The real face of Jesus, part 2

What is the Shroud of Turin? What does it mean?

Photographer Barrie Schwortz of STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project) describes the Shroud as “religion and science living on the same piece of cloth.”

And he should know; Schwortz spent five days in 1978 working as a principal photographer documenting the efforts as part of the Shroud of Turin Research Project that was led by physicist John Jackson, who worked for NASA in the 1970s.

When Jackson ran a photograph of the Shroud of Turin through a VP-8 digital analyzer  (a specialized computer typically used to map three dimensional simulation models from two dimensional images) at NASA, the remarkable result of his experiment led to the commission of the STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project) team.

Jackson’s test culled a three dimensional image from the two dimensional photograph…and no other painting or work of art has ever reproduced such a phenomenon. Only photographs of three dimensional objects can produce that same effect. The test result clearly indicated that the fabric had once been used to wrap a three dimensional object, which in this case was the dead body of a human being, believed to be none other than Jesus, the Christ.

No matter what else might be said or written, this religious artifact will always have doubts about it veracity and authenticity due to the lack of a clear chain of custody and the now controversial results of carbon dating tests. Like any other religious artifact, the fact that it exists cannot be offered as irrefutably proof of the existence of God, because proof does not require faith.

Russell Breault of the Turin Education Project said of the Shroud:

It is not a fake, not a painting, not a photograph–in essence we can tell you what is not, but not what it is. The Shroud is either an authentic burial shroud or it isn’t. All tests indicate there is no paint, ink, dye, pigmentation stain, nothing on the cloth used by an artist to fabricate the image….it’s just not there.

Even if the Shroud was as young as the carbon test suggested, there is real human blood and no evidence of any residue, particulates, paint, or any other material on the fabric that would suggest it was produced artificially. Scientific experiments and tests have confirmed this fact. Only the outermost fibers of the cloth are slightly discolored, and those fibers have no paints or dyes.

Whether or not it was the burial shroud of Jesus is arguable, but that it wrapped the dead body of a man is not. In addition to human blood is an image which has a phenomenal characteristic that is not reproducible in any painting or drawing in the world. In layman’s terms, the lights and darks on the fabric are reversed, an inverse of what is normal — just like a photographic negative. Amateur Italian photographer Secondo Pia discovered this most unusual characteristic of the Shroud in 1898 when he was allowed to photograph it. Pia found he could see the image of the crucified man much more clearly in the negative than when viewed by the naked eye. What makes this idea so unusual is that the shroud predates the invention of the camera by more than 500 years, assuming the 1290-1360 date from carbon testing was still valid. When viewing the negative, the image burned into the linen cloth becomes as clear as Stonewall Jackson’s visage on the face of Stone Mountain.

The amount of blood on the fabric and pattern of wounds is astounding….those who have seen Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ can relate to the brutality this man suffered, but they were watching a Hollywood reenactment. The Shroud shows the real deal, and it was incredibly brutal.

When computer graphics were used to highlight the bloodstains on the fabric and color them bright red, the shocking result that leapt off the screen was gut-wrenching. This person suffered unbelievable pain, and torture well beyond human comprehension. If this person wasn’t Jesus, the man wrapped in the cloth suffered the same fate as that described by the Gospels.

It was quite easy to count over 120 scourge marks and wounds on the body of the man wrapped in that piece of cloth. There was a sizable wound in the wrist that was clearly visible, where a nail apparently was driven (the other wrist was covered by the first), and a similar puncture wound was on the one foot visible (the feet were also stacked on top of each other.) A wound seemingly made by a spear was evident in his side, and blood drenched his hair from wounds consistent with a crown of thorns.

Breault asked, “Is it possible this fourteen foot piece of linen cloth captured the greatest paranormal event of all time?”

Of course, it is possible.

However, the authenticity of the shroud could never be proved beyond all reasonable doubt to a serious skeptic. And this unsettling fact gives some solace to both the believer and the unbeliever, assuring them that they are in the right. Lack of irrefutable proof in either direction allows everyone to comfortably maintain their existing worldview.

In other words, you may continue to believe whatever you wish.

The real face of Jesus, part 1

Not that long ago the History Channel featured a phenomenal two hour special titled “The Real Face of Jesus”. The program provided new and extensive details about a scientific study of the Shroud of Turin, plus information about alleged corroborating evidence, and an attempt to reconstruct the facial image from the shroud by an expert at producing accurate and lifelike death masks.

Of course, skeptics have argued that experiments have proved that the image on the shroud can be produced by artificial means, but scientific evidence rebuts their claims — these experiments might create an image that superficially resembles the image on the shroud, but not with all of the unique characteristics of it.

Carbon-14 dating allegedly dated the material of the shroud as being between than 1260-1390 A. D., but scientists from the STURP team have subsequently invalidated their own findings. Over the years, the Shroud has been handled, lost, burned, hidden, and taken as plunder in the course of its known history.  The chain of ownership is consistent after the date provided via Carbon-14 dating, but a history of an alleged burial shroud for Christ existed from the first century A.D., with a miraculous healing of King Agar V.

