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[«] Posts From the Blog "Sects and Violence in the Ancient World"(#113)

March 20 2018, 2AM

Things look pretty Stormy in DC. I suspect my Republican background is showing when I say I don’t condemn sex workers. If they’re not exploited and they like what they do, hey, a job’s a job. The evidence, of course is that Trump had an affair wi... [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [Donald Trump] [Evangelicals] [GOP] [Nor'easter] [Republican Party] [Stormy Daniels] [The Washington Post]

March 19, 2AM

America’s phallic affair with guns should give us pause to wonder what the true motivation is. My wife sent me an NPR story on the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania. Congregants gathered carrying AR-15s, saying that t... [American religion] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Christianity] [Doomsday Clock] [evangelicalism] [gun control] [NPR] [Scott Neuman] [World Peace and Unification Sanctuary]

March 18, 4AM

I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t tell you there may be spoilers below. The book to which I alluded last week—the one made into a movie—was Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation. I first saw the book in a Green store in Ithaca, New York. I figured it m... [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Bible] [Books] [popular culture] [literature] [environment] [HORROR] [environmentalism] [hypocrisy] [old testament] [Ithaca] [Jeff Vandermeer] [Annihilation]

March 17, 4AM

The older I get, the more I realize I’m the one that’s weird. Go ahead and say it, “You’re just now figuring this out?!” This epiphany came to me on a stiff breeze. To understand you have to get the idea of commuting on New Jersey Transit. A... [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [commuting] [New Jersey Transit] [New York City] [windchill]

March 16, 2AM

Only the truly naive suppose that the government doesn’t lie. I just miss the days when they lied for what could be construed as good reasons. Now you can tell if the president’s lying simply by observing if he’s talking. In nostalgia for the day... [Books] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Charles Berlitz] [post-truth politics] [The Philadelphia Experiment] [truth] [US Navy] [USS Eldridge] [William L. Moore] [World War Two]

March 15, 2AM

While in a used bookstore recently, I was going over the science titles. I like to read accessible science since I often find it approaches religious ideas in secular terms. Once in a while even the terms of these disparate disciplines coalesce. I spie... [Books] [Current Events] [environment] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Weather] [Elijah] [Nor'easter] [science and religion] [The Mercy of the Sky] [used books] [Weathering the Psalms]

March 14, 2AM

What you believe matters. This is shown clearly in the case of exorcism. Brian P. Levack admits to personal reasons for interest in this dark subject. His The Devil Within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West is a masterful treatment of a topic ... [Bible] [Books] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Brian P. Levack] [Calvinism] [Demons] [Exorcism] [jesus] [Roman Catholicism] [The Devil Within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West] [The Exorcist] [witch-hunts]

March 13, 2AM

I work in a cubicle. That’s just one word shy of the famed “six word novel” challenges. I’m wondering what qualifier I should add. To understand this dilemma you have to realize a few things. My first professional job (professor) included a th... [Books] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [publishing] [cubicle] [editing] [fiction] [New York City] [work culture]

March 12, 2AM

Whoever Modern Mrs. Darcy is, she keeps me honest. This is my third year of doing her reading challenge, and in an effort not to go out and buy all the books I want, I try to select from among my own pre-existing collection tomes I’ve never read. One ... [American religion] [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Posts] [20000 Leagues under the Sea] [Devil] [Jules Verne] [Master of the World] [Modern Mrs. Darcy’s reading challenge] [Voyages extraordinaires]

March 11, 4AM

Sneaking in a grocery run to Wegmans before church one Sunday awhile back, I was in line behind a distinguished looking gentleman. “I’m sorry,” the clerk told him, “we can’t sell alcohol before 11 a.m.” She set aside an expensive looking bot... [American religion] [Bible] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [alcohol] [blue laws] [New Jersey] [Puritans] [Sunday]

March 10, 5AM

One of my greatest phobias is that people will think I’m arrogant. Those who know me realize that I’m highly self-critical, as befits a lapsed Fundamentalist. Self-image isn’t my strong suit. So it is with great trepidation that I celebrate a tin... [Bible] [Books] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Monsters] [Posts] [publishing] [academic publishing] [Fortress Academic] [Horror and Scripture] [Lexington] [McFarland Books] [Nightmares with the Bible]

March 9, 3AM

Perhaps you’ve encountered it too. You’re in a major city. You’re in a hurry. The person in front of you is plodding along, staring at the device in his or her hand and you can’t get around him or her. You’re being held up by technology.... [Consciousness] [Egypt] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [communication] [Jonathan Z. Smith] [New York City] [Pokemon Go] [smart phone] [smartphone] [Technology]

March 8, 3AM

As the northeast coast digs out from yesterday’s nor’easter at least we can thank God that no business days were lost. At least none based on the status of New York City schools. Some NYC businesses base their decision on whether an adult snow day i... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Travel] [Weather] [commuting] [New York City Public Schools] [Nor'easter] [snow day] [Technology]

March 7, 3AM

Teachers, preferably unarmed, are some of my favorite people. While the travesty of a government muddles along in the District of Columbia I think back on my own education and wonder what went wrong. I’m sure you knew kids who hated school; I certainl... [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [education] [gun control] [Republican Party] [teachers] [teaching]

March 6, 3AM

About the last people, ironically, that you’ll find researching demons are religion scholars. That’s perhaps a slight exaggeration, but there’s an embarrassment to the topic that serious academics just can’t shake. Nobody wants to be thought tru... [American religion] [Books] [Consciousness] [Deities] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [science] [Sects] [American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty] [Demons] [Exorcism] [Michael W. Cuneo] [placebo] [The Exorcist]

March 5, 3AM

Everyone wants to be remembered. While many don’t wish to be famous, we all hope that someone notices the noteworthy things we’ve done. By any measure Isaiah of Jerusalem seems to have succeeded. Every year around Christmastime his words, set to mu... [Archaeology] [Bible] [Current Events] [Posts] [biblical archaeology review] [Eilat Mazar] [Isaiah] [Isaiah bulla] [Major Prophets]

March 4, 5AM

One of the persistent dangers of being a morning person is the fact that places aren’t open early when you have to be out and about. Since my wife had to work yesterday morning, instead of spending a good part of the weekend alone, I drove her to her l... [Books] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Amazon] [independent bookstores] [Starbucks] [used books] [writing box]

March 3, 4AM

Cheaters, we were told as children, never prosper. It turns out that this chestnut never grew into a tree. Cheaters become Republic congressional leaders instead. What’s bugging me today is gerrymandering. The idea that you can change the rules even... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [cheating] [electoral college] [gerrymandering] [Republican Party] [rule of law]

March 2, 3AM

A project with which I have some small acquaintance is the second edition of the Jewish Annotated New Testament (some of you may be noticing an annotated theme lately). The idea behind it is deceptively simple: most of the writers of the New Testament we... [Bible] [Books] [literature] [Posts] [Sects] [Christianity] [Islam] [Jewish Annotated New Testament] [Judaism] [religions of empire]

March 1, 2AM

Living at Nashotah House—if you haven’t been, trust me—makes one curious about Rasputin. While on the faculty there, his name was used as a common slur. When Brian Moynahan’s Rasputin: The Saint Who Sinned came out in 1997 my wife and I bought i... [American religion] [Books] [Current Events] [Mysticism] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Brian Moynahan] [GOP] [Grigory Rasputin] [Nashotah House] [Rasputin] [Rasputin: The Saint Who Sinned] [Republican Party] [Russia]

February 28, 3AM

So it was this routine medical screening. The scary-looking machine had an open window that said “Laser aperture: do not stare at beam.” Someone had taped a Yankees emblem on the superstructure as well, and I wondered if that caused anybody addition... [American religion] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [conversion] [laser beam] [medical outlooks] [Medicine] [missionaries]

February 27, 2AM

First of all, thank you to my regular readers. I’ve been making daily posts on this blog since July 2009—nearly nine years of illustrated commentary. It seems, however, that I’ve reached my limit. My storage limit, that is, on Word Press. As a r... [Asherah] [Bible] [Books] [Memoirs] [movies] [Posts] [Sects] [horror movies] [Luddite] [Reassessment of Asherah] [Weathering the Psalms] [Word Press]

February 26, 2AM

Prophetic is a word I seldom use for movies. Prophetic, by the way, doesn’t mean predicting the future. Prophecy was about establishing rightness on the earth. Dress it up with God or dress it down to a girl being shot for wanting an education, proph... [Bible] [cats] [Current Events] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Adam Smith] [Black Panther] [comic books] [Marvel Universe] [Prophecy] [social justice]

February 25, 4AM

When things get bad down here we start to turn our eyes to the heavens. A couple of news stories in the past few weeks have encouraged such star gazing. We’ve read about Curiosity’s long look back over five years on Mars, and the possible discovery ... [astronomy] [Current Events] [environment] [Posts] [Robotics] [Social Consciousness] [astronomy] [capitalism] [curiosity] [Mars] [Mars rover Curiosity]

February 24, 9AM

I flatter myself to think that some people enjoy my daily musings, although they’re sometimes grim. Religion often is. One curious example of this is the “Hell-Mouth.” Some time back a friend sent me a link to a British Library blog post “Highw... [Bible] [Britannia] [Current Events] [Deities] [Monsters] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Ugarit] [British Library blog] [Hell-Mouth] [KTU 1.23] [Ras Shamra] [Revelation] [Ugaritic] [Ugaritic Texts]

February 23, 3AM

The place wasn’t meant for a family of six. Properly speaking, it was a one-bedroom house, or hovel. The attic, from which we could see the sky through the roof, was divided into two rooms, with no doors. You had to pull down the stairs in order to c... [Books] [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [ethics] [Nancy Isenberg] [politics] [Poverty] [White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America]

February 22, 3AM

It was kind of a game. A game to teach us about important people, living or dead. The fact that we were playing it in high school history class, taught by one of my favorite teachers, made it even better. Everyone wrote a name on an index card—a pers... [American religion] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [billy graham] [crusades] [evangelicalism] [Fundamentalism] [hell] [Religion and Politics] [Sunday School]

February 21, 3AM

Some historians, I suspect, despair of the volumes already written on all periods, ancient and modern. History, however, can cover a variety of segments of time. A. Roger Ekirch, for example, thought to write a fascinating history of darkness. At Day... [Books] [Consciousness] [Monsters] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [A. Roger Ekirch] [At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past] [Devil] [Enlightenment] [night] [sleep]

February 20, 2AM

Who doesn’t have a devil of a time keeping up with technology? My day is divided in almost Manichaean terms between having internet access and not. Once I climb on that New Jersey Transit bus—they don’t have restrooms, let alone wifi—I enter rad... [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Monsters] [Posts] [science] [commuting] [Devil] [middle ages] [Technology] [Wikipedia]

February 19, 3AM

Surely it’s appropriate that President’s Day falls in Lent this year. We as a nation, if we are wise, will repent of the horror we’ve elected upon ourselves. Those ashes on our foreheads remind us that sins come on a national scale as well as an i... [American religion] [Current Events] [feminism] [Holidays] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [cherry tree] [Easter] [George Washington] [Lent] [President’s Day] [roman empire] [Trump Administration]

February 18, 7AM

An occupational hazard of the editor is paying obsessive attention to publishers. That stands to reason. Many academics are less concerned than some publishers think they are about such matters as who publishes their book. I suspect that many have, for... [Books] [higher education] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [publishing] [academic publishing] [horror movies] [McFarland Books] [publishing industry] [Weathering the Psalms]

February 17, 4AM

Getting to the movie theater is not only costly, but increasingly difficult to schedule. This can be problematic for someone who likes to write about movies, but the realities of the commuting life aren’t very malleable. So it was that I finally had a... [Consciousness] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [aliens] [arrival] [Friedrich Nietzsche] [philosophy] [religion and philosophy] [Time]

February 16, 3AM

Blissful ignorance. Yesterday I knew nothing of the Parkland school shooting until I went out to get the paper for my wife, just as I was leaving for the bus. My peace has been shattered ever since glancing at the headlines. How any rational being can... [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Florida] [GOP] [NRA] [Parkland] [Republican Party] [school shooting]

February 15, 3AM

An article a friend sent me from Science Alert back in December recently came to mind. Titled “Thinking About God Might Make You Sweat, Even if You’re Not Religious,” the article by Brittany Cardwell and Jamin Halberstadt discusses how religiou... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [evolution] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Brittany Cardwell] [Jamin Halberstadt] [Mr. Spock fallacy] [Science Alert] [science and religion]

February 14, 3AM

It’s been 73 years since it’s happened. Happy Valentines Day! And depressing Ash Wednesday. This is more of a popular culture conundrum than a sacerdotal one. I noticed in my many years at Nashotah House that Saint Valentine doesn’t make the lit... [American religion] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Holidays] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Ash Wednesday] [evangelical Christianity] [Great Depression] [Narcissus] [Nashotah House] [St Valentine] [Valentines Day]

February 13, 3AM

It happens every year. What with my commute schedule and personal disposition, I read a lot. This blog and Goodreads are my accounting system for keeping track of the thoughts that arise during all of this. Every year I get stopped by my first really i... [Books] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [environment] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [fracking] [From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness] [Paul Bogard] [Sacred Space] [The Ground beneath Us] [What Dirt Tells Us about Who We Are]

February 12, 3AM

1692. The Enlightenment is reaching toward full swing. In what will become blue Massachusetts, women are condemned for being witches. The proof to make such a conviction is difficult to obtain without resorting to “spectral evidence.” The Republic... [Classical Mythology] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Enlightenment] [fake news] [Massachusetts] [Menelaus] [misogyny] [Proteus] [Salem Witch Trials]

February 11, 7AM

While re-reading Frankenstein the uncomfortable thought kept recurring that our tendency to save lives leads to undiscovered fears. I’m not suggesting that we should just let people die, but even from my own experience of doctors, the sense of personal... [Classical Mythology] [Consciousness] [Deities] [literature] [Monsters] [Posts] [science] [death] [ethics] [Frankenstein] [Mary Shelley] [Prometheus]

February 10, 4AM

Reading Jude the Obscure was, at times, like reading my own biography. Authors strive for that effect, to be sure, but Thomas Hardy hits close to home on this one. I don’t mean in the aspect of marrying the wrong woman and losing his true love, but ra... [Books] [higher education] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Christianity] [Christminster] [Jude the Obscure] [Marriage] [Thomas Hardy]

February 9, 3AM

Maybe you’ve felt it too. The insecurity of liking something other people don’t. Having grown up an Evangelical, I had to try to explain myself at multiple points for liking scary stuff. I love Halloween. I spent my young Saturday afternoons watch... [American religion] [Bibliolatry] [Memoirs] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [evangelicalism] [horror movies] [martyrdom] [morality] [Revelation]

February 8, 3AM

Okay, I confess. I watched Amityville 3-D. One of the standard features of horror, you see, is the sequel. As a rule the members of the franchise degenerate until they don’t earn enough money to keep Hollywood’s attention. In the case of The Amity... [Just for Fun] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [666] [Amityville 3-D] [Amityville III: The Demon] [Beelzebub] [Demons] [horror comedy] [The Amityville Horror]

February 7, 3AM

Religion and science. Cats and dogs. We’re used to hearing these two just can’t get along. High profile scientists sometimes denounce religion tout court, and some religionists doubt science’s claims implicitly. Human beings, truth be told, are ... [Books] [creationism] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [creation myths] [Edward O. Wilson] [humanities] [science and religion] [The Origins of Creativity]

February 6, 3AM

I’ve been offering a few teasers about my forthcoming book. One of the reasons for not making an announcement is that the title hasn’t been settled yet. It’s pretty hard to promote a book without one. I’ve written enough about it that readers c... [Books] [Memoirs] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [publishing] [editor] [horror movies] [literary agents] [McFarland Books]

February 5, 3AM

Audur Ava Olafsdottir is a remarkable novelist. Iceland, of course, is held to be the most literate country in the world. I began reading Icelandic fiction of a considerably earlier period while living in Scotland. There was still a trace of Scandinavi... [Books] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir] [Butterflies in November] [Iceland] [Modern Mrs. Darcy] [Orthodoxy] [The Greenhouse]

February 4, 5AM

The average reader has difficulty sorting out what’s biblical or not. For example, when Cyrus Scofield began putting 4004 BC [sic] as the date of creation in his annotated Bibles, people thought the date was biblical. It was, literally, “in the ... [Bible] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Bible business] [Bible publishing] [creationism] [Cyrus Scofield] [New Oxford Annotated Bible]

February 3, 5AM

It was a bit of a shock to see Bethel Park on the list. I make no bones about being a Democrat. I’ve supported progressive causes on an evolving journey since high school. When I saw the news that Conor Lamb is a worthy contender for the 39th distric... [Bible] [Current Events] [Genesis] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [39th district] [Bethel Park] [Boston] [Conor Lamb] [Jacob's Ladder] [pennsylvania] [Pittsburgh] [Rouseville]

February 2, 3AM

Authors, I expect, don’t anticipate that their work will be annotated. Since I deal with annotated Bibles on a daily basis, I often ponder that the anonymous writers—we know of few biblical writers with any degree of certainty—had no idea that they... [Bible] [Books] [Classical Mythology] [Consciousness] [feminism] [Genesis] [literature] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Adam and Eve] [and Creators of All Kinds] [Annotated for Scientists] [David H. Guston] [Ed Finn] [Engineers] [Frankenstein] [Jason Scott Robert] [Mary Shelley]

February 1, 3AM

I’m not proud of it. In fact, truth be told, I tear up a little bit when I think about it. It happened so long ago, but it was a casual act of violence that made me feel big at the time. It wracks me with guilt even today. I killed a bee. For no re... [Animals] [Consciousness] [environment] [Memoirs] [Posts] [bee stings] [haircut] [honey bee] [Insects]

January 31, 3AM

Pardon me for being perplexed in public. You see, things aren’t as clear cut as they used to be. In the world in which I grew up Evangelicalism was good and Satanism was bad. Very bad. It still has the ability to scare people straight. A recent NBC... [American religion] [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [abortion] [Corky Siemaszko] [evangelicalism] [Missouri] [NBC] [Satanic Temple] [Satanism]

January 30, 3AM

According to a story by Sarah Kaplan in the Washington Post, NASA is preparing to send a probe closer to the sun than any human-made object has been before. If you’re like me, this might conjure those childhood fascinations of being blasted by impossib... [astronomy] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [Deities] [environment] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [Goldilocks Zone] [Greek mythology] [Icarus] [Nashotah House] [Sarah Kaplan] [The Washington Post] [Wisconsin]

January 29, 3AM

“And all the ships at sea,” was the closing of Walter Winchell’s radio broadcast introduction. The phrase has a certain poignancy about it—a cross between Melville and Edmund Fitzgerald. The idea of being isolated at sea is foreign to most peopl... [American religion] [Bible] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Sects] [Amazon] [Bible business] [Hunt-Lenox Globe] [O Brother Where Art Thou] [oceans] [Walter Winchell]

January 28, 4AM

What could Aimee Semple McPherson have in common with the devious Russian monk Rasputin? Apart from being contemporaries for a couple decades, they were both faith healers. Well documented cases exist for both of them, and the medical profession has sta... [American religion] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Mysticism] [Posts] [science] [Aimee Semple McPherson] [Belief] [Faith healing] [Medicine] [Rasputin] [science and religion]

January 27, 3AM

In my efforts to become vegan, I’m finding dairy to be the hardest element to replace. I’m reminded of this every morning since the day begins with cereal. Most people don’t realize that cereal for breakfast is largely of religious motivation. Th... [American religion] [Animals] [Bible] [Deities] [environment] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [agri-business] [ethics] [food] [kosher] [oat milk] [Seventh-Day Adventists] [veganism]

January 26, 3AM

Difficult to believe as it may be, some of the biggest superstars in America’s history have been clergy. The case has been firmly made that George Whitefield, the evangelist, was the first to hold “rock star” status in these United States. He drew... [American religion] [Books] [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Sects] [Aimee Semple McPherson] [Daniel Mark Epstein] [Foursquare Gospel] [Fundamentalism] [George Whitefield] [Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson]

January 25, 3AM

What with all the Bible-trumping going on these days among the desiccated religions right, I thought it might be helpful to turn back to the Good Book itself. Since we have a self-proclaimed stable genius in house there should be nothing to be concerned ... [American religion] [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [fools] [Proverbs] [Religion and Politics] [Trump Administration] [Wisdom Literature]

January 24, 3AM

I’m curious: what do you think of Augustine? Augustine of Hippo was an odd blend of saint and sinner. I don’t mean “saint” in the sense of being so designated by the Roman Catholic Church, but in the sense of having reputable and progressive ide... [American religion] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [science] [Sects] [augustine] [curiosity] [Nashotah House] [original sin] [Politics and Religion] [science and religion] [St. Augustine]

January 23, 2AM

The world-wide flood is a great story. We find it in many cultures, so the idea obviously captured the attention of ancients as well as moderns. What’s strange is that, with the development of human knowledge so many people continue to accept it liter... [Bible] [Current Events] [Genesis] [Just for Fun] [Mesopotamia] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [science] [Weather] [flood myth] [Mysterious Universe] [Noah] [Paul Seaburn] [science and religion]

January 22, 3AM

There can be little doubt that evil prospers. We’ve suffered through a year of an evil administration and we’ve seen the government increase the suffering of its own people in deference to the wealthy. And ours is only a mild case of evil. Jeffrey ... [Bible] [Books] [Monsters] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [augustine] [Jeffrey Burton Russell] [New Testament] [origen] [Satan] [Satan: The Early Christian Tradition] [tertullian] [The Devil]

January 21, 3AM

The day after the government shutdown, Women’s Marches were held across the country. Unlike the shutdown, these marches had been planned and anticipated in advance. They marked the anniversary of the Women’s March on Washington that spurred millions... [Current Events] [feminism] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [New York City] [Women's March on New York] [Women's March on Washington] [women's rights]

January 20, 3AM

I was reading the account of the Transfiguration the other day, the way that you do, when a thought occurred to me. How did Pete, Jim, and John know that Moses was there? Yes, Elijah came along too, but the Bible physically describes Elijah. They at le... [Bible] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Charlton Heston] [Elijah] [Enoch] [horns] [jesus] [Michelangelo] [Moses] [Transfiguration]

January 19, 3AM

Some monsters can’t be destroyed. Today is Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. Poe had his demons, for sure, but the twentieth century took personal fear and made it universal. Atomic bombs and mutually assured destruction were concepts any of us born sinc... [Current Events] [literature] [Monsters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Edgar Allan Poe] [fallout shelter] [Godzilla] [Horror Stories] [nuclear weapons] [radioactivity]

January 18, 3AM

Now that my book has been sent off to the publisher, I’m working on the next project. This one has me delving back into the Greek of the New Testament. It may be, some would say, that I’m no longer an expert in such things. Coming to Koiné Greek, ... [astronomy] [Bible] [Current Events] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [2 Peter] [Angra Mainyu] [False Prophets] [red giant] [zoroastrianism]

January 17, 3AM

It must be very difficult to write books that make the future believable. With the speed of technological change, it’s getting more difficult all the time. Some exceptions are modern dystopias that take civilization back to square one. We’ve come c... [Books] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [dystopia] [Kurt Vonnegut] [messianism] [Player Piano] [Technology]

January 16, 3AM

Late last year scientists announced that a tunnel they’d found on the moon (remotely, of course) would make an ideal location for a human colony. The moon, you see, is quite cold and, lacking an atmosphere, constantly exposed to naked solar radiation. ... [astronomy] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [Goddesses] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [ancient goddesses] [Goldilocks planet] [moon] [Republican Party] [science fiction] [space travel]

January 15, 3AM

Martin Luther King Jr. was, and is, a symbol of hope. This day, as we’re encouraged to think of progress, we’re mired under leadership that less than a week ago used derogatory language to describe people that aren’t white enough for his liking. T... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Egypt] [Holidays] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Exodus] [GOP] [Martin Luther King Day] [Martin Luther King Junior] [plutocracy] [poor] [Republican Party]

January 14, 4AM

Not driving to work definitely has its advantages. Although studies suggest commuting takes a great toll on hapless riders, the stress of driving in traffic—more often just sitting in traffic—also takes its pound of flesh, and more. A recent snowsto... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [Bomb Cyclone] [lake effect snow] [meteorotheology] [New York City] [Northwest Pennsylvania] [snow day]

January 13, 6AM

When the president of the United States utters words too vulgar to print here, I think of the old They Might Be Giants’ song “Your Racist Friend.” The song is all about the indefensibleness of racism. We knew that back in the 1980s. What has made... [Current Events] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [GOP] [racism] [Republican Party] [science] [They Might Be Giants] [Trump Administration] [Your Racist Friend]

January 12, 3AM

Where do we come from? Leaving aside the puerile snickers of younger selves, we eventually learn “the facts of life” and get on with it. The funny thing is, conception wasn’t really understood until the late nineteenth century. Obviously people h... [Animals] [Books] [Posts] [science] [Edward Dolnick] [From Aristotle to da Vinci] [from Sharks’ Teeth to Frogs’ Pants] [science and religion] [Sex] [sexuality] [the Long and Strange Quest to Discover Where Babies Come From] [The Seeds of Life]

January 11, 3AM

I once wrote a scene—please don’t look for it; it’s never been published—in which a character awakes after attending a concert the night before. In my own life this kind of thing is very, very rare. Even when I had a full-time job in the relativ... [art] [Consciousness] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [altered states of consciousness] [alternate states of consciousness] [bliss] [Broadway] [heaven] [opioids] [reality]

January 10, 3AM

A long time ago in a galaxy far away there was no paper. This is something I didn’t realize until I read a book of essays by Ryan Britt a couple years back. George Lucas, although a limited visionary, saw a Star Wars universe without paper. When I th... [Bible] [Current Events] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Elijah] [George Lucas] [H P Lovecraft] [Jedi Bible] [Luke Skywalker] [Necronomicon] [Ryan Britt] [Star Wars: The Last Jedi] [The Force Awakens] [Yoda]

January 9, 3AM

One of the consequences of watching horror movies is the interest in the origins of various monsters. Since many such films feature demons, their backgrounds and origin stories have always been a point of curiosity. Time is always an issue and Juanita F... [Bible] [Books] [Deities] [Monsters] [Posts] [science] [Demons] [Demons in the Middle Ages] [Juanita Feros Ruys] [middle ages] [Scholastics] [science and religion]

January 8, 3AM

I never met Jonathan Z. Smith, although he was hard to miss at conferences. By the time I was a doctoral student his writings were deemed essential reading in several areas of religious studies. Smith, like a few renegade scholars, had doctoral training... [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [publishing] [Academia] [] [John C. L. Gibson] [Jonathan Z. Smith]

January 7, 5AM

Once in a while I have to shill. As an erstwhile academic I’m aware of the cachet my employer bears for colleagues and the elite among the general public. Still, I find articles on the Oxford Dictionaries blog irresistible. I don’t work for the Dic... [Current Events] [literature] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Dark Shadows] [fiction] [Oxford Dictionaries] [pulp fiction] [Rebecca Teich] [Tim Burton]

January 6, 5AM

Dave Barry’s end of year review is part of our annual ritual for changing over the calendars. For those unfamiliar with Barry’s work, he was a columnist with the Miami Herald and is the author of numerous humor books. Known for his light touch, as w... [American religion] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [2017] [Barbara Tuchman] [Dave Barry] [George Santayana] [GOP] [January] [Miami Herald] [Trump Administration]

January 5, 3AM

Who gets to decide on their own label? We all generally know how we’d like people to think of us, but labels are limiting and divisive. An article by Tom Gjelten on NPR describes why “2017 Has Been A Rough Year For Evangelicals.” The label “Eva... [American religion] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Evangelicals] [Nashotah House] [NPR] [Religion and Politics] [Religious Right] [Republican Party] [Tom Gjelten] [Trump Administration]

January 4, 3AM

Do science and religion have to fight? It’s not evident that they do, but some on each side of this divide like to keep the conflict going. Many religious believers feel threatened by the incredible success of scientific explanations. The gods who us... [Books] [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [science] [Albert Einstein] [Discover magazine] [Einstein’s God: Conversations about Science and the Human Spirit] [John Polkinghorne] [Krista Tippett] [science and religion]

January 3, 3AM

I was not, as yesterday’s post indicated, looking forward to the renewed commute into New York City. We’ve been having a cold snap here in the Northeast, and although it’s nothing by Midwest standards, standing in it waiting for a bus isn’t the m... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [commuting] [Hospitality] [Immigrants] [kindness] [New Jersey Transit]

January 2, 3AM

I’m headed back to New York City after a staycation of almost two weeks. Even shifting standard arising time back only an hour from 4:00 a.m. seems cruel and unusual punishment this morning. New York is a very different place to go for work than it is... [Holidays] [Memoirs] [Posts] [mammon] [Manhattan] [New Year's Day] [New York City] [Times Square]

January 1, 3AM

December 31 2017, 5AM

One of the rare and long-anticipated treats of being near New York City is the prospect of a live show. For practical reasons we don’t go to shows very often—years separate the occurrences—but once in a great while we manage to afford such a boon. ... [art] [Bible] [cats] [Holidays] [literature] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Andrew Lloyd Webber] [Broadway] [canonicity] [New York City] [redemption] [T. S. Eliot]

December 30, 6AM

How do you decide on a favorite author? The question has been looming in my head as I’ve been reading through old novels on my shelves. It’s a question that strikes me whenever I walk into a bookstore. You see, my parents weren’t readers. As a c... [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Edgar Allan Poe] [Kurt Vonnegut] [Moby Dick] [Modern Mrs. Darcy’s reading challenge] [Thomas Hardy]

December 29, 4AM

Around the holiday season, on social media, stories relating to the Bible tend to pop up. When my wife mentioned a New York Times story about “Gabriel’s Revelation” on the second day of Christmas, I was suspicious. The story, which was nearly a de... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [authenticity] [Dead Sea Scrolls] [evangelicalism] [Gabriel's Revelation] [New Testament] [New York Times] [Prophecy] [Second Temple Judaism]

December 28, 5AM

Few topics have to be approached as gently as space aliens. Those who’ve seen UFOs are subject to an immediate ridicule response partly generated by the belief that galactic neighbors, if any, are simply too far away to get here. So when the Washingto... [astronomy] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [angels] [Christmas] [Erich von Däniken] [science fiction] [UFOs] [Washington Post]

December 27, 3AM

Kurt Vonnegut was never required reading in my high school English classes. I read Slaughterhouse-Five when I was in seminary, and picked up a few of his other titles in the dearly departed Boston Book Annex. A couple of these used books have been waiti... [American religion] [Bibliolatry] [Books] [literature] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Bokononism] [Boston Book Annex] [Cat's Cradle] [evangelicalism] [Kurt Vonnegut] [lies] [Slaughterhouse-Five] [The Sirens of Titan]

December 26, 3AM

One of the more obvious transitions to adulthood involves Christmas becoming less of a holiday for receiving gifts. As we get older we learn that very few things in life are actually free, and that gifts often have some kinds of obligations involved. My... [Books] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [literature] [movies] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [autocracy] [evangelical Christianity] [fake news] [literacy] [Trump Administration]

December 25, 9AM

As a Christmas present to myself I finished my third book yesterday. I’ll be posting details once the title is finalized. And “third” is only an approximation. I wrote another non-fiction book before this one which I decided not to send to publis... [Holidays] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Christmas] [Creative Writing] [Gutenberg Bible] [sacred time] [sacred writings]

December 24, 5AM

For those who prefer their solstice celebrations in Christian flavor, today’s Christmas Eve. As various denominations warn us to keep Christ in Christmas, secular NORAD provides a radar tracker to follow Santa through the skies. One hopes he’ll be c... [Current Events] [feminism] [Holidays] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Christmas Eve] [Nashotah House] [NORAD] [North Korea] [Phos Hilaron] [Winter solstice]

December 23, 5AM

While it may seem that the largest challenge on a blog like this is writing all these words every day, that’s often not the case. Early on in my blogging life, I learned that images draw readers in. That may no longer be the case, but I do try to ensu... [American religion] [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [creationism] [evolution] [Genesis] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [charles darwin] [dinosaurs] [evangelical] [geology] [pennsylvania] [social justice] [Travel]

December 22, 3AM

They’re scratching their heads. The media, I mean. In this distorted world of Trumpism, newspapers have rediscovered religion. Some say Trump is the altar boy of the evangelical right with people like Franklin Graham wetting himself over the presiden... [American religion] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [evangelicalism] [Franklin Graham] [Jesus of Nazareth] [Newspapers] [Ronald Reagan] [Russia] [Trump]

December 21, 3AM

Literature has been on my mind lately. Although I’ve not read all of Charles Dickens’ oeuvre, he’s been in my consciousness what with the new movie and somewhat older book, The Man Who Invented Christmas. Those who analyze literature sometimes cla... [Consciousness] [feminism] [Holidays] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Bob Dylan] [Catherine Thomson Hogarth] [Charles Dickens] [Edinburgh] [J. R. R. Tolkien] [Tauberschmidt] [The Man Who Invented Christmas] [WikiTree]

December 20, 3AM

So now it’s got a stain on the cover. And it didn’t even come with a book jacket. Perhaps it’s symbolic? The year was 1993. I’d finished my doctorate at Edinburgh the year before, and, against all odds, had landed a full-time teaching position... [Asherah] [Books] [Goddesses] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [publishing] [Alter Orient und Altes Testament] [American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature] [Edinburgh University] [Gorgias Press] [Nashotah House] [Neukirchener Verlag] [Verlag Butzon & Bercker] [William Holladay]

December 19, 3AM

One thing upon which we all might agree is that we don’t have enough time. Publishers, eager to find an angle that will help them survive an age when we believe knowledge should be free, have shown a preference for short books. (An exception to this s... [Books] [feminism] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [denominations] [Gender] [Michael Walsh] [Pope Francis] [Roman Catholicism] [sexuality] [The Basics]

December 18, 3AM

It’s hard not to feel sorry for survivors. In a hostile world, the ability to resist the entropy lapping at your toes is a feat that inspires admiration. Although independent bookstores are making a comeback, there aren’t many around. An evening sp... [Books] [Consciousness] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [A Clockwork Orange] [Anthony Burgess] [Barnes and Noble] [independent bookstores] [morality]

December 17, 7AM

Not talking to strangers is something that takes time to grow out of. Somewhere in the back of my mind lurks that fear of when my mother told me what to do if someone tried to grab me as a child. Stranger danger, we now call it. I seldom strike up conv... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [1984] [Pantsuit Nation] [Protest] [social justice] [Stand CNJ] [Strangers] [Trump Administration] [Walgreens]

December 16, 6AM

The internet, while it’s no longer free, still at least offers many opportunities to connect. No matter what your obscure passion, you’ll find others who share it online. In my own little shadowy corner of the web, I’m keenly aware of the time req... [Consciousness] [Memoirs] [Posts] [publishing] [editor] [Killing Time] [LinkedIn] [Time] [trust] [Writing]

December 15, 3AM

Some people wonder why I like horror. Well, “like” is hardly the proper verb here, I’d rather go the passive route—why I’m compelled by horror. That fits better. But isn’t compel a transitive verb? What’s the object? It really depends o... [Books] [Consciousness] [evolution] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [science] [evolutionary psychology] [horror movies] [Mathias Clasen] [Why Horror Seduces]

December 14, 3AM

At a neighborhood holiday gathering the topic of a local living nativity came up. This year they need some wise men (don’t we all!) and some of the women mentioned that wise men should have beards. As the wearer of an old growth facial forest, I becam... [American religion] [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [feminism] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [Posts] [a christmas carol] [beard] [Boston] [Church of the Advent] [living nativity] [Magi] [New Testament] [science and religion]

December 13, 3AM

While not always classified among the most intellectual of writers, Charles Dickens was a complicated man. Able to conjure words that reflect emotions, often making readers laugh and cry, he was the undisputed bestselling author of his day. This holiday... [Books] [Current Events] [Holidays] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [a christmas carol] [GOP] [How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits] [Les Standiford] [Republican Party] [social justice] [The Man Who Invented Christmas] [Trump Administration]

December 12, 3AM

Those who know me know that I treat my workdays like clockwork. I leave the apartment every day, catch the same bus, and leave work at the end of the day, all according to schedule. Traffic is a variable, of course. Yesterday as I came out of the Port ... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [bombing] [New York City] [politics] [Port Authority Bus Terminal] [terrorism] [Times Square]

December 11, 3AM

Time has been at a premium lately, but when I have a few spare moments I like to read the Oxford Dictionaries blog. Those of us who make a living with words often find them utterly fascinating. Simon Thomas’ post, “Worth their salt: words and phrase... [Bible] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [essence] [jesus] [Oxford Dictionaries] [roman empire] [salt] [Simon Thomas]

