Next month will see the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne in Australia, where several thousand of the faithful faithless will gather to hear the like of Dawkins, PZ Myers and AC Grayling hold forth on enlightenment, reason, truth and science. Oh and they may mention God and religion once or twice. But isn’t it a little weird for a bunch of atheists to start acting like a religion? Maybe a bit, according to the head of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, David Nicholls. “[Atheists] do not believe in shoving views down thoats. They mistrust group-think and are suspicious of institutions. […] Atheists are, by definition, not joiners.” Individualists or not, over 2500 will congregate this March to swap thoughts and ideas, as a group (Sydney Morning Herald).
And if you can have an atheist congregation, how long will it be before there’s an atheist preacher? Well this is exactly the situation the Dutch Protestant Church found themselves in recently after one of their number, Klass Hendrikse, published a book called Believing in a God who does not exist. Surprisingly, they have decided to do nothing, concluding that Hendrikse’s beliefs, which include that God is not a real being but just a word for people’s shared feelings, are not so different from many other liberal theologies (RNW).
Slightly less tolerance was shown to Mark Edward Tynan of the Christian faith group “Servants of Jesus” this week when the Australian health watchdog banned him from practising any form of mental health medicine. The Psychologists Tribunal sadly took a dim view of Tynan’s opinion that dissociative identity disorder was caused by demons, and that one child’s mental health problems were due to her parents having dedicated her life to Satan. His innovative treatment plans of prayer and exorcisms were also roundly disapproved of (Telegraph(AU)).
Someone else to lose their job over a wacky belief this week is Baroness Jenny Tonge, shadow health spokesperson for the UK’s Liberal Democrat Party. Her problems started when an American blogger called Stephen Lendman resurrected the old “organ harvesting” myth in an article that accused Israeli medical teams sent to Haiti of doing just that. The allegations appeared in the Palestine Telegraph ,of which Tonge is patron, but it was for her suggestion to the Jewish Chronicle that an inquiry should be held to “dispel any rumours” that she got into trouble. Unfortunately for her, Liberal Party leader Nick Clegg did not feel the Israeli doctors should have to prove themselves innocent of any and all nonsense flung their way, and promptly removed her from her post (Spiked).
A would be bank-robber in Austria was foiled in his robbery attempt when the bank closed early for a staff training session. The man came equipped with a Barack Obama mask and gun but was stopped at the first hurdle when the locked door refused to open for him. Staff inside initially thought it was part of the training or a joke, and their laughter aggravated the criminal until he eventually fled empty-handed (Digital Spy).
More successful were the thieves that managed to steal several US landmarks, including the Palace of Fine Arts, USS Pampanito and Ghirardelli Square. Models of course, part of an exhibition of Mark and Jannet Benz’s Lego creations on display at the Palo Alto Museum of American Heritage, and worth several thousand dollars. A reward of $500 has been offered by the Benzes (SF Weekly).
But if Jan and Mark are thinking of upping their home security, they should perhaps avoid following the example of Alexander Skopintsew of Primorye in Russia, who decided to deter intruders by planting homemade landmines around his garden. He was inevitably found out when a trespasser was injured when setting off one of these devices, and charged with possession of illegal weapons, receiving a suspended sentence (ABC News).
Of course another alternative might be to have nothing worth stealing. Perhaps something similar occurred to retired lorry driver Ken Strickland, who amassed a collection of over 3000 watering cans, each meticulously documented. Sadly Mr. Strickland died last month aged 78, bequeathing the entire assortment to his niece, who is at a loss as to what to do with them and may in fact sell them on behalf of a charity. One watering can however will not be up for sale, it contains her uncle's ashes (Metro).
Meanwhile hundreds of other women up and down the UK might be feeling a little let down this Monday, after British department store Debenhams recorded a 76% surge in sales of their range of “anatomy boosting” underwear for men ahead of Valentine’s day. Turn around is fair play, I say (Reuters).
