Sahih Bukhari's 9, 84:57:- … Whoever changed his [[Islamic]] religion, then kill him.
   Sunan Abu-Dawud's, Book 38, Number 4357:- … When the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) cut off (the hands and feet of) those who had stolen his camels and he had their eyes put out by fire (heated nails), Allah reprimanded him on that (action), and Allah, the Exalted, revealed: "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Apostle and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is execution or crucifixion."   TRADITION ENDS.]
   [PROPHETIC ?  This magazine was printed BEFORE President Barack Hussein Obama announced publicly that he was in favour of homosexual marriage.  (Refer, for example, to "PM cool on Obama's nod to gay marriage," page 6, and "Obama puts gay marriage into the spotlight," p 30, The West Australian, Friday, May 11, 2012. 
   See how the Obama Administration has been moving towards this, in items above dated July 2009, September 16, 2009, February 2011, and September 2011.  ENDS.]
   [BUT WHAT DOES ISLAM SAY ?  Koran, 4:16 (or 4:15 or 4:20):- And if two males among you commit indecency, rebuke them harshly.  If they repent and make amends, leave them alone.  Allah always accepts repentance, and is compassionate to each.
   Hadith, Sunan Abu-Dawud's, Book 11, Number 2157:- … The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: He who has intercourse with his wife through her anus is accursed.  ENDS.]
   [SQUARE BRACKETS - "[" and "]" - in the News Weekly article have been replaced with "curly brackets" or "braces" - "{" and "}", in line with this Website's usual practice.   Where the Webmaster has inserted words, "square brackets" are used.   ENDS.]
[To webpage 12 May '12; publication date May 12, 2012]

• The rite way clergy can be married.  Opinion. 

The rite way clergy can be married

Why is it that Eastern Catholic rites and Orthodox priests can be married but priests in the Latin rite cannot?
   The Record (R.C. Perth, W. Australia, weekly), <http://­www.­>, Q & A section, by Fr John Flader, p 17, Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I N THE first centuries, it is clear that priests and deacons could be married.  St Peter, for example, had been married for he had a mother-in-law (cf Mt 8:14-15).  St Paul writes to Timothy that deacons and priests should be men of one wife (cf 1 Tim 3:12; Tit 1:6).  Nonetheless, St Paul, who was celibate himself, as was Jesus, extols the value of remaining unmarried (cf 1 Cor 7:25-27).
   Cardinal Alfons Stickler, Vatican librarian and archivist from 1985 to 1988 and author of The Case for Clerical Celibacy (Ignatius Press 1995), shows how even though clerics could be married in the early Church, in both East and West, they were expected to refrain from sexual relations with their wife.
   The first known written laws on clerical celibacy are those of the provincial Council of Elvira, held around 305 in southern Spain. The council forbade clerics dedicated to the service of the altar - bishops, priests and deacons - to have marital relations with their wives and to have children.
   Those who violated this norm were to be excluded from the clerical state. The law should be seen as supporting an existing custom, not as establishing a new practice, which would have given rise to a storm of protest.
   Canon 3 of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 gave the same criterion, forbidding a cleric to have living with him anyone other than a woman above suspicion, such as a mother, sister, aunt, etc. It is understood that he could have a wife but had to live in continence with her.
   Several councils in Carthage at the end of the 4th century and the beginning of the 5th also affirmed clerical continence.
   A Code of Canons of the African Church, agreed upon unanimously by all the bishops in the Council of Carthage in 419 stated: "It pleases us all that bishop, priest and deacon, guardians of purity, abstain from {conjugal intercourse} with their wives, so that those who serve at the altar may keep a perfect chastity." It attributes this practice to the apostles themselves: "what the apostles taught and what antiquity itself observed, let us also endeavour to keep."
   Only after the Council of Trent in the 16th century did it become the common practice to ordain only young unmarried men to the priesthood. Since then, priestly celibacy has come to mean what it does today: that priests must be unmarried.
   How did it come about then that in the East clerics have been allowed to be married and to have marital relations with their wife?
   There are a variety of historical reasons, among them the fact that disciplinary matters were often resolved at a local level, and also that the unifying role of the Popes in the West was not felt as strongly in the East.
   One of the most important reasons is the canons of the Second Council of Trullo, held in Constantinople in 691-692. The council was convoked by Emperor Justinian II and was attended only by bishops of the East, who showed disdain for the Church in the West. Misquoting one of the norms of the Council of Carthage (390), which required complete continence of all clerics, the Council of Trullo in its Canon 13 prohibited marital relations only at the time of direct service at the altar, which at that time was only once a week.
   Even though the Popes never recognised the decrees of this council, the East regarded it as an Ecumenical Council and so the Orthodox Churches to this day have allowed clerics to be married and to have marital relations with their wives. Eastern Catholic rite clerics have been allowed to follow the same practice. #