December 10, 6AM

You can tell when the holiday season settles on the city. The commute home takes longer because developers simply can’t ignore a highway and the potential it has for shipping in the lucre. Highway 22 is built up in several spots—it’s kind of like ... [art] [Consciousness] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [art] [commuting] [Exorcism] [The Exorcist] [unfolding mind]

December 9, 5AM

I was recently thinking about King Saul. If it’s been a while for you, Saul was the “first king” of Israel, according to the books of Samuel. Saul had a problem. That problem’s name was David. David was younger, more popular, a gifted musician... [Bible] [movies] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [1 Samuel] [History of the World Part 1] [King David] [King Saul] [King Solomon] [Shimei] [The Dark Knight]

December 8, 3AM

If it weren’t for the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the name of Anneliese Michel would undoubtedly be less recognized than it is. Probably the first exorcism movie since The Exorcist to move the genre in a new direction, Emily Rose was based on the... [Books] [Consciousness] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [science] [alternate states of consciousness] [Anneliese Michel] [Demons] [Felicitas D. Goodman] [Possession] [science and religion] [The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel] [The Exorcism of Emily Rose] [The Exorcist]

December 7, 2AM

I couldn’t believe I was actually there. Ever since I was a child I’d read about this place. The city conquered by David and visited by Jesus. The city around which most of the Bible rotated. Jerusalem the golden. One of the perks of working on a... [Archaeology] [Current Events] [Deities] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Caligula] [Christianity] [Donald Trump] [evangelicalism] [Islam] [Jerusalem] [Judaism]

December 6, 3AM

The water was hot. Notoriously hot. Our Junior High School had been built in the days of the prison esthetic, with heavy, cinderblock walls painted in penitent colors. And the water was famously hot. One of our gym teachers, nameless here forevermore,... [art] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [art class] [basket weaving] [Fundamentalism] [gym class] [high school] [sin]

December 5, 3AM

A certain, amorphous indignation comes over those of us trained in history when we encounter abuses of the same. In my case, some thought me conservative when I argued in my first book that Asherah as Yahweh’s wife wasn’t nearly the slam dunk some sc... [Bible] [Books] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Christianities] [Dead Sea Scrolls] [Gnosticism] [gospels] [heresy] [Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way] [jesus] [Nag Hammadi] [Philip Jenkins]

December 4, 2AM

There’s many ways to look at monsters. A friend recently sent me an Atlas Obscura article “The Modern Lives of Medieval Monster Scholars” by Cara Giaimo. It seems that some professors of medieval studies have taken to monsters to help explain soci... [Current Events] [Monsters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Atlas Obscura] [Cara Giaimo] [middle ages] [social justice]

December 3, 4AM

So many spooky things happen at night. If you’ve read much on this blog you’ll know I blushingly confess to a horror movie addiction. So much so that I wrote a book about it. Friends occasionally feed this fear by sending me stories of strange, noc... [Current Events] [Monsters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Demons] [government] [horror movies] [New Jersey] [nighttime]

December 2, 4AM

Travel by train seems to be so much more civilized than flying. You don’t need to arrive at the airport two hours in advance for the privilege of standing in long lines to be practically strip-searched. You just hop on the train and find a seat. The ... [Deities] [higher education] [literature] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Travel] [AAR/SBL] [Amtrak] [Boston] [Brown University] [Cthulhu] [H P Lovecraft] [Miskatonic University] [providence] [Rhode Island]

December 1, 2AM

So the Museum of the Bible is now open in Washington, DC. It actually opened while a quorum or more of biblical scholars were busy making their way to Boston for the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. Many of the guild realize that th... [American religion] [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Ark Encounter] [Boston] [Creation Museum] [DC] [Green family] [Museum of the Bible] [Society of Biblical Literature] [Washington]

November 30, 3AM

I only watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with one eye. Since my office is just two blocks from the store, it’s a little too much like work. Still, I can’t help but hear the music and announcements. Is it just me, or are most of these float... [Current Events] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [capitalism] [consumerism] [Gmail] [Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade] [New York City] [Santa Claus]

November 29, 3AM

Few things distinguish American Christianity as much as its divisions. These aren’t precise, however, and often the borders are fuzzy and held more by cultural history than by theological outlook. One of the denominations—indeed, the umbrella for th... [American religion] [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Baptists] [Baptists in America: A History] [Barry Hankins] [Christianities] [denominations] [Politics and Religion] [Thomas S. Kidd]

November 28, 3AM

It was just after dark and the red and blue lights were shredding the night in Wallkill, New York. We’d driven past this mall just over an hour ago to take our daughter home after a too brief Thanksgiving break. Now there were police cars lined up alo... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Galleria Mall] [gun control] [holiday season] [New York] [Penn Station] [Wallkill]

November 27, 3AM

Breaks are good for many things. Time with family and friends. Hours of non-bus time for reading. Watching movies. So it was that we went to see The Man Who Invented Christmas. It really is a bit early for my taste, to think about Christmas, but the ... [Animals] [Books] [Consciousness] [Holidays] [literature] [movies] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [a christmas carol] [animal intelligence] [animal rights] [Charles Dickens] [fiction] [The Man Who Invented Christmas] [Writing]

November 26, 4AM

It would be difficult to overestimate the effect the movie Planet of the Apes had on me as a child. Raised a biblical literalist, evolution was, naturally enough, anathema to me. And yet here was a movie based on the idea that evolution had taken a diff... [Animals] [Bibliolatry] [Books] [evolution] [literature] [Memoirs] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [biblical literalism] [Pierre Boulle] [Planet of the Apes] [prejudice] [Rod Serling] [Twilight Zone]

November 25, 6AM

In an effort not to travel, the internet offers a great resource while it’s still free. If you don’t want to wander from home, it brings movies you might’ve missed right to your domicile. This year has been so busy that we’d missed completel... [astronomy] [Current Events] [feminism] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Anna] [Captain Jack Sparrow] [Carina Smyth] [Disney] [Moana] [Mulan] [Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales] [witch]

November 24, 3AM

This particular doctrine struck me as evil. It violated every experience and thought I’d ever had, even raised as an unquestioning Christian as I was. Then, at Grove City College I was faced with it for the first time—predestination. If free will i... [Bibliolatry] [Books] [Consciousness] [higher education] [literature] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [A Clockwork Orange] [Anthony Burgess] [free will] [Grove City College] [predestination] [Stanley Edgar Hyman]

November 23, 6AM

That warm, secure feeling of being home for the holidays never goes away. Admittedly Thanksgiving takes on a different cast for those of us who are vegetarians becoming vegan, but it’s not about the food, really. It’s never been only just about the ... [Holidays] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [AAR/SBL] [commuting] [Rest and Be Thankful] [Scotland] [Thanksgiving] [Travel]

November 22, 3AM

I once told someone that a book I was reading was a “good autumn book.” The friend looked at me quizzically and asked what I meant. Seasons have a feel to them, even as books do. When the days grow shorter and the chill seeps in through the storm w... [Books] [Current Events] [feminism] [literature] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [An Inheritance of Ashes] [autumn] [Belief] [Leah Bobet] [Purgatory]

November 21, 3AM

It’s like they knew we were coming. The towns that host AAR/SBL must remember the event after we leave. We make quite an impact around the convention center, and since everyone wears their name tags in public, it’s pretty clear that we’re all rela... [American religion] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Sects] [Travel] [AAR/SBL] [Boston] [Massachusetts] [Newbury Street] [restaurants] [sacraments]

November 20, 3AM

Scientists tell us the earth is slowing down. It’s only by a fraction of a fraction of a second, but like a top set spinning these endless revolutions can’t go on forever. Although the evidence all points in this direction, it feels like it’s spee... [American religion] [Bible] [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [publishing] [Travel] [AAR/SBL] [academic publishing] [Boston] [Edinburgh University] [Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion]

November 19, 4AM

Proselytizing comes in many forms. It can be what you say to people, or how you treat them. It can even come down to what you wear. Every year I’m struck at the AAR/SBL annual meeting some attendees wear religious garb. I’m not criticizing it, ple... [American religion] [Current Events] [higher education] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Travel] [AAR/SBL] [Boston] [Harris tweed] [proselytization] [vestments]

November 18, 3AM

Boston Brahmins, lock up your doctrines—AAR/SBL’s come to town. Boston always has special associations for me. My first home away from home. Where I met my wife. Where I learned what you can only learn at seminary. Coming back is like coming home... [American religion] [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [AAR/SBL] [American Academy of Religion] [Boston] [Edinburgh] [Kansas City] [Massachusetts] [Society of Biblical Literature]

November 17, 3AM

I’m on a train heading to Boston. If you notice a dearth of religion scholars in your neighborhood this weekend, it’s because it’s time for the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting. If a religious emergenc... [American religion] [Bible] [Current Events] [higher education] [Monsters] [Posts] [publishing] [Travel] [American Academy of Religion] [Boston] [Massachusetts] [publication] [Society of Biblical Literature]

November 16, 3AM

There’s a validation about finding something you figured out written in a book. For me that happened just about this season, some years back. At the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting I found Sacred Terror by Douglas Cowan—the first book ... [American religion] [Books] [Current Events] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [A. Bowdoin Van Riper] [Cynthia J. Miller] [Divine Horror: Essays on the Cinematic Battle Between the Sacred and the Diabolical] [Douglas Cowan] [evangelical Christianity] [horror films] [Sacred Terror]

November 15, 3AM

I’m no foodie. That’s not a trendy thing to admit, I know. I’ve never been a good consumer. I think it’s because I don’t like being programmed. One area of life where we are most open to programming is in what we eat. Raised to masticate an... [Animals] [Consciousness] [environment] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [agri-business] [animal intelligence] [animal rights] [capitalism] [environmentalism] [veganism] [vegetarianism]

November 14, 3AM

The myth of persecution is a great cover. Christians, we are accustomed to think, are timid and loving individuals eager to turn the other cheek. In this sophisticated world of science and technology, they might appear a little naive, but they’re not ... [American religion] [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Christianities] [dominionism] [Fundamentalism] [literalists] [persecution myth]

November 13, 3AM

In a strange kind of oneupmanship, the horrendous murders in Sutherland Springs overshadowed the story of Scott Ostrem’s multiple shooting at a Walmart in Colorado. Ostrem apparently shot at random and killed three people. No motive is known, but when... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Colorado] [gun control] [NRA] [plutocracy] [Scott Ostrem] [Sutherland Springs] [Trump Administration] [Walmart]

November 12, 6AM

One of the fun things about the Oxford Dictionaries blog is that you learn unexpected things about words. In fact, you can often find something profound in a matter of a couple of seconds that will make you stop and scratch your head. A recent post by G... [American religion] [Britannia] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [anabaptist] [clean] [Gary Nunn] [Oxford Dictionaries] [shame] [shunning]

November 11, 7AM

The problem with the Bible is anybody can “interpret” it. As a book of unrivaled status in the American imagination, it can be tapped for anything from advertising to justifying pedophilia. So when stories of Roy Moore’s sexual dalliances with minor... [American religion] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [alabama] [augustine] [Jim Zeilger] [Mary and Joseph] [original sin] [Republican Party] [Roy Moore]

November 10, 3AM

One of the more encouraging events of recent times took place on Tuesday. In elections across the country many public offices were won by women. After a year of official misogyny from the Comrade in Chief—it started long before the election, of course... [Books] [Current Events] [feminism] [Monsters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [capitalism] [Carol F. Karlsen] [misogyny] [The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England] [Trump Administration] [witches]

November 9, 3AM

You might go crazy trying to piece it all together. The buzz for The Conjuring had a spinoff prequel, Annabelle, in the making even as the movie hit theaters. Love it or hate it, horror makes money. A more traditional sequel, The Conjuring 2, is leadin... [Current Events] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Annabelle] [Annabelle: Creation] [Demons] [Ed and Lorraine Warren] [horror movies] [The Conjuring] [The Conjuring 2] [The Crooked Man] [The Nun]

November 8, 2AM

The irony of a nation that has gun laws made by those with body guards is especially cruel in the shadow of Sutherland Springs. Just a month after the worst mass shooting in United States history, another cohort of corpses receives only empty answers fro... [Current Events] [environment] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [ghosts] [gun control] [New Jersey] [NRA] [Sutherland Springs] [Virginia]

November 7, 2AM

It was one of the very few parties to which I’d been invited in Edinburgh. “When a Scotsman asks you where you’re from,” one of the guests said to me, “he means where you were born.” Although we have no control or say over where we come into... [American religion] [Books] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [anabaptist] [Edinburgh] [pennsylvania] [Pennsylvania Ghost Towns: Uncovering the Hidden Past] [Sacred Space] [Sarah Hutchison Tassin]

November 6, 3AM

“Horrible things are going to happen!” shouts Grandpa Simpson. He ends his epiphany in church with the strange words “Epa, epa!” The Simpson’s Movie, among many other popular outlets, has had some fun at the expense of the Environmental Protec... [American religion] [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [environment] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Buzzfeed] [dominionism] [Environmental Protection Agency] [EPA] [Joshua] [Republican Party] [Scott Pruitt] [Simpsons Movie] [Trump Administration]

November 5, 6AM

Albert Camus preferred the label “absurdist” to “existentialist” to describe himself. The problem with labels is that we don’t always get to pick our own. As a young man fascinated with existentialism, I was introduced to Camus as one of their... [Books] [literature] [Posts] [Sects] [Absurdist] [albert camus] [atheism] [existentialism] [the stranger]

November 4, 4AM

What does it mean to exist for someone else? Isn’t this the very definition of slavery? Yes, we may voluntarily give ourselves to someone for the sake of love, but woe to the person who thinks he owns his spouse. Human beings may be an acquisitive lo... [Archaeology] [Current Events] [feminism] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Beth Alpert Nakhai] [Bloomberg] [Boston University] [equality] [Francesca Levy] [Game Plan] [Rebecca Greenfield] [sexism] [Tel Dor]

November 3, 2AM

Remakes, standard wisdom holds, are seldom as good as the originals. When the original wasn’t great to begin with, the bar should be lower. Should be. I’ve been curious about the Lutz haunting in Amityville, having just read the book that started t... [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [1692] [Chloë Grace Moretz] [Demons] [haunted house] [Jay Anson] [native american] [Rev. Jeremiah Ketcham] [The Amityville Horror] [The Amityville Horror (2005)] [The Shining]

November 2, 2AM

The man next to me on the bus is reading his Bible. At one point in my life that would’ve made me feel safe. I would’ve known that the person next to me was committed to the same value system as mine—love for all, peace, equality, and acceptance. ... [American religion] [Bibliolatry] [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America] [Chris Hedges] [dominionism] [fascism] [Politics and Religion] [Republican Party]

November 1, 2AM

I first became aware of the work of Felicitas D. Goodman because of her classic text on spirit possession. Published by the reputable Indiana University Press, that book has become a standard for anthropological understanding of a strange phenomenon, whi... [American religion] [Archaeology] [Books] [Consciousness] [higher education] [Mysticism] [Posts] [alternative states of consciousness] [Anthropology] [Demons] [Felicitas D. Goodman] [Indiana University Press] [Psychology of Religion] [Where the Spirits Ride the Wind: Trance Journeys and Other Ecstatic Experiences]

October 31, 2AM

I can tell that I’ve been far too busy when I don’t have time to prepare for Halloween. I don’t mean commercially—running out and buying decorations and the like—but mentally. For reasons perhaps only understood by psychologists, Halloween is ... [Current Events] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [capitalism] [existential angst] [fear] [halloween]

October 30, 2AM

Book contracts make me happy. After slipping from higher education into the limbo of editing, it took a few years before realizing that not all books have to be academic monographs. For the past couple of years I’ve been silently writing a book intend... [Books] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [publishing] [book contract] [publish or perish] [research] [Weathering the Psalms]

October 29, 6AM

Eating out is something that has become more of a habit than it should. Still, when we get together with friends it’s a cause for celebration, and a restaurant is usually somehow involved. You only live once. Well, maybe. In any case, while waiting ... [Bible] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [1 Kings] [Balthazar] [belshazzar] [Goliath] [Jeroboam] [Melchior] [Melchizedek] [Methuselah] [Nebuchadnezzar] [Rehoboam] [Salmanazar] [Solomon] [United Monarchy] [Wine]

October 28, 5AM

One of the perks of working for a publisher is author talks. I’ve worked for three publishers now, and the last two have made great efforts to bring authors to their New York offices to present their work, in a kind of dry run, to those in the industry... [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [publishing] [Social Consciousness] [chauvinism] [Gender] [misogyny] [social justice]

October 27, 2AM

It’s seen better days. The spine is coming unglued and the pages are brittle, fracturing into tan snowflakes as I turn the pages. Still, this unusual little book is crowded with memories. I recall the used book store where I bought it—the Boston Bo... [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Boston Book Annex] [Der Besuch der alten Dame] [existentialism] [Friedrich Duerrenmatt] [Ilse Aichinger] [Suspicion] [The Quarry] [Wo Ich Wohne]

October 26, 2AM

The problem with lying is that it generally doesn’t hold up. Eventually people will figure out that a falsehood is exactly that and the liar will be scorned. In other words, truth is determined by witnesses. This is tested and confirmed every day in ... [Consciousness] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Ancient Legends And Myths] [IFL Science!] [lying] [Occam's Razor] [science and religion] [truth]

October 25, 2AM

What could be more humbling than living in an infinite but expanding universe? Since the days of Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton we’ve known that the apparent reality of both our own lives and that portrayed in Holy Writ is inaccurate. ... [American religion] [astronomy] [Books] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [apocalypse] [heaven] [hell] [Marcelo Gleiser] [science and religion] [The Prophet and the Astronomer] [zoroastrianism]

October 24, 2AM

I’ve never thought of bugs as an ethical concern. Well, not directly anyway. I had some truly frightening encounters with insects and arachnids as a child, so I tended to avoid bugs when I could. At times, I hesitate to admit, I took advantage of my ... [Animals] [Current Events] [environment] [evolution] [Posts] [arachnids] [environmentalism] [ethics] [Insects] [The Washington Post]

October 23, 2AM

There are right ways and wrong ways to get your book published. When approaching an editor, there are a few things to keep in mind. For one thing, we’re human. Yes, I know that I have something you want. The usual career track for an academic is Bro... [Books] [higher education] [Posts] [publishing] [Amazon] [editor] [LinkedIn] [self-publishing] [social media]

October 22, 5AM

Ugly. That’s not a word I use lightly. The phenomenon of racism is ugly. More than that, it’s insidious. I recently attended a community course on racism sponsored by the Central Jersey Community Coalition. Since our government won’t condemn ra... [American religion] [Bible] [Current Events] [Genesis] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [science] [Social Consciousness] [capitalism] [Central Jersey Community Coalition] [Curse of Ham] [Noah] [racism] [white supremacy]

October 21, 4AM

The death of a colleague is a shocking grief. Although my teaching career was cut short at Nashotah House, the faculty there was always small, and often close-knit in a way that an insular school promotes. I had been teaching there for about eight years... [astronomy] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [Comet Hale-Bopp] [Daniel Westberg] [Episcopal Church] [Nashotah House] [seminary] [Upper Nashotah Lake]

October 20, 2AM

Surely one of the most controversial haunting stories of my own lifetime was that which came to be known as The Amityville Horror. After the tragic deaths of the DeFeo family in 1974, the next occupants of the fatal house, the Lutz family, claimed to hav... [Books] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Amityville] [Demons] [George and Kathy Lutz] [horror movies] [Jay Anson] [New York] [The Amityville Horror] [The Exorcist]

October 19, 2AM

The title set me back. “Deus ex machina: former Google engineer is developing an AI god.” The article in The Guardian is surprising in several ways. Firstly, technocrats tend to suggest that since there is no deity, worship of said non-entity is a ... [American religion] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Deities] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Robotics] [science] [AI] [artificial intelligence] [humanism] [Technology] [The Guardian]

October 18, 2AM

Ghosts appear whether they exist or not. People have seen them, we know, since as early as written records permit us to know. I first ran into Colin Dickey’s name in a review of the new Ghostbusters movie. The bio made mention of his book, Ghostland:... [Books] [Consciousness] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Colin Dickey] [Ghostbusters] [Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places] [ghosts] [hauntings]

October 17, 2AM

“Where, o where, are you tonight?” If your mind has supplied the tune and pitchfork, you know just what I’m talking about. Or perhaps you too remember this old chestnut: “Gloom, despair, and agony on me…” Those who know me often think I’m... [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Arnold Schwarzenegger] [Beverley Hillbillies] [blue collar] [classism] [electoral college] [Hee Haw] [Jesse Ventura] [Ronald Reagan] [Sonny Bono] [WWF Wrestling]

October 16, 2AM

October slipped in this year, and now I find myself unexpectedly in the season of ghosts, monsters, and witches. Given the number of posts on this blog about horror movies, it stands to reason that these are a few of my favorite things. The nights are l... [Just for Fun] [Monsters] [Posts] [Travel] [halloween] [R. J. Wilson] [Urbo] [Vermont] [witch windows]

October 15, 3AM

Although it hasn’t always been this way, one of the most characteristic aspects of the modern horror film is the sequel. Some franchises spin into countless sequels and remakes, until their iconic anti-heroes become household names. The Conjuring dieg... [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Annabelle] [Annabelle: Creation] [Demons] [Ed and Lorraine Warren] [horror movies] [The Conjuring] [The Conjuring 2]

October 14, 3AM

Religion is dead. So they say. They have been wrong before. One of the great things the web has given us is book fan sites. There are a number of them, and my wife frequently sends me stories from BookRiot. Often they are lists, and the most recent o... [Books] [higher education] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [100 Must-Read Novels about Religion] [Annie Proulx] [BookRiot] [fiction] [Goodreads] [Neil Gaiman] [Teresa Preston] [The Ocean at the End of the Lane] [The Shipping News]

October 13, 2AM

I can’t recall if I’ve been to Mexico City before. You see, back in the late 1980s I frequently read the novels of the existentialists, and although a copy of The Fall has been on my shelf since then, I don’t recall if I read this Camus classic. It... [Books] [Genesis] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [albert camus] [Boston Book Annex] [Christianity] [existentialism] [Jean-Baptiste Clamence] [The Fall]

October 12, 2AM

No doubt an excuse isn’t required for reading about werewolves this time of year. Something about October encourages that sort of thing. Hannah Priest edited a collection of essays from various scholars titled She-Wolf: A Cultural History of Female We... [Animals] [Books] [Current Events] [feminism] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Hannah Priest] [She-Wolf: A Cultural History of Female Werewolves] [werewolves]

October 11, 1AM

It may be a little early to start thinking about Christmas, but archaeologists don’t often worry about timing. A piece in the Washington Post announced something of potential interests to hagiographers everywhere—Saint Nicholas may still actually be ... [Archaeology] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [capitalism] [Christmas] [Cleve R. Wootson Jr] [Saint Nicholas] [Washington Post]

October 10, 2AM

For people my age manga is a new form of reading that is easily ignored. Although I’ve read a graphic novel or two, “comic books,” no matter how adult the theme, seem juvenile. Note that word “seem.” I do know some younger folks, and one of t... [Books] [cartoons] [literature] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Catholic] [colonialism] [Hellsing] [Kouta Hirano] [manga] [missionaries] [protestant] [vampires] [van Helsing]

October 9, 2AM

I suspect with Trump in office Columbus Day will get a boost. After all, it’s the narrative of the white man coming to America and improving on what anybody else had done. Making America great, one might say. That wobbly narrative has been justifiabl... [Archaeology] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Alok Bannerjee] [Columbus Day] [Ireland] [native american] [Phoenicians] [Realm of History] [St. Brendan] [Vikings]

October 8, 4AM

After a warm snap, we’re not at peak color here in New Jersey. Some trees have changed, yes, and leaves have begun to fall, but green prevails. While on a walk with my wife—a luxury only available on weekends with my commuting schedule—I spotted a... [Archaeology] [Current Events] [Deities] [Holidays] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [buddhism] [Ganesh Chaturthi] [Hinduism] [Judaism]

October 7, 3AM

Futility is a specialization of those of us who consider ourselves fans of Ecclesiastes. Thus it is that the blog of an editor gets so little attention among academics. Since you’ve been kind enough to drop in, I’m going to share some secrets with y... [Books] [higher education] [Posts] [publishing] [academic publishing] [communication] [Ecclesiastes] [Graduate School]

October 6, 2AM

Not to beat a dead hadrosaurus, but creationism is in danger of driving us extinct. On a visit to the Paleontological Research Institution’s Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, I picked up a copy of Warren D. Allmon’s Evolution and Creation: A Very Short ... [American religion] [Bibliolatry] [Books] [creationism] [evolution] [Genesis] [Posts] [science] [Sects] [Evolution and Creation: A Very Short Guide] [Genesis 1] [Ithaca] [Museum of the Earth] [Paleontological Research Institution] [post-truth] [Warren D. Allmon]

October 5, 1AM

Supply and demand may seem to be an odd framework to apply to religion, but it obviously exists within the polity of churches, synagogues, and mosques. What the people want does influence what’s on offer. Watching movies about demonic possession isn... [Books] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [A History of Exorcism in Catholic Christianity] [Demons] [Exorcism] [Francis Young] [Roman Catholicism] [The Exorcist]

October 4, 2AM

Fear, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew, would paralyze a nation more quickly than anything else. In recent years politicians have rather cynically used that information to sway voters. Fear-mongers, such as Trump, tend to have the upper hand because, i... [Current Events] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [FDR] [GOP] [gun control] [Las Vegas shooting] [NRA] [Sarah Winchester]

October 3, 2AM

The Bible’s been back in the news. Specifically the Bible and politics. Like twins separated at birth. Jeff Mateer, Trump’s nominee for a federal judgeship, has gone on record saying Satan’s plan is working. Perhaps even more stridently, Roy Moo... [American religion] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Bible] [Jeff Mateer] [Religion and Politics] [religious studies] [Roy Moore]

October 2, 2AM

If you stick with something long enough, you’ll get onto all the mailing lists. These days even if you innocently click on an internet ad it will come back to haunt you for weeks on every web-page your visit. One kind of ad I don’t mind is the book ... [Bible] [Books] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Sects] [AAR/SBL] [American Academy of Religion] [book catalogue] [publication] [Society of Biblical Literature] [The Religion Flyer]

October 1, 3AM

Three major hurricanes into the season and our Republican government has nothing better to do than try to think up new ways to take away our healthcare. In an effort—no victory is too insignificant—to show that the swamp is being drained, the Grand O... [American religion] [Current Events] [environment] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [evangelicalism] [GOP] [healthcare] [Hurricane Harvey] [Hurricane Maria] [Puerto Rico] [Republican Party]

September 30, 3AM

Since I was late getting my Banned Book in order this year, I went to something that I could read within a week. While my bus time is generally reserved for non-fiction reading, I had to pick something fairly easy so that I could get back to more serious... [Bible] [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [A Wrinkle in Time] [Banned Book Week] [Gospel of John] [Madeleine L’Engle] [occult]

September 29, 2AM

Nothing makes me feel small like thinking about the universe does. Never a large individual anyway, thinking how this apartment encompasses me and it is dwarfed by the small town in which I reside, it’s only a matter of moments before I become a mere m... [astronomy] [Books] [environment] [Posts] [science] [and People] [Big Bang] [environmentalism] [Neil Shubin] [paleontology] [planets] [The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks]

September 28, 2AM

The bases of truth are ever shifting, it seems. What was once decided by spiritual tests now finds technological solutions. A friend sent me a story from IFL Science (which, surprisingly, often focuses on religion) concerning a nun in seventeenth-centur... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Mesopotamia] [Posts] [science] [Assyriology] [Deep Web] [Devil] [IFL Science!] [nuns] [Possession] [Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione] [the Voynich Manuscript]

September 27, 2AM

It’s kind of like the transporter dilemma on Star Trek. Where is the person/Vulcan/Klingon when their atoms are being disassociated in one location and reassembled in another? In the classic series, McCoy was never happy with the technology, and even ... [Consciousness] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [science] [alternate states of consciousness] [anesthesia] [dreams] [sleep] [Star Trek]

September 26, 2AM

Among the most revered traditions of the horror film is the sequel. Originally a financially driven feature, sequels have now become an expectation among fans. And although in general we prefer to appeal to our higher cultural aspirations, many horror m... [Just for Fun] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Amityville] [Annabelle] [Annabelle: Creation] [Ed and Lorraine Warren] [Enfield poltergeist] [horror films] [Sleepy Hollow] [The Conjuring 2] [The Lesser Key of Solomon] [The Nun] [Valak]

September 25, 2AM

One thing we know about nature is that we don’t know much about nature. We can be a pretty self-absorbed species. Peter Wohllenben’s The Hidden Life of Trees is a good corrective for that. When we’re young we’re taught the difference between pl... [Books] [environment] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [Consciousness] [environmentalism] [Peter Wohllenben] [The Hidden Life of Trees] [Trees]

September 24, 5AM

I can tell I’ve been too busy when I haven’t planned for Banned Book Week. A kind of unofficial holiday since, well, it’s about banned things, the point of this observation is that we should be free to read. A fairly large portion of the fiction I... [American religion] [Books] [Holidays] [literature] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Banned Book Week] [censorship] [evangelicalism] [intolerance] [Trump Administration]

September 23, 5AM

Some say the infrastructure of this country is crumbling. It’s something I try not to think much about when I’m on the Helix or in the Lincoln Tunnel, but the concrete of those aging piers doesn’t look too healthy to me. So when I see a truck with... [American religion] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Bible] [lived religion] [Orthodoxy] [Sam Kholi] [Syria] [Syrian Christianity]

September 22, 2AM

It’s hard to keep a good apocalypse down. Ever since Jesus of Nazareth did his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression of “I’ll be back” some of his followers have obsessed when just when that will be. Sorry for the late notice, but the current pr... [American religion] [astronomy] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [apocalypse] [Hal Lindsey] [I Wish We’d All Been Ready] [Larry Norman] [Marcelo Gleiser] [NPR] [The Sign] [Timothy LaHaye]

September 21, 2AM

One of the truly disturbing aspects of religion is its tendency to become domesticated. What I mean is that it becomes so much a part of the everyday scenery that you forget it’s there. I recently read a story about priests in the Church of England wh... [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Anglicanism] [Church of England] [Episcopalians] [heaven] [Nashotah House] [poor] [Poverty]

September 20, 2AM

No one knows the origins of religion. Before the advent of writing we can only guess, based on artifacts. Even in the era of scriveners, nobody jotted down the origin of belief until modern times, long, long after it began. Once writings about religiou... [American religion] [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Christopher Ingraham] [evangelicalism] [Peter Berger] [Politics and Religion] [Sociology] [The Washington Post]

September 19, 1AM

As a noun, “freak” is akin to a swear word. To refer to another person in such terms is often considered derogatory and degrading. Still, we all know what it means—an individual who doesn’t conform to expected models. I was a little worried abo... [Animals] [Books] [evolution] [Monsters] [Posts] [science] [biology] [developmental evolution] [Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us about Development and Evolution] [Mark S. Blumberg] [sexuality]

September 18, 1AM

Some things are hidden in plain sight. That doesn’t make them any the less insidious. One such hidden truth is that the earth is of a finite size. Another is that, consequently, its resources are limited. Our species is easily led, as are most herd ... [Animals] [Current Events] [environment] [movies] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [agriculture] [climate change] [Cowspiracy] [environmentalism] [global warming] [Keegan Kuhn] [Kip Andersen]

September 17, 4AM

I have a confession to make. I’m not a gamer. Just like everyone old enough to be aware in the 1970s, I was amazed at Pong. Television, which had always only been a passive producer of entertainment, could now be interactive. Slower than real table ... [American religion] [Deities] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Religious Violence] [Fight of Gods] [Mashable] [Myst] [Pong] [Victoria Ho]

September 16, 3AM

Cassini is no more. The Saturn-bound satellite was launched in 1997 when the earth was a very different place. As it’s four-year sell-by date passed, the little robot who could kept on snapping photos around the ringed giant and its moons. Remote con... [Animals] [astronomy] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Posts] [Robotics] [science] [Social Consciousness] [capitalism] [Cassini] [equality] [Saturn] [social justice]

September 15, 2AM

Like many people, I enjoy a Stephen King novel from time to time. King has a talent for drawing you into his tales, and whether or not they’re scary you feel a kind of relief when they’re over. A few years back I read IT. I was prepared to be scare... [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Memoirs] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [clowns] [Evangelicals] [Grove City College] [IT] [Origin of Everything] [Stephen King]

September 14, 2AM

Gods, the experts say, are on the way out. Have been for some time. The loudest voices in this arena are the New Atheists who suggest science alone explains everything. Problem is, the gods won’t let go. My wife recently sent me an article from Book... [American religion] [Books] [Consciousness] [Deities] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [science] [American Gods] [BookRiot] [C. S. Lewis] [Christopher Moore] [Lamb] [Materialism] [Neil Gaiman] [Nikki Vanry] [science and religion]

September 13, 2AM

Being born into a religion makes all the difference. I say this as someone who was born into a family that would now be labeled Fundamentalist. That orientation stays firm unless a reason arises to question it. And that reason must be compelling. Many... [American religion] [Books] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints] [Mormonism] [Terryl L. Givens] [The Book of Mormon] [The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction]

September 12, 1AM

The word “hieroglyph” translates to “sacred writing.” If you’re like me, your first attempts to learn writing were probably not very sacred at all. Tongue pressed to the corner of my mouth, eyes staring fixedly at the paper flat in front of me... [Books] [literature] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Anne Trubek] [cuneiform] [hieroglyphs] [Ilimilku] [sacred texts] [The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting] [Ugaritic]

September 11, 2AM

The Sourlands, apart from being the setting of Joyce Carol Oates stories, are one of New Jersey’s characteristic features. Although the Garden State brings visions of heavy industrialization to many imaginations, there are also lots of outdoor options ... [environment] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Travel] [Alfred Korzybski] [Devil's Half-Acre] [Jonathan Z. Smith] [Joyce Carol Oates] [maps] [New Jersey] [Ringing Rocks] [Sourland Mountain Preserve] [Sourlands]

September 10, 3AM

Say what you will about western Pennsylvania, but it was a location fairly safe from natural disasters. My hometown was too far inland for hurricanes to cause much damage. A little too far east for Midwest tornadoes to touch down (mostly). Adequate-to-... [Bible] [Current Events] [Genesis] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Weather] [apocalypse] [Hurricane Harvey] [Hurricane Irma] [John Nelson Darby] [Mexico earthquake] [Revelation] [William Miller]

September 9, 5AM

It’s striking how similar world religions can be. Granted, the concept of “religion” as a separate sphere of life is a western one, but throughout the world thinkers have drawn similar conclusions. Until the World’s Congress of Religions of 1893... [American religion] [Consciousness] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [Christianity] [consumerism] [Dao] [Daoism] [Materialism] [Monasticism] [World Religions] [World’s Congress of Religions]

September 8, 2AM

The electrician recently stopped by. We’re renters and although I don’t mind doing minor household repairs to benefit the landlord, I draw the line at electricity. It’s a scary thing. I’ve been shocked too many times to want a jolt bigger than ... [Books] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [bibliophilia] [electrician] [library] [reading] [renting] [Writing]

September 7, 2AM

It’s a common name. You might know one yourself: William Miller. Indeed, for many years of my own life I borrowed that surname from my stepfather before returning to my birthright after seminary. But the ordinariness of the name alone doesn’t expla... [Books] [civil religion] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Adventists] [David L. Rowe] [God’s Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World] [Great Disappointment] [Joseph Smith] [Millerites] [Second Great Awakening] [Seventh-Day Adventists] [William Miller]

September 6, 2AM

In this great Trump Tower of capitalism in which we all live, I often wonder about the overlooked Bible. Fundamentalist Trump supporters certainly know how to thump it, but do they know how to read it? This thought occurred to me as I was rereading the ... [Bible] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Acts 5] [Ananias and Sapphira] [capitalism] [Communism] [evangelicalism] [Fundamentalism] [poor] [socialism] [Trump Administration]

September 5, 1AM

Youth might be described in a number of ways. One, of course, is in biological years. Another may be in exposure to experiences which change your life. There was a time, for example, when you can’t believe you were ever so naive. No matter how youth... [Bible] [Books] [Deities] [literature] [Memoirs] [Mesopotamia] [popular culture] [Posts] [Cthulhu] [Dagon] [H P Lovecraft] [Harry Houdini] [Mesopotamian religion] [Oshkosh] [Reception History] [The Shadow over Innsmouth] [University of Wisconsin]

September 4, 3AM

I’m sure you’ve seen them too. Maybe in the movies, or on a newsreel, or maybe on a filmstrip in school. I’m referring to those scenes, usually in some foreign location, where bicycles, ox-carts, cars, buses, and pedestrians all crowd the same str... [Holidays] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [dongle] [Luddite] [Nashotah House] [Technology] [Television] [transportation]