Some people question whether or not Jesus actually existed, but as the Catholic priest Father Jonathan Morris has said about Jesus, “We don’t believe in an idea. We believe in a man.”

If Jesus the human existed, as the Bible and history indicates, and if the story of his crucifixion are accurate, the man suffered horrific injuries and inconceivable suffering, followed by a slow and agonizing death.  Atheists do not comprehend why God would allow His only begotten Son to suffer such a thing and deeply resent the implication of personal responsibility due to sin, but they are in good company — Christians can’t claim to answer the why question, either.

The concept of sin often conflicts with perceptions of pleasure, and in the minds of some people, there should be no limits on pleasure.  Life is short. Enjoyment of life should be maximized. Who can argue with that?

The mistaken assumption is that Christians have no pleasure in their lives. True, some Christians don’t drink, and others refuse any kind of drugs, legal or illegal. But that doesn’t mean those people are not sinners.  Those same people may be cheating on their spouses, or their taxes.  Nor does that mean that everything one might find pleasurable is a sin.

Besides, as Paul wrote, all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.  No Christian is perfect. No human is perfect. We aspire to improve ourselves by emulating the perfection of Christ as best we can, and yet we all pale in comparison.

There is no conclusive evidence that the Shroud of Turin was that burial cloth that wrapped the crucified Christ.  And there never will be. Without a conclusive chain of evidence, there’s no way to prove that piece of cloth is the same that allegedly cured Agar from a fatal form of leprosy, only thirty years after the crucifixion. And that story may not even be true. There is simply no way to know with any degree of real certainty whether the story is true or untrue.

Christians can easily convince themselves that the shroud is genuine, now that the carbon dating test results have been invalidated by subsequent tests and experiments, But they should never assume that the Shroud of Turin represents any sort of scientific proof that validates their faith. As I’ve said before, even if scientific tests could prove the Shroud of Turin was the burial cloth of a real human being who had been crucified in the exact same manner as described in the Bible, we don’t have the DNA of Jesus, so we could never prove that it had been wrapped around his body. Nor, in my opinion, should a Christian feel compelled to need that validation. Their faith in God should not depend on a bloody piece of cloth. Conversely, non-Christians may find plenty of reasons to reject the shroud, and may assume any stories or miraculous claims associated with it must be false.

However, the problem with making any assumption is that scientific evidence can make us look foolish, when truth comes to light.

If you believe the shroud could be real, the next four parts of this very long article will strengthen that conviction. If you don’t believe the shroud is real, and especially if you think all of the unique characteristics of the shroud were successfully produced by a clever forger, you definitely should also stick around.

Have I got a surprise for you!

Failure to communicate

I’m perfectly capable of having a polite yet spirited conversation with anyone about virtually any subject. I find the discussion tends to be far more interesting when two people seek common ground while exploring theoretical areas of disagreement. The potential to learn something new is far greater as ideas are freely exchanged, not banter dominated by memorized talking points that originated in some book written by somebody else. I write my own books.

But it takes two to tango, as they say. Truly scintillating conversation ultimately depends on having a willing and worthy adversary for a vigorous debate. In any debate of interest both participants will clearly articulate their thoughts that have been steeped in logic and reason, without making appeals to emotion or resorting to regurgitated group-think. Both participants in an intellectual discussion must carefully listen to the opposition’s point-of-view and make a serious attempt to understand it, if they hope to respond with cogent and effective rebuttal arguments. The problem is that in modern society, most people simply assume what another person thinks based on some preconceived label and would rather demonize and demagogue than persuade their opposition. Mere disagreement frequently inspires fits of apoplectic rage, and sometimes, even violence. Don’t believe me? Just look at what’s happened with the Berkeley riots.

Interestingly, a college professor at Fresno State has also asserted that “college campuses are not free speech areas.” The special snowflakes are encouraged to report their fellow students for alleged speech crimes. When did college cease to be a place to advance education and become a place for indoctrination? Another professor at that same school has called for President Donald Trump to be hanged. For what crime? Simply for being elected President?

What good is a college education these days?

Is the purpose of college to teach people how to think, or what to think? The former has value, while the latter can easily be accomplished simply by reading books. Many academics now prefer belittling and marginalizing those with whom they disagree instead of utilizing the lost art of persuasion. With leadership like that shaping impressionable young minds at the university level, it’s no wonder that people in California sent Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters to Congress.

An immortal (and most ironic) line in cinema history was spoken by the underrated great actor Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke when he said: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” immediately after viciously striking Paul Newman with a whip, just for making a smart-aleck comment he didn’t like.

What appeared to be a surreal scene dreamed up by Hollywood has become acceptable behavior today, though just as ironic when people who call themselves “Anti-Fa” protestors (meaning Anti-Fascist) are using what could only be described as fascist tactics that would make a Nazi stormtrooper proud — attacking and beating up people who support a political party or candidate they don’t like.