News of the Weird/Pro Edition Exceptionally Inexplicable Dispatches from Last Week
(datelines February 6-February 13) (links correct as of February 15)
Government by Finger, Plus Farm Love, a Hideous Baby, and the Need for Remedial Screening
When "You Lie!" Doesn't Quite Capture the Moment
Legislator Abel LeBlanc was tossed out of the New Brunswick Assembly for lack of commitment to bipartisanship, viz., liberally giving the finger to two colleagues, along with a threat to one "punk" and a challenge to "walk outside with any one of yas here." Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News /// Audio on Archive.org [prepared by BoingBoing.net]
For One Brief Moment, Perfect Justice
The trade association of mortgage bankers sold its headquarters building in Washington, D.C., for $41 million. It had bought the building in 2007, at the top of the real estate market, for $79 million. Washington Post
Price of Overthrowing the Government: $5.00
South Carolina's Subversive Activities Registration Act, passed last year, kicked in in January. Any member of "a subversive organization or an organization subject to foreign control, every foreign agent, and every person who advocates, teaches, advises, or practices the duty, necessity, or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing, or overthrowing the government of the United States . . . shall register with the Secretary of State [of South Carolina]." Fill out the form and pay your $5.00. RawStory.com blog /// Subversive Agent Form [link from FitsNews.com]
The Life of a Driver in Afghanistan
It's probably shorter than yours, but it's thrilling, if you maneuver the 40-mile stretch through the Kabul Gorge between Kabul and Jalalabad. Narrow 2-lane highway. Perpendicular mountain to your right. 1,000-foot drop to your left. One-foot-high "guard rail." Junker cars with bald tires and weak brakes. Nearly immobile supply trucks crawling along the roadway, provoking impatience. And, said a roadside vendor, "[H]istory has proved that the Afghan people are bullies." Hence, "astonishing speeds," "impossible turns," and a local hospital that treats more accident victims than war wounds. New York Times
Capybaras are the world's largest rodents, they can get up to 4ft3in and 140lb. Capybaras are even kept as pet. The first link is the wiki article with the animal stats, the second link is about a capybara named Caplin Rous who is a well loved pet.
Posted By: patty - Sun Feb 14, 2010 -
This pit bull fought a porcupine and the porcupine won, After sedating the dog a vet removed 1,347 quills from it. The dog survived, perhaps a little worse for the wear, but perhaps a little wiser as well. Unfortunately no further information was given about the dog, or the porcupine either for that matter.
Posted By: patty - Sun Feb 14, 2010 -
First up, a UK judge has spoken out to say children should be allowed to take knives to school. Not all children mind you, just Sikh children. Justice Mota Singh, a Sikh himself, is talking about the kirpan, a ceremonial three-inch knife worn as a show of faith by devout Sikhs, the wearing of which by one boy was banned by a North London school earlier this year. Singh later supported the boy's family's decision to withdraw him rather than accept their compromise offer that he carry a 'disabled' equivalent claiming the school's refusal was discriminatory (BBC News).
Meanwhile another UK court last week ruled that particularly pious Hindu Davender Kumar Ghai can have the open-air cremation he fervently desires. It's been a long battle for Ghai, who found his proposal to site traditional funeral pyres on land outside Newcastle blocked by the city council in a decision later upheld by England's High Court. Now the UK Court of Appeal has said that the open-air ceremonies can go ahead, and that the requirement that all cremations occur 'within a building' could be met by any reasonable structure and did not dictate that structure have walls or a roof. Davenda Kumar Ghai, who is 76 and in poor health, can now go ahead and build his roofless crematorium, once he gets planning permission to do so, from Newcastle City Council (Times).
And in yet another landmark decision, the councillors in Reading, England have given the local Muslim community permission to carry out their own burials in the borough's cemeteries at weekends, which council gravediggers do not work. Many Islamic traditions favour burial very soon after death, and the delays caused by the weekend closures was cited as a significant cause of stress for relatives. In response, the council have agreed to dig some graves beforehand for later use in a pilot scheme expected to last one year, or until the first Saturday night drunk falls in one and sues (GetReading).
Mind you, even once you're in the ground you're not always safe. A row over the siting of a new museum on a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalen has boiled over this week with families who claim to have relatives buried there petitioning the UN. The cemetery, which dates back several hundred years, is due to be excavated to make was for a new “Center for Human Dignity – Museum of Tolerance” being built by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who dispute the families' claims. “The Museum of Tolerance project is not being built on the Mamilla Cemetery. It is being built on Jerusalem’s former municipal car park, where every day for nearly half a century, thousands of Muslims, Christians and Jews parked their cars without any protest whatsoever from the Muslim community,” said founder Rabbi Marvin Hier (Telegraph).
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.