September 3, 3AM

Numbers 12.3 always struck me as one of the oddest verses of the Pentateuch. This was back in the days when I’d been taught that Moses wrote Genesis through Deuteronomy, in toto. When I read “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone ... [Bible] [Current Events] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Donald Trump] [humbleness] [humility] [Kellyanne Conway] [Moses] [Numbers 12.3] [Pat Robertson] [Pentateuch]

September 2, 5AM

I love optical illusions. Apart from the sheer fun of ambiguity, such illusions are really all about perspective. Shifting perspective can be one of the most powerful ways of changing a person’s life. One of my more stalwart perspectives is that thos... [environment] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [big oil] [ghost town] [Hurricane Harvey] [Northwest Pennsylvania] [Oil industry] [originality]

September 1, 2AM

I admit to being a relative stranger to contemporary commercial television. We don’t have “triple play” at home, and since the internet provides more information and entertainment than one person can possibly handle in a lifetime, why pay extra? O... [Bible] [Memoirs] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Travel] [Weather] [Demons] [Ed and Lorraine Warren] [Exorcism] [Mysteries at the Museum] [pennsylvania] [Stroudsburg] [Television]

August 31, 2AM

Image credit: NOAA, public domain via Wikimedia Commons My heart goes out to those suffering from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. Natural disasters like this are often tied to the “wrath of God” model, and outdated though it is, it still cap... [Books] [Current Events] [environment] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [climate change] [Erik Larson] [global warming] [Hurricane Harvey] [Isaac's Storm] [Louisiana] [meteorotheology] [Texas]

August 30, 2AM

Two of the classics of ecology, A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold, and The Sea Around Us, by Rachel Carson, were published by Oxford University Press. In its present-day iteration the press has a Green Committee, on which I’ve sat from very nearly... [Books] [Current Events] [environment] [literature] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [A Sand County Almanac] [Aldo Leopold] [environmentalism] [ethics] [Oxford University Press] [philosophy] [Rachel Carson] [The Sea Around Us] [Wisconsin]

August 29, 1AM

Childhood is an impressionable time. Our phobias begin then. Children are vulnerable. (Of course our current government is intent on making us all afraid of bullies again.) This theme of childhood keeps coming up in interviews with directors of horror... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Annabelle] [Annabelle: Creation] [childhood] [Ed and Lorraine Warren] [Erik Piepenburg] [New York Times] [The Conjuring] [The Conjuring 2] [Trump Administration]

August 28, 2AM

I write a lot about Noah. For those who didn’t know me before this blog, I was once invited to write a book on Noah for a series ironically published by Oxford University Press. I had been researching Noah for years, and I intended to write the book. ... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [environment] [Genesis] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Brendan O'Connor] [capitalism] [climate change] [Fundamentalism] [Noah] [Splinter]

August 27, 5AM

Some things are so personal, and inexplicable, that they’re difficult to put into words. Not only that, but they often involve other people and I try not to comment on those who actually know me in person. Still, having just watched Apocalypse Now for... [Books] [literature] [Memoirs] [movies] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Apocalypse Now] [Heart of Darkness] [Joseph Conrad] [The Doors] [vietnam]

August 26, 4AM

In the days before the American Caligula, the Trump family disgusted average Americans. I mean specifically one of those whose songs are considered essential Americana. Woody Guthrie is perhaps best known for his song, “This Land is Your Land.” Man... [Bible] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Beach Haven] [Caligula] [Isaiah] [Justin Wm. Moyer] [Old Man Trump] [Prophets] [Ryan Harvey] [social justice] [This Land is Your Land] [Washington Post] [Woody Guthrie]

August 25, 2AM

Liberation from the confines of academia allows for the occasional indulgence in taboo subjects. I can’t remember when I first heard of stigmata. I didn’t grow up Catholic, and, like many Protestants, distrusted much of what came from Rome. Still, ... [Books] [Consciousness] [feminism] [Mysticism] [Posts] [Sects] [Edinburgh University] [Francis of Assisi] [Mysticism] [Roman Catholicism] [St. Francis] [Stigmata] [Stigmata: A Medieval Mystery in a Modern Age] [Ted Harrison] [women's spirituality]

August 24, 2AM

Converts, they say, are often the worst. It matters less what the conversion is to or from, since the zeal of the newly enlightened is impossible to match. The textbook example with religion, especially in America, is Evangelicalism. Those who’ve “... [Bibliolatry] [Books] [civil religion] [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [A History of Modern Evangelicalism] [American Apocalypse] [billy graham] [Fundamentalism] [Matthew Avery Sutton] [Timothy LaHaye]

August 23, 1AM

Montclair, New Jersey, is distinguished by having two bookstores. On Saturdays when my wife has to work there, I sometimes come along. Apart from the pleasant company, it isn’t every day that one can visit two bookstores. I protest the ignorance ramp... [Books] [Consciousness] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [independent bookstores] [Montclair] [Montclair Book Center] [New Jersey] [Watchung Booksellers]

August 22, 2AM

It’s the day after the eclipse. Perhaps it’s because of the internet, but the excitement about this somewhat common event reached a fever pitch. Maybe it was because we all wanted something other than Donald Trump to talk about. Maybe it was becaus... [astronomy] [Current Events] [Deities] [Posts] [science] [apocalypse] [eclipse 2017] [Nashotah House] [New York City] [science and religion] [solar eclipse]

August 21, 1AM

Science fiction used to be the mainstay of my reading. Unlike a true fan, I was never exclusively devoted to it—my tastes are far too eclectic to be contained by any genre. Nevertheless, at a used book sale, on a whim, I picked up Frederik Pohl’s Th... [Books] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [Christmas] [Cults] [Frederik Pohl] [Neil Gaiman] [Qohelet] [science fiction] [The Day the Martians Came]

August 20, 5AM

It smelled like Christmas. I was out of the office for a rare lunchtime errand, and I had just turned the corner from Madison Avenue onto 34th Street. It hit me like childhood—the scent of pine. I couldn’t believe it as I looked ahead. Wreaths lay... [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [B. Altman] [Christmas] [homelessness] [Manhattan] [New York City]

August 19, 2AM

If you ignore common sense and read this blog, you know that I try to be creative in my approach to the world. It’s bold, in my way of thinking, to claim the mantle of creativity since there are so many people out there that the world has already decid... [art] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Brain Pickings] [Creativity] [High Mass] [Maria Popova] [meaning]

August 18, 2AM

If I had it all to do over again, I might well have gone into paleontology. Like most kids, I grew up fascinated with dinosaurs. Then “real life” got in the way and you need to get a job since you can’t spend your time playing with your cheap plas... [Animals] [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [creationism] [Current Events] [evolution] [Genesis] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Sects] [dinosaurs] [Noah's Ark] [Patagotitan mayorum] [Titanosaurs]

August 17, 1AM

Part of the problem is that I’ve never been fortunate enough to learn Chinese. You see, scholars of religion are often insistent on reading scriptures in their original languages. It has been a long time since I’ve picked up the Daodejing, one of th... [Bible] [Books] [feminism] [Posts] [Sects] [Chinese religion] [Daodejing] [Daoism] [Edmund Ryden] [Lao Tzu] [paradox]

August 16, 2AM

It’s not hard to feel that you’re from another planet. If you were born in the sixties and had kind of a rough transition to this whole internet thing, you know what I mean. Still, I want to be part of it—it’s kind of like New York City, only bi... [Books] [feminism] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [fan fiction] [fandom] [Ghostbusters] [Sam Muggs] [The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Geek Girls] [wonder woman]

August 15, 2AM

The American terrorist attack in Charlottesville over the weekend should have us all frightened. Despite declarations of “it couldn’t happen here,” fascism is an adaptive disease that finds its way to new hosts quite readily. The atmosphere coming... [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Charlottesville] [Nashotah House] [The Washington Post] [Trump Administration] [Virginia] [white supremacy]

August 14, 2AM

Maybe my recollection of the Gospel’s a bit hazy. I seem to remember one of the main characters of the New Testament saying something about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. And turning the other cheek. I may be recalling incorrec... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [civil religion] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Donald Trump] [New Testament] [North Korea] [prooftexting] [Robert Jeffress] [Sarah Pulliam Bailey]

August 13, 4AM

Hobby Lobby needs a hobby. Besides the Bible, I mean. The amorphous media has been buzzing about the new Bible Museum set to open in Washington DC soon. The Lobbyists seem to think the Bible will save America. Not the Bible exactly, but their narrow, ... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Donald Trump] [Hobby Lobby] [Religion and Politics] [Washington DC]

August 12, 4AM

Once again in Ithaca, I find myself thinking of the classics. Although it’s difficult to believe these days, even rural Americans used to value a classic education. Take upstate New York. Not only is there an Ithaca, but also a Rome, Syracuse, and Ho... [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [Classical Greece] [homer] [Ithaca] [New York] [Odysseus] [Odyssey]

August 11, 3AM

Theology has never been my thing. Now, those who don’t parse things too finely may find that an odd statement. “This blog almost always addresses religion,” they may say, “how can you say theology’s not your thing?” Perhaps for the layperso... [Books] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [Christopher Deacy] [Eschatology and Film] [popular media] [Screening the Afterlife: Theology] [theology]

August 10, 2AM

An occasional reader will contact me to say that something I’ve been writing about for years has appeared in a major media source. Not the story I wrote, mind you, but in an episode of convergent explication somebody better connected has drawn the same... [Just for Fun] [Posts] [meaning] [New York Times] [outer space] [UFO religion] [UFOs] [Unidentified Flying Objects]

August 9, 2AM

Although long fascinated by popular culture, I’ve not really been part of any fandom. I suppose this is because my interests tend to be quite broad, and finding one piece of pop culture over which to obsess is difficult. I might miss something somewhe... [Books] [literature] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [fandom] [H P Lovecraft] [In the Mountains of Madness: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of H. P. Lovecraft] [prejudice] [providence] [racism] [W. Scott Poole]

August 8, 2AM

This universe is indeed a mysterious place. You don’t have to believe in the paranormal anymore to see it. A look at the headlines makes my point. There are those, however, who do look at the genuinely strange, and once in a while this realm crosses ... [Current Events] [environment] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [science] [Arkansas] [billy graham] [Crystal Mine] [gravity] [levitation] [Mysterious Universe] [physics] [Travel Channel]

August 7, 1AM

When the apocalypse comes—present political antics assure it more than any biblical prophecy—I fear for the survivors. This post is for them. I presume you’ll get the internet back up and running quickly; it is, after all, humanity’s most import... [Just for Fun] [Posts] [apocalypse] [canning] [Mason Jars] [survival guide]

August 6, 6AM

As a recovering academic, I sometimes am compelled to look when sends me notices. Academia, most of my academic colleagues don’t realize, is a for-profit website that advocates open access. “Open access” (or OA in the biz) is academic... [higher education] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [publishing] [] [academic publishing] [open access] [peer review]

August 5, 4AM

Religion, no matter what the skeptics say, gives us something to believe in. Even those who claim no religion believe in their non-religion. We can’t escape belief. It’s no surprise, then, that new religions constantly emerge. As people find new t... [astronomy] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Astro Bob] [astronomy] [bolide] [Chelyabinsk Meteorite] [Church of the Chelyabinsk Meteorite] [meteor]

August 4, 2AM

Bostonia is but one of several alumni magazines that makes its way to our humble apartment. Between my wife and I we have many colleges and universities begging us for money while offering us no jobs. Despite being a denied professor I have little time ... [Animals] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [animal rights] [Bostonia] [chimpanzee] [plutocracy]

August 3, 1AM

Since we should all be busy planning on alternatives to planet earth, my mind has turned to tardigrades. Known as “water bears” these very simple animals are amazingly complex. Don’t go looking for them in your drinking water, however. They’re ... [Animals] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [environment] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [Ben Guarino] [desire] [natural selection] [tardigrades] [The Washington Post] [Will]

August 2, 2AM

Words. They can be slippery sometimes. Take for example the word “revelation.” It can be secular or sacred, and if the latter, general or specific. Many recognize it as the title of the final book of the Bible, and some can’t even get enough of ... [Bible] [Books] [Egypt] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [and Politics in the Book of Revelation] [apocalypse] [apokalypsis] [Elaine Pagels] [evangelicalism] [Nag Hammadi Library] [Prophecy] [Revelation] [Revelations: Visions]

August 1, 1AM

Kids. You never know what’ll come out of their mouths. Not bounded by logic or the rules of physics, they come up with some of the most truly creative ideas that grace our species. The growing up process usually includes filters that separate the rea... [Current Events] [environment] [movies] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Berlin Wall] [Christopher Ingraham] [Donald Trump] [Edinburgh University] [Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home] [The Washington Post]

July 31, 1AM

The wind resistance alone must drive the cost of gas up considerably. Of course, with Yahweh on your side you don’t need to worry about pocket change. We were driving through a sleepy town in the Poconos. A light rain was falling. We came upon a tru... [Deities] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [Travel] [Bible] [Demons] [evangelicalism] [pennsylvania] [Poconos] [Yahweh]

July 30, 4AM

I don’t have a sweet tooth. I count that as a personal flaw, but the fact is I don’t seek out sugary snacks. Still, who doesn’t enjoy a nice chocolate once in a while? My wife and I attended a local chocolate tasting event recently. This was a n... [art] [Deities] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [cacao beans] [Carol’s Creative Chocolatez] [chocolate] [christopher columbus] [Theobroma]

July 29, 4AM

All you have to do is spit in the cup. Well, you have to do it quite a few times, but that’s the basic idea. Then you send the contents to a religiously motivated lab and your genetic ancestry will be emailed back to you. (There will be a fee involve... [Archaeology] [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [evolution] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Ben Guarino] [Canaanites] [DNA] [religion and science] [The Washington Post]

July 28, 2AM

Jim was aghast. The joke had been entirely inappropriate. I had asked him about the Pentecostal service we’d just left. Jim was my college roommate and had invited me to see what his tradition was all about. I’d witnessed speaking in tongues befor... [Books] [higher education] [Monsters] [Mysticism] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Beware the Night] [Deliver Us from Evil: A New York Cop Investigates the Supernatural] [Demons] [Hostage to the Devil] [Lisa Collier Cool] [Malachi Martin] [Ralph Sarchie]

July 27, 1AM

During my recent travels I had a layover at Sea-Tac Airport. Since I don’t get out much, I always find a walk through the airport a way of measuring what other people find important. At least in a circumscribed way. When you’re traveling you’re l... [Books] [Just for Fun] [literature] [Posts] [Travel] [beer] [commuting] [Entertainment] [non-fiction] [Sea-Tac Airport] [Travel]

July 26, 1AM

Those of us who watch horror are often asked “why?” Many of us have a difficult time answering that question. To be sure, there are those who like thrills, blood, and violence, but some of us do not. We can’t seem to help ourselves—watching tho... [Books] [Memoirs] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [and Invented Modern Horror] [Conquered Hollywood] [H P Lovecraft] [horror movies] [How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares] [Jason Zinoman] [Shock Value]

July 25, 1AM

Perhaps it’s all just coincidence, but once in a while a number of unexpected things come together. Since I do a lot of reading this often happens in the context of books. The current case begins with my first noticing Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country.... [Bible] [Books] [Genesis] [literature] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Buffalo Street Books] [H P Lovecraft] [Ithaca] [Lovecraft Country] [mark of Cain] [Matt Ruff] [Neal Stephenson] [The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde]

July 1, 3AM

My edition of 1984 contains an afterword by Erich Fromm. I’m afraid I’ve been in publishing long enough to be somewhat cynical about “value-added content” that’s used to sell subsequent printings. Those who buy a book off the shelf want the te... [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [publishing] [Social Consciousness] [1984] [Erich Fromm] [George Orwell] [prediction] [Prophecy] [Ronald Reagan] [spirit of humanism]

June 30, 2AM

Many academics I know dismiss editors as just another species of laity put on earth to serve the guild. There’s perhaps some truth to that. Without people to write books—and few beyond the professorate are granted the time and leisure to do so—we... [Books] [higher education] [Posts] [publishing] [Academia] [academic publishing] [editor] [Shepherd]

June 29, 1AM

How do you capture a true and abiding fascination in words? That’s a thought that comes to me once in a while when I think about the sky. It’s so hard to define, yet it’s always there. To quote myself: “To understand the weather is somehow to g... [astronomy] [Books] [environment] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Weather] [Darrelyn Gunzburg] [The Imagined Sky: Cultural Perspectives] [Tim Ingold] [Tyler Nordgren] [Weathering the Psalms]

June 28, 2AM

I haven’t read The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. Yet. My reading list is frighteningly enormous and constantly growing. I just can’t seem to get on top of it. In any case, my wife sent me an NPR interview with Perry that set me to thinking about m... [Animals] [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Ari Shapiro] [healthcare] [NPR] [Sarah Perry] [The Essex Serpent] [Trump Administration]

June 27, 2AM

The car was drunkenly weaving across lanes in substantial traffic along Interstate 80. Erratic driving that, although not breathalyzer confirmed, suggested impaired operating. It’s something you never like to see. We stayed behind the vehicle, knowin... [Animals] [Bibliolatry] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Christianity] [Ichthus] [ichthys] [Jesus fish] [New Jersey] [Traffic]

June 26, 2AM

“Television today plays too great a part in our national life for us to allow it to fall into misuse by unprincipled hucksters. We must demonstrate at the polls tomorrow that we will not be treated like suckers at a nation-wide Republican carnival.” ... [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Advertising] [and the Rise of Celebrity Politics] [David Haven Blake] [Donald Trump] [Liking Ike: Eisenhower] [Orson Welles] [Ronald Reagan]

June 25, 4AM

Raised by a woman who would be perhaps classified as a “single mother” these days—she was technically married except for a very brief time just before my step-father came along—I have always had great appreciation for the power of women. She didn... [Current Events] [Deities] [feminism] [Goddesses] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [male gaze] [Patty Jenkins] [peace] [superhero] [wonder woman]

June 24, 4AM

One of the truly frustrating things for the honestly curious is a lack of good resources. Specifically here I’m talking about ghosts. More generally, about the supernatural. “Don’t worry,” laugh the reductionists, “there’s no such thing.”... [Books] [Consciousness] [Just for Fun] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [demonologists] [Ed and Lorraine Warren] [Ghost Hunters] [Materialism] [Perron family] [Robert David Chase] [Roman Catholicism] [The Conjuring]

June 23, 2AM

How do you explain that? Everything, I mean. The need to understand “life, the universe, and everything” is as old as our species, and perhaps even older than that. Up until modernity when the limits of physical explanations were reached, gods fill... [Books] [Consciousness] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Can Science Explain Religion: The Cognitive Science Debate] [James W. Jones] [Materialism] [Occam's Razor] [physicalism] [reductionism] [science and religion]

June 22, 1AM

Failure is a part of life. We don’t like stories about failure, however, unless the protagonist goes out with a memorable bang. So it is that when we fail we start looking for a scapegoat. Now it’s a little too early to tell if Ken Ham’s Ark Enco... [Animals] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [environment] [Genesis] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Ark Encounter] [Friendly Atheist] [Ken Ham] [Noah's Ark] [Religious Right] [scapegoat]

June 21, 1AM

What relevance could the Gilgamesh Epic possible hold for contemporary people? Well, one of my colleagues has said that every book is now about Trump. While I resist such thinking, he has a point. Even in reading David Damrosch’s The Buried Book: The... [Archaeology] [Books] [Mesopotamia] [Posts] [Ashurbanipal] [Assyriology] [Austen Henry Layard] [David Damrosch] [George Smith] [Gilgamesh Epic] [Henry Rawlinson] [Hormuzd Rassam] [Iraq] [The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh]

June 20, 2AM

It’s 7:00 p.m. I’m still sitting on a bus, in unmoving traffic a mere three miles from home. I stepped out of my front door over 13 hours ago and I have only another hour before retiring to start it all over again tomorrow. My phone’s down to a c... [Bible] [Current Events] [environment] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [chemical spill] [commuting] [ethics] [N-Aminoethylpiperazine] [Noah's Ark]

June 19, 1AM

I first read 1984 around its eponymous date. The context is informative. I was a student at Grove City College, a conservative, Reagan-esque school of strong free-market inclinations. Being a first-generation college student I knew nothing of choosing ... [Books] [Current Events] [higher education] [literature] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [1984] [Doublethink] [George Orwell] [Grove City College] [newspeak] [Republican Party] [Trump Administration]

June 18, 4AM

I find myself in Ithaca, New York. Places have a resonance with people, and this is one of those places I feel like I belong. The feeling may not be mutual, but that makes it no less real. At least on my part. Dominated by the presence of Cornell Univ... [higher education] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Travel] [Bill Nye] [Binghamton] [carl sagan] [Cornell University] [Ithaca] [New York] [Rod Serling]

June 17, 2AM

Listening to Comrade Trump, I wonder what it is the GOP really wants. My doublethink may be fuddled a bit, but I’m old enough to remember a guy called Ronald Reagan—champion and darling of the Republicans, some of whom say he was the greatest preside... [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Donald Trump] [Doublethink] [GOP] [Republican Party] [Ronald Reagan] [Russia] [Vladimir Putin]

June 16, 1AM

Scholars employed by the academy sometimes fall under its privileged bubble. In that rarified space, the classics, the Bible, and even serious contemporary literature can be parsed and prodded until it’s no longer recognized and everyone thinks it’s ... [Books] [higher education] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [mythology] [Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-creation of the World] [S. Brent Plate]

June 15, 1AM

One of the things you see quite a lot of as an editor is “the next big thing.” Authors with an ego that awes me ensure me that this book will be the sea change we’ve all been waiting for. Things will be different after this is published. I don’... [Bible] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [publishing] [academic publishing] [and Albright] [and P] [Biblical Studies] [Bright] [D] [e] [Germany] [J] [Wellhausen] [Wright]

June 14, 2AM

One of the surest signs of hope for the world is that academics are beginning to notice monsters. A trickle began some time ago and it’s probably best to call it a trickle still, nevertheless, the quality of the trickle is improving. Some serious publ... [Books] [evolution] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [apocalypse] [ethics] [fear] [Greg Garrett] [Living with the Living Dead: The Wisdom of the Zombie Apocalypse] [zombies]

June 13, 1AM

While waiting for the bus, now that it’s light out that early, I like watching the birds. They have complex interactions and so many different styles of flying. They have ways that are a closed book to our species. From human eyes they seem so playfu... [Animals] [creationism] [evolution] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [airplanes] [Bernoulli's law] [birds] [Chicken Run] [dinosaurs] [engineering] [intelligent design]

June 12, 1AM

It feels like confession every time I go to get my hair cut. I sit in the chair and a girl younger than my daughter looks perplexed when I explain it’s been a few months since my last shearing. “Forgive me, daughter, for I have sinned…” Haircut... [Bible] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [2 Samuel] [Absalom] [Alexander the Great] [Caesar] [hair] [haircut]

June 11, 5AM

Fiction is a framework to approach reality. People are drawn to stories because they help us to make sense of a bewildering world which wasn’t, in reality, custom made for us. Marta Figlerowicz’s Flat Protagonists: A Theory of Novel Character explor... [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Posts] [Devil] [fiction] [Flat Protagonists: A Theory of Novel Character] [Marta Figlerowicz] [Satan] [Sleepy Hollow]

June 10, 3AM

Home alone on a Friday night, I turned to Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu. Not a typical horror film, this art house production is an updating and remaking of F. W. Murnau’s technically illegal 1922 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It has been a few... [literature] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [science] [Black Death] [Bram Stoker] [Dracula] [F. W. Murnau] [Klaus Kinski] [Nosferatu] [science and religion] [vampire] [van Helsing] [Werner Herzog]

June 9, 3AM

I had no idea my life was in danger. I was out for a weekend walk with my wife, when suddenly, there they were. Snails. In case you think I’m over-reacting, take a look at Christopher Jobson’s piece on Colossal titled “Why Knights Fought Snails i... [Animals] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [evolution] [Posts] [Christopher Jobson] [Colossal] [snails] [symbolism] [symbols] [Time]

June 8, 1AM

Reading other people’s scripture is a privilege. Although somewhere in my long study of the history of religion I must have read excerpts of The Analects, I have not concentrated on reading them through before. Reading other people’s scripture is li... [Bible] [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Chinese religion] [Confucianism] [Judaism] [Raymond Dawson] [The Analects] [Trump Administration]

June 7, 2AM

I was that awkward introvert in high school. Actually, I’m still that awkward introvert now, as easily talked over in editorial board meetings as I always have been at the lunchroom table. As a consequence I’ll gladly take any help I can get on my s... [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Bob Dylan] [Genealogy] [J. R. R. Tolkien] [John Dillinger] [Melvin Purvis]

June 6, 1AM

It’s all about Jesus. Well, that’s an overstatement, even in context. One of the amazing things to me about books addressing the Bible in film is just how often Jesus movies come up. If it’s not Jesus movies, it’s movies that have a “Christ f... [Bible] [Books] [higher education] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [Bible and film] [David Shepherd] [Hollywood] [Images of the Word: Hollywood’s Bible and Beyond] [jesus] [Reception History] [Richard A. Blake]

June 5, 1AM

Bulls have long been symbols. If I write “that’s bull” your mind will likely fill in the missing implied word. In ancient times the king of the gods, El, was known as “bull El”—probably for a very different reason than the veiled scatologica... [art] [Current Events] [Deities] [feminism] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Ugarit] [Bowling Green Park] [Bull El] [Charging Bull] [Fearless Girl] [Grounds for Sculpture] [International Women's Day] [New York City]

June 4, 3AM

Seminary in the 1980s was a time of endless debate. Some of my classmates at Boston University School of Theology thought me too conservative—I’d made progress from my Fundamentalist days, but these things wear off slowly. Part of the issue, however... [feminism] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Boston University School of Theology] [Gender] [German] [girl] [intersex] [man] [Mark Twain]

June 3, 5AM

Public versus private has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Partially it’s because I’ve been reading about magical beliefs and their persistence. It always amazes me how publicly we declare ourselves rational and uninfluenced by the supernatural. ... [Consciousness] [evolution] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [confirmation bias] [Hex Hollow] [magic] [pennsylvania] [psychics] [Roadtrippers] [witches]

June 2, 3AM

Ecclesiastes, I used to tell my students, is one of the most unusual books of the Bible. And that’s saying something. When we think of the Good Book we think of pious thoughts and lofty feelings—you know, the white-shirt, evangelical sort. The Bible, ... [Bible] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Ecclesiastes] [environmentalism] [evangelicalism] [global warming] [Trump Administration]

June 1, 1AM

Re-reading books is something I do somewhat too infrequently. One of the obvious reasons is that I won’t possibly finish everything I want to read in my lifetime as it is, and once something’s in the vault I tend to move on. I keep books, however, bec... [Books] [Current Events] [environment] [feminism] [literature] [Posts] [science] [environmentalism] [global warming] [Rachel Carson] [re-reading] [The Sea Around Us]

May 31, 1AM

In the early days of publishing, type was set by hand. Individual letters, inserted backward onto plates, were used for printing the positive of a page. Printers could make as many pages as desired, but once the letters were released, it was time-consum... [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [publishing] [Social Consciousness] [computer programming] [Josh O’Connor] [stereotyping] [timeline] [Trump Administration]

May 30, 1AM

Prophets, mothers, messiahs. A new religion for a new world. While these may not be main themes of Robert Repino’s new novel D’Arc, they’re clearly there in the background offering verisimilitude to a world turned upside down. Continuing the dieg... [Animals] [Books] [environment] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [Culdesac] [D’Arc] [global warming] [meaning] [Mort(e)] [Robert Repino] [Tolerance]

May 29, 3AM

A few years back we made a trip to Ellis Island. This is a common field trip here in New Jersey, although none of my immediate family passed through this portal. The most recent immigrants in my own heritage seem to have arrived by the early 1800s. In ... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Ellis Island] [Fundamentalism] [Harrell Beck] [Human Brain] [mental illness] [Mike McRae] [Science Alert]

May 28, 5AM

Like many people, I’ve been re-reading 1984 and wondering what’s going on in a country I thought I knew. With clear evidence of wrong-doing on the part of the chief executive, Republicans have been closing ranks to ensure that bullies rule the pl... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [1984] [freedom of the press] [GOP] [Greg Gianforte] [MAD] [Montana] [propaganda] [Republican Party]

May 27, 3AM

While reading about Jerusalem lately, I recalled my first visit to the Wailing Wall. The Wailing Wall is the only standing part left of the temple that Herod the Great refurbished on the site of the temple originally built during Solomon’s reign, destr... [Bible] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Herod the Great] [Jerusalem] [Judaism] [Tel Dor] [Wailing Wall] [Western Wall]

May 26, 3AM

This might take some thought, but please bear with me. I’ve been reading about how some scientists are eager to promote rationality only as the true understanding of the universe. The flaws in this logic are immense. The greatest gaff here is assumin... [Animals] [Consciousness] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [animal intelligence] [hive mind] [Pleiades] [rationality] [science and religion]

May 25, 2AM

America’s book is seldom read. Those of us who spend an unusual amount of time with the Bible know this from personal experience, but others are starting to notice too. Kenneth A. Briggs’ The Invisible Bestseller: Searching for the Bible in America ... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Sects] [American religion] [Iconic book] [Kenneth A. Briggs] [sermon on the mount] [The Invisible Bestseller: Searching for the Bible in America]

May 24, 1AM

Fox recently announced that, after four seasons, Sleepy Hollow is being cancelled. The news, while not unexpected, is still disappointing. The initial success of the series caught just about everybody by surprise. Intelligent, witty, and literate, this... [Bible] [Current Events] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [apocalypse] [Fox] [Moloch] [Pandora] [Revelation] [Sleepy Hollow]

May 23, 1AM

If your outlook contains the word “supremacy,” I would humbly suggest, it’s time to rethink your philosophy. Borne of a deep insecurity—or overweening pride, which may be the same thing—the idea that one characteristic of this complexity we kno... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Greed] [pride] [seven deadly sins] [Supremacist Groups] [white supremacy]

May 22, 2AM

There’s nothing like going back to the classics. Many people don’t realize that one of the best-selling books of the nineteenth century was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It has never been out of print. As a novel it has its issues, but the tale st... [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [classics] [Frankenstein] [Mary Shelley]

May 21, 4AM

It’s pretty difficult to summarize the feelings when watching your own child graduate from college. Of course, she’s not a child any more, but that’s always the way you’ll think of her. Binghamton University, a “public ivy,” is a competitive... [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [Binghamton University] [commencement] [graduation] [science and religion] [Watson School of Engineering]

May 20, 1AM

The divide between religion and science is often artificially widened by one side or the other. Of course the divide’s artificial—both science and religion are human constructs, after all. This is illustrated well in the sense of wonder in an articl... [Bible] [Deities] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Anthropology] [IFL Science!] [oral tradition] [religion and science] [Robin Andrews] [True Story Of Volcanic Eruption Told By Aboriginal People For 7000 Years]

May 19, 2AM

Have you ever wondered where your Bible came from? No, I mean physically. There are many possible answers to such a query, so the other day I was searching for Bible printers on the web. A great many Bibles are printed by Royal Jongbloed, in the Nether... [Bible] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [science] [Netherlands] [Reformation] [Royal Jongbloed] [science and Bible] [Trump Administration]

May 18, 2AM

It once seemed improbable that an entire book could be written on one word. The first time I noticed this I was a doctoral student who’d run across the late William Holladay’s published dissertation on the Hebrew word shuv. Wow, I thought, an entire... [Books] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Allan Metcalf] [I’m Okay—You’re Okay] [James Pyle’s O.K. Soap] [OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word] [purity] [religious tolerance] [William Holladay]

May 17, 1AM

Looking at the headlines it’s sometimes difficult to believe we’ve evolved. I still trust evidence-based science, despite official government policy, however. So when a friend sent me a story about a new human cousin I knew it was worth a look. Hom... [Archaeology] [Bible] [creationism] [Current Events] [evolution] [Genesis] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Sects] [burial] [Homo naledi] [Homo sapiens] [Neanderthal] [science and Bible] [The Atlantic]

May 16, 1AM

Lots of people write for lots of reasons. Some love it. Some hate it. Some can’t help themselves. For those who know me primarily through this blog, it may not be obvious which of these sorts I am. After having read Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: ... [Books] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [publishing] [Dani Shapiro] [Introverts] [publication] [Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life] [Writing]

May 15, 1AM

Irony is a national resource that’s in abundant supply. Those who inadvertently create it may be the least equipped to appreciate it, but that’s ironic, isn’t it? Time magazine used to be considered conservative. That was before the days when tel... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [GOP] [Is God Dead?] [Is Truth Dead?] [Republican Party] [Time Magazine] [Trump Administration]

May 14, 4AM

Washington’s war on women has made this Mother’s Day especially poignant. As hard as it is to believe, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell had mothers. I can’t comprehend any male being anything but grateful and humble in a woman’s presence. Don’t ... [Current Events] [feminism] [Holidays] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [equality] [Mitch McConnell] [mother's day] [Paul Ryan] [self-sacrifice]

May 13, 4AM

When I walked out of that dissertation defense, still a little unsure whether I’d passed or not, I thought my testing days were over. My early memories of struggling with exams—I wrote that a sphere was a kind of weapon on one vocabulary test I recal... [Animals] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [animal intelligence] [bowerbirds] [Elephants] [GOP] [politicians] [The Independent]

May 12, 2AM

Sidelines can be interesting places to sit. You’re close to the action, and you’re privileged with a close view that few others have. You can’t, however, play the game. Sidelines are familiar to biblical scholars. I can’t count... [Bible] [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Biblical Studies] [Christianity] [Higher Eduction] [Trump Administration]

May 11, 2AM

There aren’t too many people that I consider personal heroes. Those that I do have earned the sobriquet in odd ways, I suppose. That makes them no less deserving. Rachel Carson became a hero because of The Sea Around Us. Published over a decade befo... [Books] [Current Events] [environment] [feminism] [Memoirs] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [and the Rise of the Environmental Movement] [environmentalism] [Mark Hamilton Lytle] [Rachel Carson] [science and religion] [Silent Spring] [The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson] [The Sea Around Us]

May 10, 2AM

Paula Cocozza, writing for The Guardian, describes “How E-books Lost Their Shine.” Like most inveterate readers, she says she has stacks of books growing like mushrooms after a summer rain, in her bedroom. I was working in the publishing industry (I... [Books] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [publishing] [e-books] [Hunterdon County Library Book Sale] [kindle] [library] [Paula Cocozza] [The Guardian] [Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory]

May 9, 1AM

Those who study the Bible have to reckon with the fact that someone else probably said it first. This is one of the inherent liabilities of studying something a couple thousand years old. Still, scholars have to keep their jobs, and so they come up with... [Bible] [Books] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Caroline Vander Stichele] [Close Encounters between Bible and Film: An Interdisciplinary Engagement] [Laura Copier]

May 8, 2AM

Good writing is hard work. One of the mixed blessings of the internet is that it makes publication so easy. Get yourself a blog and nobody has to approve anything! Ideas come tripping across your fingers onto some electronic substrate and, viola! You&... [Books] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [publishing] [blogging] [internet] [painting] [rock tumbler] [Tom Sawyer] [Writing]

May 7, 4AM

Göbekli Tepe, apart from being impossible to pronounce correctly, is a site of embarrassment to historians. First of all, this archaeological site in Turkey is too old. Abandoned around 9000 BCE—some 5000 years before the Sumerians show up with their... [Archaeology] [Egypt] [Posts] [science] [comet] [empirical method] [Gobekli Tepe] [Great Pyramid of Khufu] [New Scientist] [pyramids] [Stonehenge]

May 6, 3AM

With all the petitions going around I’m getting a bit dizzy. I won’t go to the doctor though, since I think Trump may be a pre-existing condition. In any case, seeing all these petitions gives me an idea for one of my own. I suggest a petition that... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Congress] [ethics] [Health Care] [medical outlooks] [petitions] [plutocracy] [prejudice] [Trump care]

May 5, 2AM

io9 is a progressive website. Its futuristic stories delight and entertain. When a friend sent me a story on io9 titled “New Fan Theory Asks the Obvious Question: Is Wall-E Satan?” I had to read. Then wonder. People know so little about the Bible.... [Bible] [Genesis] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Cain and Abel] [Eve] [IO9] [Katharine Trendacosta] [original sin] [Revelation] [Satan] [The Devil] [The Fall] [Wall-E]