This intolerance for opposing viewpoints has now permeated throughout society. For example, recently I heard a sportswriter on the radio (I think it was ESPN’s former baseball writer, Jayson Stark) say that a person who believes in evolution simply cannot carry on a conversation with someone who believes in creationism. He was supposed to be talking about his new book on “modern” baseball statistics like W.A.R. (Wins Above Replacement) that give a greater measure of a player’s worth than RBIs or HRs for batters or wins and saves for pitchers, and made the comparison between “old school” baseball statisticians who rely on traditional metrics and creationists, implying that a civil conversation with either is simply not possible.

Just for the record, I consider myself to be some form of creationist. To Jayson Stark, I would simply point out that life cannot evolve until it exists. Of course I have observed microevolution (meaning variation within species boundaries), but I don’t find the alleged evidence of macroevolution compelling. But by the same token, I do not believe that people who believe in evolution to explain the origin of new species are all atheists and Communists. I also don’t believe that they worship the Devil, or given the opportunity, that they would eat a puppy. I just happen to think they might be wrong, and I’m always ready and willing to explain the many reasons why, in a civil conversation where we talk about my Big Picture argument.

It takes no real effort to be rude, obnoxious, and dismissive. That is an ability that humans inherit quite naturally. It is much more difficult to maintain one’s composure in a lively exchange, especially if the other conversant becomes verbally abusive with ad hominem personal attacks on his or her intelligence and character. To quote a most appropriate and favorite line from an obscure movie, “The first man to raise a fist is the man who’s run out of ideas.”

Of course I must cheerfully concede there is the possibility that the alternative is true – I could be wrong. So I must be willing to listen to the other argument, in addition to speaking. I must honestly evaluate the very best evidence supporting any reasonable alternate point of view. And for that reason, in the past I have written directly to the renowned experts such as Jerry Coyne and Ken Miller, hoping to learn about what I consider the “missing link” in evolution theory — what allows, along with sex, isolation, and time, mutational changes to accumulate and lead to the emergence of a completely new creature. My mind is not completely closed to the concept known as theistic evolution, but it currently makes no more sense than the secular/atheistic version of Darwin’s theory.

My confusion is pretty straightforward. Either the first human being was created by God, or good luck over time allowed mutations to accumulate to the point where apes evolved into humans, and I don’t understand how that could biologically happen. If Darwin’s theory evolution is true, the first human was born of an inhuman animal, produced by sex with another inhuman animal of the same species, or two closely related species (which we may assume by temporarily ignoring the problem of hybridization. In reality, hybrid creatures are invariably sterile. )

Jerry Coyne claims that he can explain why evolution is true, and even wrote a book making that boast in the title. However, in that book Jerry does a poor job of explaining the biology of how evolution could be true. How exactly does the origin of species come from an existing species? If prehistoric apes evolved into Homo Habilis and eventually evolved into Homo Sapiens, did the process begin with matched breeding pairs of prehistoric apes, or did a prehistoric ape mate with something like a prehistoric pig and produce a hybrid species called Homo Habilis, that evolved into humans?

The conventional wisdom is that it was the matched breeding pair theory, but how did evolution pass the natural boundaries delimited by dominant and recessive genes so that nonexistent traits in the ancestral genome became persistent in the descendant’s genome? Apes have fur. Humans do not. Humans can build skyscrapers and fly airplanes. Apes cannot — at best, an ape might learn how to use a stick as a tool or a weapon. Despite the allegedly remarkable similarities in the genome of a chimpanzee and that of a human, the differences are vast, between the two species.

A few of my more hysterical (atheist) critics have rather absurdly claimed that people will get sick and die sooner than necessary simply because I’m daring to ask a few logical and straightforward questions about the theory of evolution. Merely because I don’t believe that sexual reproduction, isolation of gene pools, and lots of time are a viable explanation for the observed world in which we live, and I’m not afraid to say so. How could my thoughts possibly kill people?

Sexual reproduction, isolation of gene pools, and lots of time fail to explain any deeper relationship between turnips and humans beyond product and consumer in my opinion, but according to Richard Dawkins, that’s exactly what the “facts” of evolution theory give us as he wrote:

Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eyewitnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzee, somewhat more distant cousins of monkey, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips…continue the list as long as desired. [bold and italics added for emphasis]

Time (lots and lots of time) is usually credited with the god-like power and cited as responsible for the creation of new species, but there are problems with blind acceptance of such a proposition — why should we simply assume that things that cannot be observed in real time have occurred in hypothetical time? And why is the subject no longer open for debate? Personally, I’d be reticent to question the sanity of another person in the same paragraph where I asserted that humans are literally related through descent, via sexual reproduction, to bananas and turnips.

An atheist doesn’t believe in God. Obviously, I do. Because we disagree, should the one holding the opinion popular with a minority of people be beaten and thrown in prison? Even though I’m in the majority on this particular issue, I’m vehemently opposed to the idea.

Yet Bill Nye (the know-it-all, scientism guy with a bow tie) thinks that people who express skepticism about the most dire warnings of human impact on climate change should be arrested and jailed. Dissenting opinions are not to be tolerated. Naturally, Nye calls his intellectual opposition “climate deniers.”

