Monday 1st of September 2014

acting school...

god's acting academy

It'd be interesting to know how many of the hundreds of millions of people watching the Academy Awards on Monday switched off or hit mute, like I did, when McConaughey invoked the world's most popular imaginary friend during his acceptance speech for the Best Actor gong.

What'd be sobering, however, is how many more - at least in the US - said "Amen, brother" and crossed themselves during the broadcast.

As a massive fan of MMc's work in the current HBO drama True Detective, as well as his role in Dallas Buyer's Club, I'd tuned in to see if my boy could bring home the bauble and, surprisingly as favourite, he beat out the other four pretenders. I actually cheered.

Then he started in: "First off I want to thank God - because that's who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities I know are not of my hand or any human hand."

"He has shown me it's a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late Charlie Lawton: 'You got God, you got a friend. That friend is you'."

Non sequiturs aside, McConaughey's words hit me like ice water dashed on my chest. It was as if I'd discovered a close friend is an anti-vaxer or my partner sees dead people.

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are you there, B2?...

Pope John Paul II will be canonized in April. A woman from Costa Rica experienced a stunning recovery from a brain aneurysm after praying to the late pontiff. Her story provides a unique look at the Vatican's miracle workshop.

There is a place in Rome where miracles are collected and examined, inspected and screened, and purged of all thirst for glory or pagan superstition. It is called the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.


Actor Chris O'Dowd thinks following a religion will eventually become as offensive and unacceptable as racism.

The Irish star of films such as The Sapphires and Bridesmaids says he grew up respecting people of faith despite his atheist views, but has become "less liberal" as he ages.

Now he says religious doctrine is halting human progress and brands it "a weird cult".

He also thinks US president Barack Obama had to overstate his Christian faith in order to get to the White House.

O'Dowd has told Britain's GQ magazine: "For most of my life, I've been, 'Hey, I'm not into it, but I respect your right to believe whatever you want'. But as time goes on, weirdly, I'm growing less liberal. I'm more like, 'No, religion is ruining the world, you need to stop!'.

"There's going to be a turning point where it's going to be like racism. You know, 'You're not allowed to say that weird s**t! It's mad! And you're making everybody crazy!'

"And you know, now America can't have a president that doesn't say he believes in God. So we're f**ked! Like, they f**ked everything!

"You wanna go and live in your weird cult and talk about a man who lives in a cloud, you do that, but don't. I mean, you really think that Barack Obama believes in God? No way!"

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A friend of mine, a committed Catholic who cares for refugees in this country, sent me these inspiring words. See if you can guess who spoke them.

"From my faith, I derive the values of loving kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing. And to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family.

"We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil. Desmond Tutu put it this way: 'we expect Christians . . . to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked. And when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy, believable witnesses.' "

Any idea yet? The speaker is a minister in Tony Abbott's cabinet. Here's more. "My vision for Australia is for a nation that is strong, prosperous and generous. Strong in our values and our freedoms, strong in our family and community life, strong in our sense of nationhood and in the institutions that protect and preserve our democracy; prosperous in our enterprise and the careful stewardship of our opportunities, our natural environment and our resources.

"And, above all, generous in spirit; to share our good fortune with others, both at home and overseas, out of compassion and a desire for justice."

Yes, you're right. Step forward Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, whose loving, kindness and generosity of spirit shine as a guiding star to your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

The words are from his first speech to Parliament as the new Liberal member for the Sydney seat of Cook in 2008. Are you thinking what I'm thinking, B2?

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biblical floods...

Noah, the big-budget Hollywood biblical epic starring Russell Crowe, is irreligious and should not be screened in Egypt, the country's top Islamic body says.

Al-Azhar institute, one of the region's main Sunni Muslim authorities, says the movie, which is slated to open in Egypt on March 26, violates Islam by portraying a prophet.

The film has already angered some Christian institutions in the United States, with Crowe's reportedly unconventional portrayal of Noah.

Al-Azhar can play an advisory role on censoring movies and books in Egypt, but it does not have the final say.

Portraying a prophet "contradicts the stature of prophets and messengers... and antagonises the faithful", the institution said in a statement.