May 4, 2AM

In the interest of avoiding conflict thereof, I cannot yet give a review of Randall Balmer’s Evangelicalism in America. Since I’m writing a review of it for Reading Religion, I’ll use it as a springboard into a topic that should concern all who bel... [Bibliolatry] [Books] [civil religion] [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [abortion] [Bob Jones University] [evangelicalism] [Evangelicalism in America] [Politics and Religion] [Randall Balmer] [Reading Religion] [religious freedom] [Religious Right] [social gospel]

May 3, 1AM

The other day I was awakened by a severe thunderstorm. It’s been quite a while since that’s happened. Unlike when we lived in the Midwest, thunderstorms in New Jersey tend to be widely scattered and somewhat uncommon. (It’s all a matter of perspe... [Books] [environment] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [publishing] [Sects] [Weather] [Beethoven] [daily office] [Nashotah House] [New Jersey] [thunderstorm] [Weathering the Psalms]

May 2, 1AM

We all know the type. The guy who brags that he can do something complex without all the study and “hard work” (scare quotes theirs) necessary beforehand. When he starts strutting his stuff, and realizes that it is much harder than he thought, he ha... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [45] [braggarts] [expertise] [nuclear weapons] [politics] [presidency] [Twitter]

May 1, 1AM

Every once in a while I take a chance and write about music. I don’t do this too often since it’s a very personal thing, and as open as I may be on this blog, I’m not as accessible as I seem. We all need a place to retreat in this world, and Bruce... [Books] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Rock-n-Roll] [Social Consciousness] [autobiography] [Born to Run] [Bruce Springsteen] [depression] [Memoir] [music]

April 30, 4AM

How do we know what’s true? For many the answer is what your experience reveals. If that experience involves being raised as a Bible-believer, that complicates things. A friend recently sent me a New York Times piece entitled “The Evangelical Roots... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [science] [Fundamentalism] [Inerrancy] [Molly Worthen] [New York Times] [science and religion] [truth]

April 29, 5AM

Many modern mini-holidays are centered around things you might buy. I don’t mind that so much in the case of Independent Bookstore Day—of which I wish you a happy one. Quite by accident I found myself in an independent bookstore just last night, not... [Books] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [publishing] [Social Consciousness] [Borders] [civilization] [Independent Bookstore Day] [independent bookstores] [literacy]

April 28, 2AM

I read quite a bit about animals. One reason is that when you’re counting all the species on the planet we’re pretty clearly among the animal part. Having grown up with many pets, the dogs particularly stand out. We tended to have only one dog at a... [Animals] [Books] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [A Dog’s Purpose] [animal emotions] [animal intelligence] [karma] [Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2017 Reading Challenge] [reincarnation] [W. Bruce Cameron]

April 27, 1AM

Here’s another post originating from my daily work as an editor. (As an editor you tend to assume nobody’s really interested in what you do all day, but I’ve been told this isn’t so.) What is copyright? And do I have it? First of all, a caveat... [Books] [literature] [Posts] [publishing] [1922] [book contract] [copyright] [editor] [fair use doctrine] [intellectual property] [permissions]

April 26, 1AM

Skeptics can be so much fun. We really do need them, otherwise we’d likely still be living with notions of medical science being attributed to four humors, none of which were that funny. Still, sometimes it gets tiresome to read endless references tha... [Consciousness] [Posts] [science] [body and soul] [Occam's Razor] [philosophy] [science and religion] [William of Ockham]

April 25, 1AM

As a novel, like its monster, Frankenstein trespasses all kinds of boundaries. Is it science fiction or horror? Is it Gothic or presciently modern? Is it feminist or conventional? One thing about it is certain: it has been immensely influential. Lest... [Books] [literature] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [science] [Allison B. Kavey] [Frankenstein] [Frankenstein's monster] [horror films] [Lester D. Friedman] [Mary Shelley] [Monstrous Progeny: A History of the Frankenstein Narratives] [science and religion] [Universal Studios]

April 24, 1AM

A few thoughts about the March for Science in Manhattan over the weekend seem to be in order. To get to the rally in time, from our little corner of New Jersey, we found ourselves on an early train. We arrived at 62nd Street and Central Park West to dis... [Current Events] [environment] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [Manhattan] [Prayer] [science and religion] [Science March] [Scientific method] [Trump Tower]

April 23, 3AM

In times of distress, as well as of joy, I turn to books. Since about November there have been more of the former than the latter, so I’m cheered that today is World Book Day. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has de... [Books] [Current Events] [Holidays] [literature] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [literacy] [Scientific and Cultural Organization] [United Nations] [United Nations Educational] [World Book Day]

April 22, 2AM

They used to call her “Mother Earth.” Now she’s simply a commodity to be liquidated into cash at the country club where rich white men play. That’s why I’m spending Earth Day on my third protest march of the year. Of all the things the Republ... [Current Events] [environment] [Holidays] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Earth Day] [environmentalism] [New York City] [Republican Party] [Science March] [Trump Administration]

April 21, 2AM

Like most kids in America I grew up with some form of Disney. We couldn’t afford to see many movies, but those we could often originated from the acknowledged master of childhood viewing. When I became a parent I naturally turned to Disney as one of t... [cartoons] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Archangel Michael] [Beauty and the Beast] [Disney] [Dragon]

April 20, 2AM

Like most awkwardly shy children, I used to collect stamps. Even today a bright one will catch my attention although it’s been years since I actively sought them in a household not really important enough to receive much more than bills. To make up fo... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [1885] [Hobby Lobby] [Introverts] [liberty] [philatelist] [stamp collecting] [supreme court]

April 19, 2AM

Salem, Massachusetts, brings to mind images of intolerance and a culture ossified in superstition. That’s not really fair, of course. Even in the late seventeenth century the people of Salem were living during the Enlightenment and they understood eno... [Books] [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Connecticut] [Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692] [Kate Branch] [Massachusetts] [Puritans] [Richard Godbeer] [Salem] [Stamford] [Washington DC] [witchcraft]

April 18, 1AM

From time to time I’ve good-naturedly poked fun at the Watch Tower Society members who used to visit with some frequency. I don’t belittle anyone’s belief system, however. Believers of any faith are generally sincere and certainly entitled to foll... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Amanda Erickson] [Jehovah's Witnesses] [John Cale] [New Jersey Star-Ledger] [New Jersey Transit] [New Religious Movement] [pacifism] [Port Authority Bus Terminal] [Russia] [The Washington Post] [Watch Tower Society]

April 17, 2AM

Nobody likes to have their shortcomings pointed out. I suspect that’s why many people might find Tom Nichols’ The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters a little uncomfortable. Nichols doesn’t pull any pu... [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [alternative facts] [C. S. Lewis] [internet] [Jeopardy] [Know Nothing Party] [The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters] [the screwtape letters] [Tom Nichols]

April 16, 4AM

Although today is Easter for some, for many it generally isn’t. And I don’t mean just those who follow faiths outside Christianity. One of the hallmarks of religions is their tendency to fragment like a sugar egg under Thor’s hammer. Christians h... [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Christianities] [Easter] [Gregorian calendar] [Julian calendar] [Mitch McConnell] [religious holidays]

April 15, 3AM

One-hundred-five years ago today, one of modernity’s great achievements sank alone in the icy waters of the chilled North Atlantic. While the ultimate cause of Titanic’s demise may have been an iceberg, the proximate cause was surely much more common... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Chris Christie] [New Jersey Transit] [New York City] [Penn Station] [Titanic] [Trump Administration] [United Airlines]

April 14, 1AM

Long before the Walking Dead, and even before Twilight or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, people took the undead seriously. Now, I know ratings are important (they attract advertisers and their money, after all), but when the fear is reality the stakes are upp... [Archaeology] [Britannia] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Monsters] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Buffy the Vampire Slayer] [Easter] [guardian] [Maev Kennedy] [Medieval Period] [resurrection] [Twilight] [Walking Dead]

April 13, 2AM

The other day I heard someone use the phrase, “preaching to the converted.” I’ve read enough anthropology to know that regional variations on folk sayings exist, but I’ve always heard this as “preaching to the choir.” What’s the difference... [Britannia] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Anthropology] [Christianity] [church choir] [Preaching] [preaching to the choir] [preaching to the converted]

April 12, 2AM

I recently had the opportunity to discuss publishing to a room full of academics. (Ooo, I can feel the envy rising already!) Although I discuss books quite frequently on this blog, I generally don’t discuss publishing much. One of the reasons is that... [Books] [higher education] [Memoirs] [movies] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [academic publishing] [administration] [commissioning editor] [how to get published] [Michael Corleone] [The Godfather]

April 11, 1AM

Maybe you’ve noticed it too. While certainly not universal, many forms of Gothic cultural expression (novels, movies, television, etc.) have a playfulness to them. As if taking the genre too seriously might be a misrepresentation. Even Edgar Allan Po... [Books] [Current Events] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [and the Rise of the Happy Goth] [Anglo-Catholic] [Catherine Spooner] [Edgar Allan Poe] [Goth] [Gothic] [Medieval Church] [Post-Millennial Gothic: Comedy] [romance] [Steampunk] [Tolerance]

April 10, 1AM

Religion and folklore encapsulate what folk believe. Human beings, despite rationality, are ritualistic creatures. Psychologists have their work cut out trying to explain why we do this or that odd thing, and historians sometimes dig deep into the backs... [Britannia] [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Andrew Taylor] [Burryman] [Edinburgh] [folklore] [ghost story] [Great Big Story] [Mylne’s Court] [paganism] [Scotland] [South Queensferry]

April 9, 4AM

“Holy Week” affects only some. That thought may be disturbing to those who still think of religions as a one-size-fits-all phenomenon. So, although today is Palm Sunday for many, for others it’s just Sunday. Not even all Christians recognize the ... [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [evolution] [higher education] [Holidays] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [holy week] [nones] [Palm Sunday] [religious tolerance]

April 8, 3AM

The weather which we’re having, showing the impact of imaginary global warming, has been quite dramatic of late. I recently had occasion to be out driving during one of the more intense weather events when the sun broke through only to reveal an impres... [Bible] [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [misogyny] [Pollyanna Jones] [Trump Administration] [Witch Hunters] [witches]

April 7, 2AM

One of the reasons I accept reading challenges is that they take you places you otherwise wouldn’t go. Not all the books I read for the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2017 challenge make it onto this blog (to find the full list you need to see what I post on Goodre... [Books] [Deities] [environment] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Boy Detective] [Goodreads] [J. Bradley] [jesus christ] [Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2017 Reading Challenge] [Theodicy]

April 6, 2AM

Government by Twitter is such a trendy thing. I’ve got a Twitter account and I can’t keep up with it most of the time. I wonder how anyone has time to get off the golf course long enough to let the thumbs fly these days. I got an article in my inbo... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [fbi] [James Comey] [public intellectual] [Reinhold Niebuhr] [socialism] [Twitter]

April 5, 2AM

It might seem superfluous to be reading about pirates when such serious issues face us these days, but my answer to most of life’s problems is to look at the history. Besides, like many people in the early new millennium I was swept into the swashbuckl... [Books] [Current Events] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Captain Hook] [Henry Every] [Johnny Depp] [Long John Silver] [Neil Rennie] [Pirates of the Caribbean] [Treasure Neverland: Real and Imaginary Pirates]

April 4, 1AM

Reading Orwellian headlines on a daily basis can wear you down. Think about it—we know because of the endless obfuscation that the Trump administration has deep entanglements with Russia. We know that Russians tried to sway the election toward Trump. ... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Donald Trump] [fascism] [George Orwell] [Great Depression] [Great War] [Nashotah House] [Russia]

April 3, 1AM

We’ve had a lot of rain lately. One rainy night over this past weekend I talked my wife into watching Dracula with me. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen this classic myself. Difficult to believe that it was ever scary. This is the film that ... [Bible] [higher education] [Monsters] [movies] [Posts] [Weather] [American Academy of Religion] [Dracula] [horror movies] [Leviticus] [Monsters and Monster Theory] [vampires]

April 2, 2AM

Maybe the universe isn’t expanding, maybe it’s growing. Always tinged with a healthy dose of pantheism, I’ve often opined to those who will listen that life might be more than animals and plants and microorganisms. But then again, I don’t have t... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [science] [Jeremy England] [Meghan Walsh] [pantheism] [physics] [science and religion] [Thomas Nagel]

April 1, 4AM

Photo credit: Richard from Canton, Wikipedia Commons Speaking of theodicy, I have a dentist appointment today. Now, if you were raised with the Protestant guilt that used to be so pervasive in this nation, you’ll understand. I do brush my teeth twice ... [Current Events] [Deities] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Archaeology] [dentist] [Edinburgh] [Neanderthal] [protestantism] [Theodicy]

March 31, 2AM

Intellectual property is a concept that only arises where thought can be monetized. Think about that. (But don’t charge me, please!) It is a strange idea, when you ponder it. In any case, one of the problems with writing book reviews is that the rev... [Books] [Current Events] [feminism] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Book Reviews] [Early Modern Women and the Problem of Evil: Atrocity & Theodicy] [Jill Graper Hernandez] [Nashotah House] [philosophy] [Theodicy]

March 30, 2AM

Beowulf, from Wikimedia Commons. Slaying dragons is costly. In much of the western hemisphere the ultimate metaphor for the perils that await humanity in a world imperfectly understood, dragons were the bane of the medieval imagination. And earlier. Dr... [Bible] [Books] [Britannia] [Classical Mythology] [literature] [Monsters] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Atlantic magazine] [Beowulf] [Christianity] [Dragon] [Gilgamesh] [Grendel] [James Parker] [Reception History]

March 29, 2AM

While reading about Cyrus Scofield recently—and that book has stayed on and played with my mind for some reason—I ran across the conferences that he held in preparing his famous reference Bible. Although he claimed the sobriquet “Doctor,” placing... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [Cyrus Scofield] [Fundamentalism] [Grove City College] [King James Version] [pennsylvania] [Ryrie Study Bible] [Scofield Reference Bible]

March 28, 2AM

Academics and social media are, at times, an uneasy fit. In my work as an editor I come across many of the professorate who have virtually no web presence at all. If you’re wanting to write a book these days and you aren’t yet famous, you need what ... [Asherah] [Deities] [higher education] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [] [Edinburgh] [editor] [Pornography] [social media]

March 27, 1AM

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the ancient documents still widely recognized, at least by name. Many introductions to literature, or the western canon, refer to it. It is, in some senses of the phrase, the world’s first classic. I’ve read Gilgames... [Books] [Classical Mythology] [literature] [Mesopotamia] [Posts] [ARAM] [Epic of Gilgamesh] [Maureen Gallery Kovacs] [Syria] [Utnapishtim]

March 26, 3AM

I recently sat through Sexual Harassment Prevention training. Not because of anything I’ve done, mind you, but because organizations have long realized that if training isn’t mandated, lawyers are ready to pounce when someone does do something illega... [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [immutable characteristics] [protected category] [sexual harassment] [Sexual Harassment Prevention Training] [Trump Administration]

March 25, 3AM

One of the hidden benefits of the coming societal collapse is the chance for the resurgence of print books. Since I’ve spent most of my life surrounding myself with volumes thick and thin, dense and light, I’ll have plenty to read between bouts of sk... [Books] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Sects] [Amazon] [Atlas Obscura] [Libraries] [monks] [Sarah Laskow] [The Name of the Rose]

March 24, 2AM

I fear anyone named Ronald. Being named’s something a kid can’t help, I know, but associations run deep and irrational fears are the flavor of the day. When a friend sent me a link to the original Ronald McDonald clown concept, I had to look. Now, ... [Bible] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [clowns] [Clowns for Christ] [Godspell] [Jesus Christ Superstar] [McDonalds] [Ronald McDonald] [tertullian]

March 23, 1AM

For a man as amazingly influential as he was, Cyrus I. Scofield hasn’t been the object of much curiosity. In the venerable academic tradition of ignoring those you disagree with, serious scholars dismiss Scofield as some kind of evangelical aberration,... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Cyrus I. Scofield] [Joseph M. Canfield] [Plymouth Brethren] [Scofield Reference Bible] [The Incredible Scofield and His Book] [the Rapture]

March 22, 1AM

In an early episode of The Simpsons Marge is commissioned to paint a portrait of Montgomery Burns. Angry with him because of his constant treatment of others as beneath him and his glib superiority granted by wealth, she paints him old and feeble, naked ... [Archaeology] [cartoons] [civil religion] [Current Events] [Mesopotamia] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Archaeodeath] [Cyrus the Great] [Donald Trump] [Marge Simpson] [Montgomery Burns] [Professor Howard M. R. Williams] [Sleepy Hollow] [The Simpsons] [Washington Irving]

March 21, 1AM

What does it mean to be human? The answer’s not as straightforward as it might seem. Reading Robert Repino’s Culdesac, that question came back to me time and again. This novella takes off from the story of Mort(e), about which I blogged shortly aft... [Animals] [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [animal rights] [Culdesac] [education] [Mort(e)] [Robert Repino] [Trump Administration]

March 20, 1AM

I sign a lot of petitions. That’s because the job of prophet doesn’t pay well enough to support a family any more. What it does mean is that I get a lot of emails from causes looking for supporters. I don’t sign blindly. That was brought home to... [Bible] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Biblical prophecy] [fake news] [Moby Dick] [Neil Gorsuch] [Politics and Religion] [Prophets] [Trump Administration]

March 19, 2AM

Reading about Jesus is an occupational expectation for an editor of biblical studies. Not that this is anything new for someone who grew up thinking of him constantly. One of the issues often raised about the son of Mary and Joseph is what he did during... [Bible] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Christmas] [historical Jesus] [Jesus of Nazareth] [Lent] [single parents]

March 18, 2AM

Labels give us the information we need to enact our prejudices immediately. Having been on the receiving end of great cruelty by “conservatives,” for example, I’m immediately cautious of anyone bearing that brand. A strange confession, perhaps, fr... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [movies] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [11/9] [Cabaret] [Conservative] [fascism] [Grove City College] [Nazis] [Trump Administration]

March 17, 2AM

I believe it was C. S. Lewis who wrote that in reading autobiographies he always found the earliest years the most interesting.. In my experience the same applies to biographies; what made the person famous enough to merit a biography—auto or not—sta... [Books] [literature] [Posts] [Alice in Wonderland] [Alice Liddell] [Charles Dodgson] [Lewis Carroll] [Simon Winchester] [The Alice behind Wonderland] [Through the Looking-Glass]

March 16, 1AM

The Bible can lead you astray sometimes. Don’t worry, it’s unintentional, I’m sure. It has less to do with the Bible itself than with the way it was compiled. Any book written over centuries by different people is bound to show some inconsistenci... [Bible] [Books] [Consciousness] [Monsters] [movies] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [and Early Modern Judaism] [Between Worlds: Dybbuks] [dybbuk] [exorcists] [gehenna] [Gehinnom] [heaven] [hell] [J. H. Chajes] [Purgatory] [reincarnation] [sheol] [The Possession]

March 15, 1AM

A friend recently sent me a story from Anonymous titled “Why Did The Vatican Remove 14 Books From The Bible in 1684?” This piece reminded me of just how rampant biblical illiteracy is in this Bible-worshiping culture. To begin with the obvious, Roma... [Bible] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [anonymous] [Coverdale Bible] [Journal of Religion and Popular Culture] [King James Version] [Lesser Key of Solomon] [protestantism] [Roman Catholicism] [Vatican] [Wisdom of Solomon]

March 14, 1AM

The dangers of prognostication were well known in antiquity. Most prophets, who didn’t so much tell the future as warn about probable outcomes, weren’t the most popular of people. They knew that feeling of walking into a crowded room and announcing ... [Bible] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Weather] [11/9] [Nor'easter] [prediction] [Prophets] [Weathering the Psalms]

March 13, 1AM

I like a good neologism as much as the next guy. Oxford English Dictionaries recently released a covey of new words added to the famed lexicon. Most of them, it seemed to me, had to do with dangers of technology, like “drunk text” and such fare. St... [Britannia] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [BBC] [champing] [dreams] [incubation ritual] [Jumonville] [United Methodist Church]

March 12, 3AM

“When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound,” the old hymn goes, “and time shall be no more…” Before Trump’s election I always supposed this might have something to do with the useless ritual of setting our clocks ahead. Apart from the fact th... [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [Candlemas] [candles] [Daylight Saving Time] [Dylan Thomas] [ritual]

March 11, 5AM

Ames, Iowa is famous for many things. Not only is it where my wife grew up and where we were married, but it’s also the home city of Howard Bannister from What’s Up Doc? and it served as the staging ground for the crew of Twister, which includes some... [higher education] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [Binghamton University] [Elizabeth Tucker] [Ghostbusters] [ghosts] [Grove City College] [Iowa State University] [Twister] [What's Up Doc?]

March 10, 3AM

One thing we can say about the misguided leadership of this country is that they’re taking the Bible seriously. As the Republicans roll out a “healthcare” plan that would leave the elderly and poor at the mercy of the rich—known for their compass... [Bible] [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [jesus] [Kenny Rogers] [Obamacare] [plutocracy] [Republican Party] [second coming] [Trumpcare]

March 9, 2AM

Although most of us can recognize it on sight, we have a difficult time defining religion. In the early parts of Film as Religion: Myths, Morals, and Rituals, John C. Lyden discusses this lack of definition and offers some broad categorizations since his... [Books] [civil religion] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [and Rituals] [Film as Religion: Myths] [Genre] [John C. Lyden] [Monotheism] [morals]

March 8, 2AM

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude but I just had to laugh. A friend sent me an article from Science Alert titled “A Physicist Just Explained Why the Large Hadron Collider Disproves the Existence of Ghosts.” Intrigued, I read, “there’s ... [Animals] [astronomy] [Consciousness] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [ghosts] [Large Hadron Collider] [Materialism] [Science Alert] [science and religion]

March 7, 2AM

Selfishness goes by many names. One of the strangest is “Christianity.” I wouldn’t presume to define a religion, but some time back my wife sent me a story about the prosperity gospel. Written by Michael Horton, himself an evangelical, the pre-gr... [Bible] [Current Events] [Posts] [Psalms] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [evangelicalism] [heresy] [Michael Horton] [prosperity Gospel] [Psalm 82] [selfishness] [The Washington Post]

March 6, 2AM

To those raised in the Christian tradition incarnation is a familiar concept. The idea, more complex than it sounds, is that God becomes human. In a world of DNA and general disbelief in anything non-physical, it boggles the mind how disincarnate “mat... [Animals] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Sects] [burial] [excarnation] [Hinduism] [incarnation] [Judaism] [Vintage News] [Zarathustra] [zoroastrianism]

March 5, 5AM

Have you ever bitten into a piece of rotten fruit? I suspect most of us have had the unpleasant experience. From the outside the apple looks fine but that first bite sinks into a brown and corrupt interior that turns your stomach. There’s no rehabili... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Donald Trump] [evangelicalism] [fruit] [Jeff Sessions] [Russia] [Steve Bannon]

March 4, 3AM

You know things are bad when another president who couldn’t win the popular vote criticizes you. Don’t get me wrong—criticism is good. In my academic existence (on life-support for over a decade now) I’ve received plenty. The point is you can... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Bible and politics] [biblical criticism] [Donald Trump] [Politics and Religion]

March 3, 2AM

Among religious studies scholars “cult,” in the popular sense, is a swear word. Professionals in the field don’t use it because it implies that a belief system—usually modern—is somehow less important than an established religious tradition. I... [civil religion] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Cult] [David Koresh] [Donald Trump] [GQ] [Jim Jones] [Marshall Applewhite] [New Religious Movements] [Rebecca Nelson] [Rick Alan Ross]

March 2, 2AM

Although I’ve not formally studied it, Buddhism has long been part of my thought process. Like Thomas Merton—and this may be the only point of comparison between us—I find little difference between the contemplative worlds of Buddhism and Christian... [Books] [Consciousness] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [buddhism] [Dalai Lama] [David R. Loy] [Narrative] [Nashotah House] [The Beatles] [The World Is Made of Stories] [Thomas Merton] [Yoga]

March 1, 2AM

The drama of acquiring Adele Reinhartz’s Bible and Cinema: An Introduction almost overshadows the joy of reading it at last. Back in my teaching days I realized that in very long class sessions (some went for four hours at Rutgers) students needed a br... [Bible] [Books] [higher education] [movies] [Posts] [Adele Reinhartz] [Amazon] [Bible and Cinema: An Introduction] [Routledge] [Rutgers University]

February 28, 2AM

Erich Fromm once defined evil as “attraction to what is dead, decaying, lifeless, and purely mechanical.” Certainly Fromm doesn’t hold the cachet he once did, but this way of thinking about evil has stuck with me. It’s not so much the dead, deca... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Erich Fromm] [ethics] [evil] [fake news] [humanism] [Mathematics] [morality]

February 27, 2AM

Horror movies are, of course, more than escapism. Although it’s taken many years academics are starting to pay some attention to them. Because of a conversation with a colleague this past week I felt compelled to watch The Omen again. The current pol... [Bible] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [1984] [Book of Revelation] [Damien] [Devil] [dispensationalism] [horror movies] [Republican Party] [Steve Bannon] [The Omen]

February 26, 5AM

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a dude! What what is it? It’s actually a cloud. I enjoy the entries on Mysterious Universe, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. It seems like decades since I laid down on the ground and looked at the c... [Current Events] [environment] [Posts] [science] [Weather] [clouds] [global warming] [jesus] [Mysterious Universe] [pareidolia] [water]

February 25, 5AM

Apartment dwellers often ponder new neighbors. If anything gives the lie to being in control of your own destiny, renting your domicile does. Still using the old, aristocratic terms landlord or landlady, we know that we are under someone else’s author... [astronomy] [Current Events] [literature] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [aliens] [carl sagan] [Contact] [extraterrestrial] [fascism] [landlady] [landlord] [new planets] [outer space] [rent] [Roswell]

February 24, 2AM

The problem with monsters is that they’re not easily reduced to a lowest common denominator. This becomes clear in an article about the under explored (from a western perspective) monsters of Australia. Christine Judith Nicholls, in “‘Dreamings’... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [literature] [Monsters] [Posts] [aboriginal culture] [Australia] [Christine Judith Nicholls] [Dreamtime] [indigenous religion] [Richard Lea] [The Guardian]

February 23, 2AM

One might be excused for thinking so much about the Devil these days. Displays of lies and evil intentions are on pretty obvious display at the highest levels. Indeed, the current political situation has me reassessing my skepticism about the Antichrist... [Bible] [Books] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [Deities] [Monsters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Antichrist] [evil] [Greek thought] [Jeffrey Burton Russell] [Satan] [The Devil] [The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity] [zoroastrianism]

February 22, 2AM

The Book of Jubilees. 1 Enoch. It’s been years since I’ve read these “apocryphal” books. I’m thinking about them today because of the concept of canon. If you’re like me—and I sincerely hope you’re not—you never heard the word “can... [Bible] [higher education] [Posts] [Sects] [1 Enoch] [Deutero-canonical books] [Ethiopia] [Ethiopic Orthodox] [Jubilees] [Tewahedo] [the Apocrypha]

February 21, 2AM

Celebrating the New Year in the middle of winter is a strange idea, at first glance. As I have discussed before, January 1 is “Circumcision-style New Year,” based on the projected date of Jesus’ circumcision after the church had settled on December... [Animals] [Bible] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Sects] [Chinese New Year] [circumcision] [lunar calendar] [Passover] [Winter solstice] [Year of the Rooster]

February 20, 2AM

I was traveling abroad with a friend. We’d just arrived back in the United States and were making our way through customs. Since he was from another country we were separated. The border agent told me I couldn’t come back into the country unless I ... [civil religion] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [11/9] [Ash Wednesday] [Brexit] [Bruce Springsteen] [electoral college] [President’s Day] [U2]

February 19, 4AM

I was a teen-age religion major. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but I did start college at 19 and, being a first generation matriculant, had no idea about majors. No idea about colleges either. The school you choose stays with you for your life—espec... [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Boston University School of Theology] [Grove City College] [religious conservatism] [United Methodist Church]

February 18, 4AM

Scribbling. All it takes is a margin of an agenda paper or the back of an envelope. I don’t remember when I started doing it—I’ve been writing my own blend of fiction, facts, and philosophy since I was in elementary school—but I would find a rel... [Just for Fun] [literature] [Posts] [Atlas Obscura] [Cara Giaimo] [commonplace book] [Lemony Snicket] [Moleskines] [Series of Unfortunate Events] [zibaldone]

February 17, 2AM

Arthur Rackham – “How at the Castle of Corbin a Maiden Bare in the Sangreal and Foretold the Achievements of Galahad,” Wikimedia Commons We’re all grail hunters. It doesn’t matter what religion, if any, you claim. We want to find t... [Britannia] [Classical Mythology] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Atlas Obscura] [Bible] [Bran] [Celtic Mythology] [holy grail] [King Arthur] [Meg Neal] [Passover seder]

February 16, 2AM

Edward J. Ingebretsen is one of the most intelligent analysts of monsters about. That may seem like a small order, but it’s not—many people write about monsters, and Ingebretsen is one to whom attention is owed. At Stake: Monsters and the Rhetoric o... [Books] [Current Events] [Monsters] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [At Stake: Monsters and the Rhetoric of Fear in Popular Culture] [Edward J. Ingebretsen] [Jeffrey Dahmer] [Matthew Shepard] [Susan Smith]

February 15, 2AM

Investigating a new field, at least on an academic level, involves a little disorientation. Part of this derives from the fact that academics didn’t use to write about monsters. Another part of it, however, is that those who do such writing have been ... [Books] [Current Events] [Monsters] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Golem] [Golem: Modern Wars and Their Monsters] [Judaism] [Maya Barzilai] [pogroms] [War]

February 14, 2AM

Horror movies provide a strange consolation at times such as this. When evil has overtaken democracy, it’s almost like strategy, watching how fictional characters deal with things that are wrong, things that are too close to real life. The Lazarus Eff... [Bible] [Current Events] [movies] [Posts] [science] [Sects] [Catholic] [horror movies] [Pet Sematary] [Re-Animator] [resurrection] [science and religion] [The Lazarus Effect]

February 13, 2AM

Noah’s Ark has a way of showing up in many literary forms. Familiar to many from Genesis, it actually predates the Good Book by hundreds of years. On the backside, it keeps recurring in literature as diverse as Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Jonathan... [Animals] [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Bill Broun] [Heaven's Gate] [Jonathan Carroll] [MaddAddam trilogy] [Margaret Atwood] [Neal Stephenson] [Night of the Animals] [Noah's Ark] [Snow Crash] [The Ghost in Love]

February 12, 4AM

History involves perspective. We sometimes forget that. I was alive when human beings first reached the moon, so maybe I’m a bit blasé about what a great technological accomplishment that was. Down here on earth we were still having trouble with the... [astronomy] [Current Events] [feminism] [movies] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [African-American] [Barack Obama] [black lives matter] [Coretta Scott King] [Elizabeth Warren] [Hidden Figures] [Jeff Sessions] [Mitch McConnell] [space race]

February 11, 5AM

I’ve been brushing up on my literary theory. All writing tends to get classified as fact or fiction, and we don’t stop to think, generally, about what “literature” is. Those of us who write fiction and non know that a well-placed hyperbole might... [Bible] [Books] [Britannia] [literature] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Social Consciousness] [British empire] [Jonathan Culler] [Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction] [Rhetoric] [theorists]

February 10, 2AM

I had an email from Mike Pence. Mike Pence doesn’t know me from Adam, but if he met me he surely wouldn’t like me. His email tried to explain, in tottering logic, why he voted for Betsy DeVos. When I finished wiping the vomit from my mouth, I began... [Just for Fun] [literature] [Posts] [alternative facts] [Betsy DeVos] [Disraeli] [Kellyanne Conway] [Mark Twain] [Mike Pence] [Sean Spicer] [spam] [superlatives]

February 9, 3AM

Last month one of the three remaining Shakers died. In this era of religion unawareness, not many Americans, I expect, could identify this dying religion. The Shakers aren’t the Quakers—we like to give religions we don’t understand pejorative moni... [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Sects] [Celibacy] [Great Awakening] [Maine] [millenarians] [New York] [Quakers] [second coming] [Shakers] [Simple Gifts]

February 8, 2AM

I remember seeing a television commercial once (not during the Super Bowl) where an older guy, a lawyer, complained at the camera, “It used to be that lawyers didn’t advertise.” He went on to say that he felt uncomfortable promoting himself since i... [Bible] [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [educational imperative] [Emily St. John Mandel] [Journal of Religion and Popular Culture] [JSTOR] [Nashotah House] [Sleepy Hollow] [Station Eleven]

February 7, 2AM

Good and evil. Well, mostly evil, actually. No, I’m not talking about Washington, DC, but about horror movies. Cynthia A. Freeland’s The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror is a study that brings a cognitivist approach to the dual them... [Books] [Current Events] [feminism] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Cynthia A. Freeland] [horror movies] [philosophy] [The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror]

February 6, 2AM

“If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the dr... [Bible] [Current Events] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Cost of Discipleship] [Dietrich Bonhoeffer] [evangelicalism] [Nazi Germany] [prosperity Gospel]

February 5, 2AM

It’s cold. It may not be Alaska, or even Wisconsin, but I can’t feel my fingers and the temperature hasn’t risen above freezing all day. New Jersey doesn’t get the incredible chills we used to experience in Wisconsin, but I’ve been outside goi... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [democracy] [election 2016] [Islam] [New Jersey] [plutocracy] [Protest] [social justice] [Somerset County]

February 4, 4AM

It used to be called argumentum e silentio, the argument from silence.  It didn’t take very long into my post-graduate reading to learn that arguments from silence were very rarely admitted in the academy as any kind of evidence at all.  In fact, argu... [higher education] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [argument from silence] [argumentum e silentio] [fallacy] [logic] [nihilism] [Susan Cain]

February 3, 2AM

Those who think walls actually keep people out have never ridden the train through North Philadelphia. Or into Newark. I have to admit that I’ve always found rail-side graffiti aesthetically pleasing. Some of these vandals are real artists on a scale... [art] [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [alternative facts] [graffiti] [New York City] [Newark] [Philadelphia] [walls] [Women's March on Washington]

February 2, 2AM

I think Steve Bannon has already taken over my computer. How else can I explain everything stopping in the middle of a word, fingers flying, building up to some rhetorical flourish and suddenly the screen goes blank. Windows that I’d forgotten I had o... [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [1984] [Apple] [Bill Gates] [commuting] [Mark Zuckerberg] [Steve Bannon] [system updates]

February 1, 2AM

Two things about my childhood: I grew up religious, and I grew up learning you didn’t talk about religion or politics. Now I see that that combination leads to tremendous potential for abuse. Many conservative Christians believe that their faith only ... [Bibliolatry] [civil religion] [Current Events] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [billy graham] [C. S. Lewis] [Dietrich Bonhoeffer] [Francis Schaeffer] [George Whitefield] [Gilgamesh] [john calvin]

January 31, 2AM

A few weeks ago I wrote about re-watching The Exorcism of Emily Rose. In anticipation of the inauguration I was in the midst of a spate of possession movies. I watched several others, including The Rite and The Possession. This got me thinking I should... [Books] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Deities] [movies] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Anneliese Michel] [Felicitas D. Goodman] [glossolalia] [How About Demons? Possession and Exorcism in the Modern World] [multiple personality syndrome] [reductionism] [speaking in tongues] [The Exorcism of Emily Rose]

January 30, 2AM

Working in publishing, I’m well aware of the stresses of the information industry. Jobs frequently evaporate as new, less formal ways of spreading ideas develop. To the typical academic what a university press offers is the secret knowledge of where t... [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [academic publishing] [Deborah Lev] [New Jersey Star-Ledger] [New York Times] [Newspapers] [post-truth politics] [publishing]

January 29, 3AM

When teaching mythology at Montclair State University, I had students watch O Brother, Where Art Thou? Based on Homer’s Odyssey, the movie follows a trio of convicts during a election campaign through depression-ridden Mississippi. The populist candid... [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [feminism] [movies] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [anti-abortion] [Homer's Odyssey] [Ku Klux Klan] [Mississippi] [Montclair State University] [O Brother Where Art Thou] [Women's March on Washington]

January 28, 3AM

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave. When first we practise to deceive!” I always thought this couplet came from Shakespeare, but in fact it’s from Sir Walter Scott’s poem “Marmion.” The quote has been in my head all this first week of the new ... [Books] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [1984] [Donald Trump] [George Orwell] [Hamlet] [Harold Hecuba] [Marmion] [Sir Walter Scott] [William Shakespeare]

January 27, 2AM

Evangelical culture must be an endlessly fascinating area of study for sociologists. So pervasive that many people who aren’t religious buy into aspects of it, this social movement has shaped American thought in often unexpected ways. Take the rapture... [Bibliolatry] [Books] [Current Events] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Amy Johnson Frykholm] [dispensationalist premillennialism] [evangelicalism] [Harry Potter] [Jerry Jenkins] [Left Behind] [rapture] [Rapture Culture] [Timothy LaHaye]