That is such a…totalitarian attitude. Stalin and Mao would be proud.

The historicity of Jesus

[This debate will apparently never end because of the writings of “unorthodox” researchers and scholars like Richard Carrier or Acharya S. But it should be over, because the argument is largely a waste of time.]

A friend once wrote me to say, “I can truly respect the teachings and philosophy of Jesus (whether he was a real person or not) of love, forgiveness, and loving your enemy.”

At the time I wondered why my friend doubted that Jesus had been a real person, but that was before I’d become familiar with movies like Zeitgeist, or historians such as Richard Carrier, who claims that Jesus was merely a mythological figure, not a real human being, nor God.

Of course, I once had my own doubts about the exact same question…but that’s another story, my road to faith. To dispel any beliefs that Jesus never existed, it is only necessary to understand what I currently know.

The Roman scribe Tacitus once wrote,

Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

Some critics have suggested that Christians forged the above entry into the writings of Tacitus, but there are two problems with that theory: the account is hardly flattering to Christianity (Tacitus calls it a “superstition”) and it fails to assert the divinity of Christ. The passage mentions crucifixion and describes gruesome persecution of Christians, but doesn’t say a word about redemption or salvation. In other words, the only reason to believe that Christians forged this passage into the original text would be if one is convinced that Jesus never existed and felt compelled to convince others. The same criticisms are routinely offered when the works of the Jewish historian Josephus are mentioned.

A different question from a new perspective comes to mind: what about the historicity of the Apostle Paul? It seems no one ever suggests that Paul was a mythical character or expresses doubt about the historical truth of his life and death. Perhaps that’s because Paul left so much evidence behind in the form of his writing. And what do we know about him?

From his own words, Paul entered the picture shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion….As Saul of Tarsus.  Saul was a Pharisee who routinely persecuted the first Christians. He presided over the stoning of Stephen, guarding the cloaks of the participants. Saul attributed a life-changing personal encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus as the impetus for the dramatic change he underwent – a change so profound that he adopted a new name, Paul.

The disciple Peter and apostle Paul were primarily responsible for creating the foundation on which Christianity was built by protecting the legacy of Christ.

Both men were martyred and died because of their professed belief in the risen Christ.

Were they both insane? Or had each man experienced something so profound that it galvanized their faith to the point where neither feared intense suffering or mortal death?

Peter’s continuation of Jesus’ ministry to fulfill his designation as the cornerstone on which the church would be built is understandable, to some degree. He knew and followed Jesus in life. But there is no record or account to suggest Saul of Tarsus ever met Jesus in person.

So this question remains valid: why would either of these men [or anyone, for that matter] knowingly sacrifice their life for a lie? Please don’t try to compare this sort of altruistic personal sacrifice to a suicide bomber who gives up his or her life in exchange for the opportunity to kill other people.

Paul’s conversion after Jesus’ death is truly inexplicable. He was a radical terrorist until his life-changing experience on the road to Damascus. Unless he suffered a total loss of sanity that left him appearing to function normally so that he could evangelize his new faith…or else he had a real experience which completely and permanently altered his persona, there’s no other good reason to explain why Saul changed, and became Paul. Before judging Paul insane, remember his words found in I Corinthians, Chapter 13:

If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues,they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Those are some of the most beautiful words ever written because they reflect a wisdom that literally transcends human nature — to love your enemies as well as your friends. Few people question the historicity of Paul simply because a rather significant body of evidence indicates that he was indeed a real person.

We have his letters and writings that form much of the New Testament, as well as external references to Paul in Polycarp’s letter to the Phillipians, Ignatius’ letter to the Romans, and Clement’s letter to the Corinthians. Even more important, we have the lasting evidence of the Christian religion itself. We know Christianity has only been around for the last two thousand years or so because the religion’s origin coincides with the crucifixion of Jesus, as well as the ministries of Peter and Paul in its aftermath.

Jesus was not the first Catholic. He was an Israeli Jew.

But why would two men of such diverse backgrounds come under the same spell to proselytize this new religion until their executions, if the risen Christ had not been real to them? Can we judge these men to have been insane, based on existing evidence?

No one ever suggests that Muhammad never existed. The founder of Islam also acknowledged Jesus was a real person and a prophet. Muhammad may have questioned the divine nature of Jesus or his being the Christ, but not his mortal existence. These people who lived and died in closer proximity to Jesus’s era did not doubt the reality of his person, so why should we? Some may still question what really happened after his death, but that’s a different issue.

In other words, billions of Christians, Jews, and Muslims all believe that Jesus was a real person who preached in Israel for three years before being crucified. We all believe in his death on a cross because the historicity of a physical Jesus appears to have been well documented, remarkably so for such a lowly figure from antiquity — a poor Jewish boy born in a manger, who thought he was God.

Many humans in both past and present times have suffered from a similar God delusion. But only one man appears to have fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophesies of a Jewish Messiah, like those foretold in Isaiah Chapter 53 and Micah Chapter 5, just to name two examples. This is what Christians and Messianic Jews believe.

