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Member since: Mon Mar 27, 2017, 07:57 AM
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Why Europes wars of religion put 40,000 witches to a terrible death

It was a terrifying phenomenon that continues to cast a shadow over certain parts of Europe even today. The great age of witch trials, which ran between 1550 and 1700, fascinates and repels in equal measure. Over the course of a century and a half, 80,000 people were tried for witchcraft and half of them were executed, often burned alive.

And then trials disappeared almost completely.

Their appearance was all the more strange because between 900 and 1400 the Christian authorities had refused to acknowledge that witches existed, let alone try someone for the crime of being one. This was despite the fact that belief in witches was common in medieval Europe, and in 1258 Pope Alexander IV had to issue a canon to prevent prosecutions.

But by 1550 Christian authorities had reversed their position, leading to a witch-hunt across Christendom. Many explanations have been advanced for what drove the phenomenon. Now new research suggests there is an economic explanation, one that has relevance to the modern day.

Economists Peter Leeson and Jacob Russ of George Mason University in Virginia argue that the trials reflected “non-price competition between the Catholic and Protestant churches for religious market share”.

As competing Catholic and Protestant churches vied to win over or retain their followers, they needed to make an impact – and witch trials were the battleground they chose. Or, as the two academics put it in their paper, to be published in the new edition of the Economic Journal: “Leveraging popular belief in witchcraft, witch-prosecutors advertised their confessional brands’ commitment and power to protect citizens from worldly manifestations of Satan’s evil.”

The Guardian

Faith in the existence of dark matter.

In 1933 Fritz Zwicky was studying a galactic cluster and observed that the rotational speed of galaxies in the cluster was impossible unless there existed a huge amount of unobserved mass in the cluster. He, following in the footsteps of Lord Kelvin 50 years earlier, called this unobserved mass "dark matter".

The Zwicky observations have been confirmed over and over again in other galactic clusters and in the late 70's Vera Rubin and Kent Ford published new observational results using spectrographic analysis to confirm that most galaxies must contain approximately 6 times as much "dark matter" as visible mass.

Over the last 40 years numerous experiments have been conducted to test the two main hypothesis about what sort of particle dark matter might be composed from, WIMPS and axions. All those experiments have failed to detect the existence of either particle.

Dark matter has never been directly observed. Astrophysicists do not know what dark matter is. They believe however, absent any direct evidence, that dark matter exists. They have it seems "a faith based belief in the existence of dark matter".

Physicists generally have enormous faith in the existence of this unobserved entity (some don't, there are alternative theories.) But their faith in the existence of dark matter is entirely different than faith in the existence of gods.

While there have been no direct observations of dark matter, as noted earlier "dark matter" itself is just a placeholder for a problem with repeatedly confirmed observational data. There is plenty of indirect evidence. Something is causing the observed problem, one set of theoretical explanations assume the existence of large quantities of mass from an unknown new type of particle.

Research institutes across the planet invest resources into the search for dark matter based entirely on faith that this research, even if it, as it has so far done, fails to find any evidence for the constituent particle or particles. Their research is probing into one of the great mysteries in human knowledge, it is research into the boundaries of the unknown. It is part of the great project of the enlightenment to understand the universe we inhabit.

While faith in the existence of dark matter is pervasive among astrophysicists, this belief is not "unshakable". In fact, quite the opposite. If one of the alternative theories, for example that galactic clusters contain enormous numbers of very small black holes, proves valid, the search for dark matter particles would likely come to an end. Unlike irrational faith, scientific faith is based on theory, observation experimentation and analysis. New evidence can obsolete current knowledge.

I think we need better advocates for gods here.

The Year of Love Jihad in India

more about the status of religious tolerance in Kerala

In 2011, when Akhila Ashokan was eighteen, she left her home in T. V. Puram, a village in Kerala, for college in Salem, a busy town seven hours to the east. Her father, K. M. Ashokan, was an ex-military man; her mother, Ponnamma, a practicing Hindu. In Salem, Akhila studied homeopathy, boarding with five women, including two Muslim sisters, Jaseena and Faseena, with whom she studied, cooked, and talked. Akhila watched them pray. Soon after—it is unclear when, exactly—Akhila started to read books and watch videos that helped her understand Islam. Feeling the stirrings of a new faith, she began to pray. In 2015, she decided to call herself Aasiya.