January 26, 2AM

Public restrooms have always made me uncomfortable. This has nothing to do with North Carolina. It’s more an issue of being raised to be ashamed of bodily functions and then trying to shift, as it were, in mid-stream. Coming back from the Women’s M... [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [feminism] [movies] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Amish] [North Carolina] [Philadelphia] [public restrooms] [witness] [Women's March on Washington]

January 25, 2AM

The line for the train snakes through Union Station before 6:00 a.m. Many of us, maybe all of us, were at the Women’s March on Washington. Listening to strangers speak to one another, it’s clear that this was the largest “love in” in his... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [1984] [election 2016] [George Orwell] [post-truth] [The Women's March] [Washington DC]

January 24, 2AM

It is a caution that may become increasingly necessary as Trump’s supporters of “alternate facts” begin to sink their insidious hooks into feeble American minds that magical belief is part of our culture. While most would deny it in any kind of dir... [Books] [Current Events] [Monsters] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [alternative facts] [election 2016] [magic and religion] [post-truth] [Richard Godbeer] [Salem Witch Trials] [The Devil’s Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England]

January 23, 1AM

“The President” responded to the Women’s March on Washington by tweeting that he was “under the impression that we just had an election!” Perhaps if “the president” read more he would understand that instead of looking in a mirror y... [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [election 2016] [electoral college] [literacy] [Protest] [Women's March on Washington]

January 22, 1AM

Don’t believe the lies. Your government is lying to you already on day 1. I watched in disbelief as Trump’s press secretary for the White House, Sean Spicer, told bald-face lies the very first day of Trump’s reign of terror. I was in Washington, ... [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [election 2016] [Inauguration] [post-truth] [Sean Spicer] [truth] [Women's March on Washington]

January 21, 2AM

Washington, DC has always struck me as an artificial city. The neoclassical architecture is just a bit pompous and rolling into town on a train is kind of like stepping onto a movie set. Or, I’m told, into Los Vegas. Regulations about the heights of ... [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [democracy] [election 2016] [Inauguration] [Protest] [Washington DC]

January 20, 1AM

I try to be a good son. As good as you can when living a few hundred miles from home. I call my Mom every week and when the mood’s right, we reminisce. During a recent conversation I was recollecting my first trip to Washington, DC. My grandmother, ... [Animals] [Current Events] [feminism] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [DC] [Elephants] [snakes] [The Women's March] [Washington]

January 19, 2AM

Whoever doesn’t understand that something being free doesn’t mean people won’t buy it is pleasantly naive. I write this as someone who once worked for a publisher who routinely sold books that were reprints of material freely available online, wher... [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [Atlas Obscura] [hermitage] [Monasticism] [Saalfelden] [self-denial]

January 18, 2AM

Fiction and fact aren’t so different. Long before the Wachowski Brothers came up with The Matrix, Richard Bach wrote Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. I was in seminary when I read it and it seemed, at that time, to change my life. Fi... [Books] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [movies] [Posts] [Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah] [perception] [reality] [Richard Bach] [The Matrix]

January 17, 2AM

The one problem with Halloween is that most people suppose that when it’s over we need to wait another year for the scary stuff to come around again. Since we tend to skip from holiday to commercialized holiday, we have a capitalism-induced mindset of ... [Current Events] [Monsters] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Demons] [Devil] [ghosts] [halloween] [James Slaven] [paganism] [witches] [Witches of Ireland]

January 16, 2AM

I’m going to the Women’s March in Washington, DC next weekend. At an organizing meeting yesterday it occurred to me that someone might ask me why. Why would a white, male, straight, employed-with-health-insurance person bother to go through the disr... [Current Events] [feminism] [Holidays] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [election 2016] [Martin Luther King Day] [social justice] [Women's March on Washington] [women's rights]

January 15, 4AM

“Store Closing” the signs veritably shout. “Everything Must Go.” It’s something I hate to see in an economically depressed town. The tragedy is redoubled when it’s an independent bookstore. While undergoing the ritual of returning our daug... [Books] [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Binghamton] [independent bookstores] [Lament] [literacy] [Nashotah House] [New York] [River Read]

January 14, 3AM

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. To my way of thinking, if I’m aware I’m doing something wrong, I try to change it at that point, rather than waiting. Needless to say, then, I’m up to my old habits of reading about horror movies. Actually... [Books] [Current Events] [higher education] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Darryl Jones] [horror movies] [Horror: A Thematic History in Fiction and Film]

January 13, 3AM

Welcome to Reformation Year! Well, not actually. It’s more like an anniversary. Five centuries ago this Halloween, Martin Luther grabbed his silver hammer and history forever changed. In 1517 nobody could guess that that obscure strip of land across... [Bible] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Catholicism] [Christianites] [Eternity] [Martin Luther] [Pascal] [protestantism] [Reformation]

January 12, 2AM

Honestly, I’m not sure where the idea of votive candles started. An educated guess—which will have to do in my state of limited research time—is that candles, like oil lamps, began as a practical necessity in places of worship. Temples, churches, ... [Current Events] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [Sects] [Catholicism] [charles darwin] [post-truth] [Santa Muerte] [votive candles]

January 11, 2AM

Salvation is a fraught concept. It’s one of those topics that’s been commandeered by the evangelical camp so that mainstreamers are afraid to touch it, as if it’s catching. The thing is, Christianity is built around the idea that people require sa... [Books] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Cinema] [Crystal Downing] [Entertainment] [salvation] [Salvation from Cinema: The Medium is the Message]

January 10, 2AM

It’s the coldest day of the winter so far. I’m noticing this because I’m standing on the shoulder of the New Jersey Turnpike counting the NJ Transit buses that are flying by at highway speed. It’s been a morning of irony so far, which explains w... [Bible] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [Weather] [commuting] [Good Samaritan] [New Jersey Transit] [New Jersey Turnpike]

January 9, 2AM

Last year my wife suggested we each do a reading challenge for the year. The one we selected was Modern Mrs. Darcy’s, which, with only a dozen books, seemed doable. What makes it a challenge is that to meet Mrs. Darcy’s expectations, you have to rea... [Books] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [literature] [Monsters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [election 2016] [H. G. Wells] [Modern Mrs. Darcy’s] [Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 Reading Challenge] [Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2017 Reading Challenge] [The Island of Dr. Moreau] [Theodicy]

January 8, 4AM

Human evolution (while it still legally exists) tells us a considerable amount about belief. Brain science (while we still have it) has long indicated that our noggins evolved to help us survive, not “to figure out” the world. Along its long and tor... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [evolution] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Belief] [education] [election 2016] [neurology] [Psychology] [truth]

January 7, 2AM

While not exactly a Luddite, my grasp on technology is tenuous. I grew up in what may be the last generation where computer use was considered optional—I made it through a master’s degree without ever using one, and could have managed my doctorate wi... [Just for Fun] [Posts] [blog] [internet] [investment] [Technology] [Time]

January 6, 3AM

What really happened? I grew up thinking that reading history gave the answer to that question. In fact, it is a viewpoint that I still struggle against. You see, historians try to marshal as many facts as they can to support their reconstruction of ev... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Posts] [Economics] [history] [objectivity] [post-truth] [revisionism]

January 5, 2AM

It’s particularly encouraging when the first book I finish in a year is an important one. I try my best to read books that won’t disappoint, but the thing about books is that you sometimes can’t tell until the end. In any case, I can highly recomm... [Books] [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Christianity] [election 2016] [Religious Literacy] [Second Great Awakening] [Stephen Prothero] [What Every American Needs to Know—And Doesn’t]

January 4, 2AM

Now that I’m safely ensconced back in the daily work routine, I spend some time thinking of the scary movies I had time to watch during my “free time.” Well, I actually thought about them then, too, but I had so many other thoughts to write about t... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [evolution] [Monsters] [movies] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [science] [Social Consciousness] [carl sagan] [Catholic] [Demons] [horror movies] [Judaism] [Matisyahu] [protestant] [The Exorcism of Emily Rose] [The Last Exorcism] [The Possession] [The Rite]

January 3, 2AM

The enigma machine held an almost impossible complexity for generating codes. It gave the Nazis a great advantage during World War II since it was beyond the ability of cryptographers to decipher it. It was against this background that Alan Turing devel... [Current Events] [movies] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Alan Turing] [Cryptozoology] [election 2016] [homosexuality] [Human Rights] [The Imitation Game]

January 2, 3AM

My friend Marvin always amuses me with what he’s got in his refrigerator. He likes to buy products that he considers appropriate to the season. On a recent visit he pulled out a bottle of Arrogant Bastard Ale. He said it was prophetic, in the sense t... [Current Events] [higher education] [Holidays] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Arrogant Bastard Ale] [Bruce Almighty] [election 2016] [January] [Janus] [New Year's Day] [symbology] [Television]

January 1, 2AM

Now that 2016 is safely behind us, it’s time to start looking ahead to a year of peaceful protest and renewed social activism. When you reach a certain point in your life you’d like to think your country will represent your best interest but the croo... [Books] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [2017] [election 2016] [electoral college] [literacy] [Modern Mrs. Darcy] [Protest] [reading]

December 31, 2AM

As is my custom on this last post of the year I’ll be revisiting the books that made an especial difference to me in 2016. I record most books I finish on Goodreads, and I welcome friends in that venue. I draw on their recollection for what I’ve rea... [Books] [Holidays] [Just for Fun] [literature] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Goodreads] [Modern Mrs. Darcy] [Monsters] [New Year's Day]

December 30, 2AM

Apropos of both building your own deity and Disney, my family went to see Moana. Now, I have to admit up front to being a bit behind on my Polynesian mythology. Scholars of the history of religions feel terribly insecure if they don’t read the languag... [cartoons] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [Deities] [environment] [feminism] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [11/9] [Disney] [election 2016] [global warming] [Moana] [Polynesian mythology]

December 29, 3AM

This brief break between Christmas and New Year’s Day, taking into account the vacation days expended to enjoy it, is a time filled with movies, reading, writing, and sufficient sleep. In short, it’s like a dream. I’ll get around to addressing... [cartoons] [Current Events] [feminism] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Disney] [election 2016] [Gender] [prejudice] [racial profiling] [Zootopia]

December 28, 3AM

One of the more amusing gifts to find its way under my tree was a Design Your Own Deity magnetic play set. Since I have roughly only this brief holiday break for play in the entire year, I hope to make the most of it. Nevertheless, things like this alwa... [Deities] [Holidays] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Sects] [Design Your Own Deity] [mammon] [science and religion] [Supernatural] [Technology]

December 27, 3AM

Witnessing injustice is traumatic. Especially when you’ve been conditioned to believe there is nothing you can do about it. That helpless feeling crushes you as you see the guilty, the powerful, the cruel getting away with whatever they want to do. T... [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [election 2016] [Golem] [Pete Hamill] [prejudice] [religious tolerance] [Snow in August]

December 26, 6AM

Quite apart from seeing a live performance of A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens has been on my mind a bit this Christmas season. I suppose that’s not surprising since it has been suggested that Dickens “invented” the modern Christmas, but it is re... [Britannia] [Current Events] [Holidays] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [a christmas carol] [Anne Bramley] [Charles Dickens] [Christmas] [NPR] [Poor Laws] [Poverty]

December 25, 3AM

The idea of exchanging presents on a holiday emerges from the impenetrable veil of time. We don’t know when the practice began—the idea of copying the Zoroastrian wise men in Matthew is a bit of a stretch and the date of Christmas wasn’t settled un... [art] [Bible] [Current Events] [Holidays] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [a christmas carol] [capitalism] [Charles Dickens] [Christmas] [Jesus of Nazareth] [McCarter Theater] [Princeton]

December 24, 6AM

There were probably about half-a-dozen animated Christmas specials I recall watching as a child. The two that became fixtures, and remain part of my present holiday ritual, are It’s Christmas Charlie Brown and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I remembe... [cartoons] [Current Events] [Holidays] [popular culture] [Posts] [How the Grinch Stole Christmas] [It's Christmas Charlie Brown] [religious holidays] [war on Christmas]

December 23, 3AM

How terribly rude. I was right in the middle of a sentence when my word processor shut down. Then my computer. A system update. It’s 4:00 a.m., the time I usually upload my blog post. You have to understand that I get up at 3:30 so that I have time... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Apple] [commuting] [humor] [Robot] [Technology]

December 22, 2AM

One of the more embarrassing questions I get asked is “What do you do?” This has been true throughout my career (if what I do can be called that). I should clarify—I don’t mind saying “I’m a professor,” or “I’m an editor”—it’s th... [Bible] [Books] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [BookRiot] [James Wallace Harris] [literacy] [Western Canon]

December 21, 2AM

The relief is so real that you can feel it with your fingers. Or brushing your cheek. The feeling of being done with another semester, and knowing you’ve got some time for recovery after the intensity of going flat-out for months at a time. I miss th... [Consciousness] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [capitalism] [Economics] [transcendence] [Winter solstice]

December 20, 2AM

Theologians, for the most part, gave up studying demons a long while ago. With the advent of modern medical science, the descriptions of demonic possession in the New Testament seemed pretty clearly to be cases of epilepsy. Since people in antiquity had... [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Monsters] [Posts] [Demons] [election 2016] [epilepsy] [Ewan Fernie] [Martin Luther] [The Demonic: Literature and Experience]

December 19, 2AM

As my regular readers know, I’m struggling. The shock is palpable. Even over a month and a half later, I still keep going over in my head the many, many reasons why Trump can’t be elected and wake up in a cold sweat with anything but visions of suga... [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Donald Trump] [Eleanor Roosevelt] [election 2016] [Psycho] [Vladimir Putin]

December 18, 3AM

He was a bearded young man, maybe in his twenties. He kind of reminded me of my own youth, only cooler. I was at a stop sign on a snow-covered hill with tires honestly a little more worn than they should’ve been. Three times I tried to get some tract... [Current Events] [environment] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [altruism] [kindness] [selfishness]

December 17, 4AM

It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day. The movie, I mean. As a child I was taught never to talk to strangers, but that’s a little hard to maintain in New York City. You’re never really alone there. Standing in line for the bus, I read. The P... [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Academia] [editor] [Geocaching] [Groundhog Day] [New York City] [Port Authority Bus Terminal]

December 16, 2AM

My daughter has a set of nesting Russian dolls. “Matryoshka dolls,” as they are known, fit one inside the other so when you open one you find another inside. Just when you think you’ve reached the last one, you see that yet another can fit inside.... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [dostoyevsky] [election 2016] [Matryoshka dolls] [media] [Putin] [Russia]

December 15, 2AM

Exorcism seems an especially appropriate trope these days. Embedded evil has to be faced squarely and forced out before it kills its host. I recently rewatched The Exorcism of Emily Rose. This is a most unusual horror film in that the story is born by ... [Current Events] [Monsters] [movies] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Demons] [Exorcism of Emily Rose] [post-truth] [science and religion] [Supernatural]

December 14, 2AM

Sanity is always temporary. I can say that because we all know that no one acts rationally all the time. Our brains evolved (or were created, if you roll that way) for the simple purpose of survival, not reason. Reasoning, no doubt, helps with survival... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Brexit] [election 2016] [emotion] [evolution] [Insanity] [Pirate Party] [rationalization] [Ronald Reagan]

December 13, 2AM

We live in fear. At this point in history, it seems, with good reason. Horror films, apart from being considered low art, teach us to deal with some of these fears. I hadn’t been reading about the genre for very long before I began to notice the repe... [Books] [Current Events] [feminism] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film] [Carol J. Clover] [final girl] [Gender] [horror movies] [Mary Poppins] [men] [women]

December 12, 2AM

In a world with finite resources, many commodities are in short supply. One clear overabundance is that of ego. We’ve seen that clearly in the long, long months of this year’s political campaign and the single month since then. Running a nation is ... [Current Events] [evolution] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Bill Clinton] [Donald Trump] [ethics] [morality] [Pope] [selfishness] [Tony Alamo]

December 11, 2AM

At first glance, we had little in common. In fact, of all the people in the room the only one I knew was my wife. We were gathered together to find ways to defend ourselves against our government. Those who normalize Trump and claim that his nearly 3 m... [Current Events] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [civil rights] [democracy] [Human Rights] [politics] [post-truth] [post-truth politics]

December 10, 3AM

The future of Sleepy Hollow is uncertain. The successful FOX television program has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous scheduling over the past year and speculation abounds that the current fourth season may be its last. It has been, in my exp... [Britannia] [civil religion] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Atlas Obscura] [Christianity] [Ichabod Crane] [Natalie Zarrelli] [sin eater] [Sleepy Hollow]

December 9, 2AM

Those of you who aren’t professional religionists might not understand the cultural impact of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting. Every November a largish city (New York and Los Angeles are too expensive,... [Bibliolatry] [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [AAR/SBL] [election 2016] [Emma Koonse] [intervarsity press] [Lynn Garrett] [Publisher's Weekly]

December 8, 2AM

If last month’s election taught us anything it’s that nobody really knows anything. For many years now I’ve been saying that the sign of an educated person is s/he admits how little s/he knows. Socrates may have beat me to that idea, but there are... [astronomy] [Current Events] [environment] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [colonization] [election 2016] [environmentalism] [space travel] [Stephen Hawking] [The Washington Post] [Wall-E]

December 7, 2AM

Horror films are something you either “get” or you don’t. I have no empirical evidence for that, but then again, “getting” is hardly a precise verb. In my recent desire to find some explanation for my own fascination with the genre, I turned t... [Books] [Current Events] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Dreadful Pleasures: An Anatomy of Modern Horror] [Gothic fiction] [horror films] [James B. Twitchell]

December 6, 2AM

Conversations with friends, inevitably, turn to the fiasco this country faces with Donald Trump. My response, apart from attempting a measure of optimism and combativeness, often involves escapism. Regular readers know that I watch horror movies. They ... [Current Events] [Monsters] [movies] [Posts] [Demons] [election 2016] [Exorcism] [Satan] [The Exorcist]

December 5, 2AM

Although the stores have been playing Christmas music for some weeks now, it is technically Advent. I think we could all use a little Advent as days grow shorter and dark nights increase their influence over our lives. As a nation we’ve been brutalize... [astronomy] [civil religion] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Advent] [astronomy] [Christmas] [George W. Bush] [light] [Materialism]

December 4, 4AM

In these days of bold ignorance, reading in public is an act of resistance. A world that follows the uninformed to perdition requires those who stand as witnesses. Those who read. As a cabinet of the wealthiest people in the country is being assembled ... [Books] [civil religion] [Current Events] [Holidays] [literature] [Posts] [Advent] [Banned Book Advent calendar] [banned books] [literacy] [prejudice] [reading in public] [Twitter]

December 3, 4AM

I confess, it was a moment of weakness. Or I could say that it was dedication to research. In either case, I subjected myself to watching the remake of the 1973 classic, The Wicker Man. The reviews that I’ve read over the past decade since its releas... [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [feminism] [Goddesses] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [2006] [Celtic Mythology] [misogyny] [New Religious Movements] [The Wicker Man]

December 2, 2AM

As someone who dedicated four years—particularly long winter nights—to the cause of high school robotics, I found myself knowing quite a bit before I walked into the room. Now let me post a disclaimer here: I’m no techie. I’ve studied the humani... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Robotics] [artificial intelligence] [Battle Bots] [FIRST Robotics] [Robot] [science and religion]

December 1, 2AM

I grew up believing in “the Antichrist.” As I came to realize that much of the New Testament pointed to contemporary problems (for them) with the Roman Empire and that what appeared to be predictions were actually safe ways to discuss forbidden topic... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Books] [Current Events] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Antichrist] [Christianity] [election 2016] [Fundamentalism] [Hal Lindsey] [Naming the Antichrist: The History of an American Obsession] [Revelation] [Robert Fuller] [roman empire] [The Omen]

November 30, 2AM

A friend recently sent me an article on Jack London from As the article by Kenneth Brandt makes clear, London is an author for our times. Someone who might truly be called a populist, London, like many of us born in the working class, had... [Books] [Current Events] [feminism] [literature] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [abstinence only] [alt-right] [Call of the Wild] [Francis Schaeffer] [Gender] [Jack London] [Kenneth Brandt] [Religious Right] [Smithsonian]

November 29, 2AM

The proofs for my article on the Bible in Sleepy Hollow are now here. It will be appearing shortly in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture. For those who know my previous academic work—hi, both of you!—this represents a departure from the fam... [Bible] [Current Events] [environment] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [documentary hypothesis] [global warming] [gun control] [Journal of Religion and Popular Culture] [Sleepy Hollow] [Two-Source Hypothesis]

November 28, 2AM

Now that the holiday season is upon us, I stop to think about what holidays really do. “Keep Christ in Christmas” signs have popped up like winter dandelions as Trump signs consider to litter the landscape. Thanksgiving, however, gave me the opportu... [civil religion] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Advent] [Christmas] [election 2016] [Keep Christ in Christmas] [plutocracy] [Thanksgiving]

November 27, 4AM

This may sound strange, considering the source, but I fear I don’t read enough. An article by Sarah Begley in a recent issue of Time, reinforces what we’ve known all along—reading is incredibly good for you. Even fiction. Especially fiction. For... [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [fiction] [literacy] [literary fiction] [reading] [Sarah Begley] [Time Magazine]

November 26, 3AM

Those of us who somehow managed to be educated without the use of computers, at least nothing more advanced than a TI-30 calculator, fumble our way through the world-wide web. I’ve got this blog, a Twitter and a Facebook account, and I’m on Google + ... [higher education] [Memoirs] [podcasts] [Posts] [Ahmed Fasih] [internet] [Technology]

November 25, 3AM

Traduttore, traditore—“translators are traitors”—is an Italian saying invested with a great deal of truth. Anyone who’s worked with the proliferation of languages in the world knows the truth of the adage. What is said in one language can’t ... [Books] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Anathem] [China Miéville] [Embassytown] [science fiction] [Star Trek] [Star Wars] [translation]

November 24, 4AM

A few weeks before Leonard Cohen died I saw a story on how his song “Hallelujah” had been done to death. Covered and recovered, it seemed to be on every cover artist’s playlist. It is a haunting song, however, and the notion of a cold and broken h... [civil religion] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Diversity] [election 2016] [Hallelujah] [Leonard Cohen] [Thanksgiving]

November 23, 5AM

Beliefs can be most problematic things. I’ve spent the better part of the last five days in one of the reddest of “Red States.” People in Texas were unfailingly friendly and kind. They seem genuinely interested in helping me although I’m pretty... [civil religion] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Blue State] [election 2016] [ethics] [Politics and Religion] [Red State] [San Antonio] [Texas]

November 22, 2AM

I’m standing in the lobby of the Menger Hotel. Before history becomes too falsified to recognize, I want to soak up the fact that Theodore Roosevelt organized his Rough Riders in this very hotel, and that O Henry stayed here. There were other notables... [Current Events] [literature] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] [Great Depression] [Menger Hotel] [O Henry] [plutocracy] [San Antonio] [The Gift of the Magi] [Theodore Roosevelt]

November 21, 3AM

Foundation myths are some of my favorite myths. If you’ve got to believe in something, it may as well be something fun, right? Usually before I travel to a place I do some research on it. For some reason November of this year has proven to be under a... [civil religion] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [AAR/SBL] [foundation myths] [River Walk] [saints] [San Antonio] [Texas]

November 20, 3AM

One of the benefits of working with words is that you get to participate in reality. George Orwell famously wrote that if people didn’t have the words to express concepts the government didn’t like, those concepts would cease to exist. At least as l... [civil religion] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Donald Trump] [ethics] [George Orwell] [Oxford Dictionaries] [philosophy] [post-truth] [truth]

November 19, 4AM

Sometimes we have to work so very hard for unity. On the day before the conference proper began, I decided to take in some of the sites. In San Antonio this means the River Walk and the Alamo. I was awake early, as usual, and since the Alamo doesn’t ... [civil religion] [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Alamo] [election 2016] [gun industry] [River Walk] [San Antonio] [Texas]

November 18, 6AM

I’ve never started a fight. I’m actually a very conciliatory type, willing to be wronged in order to avoid an unnecessary confrontation. This election has made me feel a little pugilistic, however. The sheer size of Trump’s loss based on the popu... [Bible] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Alamo] [American Academy of Religion] [Brexit] [election 2016] [Pink Floyd] [San Antonio] [Society of Biblical Literature] [Texas]

November 17, 2AM

As colder days settle in I add layers and sit in our under-heated apartment and think about the lot of the poor. I don’t think billionaires really understand the plight of those who, no matter how hard they work, just can’t get ahead in a society tha... [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [capitalism] [Charles Dickens] [Church of England] [Dickens and the Workhouse: Oliver Twist and the London Poor] [Oliver Twist] [plutocracy] [poor] [Ruth Richardson]

November 16, 2AM

Even without the results of the recent presidential election, I would be reading about horror movies. One of the reasons is that I wonder what the appeal might be—why do I put myself in a dark room with an uncertain future? Until recently academics ha... [Books] [Current Events] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Andrew Tudor] [election 2016] [electoral college] [horror films] [Monsters and Mad Scientists: A Cultural History of the Horror Movie] [Supernatural]

November 15, 2AM

One of my high school teachers—I don’t have to say who; if you attended my high school you’ll already know and if you didn’t you won’t know him anyway—wrote in my yearbook, “I hope you get what you deserve.” I wasn’t very good in this t... [civil religion] [Current Events] [feminism] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [election 2016] [hate] [Hillary Clinton] [intolerance] [love] [Oil City High School] [Politics and Religion]

November 14, 2AM

Since at least my middle school days I have been in search of the great Gothic novel. I can’t claim to have found it just yet, but I’ve read many notable samples along the way. Somehow Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White remained completely unknown... [Books] [Britannia] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [feminism] [literature] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Brexit] [Count Fosco] [Donald Trump] [Gothic fiction] [Identity] [The Simpsons] [The Woman in White] [Wilkie Collins]

November 13, 3AM

In what sense can someone claim to win when they failed to get the majority vote? A crooked one, by definition. Some might say “rigged,” to use language that has mysteriously disappeared once one party “won.” The definition of crooked is “not... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Alexander Hamilton] [election 2016] [electoral college] [George W. Bush] [Hamilton] [Hillary Clinton]

November 12, 2AM

“It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.” Leonard Cohen has died. But can you blame him? This seems to be a week for losses. I came to appreciate Cohen’s work long after his best-known songs had been and gone. The interviews with and news... [art] [Current Events] [popular culture] [Posts] [Rock-n-Roll] [Social Consciousness] [Franklin D. Roosevelt] [humanism] [Leonard Cohen] [music therapy] [poetry] [popular music] [social justice]

November 11, 2AM

Back before there was iTunes—before Napster was even a thing—I heard a song on the radio. It was by a relatively new band, They Might Be Giants. We lived in Illinois at the time and I was being paid so poorly that we couldn’t afford luxuries like ... [Current Events] [feminism] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Rock-n-Roll] [Social Consciousness] [election 2016] [Elisabeth Kübler-Ross] [flood] [iTunes] [They Might Be Giants] [Your Racist Friend]

November 10, 2AM

Is there such a thing as an existential illness? Answer that if you want to, but it’s rhetorical. I’ve been voting since 1980 and I’ve taken my fair share of bruises in the process, but this time my soul feels as if God has hung his “gone fishin... [art] [Current Events] [feminism] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [election 2016] [existentialism] [plutocracy] [Politics and Religion] [populism]

November 9, 1AM

Horror comes in many forms. Some people may wonder why I watch horror movies and read scary stories. The election results tell the story. As we descend into four years of horror, I was reading Peter Hutchings’ The Horror Film. At least I feel somewh... [Books] [Current Events] [feminism] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [election day] [hatred] [horror movies] [nightmares] [Peter Hutchings] [The Horror Film]

November 8, 2AM

For reasons that may eventually become clear, I was watching The Blob. It seems that each generation’s fears are unique to its time—let the reader understand. For whatever reasons, star-appeal I expect, Steve McQueen was cast as the teenage Steve An... [Current Events] [environment] [Monsters] [movies] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [capitalism] [Carrie] [Cold War] [election day] [global warming] [NRA] [Russians] [Steve McQueen] [The Blob] [The Thing from Outer Space]

November 7, 2AM

The complex of holidays that make up the transition from light to darkness represents a different mix, depending where you are. Life on the equator, for example, experiences no real variation in daylight hours and I would expect that equinoxes and solsti... [Current Events] [Holidays] [movies] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [1984] [Big Brother] [equinox] [George Orwell] [Guy Fawkes Night] [social justice] [V for Vendetta]

November 6, 9AM

They’re not exactly worshipping the tree, but the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church is holding a memorial service for the old oak tree. I’ve written about the Basking Ridge oak before. I learned about it only in January, and I visited it this summer... [Current Events] [Deities] [environment] [Posts] [Travel] [Asherah] [Basking Ridge oak] [Great Swamp Oak] [john calvin] [New Jersey] [tree worship]

November 5, 5AM

I have a confession to make. I’m not a foodie. These days such an admission is tantamount to a venial sin, but the fact is I’m one of those who eats to live, not lives to eat. Still, like many people I’m concerned about whence my food comes. I c... [Bible] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Sects] [alcohol] [BBC] [foodies] [Gregor Mendel] [Kait Bolongaro] [Monasticism] [science and religion]

November 4, 1AM

Fresh from seminary with a head full of historical-critical theory competing against my immortal soul, I was lost in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I’d learned enough in class and in my own reading to know that the association of Jesus’ burial her... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Travel] [Alexander Hamilton] [Church of the Holy Sepulcher] [Coptic] [Fiona MacDonald] [Jerusalem] [Science Alert] [science and religion]

November 3, 1AM

Mirrors can be such deceptive things. In my head I’m a much younger man than the one I see staring at me. And I have to remind myself that other people see what the mirror sees, and not what I really am. Things age. A friend who aged so much that sh... [Books] [Consciousness] [Memoirs] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [1960s] [Eric Berne] [Games People Play] [Gender] [Psychiatry] [Psychology]

November 2, 1AM

Despite criticisms to the contrary, the pre-Reformation church did have concerns about the average person. About the poor. In those days church offices commanded a good deal more esteem than they currently do among the populace, and being a priest was a... [civil religion] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [All Souls Day] [capitalism] [free market economy] [halloween] [plutocracy] [poor] [Poverty] [The Washington Post] [wealth]

November 1, 1AM

I always seem to be running late. Still, I wanted to be reading a book about Halloween on Halloween. If I might be pardoned for bleeding over into All Saints’ Day, I’ll share some thoughts this November on Nicholas Rogers’ Halloween: From Pagan Ri... [Books] [civil religion] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [9/11] [All Saints Day] [el Dia de los Muertos] [halloween] [Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night] [Hurricane Sandy] [Nashotah House] [Nicholas Rogers] [Wicca]

October 31, 1AM

Halloween is finally here, and I’m on my way to work. Over the weekend I noticed youngsters about in costume, heading to a local business that was holding, apparently, some kind of ghostly do. For me it’s just another day—Halloween isn’t an offi... [civil religion] [Current Events] [higher education] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [All Saints Day] [All Souls Day] [halloween] [Nashotah House] [Wisconsin]

October 30, 1AM

Just a quarter of an hour, studies show, of time in the woods can reduce stress. I suspect that if those fifteen minutes are spent running from a bear the opposite might result, but in general time in nature is an incredible solace. The weather hasn’t... [Consciousness] [environment] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [capitalism] [civilization] [Hacklebarney State Park] [nature] [New Jersey] [outdoor activity]

October 29, 4AM

“Want College to Pay off?” the headline asks. It depresses me. I’m an unapologetic idealist. Cost-benefit analysis has its place, but that’s not all there is to education. Or better yet, cost-benefit analysis isn’t just about money. The art... [Current Events] [higher education] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [College] [ethics] [New Jersey Star-Ledger] [social media] [Technology]

October 28, 1AM

It’s that spooky time of year when nights have surpassed days and the chill in the air suggests an oncoming period of bleakness. Leaves are raining down off the trees and strange sounds fill the dark. So when a friend sent me an article on The Vintage... [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Monsters] [Posts] [ghosts] [haunted house] [rent] [seminary] [The Vintage News]

October 27, 1AM

Back when I first started this blog, I regretted that I had read Douglas E. Cowan’s Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen so long ago. You see, I try hard to post on a specific book only once—there’s really no rule about that, but... [Books] [Monsters] [movies] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Douglas E. Cowan] [horror movies] [Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen] [Sociology] [sociophobics]

October 26, 1AM

Rituals frequently outlive their purposes. Some skeptics may claim that rituals—particularly of the religious sort—really don’t mean anything at all, but in fact they do. Rituals have logical origins, or at least that seemed logical at the time. ... [Britannia] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [Atlas Obscura] [Monarchy] [plutocracy] [Queen Elizabeth] [ritual] [Sarah Laskow]

October 25, 1AM

Weekends, it seems, are incomplete without being among books. You might think that someone who works in publishing might want to get away from books in the off hours, but quite the contrary. I love a good walk in the woods in autumn. Especially if it... [Books] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Clinton] [independent bookstores] [Libraries] [New Jersey] [publishing]

October 24, 1AM

New Religious Movements (NRMs) have long fascinated me. As a natural historian, looking back over where we’ve been has been my usual source of orientation. The idea that a new religious truth could emerge used to strike me as unlikely, especially in t... [Books] [higher education] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Mary Pat Fisher] [Near Death Experiences] [New Religious Movements] [nones] [Religion in the Twenty-first Century] [World Religions]

October 23, 4AM

I’m a little ashamed to admit it. With such a long list of moody horror movies out there, I gave in to watching The Seventh Sign again. 1988 was a momentous year. I had graduated from Boston University School of Theology the year before and had been ... [Bible] [higher education] [Memoirs] [movies] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Book of Revelation] [Boston University School of Theology] [Edinburgh University] [Episcopal Church] [horror movies] [Jewish-Christian relationships] [The Seventh Sign]

October 22, 2AM

When Bob Dylan was changing American music I wasn’t really in a place to notice. I was too young, living in a small town, and the member of a church suspicious of that kind of music. We didn’t listen to the radio at home, so I only really discovered... [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Bob Dylan] [Genealogy] [John Dillinger] [Melvin Purvis] [Nashotah House] [Nobel Prize] [WikiTree]

October 21, 2AM

Apparently there is a burgeoning interest in swearing. Not necessarily in doing it, but in studying it. Over the past couple of years I’ve easily found a book every twelve months that devotes itself to the topic. After I finished reading the most rec... [Bible] [Books] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [Benjamin Bergen] [Blasphemy] [george carlin] [swearing] [The Guardian]

October 20, 1AM

“To understand the weather is somehow to glimpse the divine.“ I honestly don’t remember writing those words. A friend of my drew them out in a quote last year (perhaps the only time my book has every had such an honor) and they resonate with what a... [Bible] [Books] [environment] [Posts] [science] [Weather] [charles darwin] [evolution] [global warming] [Peter Moore] [Robert FitzRoy] [science and religion] [The Pioneers Who Sought to See the Future] [The Weather Experiment]

October 19, 1AM

The government does funny things when your back is turned. Back in January, reading Scott W. Gustafson’s At the Altar of Wall Street, I learned that the government treats corporations as people. It assigns certain rights and privileges to these collec... [Current Events] [environment] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [At the Altar of Wall Street] [capitalism] [Chip Colwell] [environmentalism] [New Zealand] [Scott W. Gustafson] [The Conversation]

October 18, 1AM

The giants are back! Or at least they were here. According to the internet, and we know that that never lies. Every now and again a story breaks that some discovery of giants has been found in some archaeological or paleontological context. A little p... [Archaeology] [Bible] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Monsters] [Posts] [Ancient Code] [Cardiff Giant] [footprints] [Geoffrey of Monmouth] [giants] [Paluxy River] [pyramids]

October 17, 1AM

One of my first publications was a letter to the editor. The newspaper was The Scotsman, Edinburgh’s daily. We’d been hearing on the BBC that a new movie, The Silence of the Lambs, had inspired Milwaukee serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in his gruesome ... [Britannia] [Memoirs] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [cannibalism] [Ed Gein] [Edinburgh] [Hannibal Lecter] [Jeffrey Dahmer] [Nashotah House] [Psycho] [The Scotsman] [The Silence of the Lambs]

October 16, 3AM

I stepped into a devil of a situation. Elevators are strange spaces. Given the choice, I’ll take the stairs any time. At work, however, as one of the many quirks of Manhattan, our elevators only stop on certain floors and we’re not able to use the ... [Bible] [Current Events] [Deities] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Demons] [Devil] [Hebrew Bible] [Oxford English Dictionary] [Satan] [the bible]