However, the reality of the resurrection and divine nature of Jesus will always be a matter of faith.


G-Day 2017

Okay, I’m seriously bummed out — due to a scheduling conflict and a prior commitment, I cannot attend the G-Day game in person this coming Saturday. I need someone to pick up my slack and be there in my place.

Therefore, I’m asking for all my fellow members of the Dawg Nation to make sure my seat isn’t empty at noon for the kickoff on Saturday. We need another 93,000 fans to jam pack Sanford Stadium, just like last year.

Anything less would be a letdown after the turnout for the game last year. This needs to become a habit.

Think about it this way: we don’t want coaches like Urban Meyer to be able to negatively recruit players from our state by telling them we’re only fair-weather fans. If teleportation had already been invented by now, I’d be right there in Athens with you. Only impossible logistics for this coming Saturday could keep me away.

So now, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Reasons to be at the game in person this Saturday:

Reason #10: Go because your visit to campus will provide an opportunity to check out the new indoor practice facility. Confirm with your own eyes that your donation money has been well spent.

Reason #9: Go because you can watch UGA football in person, free admission.

Reason #8: Free parking, too. My spot will be available, just like my seat.

Reason #7: Go because no matter how good or bad we look as a team, our Bulldogs will win the game. Guaranteed. When have you ever been guaranteed victory before?

Reason #6: Go because our players have asked us to be there. I’ll be there in spirit, and watching on television from afar. Show the players love. Their adrenaline feeds on our raw emotions. Go because watching a football game is better than watching baseball now that Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz have entered the HoF.

Reason #5: Seize this opportunity to rekindle old memories in The Classic City. Tailgate with old friends and make some new ones. Maybe R.E.M. will show up in Tyrone’s to play a set, for old times sake. And Elvis could be the halftime show. Or, maybe not.

Reason #4: Go to see if the OL blocks as well in game action as reporters on the internet claim they’ve performed in practice.

Reason #3: Go because recruits were very impressed with the turnout last year. It wasn’t by accident last year’s recruiting class finished #3. No back sliding allowed from this point forward. We don’t want anyone to think the Dawg Nation isn’t fiercely loyal to the Red and Black. Several very important recruits will be at the game on Saturday. We want them to stay home and play for the Dawgs.

Reason #2: Go to watch Nick Chubb, Dominick Sanders, Lorenzo Carter, Sony Michel, and the other seniors in action, competing in their final spring practice game. Honor their dedication, commitment, and sacrifices for the Red and Black. Also watch Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm compete. Prepare to be dazzled by the play of the young puppies like Mecole Hardman, Jr. and Jeremiah Holloman.

Reason #1: Be there to honor the memory of the Big Dawg. You know he’ll be there to lead us once more, if only in spirit.

Go Dawgs! Sic ’em!

(And the crowd roars) Woof woof woof woof!




Wedding discrimination

Kendall Plantation

When is it okay to discriminate against someone based on race, gender, religion, national origin, or sexual preferences? Is it ever to be tolerated?

After all, we’ve recently seen that Christian businesses can be severely punished by the State, saddled with exorbitant fines well in excess of any potential profits from catering gay weddings, and literally run out of business for refusing to provide service to certain individuals, even when the Christians claim that being forced to participate in such an event violates their religious beliefs. Religious freedoms don’t matter anymore, according to the State. Discrimination must not be tolerated under ANY circumstances…

Which will make it interesting to see how the following story unfolds — an event planner in Texas has not only refused to serve customers of another race, she posted the following message on the Facebook account for her business as an explanation for her reaction (emphasis is original):


Apparently the wedding planner in question, Ms. Jordan Maney, was terribly offended by the fact the location where the wedding was to take place was named Kendall Plantation and turned down the bride’s business, even though the venue was never a real plantation where slaves had been held and forced into labor. This is in spite of the fact that Kendall Plantation was not built until 2011, and then specifically for the purpose of holding wedding ceremonies.

Slaves were never forced into labor at a place called”Kendall Plantation.”

So why would it be copacetic for Ms. Maney to discriminate against white heterosexual brides, refusing their business apparently on the basis of race (she did mention that her business was “black-owned”) when Christian bakers and florists can be forced out of business for the same basic offense, refusing the business of a potential customer?

Not only did Ms. Maney refuse to serve the potential clients, she belittled and humiliated the bride-to-be for wanting to patronize her business while doing so!

Now if my opinion matters (but it doesn’t) the State should not be able to force Ms. Maney to accept a contract for work she clearly does not wish to perform, no more than the State should be allowed to force a Christian florist to provide floral arrangements to a gay wedding or a Muslim baker to provide the cake for a Jewish wedding ceremony. The lost potential income from making those business decisions should be punishment enough.

However, Ms. Maney probably doesn’t have to worry about legal repercussions because she’s in a class typically seen as the victims of discrimination, not the perpetrators. Is political correctness more important than the law in modern society?


Reader feedback

The original purpose for building this website was to create an internet platform to advertise the fact I’d become an author, and to promote my books.