Egypt's censorship board must approve any movie before it is shown.

It was not immediately clear whether it had approved Noah.

faith in public schools...


t's understandable why the principal didn't want the session to feature any talk of God. Presumably she felt, along with many others today, that issues of faith are so potentially divisive that they're best explored in private rather than in public, since the latter is supposed to be a neutral, value-free zone. Yet atheist philosopher Michael Sandel rubbishes the idea of neutrality in public debate. Even if we could set aside our personal convictions, he argues, "doing so would cut ourselves off ... from a range of considerations that often matter in the way we govern our lives together."

To insist on ruling out any talk of God, therefore, denies a voice to those members of the public or, in this case, school students, who are interested in raising those ultimate questions. Perhaps this is blowback from Christendom, when Christian voices monopolised debate and imposed their agendas on others. Seen in this light, the contemporary attempt to silence religious voices is understandable. But it can't help but feel as though we're simply swapping one imposition for another. And this is exactly what's going on when the principal in Breaking Bad rules out any discussion of such transcendent matters, no matter how gently the student addresses the student.

The principal also sends the message that education has nothing to do with ultimate questions of life: Why are we here? How do I cope with death? What is the meaning of it all? If education sees part of its task to be preparing the whole person for life and empowering them to make decisions for themselves, then ruling out the measly half-hour or so of special religious education, where such questions could get an airing, doesn't exactly help students grapple with these basic issues of life they'll have to face sooner or later.

Faith-based religious education has some place in public schools because, like it or not, matters of God and ultimate meaning are the contemporary elephants in the classroom. We can refuse to acknowledge their presence, but they simply won't go away.

Justine Toh is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity and an Honorary Associate of the Department of Media, Music, and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University.


Obviously Justine Toh has not heard of evolution, yet.  But too many people like her mix faith and morality. For them in order to be good one needs to have faith. Crap. The religious white elephant in the classroom is a dead mouse that is trying to roar with a fake fart... Science is the relative understanding of things in our relative world. Ultimately, the meaning of things is nil. The purpose is ours to choose. And it's up to us to make sure this planet is maintained properly for life's survival, should we wish to... The dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago. Hello?... The fanciful interpretations of human events in the bible DO NOT MAKE ANY SENSE WHATSOEVER... No sense at all... Religion is still Neolithic thinking... It has no place in modern public schools, apart from providing a historical perspective at best. No belief or faith should be a base for knowledge.

Life could appear ruthless... This is the way DNA in individuals processes itself. It "grows", duplicate and then dies. There is no shame in accepting our "stylistic" evolution from this basis, as long as we do not base our actions on beliefs that do not fit reality... Science is the closest stylistic interpretation of reality. Religious beliefs are so far from reality that it is embarrassing.


the theology of gay marriages...

How many ‘have to’s’ will gay marriage require?

By Michael Peppard, Saturday, March 15, 10:39 AM

Michael Peppard is an assistant professor of theology at Fordham University.

In not too long, our entire country will probably sanction marriage equality. To same-sex partners, equal-protection laws say, “Let them eat cake.” The civil rights side of the issue appears settled. But the religious liberty side is less clear.

Here’s a question to help us explore it: What’s the difference between a cake baker and a photographer?

Much of the public discourse about same-sex couples has focused on the cake baker. Commentators in USA Today and Christianity Today, as well as on cable news, have asked whether Jesus would bake the cake for a gay wedding. Since providing a cake bears some resemblance to serving a customer at a lunch counter, this framing calls to mind analogies from the civil rights movement.

Religious arguments were used for centuries to justify discrimination, so most people are inclined not to grant a religious exemption for discrimination against gay men and lesbians. This firm anti-discrimination position is compelling and patriotic, and such arguments already have persuaded most Americans.

We know that in a polity typified by pluralism, elected leaders must do whatever possible to neutralize threats of factionalism to our union. The Arizona measure that Gov. Jan Brewer (R) recently vetoed , for example, was too broad and had too many potential consequences.

This doesn’t mean, however, that opponents of such proposed laws have everything figured out. Grievances of conscience must still be considered and possibly accommodated.