   [RECAPITULATION:  … even though clerics could be married in the early Church, in both East and West, they were expected to refrain from sexual relations with their wife.  ENDS.]
   [COMMENT:  Ridiculous !  COMMENT ENDS.]
   [2nd RECAPITULATION:  … forbidding a cleric to have living with him anyone other than a woman above suspicion, such as a mother, sister, aunt, etc.  ENDS.]
   [2nd COMMENT:  "Above suspicion" my eye - were the leaders that unworldly ?  ENDS.]
   [CHRISTIAN GREEK SCRIPTURES says that in latter times people will arise who will forbid to marry.  In addition, there exist grave and other death furniture describing females as bishopesses, priestesses, and deaconesses.  Why does the Roman brand of Christianity, knowing these facts, keep pretending they do not exist ?  If they weren't actual CLERGY-persons, they must have been WIVES of these office-bearers.
   [3rd COMMENT:  Besides trying to deny that the early clergy married (or did not have sex in marriage), the Vatican keeps pretending that females can't be clerics, because at the Communion Rite the clergyperson acts on behalf of Christ, who was a male.  This no more proves that the clergy must be male, than that midwives and doctors assisting women at childbirth must all be females.
   And, in reality, the major Christian sects which insist that Jesus is God, have to admit that, in His real essence, God has no gender, and is only accorded male pronouns because human language did not develop suitable pronouns; after all, calling God "It" would not give Him respect as a person or person-like being.
   Killjoys seem to pop up in every new religion (and, really, Christianity is a newcomer religion on the world stage).  The Christians all pretend their radical new faith is a continuation of Judaism – which had and still has a married clergy.
   Rome's refusal to accept that sex is a normal part of living, and that clergy should have a trade or profession to support themselves, is on all fours with their pretence that Jesus did not have four brothers and at least two sisters (the Mary-ever-virgin heresy).  One of the brothers, James, became head of the congregation in Jerusalem, rivalling Peter for reputation.  A fear of honest married sex is at the bottom of many of these outlandish R.C. theories.
   At the Council of Nicaea in 325, a proposal to require celibacy for all priests was defeated, which is not the slant that suited the article.  The Church council of Trullo was wrong, Fr Flader writes, and had overturned Christian customs which included that a priest must not have sex with his wife before divine service (which was held only once a week at that time).  Later Rome ordered its clergy to celebrate mass daily, although the Acts of the Apostles clearly reports that the followers of Jesus met on the first day of the week to break bread, not every day.  ENDS.]
   [MORE READING:  "Celibacy is the issue," by Thomas G. Lederer, M.A., 1992, <www.­­celibacy1993.html>, or <ethics/celibacyissue.htm>.
   "Celibacy crept in from the outside," by Religion Clarity Campaign, 2002 - 2010, <ethics/celibacycrept.htm>.  ENDS.]
[May 16, 2012]

• Born believers; The god issue 

Born believers

Our minds solve fundamental problems in a way that leaves
a god-shaped space waiting to be filled, says Justin L. Barrett