The idea was that my writing would eventually provide me some level of income, but there’s only one small problem — I haven’t written enough material in any particular genre to draw and sustain a large audience, and there’s a lot of competition in this new age of digital publishing.

Long ago the decision was made to sacrifice quantity for quality, so I haven’t tried to produce a steady stream of content on one particular subject. I have tried to focus on writing well, rather than publishing more frequently. Naturally, it was a very rewarding feeling in 2013 when not one or two, but three of my books won awards, but the problem is that awards don’t automatically produce income. The market has been flooded with competition, and not enough people know who I am. I’m no genius when it comes to marketing myself as a writer, but I know that I don’t have enough readers, book reviews, and my work hasn’t gotten much publicity.

This is somewhat difficult to write without sounding like I’m pleading for money, but in order for my work to earn income, I need to sell books and short stories. I have resisted the idea of buttons soliciting donations to support the website, and Patreon accounts. But on the other hand, I don’t have an agent, or a book deal. I don’t get paid six or seven-figure advances on work that hasn’t even been written yet. The two small, independent publishers who have published my work paid fair royalties, but those are based on book sales. To be brutally blunt, if my family depended on my income as a writer to survive, we’d have starved to death about nine years ago.

Fortunately my wife believes in my talent as a writer, and I believe in myself.  The problem is largely one of my own making, I do believe.  Because my six published works range from nonfiction books about religion and philosophy (Divine Evolution and Counterargument for God), a collection of short stories about animal rescue called Always a Next One, plus three detective novels, I haven’t built an audience base that impatiently waits on my next book.

My first novel, Coastal Empire, introduced private detective Robert Mercer and his canine partner, Ox, as they tried to solve the mystery of why someone might steal a person’s identity without stealing their money. Premonition is the sequel to Coastal Empire, and Secondhand Sight is an amateur sleuth novel featuring Dan Harper as the main character. The next Mercer novel, which will be published in 2017, will be called Atheist’s Prayer.

I know from comments that people enjoy reading my blog, or so they claim, but do those same people read my books? If not, why not?

What do you like about my website, and what don’t you like? 

Like anyone else with an ego, of course I enjoy a complimentary review, especially when it is published at Amazon. However, I must admit that I crave constructive criticism, and I pay closer attention to those one and two-star book reviews, especially when it is obvious the person actually read my book. After all, if we fail to learn from our mistakes, we never stop making them. If my next novel isn’t better than anything I’ve written before, I’m not learning enough from my mistakes.

If you read one of my books, did you publish a short review on Amazon? Don’t worry about hurting my feelings, if you didn’t like what you read. Trust me, I’ll get over it.

I’ve been thinking about ways of monetizing the website, but the only thing I’ve decided to do so far is to publish here more often, and ask for your feedback on my writing. Having Atheist’s Prayer published later this year ought to help. Yes, I am committed to seeing that project completed in 2017, and then moving on to Devil’s Breath. I’m committed to working on Atheist’s Prayer every day, until published. Less time squandered on social media, and more time devoted to real work. If I simply went by Google Analytics, I’d write about Georgia Bulldog football every day, but I think there are enough websites already dedicated to that subject.

So…what do I do right? What am I doing wrong? What should I be doing differently?

Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

The polymath Emanuel Swedenborg

Emanuel Swedenborg didn’t simply use microscopes and telescopes in his pursuit of scientific knowledge; he made his own. He even ground his own lens. A true polymath comparable to Leonardo Da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton, Swedenborg devoured virtually every resource about the known sciences he could find. He created new fields of study as he compiled, organized and then documented and published the information he gleaned from the books he read. Not content to be a jack of all trades, Swedenborg became expert in practically any skill, craft or scientific endeavor he undertook.

Astronomer, inventor, scientist, philosopher and mystic, Swedenborg spoke nine languages fluently.  He even learned Hebrew in order to personally translate the ancient texts of the Bible. By his early fifties, Swedenborg had mastered every known branch of science and invented or designed a number of innovative devices well ahead of his time, including the first fire extinguisher, submarine, airplane, air gun, home heater, and a music machine.  He designed what was at the time the world’s largest dry dock, then supervised the movement of a fleet of warships over a mountain range that resulted in a huge naval victory for Sweden. He bound books, made watches, cabinets, and as previously mentioned, even built his own scientific instruments.

No published reports have been discovered suggesting that he was able to leap small buildings with a single bound, however. Swedenborg studied geology, anatomy, mechanics, physiology.  He was one of the first people to study and began to understand the nervous system and the purpose of the pituitary gland. He compiled at least 150 publications that conveyed the body of scientific knowledge he accumulated. To describe Emanuel Swedenborg as merely pretty smart would be grossly understating his intellect, to the point of absurdity.