To her father, Akhila seemed a changed person in November, 2015, when she returned home for a funeral. She was quiet and reserved, reluctant to join in the rituals. After the funeral, Aasiya resolved to declare her new faith, and returned to school wearing a hijab. Her mother, when she heard of the conversion, told Aasiya that her father had broken his leg and asked her to come home to see him. But Aasiya, wise to the extravagant emotional blackmail of Indian parents, refused. She began a residential program for new converts at Sathya Sarani, a religious institute in Kerala; took yet another name, Hadiya; and registered a profile on waytonikah.com, a Muslim matrimonial site, where she noticed a man, bearded and lean, who worked at a pharmacy in Muscat, Oman. Shafin Jahan played goalkeeper for the F.C. Kerala soccer team, had a sweet smile, quoted Shakespeare, and hashtagged all his posts on Instagram. She met him, and then his family. Jahan’s Instagram went from pictures of food and football to photos of open skies and sunsets.

Even before Hadiya and Jahan got married, last December, Ashokan had taken his concerns to court, arguing that the people behind his daughter’s conversion had “unlimited resources in finances as well as manpower” and were enabling “illegal and forceful conversions.” His counsel argued that Hadiya, then twenty-four, was in “a vulnerable position from which she is necessary [sic] to be rescued and handed over to the petitioner.” Ashokan was convinced that Jahan, who had ties to the radical-Muslim Popular Front of India political party, was sent to disappear his daughter, and was backed by a shadowy organization with links to the Islamic State. (“I can’t have a terrorist in my family,” he said.) The judgment from the Kerala High Court, which came in the last week of May this year, sided with Ashokan. “In the first place, it is not normal for a young girl in her early 20s, pursuing a professional course, to abandon her studies and to set out in pursuit of learning an alien faith and religion,” the judges wrote. They were clearly unimpressed by Hadiya, a “gullible” and “ordinary girl of moderate intellectual capacity,” who had “apparently memorized” Arabic verses. Hadiya’s five-month marriage to Jahan was annulled; Hadiya was put in the care of her parents.

The New Yorker

"Active shooter" - we are having yet another of our entirely preventable episodes of gun violence.

The phrase bothers me. But really it fits. The rest of the gun nuts with their arsenals are just "inactive shooters".

All Paths Lead to Magical Thinking

In recent years, psychologists have come to understand religion and paranormal belief as resulting, in most people, from simple errors in reasoning. You believe in God or astrology or a purpose in life because you apply ideas about people—that they have thoughts and intentions—to the natural world. Some display this tendency more than others, but it’s there in everyone, even atheistic heathens like me. What has not been clarified is exactly how the various cognitive biases interact to produce specific ideas about the supernatural—until now.

In the November 2013 issue of Cognition, Aiyana Willard and Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia report on the relative influence of three cognitive tendencies on three types of supernatural belief, as well as the role of cultural influence.

Several studies show that people who think more intuitively are also more susceptible to magical thinking. One intuition that’s been proposed as a foundation for religious thought is Cartesian mind-body dualism, the idea that a mind can exist independently of a body. (See chapter 5 of my book, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: “The Soul Lives On.”) This proposition allows for souls, ghosts, spirits, and Gods, all made of disembodied mind-stuff. Explanations for dualism include belief in free will and the mutual inhibition of brain areas responsible for pondering feelings and physics.

Another psychological process related to mysticism is anthropomorphism, the tendency to apply human-like traits to non-human entities or concepts. (See chapter 6 of my book: “The World is Alive.”) God or the Universe is hearing your prayers. Your laptop meant to crash during your presentation. Your dog understands you. Anthropomorphism can be motivated by loneliness or the need to predict and control our environment. It’s a form of pattern-seeking in which the pattern is another coherent mind.