   New Scientist (Britain), by Justin L. Barrett, pp 39-41, March 17, 2012
BY THE time he was 5 years old, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart could play the clavier and had begun to compose his own music. Mozart was a "born musician"; he had strong natural talents and required only minimal exposure to music to become fluent.
   Few of us are quite so lucky. Music usually has to be drummed into us by teaching, repetition and practice. And yet in other domains, such as language or walking, virtually everyone is a natural; we are all "born speakers" and "born walkers".
   So what about religion? Is it more like music or language? Drawing upon research in developmental psychology, cognitive anthropology and particularly the cognitive science of religion, I argue that religion comes nearly as naturally to us as language. The vast majority of humans are "born believers", naturally inclined to find religious claims and explanations attractive and easily acquired, and to attain fluency in using them. This attraction to religion is an evolutionary by-product of our ordinary cognitive equipment, and while it tells us nothing about the truth or otherwise of religious claims it does help us see religion in an interesting new light. As soon as they are born, babies start to try to make sense of the world around them. As they do so, their minds show regular tendencies. From birth children show certain predilections in what they pay attention to and what they are inclined to think.
   One of the most important of these is to recognise the difference between ordinary physical objects and "agents" – things that can act upon their surroundings. Babies know that balls and books must be contacted in order to move, but agents such as people and animals can move by themselves. Because of our highly social nature we pay special attention to agents. We are strongly attracted to explanations of events in terms of agent action – particularly events that are not readily explained in terms of ordinary causation.
   For instance, Philippe Rochat and colleagues at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, conducted a series of experiments showing that in the first year of life children distinguish between the movement of ordinary objects and the movement of agents, even if the objects and agents in question are only computer-animated coloured discs. By 9 months old, babies showed that they were not just sensitive to the causal relationship between two discs that appeared to chase one another, they could also tell who was chasing whom (so to speak). The babies first watched either a red disc chasing a blue one or vice versa until they got habituated – good and bored, in other words. Then the experimenter reversed the chase. The babies noticed the difference and started watching again (Perception, vol 33, p 355).
   Many of these experiments used animated discs that did not remotely resemble a human or animal. Babies do not need a person, or even an animal, present to get their agency reasoning up and running – an important point if they are going to apply their reasoning about agents to invisible gods. Babies also seem sensitive to two other important features of agents that allow them to understand the world but also make them receptive to gods. First, agents act to attain goals. And second, they need not be visible. In order to function in social groups, avoid predators and capture prey, we must be able to think about agents we cannot see.
  “When it comes to the origin of natural things, children are very receptive to explanations that invoke design or purpose ”  
   The ease with which humans employ agent-based reasoning does not end with childhood. In an experimental did with Amanda Johnson of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we asked college students to narrate their actions while placing ball bearings over holes on a board. Periodically an electromagnet sent the ball bearings racing around in violation of intuitive physical expectations. Almost two-thirds of the students spontaneously referred to the ball bearings as if they were agents, making comments such as, "That one did not want to stay", "Oh, look. Those two kissed", and "They are not co-operating" (Journal of Cognition and Culture, vol 3, p 208).
   This hair-trigger agent reasoning and a natural propensity to look for agents in the world around us are part of the building blocks for belief in gods. Once coupled with some other cognitive tendencies, such as the search for purpose, they make children highly receptive to religion.
What’s a tiger for?
   Deborah Kelemen of Boston University has shown that from childhood we are very attracted to purpose-based explanations of natural objects – from monkeys and people to trees and icebergs. Four and 5-year-olds thought it more sensible that a tiger was "made for eating and walking and being seen at the zoo" than that "though it can eat and walk and be seen at the zoo, that's not what it's made for" (Journal of Cognition and Development, vol 6, p 3).
   Similarly, when it comes to speculation about the origins of natural things, children are very receptive to explanations that invoke design or purpose. It seems more sensible to them that animals and plants were brought about for a reason than they arose for no reason. Margaret Evans of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has found that children under 10 tend to embrace creationist explanations of living things over evolutionary ones – even children whose parents and teachers endorse evolution (Cognitive Psychology, vol 42, p 217). Kelemen has also done experiments with adults that suggest we do not simply outgrow this attraction but that it must be forcibly tamped down through formal education (Cognition, vol 111, p 138).
   It appears that we all share an intuition that apparent order and design such as we see in the world around us requires an agent to bring it about. A recent experiment by George Newman of Yale University supports this view. Twelve to 13-month-old babies viewed two animations: a ball knocking over a stack of blocks (obscured by a barrier during the actual striking), and vice versa with the blocks starting in a disordered heap and finishing in a neat stack. Adults would immediately see something unexpected in the second scenario: balls cannot stack blocks. Babies were also surprised, in that they looked longer at the second animation. This suggests that babies find a ball creating order more surprising than a ball creating disorder.
   More interesting still was a second experiment. In this, a ball-shaped object with a face moved purposefully behind the barrier and either apparently ordered or disordered the blocks. In this case, the babies found neither display more surprising (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 107, p 17140).
   The most straightforward explanation is that babies have the same intuitions as adults: people, animals, gods, or other agents can create order or disorder, but non-agents, such as storms or rolling balls, only create disorder.
   Of course gods do not just create or order the natural world, they typically possess superpowers: superknowledge, superperception and immortality. Surely these properties of gods – because they differ from and exceed the abilities of people – are difficult for children to adopt?
   If anything the opposite appears to be the case. In a series of studies with other researchers, children appear to presume that all agents have superknowledge, superperception and immortality until they learn otherwise.
   For example, in a study in Mexico led by Nicola Knight of the University of Oxford, Maya children aged 4 to 7 were shown a gourd that usually holds tortillas. With the opening covered, the experimenter asked children what was inside. After answering "tortillas", they were shown – much to their surprise – that it actually contained boxer shorts. The experimenter then covered the opening again and asked whether various agents would know what was inside.
   The agents included the Catholic god, known as Diyoos, the Maya sun god, the forest spirits, a bogeyman-like being called Chiichi’ and a human. In Mayan culture, Diyoos is all seeing and all knowing, the sun god knows everything that happens under the sun, the forest spirits' knowledge is limited to the forest and Chiichi' is just a nuisance.
   The youngest children answered that all the agents would know what was in the gourd. By age 7, the majority thought that Diyoos would know that the gourd contained shorts but the human would think it contained tortillas.