October 15, 4AM

In a thoughtful piece on NPR, Adam Frank discusses “Are Scientific Truths Better Than Other Truths?(.)” He describes a Ivy League conference called to discuss this point, and although I get about as much attention as adults give Barney, I’ve been b... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [science] [Adam Frank] [NPR] [philosophy] [science and religion] [truth] [value]

October 14, 1AM

I should be aware of what happens next. I’ve seen it in movies often enough. Man gets bitten by a wolf, and he turns into a werewolf at the full moon. That gives me two days. And it wasn’t a wolf, but a pit bull. I fear what I might become. You ... [Animals] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Monsters] [Posts] [commute] [dog bites] [October] [pit bull terrier] [werewolf]

October 13, 1AM

Those who know me personally—and not just through the internet—sometimes are surprised to learn that I watch horror movies. After all, I’m a pacifist, vegetarian, and a very caring person. Plus I’m squeamish and I eschew violence. Why, then, do... [Books] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Adam Rockoff] [and the Living Dead] [Frightened Virgins] [horror movies] [Sociology] [The Horror of It All: One Moviegoer’s Love Affair with Masked Maniacs]

October 12, 1AM

Do you remember that tragic sinking of a Staten Island ferry when a giant octopus pulled it under? Sounds vaguely familiar, but I wasn’t living near New York at the time. A story in The Guardian tells how Joseph Reginella, a sculptor, made his commemo... [Animals] [art] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [evolution] [Posts] [Cornelius G. Kolff] [George Washington] [Grover's Mill] [Joseph Reginella] [memory] [New Jersey] [octopus] [Staten Island ferry] [The Guardian] [War of the Worlds]

October 11, 1AM

Comfort may be a strange word to describe Halloween, but it is accurate. I’m no specialist on the holiday, although I’ve read a few books on it—most recently Lisa Morton’s Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween. Growing up in what felt to me lik... [Books] [civil religion] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [A History of Halloween] [cultural holiday] [halloween] [Lisa Morton] [trick or treat]

October 10, 1AM

If you’re going to thump the Bible, at least try to read it once in a while! Donald Trump, showing his true colors yet again, degrades women in the crudest terms imaginable and the religious right (what used to be called the Moral Majority) quickly fal... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Donald Trump] [King David] [King Solomon] [Religious Right] [Sean Hannity]

October 9, 1AM

Bright orange pumpkins under a cloudy gray sky. October is surely here. But this is an urban area of the kind in which northeast New Jersey specializes. As I approach I see that it’s a church. A church that has made a truce with Halloween. Judging f... [civil religion] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [capitalism] [Christianity] [halloween] [jack-o-lantern] [pumpkin patch]

October 8, 1AM

I could easily spill a thousand words, but I have no picture. You see, as a tuition-paying parent I seldom carry cash—pin money is a luxury I just can’t afford. I saw the perfect photo-op, but had to walk on by. On my way to work I saw a homeless m... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Donald Trump] [homelessness] [New York City] [plutocracy] [social justice] [taxation]

October 7, 1AM

October enters as a liminal month. A few remaining hours of lingering summer but more shortening days of winter’s encroaching wolf. A time of harvest and celebration. Lengthening nights bearing strange noises. It was a couple of Octobers ago that I ... [Books] [Consciousness] [Mysticism] [Posts] [science] [and Houdini in the Spirit World] [David Jaher] [mediums] [Mina Crandon] [Séance] [Scientific American] [Seduction] [Sir Arthur Conan Doyle] [The Witch of Lime Street]

October 6, 1AM

In your mind’s eye, picture American 500 years ago. What do you see? Even those of us who’ve studied history have trouble envisioning the past with so different a set of parameters. At least if we’re honest with ourselves. 1516. The Salem Witch... [Bible] [civil religion] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [native american] [PBS] [protestantism] [Reformation] [Robert Jones] [White Protestant America]

October 5, 1AM

Not so long ago, when I was still a professor, a colleague told me he had no interest in science. We studied religion, he reasoned, and science had little to add. I was in the midst of a research project at the time. That project was exploring how what... [Current Events] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [humanities] [Marcelo Gleiser] [NPR] [science and religion] [Scientific method]

October 4, 1AM

It’s been decades since I’ve seen the original King Kong. A none-too-subtle racist and sexist flick it may be, but it stands as one of the original “horror” films of the early thirties and it has had a profound influence on movies ever since. Ki... [Current Events] [feminism] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Fay Wray] [gun industry] [horror films] [King Kong] [mass murder] [racism] [sexism] [Trump Tower] [violence]

October 3, 1AM

Can belief be quantified? Apparently yes. I’ve spent my life trying to avoid the dismal science, yet it seems that everyone else is pretty much agreed that money is the measure of all things. Higher education has certainly been chasing that rabbit fo... [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Apple] [Economics] [Google] [Harriet Sherwood] [The Guardian]

October 2, 5AM

Nothing fascinates quite like the Dead Sea Scrolls. That is, unless you’re a disgruntled Ugaritologist. Mention the Dead Sea Scrolls and the journalists will form a queue. Never mind the relative importance of Ugarit. But I digress. There is someth... [Bible] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [science] [Ugarit] [Dead Sea Scrolls] [Neal Stephenson] [New York Times] [Nicholas Wade] [Van Eck phreaking]

October 1, 5AM

I recently read that efforts are underway, by some parties, to teach Arabic to Israelis. My limited experience of Israel led me to believe that most people were already bilingual, judging by the roadsigns. Like our progressive neighbor to the north, I s... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Arab-Israeli conflict] [Arabic] [Bilingual] [Canada] [israel] [languages] [native american]

September 30, 1AM

Perhaps the most overused simile for a real mess is that it’s “like a train wreck.” No doubt this is because train wrecks are messy, and deadly. Few things speak to human vulnerability more than airborne hunks of heavy metal flying in indeterminat... [Current Events] [evolution] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [commuting] [Good Samaritan] [Hoboken train wreck] [New York City] [original sin] [Total Depravity]

September 29, 1AM

This driver and this passenger had interacted before. Unpleasantly. You could feel the tension mount when the passenger watched carefully to see who the driver was as the bus pulled up to Door 1. Although bus routes change drivers somewhat frequently, ... [Books] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Banned Book Week] [Blasphemy] [In Praise of Profanity] [Jiminy Cricket] [Michael Adams] [profanity] [swearing]

September 28, 1AM

“Has anybody seen my god?” So we might imagine an ancient victim of godnapping wailing after a hostile takeover raid. We might smirk to ourselves, knowing that gods only really come in paper or plastic. The only godnapping that goes on these days i... [Bible] [Deities] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [ancient Near East] [ASOR] [Dagon] [Gideon] [idol] [Philistines] [Shana Zaia]

September 27, 1AM

Kevin Smith is one of New Jersey’s own. I’ve always considered it one of life’s great ironies that Loki and Bartleby, the fallen angels in Dogma, move from Wisconsin to New Jersey, the exact same route my career took. (Feel free to read into this.... [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Branch Davidians] [dogma] [Fred Phelps] [horror movies] [Kevin Smith] [New Jersey] [Red State] [Waco]

September 26, 1AM

I feel short-changed. Cheated, if you will. This is Banned Book Week, and a story in Publishers Weekly over the summer touted the benefits of the local independent bookstore. Owners of indies know that these stores are centers of community. Gathering ... [Books] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Banned Book Week] [Barnes and Noble] [Community] [independent bookstores] [Nashotah House] [New Jersey] [Publisher's Weekly]

September 25, 2AM

The fiction author who had the most influence over my formative years was Ray Bradbury. Wait—let me qualify that a bit. I read of number of series aimed at juvenile, male interest (Doc Savage, Dark Shadows, and such) but these weren’t really intende... [Books] [literature] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Banned Book Week] [Dark Shadows] [Doc Savage] [Edgar Allan Poe] [From the Dust Returned] [Kenneth Robeson] [Marilyn Ross] [Ray Bradbury]

September 24, 3AM

There’s a scene in Shrek where Lord Farquaad tells Princess Fiona “You don’t have to waste good manners on the ogre. It’s not like it has feelings.” That scene came to mind recently as I was pondering how we often use feelings—emotion... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [black lives matter] [emotion] [Howard Thurman] [prejudice] [rationalism] [Shrek] [With Head and Heart]

September 23, 12 AM

Once while visiting the house of a friend, we took a walk in the woods. It was an area I didn’t know and after a few minutes it became clear that we were lost. There can be nearly no other feeling more frightening for a child. We wandered in the tree... [Books] [environment] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Travel] [environmentalism] [nature] [navigation] [orientation] [The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs] [Tristan Gooley]

September 22, 1AM

In a world where a metaphorical ton of money may be made by corralling electrons into specific shapes on an LCD screen, it may be easy to think of learning dead languages as a kind of autoerotic mental enterprise. Who has the time for clay-writing anymor... [Bible] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Mesopotamia] [Posts] [Ugarit] [Akkadian] [Aviya Kushner] [cuneiform] [Forward] [Grove City College] [Hebrew] [Sumerian] [Ugaritic]

September 21, 1AM

People have strange ideas about what religion can and cannot do. Yes, many religions face the past—founders of various sorts gave dictates and statutes that were appropriate for all time. At their time. Few religious visionaries can see very far int... [Bible] [Current Events] [Posts] [science] [Sects] [Amish] [BBC] [Christianities] [Judaism] [religion and science] [Technology]

September 20, 1AM

Throughout its history, until quite recently, one of the most serious natural enemies to the horror movie was the religious establishment. At times this antagonism seems well placed as horror films often take theological concepts and stand them on their ... [Books] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [David J. Skal] [Frankenstein's monster] [horror movies] [King Kong] [Stephen King] [The Monster Show] [vampires] [vodou] [zombies]

September 19, 1AM

Trying not to think too much about Children of the Corn, I visited a corn maze over the weekend. This particular autumnal activity highlights just how much detail a human mind can pick out in a mass of sameness. You can tell if you’ve been to this par... [Bible] [Classical Mythology] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [Weather] [Ariadne] [Children of the Corn] [corn maze] [Daedalus] [labyrinth] [Minotaur]

September 18, 1AM

“Live long and prosper,” Mr. Spock was (or will be, depending) known for saying. Many of us know the regimen for healthy living: don’t overindulge on the food and drink. Get some exercise. Try to eat the right foods. Sleep once in a while. When... [Books] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Posts] [science] [Alyssa Navarro] [commuting] [health] [literacy] [reading] [Tech Times] [Yale University]

September 17, 3AM

It’s important to keep the old gods happy. By now everyone probably knows that Stephen King composed a tweet suggesting that Donald Trump was Cthulhu. In response an angry tweet came from Cthulhu himself, since, as we know, he declared his intention t... [Current Events] [Deities] [Just for Fun] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Baal] [Cthulhu] [Donald Trump] [H P Lovecraft] [Huffington Post] [New Religious Movements] [plutocracy] [Stephen King] [Ugarit]

September 16, 1AM

There once was an old man from New Hampshire. No, this isn’t a limerick. He was famous enough to get his face on the state quarter, back when they were doing that state quarter thing. Then he fell. The Old Man of the Mountain was no more. We like t... [Animals] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Boston Public Garden] [Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area] [Cleve R. Wootson Jr] [Duckbill] [Isle of Skye] [Make Way for Ducklings.] [New Hampshire] [Old Man of Storr] [Old Man of the Mountain] [Oregon] [Robert McCloskey] [Washington Post]

September 15, 1AM

I’ve been writing about reading. No surprises there, I suppose. My wife recently introduced me to BookRiot, and I wish I had more time to spend there. A recent post by Aisling Twomey describes how reading on her Tube commute helps keep her sane. Her... [Books] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [Aisling Twomey] [BookRiot] [commuting] [New York City] [reading] [Routledge]

September 14, 1AM

Visiting northwest Pennsylvania always makes me think of oil. I suppose the fact that I attended high school in Oil City has something to do with the fact. Many people suppose that the oil industry began in Texas, but Pennzoil and Quaker State have earl... [Books] [environment] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [big oil] [Oil City] [pennsylvania] [Pennzoil] [Petroleum Centre] [Pithole City] [Quaker State]

September 13, 1AM

It happened in seventh grade, but I remember it vividly. It was music class. I’ve always enjoyed music but have never been able to make it without the assistance of a device that plays recordings. This particular day, however, Mr. Butler gave us the ... [Books] [Consciousness] [environment] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [attention] [ethics] [Eviatar Zerubavel] [Hidden in Plain Sight: The Social Structure of Irrelevance] [moral inattention] [music] [perception]

September 12, 1AM

Perhaps the most frequent topic on this blog is books. I don’t discuss every book I read, but most end up here. I can’t help but be pleased then, that recent polls show the number of people reading books is rising. Not only that, but that paper is ... [Books] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [ebooks] [Libraries] [literacy] [University of Wisconsin Oshkosh]

September 11, 5AM

In the last couple of weeks two large-scale news items caught my attention. One describes how a newly discovered galaxy is made up of mostly dark matter. The other tells how a new fossil find in Greenland may push the origins of life on earth back to 3.... [astronomy] [Current Events] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [dark matter] [fossils] [Greenland] [Mathematics] [science and religion]

September 10, 1AM

Working in academic publishing some insights are available that academics typically miss. For example, it isn’t unusual for a professor to ask why royalties aren’t higher on ebooks because “they don’t cost the press anything.” Ah, my poor, sim... [Books] [Current Events] [higher education] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [adjunct] [crisis in higher education] [ebooks] [publishing] [Wikipedia]

September 9, 2AM

Perhaps the most pervasive trait of religion is its ability to construct worldviews. Even when the religion is eventually abandoned, the worldview remains. Most scientists would deny that religion lies behind their perspectives, but in the case of human... [Animals] [Bible] [Books] [Consciousness] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?] [Behaviorism] [evolution] [Frans de Waal] [science and religion]

September 8, 1AM

Banned Book Week is one of my favorite holidays. Don’t worry—you haven’t missed it—it occurs the final week of this month. I’m not very good, however, at guessing how long it will take me to finish a fiction book, so I start early, just in cas... [Bible] [Books] [literature] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Banned Book Week] [Poverty] [prejudice] [sexuality] [social justice] [The Bluest Eye] [Toni Morrison]

September 7, 1AM

Now that September’s here, we can begin thinking back over the summer, scratch our heads, and say “huh?” We’ve been so blinded by the Trump that we haven’t had time to reminisce over what’s been happening fundamentally. I mean among the Fund... [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Fundamentalism] [Left Behind] [Lyle Jeffs] [Phyllis Schlafly] [rapture] [Timothy LaHaye]

September 6, 1AM

I first heard of feminism in seminary. Growing up as a poor, uneducated fundie in a small town, where would I have learned about it? I came to it naturally, though. Being raised for several years by a single mother I knew that women were just as smart ... [Bible] [Books] [feminism] [higher education] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation] [Nyasha Junior] [womanism]

September 5, 2AM

It’s difficult to believe in Labor Day. Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad for the day off. It’s just that I don’t think people really believe in the idea any more. It’s hard to take professed goodwill for workers seriously in a plutocracy. Esp... [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [capitalism] [Labor Day] [plutocracy] [prosperity] [Travel]

September 4, 2AM

Back home for a flying visit over the final dregs of the summer, I find myself in a hotel in my hometown. It’s an odd place to be. As I’ve often remarked to those who know me, I remember living in three houses in this area and all three have been to... [Holidays] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [Allegheny River] [Manhattan] [New Jersey] [Oil City] [pennsylvania]

September 3, 3AM

It comes as no surprise, I hope, that I read lots of fiction. While not every book I read makes it onto this blog, a good many of them do, along with some I haven’t read yet. Bill Broun’s Night of the Animals is one of the latter. A suspicion is it... [Bible] [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Bill Broun] [dystopia] [fiction] [George Orwell] [Night of the Animals] [NPR] [Politics and Religion]

September 2, 1AM

For those of us accustomed to ancient things, horror movies are remarkably new. That doesn’t mean, however, that they are scarce or even easy to understand. While it is beginning to erode, the academic derision of popular culture has long avoided the ... [Books] [higher education] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [A History of Horror] [horror films] [mysterium tremendum] [Universal Studios] [Wheeler Winston Dixon]

September 1, 1AM

Just how many gods are there, anyway? Well, that’s not really a fair question. For one thing, do I mean “real gods” or gods that people believe in? Do I mean “believe in” or made up? Do I mean “made up” or intentionally fabricated? And ... [Archaeology] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [Deities] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [science] [Ben Taub] [divine genitival construct] [Etruscans] [fertility gods] [gods] [IFL Science!] [Italy] [Poggio Colla] [polytheism] [science and religion] [Uni]

August 31, 1AM

Techoncrat I’m not. At least I understand that to be authentic in this world you need to be on social media. I have a Twitter account. Have had for years. I don’t follow it religiously, but then, I don’t treat any social media like holy writ. T... [Current Events] [higher education] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [capitalism] [Donald Trump] [Facebook] [internet] [plutocracy] [Politics and Religion] [social media] [Twitter]

August 30, 1AM

Envy is not a word I would use to describe how I feel about those trying to piece together the earliest stages of humanity. Evolution, naturally, is a given. Once beyond that, however, the landscape gets dicey. Clive Finlayson is an author I don’t en... [Animals] [Books] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Bro-Magnon] [Clive Finlayson] [Homo sapiens] [Neanderthal] [The Improbable Primate: How Water Shaped Human Evolution]

August 29, 1AM

Let me send out a warm welcome to the neighborhood, I think. Not that I officially represent Earth—or anything for that matter. I’m just friendly, I guess. Now that astronomers have strong evidence that the nearest star to our own, Proxima Centauri... [astronomy] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Deities] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [astronomy] [gods] [Politics and Religion] [Proxima Centauri]

August 28, 1AM

All fiction writing, it is often said, is borrowing. I’m not exactly sure that’s literally true, but the basic idea is that writers often trade with one another. They also borrow against their own experience and observations that others have made. ... [Books] [literature] [Monsters] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [and Zombies] [Charlotte Bronte] [fan fiction] [Jane Austen] [Jane Eyre] [Jean Rhys] [prejudice] [pride] [soucriant] [Wide Sargasso Sea] [zombie]

August 27, 1AM

I don’t watch television. This isn’t any kind of moral stance. It’s financial. We can’t afford any “triple play” plans for the little free time we have for television. My wife and I both work long hours. We like to read, so we don’t hav... [Current Events] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Amy Kuperinksy] [Machiavelli] [New Jersey Star-Ledger] [popular culture] [reality television] [Ronald Reagan] [Survivor] [Television]

August 26, 1AM

Reading is fundamental. Those of us who grew up hearing that slogan have never forgotten it. The part that I wish had stuck better is just a touch shorter: reading is fun. Or it can be. Should be. Alan Jacobs’ little book The Pleasures of Reading i... [Books] [Just for Fun] [literature] [Posts] [Alan Jacobs] [Bible] [literacy] [rereading] [The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction]

August 25, 1AM

Extinction is a cause of fear. Having evolved a certain level of self-aware consciousness, we fear becoming the next tyrannosaurus-rex or spinosaurus, or whatever the next top predator turns out to have been. We’re here to stay. So we like to think.... [Bibliolatry] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Christianity] [extinction] [John Sides] [protestantism] [Public Religion Research Institute] [Robert P. Jones] [The Washington Post]

August 24, 12 AM

August isn’t too early to start thinking about vampires. The nights are already noticeably longer than they were in June and some leaves are just beginning to change on the trees. I’m thinking of vampires because one of my readers sent me a link to ... [Britannia] [Current Events] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Travel] [Belief] [Erin Chapman] [Highgate Cemetery] [Highgate Vampire] [Sean Manchester] [Vamped] [vampires]

August 23, 2AM

Few things travel as well as curses. Or so it seems in a news report from Serbia. Archaeologists in Kostolac, according to The Guardian, have excavated skeletons nearly two millennia old. That’s not news, since people have been dying as long as there... [Archaeology] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [aramaic] [curse] [Demons] [Kostolac] [Politics and Religion] [roman empire] [serbia] [The Guardian]

August 22, 2AM

I’m not inclined toward hero worship. Sometimes I think it must be a personality flaw on my part. The cult of celebrity is so pervasive that I feel desperately behind the times when I read what web-savvy authors write. Or maybe the truth is that my h... [Memoirs] [Posts] [heroes] [Homer Sitterley] [New Jersey] [New York] [pennsylvania] [small towns]

August 21, 2AM

What does it mean to be a man? Or a woman? Or intersex? As a society we seem to spend quite a lot of political time thinking about this. We want to regulate something we don’t even understand. An opinion piece by Rabbi Mark Sameth in the New York T... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Deities] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [bathroom politics] [Bible and politics] [Diversity] [Gender] [Mark Sameth] [New York Times] [Tolerance]

August 20, 2AM

It brings tears to my eyes. A little guy millions of miles from home. The only spark of acknowledged intelligence on the entire planet. It’s his birthday and he’s singing “Happy Birthday” to himself. It’s downright depressing. The guy, howe... [astronomy] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Posts] [Robotics] [science] [4-H Fair] [Mars] [Mars rover Curiosity] [Technology] [touchscreen generation] [Washington Post]

August 19, 1AM

I grew up with horror films. Not that my mother encouraged or approved this behavior, but I was a kid with a lot of phobias. With no father around to protect us from what dangers might lurk out there, I tried to learn how to cope by watching others face... [Books] [Current Events] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [horror films] [Kendall R. Phillips] [Monster Boomer] [Projected Fears: Horror Films and American Culture]

August 18, 1AM

Fashion. Okay, I’ll wait here while you check your URL to make sure you’re on the right webpage. Back? Okay. Fashion is something about which I care so little that it surprises even me that I’m addressing it. I can blame my wife, since she sent... [Current Events] [feminism] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Blair Witch] [fashion] [Harry Potter] [Massachusetts] [Priya Elan] [Rosemary's Baby] [Salem] [The Guardian] [witches]

August 17, 1AM

The scientific method has been a boon to humanity. Knowing how to sharpen the rational faculties has demonstrated its benefits time and time again. Sometimes, however, overemphasis on rationality contains hidden costs. Humans are not always rational, a... [Animals] [Books] [Consciousness] [environment] [Posts] [science] [animal rights] [fly fishing] [Marcelo Gleiser] [rationalism] [science and religion] [Spirituality] [The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected]

August 16, 1AM

As long as I’m thinking about ethics, my thoughts turn to the fair. Every August our county 4-H Fair becomes an event in our lives. Since my family has been involved with 4-H for many years, we always try to spend as much time there as we can afford. ... [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Robotics] [Social Consciousness] [4-H Fair] [Donald Trump] [plutocracy] [politics]

August 15, 1AM

You probably know the ritual. On a given day of the week (often the weekend—your “time off” for good behavior) you troop to the grocery store. You toss the items you’ll need for the week into a cart and trundle home to fit them into the intersti... [Current Events] [environment] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [capitalism] [Consumer Reports] [ethics] [food] [groceries] [ritual]

August 14, 2AM

To a certain mindset, nothing conveys a threat quite like Satanism. Many parts of the world witnessed this dynamic during the “Satanic scare” of the 1990’s. In reality, however, most groups identifying as Satanism do not believe in a Devil and, of... [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Devil] [freedom of religion] [Fundamentalism] [Good News Clubs] [Satanic Temple] [Satanism] [Washington Post]

August 13, 2AM

The world is safe now. It’s okay—you can unlock your doors and windows at last. I have the proof right before me. Two weeks ago I was out of town. To get to my final destination I had to fly. I travel light. Seeing families at the airport with s... [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Air Travel] [conscientious objector] [pacifism] [Transportation Security Administration] [traveling light]

August 12, 2AM

My reading list is long, and it grows longer all the time. I read both fiction and non-fiction with equal avidity. Given that there are so many books I want to read, it is unusual to read entire books a second time (they should be kept for reference’s... [Bible] [Books] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [canonical books] [herman melville] [Ilana Pardes] [Melville’s Bibles] [Moby Dick] [Wisdom Literature]

August 11, 1AM

One of my most frequent imaginary dalliances is wondering what I would have done with my life if I hadn’t been raised religious. Like many young boys I found “exciting” jobs enticing—soldier, firefighter, explorer—but scientist also loomed larg... [Bible] [Books] [Britannia] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Ugarit] [Beowulf] [BookRiot] [E. H. Kern] [English] [Hebrew] [King James Bible] [Old English] [The Exeter Book] [Ugaritic]

August 10, 1AM

When I first began this blog, generally focused on religion, I felt the need to justify posts about monsters. Now, some seven years and several books later, I have come to assume monsters and religion are close kin. Many scholars who explore monsters ar... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Guillermo Del Toro] [HORROR] [Jordan Riefe] [souls] [The Guardian]

August 9, 1AM

A few weekends back I watched the new Ghostbusters in the theater. Since tuition bills loom larger than life, it takes a powerful draw to get me to spend the money to see a movie in its natural setting. As my regular readers know, I loved it. Critics h... [Consciousness] [feminism] [movies] [Mysticism] [popular culture] [Posts] [science] [Colin Dickey] [Dan Aykroyd] [Ghost Hunters] [Ghostbusters] [materialistic reductionism] [New Republic] [Spiritualism]

August 8, 1AM

Floods are the stuff of legends. In fact, one of the most pervasive myths of all times is the world-wide flood. While some would see this as “evidence” that such an impossible flood actually occurred (some believing so fervently as to build replicas... [Uncategorized] [china] [flood myth] [global warming] [Noah's Flood] [Sarah Kaplan] [Sir Leonard Woolley] [Washington Post] [Yellow River]

August 7, 1AM

Reentry is never easy. I’ve just been on a vacation in the woods of the northwest and yesterday marked, via eight hours of air travel and airport waiting, my trip home. Tomorrow work begins again and I hope for the ability to adjust quickly into some ... [environment] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [New York City] [northwoods] [ritual] [Travel] [vacation]

August 6, 3AM

It was recently announced that Fox has renewed Sleepy Hollow for a fourth season. Please! No spoilers in the comments (as if)! I’m running a season behind so I want to protect my innocence. The announcement coincided with the happy news that my arti... [higher education] [literature] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Asherah] [Journal of Religion and Popular Culture] [Sleepy Hollow] [The Legend of Sleepy Hollow] [Tim Burton] [Weathering the Psalms]

August 5, 6AM

Jonathan Carroll’s novels are always thought-provoking. My reading patterns tend to be driven by book sales and secondhand stores since my reading vice is particularly aggressive. The Ghost in Love is now already years in my past, but I found a copy o... [Bible] [Books] [Genesis] [literature] [Mesopotamia] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Bathing the Lion] [chaos] [Chaoskampf] [Creation] [enuma elish] [Genesis 1] [Jonathan Carroll]

August 4, 6AM

The Roman Empire ruled the known world. Christianity owes much of its form and structure to the fact that the Romans expressed their rule in a military way and prized what they thought was order and fairness. While all of this was happening across the o... [Current Events] [environment] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Travel] [Basking Ridge oak] [Bristlecone Pines] [Great Swamp Oak] [roman empire] [Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars] [Shoe Tree] [Washington]

August 3, 6AM

In the current political climate—and not just in the United States, as Brexit reminds us—opposites seem to be the order of the day. The middle ground seems to have fallen out as those frantic for turning back the clock to a day that never really ever... [civil religion] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [complexity] [Dualism] [Manichaean] [Religion and Politics] [zoroastrianism]

August 2, 6AM

The reductionistic mind doesn’t care for mystery. Unlike a lover, the unknown is a problem to be solved so that the march of nice, neat solutions may continue to march on, unabated. Fear of fuzzy thinking leads to a coldness that those of us experienc... [Animals] [Consciousness] [environment] [Posts] [Travel] [beast of Dartmoor] [cougar] [Materialism] [Mountain Lion] [reductionism] [Sir Arthur Conan Doyle]

August 1, 5AM

One of the unspoken prompts for writing Weathering the Psalms was the unscientific idea that God is somehow associated with the sky. To my mind this has more to say about what religion is beyond the recognition that Anu, El, Nut, and kin were primordial ... [Deities] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Travel] [celestial religion] [flight] [sky gods] [three-tiered universe] [Weathering the Psalms]

July 31, 4AM

Here I am in a natural setting, with nature close at hand. From these windows I can see mountains, a mercury-smooth lake with fish breaking its silvery sheet, and trees aspiring for the sky. I hear a red squirrel chattering from one of those trees, and ... [environment] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [civilization] [environmentalism] [nature] [Travel] [vacation]

July 30, 5AM

Jasper Fforde is one of those writers who blends nonsense, deep thought, constant plot twists, and polished writing into compelling novels. His labors are always fun to read and often leave me with something profound to ponder. I haven’t followed his Th... [Books] [civil religion] [Deities] [literature] [Posts] [Global Standard Deity] [Jasper Fforde] [Jonah] [Ministry of Theistic Defense] [The Woman Who Died a Lot] [Thursday Next]

July 29, 12 AM

After grousing about having too little time, today begins a trip out of town. Changing time zones, forsaking civilization, resting at a mountain lake. And I’m thinking of all that I’ll accomplish without having to go into the office for an entire we... [Consciousness] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [Air Travel] [the Borg] [transhuman] [vacation]

July 28, 1AM

Anyone who spends long enough in the United Kingdom will hear about them. Not everyone believes in them, but reports of their presence are pervasive. Some call them ghosts while others call them protective spirits. They are the black dogs. As Mark Nor... [Animals] [Books] [Britannia] [Classical Mythology] [Monsters] [Posts] [Black Dog Folklore] [Black Dogs] [chthonian] [folklore] [ghosts] [Mark Norman] [mythology]

July 27, 1AM

Rituals rely on unchanging circumstances. When we attended a grocery store that was not our usual one my ritual was challenged. First I have to confess (as is appropriate for a ritual): I am no foodie. Having grown up in humble circumstances where eati... [Bible] [Genesis] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Adam and Eve] [Eve apple] [Genesis 3] [ritual] [Seventh Day Adventist]

July 26, 1AM

I spend a lot of time thinking about monsters. Could there be any more statement of the obvious? The deeper issue, however, is why. Why am I, among countless others, drawn to the monster? This may not be politically correct—I apologize in advance—... [Current Events] [Monsters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Donald Trump] [education] [Frankenstein's monster] [political correctness] [politics] [populism]

July 25, 1AM

One of the unexpected consequences of Christian theology is the ongoing insistence in science that human beings are qualitatively different from other animals. Actually, it goes back to the Hebrew Bible and the concept of “the image of God.” As the ... [Animals] [Bible] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [evolution] [Genesis] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [animal intelligence] [Darryl Fears] [Image of God] [instinct] [science and religion] [Stone Age] [Washington Post]

July 24, 3AM

Working in Midtown Manhattan, it’s rare for a week to go by without passing through a street that’s set up for a film or television shoot. New York isn’t the largest city in the world, nor does it have the tallest buildings, but it is a city instan... [Current Events] [feminism] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Ghostbusters] [ghosts] [New York City] [Social Consciousness]

July 23, 2AM

We are products of our place of birth. One of the truly amazing things about human culture is how quickly it can evolve. As biologists have noted, populations separated by natural barriers such as mountains, big rivers, or oceans, tend to evolve in diff... [Bibliolatry] [Britannia] [Current Events] [evolution] [literature] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Britain] [C. S. Lewis] [Colleen Gillard] [cultural evolution] [dystopia] [Pagan] [Puritan] [The Atlantic]

July 22, 1AM

Perhaps the characteristic that marks our species most distinctly is its arrogance. Conscious of who we are (we think) we stake the claim for minds for ourselves alone while all the evidence points away from that very conclusion. Naturalists are castiga... [Animals] [Books] [Consciousness] [Posts] [science] [New England Aquarium] [octopus] [soul] [Stephen Hawking] [Sy Montgomery] [The Soul of an Octopus]

July 21, 1AM

Like many kids of the sixties I grew up watching Batman. I mean Batman—the campy, goofy, live-action version of the caped crusader that was must-see TV for young boys and other hero wannabes. This was all hung upside-down, as it were, by Tim Burton’... [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Batman] [Christopher Nolan] [entrepreneurs] [evangelicalism] [Harvey Dent] [naked business] [The Dark Knight] [Tim Burton] [Two-Face]

July 20, 12 AM

Intellectuals often have difficulty, it seems, taking popular culture seriously.  I remember feeling slightly guilty taking a class on Science Fiction in college and actually getting credit for it.  At the time—I remember the Dark Ages—a course on c... [Books] [Current Events] [higher education] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [mythology] [Our Superheroes] [Ourselves] [popular culture] [Psychiatry] [Psychology] [Robin S. Rosenberg] [superhero]

July 19, 1AM

Those of us who once tried to storm the walls of academe from humble beginnings soon learn our lesson. This is a guild meant only for those whose parents knew enough to suggest an Ivy League education. Those whose parents have never heard of Harvard (th... [Britannia] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Cambridge Companions] [Edinburgh University] [Ivy League] [John C. L. Gibson] [Nicolas Wyatt] [Simon Parker]

July 18, 1AM

The mind, despite nay-sayers, is real. It isn’t an illusion. Emergent phenomena are often larger than the sum of their parts. One of the problems with the non-physical is that we can’t parse it precisely. “Mind” may be called “soul” may be... [Bible] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Deities] [Monsters] [Posts] [Demons] [mental illness] [mind] [natural law] [Richard Gallagher] [soul] [Washington Post]

July 17, 2AM

It was already ancient when first discovered by the early European colonists of New Jersey. The Basking Ridge oak is a well-known and time-honored New Jersey denizen. Over six centuries old, the white oak, it seems, is dying. Like it’s cousin, the Sw... [Bible] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Basking Ridge] [Basking Ridge oak] [Book of Job] [George Washington] [George Whitefield] [Holy Oak] [New Jersey] [New Jersey Star-Ledger]

July 16, 1AM

Visiting the Holocaust Museum was one of the most wrenching activities of my life. I was in Washington DC for a meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature when my friend Jeff came across the Atlantic to attend. He wanted to see the Museum and I reluc... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Elie Wiesel] [Holocaust Museum] [Pokemon Go] [Washington DC] [Washington Post]

July 15, 2AM

It must be difficult to write a Very Short Introduction. Although the series is published by Oxford University Press, I’m not being a shill. As someone who writes the equivalent of several of these little books a year, I imagine it must be nearly impo... [Bible] [Books] [higher education] [literature] [Posts] [Bible as literature] [Oxford University Press] [The Hebrew Bible as Literature] [Tod Linafelt] [truth] [Very Short Introductions]

July 14, 1AM

You know that feeling of being dropped into a very strange place?  Sure, it’s disorienting for a while, but once you get used to it, you start to enjoy your surroundings.  Now ask yourself: what if my entire way of looking at life is based on a faulty... [Animals] [Books] [Consciousness] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home] [mechanistic universe] [morphic fields] [Pokemon Go] [Rupert Sheldrake] [science and religion] [souls] [telepathy]

July 13, 1AM

Noah and his ark have been in the news quite a bit over the past several months. A friend recently shared a story on American News X about Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter, soon to open in Kentucky. It may be open already, but I haven’t been down yonder late... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Genesis] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [American News X] [Ark Encounter] [ilgamesh Epic] [Ken Ham] [kentucky] [Noah's Ark] [Sun Pictures] [Thomas Clay] [Utnapishtim]

July 12, 1AM

Summer is the time for camp. I’m not into extreme sports, like sleeping outdoors in the snow, so in my mind, summer is the time for camp. While in college I spent two summers as a counselor for the Western Pennsylvania United Methodist Conference camp... [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [movies] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Camp Allegheny] [Fundamentalism] [Jesus Camp] [Jumonville] [Richard Dawkins] [The Guardian] [United Methodist Church] [Wesley Woods] [Western Pennsylvania Conference]

July 11, 1AM

As a lifelong pacifist, I’ve never been a fan of war books. Indeed, war seems to be to an utterly useless waste of life and a source of herculean suffering. The fact that wars happen, and books about them depress me, causes me to avoid them. Still, ... [Books] [civil religion] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Anti-Semitism] [Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism] [Derek Hastings] [Hogan's Heroes] [Religious Identity and National Socialism] [Roman Catholicism] [Third Reich]

July 10, 1AM

Maybe you’ve seen it too.  Corporate-style psychobabble.  Memos land on your desk, whether real or virtual, jostling with neologisms, indicating the trendy new directions the business is going.  Apparently a legal requirement is that old vocabula... [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Business] [capitalism] [neologism] [nonce words] [portmanteau]

July 9, 2AM

The first vampire novel I ever read, I remember correctly, was one of the Dark Shadows series written by Marilyn Ross. I don’t recall which one, since I had to buy my books from Goodwill or some such vender utilized by the poor. Now, I’m really a sq... [Bible] [Books] [literature] [Memoirs] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Anne Rice] [Barnabas Collins] [Bram Stoker] [Dark Shadows] [Devil] [Interview with the Vampire] [Job] [Marilyn Ross] [Theodicy] [vampires]

July 8, 1AM

Religions, it seems, come in belts. Or at least elements of religions do. Although we may not all agree on what constitutes the “Bible Belt” we all have a pretty good idea that it includes several southern states, and parts of the Midwest. It doesn... [Bible] [civil religion] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [Travel] [Bible Belt] [Borscht Belt] [Burnt Over District] [Catskills] [Judaism] [New York] [pennsylvania] [Poconos]

July 7, 1AM

Perhaps it seems that I’m writing quite a bit about music these days. Being a theoretical and practical failure in the practice of music, it may seem presumptuous. If I’m honest, I’d admit that visiting the site of Woodstock was kind of a religiou... [art] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Rock-n-Roll] [Social Consciousness] [Amy Grant] [Bono] [capitalism] [Christian Rock] [John Pavlovitz] [Larry Norman] [U2] [Woodstock]

July 6, 1AM

Harvard University’s been in the news. Well, Harvard makes the news, so that not news. The first story that has appeared is that Harvard, like me, is giving it away. Information on religion, that is. Like a fire sale. Or making room for next season... [Uncategorized] [Anglican Journal] [Boston University School of Theology] [Charlotte Allen] [Edinburgh University] [Harvard University] [The Atlantic] [The Weekly Standard]

July 5, 2AM

Music preserves your youth. When my wife was studying music therapy, one of the pieces of information she received is that those whose brains have begun to shut down the speaking faculties can still sing. People respond best, in such states, to the musi... [art] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Rock-n-Roll] [Travel] [Bethel Woods] [music therapy] [Paul Simon] [Simon and Garfunkel] [Woodstock]

July 4, 3AM

Freedom. Independence Day is our celebration of liberty. Yesterday I happened to find myself at Bethel Woods, the out-of-the-way location in New York where Woodstock was held. Probably no one in 1969 realized just how formative Woodstock and its messag... [art] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Holidays] [popular culture] [Posts] [Rock-n-Roll] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [1969] [Bethel Woods] [freedom] [Independence Day] [New York] [Vietnam War] [Woodstock]

July 3, 4AM

The title is, unfortunately, not mine. My wife sent me a story on NPR entitled “Humility Is Embedded In Doing Science, But What About Spirituality?” by Barbara J. King. The piece is largely an interview with physicist Marcelo Gleiser about his new b... [Books] [Consciousness] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [Barbara J. King] [Marcelo Gleiser] [NPR] [science and religion] [Spirituality] [The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected]

July 2, 2AM

Two centuries can make an enormous difference. Just two-hundred years ago Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo was merely one year in the past. North America and parts of Europe were experiencing “the year without a summer.” Perhaps due to that cool and... [Books] [Current Events] [environment] [literature] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [1816] [Anne Rice] [Bram Stoker] [Epimetheus] [Frankenstein] [Golem] [John Polidori] [Lord Byron] [Mary Godwin] [Mary Shelley] [Percy Bysshe Shelley]

July 1, 1AM

Popular culture, it seems to me, mediates reality. The media of various descriptions teach us what to think, and even if there is a religiously “orthodox” answer to questions, we will weigh it in the scales against what larger society says. This bec... [Bible] [Books] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [death] [Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination] [Greg Garrett] [heaven] [hell] [Purgatory] [zoroastrianism]

June 30, 1AM

Tyrannosaurus rex, aside from being a photogenic movie star, was one of the top predators of its day. Ironically, in the Jurassic Park original trilogy (which would have been, more appropriately Triassic Park) tyrannosaurus rex becomes the ultimate prota... [Animals] [Current Events] [evolution] [movies] [Natural Disasters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [dinosaurs] [Donald Trump] [extinction] [Jurassic Park] [Jurassic World] [Tyrannosaurus Rex]

June 29, 1AM

In this world of rational materialism, people still turn to fiction. Some prefer it in the form of movies, television, or internet, but those of us “old school” like our fiction in print. No matter how we take it, fiction appeals to that part of us ... [Books] [Consciousness] [literature] [Posts] [cognitive science] [emotion] [fiction] [Keith Oatley] [rationalism] [The Passionate Muse: Exploring Emotion in Stories]

June 28, 1AM

I’ve been reading about Ruth lately. Ruth doesn’t have a last name. She’s a character in the Bible. The book named after her is one of the shortest in the longest, Hebrew section of the Good Book. It’s a fairly gentle story, although it ha... [Bible] [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [false etymology] [family values] [gleaning] [Levi] [levirate law] [Moabite] [Ruth]

June 27, 1AM

Nothing used to make you feel smarter than being in a British bookstore. With that curious blend of proper, insane, and bawdy, books are displayed that you might find surprising. Alarming, even. Last year as I strolled around Blackwells in Oxford, I sp... [Books] [Britannia] [evolution] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [science] [Amazon] [Blackwells] [Jared Diamond] [morality] [Oxford] [The Evolution of Human Sexuality] [Why is Sex Fun?]

