Here's a fun thought experiment I like to flip around in my head whenever there's a new space discovery like, say, last week's news that the Mars Rover found evidence of water. One of these days, we're going to find evidence of life on another planet. It's going to happen. It'll probably be more along the lines of tiny microbes or a piece of a weird alien leaf rather than an intergalactic warlord who massacres his people by surrounding them with volcanoes and blowing them up with H-bombs. (Sorry, Tom Cruise.) But if you're in the odds-making business, you know the chances of this tiny spec of blue in the vast void being the only place with life is as likely as Pat Robertson ever making a cogent point. It's only a matter of time.
When that eventuality happens, how are the world's religions going to react? Will they rethink the theory that humans are “God's chosen people”? Will they morph their beliefs to shoehorn in the new information? (“We're still the only intelligent life out there!”) Or, the best option of all, will they try to discredit the scientific discovery as evidence of some Satan-led conspiracy to make them question their faith? Whichever it ends up being, once we end up finding life, religion's going to be a shit show.
Onto the roundup!
- A new report by Stanford and New York Universities says that America's been “terrorising” the civilian population of Pakistan with constant drone strikes. While the majority of those killed by drones are “combatants”, there have been somewhere between 474 and 881 civilian casualties since 2004.
- This week in Innocence of Muslims: Turkey's banned access to the film; Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the film's producer, was arrested for using a computer, which violated his parole after a 2009 arrest for doing all sorts of shady, shifty, internet things; Iran may boycott the 2013 Oscars because of the film.
- Nigeria suspended flights to Saudi Arabia for the annual Mecca pilgrimage after hundreds of women were stopped at the border because they were travelling without male escorts.
- Bad: Ads were put up in New York's subway system by Pam Geller's ridiculously terrible organisation declaring that Islam's a place for the “savage”. Good: They were immediately defaced by stickers correctly pointing out the ads were racist.
- A skateboard company decided to get their name out there by doing an anti-religion take on the Garbage Pail Kids cards. Entitled “Religion is Garbage”, every card is a grotesque caricature of holy men throughout the world's faiths. Which, yes, I mostly agree with. But stirring the pot just to start a fight isn't going to get anything accomplished.
- A Polish priest thought it was a good idea to “initiate” new 13-year-old students entering his school by having them lick whipped cream off his bare knee.
- Chris Kluwe, outspoken Minnesota Vikings punter who's come out repeatedly in favour of gay marriage, was the recipient of a pretty terrible hate cartoon.
- A Muslim man went to his local ice-cream company's Facebook page and enquired if their cookies and cream had gelatin in it, as that meant it would contain pork, and he wouldn't be able to eat it any more for religious reasons. The response he received: “We don't deliver outside of Montana, certainly not Pakistan.” Yeesh.
- Whenever you read a report about a soldier dying in combat in Afghanistan – by the way, America reached their 2,000th casualty on Saturday – it wouldn't be wrong to double the number in your head when trying to consider the true cost: In 2012, there were more Army deaths from suicide than combat.
- All that “Jesus's wife” stuff I mentioned last week? A Vatican newspaper – not exactly an unbiased party – has claimed the fragments of papyrus are “fake”. The newspaper's editor claimed they have “substantial reasons” for making the claim without, you know, actually listing one.
- In Iran, a cleric was badly beaten by a woman after he gave her a warning for being “badly covered”.
- A volunteer in Florida for the GOP's campaign for Romney delivered the following pitch for not re-electing Obama: “I don't know if you have done any research on Obama or not, but he is a Muslim.”
- Speaking of politics: A woman in Utah inadvertently started a grassroots campaign to get those of the Mormon faith to fast and pray over the next month to help get Romney elected. Which, listen, if you're a believer in faith and think that will make a difference, have at it. But the fact that Mormons are expected to vote/help/pray/fast for a Mormon because he's “part of their team” is just another piece of evidence towards the inherent divisive nature of religion.
- In response to the deaths of two children who contracted herpes during an ultra-Orthodox circumcision ritual – in which the mohel uses his mouth to suck off the foreskin – New York City approved a law requiring parents to sign a consent form that they know the risks of the awkward and gross grown-man-sucking-their-child's-penis tradition.
- And Our Person of the Week: Everyone involved in this story over Reddit. A user at the site who goes by the moniker european_douchebag posted a photo of a Sikh woman in an airport, basically to make fun of her for looking weird and having a bunch of hair. But then, shockingly, the woman actually found the post and wrote a long heartfelt response about her religion, why she dresses the way she does, the reason behind her facial hair, and so on. A perfect rebuttal to this online bully. But then, something even more shocking happened: The bully wrote his own deep-felt apology. Smiles all around!
Previously -Take Jesus's Wife, Please