Who believes what.
The world's belief systems by approximate number of adherents:
2·2 billion
1·6 billion
900 million
750 million
400 million
400 million
375 million
25 million
15 million
180 million

* Includes 1·3 billion Roman Catholics, 750 million Protestants and 250 million Orthodox Christians   [Add them up: It does not compute : - ) ]
** Includes 1·4 billion Sunni and 200 million Shia.
*** Includes Confucianism,Taoism and Chinese Buddhism.

   They were also sensitive to the shades of difference in the other supernatural agents' level of knowledge (Journal of Cognition and Culture, vol 8, p 235). Similar things have been found with Albanian, Israeli, British and American children.
   I may be wrong, but my interpretation of these findings is that young children find it easier to assume that others know, sense and remember everything than to figure out precisely who knows, senses and remembers what. Their default position is to assume superpowers until teaching or experience tells them otherwise.
   This assumption is related to the development of a faculty called "theory of mind", which concerns our understanding of others' thoughts, perception, wants and feelings. Theory of mind is important to social functioning but it takes time to develop. Some 3-year-olds and many 4-year-olds simply assume that others have complete, accurate knowledge of the world.
   A similar pattern is seen with children's understanding of the inevitability of death. Studies by my collaborator Emily Burdett at the University of Oxford suggest that the default assumption is that others are immortal.
  [Picture including a haloed man holding a sword, plus some garlands, and a bare baby being held up above shoulder height.] Out of the minds of babes and infants comes the idea of god  
   The finding that the younger Maya children thought all the gods would know what was in the gourd is important for another reason: simple indoctrination cannot account for it. Whatever some people say, children do not need to be indoctrinated to believe in god. They naturally gravitate towards the idea.
   My contention is that these various features of developing minds - an attraction to agent-based explanations, a tendency to explain the natural world in terms of design and purpose, an assumption that others have superpowers - makes children naturally receptive to the idea that there may be one or more god which helps account for the world around them.
   It is important to note that this concept of religion deviates from theological beliefs. Children are born believers not of Christianity, Islam or any other theology but of what I call "natural religion".  They have strong natural tendencies toward religion, but these tendencies do not inevitably propel them towards any one religious belief.
   Instead, the way our minds solve problems generates a god-shaped conceptual space waiting to be filled by the details of the culture into which they are born.
Justin L. Barrett is director of the Thrive Center for Human Development at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.  His latest book is Born Believers: The science of children's religious belief (Free Press)