June 26, 1AM

It was 1987. I was in Israel for a good part of the summer excavating at Tel Dor. Between degrees and trying what to do with my life, like many people, I sought out a holy place. One evening while I was there, the locals (I can’t recall if it was the... [environment] [Memoirs] [movies] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Kalahari] [noble savage] [Tel Dor] [The Gods Must Be Crazy] [Theodicy]

June 25, 1AM

From Wikimedia Commons Four centuries ago this year William Shakespeare died. In the literary world there have been lots of commemorations going on, and all the fuss reminded me of a post I’d written some years back concerning Psalm 46. While teaching... [Bible] [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Psalms] [Donald Trump] [Hannibal Hamlin] [King James Version] [Nashotah House] [Psalm 46] [The Bible in Shakespeare] [William Shakespeare]

June 24, 1AM

I like my Starter. For those of you unaccustomed to New Jersey Transit buses and their ways, a Starter is a person who makes sure the buses scheduled to arrive at her or his gate do so on time. It’s not a job for the faint-hearted. If a bus is late, ... [Books] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [commuting] [New Jersey Transit] [New York City] [Port Authority Bus Terminal] [reading]

June 23, 1AM

Don’t complain. So I’m told. Work with the system (i.e., the privileged), do your part, and most of all, don’t complain. What would Jeremiah do? Or any of the prophets? It seems to me that prophets had the job of calling out where society had g... [Books] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Social Consciousness] [Ecstatic Religion: A Study of Shamanism and Spirit Possession] [I. M. Lewis] [Possession] [Prophets] [shamanism] [social justice] [Tungus]

June 22, 1AM

I suspect, like most people, I missed quite a few classics in school. This was the ’70’s when new and experimental were still the rage. One of the must-reads I missed was Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. As usual when approaching bo... [Books] [Just for Fun] [literature] [Posts] [science] [creationism] [Dr. Chasuble] [Oscar Wilde] [science and religion] [televangelists] [The Importance of Being Earnest]

June 21, 1AM

Everything’s industry. It has haunted me for some years now that we’ve let our corporate greed run away with our imagination so that nothing but “industry” remains. We don’t wish to interfere with the gun industry. The guns we like the best a... [art] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [gun control] [gun industry] [Isaiah] [mass shootings] [Mexico City] [Pedro Reyes]

June 20, 1AM

Someone recently told me that a city blocks a certain vibration that people draw from contact with the earth. I know that vibration often sets off “new age” alarms, but this person was rational, scientific, and had grown up in New York City. I grew ... [Books] [Consciousness] [environment] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Bill Pfeiffer] [capitalism] [indigenous peoples] [New York City] [reductionism] [shamanism] [Wild Earth] [Wild Soul: A Manual for Ecstatic Culture]

June 19, 1AM

Politics is about power. Say what you will about the Bible, but at least they were clear about it in those days. Kings were alpha males, not public servants. In the light of Orlando we can see how little has changed. Random acts of violence grow more ... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [bullying] [gun control] [Orlando shooting] [politicians] [Social Consciousness] [violence]

June 18, 2AM

Albinism occurs across species. In human beings, suspicious and superstitious lot that we are, it’s sometimes an excuse for prejudice. I’ve confessed in the past to reading Weird N.J. (Long story.) When we first moved to the Garden State a series ... [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [albinism] [folklore] [Malawi] [Max Bearak] [The Washington Post] [violence] [Weird N.J.] [witchcraft]

June 17, 1AM

Andover Newton Theological School is the oldest stand-alone graduate school of theology in the United States. Was, I should say. Declining enrollment—supply and demand dictates fewer clergy are required—and the rising costs of a job description that... [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [Andover Newton Theological School] [Berkeley Divinity School] [protestantism] [seminaries] [Yale Divinity School]

June 16, 1AM

There has been a movement, of late, among some sci-fi authors, to envision a more optimistic future. I have always been a fan of dystopias, myself. Perhaps it’s the working-class mentality backed up by being raised in poverty speaking, but sometimes I... [Books] [civil religion] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [dystopia] [Emily St. John Mandel] [one per centers] [science fiction] [Station Eleven]

June 15, 1AM

Technology runs amok. I confess to being born before earthlings landed on the moon. I remember a world where Purelle boogers simply did not exist. A time when to read the Bible meant opening that black leather with gilt edges that suggested some unknow... [Bible] [Egypt] [Just for Fun] [popular culture] [Posts] [Egyptian] [Emoji Bible] [emojis] [Ezekiel 23.20] [hieroglyphs] [Lego Bible] [LOL Cats Bible] [Oxford Dictionaries] [Technology]

June 14, 1AM

I have to confess that the easy self-publishing of ebooks is a real temptation sometimes. Perhaps it’s one of those inexplicable side-effects of earning a Ph.D., but sometimes you have the impression you have something to say and traditional publishers... [Bibliolatry] [Books] [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Amazon] [Bible Code] [CreateSpace] [Donald Trump] [ebooks] [Peanuts] [Religion and Politics] [self-publishing]

June 13, 1AM

One of the most coveted phenomena in the publishing world is the bad review. Controversy sells a book like nothing else. It wasn’t because of the controversy, however, that I read Alex Mar’s Witches of America. Looking back, I wasn’t even sure of... [Books] [feminism] [Memoirs] [Mysticism] [Posts] [Sects] [Alex Mar] [Mysticism] [paganism] [spiritual memoir] [Wicca] [witches] [Witches of America]

June 12, 1AM

I pity the nation that doesn’t have divine founders. Origin myths help to orient our thoughts about where we belong in the order of things. Given enough time, any national founder will become a god. When a friend recently shared a blog post about Gog... [Bible] [Britannia] [civil religion] [Deities] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Alexander Hamilton] [Bede] [Ezekiel] [Geoffrey of Monmouth] [George Washington] [Gogmagog] [Mabinogion] [Moses] [Revelation]

June 11, 2AM

While on my current British kick—not really intentional, but sometimes life gives you limes—I thought I’d mention another piece sent to me by a friend. This one falls under BBC Earth, and it’s about “Why Ancient Brits threw out their most valua... [Archaeology] [Britannia] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Amanda Ruggeri] [Anthropology] [BBC Earth] [Bronze Age] [hoards] [israel] [Phoenicians] [ritual]

June 10, 1AM

The Romans are coming! The Romans are coming! No, wait. They were already here. Here, that is, if you’re European. And more specifically, a Londoner. The Guardian recently posted a story about the oldest writing in the United Kingdom being unearth... [Archaeology] [Britannia] [Current Events] [literature] [Posts] [ancient writing] [Bloomberg] [London] [media] [Romans] [The Guardian]

June 9, 1AM

While reading the Hull Daily Mail (don’t ask), I came across an article entitled “Rock legend Alice Cooper ask questions about the Beast of Barmston Drain.” Apart from that lovable Britishism of making groups into grammatical plurals, this brief ar... [Animals] [Britannia] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Rock-n-Roll] ["The Werewolf"] [Alice Cooper] [Amy Nicholson] [Beast of Barmston Drain] [Hull Daily Mail] [Linda Godfrey] [Paul Simon] [Welcome to My Nightmare]

June 8, 1AM

Just 200 years ago, there was a “year without a summer.”  Well, that’s an exaggeration, but the name has stuck and is familiar to those of us with an undue interest in weather.  Although the coldness of that summer was far from universal, frosts c... [Books] [environment] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [1816] [global warming] [Henry and Elizabeth Stommel] [Krakatoa] [Mount Tambora] [the Year Without a Summer] [volcano] [Volcano Weather: The Story of 1816]

June 7, 1AM

I can never keep Virgil and Beatrice straight. I blame Dante. Allegories can be so tiring. So, sitting under a tree in Princeton, enjoying a root beer float prepared at The Bent Spoon, I ponder the empty bottle before me. Virgil’s root beer. So goo... [art] [Consciousness] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Travel] [Dante Alighieri] [Divine Comedy] [Grounds for Sculpture] [John Seward Johnson II] [New Jersey] [Princeton] [Virgil's Root Beer]

June 6, 1AM

Reading about Philip K. Dick prompted me to read one of his novels. But which one? Some Amazon pick-up lockers on the way to work are painted with a mural of The Man in the High Castle. I haven’t seen the series, but there was the paperback, facing o... [Bible] [Books] [civil religion] [Current Events] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Christianity] [fascism] [I Ching] [Philip K. Dick] [The Man in the High Castle]

June 5, 4AM

How often we’re told—and writers on biblical topics are especially guilty of this—the meaning of a story. Despite what materialists say, we are meaning-seeking creatures. We want to know why. When we read a story we want to know what it means. I... [Bible] [Consciousness] [Memoirs] [Posts] [David Abram] [Dreamtime stories] [heresy] [Materialism] [meaning] [Nashotah House]

June 4, 2AM

Witch-hunts, I suspect, will become all the rage again if a certain presidential candidate is elected. The fear of witches is not easily explained in a world driven by materialism, but certainly misogyny plays an unholy role in much of it. Stacy Schiff... [Bibliolatry] [Books] [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [1692] [Devil] [religious tolerance] [Salem Witch Trials] [Satan] [Stacy Schiff] [The Witches: Salem] [witches]

June 3, 2AM

Civilization isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, it’s got its moments—modern medicine, indoor plumbing, Honey Boo Boo—but often it’s artificial. It’s like somebody made up a set of silly rules and those who dare violate them are tre... [Animals] [Books] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [environment] [evolution] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [David Abram] [ecology] [nature] [The Spell of the Sensuous] [Thomas Nagel]

June 2, 1AM

Delicate isn’t a word we’ve been taught to associate with Islam. I remember a priest speaking to me oh-so-earnestly about how Islam by nature wanted to take over the world. I wondered about his education in the history of Christianity. If you turn ... [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Isis] [Islam] [Leila Fadel] [NPR] [Qarawiyyin Library] [revealed religion] [Revelation]

June 1, 1AM

There may come a time, perhaps “when the trumpet of the Lord shall sound,” that junk mail will be no more, a mere historical curiosity. For now, in these days of declining postage prices, we’ll continue to put up with it. I suspect much of it targ... [civil religion] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Belief] [freedom of religion] [junk mail] [religious tolerance] [surveys]

May 31, 1AM

In the way that only social pundits can generate stereotypes, people born between 1979 and 1994 are called “the entitlement generation.” Large scale social attitudes, it is alleged, set an almost unbreakable Zeitgeist that defines us neatly so that w... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Chobani] [entitlement generation] [Franklin D. Roosevelt] [Hamdi Ulukaya] [Social Consciousness] [Time]

May 30, 3AM

John Seward Johnson II is a sculptor whose work is instantly recognizable by a number of people. Realistic, life-size bronze castings of people doing everyday things, some are painted so as to be difficult to distinguish from quotidian humans. Others ar... [art] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [9/11] [Double Check] [John Seward Johnson II] [memorial day]

May 29, 2AM

My experience of paternal parents growing up never led me to think Father’s Day was a holiday particularly worth celebrating. (Don’t panic—today’s not Father’s Day!) I do have an ironical sense of humor about the commemoration, though. So the ot... [Books] [Holidays] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Amazon] [Father's Day] [fyodor dostoyevsky] [Jeff Bezos] [patricide] [The Brothers Karamazov]

May 28, 2AM

Positivism takes no captives. I’m not talking about the philosophical system—not necessarily—but about the phenomenon of assuming absolutes are available for human consumption. Some physicists, for example, assume that because our five senses can ... [Bibliolatry] [Britannia] [Classical Mythology] [Deities] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [history] [Margaret of Anjou] [myth] [Positivism] [Sophie Okonedo] [The Hollow Crown]

May 27, 1AM

I’d never come across the term “religious melancholics” before, but somehow it seemed to suit me. Perhaps that goes without saying as I’m reading Damned Nation, by Kathryn Gin Lum. While sitting on a bus. We’re sitting in traffic and the guy ... [Bibliolatry] [Books] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [American religion] [Damned Nation] [hell] [Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction] [Kathryn Gin Lum] [Suicide]

May 26, 1AM

It must be incredibly difficult to write a truly scary song. I don’t mean the kind of scare that most heavy metal can innately deliver, but I mean the kind of thrill that a classic horror movie gives. I’m constantly looking for the movie that can re... [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] ["Burn the Witch"] ["The Werewolf"] [Michael Jackson] [NPR] [Paul Simon] [Radiohead] [Stranger to Stranger] [The Howling] [thriller] [wendigo]

May 25, 1AM

Spring has been taking its time to arrive here in the northeast. Just when things seem to have set on a course of identifiable progress, the temperature drops twenty degrees and the rain sets in again. It’s been great weather for toadstools. There ar... [Classical Mythology] [Posts] [science] [Weather] [meteorology] [New York City] [Norse mythology] [seasons] [sundog]

May 24, 1AM

What do you want to be when you grow up? The question kept recurring as I read The Kindness of Strangers. The name Kate Adie may be more familiar to readers from the UK than to those from the US. While spending three years and a bit in Scotland, my wif... [Books] [Britannia] [feminism] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [BBC] [Kate Adie] [social justice] [The Kindness of Strangers]

May 23, 1AM

Forgiveness is somewhat of a specialization among the crowd courted by the new GOP. Although it is forgiveness that goes only one way, at least it’s a start. Think back to Bill Clinton making his non-inhalation declaration followed by W who could not ... [civil religion] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Bill Clinton] [Facebook] [forgiveness] [Justin Wm. Moyer] [Mike Webb] [Politics and Religion] [Virginia] [Washington Post]

May 22, 2AM

A good metaphor gone bad can do a lot of damage. Like a loose cannon. Hell is a bad neighborhood for metaphors. Taken literally Hell can be hell. So it is that many evangelical Christians are abandoning the concept. Jumping ship on the Manichean outl... [Bibliolatry] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [evangelical] [hell] [Judaism] [Mark Strauss] [National Geographic] [sheol] [zoroastrianism]

May 21, 4AM

One of the most remarkable things about Christianity is its fascination with the end of the world. Far from being the obsession of nineteenth-century dispensationalists alone (the other Mr. Darby), the earnestly anticipated end goes back to Paul of Tarsu... [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [capitalism] [Christianity] [dispensationalism] [Greg Miller] [hell] [maps] [National Geographic]

May 20, 2AM

As a fleet of Noah’s Arks near completion, some critics would like to stop these Titanics from their mythical crossing. The Ark Encounter, despite announcements of its demise, is set to open soon in Kentucky. This Noah’s Ark replica, unlike its seaw... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [Genesis] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [science] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Ark Encounter] [Genocide] [incest] [kentucky] [Lexington Herald-Leader] [Noah's Ark] [Noah's Flood] [Tolerance] [Tri-State Freethinkers]

May 19, 2AM

Speaking of prediction, after yesterday’s post my wife sent me a BBC story entitled “The Machine Stops: Did EM Forester predict the internet age?”. Although the story by Chris Long is classified as Entertainment and Arts, the issues raised are very... [Consciousness] [evolution] [literature] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [BBC. Chris Long] [E. M. Forester] [internet] [Technology] [The Machine Stops]

May 18, 2AM

Photo credit: Cephas, Wikimedia Commons Prognostication used to be the remit of oversized rodents and individuals we’d now classify as mad. And news used to be stories about things that had already happened. Past tense things. I don’t read any dail... [Bible] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [media] [Politics and Religion] [prediction] [Prophecy]

May 17, 1AM

“Time,” Morpheus said, “is always against us.” Such is life in the Matrix. Wake before daylight. Climb on a bus. Stare at a screen for a solid eight hours. Climb on a bus. Sleep before dark. Repeat. It’s a schedule only a machine could a... [Consciousness] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [ethics] [pace of life] [philosophy] [Soren Kierkegaard] [The Matrix]

May 16, 1AM

Challenges will make you do funny things. One enjoyable dare has been Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge. With a modest twelve books in twelve months goal, the specific target is to read the types of books laid out. Into one of those categories, f... [Animals] [Books] [Consciousness] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [science] [dinosaurs] [Jurassic Park] [Michael Crichton] [Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 Reading Challenge] [resurrection] [science and religion] [The Lost World]

May 15, 2AM

When was the last time I purchased an actual book at Barnes and Noble? In a vain hope that they might have something intellectual and edgy, I stop in once in a while. If I were a faster learner I might have known that I’d leave disappointed. You see,... [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [Bed Bath and Beyond] [big box] [capitalism] [Costco] [Sam's Club] [Staples] [Wal-Mart]

May 14, 2AM

Of the unholy trinity of late-60s to mid-70s horror movies Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976), the last always seemed the least effective to me. Having recently read about the Devil in American popular culture, and having a... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [Current Events] [feminism] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Antichrist] [dispensationalism] [Hal Lindsey] [Isaac] [Revelation] [Rosemary's Baby] [Samson] [The Devil] [The Exorcist] [The Omen]

May 13, 1AM

If memory serves, I was still in seminary when “Piss Christ” was first unveiled. As photographic art, I can’t say when the shutter snapped, but I seem to recall animated discussion over it and since seminary animated discussion has been at a premiu... [art] [Consciousness] [Current Events] [higher education] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Belief] [Dartboard Jesus] [Materialism] [Piss Christ] [Rutgers University] [Vitruvian Man]

May 12, 1AM

Growing up evangelical, one of the popular topics of conversation was crypto-christians. (My spellcheck insists that this is a lowercase expression.) Crypto-christians are people, generally famous people, who might be secretly “Christian.” You see,... [Books] [Consciousness] [literature] [movies] [Mysticism] [popular culture] [Posts] [Blade Runner] [Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?] [Kyle Arnold] [Philip K. Dick] [science fiction] [The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick]

May 11, 1AM

Some of us prefer taking our monsters neat. With Old Scratch, however, we have a slippery, protean beast. This is amply demonstrated in W. Scott Poole’s Satan in America: The Devil We Know. Not only the Devil, but vampires, demons, and the human mini... [Bible] [Books] [Deities] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [American culture] [Demons] [Satan] [Satan in America: The Devil We Know<] [The Devil] [W. Scott Poole]

May 10, 1AM

I’m building a robot priest. I’m not sure what he does. He has to be a man, though, since we all know that if God existed he’d have been a male. These thoughts come to me courtesy of the Washington Post. You see, on some Amazon accounts you get ... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Deities] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Robotics] [science] [Alexandra Petri] [Amazon] [artificial intelligence] [Bill Gates] [Clive Sinclair] [Elon Musk] [Peter Holley] [Stephen Hawking] [Technology] [The Washington Post]

May 9, 1AM

“What do you burn apart from witches?” “More witches!” Earning a doctorate is kind of like learning how to get lost. It certainly doesn’t make you either cool or employable, but it allows you a few years to accumulate enough debt to keep you ... [civil religion] [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Rock-n-Roll] [Social Consciousness] [conformity] [Donald Trump] [Edinburgh University] [Harvard University] [Radiohead] [The Wicker Man] [witches]

May 8, 2AM

“With what measure ye mete,” someone once said, “it shall be measured to you again.” I certainly hope that’s true, but empirical verification seems to be lacking. I’m looking at, with the full armor of irony, a postcard from Nashotah House. ... [Bible] [higher education] [Holidays] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Nashotah House] [Prayer] [prayer cards] [seminaries] [sermon on the mount]

May 7, 3AM

Complete with an artificial giraffe perched on its prow—or aft, I can never tell the difference—a modern-day Noah’s ark is about to set sail. Or set float. The Bible doesn’t describe any kind of steering or propulsion for the ark since its main ... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [creationism] [Current Events] [Genesis] [movies] [Posts] [science] [Answers in Genesis] [Huffington Post] [In Search of Noah’s Ark] [Netherlands] [Nina Golgowski] [Noah's Ark] [Sun Pictures]

May 6, 1AM

I’m the first to admit that I’m behind the times. Too much of my free time is spent reading weird news or going to used book sales to keep abreast of what’s happening in the adult world. If it weren’t for my wife sending me news stories via the ... [Bible] [civil religion] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [Deities] [Holidays] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Boehner] [Lucifer] [Pan] [Politics and Religion] [Santa Claus] [Satan] [ted cruz] [The Devil] [Zoroastrian]

May 5, 1AM

The funny thing about being “white” (I’m more of an anemic pink myself) is that my race seems to think all the gods share our ethnic traits. I’ve seen Thor, so I know. The Daily Kos ran an article recently about Crystal Valentine, a black poet, ... [Bible] [Current Events] [Deities] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Crystal Valentine] [Daily Kos] [Exile] [imago dei] [jesus] [Jewish] [Megyn Kelly] [prejudice] [race relations]

May 4, 1AM

A used book sale is like a box of chocolates, if I may abscond with a simile that fits many scenarios. After all, you are there to buy books that others have discarded. Some of them show their age rather blatantly. Keay Davidson’s Twister: The Scienc... [Books] [Deities] [environment] [Memoirs] [movies] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Weather] [Keay Davidson] [Midwest] [tornado] [Twister] [Twister: The Science of Tornadoes and the Making of an Adventure Movie] [Weathering the Psalms]

May 3, 1AM

Perhaps the most obvious deviancy in my otherwise conservative childhood was MAD Magazine. I honestly suspect my parents didn’t know that it wasn’t just another comic book. I read it—like I read everything—religiously, and I was fluent enough in... [Books] [cartoons] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Anti-Semitism] [Arie Kaplan] [From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books] [intolerance] [Judaism] [MAD Magazine]

May 2, 1AM

I risk my already flagging street cred by admitting this, but I don’t watch Game of Thrones. In fact, I started to read the first book a couple years back and I just couldn’t get into it. Well, only 80 pages into it. The fault is, I’m entirely su... [Books] [Classical Mythology] [Deities] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Ahura Mazda] [Angra Mainyu] [Calliope] [Game of Thrones] [George R. R. Martin] [Hinduism] [Ishaan Tharoor] [K. Marvin Bruce] [Washington Post] [Zoroastrian]

May 1, 1AM

One of the unadulterated pleasures of life—or maybe adulterated is the better adjective—is the used book sale. The year I missed the Hunterdon County Friends of the Library sale felt like a year without a summer. There are other book sales around, b... [Books] [higher education] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Hunterdon County Library Book Sale] [JSTOR] [used books]

April 30, 2AM

Nothing says unorthodox like a headline that reads “Smart Jews? Thank the Extraterrestrials.” Breaking Israel News ran the story recently and, being constitutionally unable to pass up anything so strange, I had to take a look. The article, by Adam E... [Bible] [Books] [Deities] [Just for Fun] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz] [ancient aliens] [Breaking Israel News] [Chariots of the Gods?] [Erich von Däniken] [Ezekiel] [Judaism] [X-Files]

April 29, 1AM

Once upon a time fairy tales were considered appropriate only for children. Unlike myths, fairy tales are frequently oral (yes, there are oral myths but this is not the place to discuss technicalities) and have origins that are obscure. A friend recentl... [Britannia] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [literature] [Memoirs] [Mesopotamia] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Bob Yirka] [fairy tale] [fiction] [folklore] [Mabinogion] [myth] [phylogenetic analysis] [] [Sumer. Edinburgh] [Uamh 'n Òir]

April 28, 1AM

“Sticks and stones,” they used to tell me, “may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” We teach our children lies like that. I have been hit by sticks and stones—fortunately wielded by other children—but the things that hurt worst we... [Books] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [and the Construction of Heresy] [Book of Mormon] [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints] [Mitt Romney] [Mormons] [Myths] [Orson Scott Card] [religious tolerance] [Stephanie Meyers] [Terryl L. Givens] [The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons]

April 27, 1AM

I said I’d come back to Bono. A story in the New Boston Post heralds a new documentary on Bono and Eugene Peterson. Both are famous in their own way, but no doubt Bono has the bigger name. Peterson, a pastor, is noted for his book The Message, a cont... [Bible] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Psalms] [Religious Violence] [Rock-n-Roll] [Bono] [Bono and Eugene Peterson: The Psalms] [Eugene Peterson] [New Boston Post] [The Message] [the Psalter]

April 26, 1AM

I’m not sure what to believe anymore. This crisis of faith revolves not around religion, but around media. Pundits have been saying for some time that the internet has meant the slow death of journalism, and there are so many websites that redistribut... [Bible] [Current Events] [Genesis] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Sects] [Weather] [Answers in Genesis] [Journalism] [media] [Noah's Ark] [Snopes] [thegoodlordabove] [urban legends]

April 25, 1AM

The human mind is an unsolved mystery. Oh, we know a lot about the brain, and advances in neuroscience have been startlingly swift. The mind, which is not the same as the brain, still eludes us. I took enough psychology courses in college that I could... [Books] [Consciousness] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Alice Miller] [neuroscience] [Psychology] [The Drama of the Gifted Child] [The Search for the True Self]

April 24, 2AM

Synchronicities come at kinds of synchronaddresses. After I had written a recent post on human sacrifice, I watched the first episode of Morgan Freeman’s The Story of God. My wife actually figured out how to get it without the miracle of the triple pl... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [Egypt] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [afterlife] [death] [Morgan Freeman] [science and religion] [The Story of God with Morgan Freeman] [Through the Wormhole]

April 23, 2AM

Photo credit: Micahmedia, Wikimedia CommonsMusic has been in the news this week with the death of the artist formerly and forever known as Prince. Also, in a lesser covered story, Bono’s friendship with Bible translator Eugene Peterson. This post will... [art] [Current Events] [popular culture] [Posts] [Rock-n-Roll] [Alice Cooper] [Bono] [david bowie] [Eugene Peterson] [Jehovah's Witnesses] [Michelle Boorstein] [prince] [Purple Rain] [rock and roll] [sexuality] [The Washington Post]

April 22, 1AM

Behold thy mother. As a planet-locked earthling, I’m thinking about Earth today. Such a quotidian planet. While I’ve been to others in my mind, this is the only one on which I’ve ever been or am likely to be. And yet there are no laws protecting ... [Current Events] [environment] [Holidays] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [capitalism] [Earth Day] [ecology] [environmentalism] [ethics]

April 21, 12 AM

Reading about the things that wrong, like terrorist attacks, may not be the best way to occupy your time on a bus heading to New York City. Robert Wuthnow’s Be Very Afraid is appropriately titled, in any case. I had been warned. Discussing sociolo... [Books] [Consciousness] [environment] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Be Very Afraid] [Economics] [materialistic reductionism] [Money] [philosophy] [Robert Wuthnow] [Sociology]

April 20, 1AM

It was in Wisconsin. Oshkosh. I was teaching for a year in a replacement position, and my roster of classes at the university covered several aspects of religious studies. During the course of prepping a course, I first saw it. The Flying Spaghetti Mo... [creationism] [Current Events] [Deities] [Just for Fun] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Associated Press] [Avatar] [Flying Spaghetti Monster] [FSM] [Jediism] [New Religious Movements] [New Zealand] [Oshkosh] [Pastafarianism] [Wisconsin] [Zarathustra]

April 19, 1AM

The Bible had quite a week last week. It went from being vetoed as the “state book” of Tennessee to making it onto the list of the ten most challenged and banned books of the year for the first time. Did you ever get that feeling that you should’v... [Bible] [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [banned books] [sacred writings] [state book] [tennessee]

April 18, 1AM

Coming back to a book you first read as a tween, in the days before tweens even existed, can be a revelation. Lester del Rey’s Day of the Giants introduced me to Norse mythology as a kid, and, along with Thor comic books, was my Nordic Bible. The last... [Books] [Classical Mythology] [Deities] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Day of the Giants] [Leif Svensen] [Lester del Rey] [Norse gods] [Norse mythology] [Ragnarok] [science fiction] [Thor] [Tradition]

April 17, 2AM

The thought of lying tied to an altar while you know someone is about to murder you is a terrifying one. For several reasons. Clearly, you don’t want to die. A more potent fear, however, may be that a darkly savage deity lies behind the dead. An ang... [Bible] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Anthropology] [human sacrifice] [nature] [Religion and Politics] [Sarah Kaplan] [Washington Post]

April 16, 2AM

It began as an innocent trip to the grocery store. I was in the produce section seeking the various vegetarian foodstuffs I need to make it through the week when I came across a monster. Well, more precisely, the mention of a monster. Brad’s Crunchy ... [environment] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Brad’s Crunchy Kale] [Count Chocula] [groceries] [Vampire Killer]

April 15, 1AM

What should my next book be? This is the perpetual question of the long-distance commuter for whom electronic devices are mere distractions. If that commuter is socially awkward and believes that only books truly understand them, that is. I’m as ecle... [Books] [literature] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [A Field Guide to Awkward Silences] [Alexandra Petri] [Amazon] [Bob Dylan] [Episcopalians] [Jeff Bezos] [Washington Post] [Wisconsin]

April 14, 1AM

States, at least the united kind, can have personalities. Some of us move after the diminishing herd of jobs and so end up in places we hadn’t really planned to live. In each state where I’ve made by domicile (six, as of the present), I’ve met peo... [Bible] [Books] [civil religion] [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [New Jersey] [NPR] [pennsylvania] [Politics and Religion] [Senator Steve Southerland] [state dinosaur] [tennessee] [Texas]

April 13, 1AM

By now I suppose it’s old news that North Carolina has joined the wall of ignominy as the latest state to try to discriminate against gays. It seems our aging leadership just doesn’t get it that a large majority of people in the younger generation ju... [civil religion] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [homosexual marriage] [New Jersey Star-Ledger] [North Carolina] [Politics and Religion] [social justice] [Tolerance]

April 12, 1AM

There are varieties of evangelical experience. It is so convenient to put people into neatly labeled boxes that we tend to forget religious experience can be very different, even to conservatives. This point is made very clearly in Amy DeRogatis’ ... [Bibliolatry] [Books] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Amy DeRogatis] [Demons] [evangelicalism] [Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism] [sexuality] [sola scriptura]

April 11, 1AM

If you’re one of those people who’s attached to books, you know the frustration of someone who borrows a book and never gives it back. Many years ago I stopped lending out books for that very reason. I do, however, sometimes give them away. A frien... [Books] [environment] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Amy Thomson] [Avatar] [environmentalism] [resurrection] [science fiction] [The Color of Distance] [The Martian]

April 10, 2AM

New York is a city that is fascinated with itself. To me it’s kind of like rooting for a professional sports team. The members of the team come from all over the place. As Jerry Seinfeld once said, “You’re rooting for the jerseys,” or something... [Consciousness] [Just for Fun] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [New York City] [News Watch] [psi] [psychics] [Spirituality]

April 9, 3AM

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of God. The Time magazine cover, the first to be text only, asking “Is God Dead?” was one of the iconic images of the 1960s. Fifty years ago yesterday, the media ventured out onto a limb that hasn’t snapped... [Bible] [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Friedrich Nietzsche] [Lily Rothman] [Rosemary's Baby] [seminaries] [Time Magazine] [William Hamilton]

April 8, 1AM

Extinction. It’s a depression concept, but one that nevertheless constitutes a reality in evolution’s world. When applied to members of our own species we term it genocide and declare it an evil. Our perspective—not to dispute the value judgment... [Books] [Current Events] [environment] [evolution] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [Clive Finlayson] [extinction] [global warming] [Homo erectus] [Neanderthal] [The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died out and We Survived]

April 7, 1AM

I sometimes confuse “ivory tower” and “ivy tower.” It’s only a matter of or. In my mind the halls of academe are frequently covered with ivy, but the usual term for a rarified higher education is actually “ivory tower.” A pristine, white ... [Bible] [higher education] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [ivory tower] [Ivy League] [ivy tower] [Song of Songs] [Virgin Mary]

April 6, 1AM

I get lost in the web. Although my work requires that I remain plugged in to the internet all day long, I confess to feeling lost on the weekend. I don’t know what to browse or where to look for titillating new information. A friend then asked me wha... [Bible] [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Antarctica] [conspiracy theories] [gabriel] [Gabriel’s Ark] [Mecca] [Patriarch Kirill I] [Pope Francis]