As early as 1735, Swedenborg wrote and published de Infinito (On the Infinite), his first foray into the study of spiritual phenomena.  In that book he proposed the soul originated from material substances. His unquenchable thirst for scientific knowledge finally sated by the early 1740s, Swedenborg turned his attention to a new, bold endeavor.  He decided to write a set of books that gave an anatomical explanation for the existence of the human soul. However, Swedenborg changed his mind dramatically after a personal experience he claimed to have one night as he lay in bed.  He was praying for a divine revelation in his effort to understand the soul. Swedenborg wrote,

Immediately there came over me a powerful tremor….together with a resounding noise like great winds clashing.  I found that something holy had encompassed me; it shook me and prostrated me on my face.  I saw that I was thrown down and I found the words put into my mouth.  “Oh, thou almighty Jesus Christ, who of thy great mercy deignest to come to so great a sinner, make me worthy of this grace.

The experience profoundly changed him.  Swedenborg became more humble for the remainder of his life.  His pursuit of scientific knowledge ceased abruptly. He devoted his remaining years to the pursuit and propagation of spiritual knowledge through his writing. In the process of his spiritual awakening, Swedenborg became a well known mystic. When Swedenborg earnestly pursued his quest for spiritual understanding, he faced ridicule from many people who once respected him.  This included some prominent clergymen. They openly questioned the source of inspiration for his works Heaven and Hell and Arcana Coelestia.

Yet as he studied the Bible, Swedenborg claimed to find even deeper meanings even in seemingly trivial passages. As he spent more time searching for God, Swedenborg’s faith grew more profound. Although he was raised Lutheran, Swedenborg’s rather unconventional religious beliefs laid the formation of two future religions: a Swedenborgian Christian Church; Mormonism is also based in part on his teachings. Church founder Joseph Smith was heavily influenced by Swedenborg’s theological writing.

One rarely, if ever, got the best of Swedenborg in a battle of wits. One famous verbal exchange between Swedenborg occurred between him and an archbishop named Troilus revealed the degree of contempt the polymath held for organized religion. Archbishop Troilus was a notorious gambler, but one of his regular playing partners in the three player card game called Tresett had died. At a party Troilus teased Swedenborg about his interest in the afterlife by asking “By the way, Assessor, tell us about the spirit world.  How does my friend Broman spend his time there?”

Swedenborg quipped, “I saw him but a few hours ago shuffling his cards in the company of the Evil One, and he was only waiting for your worship to make up a game of Tresett.”

His critics argued but failed to make the case that Swedenborg had gone insane or suffered a nervous breakdown that caused his transformation from scientist to spiritualist. The Swedish Scientific Association conducted a study and concluded he was sane. However, his theological writings still led to heresy charges against two of his supporters.  Afterward, the Swedish Royal Council issued a statement in 1771 that “there is much that is true and useful in Swedenborg’s writings,” ruling in their favor. Through numerous dreams, Swedenborg gained insights to mystical experiences and spiritual knowledge.  The final thirty years of his life were spent in pursuit of spiritual insights, which he documented by writing 36 different books.

Before Swedenborg achieved enlightenment, he encountered what he called his “shadow” persona, and battled against the dark side of his personality, which he claimed had been manifested as impure spirit and arrogant pride. Years later, Karl Jung would benefited from Swedenborg’s writings, applying knowledge gained from reading Swedenborg to his pioneering work in Psychology.

Now as far as Swedenborg’s alleged psychic abilities are concerned, at least four separate events were witnessed by others and rather well documented.  These accounts include:

  1. Queen Louisa of Sweden once asked Emanuel Swedenborg to communicate with her dead brother. The message relayed by Swedenborg shocked the queen so badly that she left court immediately, “pale and shaking” as witnesses reported.  Later Queen Louisa claimed that Swedenborg had communicated intimate and private information to her no living person could have possibly known.
  2. During a dinner party at the house of prominent merchant William Casteel in Gothenburg, Swedenborg suddenly became agitated and told other guests that a fire had just broken out near his home in Stockholm, 300 miles away.  Messengers arrived several days later to confirm the details Swedenborg had provided about the fire were accurate.
  3. At another dinner party, Swedenborg went into a trance and gave a detailed account of the murder of Emperor Peter III of Russia being strangled in prison.  Once again, reports arrived days later that confirmed Swedenborg’s account of the murder.
  4. Most amazingly, Emanuel Swedenborg predicted his own death accurately to the year, day and even the hour. Witnesses reportedly that Swedenborg’s mood became increasingly joyous as his anticipated time of death approached.

While Swedenborg believed he was able to communicate with spirits in another realm, he cautioned against believing everything they told him. He was appropriately skeptical. Swedenborg apparently figured out that these spirits weren’t always being truthful. Considering the fact some of these spirits said they were from other planets such as Mars, Venus, and Mercury, he was apparently wise not to trust them.

On his deathbed, his friend Pastor Ferelious gave Emanuel Swedenborg one final opportunity to recant his spiritual writings, if they had not been sincere. The dying polymath summoned enough strength to sit up in bed long enough to say these last words”

As truly as you see me before your eyes, so true is everything that I have written; and I could have said more had it been permitted. When you enter eternity you will see everything, and then you and I shall have much to talk about.