The Santa delusion

   IF RELIGION comes naturally to children, doesn't that put God on the same footing as Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy - a being that children should outgrow? And does it not also mean that belief in God is childish?
   Let's examine these claims. The analogy begins to weaken when we recognise that many adults come to believe in God having rejected the idea as children, or after rethinking their childhood beliefs and embracing them as adults. That is, they sometimes reason their way to religious beliefs. People do not begin or resume believing in Father Christmas in adulthood.
   Santa and the Tooth Fairy also fail to fully fit the conceptual space that children (and adults) have because of their natural cognition. They do not readily account for perceived order and purpose in the natural world, for great fortune and misfortune, for matters concerning morality, life, death and the afterlife, and they have little relevance in day-to-day matters outside their very limited ranges of concern - that is, Christmas presents and compensation for lost teeth. Their superknowledge and superperception is circumscribed in curious ways. Santa knows if you've been bad or good but does he know all that you do? The Tooth Fairy knows when you have lost a tooth but not where you have put your car keys.
   Note, too, that adults do not typically eat sacrifices placed out for gods and pretend that the gods ate them the way they eat Santa's cookies. If indoctrination and theatrical acts of deception were the bulk of what gods had going for them conceptually, adults would outgrow them too.
   It is easy to be sympathetic to the idea that we should abandon "childish" thinking in adulthood. But why does labelling an idea childish automatically make it bad, dangerous or wrong? It is true that children know less than adults and make more mistakes in reasoning, so their judgements are not as trustworthy. But what follows from this is only that we should more carefully scrutinise the beliefs of children than those of adults, particularly if they deviate from what adults believe.
   But adults generally do believe in gods. That such belief begins in childhood and typically endures into adulthood places it in the same class as believing in the permanence of solid objects, the continuity of time, the predictability of natural laws, the fact that causes precede effects, that people have minds, that their mothers love them and numerous others. If believing in gods is being childish in the same respect as holding these sorts of beliefs, then belief in gods is in good company.
  [Picture of children wearing hats with broad white bands, looking at candles alight]   #

   [OBTAIN  the New Scientist <>, on sale at Australian and other newsagents, to read, in "The god issue" section in the same issue:
  • Pages 42-44, "The idea that launched a thousand civilisations," by Ara Norenzayan, associate professor of psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.  His forthcoming book is The Making of Big Gods, to be published by Princeton University Press.
  • Pp 45-46, "Natural religion, unnatural science," by Robert N. McCauley, director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.  His new book is Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not, published by Oxford University Press.
  • Pp 46-47, "The God hypothesis," by Victor J. Stenger, emeritus professor of physics, University of Hawaii, USA, and adjunct professor of philosophy, University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado, USA.  His new book is God and the Folly of Faith: The incompatibility of science and religion, published by Prometheus.  ENDS.]
       [BILLION: On this Website, "billion" means 1,000 million, not the traditional British meaning of a million million.  This is in line with U.S. practice, which seems to have become almost the global standard.   ENDS.]
       [BRACES or "Curly Brackets" - "{" and "}" - in news and comment articles on this Website usually replace the "Square Brackets" - "[" and "]" - that are in the articles.  Where "[" and "]" are used on this Website, they either enclose words added by the Webmaster, or details of an image or illustration.  ENDS.]
    [To this webpage Jul 15, 2012; Mar 17, 2012]
    • You're invited to hear two leading U.S. pro-life lawyers.   [in Perth, Aug 18, 2012]       


       Facts, W. Australian newsletter of the National Civic Coucil (NCC), <wa ¶ ncc org au> See WWW <http://­www.­>, or Twitter <http://­www.­­sWeekly>.  Office: 213 A Belmont Ave (Cnr. Wright St.), Cloverdale; PO Box 651, Belmont, WA, 6984, Australia. Page One, July 2012
       Mr Nikolas Nikas is President and General Counsel of the Bioethics Defence Fund, a leading US bioethics law and policy organization that advocates for human life.
       Nikolas has directed national legal strategy on the issues of human cloning/embryonic stem cell research, abortion and end-of-life issues since 1992. He has served as a special assistant attorney general for the state of Arizona in its partial-birth abortion litigation, and as special attorney in the currently pending constitutional challenge to Arizona's abortion clinic regulation law.
       He has also litigated ballot initiatives regarding human cloning and embryonic stem cell research and healthcare rights of conscience.
       In 2000 Nikolas participated in the oral argument preparation for the U.S. Supreme Court partial-birth abortion case, Carhart v. Stenberg.
       Nicholas regularly testifies in legislative committees on the constitutionality of bioethics legislation and has testified before the U.S. Senate on abortion and First Amendment rights.
       He has also lectured on a wide range of bioethics topics at legal and medical conferences and leading law schools, including Stanford, Columbia and Notre Dame Universities.
    6.30PM SATURDAY, 18TH AUGUST, 2012
    Our guest speakers: Mr Nicholas Nikas, Dorinda Bordlee,
    will be addressing the issues of euthanasia and abortion from the point of view of using litigation and legislation to protect human life,
       Mrs Dorinda Bordlee is Vice President and Senior Counsel of the Bioethics Defense [Defence] Fund.
       Dorinda's expertise is in the public policy realm, having drafted legislation and user-friendly education pieces for dozens of US States on the full range of bioethics issues including healthcare rights of conscience, abortion and its impact on women's health, human cloning, destructive human embryo research, and end-of-life issues such as physician-assisted suicide and healthcare rationing.
       Dorinda also has wide-ranging litigation and appellate advocacy experience defending the constitutionality of life issue laws in U.S. federal courts, including the US Supreme Court.
       She is the author of a chapter on abortion alternatives in the 2004 book entitled The Cost of Choice, and she has published articles and opinion pieces on topics including authentic feminism, healthcare reform, and human cloning in national publications including National Review Online, The New York Times, and the Washington Times, and has appeared on CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, EWTN and C-Span.
       Her speaking engagements range from university and law schools to national and international legal and medical conferences.
    [Rec'd July 28 '12; To Webpage Aug 3, '12; Dated July 2012]