A third process involved in magical thinking is teleological reasoning, seeing a purpose (telos, Greek for end) in objects or events. (See chapter 7: “Everything Happens for a Reason.”) Many things have a purpose (chairs, weddings). Many don’t (the Grand Canyon, hurricanes), but we sometimes feel like they do. Again, searching for purposes is a way to understand and ultimately control the world around us.

More here: Psychology Today

Police arrest alleged 'Nigerian prince' email scammer in Louisiana USA TODAY NETWORK

Finally. Now all the emails will stop.

A Louisiana man was arrested in connection with the "Nigerian prince" scheme that has scammed people out of thousands of dollars, police announced Thursday.

Michael Neu, 67, faces 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering after being taken into custody following an 18-month investigation, according to the Slidell Police Department. Police said Neu is suspected of being the scam's "middle man" who obtained money and "subsequently wired" funds to his co-conspirators in Nigeria.

But wait here's his picture:

Why the killing fields of Kerala only draw collective silence (even from BJP)

The rising tide of political, communal violence diminishes the reputation of a state that has led the country across a swathe of parameters.

The murder of a BJP worker named Santhosh in Kannur last week is the latest in a symphony of orchestrated political violence that has made Kerala a tinderbox of religious fundamentalism.

Over 44 per cent of Keralites are minorities — the highest ratio in India after Jammu & Kashmir. Over 25 per cent are Muslims. Another 19 per cent are Christians.

Kannur is a symbol of the inflammatory potential of mixing politics with religion. An ancient trading city with deep links to the Arabs and Persians, Kannur was ruled by a Muslim dynasty, the Arakkal Sultanate. Along historically with imports of Arab spices and timber, it has in recent years imported strains of Wahabism from the Middle East.

Santhosh was allegedly killed by CPI(M) activists in his own house at Andaloor in Dharmadam which ironically is Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s own constituency. Kannur has given Kerala two chief ministers — K Karunakaran and EK Nayanar. It is a politically volatile district. Muslims comprise 38 per cent of its population. Five out of 20 ministers in the Kerala cabinet are from Kannur — including the chief minister.


"0% of Outreachs 100 Largest churches have affirming LGBTQ+ policies"

Church Clarity has released new data which scores the 100 largest churches in America in 2017 as featured in the Christian publication, Outreach Magazine. In addition to scoring for clarity of LGBTQ+ policy, the data also covers racial and gender diversity among senior pastors.

Here are the highlights of what we've found:

Only 35% have CLEAR LGBTQ+ policies on the main pages of the websites

65% of these church websites either obscure policy language
(54% UNCLEAR) or entirely omit (11% UNDISCLOSED)
their actively enforced LGBTQ+ policies.

43% are non-denominational churches; only 3 in 10 have clear LGBTQ+ policies.

7% are led by a senior pastor of color
(people of color are 38% of US population)

1% are led by a senior female pastor, who is a co-pastor with her husband (women are 50% of the US population and 8% of Fortune 100 CEOs)


From Trump's evangelicals to witches to Roy Moore: how religion shaped 2017

And what to expect from 2018.
By Tara Isabella Burton@NotoriousTIBtara.burton@vox.com Dec 29, 2017, 9:00am EST

There’s little reason to be optimistic in 2018

When it comes to the rise of Christian nationalism and the increase in hate crimes alike, there’s little reason to believe anything will necessarily improve next year. Even if the Trump administration does collapse, there is little reason to be optimistic about how it will affect ethnoreligious minorities in America.

The greatest trick Christian nationalists — or their more explicit cousins to the right, white nationalists — have up their sleeve is to claim they are being persecuted. Central to the narrative of Christian nationalism in the White House, no less than the explicitly white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, is the idea that the “liberal media” and “PC police” have banded together to silence the “true” speakers of truth — a dynamic that, in the rhetoric of Christian nationalism, turns into a full-on war between good and evil (just consider how Roy Moore’s defenders compared him to Jesus during the last days of his campaign).

Trump and his evangelical advisers have been seeding this rhetoric into his presidency since the beginning. And if Trump’s administration does genuinely come under threat, according to the narrative Trump and his administration have established, his supporters are, at least implicitly, divinely bound to rise up and defend it.

More here: VOX
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