April 5, 1AM

Over the weekend I visited one of my favorite used book stores, The Old Book Shop in Morristown. It’s neither huge nor fancy, but it has the feel that is so important to the restless mind. The feel of not knowing what you may find. The mystery of dis... [Bible] [Books] [higher education] [Posts] [Morristown] [New Jersey] [Old Book Shop] [protestantism] [used books]

April 4, 1AM

Last night, I fear, I did not see “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman.” Our “double play” service already rivals the cost effectiveness of a ballpark lunch, and a triple play is out of reach for as little time as we have for television. This m... [Current Events] [higher education] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Robotics] [science] [Bruce Almighty] [FIRST Robotics] [materialistic reductionism] [National Geographic Channel] [Occam's Razor] [The Story of God with Morgan Freeman] [Through the Wormhole]

April 3, 2AM

Not all Fundamentalists are the same. I grew up believing the Bible was literally true, but in my family we recognized that fossils indicated the earth was older than just a few thousand years. Keep in mind that I never tested this with any preachers—... [Animals] [Bibliolatry] [creationism] [Current Events] [evolution] [Memoirs] [Posts] [science] [fossils] [Fundamentalism] [Huffington Post] [Noah's Flood] [Texas]

April 2, 3AM

It seems like superheroes have been around forever. They are really, however, the product of comic books from the 1930s on. Adapting well to the big screen, a generation of kids is growing up that may have had their first taste of caped crusaders on the... [cartoons] [Current Events] [higher education] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Batman v Superman] [Doc Savage] [salvation] [Spider-man] [superhero] [Superman]

April 1, 2AM

I read a lot of books. About a hundred a year. At the end of the year I go over them all again and many of them, I see, failed to make a deep impression. Some, I know, before I close the back cover, will stay with me. Maybe even haunt me. I count Eli... [Books] [literature] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [Elizabeth R. Baer] [Golem] [Holocaust] [Pete Hamill] [Prague] [Rabbi Loew] [Sleepy Hollow] [Snow in August] [The Golum Redux: From Prague to Post-Holocaust Fiction]

March 31, 1AM

It was in the eldritch-sounding Oshkosh that I first came across H. P. Lovecraft. The web was still somewhat of a novelty then, and I’d run across a Dagon symbol that I couldn’t identify. My researches led me to the old gods of Lovecraft’s atheist... [civil religion] [Current Events] [Deities] [literature] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Cthulhu] [Dagon] [H P Lovecraft] [Jediism] [L. Ron Hubbard] [materialistic reductionism] [Necronomicon] [Scientology]

March 30, 1AM

With the terrorist attacks in Belgium on our minds, people are asking once again, “What’s up with Fundamentalists?” My jeremiad that the only solution to religious violence is to study religion reaches few eyes, I realize, but the internet has the ... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [civil religion] [Current Events] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Belgium attacks] [Colorado] [Delta County] [Freedom From Religion Foundation] [Fundamentalism] [Gideon Bible] [Gideons]

March 29, 1AM

One of the many antiquated beliefs that have been left behind over the centuries is alchemy. Today we tend to think that anyone who supposed natural substances could have been transmuted into others must have been naïve at best, or credulous at least. ... [Books] [Mysticism] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Alchemical Belief: Occultism in the Religious Culture of Early Modern England] [alchemy] [Bruce Janacek] [science and religion] [Sir Isaac Newton] [theology]

March 28, 1AM

A friend ensures that I see internet stories of hidden monsters. Not hidden in that you can’t find them, but hidden in that my freedom to explore the web entails only weekends and even some of those are very busy. In any case, a bestiary from Mental F... [Animals] [environment] [Monsters] [Posts] [bestiary] [Cryptozoology] [epistemology] [Mental Floss] [Paul Anthony Jones]

March 27, 1AM

Recently I had the opportunity to write a post for the OUP Blog on the topic of Sleepy Hollow. I’m not exactly obsessed with the program, but it fascinates me that a television show that is so religiously based was such a hit for a couple of seasons. ... [Bible] [Holidays] [popular culture] [Posts] [Easter] [headless horseman] [Ichabod Crane] [resurrection] [Sleepy Hollow]

March 26, 4AM

In the English imagination the Arthurian legend is deeply connected with the Christian myth of Britain’s founding. This may not be on the surface, of course, but the places associated with King Arthur (as well as the tales themselves, such as the Holy ... [Britannia] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Arthurian legend] [Cornwall] [England] [English Heritage] [Geoffrey of Monmouth] [Glastonbury] [holy grail] [Joseph of Arimathea] [King Arthur] [Merlin] [Monty Python] [The Guardian] [Tintagel Castle]

March 25, 1AM

For some today is Good Friday. Others are saying “TGIF!” There’s a basic disconnect that has grown between days of remembrance (okay, let’s just call them “holidays”) and the days required of capitalism. Easter is not generally considered a... [civil religion] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Brookline] [commercialization] [Easter] [Good Friday] [Massachusetts] [religious holidays] [Ritz Camera]

March 24, 1AM

Those who love books share a soul. A weekend never feels complete to me without at least an hour spent in a bookstore. On one such weekend a clerk in our local indie recommended Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road. The recommendation was actual... [Books] [Britannia] [literature] [Posts] [84] [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [Charing Cross Road] [Helene Hanff] [Marks & Co] [used books]

March 23, 1AM

Sometimes I feel guilty. A grown man reading about vampires? Then I think of such puerile things as television and the stock market over which other adults waste their time and my pituitary gland releases endorphins and I carry on. I must say, however, a... [Books] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Barnabas Collins] [Dark Shadows] [Joseph Laycock] [life force] [vampire religion] [vampires] [Vampires Today: The Truth about Modern Vampirism]

March 22, 1AM

Although a couple steps from the real thing, a book review can be an art form of its own.  A short piece in a recent Wired magazine focused on an ironic bestseller that I keep seeing on the standard lists: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie ... [Books] [Current Events] [popular culture] [Posts] [Clive Thompson] [clutter] [Feng Shui for Dummies] [Marie Kondo] [The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing] [The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up] [Wired]

March 21, 1AM

I have to admit that spring snuck up on me this year. Weather is, of course, no reliable predictor of the Vernal Equinox, and since I depend on the lightness of the sky while waiting for the bus as an indicator of seasons, turning our clocks ahead last w... [Holidays] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Weather] [Easter] [equinoxes] [holy week] [seasons] [vernal equinox]

March 20, 1AM

At Nashotah House, where I spent many years of my career, it was often felt that the weather during Holy Week was, in the best of circumstances, appropriate. With spring just around the corner, however—the date of Easter is based on the Vernal Equinox,... [environment] [Holidays] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [Easter] [holy week] [Nashotah House] [Palm Sunday] [spring] [vernal equinox] [Weathering the Psalms]

March 19, 2AM

In the current presidential race, it seems, the Bible hasn’t been as large an issue as it has been in the past. Bluff, bravado, and bullying seem more the order of the day. Goliath rather than David. This makes me think of the varied uses that the Bi... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [civil religion] [Posts] [Donald Trump] [Early America] [grimoire] [hermeneutics] [Iconic book] [magic]

March 18, 1AM

Prominent public intellectuals, we’re used to hearing, often lament the survival of religion into a rationalist age. As an obscure private intellectual—if I may be so bold—I am always pleased to see when a credentialed scientist asks if we are bein... [Animals] [Books] [environment] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Social Consciousness] [and Heart] [animal emotions] [emotions] [Marc Berkoff] [materialistic reductionism] [Minding Animals: Awareness]

March 17, 1AM

What does it say about a saint when the celebration of his day is excessive drinking? Virtue and vice, while not nearly as Manichean as sometimes made out to be, nevertheless conflict in such a setting. Like many American mutts, I have some Irish herita... [civil religion] [Current Events] [higher education] [Holidays] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Alcoholism] [Irish] [purim] [spring] [spring break] [St Patrick's Day] [vernal equinox]

March 16, 1AM

How do you measure the religiosity of a people? While the boundaries of the United States are somewhat porous, internally, we nevertheless still consist of somewhat self-governing states. One measure of religious belief is to take your metrics by state.... [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Sects] [alabama] [New Hampshire] [New Jersey] [New Jersey Star-Ledger] [New York] [Pew survey]

March 15, 1AM

As a part of my class on Ancient Near Eastern Religions, since we were dealing with the earliest textually recorded religions, I explored origins. Specifically, the origins of religion. For years I told my students that biologists had observed behavior ... [Animals] [Asherah] [Consciousness] [Deities] [environment] [evolution] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [altruism] [chimpanzee] [Frans de Waal] [New Scientist] [primates] [Rowan Hooper] [tree worship]

March 14, 1AM

History can be a funny thing. Take the way it treats some people. H. P. Lovecraft wasn’t famous in his lifetime. In fact, his isn’t exactly a household name even now. His creation Cthulhu lurks grandly in the internet, and even Lovecraft himself i... [Books] [Just for Fun] [literature] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Carter and Lovecraft] [Cthulhu] [H P Lovecraft] [Jonathan L. Howard] [old gods]

March 13, 1AM

How wondrous it feels, after a winter of dark skies, to see dawn beginning to break even before I crawl onto the bus in the morning. Almost pagan in my desire for the longer days, I anticipate this every year after standing in the dark since October. Th... [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [calendars] [circadian rhythm] [Daylight Saving Time] [sacred time] [wasted time]

March 12, 3AM

A great variety of food comes in cans. My mind naturally turns to vegetables and beans, but “tinned meat” was a staple of my childhood, including the now derided Spam. When I see octopus and squid in cans I’m glad I’m now a vegetarian. Once—i... [Current Events] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [canned foods] [Economics] [emergency preparedness] [ethics] [Hurricane Sandy] [planned obsolescence] [spam]

March 11, 2AM

Yesterday I spent at the Mid-Atlantic Regional American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature meeting. Not a registered guest, I was there in mufti. Those who know me stopped by to greet me, even without a name tag, but I noticed, as I ... [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [American Academy of Religion] [ethics] [Mid-Atlantic Regional] [morality] [Society of Biblical Literature]

March 10, 2AM

Shortsighted and arrogant. No, I’m not describing Richard Fortey’s Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms, but rather the collective human race. I love people—I really do. Collectively, however, we sometimes act in the most inexplicable ways. This tho... [Animals] [Books] [environment] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [creationism] [ecology] [Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms] [Richard Fortey] [science and religion] [The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind]

March 9, 2AM

While my colleagues and I wait to hear if our monster session will be approved, my thoughts naturally turn to the taxonomy of monsters. One of the perennial problems in the study of monsters is that definitions vary widely. We might all agree that a wer... [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Monster Boomer] [monster theory] [Nirvana] [salvation] [Sleepy Hollow] [X-Files]

March 8, 2AM

Religion is one of those words that defies easy definition. As I’ve suggested before, you know it when you see it, but trying to pin the idea down is a different matter. Consequently, religion is closely related to a number of other areas of interest:... [Bible] [Books] [Just for Fun] [Mysticism] [popular culture] [Posts] [David Weatherly] [eBay] [haunted Bible] [haunted house] [paranormal] [Supernatural] [used books]

March 7, 2AM

Seminary is where you go to learn what they didn’t tell you growing up.  Many people have rather idealized views about clergy and somewhat untrained views about their church (the same may apply for religions outside Christianity, but I wouldn’t be so... [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Fred Rogers] [Fundamentalism] [Increase Mather] [Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.] [seminary] [The Christian Century]

March 6, 3AM

There’s a kind of trinitarian logic to the trilogy format. Long before Hegel’s model of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, people have grouped things into threes. And there is a hook that film-makers have used to ensure that viewers will come back f... [Books] [Consciousness] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [science] [back to the future] [Hollow City] [Materialism] [Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children] [Pirates of the Caribbean] [Ransom Riggs] [souls] [Star Wars] [The Library of Souls]

March 5, 4AM

The Bible is, in many ways, not suited to internet study.  Let me explain: this artificial world of the internet is based on searchability.  To search for something, you need to have a distinctive word, a keyword, or catchphrase.  As perhaps the most s... [Bible] [Bibliolatry] [civil religion] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [anabaptist] [gospel] [Gospel according to Bruce Springsteen] [Gospel according to the Simpsons] [internet]

March 4, 2AM

Reader’s Digest famously runs a feature, “Laughter: the Best Medicine.” I’m not a Reader’s Digest reader, and I’ve generally only seen it on coffee tables and bathroom cabinets of friends. Still, that’s the feature to which I always find m... [Just for Fun] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [Gary Sinyor] [Judaism] [Monty Python’s Life of Brian] [Moses] [NotMoses] [Reader’s Digest] [Scientology] [The Guardian]

March 3, 2AM

Hands up, all who’ve heard of Veronica Lueken. Maybe one of you in the back? I have to confess to having been in the “Veronica who?” crowd until reading Joseph P. Laycock’s The Seer of Bayside. The subtitle would have made the d... [Books] [Mysticism] [Posts] [Sects] [Baysiders] [Flushing Meadows Corona Park] [Joseph P. Laycock] [New York] [Queens] [Roman Catholicism] [The Seer of Bayside] [Veronica Lueken] [Veronica Lueken and the Struggle to Define Catholicism] [Virgin Mary]

March 2, 2AM

We should learn from our mistakes. This is something of which historians are keenly aware. James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association addresses the recent concerns raised on campuses throughout the world of removing monume... [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [American Historical Association] [female figurines] [Georgia] [history] [James Grossman] [Stone Mountain]

March 1, 2AM

This past week Asherah has been on my mind. Some of my readers will know that I wrote a book on Asherah, based on my doctoral dissertation. Those who’ve read it (admittedly few) will know that in it I lament the easy association of generic goddesses w... [Archaeology] [Asherah] [Bible] [Deities] [Goddesses] [Posts] [Ugarit] [Amihai Mazar] [ancient goddesses] [astarte] [israel] [Khirbet el-Qom] [Kuntillet Ajrud] [Tel Rehov]

February 29, 2AM

Like most people, I seldom remember my dreams. When I do, or when only the powerful feeling remains, I know that they are very emotional events. Something is always going on, and my attention is riveted. I recently read J. Allan Hobson’s Dreaming: An... [Books] [Consciousness] [Posts] [science] [Dreaming: An Introduction to the Science of Sleep] [J. Allan Hobson] [Materialism] [neuroscience]

February 28, 2AM

There’s nothing like spending a Saturday in a bookstore. It is actually a rare treat these days with Borders gone and some of the smaller indies having trouble keeping up. I particularly like used bookstores. Unlike most durable goods, books—at lea... [Books] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Boston Book Annex] [Cranbury] [Cranbury Bookworm] [Montclair] [Montclair Book Center] [New Jersey] [used books]

February 27, 2AM

There’s a certain etiquette to being on the bus. There has to be, when you pack fifty strangers together for an hour and shake gently. The seats on New Jersey Transit are somewhat intimate and it’s rare to make it through the journey without somehow... [Books] [Egypt] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Ancient Egypt] [ancient Near East] [commuting] [Narmer Palette] [New Jersey Transit]

February 26, 2AM

Some colleagues and I are working to meet a deadline. I suppose I use the word “colleague” rather grandly, since they both have teaching positions, nevertheless, we have a common goal. We are fascinated by monsters and we’d like to see the America... [Consciousness] [higher education] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [American Academy of Religion] [Belief] [halloween] [horror movies] [monster theory] [Stephen King]

February 25, 1AM

A friend, knowing my penchant to watch the skies, sent me a story about the British and the weather. The story by Alastair Sooke on the BBC’s cultural page is discussing Alexandra Harris’s book Weatherland. I have to admit that I haven’t read the ... [Bible] [Books] [Britannia] [environment] [Posts] [Psalms] [Weather] [Alastair Sooke] [Alexandra Harris] [BBC] [C. S. Lewis] [Weathering the Psalms] [Weatherland]

February 24, 1AM

Reality is not often, if ever, what it appears to be. As creatures that evolved to survive in this particular environment, we have passed along and received the skills that make this possible. One of those skills is filtering. We filter out most of the... [Books] [Consciousness] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [communion] [Erwin Schrödinger] [Jeffrey Kripal] [Materialism] [Niels Bohr] [Sheldon Cooper] [The Super Natural] [Werner Heisenberg] [Whitley Strieber] [Wolfgang Pauli]

February 23, 2AM

My wife and I have been working our way through Ken Burns’ documentary, The Roosevelts. At first, it took a little persuading on my wife’s part. Of course I thought Teddy Roosevelt was an interesting character, and FDR may have been the last true De... [Current Events] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [An Intimate Portrait] [Eleanor Roosevelt] [Franklin D. Roosevelt] [Ken Burns] [New Deal] [plutocracy] [The Roosevelts] [Theodore Roosevelt]

February 22, 2AM

The Witch, by Robert Eggers, is a parable. The movie accepts, and to appreciate it the viewer must too, that there is actually witchcraft in New England. Unless the witch too is a parable. Set in the days before the Salem Witch Trials, the movie is wor... [Bible] [Current Events] [Monsters] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [horror films] [Lars von Trier] [Puritans] [Robert Eggers] [Salem Witch Trials] [Song of Songs] [The Witch]

February 21, 2AM

Writers are immortals. Well, at least as long as our species lasts. As a mere internet writer, I suppose that I’m not alone in wanted published books to my name. Solid books that don’t disappear in a power outage. There’s an immortality, no matt... [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Foucault's Pendulum] [harper lee] [Moby Dick] [Schiller Institute] [The Name of the Rose] [to kill a mockingbird] [Umberto Eco]

February 20, 3AM

An off-the-cuff remark by Sandeep Mathrani, some CEO of something or other, had the publishing world buzzing a couple weeks back. The rumor began that was about to open hundreds of brick-and-mortar bookstores. After the opening of a store in ... [Books] [Current Events] [Posts] [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [publishing] [Sandeep Mathrani] [thylacine]

February 19, 2AM

It’s an old story. In fact, it’s in the Bible. The enemies of Yahweh perish. Since Israel’s god could not be represented iconically, the story goes, an iconic ark stood in for the divine presence. After a certain unpleasantness with the Philisti... [Bible] [Deities] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [1 Samuel] [Dagon] [H P Lovecraft] [mammon] [Manhattan] [old gods] [Philistines]

February 18, 2AM

We live not far from an upscale mall. This mall, although over 30 miles from Manhattan, has its own bus line dedicated to it by New Jersey Transit. There is a route that runs throughout the day from the City to this mall and back. My readers know I’m... [Consciousness] [Mysticism] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [Eastern religions] [mall] [meaning] [New Age] [Shopping] [Spirituality]

February 17, 2AM

I don’t think much about glaciers. At least I didn’t. Now they keep me awake at night. Literally. I just finished Jorge Daniel Taillant’s Glaciers: The Politics of Ice. Never have these ice sheets ever seemed to have so much personality before.... [Books] [Current Events] [environment] [evolution] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [climate change] [Glacier National Park] [Glaciers] [global warming] [Jorge Daniel Taillant] [social justice] [The Politics of Ice]

February 16, 2AM

A friend keenly aware of my interest in the unusual sent me a story about the “Devil’s Footprints” that sometimes occur in snow. The article focuses on an instance in England in 1855 but which was reprised in 2009. The prints, made by a bipedal, c... [Bible] [Classical Mythology] [Current Events] [Deities] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Weather] [Devil] [Devil's footprints] [Jersey Devil] [Mental Floss] [Pan] [Satan] [Stacy Conradt] [zoroastrianism]

February 15, 2AM

I have to admit to having not seen the Lego Movie. As a kid, I grew up without Legos. We were a family of modest means, so Lincoln Logs were more our style. When I first came to see Legos, they appeared restrictive to me with their pixel-like determina... [Current Events] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Sects] [Lego Movie] [LEGOs] [Lutheranism] [Martin Luther] [Newsweek] [Playmobil] [Star Wars]

February 14, 3AM

As far as we can tell, historically there is no Saint Valentine that is particularly connected to February 14. Even if there were, it is difficult to imagine a saint promoting what we know as love. Love is a slippery topic. The ancient Greeks (who did ... [Current Events] [Holidays] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [augustine] [Christianity] [Greek thought] [jesus] [love] [Paul of Tarsus] [roman empire] [St Valentine] [St. Valentine's Day]

February 13, 3AM

During seminary, I believe it was, a professor once told those of us in class, “You don’t get rich in academic publishing.” As the author of a widely used class resource, he added, “unless you write a textbook.” Both sides of his observation a... [higher education] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [1099] [academic publishing] [taxes] [TurboTax] [Weathering the Psalms]

February 12, 2AM

Having been in academia for nearly two decades, and having watched from the sidelines ever since being benched, I found Dear Committee Members a little too true to life. This novel by Julie Schumacher is presented as a series of letters of recommendation... [Books] [Current Events] [higher education] [literature] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [At the Altar of Wall Street] [Dear Committee Members] [fiction] [free market economy] [Julie Schumacher]

February 11, 2AM

Materialism can be defined in a number of different ways. One of the more common is that people desire material things. We want stuff. Now, we all need things to survive. My sympathies are always with the poor for whom each decision can be a potentia... [civil religion] [Just for Fun] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [dollar store] [economy] [five and dime] [Materialism] [one dollar Mary] [Roman Catholic]

February 10, 2AM

Marriage is a human institution. As those who invented it, we should be able to define it. Biology may not help here, since animals become mating pairs in many different ways. Besides, we’re selective in our application of science to the question. N... [Bible] [Britannia] [civil religion] [Current Events] [Holidays] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Christina Harrington] [handfasting] [Marriage] [paganism] [polygamy] [The Wild Hunt] [Valentines Day]

February 9, 2AM

Understanding, or even caring about, economics has been one of my abiding weaknesses. I suppose growing up poor, excess money was a foreign concept—at least on a quotidian basis—the possibility of acquiring much of it remote. The poor know their pla... [Books] [civil religion] [Deities] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [and Mission of the Religion Known as the Modern Global Economy] [At the Altar of Wall Street: The Rituals] [Economics] [missionaries] [myth of barter] [Myths] [sacraments] [Scott W. Gustafson] [Theologies]

February 8, 2AM

An inordinate amount of my childhood time was spent on television. While the device of the day had been around for a decade already, I was among those who grew up learning that watching was easier than reading. Like most children, I took the path of lea... [Bible] [Just for Fun] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [grimoire] [local apocalypse] [magic] [Revelation] [Sleepy Hollow] [Television]

February 7, 3AM

They call it the green-eyed monster. Jealousy. Under its weightier name of envy, it becomes a deadly sin. I often wonder if envy isn’t behind the debate that seems to have atheists and believers in religion talking past one another. Each seems to wa... [astronomy] [Consciousness] [Deities] [Posts] [science] [Alister McGrath] [astronauts] [atheism] [Barbara J. King] [Envy] [intellectualism] [NPR] [science and religion] [teleology]

February 6, 5AM

I remember seeing my first steel penny. At first I didn’t think it was real. Like many poor kids, I was a collector. I collected anything cheap: cancelled stamps, bottle tops from glass pop bottles, fossils, just to name a few free trinkets. And I... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Casablanca] [Lisbon] [Middle East] [Purgatory] [steel pennies] [wheat back]

February 5, 2AM

Over the past couple of weeks it has been in the news that the site of the “witch” hangings in Salem, Massachusetts has been identified. The actual site had long been suspected, and it was only recently confirmed by a group of historians using the em... [Current Events] [feminism] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Benjamin Ray] [Donald Trump] [Jr.] [Mary Eastey] [Massachusetts] [President Jerry Falwell] [Rebecca Nurse] [Salem] [Salem Witch Trials] [Sarah Cloyce] [Sleepy Hollow] [University of Virginia]

February 4, 2AM

We trust those we see in the media. You see, those who have the longest reach can bring in the most advertising dollars and therefore must have a wisdom the rest of us lack. The cult of celebrity is perhaps the truest cult of all. Don’t get me wrong,... [Consciousness] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [agnostic] [alien] [Blade Runner] [Catherine Shoard] [cult of celebrity] [david bowie] [Ridley Scott] [The Guardian] [The Martian]

February 3, 3AM

Ancient technology is a growing field of interest. A couple years back I gave a talk about ancient technology at a local Steampunk convention. The smallish audience that attended had lots of questions about how ancient people accomplished marvels such a... [Archaeology] [astronomy] [Current Events] [Deities] [higher education] [Mesopotamia] [Posts] [science] [Antikythera Device] [Antikythera Mechanism] [astronomy] [Gizmodo] [Jupiter] [Maddie Stone] [Matthieu Ossendrijver] [Technology]

February 2, 2AM

Regan MacNeil is a name that can still send shudders up and down stout spines. Despite advances in CGI and special effects, The Exorcist is consistently rated among the scariest movies of all time. Demon possession, clearly, is a very troubling thing. ... [Bibliolatry] [Books] [Deities] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [science] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [American Possessions] [Demons] [Fighting Demons in the Contemporary United States] [Pentecostals] [Regan MacNeil] [science and religion] [Sean McCloud] [The Exorcist] [Third Wave evangelicalism]

February 1, 2AM

My fellow academics, lend me your ear. Two or three friends have sent me articles this past week, featuring academics speaking out against the businessification of academia. I’ve been railing about this for years, and I am encouraged by my fellow acad... [Current Events] [higher education] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Academia] [adjunct] [D] [Dr. Seuss] [entrepreneurs] [Horton Hears a Who] [JoJo]

January 31, 4AM

Those of us who write know all about revising. You go back to a piece you wrote, maybe even just days ago, and you see all the things you want to change. Corrections, improvements, deletions, retractions. Histories are particularly prone to being viewe... [Britannia] [Current Events] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Akhenaton] [Cecil Rhodes] [Oriel College] [Oxford University] [Princeton University] [The Guardian] [Woodrow Wilson]

January 30, 5AM

Atlas Obscura is one of those websites where you could spend all day and feel like you’ve just traveled the world. Featuring less know locations, and strange spots that you might like to visit, sometimes it also has stories about monsters. Well, at le... [Animals] [Books] [evolution] [Monsters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Atlas Obscura] [Cara Giaimo] [Curious Creatures in Zoology] [John Ashton]

January 29, 2AM

Once I met with a group of writers and intellectuals in the Pacific northwest to discuss ancient—indeed, dead—languages and their cultures. I’d never before been accorded “rock star” status for what, for me, seemed a natural progression. I had... [Bible] [Books] [Egypt] [feminism] [higher education] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Agnes Lewis] [Agnes Smith] [Janet Soskice] [Margaret Gibson] [Margaret Smith] [Saint Catherine’s Convent] [Sinai] [The Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels] [University of Cambridge]

January 28, 2AM

Even in days of secular education—I am a product of public education throughout my childhood—Jonathan Edwards is a name that still retains recognition among many Americans. Perhaps best remembered for his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry G... [higher education] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Aaron Burr] [Calvinism] [George Whitefield] [Jonathan Edwards] [Princeton University] [Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God] [The Great Awakening]

January 27, 2AM

The history of thought can be compared to a slow-moving pendulum. At other times it can be more like a ping-pong game. Acceptability for ideas can take time, but sometimes the perceptions change rapidly. Having been raised in a small town in a Fundamen... [Animals] [Consciousness] [environment] [Posts] [science] [B. F. Skinner] [Christof Koch] [Materialism] [panpsychism] [science and religion] [Scientific American]

January 26, 2AM

Religion and politics. It’s difficult to get over the wisdom instilled in your earliest years, and I was one of those who learned that religion and politics always cause potential friction in polite conversation. They are both, however, very important... [civil religion] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [Aaron Burr] [Alexander Hamilton] [American Revolution] [Book of Mormon] [Broadway] [Hamilton] [Jesus Christ Superstar] [Lin-Manuel Miranda] [New Jersey]

January 25, 3AM

While out driving one winter evening, the sun was setting below a distant horizon that I couldn’t see. Trees lined the sides of the road and, while creating not exactly a tunnel, they blocked the actual view of the orb itself. The day had been partly ... [Deities] [environment] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [science] [Weather] [celestial religion] [clouds] [Color] [gods] [physics] [rainbow]

January 24, 5AM

One of the first things I notice during and after a snowstorm is the silence. Part of it, I suspect, is the dampening effect the blanket of snow has on ambient sounds, but another part of it is the lack of usual frenetic human activity. Here in New Jers... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Weather] [contemplation] [Nashotah House] [New Jersey] [Silence] [Snow]

January 23, 5AM

Nothing encourages sleeping in like a blizzard. Although it’s a talent I’ve largely lost over the years, hearing the bellows of the wind and seeing the white reflecting through the blinds, and being a Saturday morning form the perfect recipe for lett... [Current Events] [environment] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Weather] [Donald Trump] [George W. Bush] [January] [January blizzard] [January hurricane] [Prophecy] [Ronald Reagan]

January 22, 2AM

The word “venerable” is often applied with the connotation of age. Although the word in its own right really means to “adore,” or “worship,” objects of extreme age evoke that response. Perhaps the fact that “time-honored”... [Asherah] [Deities] [environment] [Posts] [Travel] [Great Swamp Oak] [native american] [New Jersey] [NJ Big Tree Registry] [tree worship] [venerable]

January 21, 2AM

Doctrine can be an immense stumbling block. As a person who’s been involved with many churches in my life, the virtue of virtues often seems to be sacrificed on the altar of doctrine. If you don’t believe X, you’re not one of us. It was a great de... [Books] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Calvinism] [doctrine] [Living the Quaker Way] [Philip Gulley] [Quakers] [Religious Society of Friends] [Spice] [Tulip]

January 20, 2AM

When a friend pointed out the easily missed 2001 film, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, (well before Seth Grahame-Smith came up with the same role for Abraham Lincoln) I knew I was duty-bound to see it. As regular readers know, although I’m not a fan of go... [Just for Fun] [Monsters] [movies] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Social Consciousness] [atheism] [Attack of the Killer Tomatoes] [Good Samaritan] [jesus] [Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter] [Seth Grahame-Smith] [vampires]

January 19, 2AM

Just over a couple of centuries ago on this date, Edgar Allan Poe was born. That auspicious moment is an inspiration for those of us who write, and not just those of us who like scary stories. Poe was one of the first Americans to try to support himself... [Books] [Deities] [Holidays] [literature] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Edgar Allan Poe] [Geoffrey of Monmouth] [King Lear] [Llyr] [Martin Luther King Junior] [William Shakespeare]

January 18, 2AM

People can think with their emotions. At a young age we begin formal schooling to teach us the rational ways that we must develop to live in society. Emotions are trained, tamed, and sometimes repressed as we are taught that “higher brain” functions... [Books] [Consciousness] [Posts] [science] [Sects] [emotions] [Joseph of Copertino] [levitation] [Michael Grosso] [Roman Catholicism] [The Man Who Could Fly] [The Man Who Could Fly: St. Joseph of Copertino and the Mystery of Levitation]

January 17, 4AM

The market producing doctorates in the humanities is showing no signs of slowing down. The fact is we’re all human, and many of us aren’t very technically inclined, unless we have to be. There are fewer and fewer jobs for these bright students who g... [art] [Current Events] [higher education] [popular culture] [Posts] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Lost in Space] [Star Trek] [Star Wars] [STEAM] [STEM] [Technology]

January 16, 4AM

Call me naive. Really, I won’t mind. I’ll readily admit that I was raised in a conservative household that held a fundamentalist view of Christianity. But even though I grew and matured and eventually joined the Episcopal Church, I have always held... [Bible] [Current Events] [feminism] [Posts] [Religious Violence] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [Anglican communion] [Episcopal Church] [Fundamentalism] [homosexual marriage] [Levirate marriage] [Nashotah House]

January 15, 2AM

Ninety-seven years ago today, 21 people were killed by molasses. Even having lived in Boston, I had never heard of the Boston Molasses Disaster. Credit for my awareness has to go to my wife, who read me the story from the Oxford Companion to Sugar and S... [Books] [Just for Fun] [Natural Disasters] [Posts] [1919] [Boston Molasses Disaster] [Boston Molasses Flood] [Boxing Day Tsunami] [Hezekiah’s Tunnel] [Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets] [Petra] [World War One]

January 14, 2AM

From Wikimedia CommonsThe seventeenth century was a portentous time for the English language. Well, I suppose every day is portentous in some way, but in the year 1611 the King James translation of the Bible was published, and it still has considerable s... [Bible] [Books] [Current Events] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Beowulf] [Folger Shakespeare Library] [King James Version] [NPR] [Susan Stamberg] [William Shakespeare]

January 13, 2AM

I don’t know much about the music industry, but I do know that as in publishing, labels make a difference. Who doesn’t conjure up a certain sound when they see Motown? Companies jealously sign artists to their label, with a close eye on the bottom l... [art] [Bible] [Current Events] [popular culture] [Posts] [Rock-n-Roll] [Blackstar] [david bowie] [death] [Gospel of John] [Lazarus] [music]

January 12, 3AM

An article in the New York Times back in December explored the use of God in adverting. The piece, by Michael McCarthy, suggests that religious viewers are not very forgiving of commercials using God, unless they are respectfully done. The occasional sp... [Current Events] [Deities] [popular culture] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [advertisements] [marketing] [media] [medical outlooks] [Michael McCarthy] [Money] [New York Times]

January 11, 2AM

One of the commonalities of all religions, I used to tell my students, is the concern with death. Not that all religions react to it in nearly the same way, but the fact is no religion ignores it. For people, obviously, our awareness of our own mortalit... [Books] [Consciousness] [literature] [Monsters] [popular culture] [Posts] [afterlife] [death] [fiction] [Jennifer McMahon] [novels] [Pet Sematary] [sleepers] [Stephen King] [The Winter People]

January 10, 3AM

FIRST Robotics has a way of getting into your blood. Like many people of my generation, I learned about FIRST Robotics through my daughter. Our local high school has a robotics team and, as we quickly learned, the decision to join FIRST is a four-year f... [Current Events] [Memoirs] [movies] [popular culture] [Posts] [Religious Origins] [Robotics] [science] [Social Consciousness] [Dead Poets Society] [Dean Kamen] [FIRST Robotics] [FIRST Stronghold] [humanities] [Monty Python and the Holy Grail] [science and religion] [Woodie Flowers]

January 9, 3AM

A new year is always a time for predictions and prognostications. Although the religious basis for New Year’s Day is often deeply sublimated, the changing of the year is one of the oldest and most widespread holidays worldwide. Since every beginning i... [Current Events] [higher education] [Holidays] [Posts] [Sects] [Social Consciousness] [atheism] [Christianity] [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints] [Islam] [Nadia Whitehead] [New Year] [NPR] [Pew Research Center]

January 8, 3AM

It might seem odd to differentiate the supernatural from an established world religion like Roman Catholicism. After all, be premise of traditional Christianity is based on a miracle or two. Church officials, however, are not naive. It has been known f... [Books] [Consciousness] [Mysticism] [Posts] [Sects] [and Miracles in the Modern Age] [Apparitions] [Demons] [Investigating Supernatural Signs] [John Thavis] [Roman Catholicism] [Shroud of Turin] [Supernatural] [The Vatican Prophecies]

January 7, 5AM

Being distinguished, indeed, getting noticed, is increasingly difficult to accomplish. When you read a lot of history, you realize that anyone who managed to write coherently in the past few centuries seldom had difficulty getting a publisher, for instan... [Consciousness] [higher education] [Memoirs] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Travel] [Aaron Burr] [Albert Einstein] [Grover Cleveland] [John von Neumann] [Jonathan Edwards] [Kurt Gödel] [Nassau Presbyterian Church Cemetery] [New Jersey] [Princeton]

January 6, 3AM

It is perhaps unusual to stop and think about who you are. From the moment consciousness kicks in, our lives are a non-stop progression of stimuli and response and taking the time to stop and think what someone else must be feeling is, I sometimes fear, ... [Consciousness] [Current Events] [feminism] [Goddesses] [movies] [Posts] [Social Consciousness] [Girl Rising] [Goddess hypothesis] [Marija Gimbutas] [Merlin Stone] [social justice] [women's rights]

January 5, 2AM

Technology has been kind to civilization. At least in some aspects. I often think how easy communication has become. When I was just starting out in the professional world, email was new and not trusted by some academics, and now if you can’t be reac... [Deities] [higher education] [literature] [popular culture] [Posts] [CSV] [Cthulhu] [H P Lovecraft] [Language] [meaning] [superlatives] [Technology] [XML]

January 4, 2AM

One of the true joys of having more than a day off work at a time is the privilege to spend days reading. Although I read on the bus as a matter of course, it is a defined time, and editing isn’t as much reading as most people think it is. While doing... [Books] [environment] [Just for Fun] [Memoirs] [popular culture] [Posts] [headless horseman] [Legends and Lore of Somerset County] [Michael Haynes] [New Jersey] [Sacred Space] [Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon] [Sleepy Hollow] [Washington Irving]

January 3, 2AM