    • Ow!  Father  [RC clergyman allegedly bites off another clergyman's ear.]    


    This is the 80-year-old Perth priest
    accused of
    biting off a fellow priest’s ear
    during a fight over a disputed car space
       The Sunday Times (Perth, W. Australia), <letters § sundaytimes newsltd com au>; by Glenn Cordingley and Ashlee Mullany, Page One, Sunday, November 11, 2012
       TWO elderly priests, one car space and no forgiveness.
       That's the scene that allegedly played out in suburban Dianella that has left one priest in hospital without his right ear and another one in court accused of biting it off.
       Father Thomas Byrne, 80, appeared in court yesterday charged with grievous bodily harm over the unholy incident involving his neighbour, 81-year-old Father Thomas Joseph Cameron Smith.
       The two retired clergymen live next door to each other in the unit complex but, according to police, their peaceful existence turned nasty on Friday afternoon over a disputed car space.
       It's not clear what happened next, but the court heard yesterday that Father Smith left the scene with his detached, bloodied ear wrapped it [sic] in a tea towel.  He is now recovering in Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital after surgery.
       Father Byrne didn't enter a plea in court and was granted bail, but told not to go within 10m [10 metres, about 33 feet] of the victim.
       Another priest, who also lives in the complex, was stunned when told of the brawl, saying: "I was shocked because we're all in our 80s and retired priests."
       Full story Page 9
      [2 pictures, one of the car space, and one of the accused, sitting forlornly on a very low wall after being released on bail.]   #

       [COMMENT: The headline kept the Webmaster chuckling for a few days.  See the pun?  Remember, it is not just this sect whose ministers are alleged to have committed offences. COMMENT ENDS.]
    [Nov 11, 2012]

    Colombian Jesuit silenced over critical review of Pope's book

       COLOMBIA - The Association of Catholic Priests (Ireland), December 15, 2012
       Fr. Alfonso Llano Escobar, S.J. had learned the hard way that it doesn't pay to critique your boss's writings. Fr. Llano, whose weekly column Un alto en el camino ("A stop along the road") had appeared in the major Colombian newspaper El Tiempo for 30 years, has been told that his writing career has come to an end.
       In a message to the editorial board of the newspaper, Fr. Llano wrote that "Father Adolfo Nicolás, the superior general of the Jesuits, has ordered Father Alfonso Llano to consider his apostolic vocation as a writer to be over, has deprived him of his freedom of speech, and is demanding that he not even say goodbye and that he keep absolute silence."
       The priest columnist earned his silencing for a November 24th column in which he offered his views on Pope Benedict XVI's new book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, and specifically on the doctrine of the virginity of Mary. The column focuses on internal debate about the subject within the theological community and is worth translating in its entirety:

       The Infancy of Jesus. That's the title of the third volume of the trilogy on Jesus of Nazareth by theologian Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. It has been published in nine languages, including Spanish, and will be published in a first global edition of one million copies. With a series of articles in the press and interviews on radio and television, I would like to guide readers of this book by the Pope, which offers a special difficulty – the virginity of Mary – which will give theologians and the media a lot to talk about. …
    Posted by Kathy Shaw at 7:55 AM
       … Saint Paul, in the letter to the Philippians tells us that Jesus was a common man (Phil 2:6-7). Saint Matthew, the same one who tells us about Jesus' divine conception (1:26), presents Jesus as the son of Mary and Joseph (13:53 ff.) and with several brothers and sisters. It's appropriate to clarify that, in the judgment of North American Catholic biblical scholar John Meier, who has studied the problem in depth, in the four Gospels it's about real blood brothers of Jesus (A Marginal Jew, I, 341). It's time to leave behind the fairy tale that they're Jesus' cousins. This assumption is argued to safeguard Mary's corporal virginity. The Pope cites the work of this great biblical scholar several times in his trilogy, without contradicting his interpretation of the corporal non-virginity of Mary. …