I’d like to meet Emanuel Swedenborg when my time to enter eternity has come. I doubt I’d have much to say that might interest him, which is perfectly okay.

I’d be content to simply shut up, listen, and learn.


Have you heard the one about the college professor?

Professor Olga Perez Stable Cox

When someone gets on a roll telling jokes, sometimes you’ll hear one like “Have you heard the one about the Darwin award winner who put a JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off) unit normally attached to solid rockets on his car?”

What normally follows is some disturbing story about a lethal lapse in judgment that culminated in the death of some poor fool, apparently so that others might be entertained.

Fortunately, more often than not, these stories turn out to be nothing more than myths and urban legends, or plot filler for a movie that nobody watched.

Okay, so have you heard the one about the gay college professor recorded by a student, lecturing her class on human sexuality that President Donald Trump was a white supremacist whose election was an act of terrorism and the potential start of a new civil war?

The student who taped and released the video has been suspended for the remainder of the semester, ordered to apologize to the professor and write an essay explaining how sharing the video had damaged the students, faculty, and staff of Orange Coast College.

Well, okay…but what’s the punch line?

That her comments were way off topic for a college course on human sexuality?

That such a college course even exists in the first place, when the purpose of college is supposed to be acquiring tools and skills that might help the student find a job after graduation? On the other hand, the pornography industry is big business in California, so maybe that’s not so crazy.

Or was the punch line to ask whether the class was part of the core curriculum or an elective, since we are talking about events taking place in California?

Nope. None of the above. Unfortunately, this is no joke.

The problem with higher education

Tucker Carlson

According to Matthew W. Hughey, sociology professor at the University of Connecticut, Donald Trump won the recent presidential election because of rampant white supremacy among Americans.

In his interview with Tucker Carlson, Professor Hughey claimed that a “huge factor” in Donald Trump’s win was because of “a social, political, and economic commitment to white supremacy”, which he somewhat redundantly defined as “a social, political, and economic commitment to the promotion of people who pass as white.”

To be fair, Professor Hughey sounds quite intelligent. He casually throws around phrases and words such as “gender dynamics” and “heteronormativity” while attempting to justify his claims that white supremacy played a significant role in the recent election, reminding me of something my late father used to say: if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with B.S.

Naturally, Dad used the more colorful word in lieu of the abbreviation.

Carlson pointed out one of the more obvious flaws in Hughey’s claim. He cited the statistical fact that during the last 50 years, 60 million immigrants have settled in the United States. Only 12 percent of those immigrants came from “white” European countries.

And Professor Hughey’s response was: “your point makes sense if you don’t think about it.”

Dr. Matthew W. Hughey
(image from Amazon)

That seemed both evasive and unnecessarily rude. Hughey went on to explain that he believes what is happening today is no different than forced immigration and slavery.

Now personally believing something so preposterous is one thing, but please remember that Professor Hughey teaches this nonsense. He is perceived to be an authority because he “studies” racism. Asked by Carlson to justify his claim that a white supremacist nation would tolerate the voluntary immigration of millions of nonwhite immigrants, Hughey rather haughtily replied:

Well, I think that it is (the behavior of a white supremacist nation), and since I study that, that is the behavior of a white supremacist country. You also fail to treat race as a variable that changes over time. One hundred years ago the Irish, Italians, other groups that we now think of as white, didn’t count as white.

Challenged once again by Tucker on the veracity of his claims, Hughey said, “You can read books on it. I’ve written quite a few.”

Indeed, he has. And in the classroom, he has a captive audience.

Apparently Professor Hughey must make a comfortable living out of blaming all of the problems in the world on what he calls “hegemonic whiteness.”

While I was initially disappointed when Carlson failed to ask what I considered would be an obvious followup question: how was President Obama elected, and reelected, in an overwhelmingly racist “white America.”

But I should have realized that it wouldn’t have mattered. Professor Hughey thinks he’s got the answer for everything, and that answer is: white supremacy.

Now I won’t blame everything that’s wrong with higher education on Professor Hughey because that wouldn’t be fair. He’s not the only academic who thinks he knows everything.

On the other hand, Hughey does provide an excellent example of most of what’s wrong with most ultra left-wing extremists…he’s a smug, condescending, and a know-it-all immune to logic and reason. He wouldn’t last a week in the real world, outside of his ivory tower.

He wasn’t speaking with Tucker Carlson; he was talking down to him.

But the real problem is that Professor Hughey earns his living by fomenting racial hatred while positioning himself as the authority on the subject. Because he’s written books, and says so. And has tenure. So he’ll be teaching his sociology students this nonsense, that all white people are racists and white supremacists, for decades to come.

Which led me to wonder, what does someone do with a degree in sociology, anyway? When in doubt, ask Google. And according to the search results, our options include: child care, rehabilitation, urban planning, and law enforcement. Truly those aren’t useless jobs, but I suspect a degree in English would offer similar opportunities.

Now I have another question, but I’m sure Google won’t be able to answer it: why do we even need sociology professors?

Okay, so maybe some sociology professors are worth their salary, but I can certainly think of one from whom nobody needs a lecture.