Which brings us to the wedding photographer. In 2008 the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin violated the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to work as photographers for a gay couple. Once the Huguenins entered the “smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation,” the court decided, the law overrules their conscience.

Yet anyone familiar with weddings knows that the photographer is often more involved in the ceremony than the baker is. In some weddings, the photographer is a kind of supplementary liturgist for the ceremony: orchestrating participants’ movements, suggesting placements of the couple, encouraging romantic gestures, walking in front of them down the aisle and spending precious moments alone with the couple. Some photographers are next to the altar or under the chuppah. 

frozen heart...



Aside from winning the Oscar for best animated feature, the movie has been heralded for its progressive themes and strong female characters, especially Anna who "rescues herself" when cursed with a frozen heart.

But Catholic film blogger Steven Greydanus saw a deeper "gay" message, which was in part supported by fellow blogger Gina Luttrell who championed the film's progressive themes. By posting a blow-by-blow account of what Greydanus describes as "gay-culture themes" in Frozen, which centred around the character of Elsa, his ideas have since been seized by zealot radio jocks Kevin Swanston and Steve Vaughn, who condemned Disney as pushing a pro-homosexual message on children.

According to Greydanus, the fact that Elsa shows no romantic longings like her sister Anna, is born different, and told to "conceal it, don't feel it" which results in her rejecting being "the good girl you always have to be" during the Oscar-winning song Let It Go, could be signs of Disney's winks and nods to a pro-gay culture.

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noah the movie is not a literal view of the genesis fantasy...


Noah’s arc of triumph

By ,

There’s nothing quite so helpful as a fatwa and threats of a Christian boycott to create buzz in advance of a new movie.

Noah,” scheduled for its U.S. release on March 28, has become such a target. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain have banned the movie because it depicts a prophet, which, as Danish cartoonists will attest, isn’t the peachiest of ideas in certain circles.

Even here in the land of religious tolerance, the National Religious Broadcasters threatened to boycott the film unless Paramount, the film’s distributor and co-financier with New Regency, issued a disclaimer that the movie isn’t a literal interpretation of the Genesis story. It is good to have fundamentalist literalists explain exactly what the Bible’s authors intended, especially since a literal interpretation would keep moviegoers away or put them to sleep.

To wit: In the literal tale, no one speaks until after (spoiler alert) a dove sent to find land returns with an olive twig in its beak, indicating the flood is over and the world is saved. In the movie version, people talk, which is awfully helpful in following the narrative.

Alas, under pressure, Paramount altered its advertising to say the movie was “inspired” by the Bible story and is not the Bible story.

Note the frequent use of the word “movie” in the preceding paragraphs. This is because “Noah” is a movie. It is not a sermon or a call to prayer. It cost $130 million to make and is intended to entertain, inspire and — bear with me, I know this is crazy — make money. It does not presume to encourage religious conversion, disrespect a prophet or evangelize a snake, though it does glorify virtue in the highest.


plenty of bigoted liars, but unfortunately no atheists there...

Catholics are in power this Easter, with the highest proportion of ministers of that faith occupying senior positions in a Coalition government.

Of the 19 cabinet ministers, at least eight are Catholics, nearly double the proportion of Catholics in the general population.

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott as well as his Treasurer, finance, trade, communications, education, agriculture and social services ministers are Catholics and at least four others belong to other Christian denominations.

Asked about their Easter plans, half the Abbott cabinet confirmed they would be attending church. And while almost a quarter of the country's population ticked ''no religion'' in the 2011 census, nobody in the Coalition cabinet would admit to being an atheist.

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Frightening... Now you know why each and everyone of them want to demolish the secular functionality of government. Their religious bigotry leads them to revisionism of education and to the use of props like royalty — as ways to stifle proper democracy. Beyond this they also promote greed, envy and wars as inspirational motivation, contrary to what "they should believe" and they get help from the MMMM. UGLY. 
We can do better than this mob of lunatics who are also hell-bent on destroying the planet's life balance while claiming to the contrary. Hypocritical government. In short — a Hypocracy...