       [[ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Abuse Tracker,, by Kathie Shaw, U.S.A. ENDS.]
       [RECAPITULATION: … in the four Gospels it's about real blood brothers of Jesus (A Marginal Jew, I, 341). It's time to leave behind the fairy tale that they're Jesus' cousins. ENDS.]
       [COMMENT: And the lies that Roman Catholic teachers in RC schools told about this.  Where the New Testament testifies that James, the brother of the Lord, was the leader of the congregation in Jerusalem, the brothers and nuns told the children that was a word meaning a relative, because the original Bible language did not have a word for "relative."
       Yet, in a gospel story of Mary being told of Elizabeth's pregnancy (with John the Baptist), we are told Elizabeth was a relative of Mary.  But the translators often wrote "cousin" there, instead of relative.  What mental gymnastics these people perform to cover the fact that Jesus had four brothers and an unknown number of sisters.
       When Jesus returns to Nazareth (Mark 6:1), the local people ask, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?"  (Copied from a response on the original website by Terry, December 26th, 2012 at 11:16 pm)
       In fact, Mary was the mother of quite a brood, and when the boys were grown up, they feature in bible stories that they came to Jesus's teaching sessions.
       So, the brave writer is supposedly silenced - he's lucky he didn't live in previous ages, when he would have been extinguished.
       Surely the Roman Church could accept that Mary became a normal wife and mother AFTER the birth of her "first-born son," Jesus?  And reform its prayers about "semper virginem."
       Changes to other teachings include the dropped ban on cremations, the dropped prohibition on taking part in religious sessions with non-Catholics, and the sureness that the Limbo of the unbaptised babies exists. COMMENT ENDS.] [Also in Clergy and Other Child Molesters 182 webpage.] [Dec 15, 2012]
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    CONTENTS / ANCHOR LIST (After reading an article, use Browser's "Back" button to return to Anchor List)
    Born believers; The god issue. Babies make sense of the world by deducing that everything has a cause, that even inisible things can exist, and that self-moving things have a purpose for what they do.  They believe in "natural religion," author-theologian Justin l. Barrett states. Mar 17, 2012
    1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind, ... and the greatest of these is love. Mar - Apr 2012
    Hickey revives row on crying statue.  WESTERN AUSTRALIA: The Archbishop whose denials of being told about the adult abuse at the Bethel Covenant Community Ltd centre gave religion a bad name, now wants another inquiry into Rockingham's Weeping Madonna.  Apr 22, 2012
    Is Obama the US's most anti-Christian president? Opinion.  UNITED STATES, and AUSTRALIA: Historian gives point after point showing that Barack Hussein Obama is. May 12, 2012
    Ow! Father. [RC clergyman bites off another clergyman's ear.]  PERTH, W. Australia: A dispute over space to park a car triggered this alleged incident. Nov 11, 2012
    • The rite way clergy can be married.  Opinion.  The Church council of Trullo was wrong, the Romish priest writes, and overturned Christian customs which included that a priest must not have sex with his wife before divine service (which was held only once a week throughout the Christian world at that time).  Later Rome ordered its clergy to celebrate mass daily, although the New Testament clearly teaches that the followers of Jesus met on the first day of the week to break bread, not every day.  May 16, 2012
    • The Santa delusion that many adults inculcate into children cannot be confused with religion. Mar 17, 2012
    What Jews (and Christians too) Should Know About the New Testament.  Judaist scholar sees the good and otherwise in the Christian Greek Scriptures.  Reading it helps her own understanding of Judaism.  Mar - Apr 2012
    You're invited to hear two leading U.S. pro-life lawyers.   PERTH, W. Australia: Lectures, Aug 18, 2012.  Mr Nicholas Nikas and Ms Dorinda Bordlee of the U.S.A. have been trying to stop abortions, partial-birth abortions, by taking law cases and educating legislators. July 2012

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